Devotional: Now, and Not Yet

In several gospel stories, Jesus teaches us that his kingdom is near. The mission of the organization that I serve, Christian Schools International, seeks to advance that kingdom.

What do Jesus’ words mean? Lord, if the kingdom is near, why is it not here? Is it like a dog that is chasing its own tail? The dog can see it. The dog can feel it. But the dog cannot ever catch it. It is near, but not fully within its reach or grasp. Continue reading

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Devotional: God’s Community

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).

The biblical narrative leaves so many questions unanswered. Why, for example, did God apparently remain silent for four hundred years while the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob suffered in Egypt under the boot of Pharaoh?

In isolation from the entire narrative, this seems a very harsh act by a loving God. In the big picture, however, consider that God was shaping a people to understand their complete dependence on him. Continue reading

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Devotional: Blessed Are the Peacemakers

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9). Continue reading

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Devotional: The Galilean Synagogue School

Capernaum Synagogue

Capernaum Synagogue

As a lifelong Christian educator and Christian school leader, I was thrilled to learn that a school has been discovered attached to every first-century synagogue. The Capernaum synagogue school is the largest discovered to date. (The school is the large section to the right in the image)

Synagogue schools were not at all like our modern day schools. They were single rooms attached to the synagogues. There was just one book, Scripture, and it was memorized. God’s creation itself was the classroom. Rabbis gathered the students under a tree, along the lake, or walked through fields or the countryside. Education was a combination of the memorization of Scripture and the revealing of Scripture in the context of God’s world.

Both boys and girls were educated in the Galilee from ages 5-12. Then they apprenticed with their fathers or mothers. The formal education for girls was complete. Some boys continued their education, some entered the family business, and some followed a rabbi up to age 30. A few boys became rabbis or Torah teachers themselves at that point, while others entered the family business at some point during those years.

“All of life is learning”; that was the belief of the first-century Jewish believers. It fits exactly with the philosophy of Christian education that is the foundation of our Christian schools. We believe, as did first-century believers, that faith and life are inseparable. Faith and learning are interwoven, integrated, and imbedded within one another.

Why were synagogue schools essential to the believing communities? Why are Christian schools essential today?

Deuteronomy 6: 4-9 and Psalm 78: 1-7 answer those timeless questions:

“Israel, listen to me. The LORD is our God. The LORD is the one and only God. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Love him with all your strength. The commandments I give you today must be in your hearts. Make sure your children learn them. Talk about them when you are at home. Talk about them when you walk along the road. Speak about them when you go to bed. And speak about them when you get up. Write them down and tie them on your hands as a reminder. Also tie them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses. Also write them on your gates.”

“My people, listen to my teaching.
Pay attention to what I say.
I will open my mouth and tell a story.
I will speak about things that were hidden.
They happened a long time ago.
We have heard about them and we know them.
Our people who lived before us have told us about them.
We won’t hide them from our children.
We will tell them to those who live after us.
We will tell them what the LORD has done that is worthy of praise.
We will talk about his power and the wonderful things he has done.
He gave laws to the people of Jacob.
He gave Israel their law.
He commanded our people who lived before us
to teach his laws to their children.
Then those born later would know his laws.
Even their children yet to come would know them.
And they in turn would tell their children.
Then they would put their trust in God.
They would not forget what he had done.
They would obey his commands.”

Teaching children to love and serve God and raising up the next generation to follow in his ways is not a choice for believers. It is obedience to God’s commands.

Devotionals are written by Jeff Blamer, Vice President of Member Services

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Devotional: The Synagogue Caretaker

“Then a man named Jairus came. He was a synagogue leader. He fell at Jesus’ feet and begged Jesus to come to his house” (Luke 8:41). Continue reading

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Devotional: The Synagogue’s Torah Closet

In the corner of the synagogue was a closet. It is also called the ark. As the tablets, which were given to Moses, were placed in the ark of the covenant, so the scrolls were placed in the Torah closet or Torah ark. Continue reading

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Devotional: Chief Seats in the Synagogue

“They love to sit down in the place of honor at dinners. They also love to have the most important seats in the synagogues” (Matthew 23:6).

Imagine walking into your worship center and finding that half of the pews or chairs have been removed. Imagine that the new arrangement is rectangular. Chairs line the four sides of the rectangle. There is a large chair-less space in the middle. In the center is a small, floor-level platform. Where would you sit? Continue reading

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Devotional: The Bema in the Synagogue

“Your word is like a lamp that shows me the way. It is like a light that guides me” (Psalm 119:105). Continue reading

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Devotional: The Moses Seat in the Synagogue

“Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples. ‘The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat,’ he said. ‘So you must be careful to do everything they say. But don’t do what they do. They don’t practice what they preach’” (Matthew 23: 1-3). Continue reading

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Devotional: A Synagogue Mikveh

Did you pass last week’s quiz? Did you know that synagogue is not mentioned anywhere in the Old Testament? If you got it wrong, you have an opportunity to redeem yourself.

mikvehThis week’s quiz question: How many times is mikveh mentioned in the Bible? Continue reading

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