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The Word: Learning To Feed Ourselves

I grew up going to public school until I made the switch to private Christian school going into my sophomore year of high school.  It really was such a blessing at that time in my life because I was not consistently involved in a church and I was not spiritually being poured into.  But, I had this desire to grow in “understanding the Bible and its teachings and the implications that had on my life,” so I was longing for somewhere to help me grow and my new private school really provided that.  Looking back I can see more clearly how God orchestrated putting all of the pieces together so I could attend a Christian school which is a story for another day but it really was amazing. 

At any rate, from this background I wanted to explain my first week in what we called “Bible class” to hopefully give a helpful idea.  My first week at private Christian school was like walking on the moon, so foreign.  We started every class with prayer, my science class started “In the beginning God created…”, and I was wearing jeans and a nice shirt-haha, not the usual gym shorts and t-shirts I grew up loving.  Anyhow, when I walked into Bible class and when the teaching began it was like I was a little kid in a candy store, in awe because of the amount of candy, I was captivated.  It was awesome, we were studying the book of Acts and I was fascinated by “this guy” named Paul and everything that was going on.  I wanted to have Bible class everyday so my teacher, Mr. Brooks, could teach me. 

I was all into studying the Bible WITH Mr. Brooks because I felt like I got so much out of it.  But, I struggled to get the same out of it on my own so I was discouraged.  I still read some on my own but it just didn’t have the same affect so I struggled with being excited when reading the Bible by myself.  Now, after I have gotten older I see that to be a teacher of the Bible is a gift and I am so grateful for the guys that do it, it is so helpful in my personal growth, but I have also seen that to some extent I need to be able to have a version of “the candy store moment” in my personal study to encourage me on a daily basis not just on a weekly basis (on Sundays).

So, now for “the helpful idea,” hopefully.  For me, I have to take notes when I listen to gifted teachers so I can use what they taught on Sundays, in my personal life throughout the week (which I do not always do a great job of but that is my intent).  I also need to use their teachings to encourage myself to pursue studying the Bible and meditating on it in a way that is similar to how they do in order to get up and teach.  What if we all became more dependent on God in our personal Bible studies the way a pastor is when preparing for a sermon?  My hope is that we would have more “candy store moments.”  (In no way am I saying that we all need to be able to teach the way a pastor does but I do think that if we put more energy in pursuing God through studying His Word and asking the Holy Spirit to help us understand, we will have more moments of hearing and seeing the Holy Spirit at work in and through our lives and others.)

Right now, across ministries, at church we are studying certain books of the Bible with the purpose of feeding God’s Word to us, His people, to focus on God and who He is and to facilitate life change.  The “candy store magic” comes from the Holy Spirit moving in His Word.  So, in effort to fully engage Him, we are studying as a Church books of the Bible with diving into the history, the time period, and culture behind the book and then working through the book seeking the proper interpretation and asking and allowing His Spirit to move in application to our lives.  In essence we are having a “Mr. Brooks” show us how to study a book of the Bible through teaching it and we should try to latch on to the HOW to study as well as the WHAT we study so we can all feed ourselves through the week. 

~ Meredith Mielke

Engaging A Hungry World

In Little Rock, Arkansas a school nurse discovered that the majority of students that were seeking her care were not physically sick but HUNGRY!  This is what began the idea of sending home backpacks full of food to bridge the gap of hunger over the weekend for these children and their families.  This nation wide program is called Backpack Buddies! 

Within Student Ministry at Grace Church we believe in three core values:  Pursuing God, Connecting with the Church and Engaging the World.  One way we will be engaging the world this year in student ministry is through the Backpack Buddies program.  Buena Vista Elementary School, where many of our students have attended, has asked us to partner with them in bridging another gap in their school.  Each morning as the elementary students have a snack, 55 Backpack Buddies go without a snack.  Our high school students will be responsible for changing their snack time.  We will be collecting, organizing, and delivering a monthly care package for each of these 55 children.  That is over 1000 snacks per month, and 8800 over the school year!  We are so excited about the difference our students can make in the lives of others.  We will also be planning ways to reach out and build relationships with their families.  It is our hope that by setting this example these children will see the love and gratitude we have for what we have been given but more importantly to live out the gospel in this hungry world!

If you would like more information about how you could be involved please feel free to contact me for more details!       

~ Mary Daum

The Word: Context Is Everything

Have you ever overheard a conversation and got just enough of it to completely misunderstand what the person is actually saying?  I have.  I rudely jump in and say, “Hey! What are you talking about?”  Then they tell me the whole story and I realize that I’m just an idiot who misunderstood and busted in on their conversation.  That’s kind of like trying to grasp what a writer is saying by just picking out a verse here or a quote there.  Even news reporters have to learn that context- is everything!

This was made hilariously obvious when Liz Lemon read random portions of the Bible at a wedding in an episode of 30 Rock.  Even non-Christian people get that it’s ridiculous and sometimes horrifying to just pick a verse at random and start reading.

What’s worse is teachers can pretty much say whatever they want to “from the Bible”, by choosing a few verses and then not referring to them in the context of the whole passage, chapter, book, and Bible.  Hoards of people are squandering their money on relics, TV host’s empty promises, prayer cloths, and special blessings because of some teacher’s twisting of a few verses.  Even Satan uses scripture when he argues, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t polluting the meaning (Matt.4:1-11).

So what’s the solution?  Well, we need the Holy Spirit of Truth, and we need the community of believers, but we also need to study books in their entire context.  We need to read books straight through in a few sittings (like you do with most books).  When you get a letter, you usually read the whole thing at once.  What if you miss some really important part at the end like, “I’m coming to see you” or “Your dog died!”  We should read the Bible’s letters the same way.

That’s why in our new series we’re studying characters from the book of Judges in the context of the entire book.  We have to understand how the miniature stories fit within the larger story and then in the even-larger narrative of the whole Scripture.   But just as the Jesus Storybook Bible says, “Every story whispers His name.”

– Ryan Donell

I grew up going to camp.  I feel like I talk (and write) about that a lot.  Retreats are a little bit of camp for me, and I love that about them.  I had a lot of what I like to call “camp moments” on our day retreat.  Here are a few of my favorite moments.

When I went to camp growing up, I loved my counselors.  As a leader now, I love being connected to my students.  With 120 students on the retreat, there was no way that I could connect and talk to each one of them.  This is hard for me.  I love knowing my students and being able to call them by name.  It is frustrating for me to be limited in how well I know all my students the more our ministry grows.  As I stood on the lakefront during free time, bothered by the fact that I don’t know the name of every student on the retreat, I watched my leaders connecting with their students.  By the end of the day, they had spent a full 10 ½ hours playing with them, laughing with them, feeling sick on the big swing with them…every student had time to build relationships with adults who love the gospel and desire for their students to love the gospel.  Every student had an opportunity to connect with adult leaders.  I loved watching my leaders love our students. 

I love the way 5th and 6th graders engage with others and with their environment.  There is a freedom in this age group that tends to be lost the older they get.  They get so excited to crawl through pudding, jump into a freezing cold lake, run through briars and branches to steal a flag and win a game.  I always say that I could have them dig through dumpsters as a competition and they would love it.  I love watching my students be free to be themselves as they fully engage in everything we do.  I love watching them play.

We have a group of high school students called arrows that lead our 5th and 6th graders alongside their adult co-leaders.  I love watching these older students pour into our younger students.  This year was different than years past.  Four of these high school students were my first fusion students   5 years ago.  I love watching my “former” fusion students pour into my current fusion students.  I love seeing how they’ve grown, watching them invest and connect with younger students and hearing them continue to grow in their understanding and love of the gospel.

One of my arrows is a part of my d-group, the group of senior girls that I have led since 6th grade.  She has been in my group since her freshman year.  I stood on the lakefront for about 20 minutes watching her sit and talk with her girls.  This was my favorite moment of the day.  I have loved being a part of her life and watching her grow, to see her step into the lives of a group of younger girls, to hear her talk about how much she already loves being a part of their lives, to see them laughing together, to see her live out the gospel…  I love that.  I love watching God move and work in her life.  I love watching God use her to move and work in the lives of her fusion girls.

I struggle to explain this well with words, but there is something about just being with one another, laughing with one another, playing with one another, that is very holy for me.  There might not have been many specific conversations about the gospel on the retreat, but the gospel was still lived out.  I do know that I saw God working and felt His prescence in the laughter and joy of my 5th and 6th graders all day long.  The simplicity of being together, playing together and enjoying each other can bring glory to God in the same way that a conversation about the gospel brings glory to God.  Both are needed and both are good.  I loved seeing this happen on our retreat.

~ Leah Pinckney