Sunday School

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SUMMER SUNDAY SERIES

Encounters with Jesus: Unexpected Answers to Life’s Biggest Questions by Timothy Keller

Join this exciting 10-week book study to explore the questions and challenges revolving around the Christian faith in our everyday lives. The class will read and discuss one chapter of Keller’s book each week over the summer.

The first class will meet June 11th at 10:00 and the summer study will run until August 27th (with the exception of the first Sundays in July and August when we will have one 10:00 a.m. worship service).

Copies of Encounters with Jesus may be picked up in the church office. For more information or to sign up please contact the church office @ 526-6511.

June 11, 2017 – Week 1

[The following excerpts taken from Encounters with Jesus, Unexpected Answers to Life’s Biggest Questions by Timothy Keller]

The People who met Jesus Christ in person faced the same big life questions we face today. Like most of us, the answers handed down to them didn’t seem to work in the real world. But when they met Jesus things immediately started to change for them. It seems he not only had the answers—he was the answer.

From the books introduction:

I was raised in a mainline Protestant church, but in college I went through personal and spiritual crisis that led me to question my most fundamental beliefs about God, the world and myself.

During those years I fell in with some Christians who were active in small-group Bible studies. In these groups the leader would not take the role of teacher or instructor; instead he or she would facilitate the entire group’s reading and interpretation of the chosen Bible text. The ground rules were simple but crucial for the integrity of the exercise. The Bible was to be given the benefit of the doubt—the text was to be treated as reliable and its authors as competent. No one person’s interpretation was to be imposed on the passage; we were to come to conclusions as a group. We sought to mine the riches of the material as a community, assuming that together we would see far more than any individual could.

Before I was even sure where I stood in my own faith, I was asked to lead a group and was provided with a set of Bible studies entitled Conversations with Jesus Christ from the gospel of John by Marilyn Kunx and Catherine Schell. It covered thirteen passages in the book of John where Jesus had conversations with individuals. Those studies helped my group uncover layers of meaning and insight that astonished us all.   Moving through these accounts of Jesus’ life, I began to sense more than ever before that the Bible was not an ordinary book. Yes, it carried the strange beauty of literature from the remote past; but there was something else. It was through these studies of encounters with Jesus that I began to sense an inexplicable life and power in the text. These conversations from centuries ago were uncannily relevant and incisive to me—right now. I began to search the scriptures not just for intellectual stimulation but in order to find God.

I was taught that patience and thoughtfulness were keys to insight. At one point I went to a conference for bible study leaders. I’ll never forget one of the exercises. The instructor gave us one verse, Mark 1:17 (ESV) : “ And Jesus said to them , ‘Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men,’” She asked us to spend thirty minutes studying the verse (which, naturally, was taken from an encounter with Jesus). She warned that after five or ten minutes we would think we had seen all there was to see, but she challenged us to keep going. “Write down at least 30 things you see in or learn from the verse.” Ten minutes into the exercise I was finished (or so I thought) and bored. But I dutifully pushed on and kept looking. To my surprise there was more. When we all returned she asked us to look at our list and circle the most penetrating, moving, and personally helpful insight. Then she asked us a question: “how many of you discovered your best insight in the first five minutes? Raise your hands.” No hands. “How many after ten minutes?” One or two hands. “fifteen?” More. “Twenty?” A large number now raised their hands. “Twenty five?” many of us now raised our hands, smiling and shaking our heads.

Those initial experiences with patient, inductive study of the biblical text changed my spiritual life. I discovered that if I spent the time and assumed the proper attitude of openness and trust, God spoke to me through his Word.. . . .I suppose you could say that many of my own formative encounters with Jesus came from studying his encounters with individuals in the gospels.. . . . . it struck me that these encounters were apropos for another reason. In many of them we see Jesus addressing the big, universal, “meaning of life” questions: What is the world for? What’s wrong with it? What (if anything) can make it right, and how? How can we be a part of making it right? And where should we look for answers to these questions in the first place? These were the big questions that everyone must ask–and that honest skeptics are particularly keen to explore. . . . .

Everyone has a working theory about the answers to these questions. If you try to live without them, you will soon be overwhelmed by how meaningless life seems. We live at a time when some insist that we don’t need any such answers, that we should admit that life is just meaningless busywork in the grand scheme of the universe and leave it at that. While you are alive, they say, just try to enjoy yourself as much as you can. And when you are dead, you won’t be around to worry about it. So why bother trying to find the meaning of life? However, the French philosopher Luc Ferry (who, by the way, is in no way a Christian himself), . . . .says that such statements are “too brutal to be honest.” He means that people who make them cannot really believe them all the way down in their hearts. People cannot live without any hope or meaning or without a conviction that some things are more worth doing with our lives than others. . . . .Therefore, it you want to be sure that you are developing sound, thoughtful answers to the fundamental questions, you need at the very least to become acquainted with the teachings of Christianity. The best way to do that is to see how Jesus explained himself and his purposes to people he met and how their lives were changed by his answers to their questions.