Since I can't seem to come up with anything else of value to say, I should be sharing tidbits from our Sunday morning class on faith...
It's been a great summer quarter. I get to co-teach with two amazing guys, our youth minister Bobby Smith, and Whit Gatewood. The best part isn't even teaching the class. It is the 3 hours we spend together each week studying and brainstorming. The reality is that the class is merely our excuse to get together and study.
Here's the brief version of our classes so far:
In the same way that McDonald's food is fast and easy but not always healthy, there are some misconceptions about faith out there that make it sound easy, but the reality is they are not the real thing and will only make us fat and lazy.
Happy Meal - The idea that Jesus just wants you to be happy and prosperous is a lie.
Hamburger - Where's the beef (substance)? The Rich Young Ruler had the bun, mustard, pickles, etc., but not the meat.
French Fries - We are the salt of the earth. Our faith should be flavorful!
McNuggets - Chickens don't have nuggets, and faith shouldn't be controlled by fear! It's unnatural.
McChicken Salad - It looks healthy, but is actually worse for you than the Big Mac! The Pharisees looked like they had faith on the outside, but were wicked on the inside.
McRib - Is it on the menu today or not? On again, off again faith. Will you live like you believe today or not?
2. Transforming Faith
If it is true faith, it will change us. Sometimes the change is radical and overnight, and other times the change is minute and over the long haul, but the fact is that faith transforms lives.
We had two testimonials. One from someone who had been into drugs and the like and had completely turned her life around through her faith. Another from one who had been attending church since the week he was born, yet can look back over the past decades and still see how his faith has slowly changed him into a more patient person.
3. Blind Faith
Faith does not require seeing for believing. That's easy to say...much more difficult to live.
Whit told the story of his son Ben's first year and a half of life. He told it while blindfolded, to illustrate how they had to make decision after decision while unable to see or know what the outcome would be. We also explored the following texts: Matthew 11:1-19, 20-24, Matthew 12:38-42, John 12:37-50, John 20:24-29
4. Contested Faith
There will be times our faith will be tested. Are we ready?
We looked at how Peter responded differently to two tests of his faith (Matthew 16:13-20 vs. Luke 22:54-62). We looked at how the formerly blind man and his parents responded to a test of their faith (John 9). And then, we put two people on the hot seat, told them what scenario they were in, and asked them how they would live out their faith in that setting.
5. Wide Angle Faith
Faith trusts God that He sees the bigger picture. Most of the time we merely see what is right before us. Our perspective can easily be skewed.
We started with pictures that were zoomed in to a small part of the overall, and asked people what was going on in that picture. After a few guesses, we revealed the whole, which was never what we thought it would be. Then we considered the parable of the weeds from Matthew 13. God is the one with the eternal perspective. We need to have faith in Him in the midst of this life's unfairness and inconvenience. He'll work it all out in the end.
6. Faith Walking
Sometimes faith will call us to walk right into a difficult, volatile, or just plain weird situation. Safety isn't the number one goal of faith.
We asked some random question...what would you do in a certain situation? Then we paralleled those questions with the story of Jesus raising Lazarus in John 11. Jesus made decisions in faith that were the exact opposite of what our common sense would tell us to do. He went back to a place where they wanted to kill him, He let a friend die when He had the power to keep it from happening, and He asked the people to open up the grave of a man who had been dead for days.
7. Doctrinal Faith
How many of you have changed your opinion on some point of doctrine in the past 10 years due to further study or deeper insight? If our faith is based on our perfect interpretation of the Bible, what happens when we realize we've been wrong about some point?
To illustrate, Bobby held a guitar in his hand the whole morning. Never strummed a note...just held it. Some were uncomfortable (including Bobby himself...). Others would have been uncomfortable a few years ago, but have since changed their understanding. We did not allow discussion on whether either was right or wrong...simply pointed out that if their faith was based on their perfect understanding, then changing their mind about that one point creates a faith-dilemma.
8. Patient Faith
We explored the difference between being passive and being patient. Sometimes faith calls us to wait on God to work...but that isn't the same thing as being passive.
The class began by asking them to list biblical examples of people who were patient because of their faith. Then, we had 5 minutes of silence...with no instruction on how to spend the time. Some prayed, some read their bible, some read their bulletin, others just enjoyed the quiet. The point was that they knew they had 5 minutes, so how would they choose to spend it? We don't always know how long it will be, but how do we spend the time while we are waiting on God? Do we sit around and do nothing? What is the difference between being passive and being patient? How do you know when to be zealous vs. when to be patient?
9. Unprecedented Faith
Faith believes that God can do things He's never done before...maybe even through us!
We led off with some Ripley's Believe it Or Not! and Guinness World Records that were unprecedented. Then, Bobby, Whit and I had a playful game of one-upping each other with examples of unprecedented faith, both from current times and from the bible. We ended with the song "When I Call on Jesus".
10. Little Faith
Five times in the gospels Jesus says something to the effect of "O ye of little faith!" What is it that characterizes "little faith"? It's not the size of the faith...for faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains. Rather, it appears that the presence of fear is a characteristic of "little faith".
We explored the five texts (found in Matthew 6, 8, 14, 16, and 17). I showed one of our members who is a safety inspector a small "critter cage". He inspected it to make sure it was secure and would hold a small animal. All agreed that it would. Then Bobby brought out the same cage...only this one had a live tarantula in it. All of a sudden, folks didn't have so much faith in the container! What changed? The introduction of fear, which leads to "little faith"
11. Great Faith
Two times in the gospels Jesus was amazed at someone's faith. What was it about their faith that amazed Jesus?
We considered people in our own lives whose faith impresses us and why that is. Then we compared the two stories (Matthew 8 and Matthew 15) where Jesus was impressed by someone's faith to see what we could learn.
Whew! That was a mouthful. So, now you're up to date with our summer class! Just 3 more weeks to go!