Saturday, January 12, 2008

Theology Lessons

I have absolutely nothing to say today.  Can you believe it?  

Fortunately, I have zillions of words in storage.  :-)  One of my doctoral projects was to write a curriculum for middle school students about theology.  I found it an interesting challenge--how do you boil down the most important elements of faith and put it into words that lay people can teach and middle school students can understand?  

So from time to time, I might pop one of those lessons up here.  The language is simple, but the lessons are profound.  Enjoy! 


Week One: What is the Word of God?

Do you have a good friend? Does he or she sometimes send you an instant message on the computer or a text message on the phone? It’s nice to hear from a friend, isn’t it? Before computers and cell phones were invented, though, people sent messages to each other in other ways. God spoke to people, too.  Sometimes he spoke directly (“Hey, Adam! It’s me, God. Why are you hiding?”). Sometimes he spoke through his prophets. (Nathan: “Yes, King David, the Lord sent me to tell you that you’re guilty of murdering Uriah and stealing his wife.”)

And sometimes God spoke had his prophets write his words down. The written word, you see, lasts a long time. Properly preserved, a hand-written document can last for ages. The apostle Peter wrote, “Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God” (2 Peter 1:20-21).

When we say that the Bible is “inspired,” we mean that it comes from God’s Holy Spirit, not from men alone. Therefore it is God’s Word to man, and we must respect it. For the next few weeks we’ll be looking at the Bible to see how it came to be and how we know it is worthy of our trust.

The Bible is one complete book composed of sixty-six smaller books. Many different men wrote these books over a period of fifteen hundred years, and we can see their different styles in the way they write. But God was the moving force behind all their writing. In fact, the first words intended for the Bible were written by the finger of God! Do you know what they are? No, not the first words in the Bible, but the first words intended for the Bible. They are the Ten Commandments, literally written by God to man. “When the Lord finished speaking with Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two stone tablets inscribed with the terms of the covenant [the two tablets containing the Ten Commandments], written by the finger of God” (Ex. 31:18).

Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible—Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy—and these are often called the Pentateuch (pronounced PEN-ta-too-k). Look at Deuteronomy 32:24-25: “When Moses had finished writing this entire body of instruction in a book, he gave this command to the Levites who carried the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant . . .”

Wait a minute—if Moses wasn’t even born in Genesis 1:1 (“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”), how’d he know what to write? Simple—God told him. Every word came from the Spirit of God. Moses knew what happened before his birth because God told him about the creation, how sin came into the world, and about the worldwide flood. God told Moses everything he needed to know.

The Bible itself tells us how it came to be written:

·      Ex. 24:4: “Then Moses carefully wrote down all the Lord’s instructions . . .”

·      Jeremiah 26:2: “This is what the Lord says: stand in the courtyard in the front of the Temple of the Lord, and make an announcement to the people who have come there to worship from all over Judah. Give them my entire message; include every word.”

·      Matthew 4:4: “But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

·      Deuteronomy 18:18: “I will raise up a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites. I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell the people everything I command him.”

·      Matthew 5:18: “I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved.”

·      Joshua 24:26: “Joshua recorded these things in the Book of God’s Instructions.”

So—does that mean that the men who wrote the Bible were like secretaries? They sat with a parchment before them and wrote the words they heard the Spirit whisper in their ear? Not exactly, because a person who simply writes what he hears is little better than a machine that transcribes sound into the written word. The men who wrote the Bible revealed their personalities and writing styles in their books even as they recorded every word God wanted them to write.

A good way to illustrate might be to think of an orchestra. Let’s say we have two excellent trumpet players who are playing the exact same part. The first player might play the part with confidence and an air of showmanship. The second player might play the same notes, but be a little more reserved in his playing. Or his “legato” (it means smooth) might be a little smoother than the first player’s version of the tune. Or maybe he’s feeling sad, and his sadness comes out through the music. Though we can hear their different styles, they are both playing music written by someone else—the composer.

In the same way, the Holy Spirit of God told the Bible writers what to say, and they said it exactly as God meant it to be said . . . while they displayed their gifts, emotions, and personalities.

What is the Bible? It is the Word of God, and “all Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right” (2 Timothy 3:16).

God’s Word is his message to all people—those who lived yesterday, today, and tomorrow. God never changes, and neither does the truth of his word. The Bible is completely trustworthy—and next week, you’ll find out why. 


Anonymous said...

Angie, may I use this? Or adapt and use it? I work with a middle school group at a local (Boulder, CO) Chinese Baptist church, and am always looking for curriculum ideas! (see my blog for what we did this evening ...).

Angela said...

Cool, Elsi--tell you what. Drop me an email, and I'll send you the entire file of about 18 lessons. My hubby's church group used them, so I'd be delighted to have them used elsewhere, too.


Mocha with Linda said...

Oh I'm SOOO excited to find your website and your blog. I love your books. They are incredible. I'm excited to see the list of what is in the pipeline. . . I've been hoping you have some new ones in the works!

BTW, I love the new covers for the Fairlawn series! I have to tell you how much I enjoyed DSLN. And having a background as an RN, some of the details were fascinating. I always wondered how they got the clothes on! (Of course, having my elderly uncle's funeral right after reading it was a little amusing!)

And I've gotten to know Nancy Rue a bit and understand you too are pals. Her new one was also impossible to put down. I featured it one day on my brand new blog. She told me one time you and she have tossed around the idea of collaborating. That would be awesome. Two of my favorites in one book!

I'll definitely be back!!