Tomorrow I’ll be teaching my Bible study class at Bethel Baptist Church for the last time. I will have taught this class for the past 17 years, although the name of the class has changed several times as has its membership. Throughout the years the attendance has remained pretty steady at 25-35 and has mostly consisted of married couples. As I’ve taken inventory this past week, I’ve discovered that I have taught over half of the books in the Bible. Genesis alone took almost two years to complete since my style of teaching is to go verse-by-verse, and it’s not been unusual for a chapter to take two Sundays to cover.
For the past ten years, I’ve taught using PowerPoint, scanning in Bible story pictures and illustrations from children’s Bibles in order to bring the passage outline to life. (Previously, I used transparencies and an overhead projector and when I first started teaching more than 40 years ago, I utilized an old-fashioned flipchart.) Since I write my own lessons and make my own illustrations, the process of developing a lesson can easily take 15-20 hours each week.
But the reality behind all these facts is the overwhelming blessing I have received from being given the privilege of teaching the Word of God. To prepare each week I get to read commentaries by great Bible scholars like John MacArthur, John Phillips, James Montgomery Boice, John Piper and many others. I get to meditate on one passage of Scripture all week long and decide how best to share it with others. I must see how the passage applies to my life before I can make the application to others. After a day of study, I often find myself singing the old hymn, “All day long I’ve walked with Jesus, it has been a glorious day.”
Yet, even after all these years of learning and teaching, I feel I know next to nothing of the incredible treasures His Word contains. As soon as I discover one nugget, I look up to see a whole mountain of gold waiting to be mined. My overwhelming desire for those I have taught is that I have created within them a thirst for His Word that will never be quenched. I pray for them even as Paul prayed for the Ephesians, “that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” (Ephesians 1:18-19)
Every year we plant sweet potato vines along our back fence. We don’t plant many, maybe 15 in all. But by August, they’ve completely covered the length of the fence and serve as a gorgeous backdrop to my backyard when seen from my living room window.
However, this year in Oklahoma the weather has been one for the record books. Since early June, it’s been over 100 degrees almost every single day. We’ve had sparse rainfall and yard watering is under mandatory restrictions in our city. So, the vines have not been watered by human hands, having to survive on the moisture from the intermittent rainfalls. Two weeks ago, I wasn’t sure they were going to make it at all. However, here they are, thriving as if they had been watered and cared for every day. In reality, all they really did was remain rooted to the main branch.
As I looked at the thriving vines, I was reminded of Jesus’ teaching from John 15 concerning vines. He was teaching the necessity of the vine (or believers in Christ) remaining and not being cut off from the main branch (or Christ Himself). A believer thrives spiritually by continually staying attached to his spiritual life source, to Jesus.
No matter how harsh the conditions, if I remain in Him, I will thrive. No matter how sparse the resources, if I remain in Him, I will thrive. This beautiful truth is the reason I’ve used this phrase when signing my name to letters and emails: Abiding in Him, Luana.
I’m a big Words With Friends addict. For the few of you out there who may not know about this game because you have been living in a remote jungle, or taking care of three kids or actually working at your job, WWF is an app (read application) much like the game of Scrabble in which you have a certain number of letter tiles and you spell out words on a game board, each word having to connect to the next word at some point. It’s made for the iPhone, iPod, iTouch, iPad or any other iTech gadget created by Steve “I AM RICH” Jobs. I downloaded it on my new iPhone about two years ago through the urging of Michelle, a very good friend, who was addicted herself and wanted me to go down the road to ruin along with her. A day has seldom gone by during these past two years that I have not played the game. I even signed up on a tournament site called WordsWithFriends.net where I receive a daily opponent and play in monthly tournaments with players who are far better than I could ever hope to be. That’s how badly I’m hooked.
Here are a few reasons why I enjoy this game so much: (1) It taxes my brain. While looking at those letter tiles and putting together the different possibilities of words in my head, I feel those brain cells running around, bumping into each other, jostling each other around. That’s good. That’s what they were made to do. God made us to think.
(2) It introduces me to a variety of people. The game’s developers so designed WWF that you can play it by passing the game back and forth between a person seated next to you or you can play it with a random opponent the computer chooses for you who may be located halfway around the world. (Besides players in the USA, I’ve played games with people in Hong Kong, Australia, and London.) There’s a built-in feature that allows you to “chat” by texting messages back and forth while you’re playing. I’ve even been able to witness to one player who didn’t play for several days, came back to play and apologized because she had received a bad report about her health and was very depressed.
(3) It’s fun to win. Games are played because winning is euphoric. We love to watch sports because we get to win vicariously through the team we choose to support. That’s not the same as winning a game we’ve played in ourselves. That’s part of the addictive quality of WWF.
(4) It’s a game of both luck and skill. The luck part of WWF is fascinating because, much like real life, you must work with what you’ve been given. Sometimes that’s good, and sometimes that’s bad. No matter how extensive your vocabulary, it’s difficult to make a word without a vowel.
If I’ve piqued (a good word to know when you have a “q” to play) your interest, and you want to play me, my user name is “Riverwalker.” Chat with me while we play, and I’ll tell you why I chose that name.
There is much talk today about unemployment. In my Bible study class, we often pray for people who need jobs, who are interviewing for jobs or who are changing jobs. My husband is about to retire from a position, essentially becoming unemployed or about to have no job. So it is probably not a surprise that I have been meditating on a recent devotional thought I received from author and pastor John Piper. He noted that God’s message to us, that is the gospel of Christ, is “not a ‘help-wanted’ sign but a ‘help available’ sign.”
When Paul was preaching to the Athenians in Acts 17, he told them, “God is not served by human hands as though he needed anything.” If God cannot be served, that is really bad news to anyone trying to “score points” with Him by religious ritual or evangelistic zeal or by observing His laws. The rest of verses 24-25 says, “He himself gives to all people life and breath and all things.” Now this is really good news to anyone looking for the “help available” sign. Jesus pointed out that he did not come to serve but to “give his life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45) That’s the help available for all who would come to Him for mercy and grace. His arms are open wide. His help is available.