Let’s Face the Book

FacetheBookFace-The-Book is a Scripture engagement initiative by the Caribbean Fellowship of Evangelical Students (CARIFES). Its aim is to help young people study the Bible. Specifically, we want students to develop the habit of spending time in God’s Word and praying daily. We set this initiative up to specifically target today’s ‘information technology’ generation e.g. by using terminology with which students are familiar from the computer world.

Quads
One of the unique things about this Bible study initiative is that students are encouraged to form groups of four called “quads”. Ideally, this group meets once a week. It provides mutual support, encouragement and accountability as members endeavour to grow in the knowledge and practice of God’s Word.
They:

  • Pray regularly for each other.
  • Find out how others in the group are progressing in their studying and sharing of God’s Word.
  • Share with each other what they have learnt from the Word of God over the past week.
  • Share Bible study resources with each other.
  • Encourage each other in their Bible study and sharing activities.

Each group member signs a personal commitment with regard to their own spiritual life.
Each quad has a mentor who can be a student leader, staff worker, faculty member, youth pastor or any other mature person. Mentors are there to pray for, encourage and motivate quads.

Today’s PDF (Personal Devotion Focus)
This initiative encourages students to spend personal time in God’s Word using the PDF approach:
Document: What is today’s Scripture passage?
Background:  What is the background to this passage?
Review: What has your journey been like in relation to what you have read in this passage?
Highlight: What point(s) would you like to highlight from this passage?
Delete: Based on this passage, what would you like to delete from your life?
Copy: Based on this passage, what would you like to copy and put into practice in your life?
Underline:  What verse(s), thought(s) or idea(s) would you like to underline, memorize or meditate on?
Share: Based on what you have gleaned from the passage today, what would you like to share with others: face-to-face, on the phone, via text or social media, etc.?  Pass the word on.
Pray: Based on what you have learned from today’s study, spend some time praying.

In the Face-the-Book manual, Bible passages are recommended for reading. The manual also introduces the whole concept and approach of this initiative. Currently, the manual is being revised. It will be available in a few weeks’ time in English, French and Dutch.

If you are interested in the manual or have any other questions, please write to Bevaun Ragobeer, Scripture Engagement Coordinator for the Caribbean region at carifes100(at)gmail.com.

Entering into the Big Story

We tend to always turn to the same books of the Bible – those which are easily accessible and which we have grown to love. Could it be that some aspects of God’s character and purposes therefore remain hidden to us? God gave us 66 books, not 13 or 40!

Word UP is a project run by TSCF, the IFES movement in New Zealand. It encourages students to discover the whole Bible. I talked with Li Lian Lim, TSCF staff worker to find out more:

_Please describe the Word Up project.
Word Up is a Facebook forum for reading the Word individually and together. The Facebook page enables students to ask questions and to help others with their questions. We also use it to post resources and the daily reading plan.

In 2011, Word Up started with 99 days of reading Psalms in the summer. In 2012, we encouraged students to read the New Testament in 27 days. One book per day. Now we are challenging students to go zipping across the Old Testament in four months.

_What motivated you to run Word Up?
When I talked to some student leaders, I realized that they had never read the entire Bible. In Christian circles, Bible verses are often quoted out of context to support a variety of Christian positions. I hoped that after reading through the Bible, students would start to appreciate the big picture and see how individual passages fit into this context.

_How are students involved in setting up the project?
Last year, a group of student leaders tried out the material before the Facebook page was launched. They rejected what they felt would not connect with students and suggested alternatives. This year, a team of students has made a monthly commitment to blogging daily on the Bible passages being read.

Zane Norvill, one of the bloggers writes, “The accountability of needing to write something for others motivates me to spend more time meditating on a passage. When I am reading just for myself, I don’t always grasp or remember it as clearly.”

Create your own Word Up! Join the students in TSCF on facebook. Or let this project inspire you: How can you start to explore unfamiliar parts of the Bible? With whom could you share questions and thoughts from your personal Bible reading? Have you ever read through a Biblical book in one go? If not, give it a try!

Sabine Kalthoff

Further Information on Word Up:

The Unexpected Result of Reading Scripture. A Testimony.

Although my parents were atheists they still considered themselves Muslims. I became a Muslim after the Soviet Union collapsed and religion was allowed. Some relatives told me that I was becoming more and more like a fanatic.

But then my sister accepted Jesus as her Savior. When she told us about her decision we all stood against her. It was such a shame for our Muslim family! We put pressure on her and once I even hit her. While I was away in the army, my sister became more mature and bold in her faith. When I came back, I was surprised at how confidently my sister shared about Jesus, but her words meant nothing to me. For me she was a betrayer.

One day my sister invited me to free English courses. I understood immediately that the people offering these courses were probably missionaries, but I didn’t care. I wanted to learn English so that I could find a good job or immigrate for a better life in the West. After the English lessons, we were invited to stay on for Bible studies. After a while, I started staying and we would often argue: I argued that Jesus is only a prophet; they were convinced he is God. One thing that shocked me was their love. Sometimes I would behave very rudely, but I always felt accepted.

A year after visiting this group regularly, I decided to read the gospel. I wanted to prove to those “lost and deceived Christians” that Jesus is not a God, but only a prophet. So I started reading and could not help enjoying it. Every day I would run back home after work to continue reading. Everything was great until I read John 14:6 “I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me.” I was shocked by this statement: “nobody”??? What about Muslims? What should I then do? I wished Jesus would not say that…

I understood that I needed to make a decision. My first prayer to Jesus was, “Jesus, if you are really a God, let me know that and I will follow you.” Some time passed and I felt unusual peace like never before. I accepted Jesus as my Savior. I didn’t tell anyone for about two months. When I shared this news with my sister, she happily said, “I knew it would happen, I was praying for you all these years!” This happened in 2001 and since then I have walked with the Lord.

The author is involved in IFES ministry as a volunteer

Life-Giving Water in Difficult Circumstances

My summer holidays in 2012 turned into a bicycle accident, followed by emergency surgery, a two-month recovery period and a further surgery. I found it very hard to find peace about this situation, especially since I was still suffering from the consequences of a more severe accident which happened three years ago.

I said to the Lord, “I know you are good, you are good to everyone, but not to me. I don’t see your goodness in my life. I am following you and serving you, but my body is broken and my heart is broken. Where is your goodness?”

Sadness, confusion and apathy surrounded me as I walked through this spiritual desert. I could not “fix” myself, nor could other people help me – their words went into my ears, but did not reach my heart.

During these months, it was only through the Bible that I could hear the Lord speaking to me. The Holy Spirit used my decision to read the Bible no matter how I felt or what I thought about myself and God. In my dryness, the Holy Spirit gave me a tiny bit of water to survive each day. I was living only by that water – the Word of God – drinking it little by little.

I read the book of Job. He understood me. He called out to the Lord in his misery and bitterness of soul: “I have no peace, no quietness, I have no rest but only turmoil” (Job 3:26). My anguish and distress were there in the middle of the Bible!

The Lord spoke to me through Psalm 145: I am gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love (v8). I am good to all (v9). I uphold all who fall and lift up all who are bowed down (v14). I am near to all who call on me, I am near to you. I fulfil the desires of those who fear me; I hear their cry and save them. I watch over all who love me (v18-20).

The Holy Spirit let these words drop deep into my heart: “I am watching over you, I hear your cry and will save you…” Through Scripture I was able to believe again that the Lord is good, he is always good, he is good to everyone, even to me!

Lilit Avayan, IFES General Secretary Armenia
lilitavayan (at) yahoo.co.uk

Listening and Lifestyle

Have you ever been in a conversation and suddenly realized that you completely missed what the other person just said? Have you ever read through a Bible passage without taking in the content? I have. For many of us listening is a challenge. Our thoughts are full with so many things: we are pre-occupied. And then we are unable to take in anything new.

In order to survive our studies, many of us learnt to speed-read. We read quickly in order to be effective, but when we bring this to Scripture, it is not at all effective. Unless we slow down, we will not listen well. How can we learn to stop and listen in the midst of our busy lives? How can we create space to receive the Word of God? The answer to these questions does not only have to do with how we read our Bible, but also with how we live our lives as a whole.

Listening well to God’s Word is related to our lifestyle. Last year, Isra Ortiz, a staff worker with GEU Guatemala realized that he needed to make changes in his life:

Over the past years I developed the habit of staying up very late at night. I knew it wasn’t a healthy habit, but I wasn’t too concerned. Eventually, however, I realized that it was affecting me in negative ways. I had a hard time waking up in the mornings. I often felt tired during the day and was always in a rush. This prevented me from having quality time with God and his word. I felt tired, but also restless, desperate for God’s presence and guidance. 

The Lord made it clear to me that I needed to make a practical change in my lifestyle: go to bed earlier. For the sake of my health, but also for the sake of my soul! Now, I am in the process of changing my old habit.

Some days I really struggle, but by God’s grace, progress has come. This simple change in lifestyle means that I get better rest, wake up earlier, and start the day with God. Since starting to read the Bible in the mornings, I have a new relationship with God’s Word. I am enjoying God from the beginning of the day. And that changes everything. 

Listening well is also related to our lifestyle in another way. It includes obedience – responding to what we hear with our words and deeds. Jesus said: “My mother and brother are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice” (Luke 8:21).

Sabine Kalthoff

Left Alone?!!

We are told by our Christian community that time alone in God’s word is important.

We are maybe given some training in personal bible reading.

We are usually left alone to live out this important aspect of our faith.

Maybe your context is different, but this seems to be what often happens. Left on their own, many students struggle. They want to spend time in God’s word, but encounter numerous obstacles. Do they have to overcome them on their own? By definition, personal Bible reading is something we do on our own. Does that mean we have to struggle alone?

Last spring, a Swiss student sent out a questionnaire on bible reading to students in Switzerland and France. One question was: What would encourage you to read the bible?

Many answers pointed in the same direction:

  • Defining a passage beforehand which everybody reads during the week and then sharing about it the next time we meet.’
  • Deciding to use the same reading plan in our student group. All read the same passages and then we share about them. I think that would be very motivating.’
  • Having friends who read the same bible passage on the same day. That would give me a bit of positive pressure.’
  • Every week define mini-groups of two people who read the same bible passage and then share about what they have read.’

Other responses were similar. These students want a communal context for their personal bible reading. Their concrete suggestions are worth trying out. Just recently, a student wrote saying that he and a friend read one chapter of the bible daily. During the day, they exchange text messages about their reading. He comments: ‘The sharing really helped us to enjoy reading the bible.

These are not the only ways to create a communal context for personal bible reading. Which other experiences or ideas come to your mind?

Time alone in God’s word. Time to deepen intimacy in our relationship with Jesus. Time to stop, receive, and regain perspective in our busy day-to-day lives.

Let’s not leave one another alone in this important aspect of our faith.

Sabine Kalthoff

Using Internet Opportunities

At the IFES Bible Study Consultation last February, research reports showed that one of the weakest areas of Scripture engagement in most IFES regions was “personal Bible study.”

In response to this a small working group came up with an idea to help: Use social media to encourage students to get into Scripture on their own on a regular basis. The hope was that having an “instant Bible study” on a student’s Smartphone, email, or Facebook page each day might inspire them to be more regular in their personal Bible study. This project was named “Thirsty.”

Four staff from the IFES region of North America volunteered to take on Thirsty as a pilot project for a year. Our goal by next June is to have 500 regular users. Thirsty delivers a passage of Scripture each day along with three inductive questions to a blog site, Facebook page, email inboxes, and Smartphones via a text message.  The passages go consecutively through books of the Bible. The study questions are written by a multi-ethnic, multi-national group of staff and students. Thirsty users can interact with each other about the daily study on the blog site or Facebook page.

Take a look for yourself: http://thirsty.ifesworld.org/ A video presenting the Thirsty project can be found at http://vimeo.com/28412649/.

Since Thirsty was launched Sept 1 there are about 250 regular users, and more than 3000 people from over 60 countries have visited the blog page. We don’t know how many of the users are new to regular personal Bible study or whether these are regular Scripture users switching to using Thirsty. We’ve received enthusiastic feedback from some of the regular users who really appreciate the way the inductive questions help them think more deeply about the passage and apply it to their lives.

A full evaluation of the Thirsty pilot project is scheduled for early 2012. At that time we will also consider how Thirsty could be shared and expanded among other IFES movements who may be interested.

Bob G., InterVarsity/USA
For more information contact: Elizabeth.english (at) intervarsity.org

Other New Projects Using the Internet to Strengthen Personal Bible Study:
_WordUp: 99 days of reading psalms. Cf. https://www.facebook.com/groups/wordup.nz/ The documents on the facebook page include some very creative videos on Bible study.

_Reading through the Bible in one year. A facebook group started by a Danish student.
Cf. http://www.facebook.com/groups/222475794471032/