The Explore overview

Welcome to a bite size overview of the iExplore course. 
This shows a brief summary of what we typically study each week in the Explore group. Have a read to see what we study, or use it to catch up if you miss a week.  

If you want to learn more have a look on our resources page where you will find material in Chinese, English and several other languages. We recommend reading "2 Ways to Live"!

Practical Christianity - Relationships & Marriage

posted 29 May 2012, 05:57 by Peter Booth

We looked at a number of passages briefly to see what the Bible says about relationships and marriage. Here is a brief outline of what we looked at:
 

The concept of marriage is evident at the very beginning of the Bible: Genesis 2: 18-24

        God shows concern for Adam – the first human

        God created men and women to be together

 

Jesus also talked about marriage. Let’s see what he said: Matthew 5: 27-32

        God takes marriage very seriously!!

        Note the problem is that sin is from our heart – not our eyes or hands.

 

The Bible also talks about being single: 1 Corinthians 7: 32-35

        There are advantages to being single!

        We read elsewhere in the Bible that God promises a full life to all who follow him, either married or single! Both marriage and singleness are gifts.

 

The Bible gives guidance on good relationships: Colossians 3: 12-15

        Lots in this passage, but note: forgiveness, love and gratefulness

        Applies to all our relationships, and useful for marriage!

 

We see here that God takes marriage very seriously, it is something that he created in the beginning, and something that God expects to last. The passage in Matthew really shows the full extent of the problem though - even if we look lustfully at someone who is not our husband/wife we have committed adultery. With such a high standard set by God in this and other matters we all end up falling short of His standards. This is why God sent Jesus to save us, by dying to take the punishment for our sin, so that we can be offered forgiveness. In accepting this offer, we can have a relationship with God, and we find we can be changed through Jesus to live as God intends. In other words, having a right relationship with God is key if we are to have a truly right relationship with other people. 

by Andy Gray

Practical Christianity - Work & Study

posted 29 May 2012, 05:53 by Peter Booth   [ updated 29 May 2012, 05:58 ]

We looked at the story of Daniel to see how he studied and how he worked. Daniel's story can be found in the Bible in the book called "Daniel". Daniel was in Jerusalem when it was besieged by the Babylonians and he was taken to serve King Nebuchadnezzar in his palace in Babylon. His story starts there.
 
Daniel Chapter 1; Daniel did not want to eat the "Royal food and wine" because it most likely came from animals sacrificed to other gods. Daniel trusted in the true God and asked just to eat vegetables  - to stay pure for God. Daniel put God first. Then as they studied the new language and history of the Babylonians God blessed them with knowledge and understanding - they still had to study though!
Daniel  Chapter 6; we now see Daniel several years later and serving a new King in an important role. Daniel was distinguished in his service to the King, and the other administrators were jealous of him so plotted to get rid of him. The passage records that, "They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent." So they tried to catch him out by causing the king to pass a law that would stop Daniel praying to God, or else face death. In this difficult situation Daniel still puts God first, and does not stop praying. The King was greatly troubled by this but had to throw Daniel into the lions den as punishment. However, God saves Daniel from the lions - and he lives - the King is happy that God saved Daniel and then praises God himself!
 
In summary:

The Bible gives us wisdom in learning and working.

It’s about our attitude as well as our ability.

Being right with God helps us because we are secure in knowing we are loved by Him, free from social pressures.

God helps us see we have gifts to use to serve others.

If we obey God even in difficult circumstances, He is still there walking with us.

 

Daniel sets a high example for us to follow, yet we see in the New Testament that we have all fallen short of God’s standards. But we can be put right with God through Jesus’ sacrifice and then have a relationship with Him, and live a life honouring and respecting Him as He deserves.


by Andy Gray

Practical Christianity - Money Matters

posted 17 May 2012, 16:52 by Peter Booth   [ updated 17 May 2012, 16:53 ]

Jesus said that we should not be anxious about anything.  This includes money. 

But it is also important how we get money and what we do with it when we’ve got it!

First we looked at how somebody’s attitude to money changed when they met Jesus.  This is from Luke’s Gospel.  Luke was a Christian doctor who knew Peter, the disciple of Jesus.  He recorded events in the life of Jesus very carefully.  This event happened when Jesus was on his last journey to Jerusalem, where he would be betrayed, arrested and killed on the cross.

Read Luke 19:1-10 Zacchaeus the Tax Collector.  Think about what made him change so dramatically.

Read 1 Timothy 6:6-19.  Think about the consequences for your life if you love money too much. 


Here are some other thoughts about money from the Bible:-

•Pride in your wealth is stupid and dangerous!

•Debt is a kind of slavery.

•Both stealing and coveting are against the 10 Commandments.

•Injustice and idolatry are serious problems which the prophets often warn against.

•Keeping the Sabbath and tithing both honour God and help keep money in perspective.

•According to the Bible, we are stewards, not outright owners of the Earth or our possessions.

•Giving brings a double blessing – to the receiver and the giver.

•Giving does not earn salvation.  That is God’s free gift to us!

•Knowing how much God loves us gives us the security to let go of things.

•Knowing God loves us despite our faults helps us love others.

•Knowing God gives us what we do not deserve helps us give to others.

Read Acts 4:32-35
Consider how belief in Jesus changed people’s lives.  Can it do so today?  Think about how it could change your life.

by Rod Lawrence

Week 9 - An International visitor responds

posted 30 Apr 2012, 23:29 by Peter Booth

Acts 8:26-39

The passage is from a book called 'Acts', from near the end of the Bible. The events happen after Jesus had died, risen again and gone back to heaven. His followers (the early church) were busy spreading the message. In this passage, we meet two characters:
Philip is a Christian, forced to leave Jerusalem because of violence against Christians. He is travelling to tell non-Jewish people about Jesus.
The Ethiopian is a high-ranking government official from an African country. He has come a long way, into another culture, to respond to what he knew about God.

The Ethiopian is reading from the Old Testament as he travels. He reads Isaiah 53:7-8, which is a prophecy about a servant God would send to earth. This is the prophecy:
“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter.
   And as a lamb is silent before the shearers,
   he did not open his mouth.
  He was humiliated and received no justice.
   Who can speak of his descendants?
   For his life was taken from the earth.”

The Ethiopian is confused (verse 34), and asks Philip for help. Philip explains: the prophecy is all about Jesus! Jesus was 'led like a lamb to the slaughter' when he was taken to die on the cross. In the Old Testament, lambs were sacrificed to pay for people's sins: but now, Jesus has been sacrificed to pay the price for all of our sins. 

When the Ethiopian understands (verse 36), he is excited, and asks to be baptised. This means that he had decided to become a Christian, and wanted to symbolise this by being washed in water. 

The story reminds us that anybody can become a Christian, no matter where they are from. Christianity is not a 'Western' religion - anybody can come to know God. 

by Sophie Lister

Week 8 - Responding to God

posted 25 Apr 2012, 09:26 by Peter Booth

Luke 8:4-15

In Israel's history many prophets talked about a Messiah who would come and be "God with us". The people of Israel assumed everyone would follow this Messiah. But in this passage Jesus tells a story that shows people respond differently to God's words.
 
In the first section of the passage (verses 5 to 8) Jesus tells a story about a farmer sowing seed. There are four types of ground the seed falls on:
- The footpath
- Among rocky ground
- Among thorns and weeds
- On fertile good soil
In each situation the seed is sown, what differs is the ground. Clearly the seed that falls on the good, fertile soil, will grow best and produce the best harvest.
 
But what does this mean? The disciples ask Jesus to explain this story - they want to understand what it means. Jesus says it is important to listen and to understand - it is good to ask what this means. In the rest of the passage (from verse 11) Jesus tells us what the story means.
- The seed represents God's words. It's worth thinking about what God's words are - they are the words that God speaks to us. This could be through the Bible, or through messengers from God. Jesus was God's son, and he spoke God's words to people.
- The seed that falls on the footpath stands for people who hear but then the message is quickly taken away by the devil so they don't believe. What things do you think could cause this to happen?
- The seed that falls on the rocky ground represents people who at first joyfully receive God's words but because they have no root they fall away when some problem or difficulty comes along.
- The seed that falls among the thorns and weeds represents people who hear God's words but then as they go on life's worries, riches and pleasures stop them from maturing. This refers to the many distractions there can be in life that stop us thinking about God's words, such as getting good exam results, being successful at work, having a family, being rich or famous, the list goes on. These things may not be bad things, but it is bad if they stop us from listening to God's words.
- Finally the seed that falls into the fertile soil represents those who hear God's words, keep it and by keeping on listening to God's words mature and produce a crop. I like to think of the crop as being more seeds - in other words speaking God's words to more people.
 
We finished by thinking about what this story says to give us some understanding about our own experience of God's words. I encourage you to think about this as well.

by Andy Gray

Week 7 - How can we believe that Jesus rose from the dead?

posted 1 Apr 2012, 04:16 by Peter Booth

This week we looked at why we can believe that Jesus really did rise from the dead. 

There are two main possible reasons for not believing in Jesus:

The first explanation could be that Jesus never really died. I find this hard to believe for a couple of reasons. Jesus was killed by the Romans. The Romans were the best killers in the business, they had invented crucifixion where a man is nailed to a wooden cross because it was the most agonising and painful way to die. Secondly, because Jesus died quicker on the cross than people usually did they put a spear through his side (John 19:34). The fact that blood and water poured out only happens when a man is dead.

Secondly, maybe the disciples stole Jesus’ body and then told people that they had seen him alive? Maybe the disciples made the whole thing up?
I find this hard to believe for the following reasons. Firstly the Bible tells us that Jesus appeared firstly to the women Mary, Mary and Joanna, then to Peter, to the rest of the disciples and to more than 500 people at one time (1 Corinthians 15:5-6). This takes out the explanations that the disciples dreamt that Jesus rose from the dead, or that they had a hallucination. Dreams and hallucinations can only happen to one person at once. Paul even says in that verse, 'look you can go and ask these people yourselves, most of them are still alive,' when Paul was writing this. Would Paul have said this if he didn’t really believe it was true?

Secondly, when Jesus was arrested the disciples ran away and hid. They were scared for their lives. What would it take for these same 11 people to 10 days later be speaking in front of 3000 people telling everyone that Jesus was alive? They knew that Jesus had died. Something incredible must have happened for them to be changed from cowardly men hiding in a room in fear for their lives to bold, joyful men declaring that Jesus was alive. How could that have happened if Jesus wasn’t alive?

Thirdly, all the disciples gave the rest of their lives to travelling and telling other about Jesus rising from the dead. The fact that many people in those early days believed that Jesus had risen means that it can’t have been made up. It would have been easy to disprove, but it wasn’t. Most of the disciples ended up dying for what they believed to be true. If the disciples had made up the story, then surely they wouldn’t have been willing to die for it? They would have known whether it was true or false.


So maybe it is true that Jesus rose from the dead, but if it is, why is it so important? Three things that it means for us are:

There is a God. There is no other explanation for how Jesus can rise from the dead. The only answer is that God raised Jesus from the dead.

Secondly, it means that Jesus was God. We have heard about the claims that Jesus made. He said that he was God and he showed it by the miracles that he did. But if he had just died, how would we know if he was truly God? Jesus rising from the dead proves that he was God.

Thirdly, if Jesus has risen from the dead then there is a way that we can be made right with God. It means that through the cross Jesus has taken the punishment for our sin. He has restored our relationship with God if we believe in him. If Jesus hadn’t risen again, his death would have been no more significant than anyone else’s death but the fact that he rose again shows that he is God, and that he has forgiven our sin. (1 Corinthians 15:14)


If it is true that Jesus rose from the dead the only thing we can logically do is to ask Jesus to forgive our sin and live a life that is pleasing to him.

by Paul Zealey

Week 6: Good news - the Cross

posted 28 Mar 2012, 17:57 by Peter Booth

We looked at 5 passages in the Bible to see the story of the cross:
  1. Good News for the world: Luke 2:1-20. 2000 years ago, in a small town, in the Roman Empire - there is great news, a saviour is born. God cares about us so much that he sent his Son, Jesus, to save us.
  2. Good News for sinners: Mark 2:13-17. Jesus has just healed a paralysed person, but before he healed him he forgave his sins. Then Jesus goes and has a meal with people who are considered to be sinners, including some tax collectors (at that time tax collectors were often unfair in their dealings). The religious leaders don't think it is right for Jesus to eat with these "dodgy" people. But Jesus is quite clear; he says that it is the sick who need a doctor - he has come to to help the sinners, not those who think they have got everything right. The good news is that if we realise we are sinners and need help, then Jesus came to help us.
  3. Good News about evil: Mark 9:21-29. Jesus comes into a crowd who are arguing because the disciples were unable to remove an evil spirit from a young boy. Jesus commands the evil spirit to leave, and it does. The good news is that Jesus has authority over evil, and we see elsewhere in Mark's gospel that Jesus has authority to heal from illness as well. In the story Jesus says something important; he says "everything is possible for him who believes". To experience the authority of Jesus in our lives we must believe.
  4. Good News about life: John 10:1-21. Jesus tells a story about a shepherd and his sheep to a crowd of people who have mixed views about who Jesus is. In the story Jesus explains that a shepherd cares for his sheep (unlike someone who is hired), and the sheep recognise the voice of their shepherd. In his story Jesus goes a step further and says the shepherd is willing to lay down his life (to die) for the sheep. Jesus is the good shepherd and he will lay down his life for his sheep (his sheep are those who recognise his voice, or in other words those (people) who listen to him).
  5. Why did Jesus die? Luke 23:13-56. This passage tells the story of Jesus' death. Jesus was sentenced to death unfairly; even the rulers said he was innocent but they gave into the the demands of people in order to stay popular. He was then crucified with criminals, and yet he asks for forgiveness for the executioners. The rulers, soldiers and other criminals mock him saying "If you are the king of the Jews then save yourself". As Jesus is dying on the cross darkness comes over the land and the curtain of the temple is torn in two (this is symbolic as the curtain separating God from the people is now torn - there is a way through to God directly). And after his death a Roman centurion praises God and the people go away distressed. Something more was happening - Jesus was there to save the world.
The Good News is that Jesus did lay down his life so that through him those who realise they need help, who believe in him and who listen to his voice, may be saved into eternal life and have a relationship with God.

by Andy Gray

Week 5 - Being part of God's family

posted 19 Mar 2012, 04:44 by Peter Booth   [ updated 19 Mar 2012, 04:44 ]

This week we were looking at what it means to be part of God's family. Jesus said that those who believe in him to save them are his family. This is a wonderful truth because being part of God's family means we have some great rewards. We have a new identity, as we realise that we are known and loved by God. We have a new confidence because we know that God has promised to provide for us. We can have a new purpose because God has a plan for our life. We then looked at the story of The Lost Son in Luke 15, and there is a challenge to all of us; will we come to God and at what point? Do you feel like you're in the pig sty and need to return home to God? Or are you already nearing your Father and just waiting to feel the hug? Keep asking God to draw close to you because he will change your life.

by Paul Zealey

Week 4 - What is the point of life?

posted 9 Mar 2012, 03:10 by Peter Booth

What is the Point of Life?

Ecclesiastes 1:12-2:26, 12:13-14

 

If we look at a speck of dust it is tiny compared with the city of Southampton.  But you or I are even smaller compared with the universe.  That can make us feel insignificant and meaningless.  But are we?

 

Someone has said “There are two significant moments in every person’s life: the day you are born and the day you discover why you were born”.

 

How would you complete the sentence.. “My purpose in life is…"?

 

King Solomon lived 900 years before Christ.  He was rich, powerful and considered the wisest man on earth.  In Ecclesiastes he describes his search for meaning and purpose in life.  He pursued all kinds of pleasure, he accumulated possessions, he made his surroundings beautiful, he studied and he worked hard.  But he still wondered if there was any point to all this.  He would die anyway.  What would happen to it all when he died?  Was he any better off than a foolish person?

 

Today, like Solomon, we can enjoy our work and we can enjoy achieving success.  But all this will pass.  It can be just like enjoying playing a game.  We like to win, but does it really matter once the game is over?

 

Solomon concludes that it does make a difference if we acknowledge God.  That is the beginning of true wisdom.

It does make a difference that:

     There is a God who made us and God watches us and God will judge us

     God wants us to be aware of him and to relate to him in thankfulness and obedience

     God has made rules for us to live by for our good.

 

If we look at the whole message of the Bible, we see that it makes even more difference when we realise...

      God loves us, and wants us to love him and to be in a relationship with him forever!

      This speck of dust is of inestimable value to God.

      God created me knowing that it would cause him great suffering to bring me into a right relationship of love with  himself.

      God still will not force me to respond, but longs for a freely chosen relationship of love of creature to creator.

      Beyond the philosophical questions of Ecclesiastes, we can read in the Gospels of how Jesus demonstrates how important my life and your life is to God.


by Rod Lawrence, Friends International

Week 3 - The God who answers our questions

posted 4 Mar 2012, 14:57 by Peter Booth

The God who answers our questions (Acts 17:16-34)
When something is missing in life, it just isn't as good. This passage is Paul speaking to people who are looking for something to satisfy their desires, the people of Athens were looking for something deeper and more fulfilling than what their idols (gods) could offer. Paul has the answer.
 
The God who raises questions (vv. 16-23)
When Paul arrives in Athens he starts speaking to people about Jesus. One group in particular want to know more and so they invite him to speak to them. Paul notices in Athens that the people are very religious, they have many idols. Idols are things that take the place of God in peoples lives. In Athens these were statues made of stone and gold that people bowed down to. In our lives today they are often things like money, success, love, acceptance, comfort, happiness, the list goes on. These things on their own are not bad but when they become what we aim for in life then they take the place of God. There is nothing wrong with these things but when we look to them to satisfy our deepest needs they will only disappoint us. Only God can satisfy our desires.
 
The God who answers our questions (vv. 24-31)
So why does Paul's God answer our deepest questions and fulfill our deepest desires? This is why:
  1. v24 This is the God who created the world, who created you. He knows how you work best and has taught us how to live best in the Bible, not because he is a mean God but because he loves us and hates to see us live lives which aren't the best for us.
  2. v26 He has a plan for our lives. God knows what he wants you to be doing now and in the future. He knows all things and knows the best things for you to be doing.
  3. v27 He longs to have a relationship with you. He has created us to know him and he is close to us. If we pray and ask him to forgive us for rejecting him until now he will forgive us and we can know him through the Bible and through prayer and through spending time with Christians. He longs for you to reach out and ask him into your life.
  4. v.31 One day everyone will have to give an account to God for how they have lived their lives. There will be a judgement day, and if we choose to reject God's offer of forgiveness we will get what we have asked for; separation from God for eternity.
The God who demands a decision (vv. 32-34)
This is the God who can fulfill our deepest needs, who can answer the deepest questions in life. Will you choose to reject him like some of the people in Athens? Or will you choose to accept his forgiveness and make him your number one desire? If you do, he will satisfy your longing and give purpose and joy to your life.

by Paul Zealey

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