Bible study

Resources of the Month: Haggai and Jacob Bible studies


Cover to Cover Haggai

Uncover how God motivates His people into action

Haggai, an often-overlooked prophet, aimed to motivate God’s people to action. His prophecy describes how God uses timing, perspective and more to encourage those lacking drive. These lessons apply to us today as much as they do to the people of the Old Testament. This study explores how motivation is vital in our walk with God.

Over seven sessions, explore in your small group the ways God motivates us today, how we can focus on following Him and that God’s ways are founded on His love and compassion for us.

 

 


Cover to Cover Jacob

Explore the life of Jacob – and learn how God never gives up on us

Best known for deceiving his twin brother Esau, there is so much more that we can learn from Jacob and his experiences as a son, brother, husband and father. Through his struggles, mistakes and challenges, he learnt many lessons and allowed God to set him back on the path towards home.

Over seven chronological sessions, discover more about the family tree Jesus was born into, the power of persisting in prayer, and how to take hold of God’s blessings and purposes for your life.

 

 

More in the series

Cover to Cover Bible study guides are ideal for group or individual study. Experience the reality of Bible events in a fresh way, and gain a new depth to your Bible knowledge and relationship with God. Icebreakers, Bible readings, eye openers, discussion starters, personal application and ‘seeing Jesus’ sections make these Bible study guides a great small group resource.

Resource of the Month: At the Cross Cover to Cover Lent Bible Study


Cover to Cover Lent: At the Cross

NEW for Lent 2017

Reflect on the crucifixion of Jesus in a new way – by considering the perspectives of those who witnessed it themselves.

Each of these six Bible study sessions includes a devised monologue of someone whom the Gospels tell us was present at the cross – from the criminal crucified beside Christ, to Mary and the Roman centurion.

You and your small group can discover a creative approach to exploring these momentous passages of the Bible and be encouraged by looking afresh at the world-changing impact of what was achieved through the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Author Abby Guinness writes in her introduction to this Bible study:

‘Together, in these sessions, we’ll spend some time thinking about six people who witnessed the crucifixion. They were real people with thoughts, experiences and responses like ours. My background is in theatre and I have a love of thinking about things dramatically. I naturally consider human nature and personal stories to help me understand and explore the Scriptures. I would love it if you would enter into that with me… and I pray they will help you find fresh perspective on your own interpretation of the biblical text.’

Meet the Author

Abby Guinness is an actor, writer and Event Director for Spring Harvest. She particularly enjoys finding creative ways to explore and communicate the Bible. She is the author of The Word of the Wives, the editor of Immeasurably Deeper, and has written several Bible study resources.

More in the series

Cover to Cover Bible study guides are ideal for group or individual study. Experience the reality of Bible events in a fresh way, and gain a new depth to your Bible knowledge and relationship with God. Icebreakers, Bible readings, eye openers, discussion starters and personal application make these Bible study guides a great small group resource.

You may also be interested in other resources ideal for Lent.

Resources of the Month: Joshua 1-10 and The Armour of God Bible studies


Cover to Cover Joshua 1-10

Discover more of the wonders of being in a relationship with our faithful, holy and awesome God.

Joshua’s life powerfully illustrates God’s call to each and every one of us to walk by His side and bear witness to His work. We may live in a very different culture from the one in which Joshua found himself, but God never changes and nor do the priorities He has set for us. Today, just as during Joshua’s time, no one is beyond the reach of God’s grace. Like Joshua, we will learn that God’s ways are best, even when they don’t make sense to us at the time.

Over seven sessions, be encouraged in your small group to live out your life for God, better understand God’s faithfulness, and discover more about what it means to be in a relationship with a faithful God.

 

 


Cover to Cover The Armour of God

An invitation to put on God’s strength, protection and power.

Ephesians 6 is a well-known passage about the armour of God, but how do we go further than just knowing about the armour – how do we fully apply it to our lives? The armour is of little value if it is not put on and worn intentionally. Let these words of Scripture become a reality to you and your daily life as you explore the different pieces of armour and consider how each part protects, strengthens and empowers us as we take hold of them.

This is an opportunity over seven sessions for your small group to be reminded that we are loved, valued and forgiven by God, and that salvation makes a huge difference to our lives. We can also wear the armour both personally and together as the Church.

 

 

More in the series

Cover to Cover Bible study guides are ideal for group or individual study. Experience the reality of Bible events in a fresh way, and gain a new depth to your Bible knowledge and relationship with God. Icebreakers, Bible readings, eye openers, discussion starters, personal application and ‘seeing Jesus’ sections make these Bible study guides a great small group resource.

Resource of the Month: Vital series

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How can we build and strengthen our relationship with God?
In the video introduction above, Phin Hall gives an overview on the value of understanding and engaging in spiritual disciplines every day.

Throughout the Bible there is a call for people to enter into a relationship with God, where our lives are shaped primarily by our love for Him and for one another. But how many of us really fulfil this call? This is the goal of spiritual discipline.

The spiritual disciplines have been practised for centuries by godly men and women: they are of great worth in bringing us into a closer relationship with God as we ‘work out’ our salvation. With these Bible studies, you and your group will be encouraged to investigate what is so vital about these practices and to adopt them into a daily routine.

Each book in the Vital series contains four exciting studies, presented in a way that is beneficial for group, paired or individual study, including daily readings and questions to ponder individually or discuss in groups.

To help you engage further with these vital spiritual disciplines, QR codes and webpage addresses for the introduction and each of the four weeks allow you to access FREE teaching videos from the author, including the introductory video shown above.

Phin Hall
Phin has been involved in preaching, teaching, writing and lecturing on the Bible since 2004. His passion is to see the Word of God loved, known and understood so that it shapes people’s lives, builds up the Church, deepens people’s relationship with God and brings glory to Him. Phin is married to Marie, has three sons and a daughter, and runs a smallholding at his home in Hampshire. Phin’s sermons may be accessed online at www.phinhall.net

Bible knowledge on the decline?

Christian leaders are faced with a dilemma. Biblical teaching and information is becoming ever-increasingly available in an instant thanks to technology. Yet research suggests that Bible knowledge has been on the decline over recent decades. And it would seem that Christians are spending less time regularly meeting together to learn and study the Bible.

Here at Small Group Central, we have many resources to help you dig deeper into the Bible – one of which is CWR’s Small Group Toolbox series. Made up of six study guides, each including four individual sessions, this series looks at a number of different, relevant topics for Christian small groups today:

1)      Building Character Through Testing Times

Keep strong through faith and see life’s challenges as an opportunity to grow spiritually. A resource to help you and your small group explore vital issues of Christian growth and discipleship.

2)      Discovering Your Spiritual Gifts

Understand the nature of your spiritual gifts and the reasons why God, in His wisdom, entrusts these special powers to ordinary people. Discover what these spiritual gifts are, which gifts you have, and how to use them wisely.

3)      Identity

Explore the subject of identity rooted in faith. A resource to help you and your small group explore identity and relationships – if you know who you are, you know what you’re here for.

4)      Guidance

Uncover guiding principles found in the Scriptures and set your personal prayers for guidance firmly within the bigger plans and purposes of God.

5)      Strong Faith for Tough Times

Discover how a living faith calls for practical action and unlocks the ability to look beyond current changing circumstances to the unchanging faithfulness of God Himself.

6)      Hearing God

There is a great deal of mystery concerning God’s communication with His children. There are no ‘five easy steps’ that can guarantee hearing from God, but God has probably been speaking to you more than you are aware.

If you would like to find out more about each of the Small Group Toolbox study guides, you can go to the Small Group Central shop.

Engage in spiritual disciplines

If you were asked what Christianity is all about, what would you say? Believing in God? Going to Church every week? Reading the Bible? Being saved so you can go to heaven?

Jesus said the most important thing of all is to love the Lord your God with your whole being – heart, soul, mind and strength. Having a loving relationship with God is what Christianity is really all about. And while all those other things have their place, it is only as part of that personal relationship with God.

For centuries, God’s people have engaged in practices that have proved vital for growing that loving relationship with God. We call these ‘spiritual disciplines’, and in this series you will look at the following seventeen areas of spiritual discipline:

1)      Focus on God: worship, Bible study, meditation and prayer

2)      Focus on others: fellowship, submission, serving and witnessing

3)      Focus on ourselves: simplicity, giving, battling temptation and fasting

4)      Focus on daily life: solitude, silence, giving thanks, confession and living for today

It is important to note that these things are not love for God themselves, rather they are a means to that end. Spiritual discipline is really self-discipline that has the spiritual goal of growing that love for God.

As you work through the various areas of spiritual discipline you will see how each, in its own way, works towards this goal of loving God. Each study guide comprises a daily reading and reflection, and weekly questions and discussion points for small groups to work through. There are also free, accompanying video teachings for each of the sessions to really help bring each topic alive!

If you would like to find out more about each of these four small group study guides, you can go to the Small Group Central store, or watch the introductory video.

What do you bring to your small group?

‘Elisha returned to Gilgal and there was a famine in that region. While the company of the prophets was meeting with him, he said to his servant, “Put on the large pot and cook some stew for these prophets.”

One of them went out into the fields to gather herbs and found a wild gourd plant and picked as many of its gourds as his garment could hold. When he returned, he cut them up into the pot of stew, though no-one knew what they were. The stew was poured out for the men, but as they began to eat it, they cried out, “Man of God, there is death in the pot!” And they could not eat it.

Elisha said, “Get some flour.” He put it into the pot and said, “Serve it to the people to eat.” And there was nothing harmful in the pot.

A man came from Baal Shalishah, bringing the man of God twenty loaves of barley bread baked from the first ripe corn, along with some ears of new corn. “Give it to the people to eat,” Elisha said.

“How can I set this before a hundred men?” his servant asked.

But Elisha answered, “Give it to the people to eat. For this is what the LORD says: ‘They will eat and have some left over.’” Then he set it before them, and they ate and had some left over, according to the word of the LORD.’

2 Kings 4:38–44

 

 

Two curious stories. Two stories about ravenously hungry people being fed by miracles from God. Perhaps that is all there is to them: stories that proved what a great prophet Elisha was. Personally I can’t help feeling there is more to them than that!

Here are three guys who made a contribution. They put something in.

The first man put poisonous weeds into a pot of stew. It wasn’t intentional. It was ignorance and perhaps carelessness. But the result was a disaster; you can see those hungry young students pulling faces as they tried to spoon up the bitter concoction. Ugh, revolting, ‘there is death in the pot!’

Have you noticed that in group situations there are usually characters who have the unfortunate knack of making problems even worse by what they put in? Negative things, bitter things, reproachful things. ‘I told you this would happen!’ ‘Nobody ever listens to me!’ ‘A fine mess you’ve made of things, haven’t you!’ By the time they’ve said their bit everything seems worse than it was before.

Then there was a man who made a really helpful contribution. This was another occasion when there wasn’t enough to eat, and he turned up with twenty bread rolls. This was a kind and generous action but the trouble was that there were a hundred hungry men to feed. This man did the right thing though. He did what he could, even if it wasn’t going to solve the problem. This is important. Do what you can, give what you can, so long as what you are putting in is good. Whether you share words, deeds, gifts or prayers. Don’t hold back, thinking, ‘What’s the use?’ Give what you can even though it seems pitifully inadequate.

The third man was Elisha. His contribution was faith. He had a special quality of faith that put him in touch with God’s methods and God’s timing. His faith turned the bad broth into appetizing stew. His faith multiplied the bread to feed a hundred hungry men. When people are around who have the quality of faith it is surprising how situations can change. You probably feel that you don’t have as much faith as Elisha had, and you may be right. But just remember that you have the same God!

 

About Norman Moss

Norman and Margaret Moss commenced ministry together in 1957. After 9 years in Chiswick, they pastored a church in Wimbledon for 31 years, and since then have been widely engaged in travelling ministry. Margaret contributed to the Dictionary of Christian Ethics (IVP) and Norman has written several children’s books. Both have wide experience with small groups.

Transformed Life: Summary Week

In this series of posts, we’re looking at the eight weeks of the Transformed Life church programme. This final update is the Transformed Life Summary Day.

As we reach the end of the Transformed Life programme, Dave Smith encourages us to reflect on the revelation of our new identity, belonging and purpose in Christ and apply these truths to our everyday lives. He provides for us a list of declarations for the promises, truths and prayers covered through Ephesians 1–3. You could list some of these in various places – on the fridge, on your computer, at work – as daily reminders to yourself about your own identity, belonging and purpose.

Here at Small Group Central, we hope you have enjoyed and been encouraged as you have worked through the Transformed Life programme.

Your feedback

If you would like to share your experience of Transformed Life, then we would love to hear from you – contact us or send an email to hello@transformed-life.info

Spread the word

If you have already completed Transformed Life, we would love you to encourage others to take part this year. Transformed Life can be started at any time during the year, so please spread the word and let others know about this church programme.

What next? Transformed Living …

We are working with Dave Smith once again to produce a follow-on programme called Transformed Living. This will continue to explore Ephesians, looking at chapters 4–6, and is currently due to be released in 2017. We will keep in touch with updates!

We also have a number of other CWR church programmes that you may be interested in. Click below to find out more …
 

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40 Days with Jesus: What we love!

Week 1

We love persistence and devotion … particularly Mary’s persistence and devotion to Jesus on that first Easter Sunday morning. In Day 1 of the devotional, Dave writes:

Mary was clearly so devoted to Jesus that at the earliest opportunity after the Sabbath, she got up to visit the tomb. Then, as we shall see, having witnessed the empty tomb, she was determined to find the body of Jesus, in contrast to the male disciples, who went home. Although Jesus eventually took the initiative and appeared to her, it seems as if this is in direct response to her loving, persistent seeking of Him.’

Week 2

We love revelation … and how the scriptures reveal the true identity of Christ and the hope that we have in Him! On Day 11 of the devotional, Dave writes:

‘Just as Jesus first revealed Himself to these disciples on the Emmaus Road, so He wants to reveal Himself to you and me as we daily and diligently read and reflect upon the Scriptures. As we do, we can be assured that the risen Christ will Himself come to us, and by the Holy Spirit will Himself become our Bible teacher.’

Week 3

We love hope … and the new hope that Christ brought to His fearful disciples and still brings to us today. On Day 16 of the devotional, Dave writes:

‘The reality of the physical resurrection of Jesus is at the very heart of the new hope that is at the centre of the Christian message. Hence, after having declared ‘Peace’, Jesus sought to give the startled disciples clear and convincing proofs that He was really, physically alive … The great news of Christianity is that … whatever challenges and trials we face in this life, we can be assured that there is a glorious hope that will far outweigh all of this. Because Jesus conquered death, and is alive, we no longer need to fear death.’

Week 4

We love restoration … not only does Jesus help us in our present struggles, but He also comes to heal us from our past failures. On Day 26 of the devotional, Dave writes:

‘The habit of God asking us to face our shortcomings with a question rather than directly accusing us is frequent in Scripture … At the root of our greatest failures is our ultimate failure to fulfil the greatest commandment to ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart … soul … mind and … strength’ (Mark 12:30) … God made you, has a plan for you and sent Christ to restore you – from both self-inflicted damage and from hurts caused by others. The wonderful news is that when He restores, He makes all things new!’

Week 5

We love purpose … and that Jesus not only gave us our true purpose but promised to be with us every step of the way. On Day 31 of the devotional, Dave writes:

‘Until I became a Christian, I had no real understanding of my life purpose, other than a vague desire to be ‘happy’. Yet as soon as I invited Christ into my life, I had deep and abiding sense that I was made on purpose and for a purpose. I quickly realised that this purpose involved being loved by, and in return loving, the God who had made me and saved me, and that this love was to overflow in making a difference in other people’s lives.’

Week 6

We love confidence … the confidence we can have that Jesus really is alive and is still transforming lives today. As we look back over the evidence from the last six weeks, Dave writes on Day 37:

‘All of this points to a stunning conclusion: the Jesus who had been crucified and lain dead in a tomb for three days, had come back to life. The testimony of the New Testament letters and the book of Revelation, as well as nearly 2,000 years of subsequent Christian history, is that Jesus remains alive today!’

Obedient worshippers and faithful friends: What we can learn from Ruth

By Philip Greenslade

The Story

The story of Ruth illustrates the gospel in a nutshell. It is also a remarkable story of unsurpassed loyalty and commitment, shining like a sparkling diamond against the darkness of betrayal and murder that often characterised relationships in the Old Testament.

In Hebrew the word Ruth means ‘friend’ or ‘associate’. It is derived from the word for a shepherd and his flock and carries with it the sense of close companionship and support on a common journey. Ruth was from Moab,  and therefore an ‘outsider’ to God’s promises to the chosen nation of Israel. When her Israelite husband died she could have remained in Moab with her sister Orpah. Instead she chose to accompany her widowed mother-in-law, Naomi, back to Israel.

It is intriguing to compare Ruth with Orpah who initially said she would go with Naomi and even kissed her. Eventually, however, she turned back to live amongst the familiar people and idolatry in the country of her birth. Ruth’s words to Naomi are some of the most beautiful in scripture: ‘Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried.’

Like Abraham before her, Ruth launched herself on a journey of faith to a distant land that she had never seen, but trusting in the God of whom she had heard and come to believe in. Orpah sincerely offered Naomi her best wishes on a difficult and dangerous journey. Ruth faithfully offered Naomi herself.

The story of Ruth develops with God providentially arranging her marriage to Boaz. Ruth is redeemed from poverty, isolation and widowhood and becomes accepted as a member of a wealthy and powerful family amongst God’s people. She is chosen by God to be an instrument of His purpose by which Jesus can be introduced into the world.

Obedient Worshippers and Faithful Friends

Like Ruth, we were once ‘strangers to God’s promises’ and ignorant of His love and mercy. Perhaps, through unfortunate circumstances or the witness of others, we have embarked on a journey of faith that means we have to leave behind our old lives of sin and selfish thinking.

We have been specially called by God to be a companion of Jesus to live a new life amongst others who also know Him. We have been adopted as sons and daughters into the royal family of heaven with God as our Father. The new kingdom we find ourselves in is at first strange and sometimes frightening: but as we faithfully follow His directions, God blesses us and we become an instrument through whom Jesus is introduced to the world!

Ruth is also a wonderful example of real friendship.  In an age where many relationships break down, her loyalty and total commitment to Naomi is a perfect illustration of true dedication whatever the cost. Ruth’s relationship with Naomi was not based on shallow convenience or expediency, but on unshakeable principles of covenant commitment. Jesus put it this way: ‘Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.’ (John 15:12.)

This is the depth of love and faithfulness that Jesus calls us to emulate. ‘By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’ (John 13:35.)

Let the story of Ruth challenge and inspire you to be an obedient worshipper of God and a faithful friend to others.

 

Want to learn more?

If you want to find out more about the story of Ruth you can pick up a copy of Cover to Cover Ruth: Loving kindness in action from the Small Group Central Shop.

 

About Philip Greenslade

Philip has worked with CWR since 1991 in the areas of biblical studies, pastoral care and leadership. With his passion for teaching God’s Word, he offers a refreshing and challenging perspective for all.