Course sessions summary
In this first session we will think about how we want to work together to ensure that the group works well throughout the course. We acknowledge that we are at different stages on our journey of faith and we bring all we are, as well as who God is making us to be, as we start this course. We start by looking at our different experiences of reading the Bible for ourselves; both the good and the difficult.
There are a number of suggestions in this session as to how you might try reading the Bible in different ways, and pointers to materials that might be helpful. Then, as we will be looking at many biblical passages during this course, we start by focusing on the value of Scripture, and what aspects we need to keep in mind as we seek to understand it. However, to begin to get to know each other, we will introduce ourselves giving your name, where we are from and just two other facts about ourselves.
In this session we are looking at prayer. Most people feel that their prayer life is inadequate. Different people pray in different ways, and prayer and personality are very closely linked. Some people thrive on silence and stillness, others need activity, whilst others appreciate the stimulus of words, music or art. At certain stages in our lives we may find some ways of praying more helpful than others.
In this session we think about prayer as a relationship, and consider different ways of praying in order to keep our relationship with God fresh. It is easy for prayer to be squeezed out when time is short but it is central to Christian maturity and without it there can be no progress in our discipleship.
In this session we continue to get a broad overview of the period of history in the Old Testament which covers the transition from being a 'theocracy' to a 'monarchy', as God's people demand a king. The monarchy brought considerable change, not least in the pattern of worship as this became focused on the Temple built by Solomon.
Key figures in this period are Samuel, the 'king-maker' and 'king-breaker', and King David, to whom God promises that his throne will be established for ever. So, we continue to see God working out his purposes in salvation history, despite the nation subsequently splitting in two, and the worship of the people becoming increasingly corrupted as they turn to the gods of the surrounding nations. Finally, we zoom in to the disastrous reign of Ahab and Jezebel, and one episode during this time in the life of Elijah, the prophet, as he demonstrated the power and sovereignty of Yahweh, the one true God.
In this session we look at the birth of the early church as recorded in The Acts of the Apostles, although Jesus' disciples, both the twelve and the wider group, could be considered as the first community of believers. Acts, the second book Luke wrote, is often thought of as a history. However, Luke also writes to persuade, so it is not a simple narrative history. Although Jesus only makes an appearance in the first nine verses of Acts, the whole book is really about his continued action and teaching through the apostles. Luke picks up the thread of the story after Jesus' resurrection and follows Jesus' apostles as they first go about spreading the 'good news' up to Paul's imprisonment in Rome.
This is a period of conflict; conflict between the early Church and the Jewish and Roman authorities, and conflict within Christianity itself. In Acts we see the first followers grappling with difficult questions; what laws should they obey; is the gospel only for the Jews or is it for the Gentiles as well; how should the followers of Jesus be organised? While we focus mainly on Acts in this session, we also refer to some of the letters of the New Testament as they illustrate the dilemmas above.
In this session we reflect on different aspects of mission, linking these with God's purposes for his people all through the Bible. We are reminded that the whole basis for mission is the grace of God; we are called to share in God's mission to the world, both as individuals and as church communities. So how can we be in touch with God's call on our lives so that we live life, not with a sense of guilt about mission, but out of a sense of vocation to love and be loved, listen, belong and participate in God's purposes for his world?