I am working on creating a new Bible Study around the subject of forgiveness, reconciliation, and resolution. I could use your help as I begin to process this information.
This is a tough subject for me. In the past, I have received all kinds of feedback related to forgiveness. Some of it good. Some of it not so much. My hope is that the study can help to bring healing to others.
I’ve included a survey for anyone who would like to participate. It is set up so that you can offer an open-ended response and share your stories if you would like. It should take about three minutes to complete.
When God Doesn’t Fix It was written by Laura Story Elvington in 2015 and is available through Christian book stores, Amazon, and other locations. Laura is also a singer/songwriter with titles like “Indescribable” and “Blessings” to her credit. She uses “Laura Story” for her music. The study contains a book, DVD series, and a leader’s guide with questions. It is designed for a small group discussion over five sessions.
The session titles are:
Session 1 – Don’t Be Surprised By Trouble
Session 2 – Best-Made Plans
Session 3 – When God Doesn’t Fix It
Session 4 – Why? The Question On Replay
Session 5 – A Better Broken
There are corresponding videos for each session that are 10-14 minutes long which leaves some time for discussion before and after. There are also daily questions for people to go through if you use it in a small group study. In my case, I used the series for a Sunday School class.
Why Did I Choose This Study?
I chose this study mainly because I have also had a brain tumor removed and live with the side effects of such a surgery. It was also chosen because there are a lot of things people go through in life that are not fixed simply by having faith.
Seeing how other people have dealt with a brain injury was eye-opening.
What Did I think of the book?
I suggest reading the entire book before trying to give the study as it offers some background information that can be used while conducting the study.
The book tells the story of Laura’s handling of her husband’s brain tumor diagnosis, surgeries, and treatment. Honestly, as a person who has gone through brain surgery and knew from the beginning that things would never be the same, it was difficult to get through the first half of the book. Not that the story was bad, but that it focused on where she was at the time. Laura seemed to think that brain surgery was just one of those things you go through and once it’s taken care of, things go back to normal – whatever that is.
By the second half of the book, the conversation changes to one of reliance on faith to get through things. There are plenty of references to the idea that God is not a fairy who fixes all these things we ask for. Rather, God is more about the bigger picture of eternal salvation. There are scripture references throughout.
What About The Videos?
The videos are enough to get the conversation going. They are well done and even have some overlap to help with the previous sessions. She incorporates personal stories from others and encourages relationships. Scripture references are used throughout.
The quality of the videos is top notch. Laura even shares snippets of her singing and scenes from concerts and recordings. Some candid family videos are entertaining at times.
The Leader’s Guide
The leader’s guide is set up for daily use. There are questions to use prior to the video as well as ideas to think about during the video. Those are followed by discussion questions. There are also daily questions to consider between sessions.
I used the study for a Sunday School class and treated it differently than maybe it was intended. Since I had been through the brain surgery, I was also able to incorporate some of my personal experiences.
I used the study as a starting point and added separate information to it for my specific setting. Our classes did not utilize the daily reflection items. I also used additional scripture, not in the study.
I think it’s a great study for anyone looking to have hard discussions about tough topics that many people go through. Although the premise of the study is based on brain tumors and traumatic brain injury, it can apply to a variety of topics.
At the beginning of the week, I shared this photo of some drawings.
The Story Behind It
In January 2013, I left my employment of over 20 years due to surgery that left me unable to perform my duties. I immediately went back to school full-time to finish a Bachelor’s degree which was completed in December 2015.
In my first semester back at school, I was placed in an advanced drawing class. I’m not really sure how I ended up in a class like that. I had taken a drawing class years earlier but I really didn’t feel I was ready for an advanced class.
As it turned out, I learned a ton of things during that semester. The result was this series of drawings. The series was displayed one time during an art show at Texas A&M University, Commerce, TX in May 2013.
Each drawing measures 12” x 24” and was drawn on ¼” thick MDF using pastel oils and colored pencil. It was part of a semester long project.
I wanted to draw something religious. I received many suggestions about how to do it but the ideas did not resonate with me. One person suggested that I look at renaissance images from many years ago to get ideas. I looked but nothing was in line with the direction I wanted to go.
I wanted to produce an art piece that was contemporary in nature and represented the life of Jesus Christ. The name of the piece in its entirety is “Life of Christ.” It’s based on the scripture from Matthew 11:4-5 which says “Jesus told them, ‘Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen— the blind see, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.’”
The First Drawing
This is a drawing of a droplet of water in a pool. It loosely references Matthew 3:11 which talks about how John the Baptist baptizes with water for the repentance of sins but the Messiah will baptize with the Holy Spirit and Fire. It signifies baptism and the beginning of the ministry of Jesus Christ.
The Second Drawing
This drawing is an attempt to show a bionic eye. If you look carefully at the iris, you will see what appears to be circuitry. Jesus healed the blind by using his spit and mud. This is a more contemporary view of that idea. The Six Million Dollar Man comes to mind. There actually is a bionic eye implant that can help some people restore partial eye-sight. Here is an article from the Science Daily website on the topic. Now it appears they are coming out with a new version called The Six Billion Dollar Man which has been adjusted for inflation. Ha! I thought that was funny.
The blind see was the first statement Jesus says to the people John the Baptist sent to Him asking if He was the Messiah.
The Third Drawing
This image is of a Marine who actually lost both legs. It represents Jesus’ healing of the crippled and allowing them to walk again. Technology today is amazing in that there are so many things available now to help people who have been injured during war or car accidents or simply because of tragic things happening to them.
The Fourth Drawing
This is a line drawing with a look of stained glass. It represents the Communion elements that Christ initiated during the Last Supper with His disciples. It represents the body and blood of Christ, freely given for us during the Passion and Crucifixion. It is a Holy Sacrament in many Christian denominations. It reminds us to repent, believe the Gospel, and treasure our inclusion in the Body of Christ, the church.
The Fifth Drawing
Christ crucified is the ultimate gift from God. It represents atonement – however you define that. A gift from Christ that He would lay down His life for us while we were still sinners. That proves God’s love for us. We are a forgiven people. It is a gift of grace. Totally undeserved. It was freely given so that no one can boast about all the things they have done to receive it. Ephesians 2:8-9 says “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”
The Life of Christ was a passionate effort for me. It is not an attempt to rewrite the scriptures or come up with a new theological thought process. It was a way for me to express my faith in a more contemporary way.
My wife Sharon, preached the Ash Wednesday service at the church on February 10th. The service had 400 or so in attendance. This worship is the recognition of the beginning of Lent. The imposition of Ashes are applied to the forehead to remind us to repent of our sins and to show others we are a Christian witness.
From dust we have come and to dust we shall return. Repent and believe the Gospel.
Usually people give something up in recognition of Lent. Some give up things like chocolate, soda, TV and the like. Others may give up deeper things like self-centeredness or reducing anger. Some will try to improve on things like their prayer time or attendance at worship.
Lent also reminds us of the brokenness in our relationship with God.
Prior to the service, each person entering the sanctuary was asked to take a piece of broken glass with them. Sharon offered a great sermon during this solemn time and at the end of the service, people were asked to bring their broken piece of glass with them as they came forward to receive their ashes. All the broken pieces were placed in baskets and collected when the service was over.
Sharon and I committed to taking the broken pieces of glass, representing the brokenness we all have with our relationship with God and making something beautiful, having it ready for Easter Sunday.
We asked for some assistance from Gilbert Winans, a staff member at the church, to build a frame for the broken glass. Sharon and I went to Hobby Lobby looking for supplies. Unfortunately, Hobby Lobby was not the best choice for the size of the project we were doing so we ended up at Lowes. We received some great assistance from one of the employees there on how to proceed with our project.
The frame came in the shape of a cross that measured 2’x3’ with each arm being 8” wide. We used Plaster of Paris as the base to hold the glass, making a mosaic. If you don’t know this, Plaster of Paris dries pretty quickly. We only had about 20 minutes to arrange all the broken pieces of glass into the frame before it was getting too hard to do. As a result, some of the glass was simply placed on top of the plaster.
Epoxy Is Your Friend
Epoxy is amazing. You take two compounds, stir them together for about six minutes and pour it over your art piece. It’s self-leveling and you can use a brush, spatula or trowel to move it around. Since it is self-leveling, once you have your piece covered, you simply put the piece on a level surface and let it “level.”
Any pieces that we could not place into the plaster (there were only a few), were covered with the epoxy and are safely secure in the cross.
The Final Result
We were able to show the piece during worship on Easter Sunday.
It has a lot of symbolism with this cross. It is comprised of all the brokenness in our lives, no matter what that brokenness is for us.
It shows that the power of Christ makes all things new and beautiful. Our brokenness can be made into something wonderful.
In the last week or so, I have had a few conversations related to the tithe and what it means. The tithe has changed for me at various points in my life and I only offer some of my personal opinions about it. My opinions may or may not coincide with your opinions. I offer them for discussion and welcome your responses.
What is a Tithe?
My understanding of the tithe is that it is the first 10% fruits of your time, talents and treasure. I’ve heard some say that if you can’t live on 90% of your income then you probably can’t live on 100% of your income either. That seems a bit shallow since they only talk about the treasure portion of the tithe. Maybe the tithe is supposed to refer to only the financial piece but I would have to disagree with that line of thinking.
If you have read this blogs’ past posts, you know that I was divorced in 2002 after a lengthy marriage of abuse, neglect, and infidelity. At the end of the marriage, I became a single custodial parent with a huge amount of debt. It was not pretty and it took years to recover from it.
At the time, I had to make several decisions to keep afloat. I resented the idea of giving money to the church when I was struggling so much. To hear someone tell me that the tithe was the most important thing I could do to be faithful was a crock. I was not a cheerful giver at all. At a time when I was struggling so much financially, the church was lucky to get $25 on the weeks that I actually attended the service. Tithing 10% was not an option and if I had heard someone tell me that if I could not live on 90%, I would not be able to live on 100% either, I probably would have let them have it.
Tithing All of Me
However, if I look at the tithe as 10% of all that I am, then I can start to look at it differently.
What if I looked at it as proportional instead? At that time in my life, I could not give 10% of my income. There was just no way. I could give 15% of my time. I could give 15% of my talents.
I teach a financial class to people struggling with their finances. I share with them how I was able to take control of my finances and slowly pay things off until I became debt-free. I recommend to them that they focus on paying off their debts, keeping track of everything they spend and to realize that the situation they are in is temporary. Things will get better with time and dedication to achieving their goals.
The church can use your money to improve the worship services and to grow various ministries but they don’t need it so bad that you should sacrifice the electricity in your house to pay it. If the situation is looked at as truly temporary, then once you have control of things, you can begin to participate financially to the financial needs of the church.
In the meantime, you can focus on eliminating your debts and sharing your time and talent instead.
I believe in a merciful God who wants the very best for me. If someone is trying to tell you that you are not giving enough to the church or that your financial tithe should come first no matter what, then find another church.
How freeing would it be if you could focus on improving your financial situation while still offering your time and talents to the church?
God does not need your money. God wants your heart. You are hereby allowed to remove the guilt from your life and focus not only on your finances but your relationship with Jesus Christ and become the cheerful giver of your time, talents and treasure that God would want you to be.