Challenge | Classical Conversations | Faith

How to Use Comparison to Enhance Bible Study

By on August 19, 2019

Of Aristotle's Five Common Topics, Comparison has always been the easiest for me. Perhaps it is because I grew up comparing things, whether good or bad, all of my life. This summer I led a seminar in using the topic of Comparison to generate ideas for an entire paper.

The topic of Comparison generates a wealth of ideas. Sometimes it is hard to get a conversation going about the Bible because as we get older we forget to wonder about the Bible. We've heard all of the stories before and so when we get to familiar subjects, we glance at them to see if they're still the same thing we know them to be, and then we move on. But what if you could slow down and wonder? Is there anything new to find in those old familiar stories?

Comparing Rahab and Zacchaeus

Our first character for comparison is Rahab, from Joshua 2. She is living in the ancient city of Jericho and works as a prostitute. When two spies arrive from Israel, she takes them in, hides them, and helps them escape. Her life is forever changed by this encounter.

Zacchaeus, a New Testament character who we meet in Luke 19, is a tax collector living in Jericho 2.0 about a mile south of the old ruins. I know him from the song we used to sing in Sunday school about him being a "wee little man", how he "climbed up in a sycamore tree" to see Jesus as he passed by, and how Jesus said, "Zacchaeus, you come down. For I'm going to your house today." His life is forever changed by this encounter.

How are they similar and different?

At face value, these two characters seem to have little more in common than a city name and a life change. When you work to find their similarities however, it really makes you consider how well you really know the characters, and it brings about a new sense of wonder.

In comparison there are three helpful categories to investigate as you look for similarities:

  • What do they both have?
  • What are they both?
  • What do they both do?

As you identify similarities you can also note how they are different in those areas. You can look for differences in two categories as well:

  • kind - is it a totally different type of thing
  • degree - is one better/worse than the other

So let's see what we can discover about these familiar Bible characters.

What do they both have?

I love the brainstorming process. This is a time when all ideas are considered and none are thrown out. One thing at a time. Once you have all of your ideas, you can start to weed out the weak from the strong. Right now, don't judge, just consider:

- High Vantage Points

Rahab's home was situated in the wall where she could see everyone who was coming and going. This gave her a place to watch for newcomers to the town, and it seems that she gleaned a lot of great information from her high perch. It makes me wonder how often did she sit and watch? What else did she know about the people coming and going from her city?

Zacchaeus, on the other hand, was just a short guy in the right place. He was curious about Jesus, but he couldn't see over the crowd. Thankfully, he was resourceful and spry because he found a nearby tree to scale. How old do you think he was? What was he wearing? Did he do this often?

- Wealth

Rahab's wealth is shown in a more subtle fashion through the fact that she has a house and stalks of flax laid out on the roof. This means that she had the basics provided for and seemed to be living a pretty comfortable life. Compared to the Israelites who had been wandering in the desert, she was doing pretty well. It makes me wonder, did the king pay for her place or if she was self sufficient?

Zacchaeus's wealth is evident to all. It is expressed in his short bio in Luke 19:2 - He was the chief tax collector and he was wealthy. It makes me wonder why was he looking for anything else? Didn't he have everything he needed?

- Homes in Jericho

We've already briefly noted this, but it is fascinating to me that Jericho, which is leveled in Rahab's story - actually the event that even gives Rahab a place in the Bible - is mentioned again in the New Testament. Why did someone rebuild this city? Who would name it Jericho even if the land was reused?

After a little bit of research, I found that God told Joshua to tell the people that whoever tried to rebuild the city would be cursed (Joshua 6:26). This came true when Hiel of Bethel rebuilt Jericho in King Ahab's time (1 Kings 16:34). When we encounter Jericho in the New Testament, it is a buzzing Roman city where King Herod had built a winter home and eventually died (Encyclopedia Britannica).

So maybe this Realestate wasn't as much of an advantage for either Rahab or Zacchaeus as it seemed.

What are they both?

Our next category looks a little deeper into what kinds of people they are, but we're still just identifying the obvious. The deep epiphanies come when you least expect it.

- Workers of Odd Jobs

Let's face it: Rahab's job was not a career with a 401k retirement plan. She was a contract worker with a job that didn't generate respect from the Israelite religion. Yet, the spies trusted her. I wonder why.

Zacchaeus worked for the enemy. In the New Testament, the Israelites were now living under the thumb of the Romans, so a Tax Collector, while it was a lucrative and stable job, was not popular with the Israelites. Yet, Jesus sought Zacchaeus out and went to his house to eat with him. I wonder why.

- Robbers of Their Community

Even though Rahab's clients were willing participants, the act of prostitution robs the actors from the blessings of sex within the protection of a marriage relationship. It is no wonder Rahab was looking for help from the God of the Israelites.

Zacchaeus took money from people who did not wish to give it up. They were forced to give their precious resources to a regime they did not support. I wonder what sparked Zacchaeus' interest which led him to that tree on that day.

- Looked Down Upon

Both held occupations that did not generate esteem among their peers. One could make an argument that the city of Jericho was so corrupt that they esteemed Rahab as a prostitute, but the fact that the word "prostitute" is always attached to her name doesn't seem like a blessing.

When Jesus says he's going to Zacchaeus' house, the people all grumble around about how great of a sinner Zacchaeus is. Nobody likes him very much. I wonder what he thought about Jesus coming over to his house.

What do they both do?

Our final category for exploration is what do they both do.

- Pursue Truth

When Rahab talks to the spies, it is clear that she's been watching the God of the Israelites for some time. She's collected stories, watched for stagers, and seized the opportunity to seek out the truth. It's taken a long time, but then again her resources for accessing the truth were very limited. I wonder how long she'd been contemplating this idea.

Zacchaeus is actually fairly impulsive in his pursuit. It is more of a curiosity than a determined investigation like Rahab's. As a collector, it seems he's stumbled upon a richer pot than he imagined. I wonder if he realized the wealth he'd found.

- Take Risks

By hiding the spies, Rahab risks everything: her career, her life, and her family's lives. She was "all in" on the bet that God would win the battle against Jericho and she was willing to risk it all. I wonder how many times she's worked out the odds on this bet.

When Zacchaeus climbed that tree, he was really just improvising. He wanted a good look at Jesus, but from a safe place at a distance. Surely he didn't bet on Jesus walking up to him in that tree, calling him by name, and going home with him. I wonder if he realized the risk he was taking.

- Repent

In the end, Rahab leaves her life of prostitution to live with the people who serve the living God. She changes her ways, and ends up being known not for her sin but for being in the line of Christ (Matthew 1:5). She's commended for her faith (Hebrews 11:31) and righteousness (James 2:25). I'd say that she's changed. I wonder what her family thought of the change.

Although he's only mentioned in Luke, Zachhaeus has clearly repented since Jesus himself clearly vouches for him. Not only does Zacchaeus trust in Jesus, he also vows to give back more than he took from the people. He will no longer become wealthy at the expense of others. He's found the true source of wealth that will never perish. I wonder what his family thought about the change.

Lasting Impacts of Extravagant Faith

In my seminar with high school kids, they picked three similarities to attend to in their paper: both Rahab and Zacchaeus pursued truth, repented sins, and took risks. In the end they decided that Rahab had the greater faith and impact because of her place in the lineage of Christ.

What did we glean from this comparison? Extravagant faith impacts not just the person who is trusting God. Both Rahab and Zacchaeus impact the future of their immediate family, but additionally, their stories of faith are still being read today and impacting lives beyond their imaginations.

We don't make choices in isolation. Rahab and Zacchaeus are great examples of extravagant faith that we can follow.

Curiosity in Bible Study

We cannot let our familiarity or unfamiliarity with a Bible story shut down our wonder. Slow down. Consider the fact that these aren't just made up stores, but they are real people with real circumstances encountering a real God. It's powerful.

Each of these ideas sparked a new idea for wonder which could take your understanding of either one of these people to a richer and deeper level.

What do you wonder about?

Continue Reading

Crafts | Faith | Printables

4 FREE Inspirational Coloring Sheets

By on June 24, 2019

I love the pace of summer. Even though we generally have a variety of different events that mess up the routine, the overall pace of summer is restful. The sun slows me down, invites me to soak in its goodness, and reminds me of God's faithfulness.

Sometimes we need reminding of these truths that seemed so obvious to us at one time. I've shared some coloring sheets before because I love the way that they help one meditate on ideas. When you're creating something lovely that speaks of something beautiful, your soul responds to the harmony it hears. Here are four coloring sheets to encourage your soul!

I Am Worthy

Often we don't feel worthy of much, and that is true because we can't bring anything good to the table without God working through us. We often miss God's goodness, however because we decide that he can't use us because we know how lacking we are. It's that law of protection that rejects someone first before you get rejected. It doesn't work in God's economy though.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD

Oh How He Loves Me

The reason that we can trust Him is because of His great love. His love isn't dependent upon our performance, because he loved us before we were lovely. His love is relentless, reckless, and reliable. We can learn to trust Him more as we ponder His great love.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD

Bloom With Grace

Learning to trust is a bumpy road. There will be many missteps along the way that can tempt us to turn away. However, if we allow God's love to grow in our hearts, we can show ourselves grace as he works the impurities out of our lives. It is a process that requires much grace.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD

God is Love

Our relationship will continue to grow as we learn that our mistakes are not bothersome to our God. He's not impatient or harsh. He's not waiting for us to learn our lesson, but he's calling us to a relationship. It's his nature because God is love. Isn't that a glorious thing?

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD

Enjoy these free coloring sheets and remember the beautiful truths as you make lovely art!

Continue Reading

Challenge | Faith | Family Life | Printables

Creative Graduation Gifts that Come with a Blessing

By on May 6, 2019

My husband is tutoring my son's Challenge IV class in Classical Conversations this year, so we're full on in graduation season. I tutored this class for a couple of years and my husband has had them for the last three, so these kids seem like family to us. As I thought about what I'd like to give them as graduation gifts, I thought it would be fun to bless them with some wisdom for their journey.

You could pick and choose from any of these ideas and throw in a gift card (or cash) to bless your graduate. Make sure to read to the end where you can find a printable version of these words of wisdom to add to your gift.

1. Reusable Bag

When life gets heavy, remember you don’t have to carry it alone. 

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

As they walk out into the "real world" they can feel invincible until life comes and knocks the wind out of them. It's good to remember that Christ didn't ask us to follow Him alone. He gave us His Spirit and the church. Community is such a blessing for bearing burdens.

I found these cute reusable shopping bags at World Market for the girls, but I got the boys drawstring backpacks.

2. Hot Drink

When the heat turns up, remember that God never wastes suffering. 

"Taste and see that the Lord is good."

Psalm 34:8

When you think about the transformation that happens when you dip a tea bag into hot water, you can see how God can turn a difficult situation into something unexpected.

Hot drinks are the favorites of our coffee-shop loving kids. We opted for hot chocolate with a fun twist and hot tea. World Market has some really unique options!

3. Coffee Mug

Coffee is never just coffee...every pursuit can be to the glory of God or man. 

"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God."

1 Corinthians 10:31

It's easy to get distracted by plans and goals and miss the people that God places in your life. Having coffee with friends can be an opportunity to "unearth holiness" as Eugene Peterson calls it in Godspeed.

There are always cute coffee mugs everywhere. We picked the earthy glazed option from World Market.

4. Highlighters

You’ll focus on what you highlight. 

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things."

Philippians 4:8

This is true for everyone. If you practice highlighting the lovely things God brings your way, you'll be surprised at how God will bring those stories back to mind in conversations.

5. Extra Gum

Always go the extra mile.

"If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you."

Matthew 5:41-42

Servant leadership is rare these days. This can apply to any of their pursuits as they launch out on their own. Professors and employers will notice this and reward the effort.

6. 100 Grand Candybar

No matter how much money you have, the real prize is not found in your bank account. 

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

Matthew 6:19-21

Our world often tells this tale very differently. When people ask what my kids want to do when they grow up, it is generally assessed by how finically lucrative the career will be. Money isn't the only measure of success.

7. Nerds

Nerdy is in the eye of the beholder. 

"But the Lord said to Samuel, 'Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.'”

1 Samuel 16:7

Trying to be what others think you ought to be is generally what gets people in trouble. I love that God looks beyond the outward appearance and sees the beautiful creation that He designed.

8. Index Cards

Notice godly character in others and pursue relationships with them

"My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry..."

James 1:19

This goes with the idea behind the highlighters. If you seek out people with godly character, you'll find a group that will help you run the race of faith with integrity.

9. Sour Patch Kids

When you hit a sour patch in life, consider it joy. 

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."

James 1:2-4

My son's class was especially fond of Sour Patch kids, so this one had to make it into their basket! This can be the hardest challenge they'll face in the next couple of years. Often, things do not work out as expected. The difference is how you respond to those hard times.

10. Ramen

Desperate times do not call for desperate measures. Trust in the Lord. 

"Then Jesus said to his disciples: 'Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.'"

Luke 12:22-24, 31

I'm not as much of a fan of classic college ramen as my teens are, so they might not think it's a desperate time to have this as a staple in their diet. Worry, however, is something that we all seem to hold onto without any problem. So if they can think of trusting in the Lord every time they eat ramen, that would be a great reminder.

11. Thinking Putty

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. - Albert Einstein 

"On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your right hand upholds me."

Psalm 63:6-8

My kids love thinking putty. I love how playing with it reminds me of meditating on scripture. Thinking through God's word transforms your mind which transforms your life.

12. A Good Book

Harry S. Truman said, “not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” 

"Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up."

James 4:10

I always love a new book to read. This is a great way to remind them that education never ends. It will be something that they will pursue for the rest of their lives. Here are some great options:

Graduation Gift Basket

I found a fun little storage basket at Target that fit all of the treasures.

It looks really fun when you use some of those clear basket bags with a cute tag. I picked these globe luggage tags as a fun way to encourage them as they go explore the world.

Grab the printable here to add these wisdom messages to your graduation gifts.

I cut some of my brown paper roll down to 8.5x11 size to put in my printer. It worked really well!

Continue Reading

Crafts | DIY | Faith

How to Sew a Simple Bible Study Pen Pouch

By on April 8, 2019

Having a pen handy when I'm at church or just reading my Bible is important because I always want to write down my notes when I'm reading. This simple Bible study pen pouch is quick to sew, super inexpensive, and keeps your pen handy to jot down your thoughts when you need to write them down.

My dad always valued writing in his Bible because he felt like it left a treasure map of his faith for his family. When he passed away, he left me a Bible with notes written directly to me. It is my greatest inheritance from him. I'm working on keeping that tradition for my own kids.

Bible Study Pen Pouch

"Underlined" by Billy Gaines

The song that my dad referenced frequently went like this:

I found my mother's bible

it was just the other day

I watched the treasures of her heart

unfold with every page

well she's gone to be with Jesus now

of her thoughts I can't inquire

I could not have found more clearer written will of her desire

Underlined were the words about commitment

Underlined were the words about contentment

Underlined were precious promises that calmed her doubts and fears

Underlined the words that spawned the love

she'd shown throughout the years

I remember most the things she'd emphasized

I knew her heart by things she'd underlined....

Underlined by Billy Gaines

This is such a beautiful description of what my father did for me. I'm so thankful for him sharing his thoughts with me in this way.

Bible Study Pen Pouch Supplies

Here's what you need to make your own Bible study pen pouch:

  • Fabric (I picked up a remnant for $1.18 that could make about 5 of these pouches)
  • Elastic - width of your choice depending on the size of your Bible (I had some left over from a skirt project)
  • Sewing machine
  • Scissors or rotary cutter
  • Thread

Step 1: Cut Out Your Pieces

I cut three 2 1/2" x 11" strips. One will be my pouch, and the other two will be the front and back of my pouch.

Step 2: Sew The Pouch

Take one of your strips and double fold one end down. Then sew two lines across the top. This will reenforce the part of your pouch that will receive the most action as you put pens in and take them out.

Step 3: Pin Your Pieces Together

Place your pouch piece where you'd like it to go and then put the back side on top of the other two with right sides facing together. Pin them together.

Step 4: Sew & Turn

Sew straight lines on either side of the pouch, leaving the top and bottom open. Then turn the pouch right side out. Be careful to not turn your pouch the wrong direction. If your pouch seems inside out when you turn it, then just turn the pouch as well.

At this point, you'll want to iron your pouch so that it all lays flat nicely.

Step 5: Sew On the Elastic

Fold the unsown ends in and insert the elastic. Sew a straight line across to attach the elastic. I like to start with one end, then check the size and fit again before finishing sewing the other end. Once you're happy with your size, fold in the other end, insert the elastic and sew a straight line across.

And you're done! Slide it on, insert your pens and enjoy!

Bible Study Pen Pouch

My Bible is a hard back journaling Bible, and it works great with the hard back. My mom loved my Bible study pen pouch and she wanted me to make one for her! It also worked well on her soft, leather bound Bible. We just slid it closer to the binding.

Bible study pen pouch

I have plenty more fabric to make a couple more! These would make great gifts with a cute journal as well, and they only take a few minutes to make.

Happy crafting!

Continue Reading

Faith | Family Life

5 Family Faith Building Resources on RightNow Media

By on April 1, 2019

Our morning time over this past year has centered around reading through the Bible and then digging into His Word together. Our favorite resource is RightNow Media. We get access through our church account, but you can also get access if you're a member of CC Connected. We've found some excellent resources that have offered great content for rich faith building discussions in our morning time.

RightNow Media

1. Francis Chan Studies

Francis Chan has a lot of resources available on RightNow Media; however there are two that I have watched all the way through and really enjoyed. I'm looking forward to digging into some of his other resources soon!

Book of Mark

I have really enjoyed learning from Francis Chan recently. His humble approach to scripture is really refreshing, and these short videos are great springboards for discussion and study.

In his series on The Gospel of Mark, Francis Chan takes you on location to the places where the stories he describes take place. We have loved seeing the Jordan River, Sea of Galilee, and the city of Capernaum. His passion is contagious and his imagination is inspiring as you glimpse some of these familiar Bible stories from a fresh perspective. I love that he doesn't leave you with the impression that he's taught you everything there is to know about the book of Mark, but desires this to be a start of your own journey of exploring Mark. Check out the trailer here:

Book of James

Another great study by Francis Chan is his series on The Book of James. This series is shot around San Francisco with some inspiring scenery that brings the truths of the book to life.

Again, Francis Chan's passion for God's Word is evident, and he does a great job inspiring listeners to discover and apply God's Word for themselves. Check out the trailer here:

Each of these studies have facilitator guides to download in RightNow Media.

2. Godspeed

I stumbled across Mark Canlis and his documentary Godspeed one Sunday when my daughter and I were home sick from church. I was looking for something to watch, and searched to see if N.T. Wright had any resources in RightNow Media, and up popped this curious documentary.

The simple premise of this documentary and the short videos that follow is that we must slow down in order that our lives might flourish (the literal meaning of godspeed). Matt finds out what slowing down truly means when he studies abroad in Scotland and spends thirteen years serving in a Scottish parish. He shares his discoveries along with insights from Eugene Peterson and N.T. Wright in this inspiring study.

RightNow Media

I discovered that Matt Canlis spoke at the Rabbit Room's Hutchmoot conference in 2017, and shared these ideas about Living @ Godspeed there.

This study started with our family and we've loved it so much that we extended it to our church family to enjoy together. What we've gained from that is a place where our teenagers join with people of other generations to discuss the ideas of life and following God. It's been such a beautiful time to connect. We've all been blessed by this study.

3. The Bible Project Resources

You could get lost in these resources for a great long time. I've been a fan of the Bible Project and their sketch outlines of the books of the Bible for a while now. While you can view all of their resources for FREE on YouTube, it is really nice to have them all collected in RightNow Media. They have so many other great videos, and continue to add to their catalog of resources. Check out this first video in their Gospel series:

Some of their other series include:

  • Torah Series
  • Wisdom Series
  • How to Read the Bible
  • Spiritual Beings
  • Word Studies
  • Biblical Themes
  • Read Scripture

4. Shaken Bible Study with Tim Tebow

As your teens grow up, they're sure to discover that living a life of faith is not always sunshine and daisies. Tim Tebow, a homeschool graduate/pro football player, shares his insights to the challenges of wrestling with your identity in the midst of life's storms.

This short series is excellent for any teen or family to walk through together. I find that when we study these things together, it gives us a common language to relate to one another within difficult times.

5. Seeds Family Worship

Sometimes our family is just on information overload and we need to slow down and meditate on truth in God's Word. Music is a great way for us to do that. Seeds Family Worship has been one of my favorite scripture memory tools for a long time. They do such a great job of putting God's words to music which in turn locks it into my mind.

We've spent our whole morning time soaking in the goodness of God's Word through Seeds Family Worship videos. If you have young kids, they also have the videos with the motions to the songs to go along with it. It could be a great way to keep them active while meditating on God's Word.

I've really enjoyed the RightNow Media channel on my ROKU. It makes it so easy to access the resources.

Do you use RightNow Media? If you don't have access, check in with your church. They might have it available for you and you didn't even know it. If you're a member of CC Connected, check in there to get your access.

RightNow Media

What are some of your favorite resources?

Continue Reading