I’ve had the privilege of studying God’s Word at the scholarly level for the past 10 years.  I’ve heard lectures from men and women who wrote the textbooks used across the nation for that particular section of the Bible.  I’ve read other scholars who dove deep into the truths of Scripture.  I’ve spent the past five years devoting myself to a tough academic schedule, while engaging in full-time ministry.  And while I treasure my education, I’ve found that the greatest things I can offer to those I teach are the things which God has taught me – the conclusions I came to by reading and re-reading the text.

I’ve read and heard the story of Jonah my entire life, yet as I was preparing to speak to a group of 85 middle and high school students at a youth retreat, God dropped something in my heart.  The theme of the retreat was “Open Water.”  I wrote a line in my message manuscript about the book of Jonah being a book about a struggle, much of which happens over open water.  As I was rehearsing the talk in my living room, God took over.  The Bible tells us about many people whose lives were defined by moments over open water.

Moses and the Red Sea.  He’s with his people (God’s people) running from the people who raised him and trusting in the God who called him.  Later at the rock, Moses is deciding whether call water from the stone as God asked or to strike the rock with his staff.  His life and leadership was defined by those two moments in the water.

Noah is a man whose life story culminated in the open water of the great flood.  He was a man who followed God for 400 years waiting to get the call (as Phil Vischer so aptly tells us) and he builds the boat.   Everything he had done in the previous 400 years came to a culminating moment over the 40 days on the open water.

John the Baptist, Jesus, the man beside Bethesda’s pool – all of these people had moments where their lives were defined when they were on open water and the same goes for Jonah. Ultimately the same goes for us.  The open water of our lives, the tough decisions, the crucial calls, those are the things that define our lives.

My challenge to you is to be faithful to read and reread the stories that are familiar to you as you teach them.  For those who teach early elementary, it’s easy to fall into the pattern of only reading whatever children’s “version of the Bible” you are using (Beginner’s Bible, Read with Me Bible, etc…), instead of God’s Word.  Read, study, dig in, and let God take over.

It was cool for me to see young people come to Christ and repent from patterns of sin and self-destruction this weekend because I trusted God and let Him talk, instead of banking on what I already know.