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Did you ever hear about a person you'd never met -- what he said, what he looked like, what he did -- and then you met him, and somehow the picture you had formed in your mind didn't fit at all? For better or worse, you were confronted with reality! An "encounter" does not mean a secondhand report about a person or a situation; it means a face-to-face meeting. In an encounter, you meet a person, and your knowledge about him or her combines with and adapts to the living reality.
This is what "Living Encounters" is all about. You have read God's Word, the Bible, but there is a gap between what it says and what you experience. You know God's Spirit is alive and well, but life would be a lot simpler if he sat down beside you and gave you advice. You like people, but sometimes loving them seems impossible. And then there's the whole world out there -- so full of need and suffering that you don't know how to even begin to help.
Living Encounters are more than an analysis of Bible passages or a tool for group discussion. They are to help you meet and adjust your life to God's Word, God's Spirit, God's people, and God's world. They are designed to challenge you not only to grasp truth but to live it out, to connect it to your personal world and to the larger world around you. As you apply yourself to these studies, you can expect exciting changes both in your thinking and in your lifestyle.
The Living Encounters series is versatile. Each guide is divided into six sessions and can be used within a small-group discussion in a church or on a college campus. However, the series is designed so that it is just as effective for individual study.
The guides are personal. They constantly lead you to ask, "What does this mean to me and how do I apply it in my own life?" Questions reveal needs and desires of the heart and invite you to embrace the promises, assurances, exhortations, and challenges of God's Word. As you respond, the Spirit of God will be responding to you, renewing your mind and transforming you more into the likeness of Jesus Christ -- the ultimate goal of all Bible study.
Each session includes the following basic features.
To draw you into the topic at hand, each session opens with a thought-provoking narrative.
Preparing Heart and Mind
These questions open your heart and focus your mind on what God wants to say to you in the passage. If you are using Living Encounters in a group setting, we strongly encourage you to include this section during the first fifteen minutes of your discussion. Please realize, however, that the entire study will probably take about an hour and fifteen minutes. If you don't have that much time, then ask your group members to reflect on these questions before you meet together, and begin your discussion with the section "Engaging the Text."
Setting the Stage
The background information found in this sidebar will help you better understand the context of the study.
Engaging the Text
This important section leads you through a Bible passage using inductive Bible study questions. The inductive method prompts you to observe, interpret, and apply the Bible passage with a variety of question styles:
• Observation questions will help you focus on what the Bible says.
• Interpretation questions will help you step into the world of the original readers to understand better what the passage meant to them.
• Application questions will help you to apply the truth to your heart and present circumstances.
Responding to God
In this section, you will receive suggestions that will help you focus your individual or group prayer time.
This brief sentence or verse will reinforce the theme of the session.
Taking It Further
This section is designed to be completed between studies to reinforce and further apply what you have learned. It offers a variety of suggestions for connecting what you have studied to your everyday life.
• Connecting to Life: a variety of activities to stimulate your personal growth and ministry to others.
• Digging Deeper: additional Scriptures to give a deeper and broader understanding of what the Bible says about the topic of the study.
• Meditation: a time to reflect more deeply on a specific verse or passage.
• Personal Expression: creative suggestions to help you process and apply what you've learned in the session.
• World Focus: an encouragement to look beyond your personal realm to the needs of our world.
In addition to the above, the guides contain a variety of optional features. All are designed to appeal to different learning styles and gifts and to encourage deeper integration of material into all of life. It is expected that you will choose whatever features you find most useful for each session. These optional features, found in articles throughout the sessions, include:
• Gray boxed material: devotional articles relevant to the study.
• People of Impact: a snapshot of the life of a person who models the principles studied.
• People Profile: a brief description of a people group that needs to be reached with the gospel.
• Hot Topic: a discussion starter to use with other group members to stimulate deeper thinking on a difficult subject.
Leader's notes for each session are provided at the back of each study guide.
Suggestions for Individual or Group Study