3 Reasons Not to Skip the Kings and Prophets

3 Reasons Not to Skip the Kings and Prophets

3 Reasons Not to Skip

the Kings and Prophets

How to Read Unfamiliar Books of the Bible

By Bennett Rolan – BSF Editorial Manager

A year ago, I could confidently say that I had read the books of Amos and Obadiah. But beyond being checked off my Bible reading plan, I honestly could not tell you the difference between the two. Maybe you can relate? If you have skimmed these passages, like me, you likely missed the nuances that make them so gripping. From action-packed accounts to inspiring poetry, these books are beautifully written.  

When we slow down long enough to really read these books – as Bible Study Fellowship will do this year in People of the Promise: Kingdom Divided – we discover that the God of the Old Testament still speaks to His people today. Here are just three of the ways God spoke to me through His Word:

1. The God of the Kings and Prophets is the God of the Church today 

If we are looking to discover more about the Holy Spirit, an easy place to start is the book of Acts. To understand the life and teachings of Jesus, we turn to the Gospels. But where can we go to uncover the character of God? While all of Scripture reveals Him, studying God’s words through the Old Testament prophets provides a closer view of His character.  

We see that the God who upheld justice and mercy in Micah is also the One who offers pure justice and mercy today. The God who was faithful to the unfaithful in Hosea continues to faithfully pursue wayward people now. And the One who kept His promises to ancient kings will keep His promises to His people in modern day.   

While we can’t directly apply God’s words and promises to Israel to the Church today, there are many lessons we can learn from this study. Through the Kings and Prophets, we learn to hold fast to God’s character, uncovering new facets of who He was, is, and will always be.  

2. The Kings and Prophets highlight humanity’s need for a Savior 

If studying the Kings and Prophets reveals God’s unshakable character, these books also highlight humanity’s enduring struggle with sin. 

A group of ancient kings may not seem relatable on the surface, but when we slow down and study their lives, we uncover their pride, greed, fear, and faithlessness. In one verse they boldly followed the Lord, and in the next, they relied on their own strength. In one chapter they stood for righteousness, and in another they bowed to the culture around them. (Sound familiar?) 

Through the kings and prophets, we learn that sin is not new to God, and He takes it seriously. The waywardness of the Israelites during the Divided Kingdom reveals humanity’s desperate need for a Savior. This time in God’s history also forces us to examine our own hearts. When we see our own sin clearly, we can do nothing but fall to our knees in gratitude before the One who saved us from it.  

3. The Kings and Prophets offer unique insight into the New Testament 

These books are deeply integrated into the fabric of the New Testament. The Gospel writers relied heavily on Old Testament prophecies to recognize Jesus as the One True Messiah. Quoted by the apostles, including Paul and John, books like Isaiah, Hosea, Nahum, and more, served as foundational truths for the New Testament authors.  

Jesus quoted the Old Testament often, like quoting from Hosea 6:6 when He forgave and healed the paralytic man in Matthew 9:13. If we skip reading Hosea in context, we miss the depth of sin that Jesus uncovered and the wrath it deserved. When we understand fully why Jesus desires mercy, not sacrifice, and calls not the righteous, but sinners, we are left with a tremendous sense of awe and gratitude.  

When we study the entirety of God’s narrative, His Word takes on a deeper and more intimate meaning. New Testament passages come to life, gaining greater depth and resonance, when we study the Old Testament references they contain. 

In 2 Chronicles 16:9a we read, “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.” As Christians, we long to have hearts that are “fully committed” to God, but how do we get there? A simple way to begin is by knowing Him through His story and His character. We may be tempted to skip or skim books like 1 and 2 Chronicles or Obadiah, but we would miss intimate insight into who God is. And when we understand our sin and the One who saved us from it, the Holy Spirit softens our hearts in worship toward the unchanging God of yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  

Ready to read the kings and prophets? Join a BSF group today and explore our new study on these thrilling and important books.

Bennett Rolan

Editorial Manager

Bennett Rolan joined the BSF staff in 2017 after working for several secular media outlets and Christian ministries. She loves to combine her passion for God’s Word and her journalism background to share stories of God’s Work in and through BSF. As a wife to a busy college football coach and a mom to four young children, BSF studies keep her relationship with the Lord grounded and focused. She loves to learn from fellow believers as God faithfully grows her each day.

 

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Pray for Christians in Nigeria

Pray for Christians in Nigeria

Bearing Persecution with Joy

How to Pray for Christians in Nigeria

By Bennett Rolan – BSF Editorial Manager

Halfway through his morning commute, Luka’s senses are on alert. As he walks through the streets of Jos, Nigeria, Luka scans his surroundings for subtle changes. Even a slight shift in the mood or crowd could indicate immediate danger. 

Luka’s path to work leads him directly through a Muslim neighborhood. Years ago, he was simply unwelcome here, but today, he is targeted. As a Christian, the days of unrest in the middle belt” of Nigeria have turned into a real risk of persecution.

While statistics remain unclear, reports estimate that an average of 17 Nigerian Christians were killed per day in 2021. Thousands of school children have been abducted and held for ransom. Rural villages are targeted and burned, resulting in mass killings. In a January 11 attack, 100 homes were burned to the ground and 18 people were killed, including an 18-month-old child. 

Once I start the journey from my house, I rely on the voice of the Spirit to help me know if there is danger,” he said. I have to know what is happening in front and behind. Once I sense something is not normal, I have to turn around.” 

As a long-time BSF Teaching Leader, Luka finds confidence in God’s promises, balancing wisdom and faith. 

God’s grace is sufficient for us in all things and at all times and in all circumstances,” he shared. God’s presence has been a great encouragement. Knowing that what we are passing through is because we bear His name, we can continually go through persecution with joy and that is a blessing. Persecution is scriptural, it is prophesied, and it is fulfilled because God said we shall suffer when we follow in Jesus’ footsteps.” 

Nigeria is divided religiously, about half of the population identifies as Muslim, while the other half are Christians. Most of the Muslim population lives in the north, while the Christian population mainly resides in the south. In the early 2000s, unrest began to rise throughout the nation because of the emergence of Islamic militant groups such as Boko Haram and the Fulani militia. 

Christian massacres were formerly relegated to rural villages, especially in the northern part of the country, but the wave of persecution is moving southward. Located in the center of the country, the Christians in Jos are now experiencing increased abduction and economic oppression.  

Currently, there is kidnapping everywhere,” Luka said. Christians are the major target.” 

Hope in the Darkness

In the wake of increased violence, Luka considered suspending BSF meetings for safety, but class members were determined to meet. The group changed their class time so members could return home during daylight. 

This has not deterred our members from coming to class. I discovered something about our class members, the more there is attack and insecurity, the closer they grow to God. One thing I learned about BSF members is that they are willing to die for Christ,” Luka said. There was a crisis in Jos two days before our meeting and I was thinking about stopping the class. That meeting we had the best attendance. They don’t want to miss a class because of what God is doing.” 

As the class continues to study Matthew, Jesus’ teachings encourage those in their darkest moments. Finding hope through the compassion and miracles of Christ gives them confidence to cling to God’s Truth. Exploring Jesus’ fortitude when faced with the cross, and the joy of His resurrection, brings Philippians 1:21 to life — to live is Christ and to die is gain.” 

A Call to Pray and Remember

For each of us, the persecution of our brothers and sisters in Nigeria reminds us that our days are not our own. Jesus doesn’t promise us safety or comfort. He doesn’t guarantee that our lives will be long. But Matthew 28:20b promises that He will go with us as we walk in faith. 

In the places where there is no persecution, I pray you will use the privilege God has given to you,” Luka shared. Walk in evangelism, walk in witness, walk in Christ, so we can turn the whole world to Him. We are very needful of the prayers of believers all over the world. While we are passing through this time of persecution, we feel your prayers through the Spirit. It is our joy that you are praying.” 

Together, let us pray for the perseverance of our brothers and sisters in Nigeria. Let us always remember their suffering and find hope in their joy. Bound by Christ in His Spirit, may we Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit …” (Matthew 28:19)

Bennett Rolan

BSF Editorial Manager

Bennett joined the BSF staff in 2017 after working for several publications, Christian ministries and non-profits. She loves to combine her passion for God’s Word and her journalism background to share stories of God’s Work in and through BSF. As a wife to a busy college football coach and a mom to four young children, BSF studies keep her relationship with the Lord grounded and focused. She loves to learn from fellow believers as God faithfully grows her each day.

 

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Do you notice when God interrupts?

Do you notice when God interrupts?

Are you busy when God interrupts?

Exploring Jesus’ Miracles in Matthew 9

By Bennett Rolan – BSF Editorial Manager

Before my alarm clock could ring, I was already awake. Lying in bed and staring at the ceiling, I mentally worked through my to-do list. 

I had school lunches to pack, emails to read, yesterday’s laundry to fold and, yet somehow, I desperately needed to find time to connect with the Lord. 

Busyness isn’t an excuse for neglecting time with our Father. But balancing everyday demands can feel overwhelming, limiting our time and spiritual availability. 

As I prayed through my frustration, I thought about Jesus’ daily life. While He was responsible for shepherding 12 wayward men, He taught crowds of thousands, built an eternal kingdom, and withstood consistent opposition to His ministry. 

Jesus was busy! But in Matthew 8:1, when “large crowds followed Him,” He paused to respond to a request to heal a man with leprosy. When I read Jesus’ words in verse 3, I’m stunned by His powerful response, “I am willing.”

Examining my own heart, I have to ask, “Am I willing?” 

Am I willing to be interrupted? Am I willing to sacrifice my productivity, my comfort, and my control to be interrupted by those God places in my path?

In his famous work, Life Together, German Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God. God will be constantly crossing our paths and canceling our plans by sending us people with claims and petitions. We may pass them by, preoccupied with our more important tasks. … It is a strange fact that Christians and even ministers frequently consider their work so important and urgent that they will allow nothing to disturb them. They think they are doing God a service in this, but actually they are disdaining God’s ‘crooked yet straight path.’” 

Jesus Saw Her

In Matthew 9:18, a desperate synagogue leader knelt before Jesus saying “My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live.” We might expect Jesus to rush, following God’s direction and serving this influential man. 

But in Matthew 9:22, Jesus stopped on the way. When a suffering woman touched His robe, “Jesus turned and saw her.” 

Jesus saw beyond the woman’s position and status. He paused, setting His plans aside to respond tenderly to her, calling her “daughter.” Instead of rushing through the crowd to the home of an important man, Jesus took time to see straight to her heart. He saw her need and honored her faith.

1 Samuel 16:7b tells us, “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Jesus Responded in Faith

After healing the woman, Jesus arrived at the Synagogue leader’s home. A crowd had already gathered to mourn the death of the sick young girl whom Jesus came to save. 

Jesus responded with faith and confidence, trusting the Father to accomplish His plan. His response seemed so ridiculous that the crowd “laughed at Him.”

Jesus miraculously raised the girl from the dead, and “News of this spread through all that region.”

The Father was glorified when Jesus was interrupted on His behalf, and He’s glorified when we respond with the same faith. So often, when my plans are derailed, I lose sight of how God may be working. I forget my faith, not trusting that when I’m interrupted by God, nothing, not even death, can stop His perfect plan.

Bigger Plans Than Ours

In 1938, when Bonhoeffer wrote Life Together, being “interrupted by God” meant putting his life on hold to actively resist the Nazi rise to power. He ultimately sacrificed his plans to become a university professor, to get married, and to start a family. Deeply sensitive to the needs of those around him, Bonhoeffer walked God’s “crooked yet straight path.”  

In 1940 he was forbidden from speaking in public. In 1941, his right to print or publish was revoked. In 1943, Bonhoeffer was finally arrested. He was executed in 1945, shortly before the Allied troops liberated the concentration camp. 

Throughout Hitler’s regime, Bonhoeffer faithfully defended God’s Word and His people. His response followed a pattern of daily commitment to God, holding his plans loosely before the Father. 

When we practice looking for God’s interruptions, we make a habit of seeing people as God does. And when a great moment comes, when He asks us to respond in faith, we are ready.

Personally, Matthew 9 forces me to ask, “Am I willing?” These verses challenge me to pray for eyes to see and a faith to respond.

Through Jesus’ moments on the cross and His resurrection, I find the courage to believe that God can accomplish anything. 

Acts 2:24 reminds us, “But God raised Him from the dead. He set Him free from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him.”

If our Savior isn’t bound by death itself, then we can trust Him with our time, our schedules, our finances, and our fears.  We, too, can find the freedom to be interrupted by God, trusting that He will expand our time and capacity to accomplish His plans.

In light of the gospel, a busy day can be one more opportunity for God to interrupt. It’s one more day for us to respond. And it’s another moment for us to become a little more like Jesus.

Learn more about Jesus’s miracles in the book of Matthew. Join a BSF class near you! https://join.bsfinternational.org/ 

Bennett Rolan

Editorial Manager

Bennett Rolan joined the BSF staff in 2017 after working for several Christian ministries and non-profits. She loves to combine her passion for God’s Word and her journalism background to share stories of God’s Work in and through BSF. As a wife to a busy college football coach and a mom to four young children, BSF studies keep her relationship with the Lord grounded and focused. She loves to learn from fellow believers as God faithfully grows her each day.

 

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Sharing the Gospel With Family

Sharing the Gospel With Family

Sharing Faith with Family

By Bennett Rolan – BSF Editorial Manager

Erin Levine’s heart broke for her husband, Tony.  

Raised in a Jewish home, Tony believed in God and prayed during important events, but exploring Christianity wasn’t a priority. As a successful college football coach, he was busy. He was fulfilled. They were happy. But Erin longed for both of them to share an abiding relationship with Jesus ChristSo she prayed. 

For 10 years, Erin prayed, hoped, and waited. Then in 2012, surrounded by friends at a Christian family camp, Tony Levine publicly proclaimed his faith in Jesus.

BSF Leader Erin Levine shared the gospel with her unbelieving spouse Tony Levine, former college football coach and Houston Chick-fil-A franchise owner.

Erin’s advice to others who want to share the gospel with family is to “Just keep praying. When you keep praying for that person, God will work through that, but He will also work through you. It changes you. For me, there were a lot of times when I would get mad or upset, wondering when Tony would respond to Christ, but praying through it kept me focused and grounded.”

Tony shared, “I think the strongest witness is observing someone. The word that comes to mind is passion. The passion she had for learning and growing her relationship with the Lord was consistent over time. It was a process. Her joy just continued to grow. I wanted that joy, I wanted to know how to get it.”

God Prepares the Soil

As a professional and college football coach for 22 years, Tony’s career moved the Levine family often. In their early years of marriage, Erin’s faith was tepid. But as the Holy Spirit worked, her love of God’s Word grew, along with her commitment to Christ. 

“I always knew God had a plan for Tony, but I began to wonder, ‘When?’ ” she shared. “He was my best friend, and it was so hard that we couldn’t share that. He just didn’t get it.”

From 2003 to 2005, Tony worked as an assistant coach at the University of Louisville in Kentucky. Just outside the city, Erin found a church with a Messianic Jewish community. She was on a mission to find the people who would lead Tony to Christ.  

“I was trying to change him, but God used that time to change me,” Erin said. “I started understanding how the Jewish faith fit with Christianity. When I started learning all of that, my eyes opened, and that’s when I wanted to know the Lord more.”  

Tony smiles when he recalls those Louisville years.   

“I was at the office thinking about how not to get a punt blocked when a man showed up with a bag of Burger King and sat down to talk to me about Jesus,” Tony said. “They had the messianic meetings at our house, and I kept thinking, ‘When are these people going to get out of our basement?’ ”  

Erin remembers, “He was not sold by any means. I’m glad we can laugh about it now, but a lot of those conversations ended in arguments. Sure, he saw my faith, but he also saw me with an attitude. A lot of those days I felt like I messed it up. In the beginning, everybody wanted to save him. Nobody really wanted to get to know him.”

But God met Erin in her longing and taught her to surrender the burden of Tony’s salvation to Him.

“I felt like it was my job to save him. But when you realize that God does the saving it removes that weight,” she shared. “When you don’t have to do the saving, your faith overflows. It takes a lot of prayer. I know it’s hard. I’m not trying to make it sound easy, it’s a discipline and focus. When you realize you’re only supposed to be faithful, and you allow God to do the saving, you can let that go.” 

As the Levine family moved from Kentucky to North Carolina, then to Texas, Erin’s faith grew, and her love for God’s Word ignited. She joined a BSF class in Texas, where she served as a Children’s Leader and a Group Leader. Tony’s career continued to thrive, and in 2011 he was named the head football coach at the University of Houston. That summer, he accepted Christ.

God Plants the Seed

Along the way, God was quietly working. He honored Erin’s faith and softened Tony’s heart. God placed Christian men in his path, and Tony watched as the believers around him handled adversity with grace and fortitude. 

“The Christian coaches I saw were strong. Because of the nature of this profession, when you get fired from a job it’s very public. I watched these men lose their jobs, and I watched how they responded. When the world would tell them to be discouraged or disappointed, they weren’t. I thought, ‘What do they have that other people don’t? And how can I get it?’ ”

When Tony surrendered his life to Christ, it wasn’t the work of a single moment.

“If you have a rock, and you hit it with a hammer 100 times, it may finally break. But it wasn’t just that 100th hit that broke the rock. It was the build-up of the 99 times before it,” Tony said. “For me, it was a combination of seeing Godly men and, in my case, Godly husbands, coaches, and fathers live through faith over time.”

Tony developed a passion for Christ and the roots of his faith ran deep. The Levines were bound together, strengthened by their faith and unknowingly prepared for difficult years to come.

God Grows Our Faith

Three years after becoming the head football coach at the University of Houston, Tony’s career took a difficult turn. The university announced a coaching staff change and for the first time in 22 years, Tony was left wondering about his future. 

Taking a year away from football, the couple prayed, seeking God’s direction for their lives. During that time, they felt called to open a Chick Fil A and Tony began the interview process. Knowing it could take several years before a location in Houston became available, Tony waited and worked as an assistant coach, turning down several major coaching opportunities.

The Levines’ Chick Fil A opened in Houston in 2018. And as the family celebrated the end of one challenge, three months later, Erin was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“Within a three-year period, I was fired for the first time in my coaching career, I made a decision to give up coaching, which was all I had known for 22 years, and then Erin gets cancer,” Tony said. “How do you get through something like that? I was able to trust that the Lord orchestrated all of it.”

Surrounded by familiar doctors and dear friends in Houston, Erin began her treatment. The couple prayed and proclaimed God’s faithfulness through fear and adversity. When the world told them to be discouraged or disappointed, they weren’t. The faith that Tony had questioned years earlier kept him grounded.

Today, Erin is in remission and Tony volunteers as a coach for his sons’ football teams. The couple points to those early years as the days God used to prepare them.

We Pray, We Wait, We Share

For most of us, Erin’s story is familiar. Like the parable of the sower in Matthew 13, we long to plant the seeds of the gospel in the lives of those we love. But waiting for God to prepare the soil is a true test of our faith. We hope, we pray, we share, and we wait. We can’t predict when or how the seed will take root. We are simply called to be faithful.

For Erin, faith meant trusting Jesus with the salvation of the person she loved most.

“I focused on my relationship with Christ,” said Erin. “When I discovered that God was enough to meet my needs, that He would fulfill that longing through His Word, it took the pressure off trying to save Tony. I didn’t have to be perfect or have the perfect family. Jesus was, and is, enough.”

 

Are you looking to share the gospel with your family? Invite them to try BSF with you for 4 weeks! https://www.bsfinternational.org/trybsf/ 

Bennett Rolan

Editorial Manager

Bennett Rolan joined the BSF staff in 2017 after working for several Christian ministries and non-profits. She loves to combine her passion for God’s Word and her journalism background to share stories of God’s Work in and through BSF. As a wife to a busy college football coach and a mom to four young children, BSF studies keep her relationship with the Lord grounded and focused. She loves to learn from fellow believers as God faithfully grows her each day.

 

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