04: Bible Reading Recap – Luke 17-22

On this episode of the Bible Reading Recap, Ted Ryskoski, Lance Lawson, and Rachel Chester answer great questions sent in from Clear Creekers and discuss the final teachings and events in Jesus’ life.

What was Jesus really like?

Who was he teaching?

What does it mean to really follow him?

03: Bible Reading Recap – Luke 12-16

What does the kingdom of God really look like?

What does that mean about how we live now?

In this week’s recap, Ted Ryskoski, Lance Lawson, and Rachel Chester discuss Luke, chapters 12-16 and God’s real, personal, great love for us.

02: Bible Reading Recap – Luke 6-11

In this episode of our Bible Reading Recap, Ted Ryskoski, Lance Lawson, and Rachel Chester discuss how our families can study God’s word together with B.R.E.A.D., the beautiful upside-down kingdom of God, and how God spoke to each of them in Luke, Chapters 6 – 11.

01: Bible Reading Recap – Luke 1-5

In our first episode of Bible Reading Recap, Ted Ryskoski, Lance Lawson, and Rachel Chester discuss why we decided to begin the year with Luke, their experience using B.R.E.A.D., and what they each learned in Luke, Chapters 1 – 5.

How to Invite God Into Your Bible Study Time

Biblical fluency does not happen because of our efforts alone. Rather, the Holy Spirit takes our efforts and then works in and through us to reveal truth and conform us to the image of Christ. As we approach the study of the Bible in prayer and with an open heart, we invite God to reveal himself and transform our lives through his Word.

Simply put, prayer is a conversation with God, an intimate dialogue where believers can express their thoughts, concerns, and gratitude.

Incorporating prayer into Bible study creates a two-way communication channel, allowing us to seek clarity of Scripture and invite the Holy Spirit to inform its understanding and then direct our actions. Praying as we study recalibrates our focus from a pursuit of information to a desire for life transformation. Life-change happens as we connect with God through prayer while being immersed in his Word.

Prayerfulness can be a simple, natural, and very important part of our time in the Word, from start to finish.

Praying before, during, and after our time in the Word each day is how we invite the Holy Spirit to join us in our study.Incorporating prayer shifts our focus from being primarily an academic or intellectual pursuit of knowledge to becoming a uniquely personal pursuit of knowing, trusting, and obeying God himself. Prayer invites God into our learning process. In prayer we commune with God as we understand and relate to his words in Scripture with the goal of knowing him rightly and steadily becoming more like him. When prayer is an integral part of our study time, we come to realize that the Bible is more about God than it is about ourselves.

So, pray all along the way.

Pray actively, pray honestly, and expect to connect with God as you read the words that he has specifically inspired and preserved for you and me and all who will call him LORD. Ask him to help you listen, to understand, and to willingly obey every day.

Keep it simple and enjoy the process.

Before you open your Bible to a passage of Scripture each day, take a minute to:

  • Thank God that his Word is truth, applicable for today, living and active.
  • Admit that spending time in the Word is not easy for you. Ask for his help. Briefly give him the concerns of your heart, setting them under his care while you focus on the Bible. Ask him to protect your time from distractions so that you can be mindful as you read.
  • Tell him that you want to know him rightly, understanding his character as he reveals it in the pages of Scripture.
  • Humbly ask him to show you your own sin and give you the courage and power to follow and obey him as he shows you where change is needed.

During your time in the word prayer is simply an interactive dialogue between you and the Holy Spirit. You can:

  • Ask the Holy Spirit to teach you and give you wisdom and understanding.
  • Ask him to help you retain what you read and lessons he shows you.
  • Praise God when he shows you something about his character that is new to you.
  • Pray his words back to him.
  • Ask the LORD to give you understanding. If a passage does not make sense tell him so. Maybe jot down your question in your journal and see if he gives you understanding at another time.
  • Read the passage again if you have time.

Finally, after your time in the word:

  • Close by writing a simple prayer of devotion to God, praising him for who he is and thanking him for what he has done for you.
  • Ask that, through the power of the Holy Spirit, his truth would bear fruit in your life as you trust in and follow Jesus.

As you walk through your day, continue to engage with God through prayer seeking strength and guidance to apply the lessons you’ve learned from the Bible.

208: BREAD — Experiencing Jesus in Scripture

One of the primary ways God speaks to us is through Scripture, and yet, so often we leave our copy unopened on the coffee table.

In this episode, Rachel Chester talks with Ryan Lehtinen, Denise Ward, and Tanner Smith about Clear Creek’s plan to read through the New Testament in 2024 and how B.R.E.A.D. can help us to that together.

Waiting with Hope

Waiting is hard, isn’t it?

I know it is for my kids when Christmas is coming!

The lists are made, they are so hopeful, so excited, and not so patient.

We’re rounding the corner towards the end of December, so it’s safe to say our Christmas trees are up, Christmas gifts have started to show up under those trees, and kids (and let’s be honest, some adults) are nearly exploding with anticipation, wondering what is in those packages. Kids poke them, lift them up to see how heavy they are, shake them a bit to see if they can get an idea of the type of object trapped inside, and some will see if they can get away with opening gifts in advance to ensure they are getting what they asked for.

Waiting is hard, isn’t it?

Prior to Jesus’ birth, Israel had hopes and expectations about promises made by God to them over their long history. Promises like land, a new king, and God living in their midst once again.

But in many ways, Israel never saw these promises completely fulfilled. Israel and Judah lost their land through being exiled by Assyria and Babylon. And although they were able to return to the land, they continued to be ruled by others. We even read in Ezekiel about God’s presence leaving the temple prior to its destruction by Babylon.

Before the birth of Jesus, Israel had not seen these promises come true, but still continued to wait and hope. Under the oppression of Rome, and after so long without hearing from God the waiting may have been so difficult it felt like a pipe dream.

But then, Jesus arrived: announced by angels at his birth, visited by Magi, proclaimed by John the Baptist preparing the people for his ministry. It was finally time!

In Jesus, we see the fulfillment of what Israel had been waiting for. Jesus was the new and better Moses, leading his people out of captivity to sin instead of captivity to Egypt, and into something far better than the Promised Land — the Kingdom of God.

Jesus, through his crucifixion on Earth, became the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And through his resurrection he made way for God to dwell among us again through the Holy Spirit.

And yet, we are still waiting. Even now, after the birth of Christ, his life, death, resurrection, ascension, and the Spirit’s coming, sin still seems to reign. Death still steals those we love from us. And far too often, it looks as if the wicked will go unpunished. Like the promises given to Israel, we try to live with faithful hope. But we also have not seen the consummation of God’s plans for this world.

And waiting is hard.

So, in Advent we practice hope.

We hope for Jesus’ second coming, and with him true justice, for him to wipe away our tears, and for sin and death to be no more. We hope for God to be in this world fully and apparently. We hope for the new heavens and new earth that were promised.

We wait, but we wait in hope.

We wait, but we wait reflecting the love God has shown us, confident that the day is coming when we will see him again.

What does Philippians 4:13 really mean?

Mary’s Firm Foundation

Frank Besednjak invested $86,000 in renovating his home, so he was a little concerned when he saw some cracks in the drywall. The contractors came by to fix it but then more cracks showed up.

With a little further inspection, he also found multiple cracks in his driveway. But he didn’t realize the gravity of the situation until he pulled up the carpet and discovered a deep crack running through most of his house.

Frank hired a structural engineer for expert advice and was hit with some shocking news: there was a 55-foot-wide sinkhole directly underneath his home.

On the surface, Frank’s house looked normal for the most part, but it was masking a disaster waiting to happen. Below the surface, it was all about to fall apart. Frank had a problem — his house was built on a foundation that was unpredictable and inevitably destructive.

So, I hope your house isn’t built over a sinkhole, but what about your life? What have you built everything you are on?

What’s your foundation?

Your bank account? Your accomplishments? Your health? Your kid’s success?

When we build our lives on anything like these things, we are just like Frank’s house. It might look okay on the surface, but there is trouble brewing beneath it.

The foundations are revealed in the storms of life. Sometimes those storms can even bring ultimately good things, but chaos, uncertainty, and stress have a way of drilling down to what all else is resting upon.

We see a clear picture of this in Mary’s (the mother of Jesus) life.

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom, there will be no end.” — Luke 1:26-33

The angel Gabriel tells Mary, you are going to give birth to a son; he will be the Son of the Most High and his kingdom will have no end.

This is big, this is exciting, but this is also terrifying for a young, unmarried woman. In fact, the text says that Mary was “greatly troubled” when she encountered the angel. But what does she do with her questions? We know how this story is going to all work out, but in this moment, she doesn’t know! Talk about chaos, uncertainty, and stress!

We know that 2,000 years later, 2 billion people around the globe are going to pause to celebrate the birth of her son, but she doesn’t know that yet!

“And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.  And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” — Luke 1:34-37

As a faithful Jew, I’m sure she was expecting the Messiah to come. But like this? Through her? Vulnerable, uncertain, and anxious, Mary still responds with faith:

And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” — Luke 1:38a

Mary gave us a remarkable picture of faith as she embraced God’s surprising plan for her life, because she knew that he was trustworthy, faithful, and completely in control.

When our lives don’t go our way, it is completely normal to ask God about what is going on. We can’t blame Mary for being confused, because this was definitely not how she thought her life was going to go.

But her initial question was not an obstacle to her obedience, or a lack of faith.

Faith is about trusting God even when we don’t understand what he is doing, because we know who he is. Faith is not really about having all the answers, but rather, it’s about putting your trust in the one who does.

Mary’s response revealed that she had built her life on a stable foundation, which is important because her story didn’t necessarily get easier.

But despite the challenges that lay ahead, she continued to trust God’s timing, trust his plan, trust his heart for her, and trust that he was — and still is — completely in control. And even though she might have felt imperfect and insignificant, God used her to bring forth the Savior of the world.

Be honest today with God and with yourself about what you have trusted to be the foundation of your identity, happiness, and the whole of your life. Is it a sinkhole or a trustworthy foundation?

The story of Christmas reminds us that God is sovereign over the world, and over our lives.

So, this Christmas season, whether it is a time of joy and plenty, or a time of suffering and questions, build your life on the only trustworthy foundation — Jesus.

207: Christmas Q&A with Yancey Arrington

Was Jesus really born on December 25th?

Where does Santa even come from?

And, what is Yancey’s favorite Christmas meal?

On this episode, Rachel Chester asks Yancey some of the most common questions about Christmas.