Course in Christian Studies

This week I have started on the Course for Christian Studies. This is a two-year course designed to help Christians understand the Christian faith more deeply and to also act as a gateway into various forms of ministry.

For me, I’ve tried to study the Christian faith myself over the years and so hope these early weeks of the course won’t be too stretching for me! We shall see! Theological training is important, and week one of the course is entitled “You too can be a theologian!” Properly handling the Bible and understanding matters of doctrine is important for all believers.

I have wanted to get involved more and more in the life of my church. My gifts largely centre around teaching, and while I have been very fortunate over the years to be able to teach in a variety of ways, if I want to do more in my church then I do need to obtain more formal training. I understand this, and it is wise that those in positions of authority or teaching are properly equipped.

I have been praying a lot about my own ministry and its future. I am certainly keen to explore more formal ministry further, and completing this course is a great first step. Through it, I hope to learn al ot but to also meet other believers on a similar journey. Also, I hope it will help me to more fully understand God’s will for my life.

As I progress on the course, I will try to write about it from time to time. I won’t give you a blow by blow account, but hope to keep you updated on my progress and the things I am learning.

This first course module is all about Encountering God. Those on the course come from a variety of churches and backgrounds, and so we begin by getting to know one another.

One activity involved noting down words we use for and about God. These included:

  • Lion of Judah (see Revelation 5:5)
  • Lamb of God (see John 1:29)
  • Comforter (see John 14:16 (Amp))
  • Advocate (see John 14:16 (Amp))
  • Judge (see Psalm 75:7)
  • And so many more…

God is everything to us, and so one single name does not fully convey Who He is. The Bible refers to God in a huge variety of ways. Some you will relate to, and some you may find more difficult.

We can no more define God than we can measure the distance between east and west. God is beyond our comprehension, and we are shown various dimensions of His character throughout Scripture. And yet, paradoxically, we can know Him. We can know the unknowable. The Almighty God came down as a Man, a human being just like each of us, and He lived a life like we live.

It is a mystery that the God of the Heavens has made Himself known to us through His Son. The God so far above us connects with us on our level. He meets us where we are.

Who is He to you? I will be spending some time this week thinking about this question. Have I put Him in a box, and have I limited Him? Do I know Him as I ought to, or do I concentrate on the bits I want to? I rejoice in His salvation, but do I submit to His Lordship? Have I painted a picture of Him in my mind which is not true, and if so, how can I really learn Who He is from the Bible?

The course this week has challenged me to think about this. I do not wish to limit God, nor do I want to know Him only in part. He is Saviour and Friend, but also Lord and Judge.

We can know God through the Bible, but it tqakes effort on our part. We must study the Scriptures and learn about Him. Not just gathering facts about Him, but understanding Who He is through relationship. I may know my wife’s date of birth, hair colour, shoe size or telephone number yet these are just facts about her and tell me little of who she really is. Likewise, I may gather pieces of data about God and still totally miss Who He is.

Only through systematic study of Scripture can we fully know God as He is revealed to us. Let us leave behind any preconceptions or traditions, and see what the Bible really has to say. I pray that the Holy Spirit will help each one of us do that.

I hope this has been of interest, and I’ll post more about the course over the coming weeks and months.

Praying Big

Yesterday’s post – What is prayer? – had a really positive response, so thanks to everyone for reading and sharing it. I thought I would continue on the theme of prayer today.

i heard a story this morning which I wanted to share with you. I retell it below in my own words. I’ve no idea if it is true, but it sends a clear message even if fictional.

Alexander the Great was the leader of a huge empire which stretched across much of the world. Despite this, he never forgot the needs of his people and one day every year he would invite randomly selected citizens to come and ask him for something. Whatever they wanted, he would grant it if it was within his power.

For many years, people would come and ask for small things. One would ask for enough food to eat. Another would request some new clothing.

One year, a peasant was selected and he stood before the great leader. Unlike the others, he asked for a great palace to live in, and the resources to invite all his friends and family to come and dine in the palace and take care of them.

Without hesitation, Alexander the Great said “Yes!”

Later, Alexander was asked why he would grant such a lavish request. His response was telling. “Anyone could give extra food or clothes, you do not need to be anyone special for that. But this request made me feel like a king! For only a king could give what this man had asked for.”

I wonder if our prayers to God the Father are somehow reflected in this story?

When I think about my own prayer life, I am humbled to realise that i do not pray anywhere near “big enough.” How often do we find ourselves saying something like, “God, if you would just….” or “Even if you could give a little help…” What does this betray about how we think about God or ourselves?

Perhaps we think God is not powerful enough to handle our prayers? Or, more likely, perhaps we think we do not deserve to receive answers to such big prayers?

Let me reassure you today, God can handle any prayer you care to offer to Him. The lights in heaven will not dim if you ask too much of God. God created the heavens and the earth, and He raised Christ Jesus from the dead. Is anything too hard for God?

Is anything impossible for the Lord? At the time set for it, I will return to you—about a year from now—and Sarah will have a son.”

Genesis 18:14 (ISV)

Abraham and Sarah became parents at a very old age, and that was not too difficult for God.

On the other point, do you deserve to have God answer your biggest prayers? No, absolutely not. But that is why we do not pray in our name, but in the Name of Jesus.

If you ask me for anything in my name, I will do it.”

John 14:14 (ISV)

When we pray in Jesus’ Name, we are approaching the throne of God presenting all that Jesus is and has done. We do not go on our own merits, but on Christ’s. When God looks upon us, He no longer sees our sin and sinfulness, but the perfection achieved by Jesus’ sacrifice at the cross.

I once heard someone say, “I’d rather ask God for everything and get some of it, than ask for nothing and get all of it.” We rarely ask for the “big stuff” because we often don’t think big enough.

There is much I learn from my own children on this point. My daughters rarely limit what they ask for. It does not matter how big it is, they go ahead and ask. It never crosses their mind that I might not be able to deliver! And even when I say no (far too often I am sad to admit) it does not faze them one bit – they just go on and ask for the next thing.

If we ask for more in prayer, then what is the worst than can happen? If we ask for anything from God which is not His will, then it will not happen. So move on and ask for something which is in His will. Clearly we should not be asking for things prohibited by the Bible, but don’t limit God by assuming He will say no before you’ve even asked. At least give God the right to refuse!

Set your minds on God, not just what He has done, but on Who He is. Not only is He all powerful, but He loves you so much He gave us His Son to die for you! If we begin to grasp the depth of His love and the strength of His power, then we will never cease to pray!

Now to the one who can do infinitely more than all we can ask or imagine according to the power that is working among us—

Ephesians 3:20 (ISV)

God can do far more than we can ask or even imagine. How “big” is your imagination? How much more is God than that!

Start today. Let’s stop praying these tiny prayers as if we are bothering God. Let each one of us, as we pray, use our imaginations to go beyond whatever it is we were about to ask for. Take your prayer and multiply it first, then dare to go further and ask God to achieve it. He is able!

Bear in mind that prayer is not primarily about getting everything we want. Ask for your needs and wants of course, but let us all pray in ways which will last for eternity, not just the here and now.

We praise the Living God who hears our prayers and can do all things! Nothing is impossible for Him! Let us magnify and multiply our prayers a hundred-fold, and give God all the glory as we see the answers come! Amen!