Ten Commandments course now available

If you’ve been paying attention over the past few months, I have been busy creating a course on the Ten Commandments. The course has now been finished, and is available to do here on the website. It’s free to do here – all you need to do is create an account (free!). If you’d prefer, you can watch all the videos on this YouTube playlist.

I hope you enjoy the course! I have really enjoyed creating it – and it has struck me how much there is to say about the commandments. I think I’ve barely scratched the surface! In particular, following the session on adultery I would like to do a course about marriage, sex and relationships. If you’d like to know when new courses are released, do sign up to the mailing list.

After Easter I am planning to do a series on the Lord’s Prayer. If there’s anything you would find useful, please get in touch and let me know! I’d love to hear your ideas and thoughts.

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Coming up in 2022…

Happy New Year to all friends of Understand the Bible! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and New Year, and you are looking forward to what is coming in 2022.

This is what is planned for Understand the Bible in the coming months:

  • New Course: The Ten Commandments. So do you think you know the Ten Commandments? They have been the bedrock of our laws for centuries, and yet they continue to speak into our lives to give us meaning and direction. They teach us right from wrong and help us to live well. This will be the next course on Understand the Bible, the first video should be out next week.
  • New Course: The Lord’s Prayer. After completing the Ten Commandments course, we’ll be looking at the Lord’s Prayer – which teaches us how to pray and fleshes out how we should relate to God.
  • Livestream Course. I will be re-starting the livestream course this afternoon as we finish off the last part of the Apostle’s Creed course.

In addition to all that, there will be more videos in the Your Questions Answered series. I have one question someone asked me already, but if you have any more questions then do send them in (you can leave a comment below or get in touch).

And this year, Understand the Bible will be turning THREE! I can hardly believe it’s been going for three years already. Thanks so much to everyone who’s supported it this year – I feel like it’s going to be a good year.

God bless everyone, and I hope I will see you again over these coming weeks for the Ten Commandments!

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Livestream Course Update

This is a quick update about the livestream courses: I am still running these each week at 3:30pm on Wednesdays (UK time). I have nearly finished the How to Live as a Christian course (two more sessions left at the time of writing!). The format has evolved a little bit, and I hope that it’s become something that would be appropriate for a Bible study group with questions to think about and discuss.

I’m also separating the courses I’ve completed into separate playlists on YouTube, so you can see them here: What is Christianity and How to Live as a Christian.

If you’d like to do a course on Understand the Bible, this would be a good way of engaging! And please feel free to share the details with any friends (or church leaders!) you think might appreciate it.

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Autumn 2021: Let me know your thoughts!

This is a brief announcement to let you know that I won’t be doing much over the month of August. I’ll be taking a bit of holiday time myself, but I will also be planning ahead for Autumn 2021.

In the last few months I have completed the What is Christianity? course as well as How to Live as a Christian. I’m currently thinking about what would be best to focus on in the run up to Christmas.

At the moment I’m leaning towards developing an Understand the Bible Catechism – a course which works through the three traditional parts of a catechism: the Apostle’s Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments. However, there are other things I’d like to do at some point, e.g. I’d like to complete the Sermon on the Mount series and do that as a proper course.

One of the challenges at the moment is that we all have the same number of hours in the day and in the week. We need to prioritise certain things and there are always things we need to say “no” to.

So – let me know what you think. Are there any particular things you would appreciate videos on? Are there particular parts of the Bible, or particular aspects of Christianity, that you’d like to look at? Let me know your thoughts below 👇

All that remains to say is – thanks everyone for being part of the Understand the Bible family, and I look forward to seeing you back in September!

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News: Changes to how you do courses

When this website launched back in November 2019, I decided I needed to create courses and lessons (rather than simply YouTube videos). When we went into lockdown last year, I ended up with more time on my hands and so I decided to do build a course system from scratch. I can’t remember now why I built one from scratch – it seemed like a good idea at the time! I think it was because I wanted it to be integrated with a mobile app.

Anyway, as you may have seen, recently I decided to simplify the way I publish courses (see the announcement last month). I’ve decided that this is also the right time to move to an “off the shelf” system for running courses. I simply don’t have the time at the moment to create videos and perform my regular church duties, as well as maintaining a code base for this website!

So here’s what’s happening in summary:

  • The mobile app has been formally retired – you won’t be able to download it from now on. If you had already downloaded it, it will stop working.
  • If you had completed any courses here on the website, your progress will be lost.
  • All new courses added will be under the new system. It’s now operational and you can sign up for courses on the Courses page. (I hope to tidy up a few things over the next few days).

I’m sorry if any of these things affect you – very few people used the app, and few people had started courses or were actively using it. However, if you were one of them, I am very sorry and I hope that you’re able to make use of the new system.

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How to support Understand the Bible

Over the last few weeks I’ve been making a few changes to the way that you can support Understand the Bible – in particular with financial support. PayPal is now gone, and instead you can support via Patreon or donating via Direct Debit.

I’ve made a short video about it all:

All the links are on the support page.

I’d just like to say, once again, how much I appreciate everyone who supports Understand the Bible in any way. God has really provided through you, so – thank you!

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An exciting announcement

An announcement about what is happening with Understand the Bible after Easter 2021:

Obviously this will have implications for the existing features – I won’t be doing Thought for the Week or Learn to read the Bible. Instead, everything will be rolled into one weekly video. That may be a course, it may be on a specific book of the Bible or topic. The point is, hopefully by focussing on one topic per week it gives me a bit of time to create something of higher quality.

I will continue to do occasional other things such as the Your Questions Answered series.

Thanks for bearing with me, the last year or two have been a steep learning curve for me but, God-willing, I am beginning to get there! I’m pleased with the first of the “What is Christianity?” videos which is due to be published next week.

Thank you to everyone for your continued support of Understand the Bible, and I look forward to journeying with you over these coming months.

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Changes to the weekly schedule

Hi everyone, a bit of site news: there are going to be some changes to the weekly schedule. Back in September I decided to start up a couple of new features – Thought for the Week and Learn to read the Bible. This meant that I was publishing things regularly through the week – in fact, some weeks I’ve published a new video every day. I’ve also started a mental health livestream during the lockdown (which will be continuing post-lockdown).

All that seemed like a good idea back in September last year, but the schedule of creating videos has been pretty relentless. It’s hard to achieve the quality level you want with so little time for each video. Also, with lockdown restrictions easing in the UK, I will have a bit less time for video creation.

So, what I’ve decided to do is take a step back, and focus more on quality instead of quantity. This is what I’m hoping the new schedule will look like:

  • Monday / Tuesday – a course video – at the moment I am re-doing the Sermon on the Mount course;
  • Wednesday / Thursday – thought for the week. After Easter I am planning to do a series on the book of Galatians in the New Testament, looking at how the gospel works.
  • Friday – mental health support

Thank you everyone who has supported Understand the Bible over these past few months. I feel like I have learned a lot in this time, and I hope that the new schedule will mean I am able to focus more on producing better quality videos. Do let me know in the comments below if you have any comments or ideas for any future series here on UTB!

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Happy New Year!

I would just like to wish all friends of Understand the Bible a very happy new year. I hope you have had a good Christmas time, even if (like me) you were under some kind of restrictions this year. One thing which has kept coming back to me this Christmas is the way that Christ was not born into a world full of light, but a dark world. Christ came into a dark world, as the light of the world. Although I think the last year has seen a lot of darkness, it’s good to remember that Christ is the light.

At the start of his public ministry (in Luke 4:18-19) Jesus quoted from Isaiah 61:1-2:

‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
     because he has anointed me
     to proclaim good news to the poor.
 He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
     and recovery of sight for the blind,
 to set the oppressed free,
     to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’

“The year of the Lord’s favour”. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if 2021 was the year of the Lord’s favour? If God poured out his Spirit on us, to bring many to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ?

Christ came to proclaim good news, the same good news which UTB exists to proclaim. Let’s pray that Jesus would be lifted high in 2021.

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Reflections on 1 year of UTB

Understand the Bible has now been going for one year! (Well, more or less – understandthebible.uk was registered on 26th November 2019). It’s been a funny year in all sorts of ways. One year ago, when God gave me the opportunity to begin this ministry, I never dreamed where we would be one year later. Coronavirus, lockdowns, BLM, how much has happened! It seems like the world has changed completely.

In a funny kind of way, I think the lockdowns have actually been good for UTB. It gave me some extra time to be able to develop the App and to work on a few new courses. I think more people have been considering Christian things as well.

Let me run through what I’ve been able to do in the last 12 months of UTB.

What happened in 12 months of UTB

  • I produced about 120 videos which have been uploaded to the YouTube channel.
  • I developed the teaching programme. This was something I created entirely from scratch. At least it meant I was able to put my software development skills from a previous life to good use!
  • I also developed the mobile app – first time I’d ever developed an app. I think it’s not bad for a first app, but when I get the time I will go back and revisit it.
  • I’ve completed several new courses: What is Christianity, the Heidelberg Catechism, and the How to Live as a Christian series have all been completed in the last year.
  • I’ve completed one or two blog series, most recently Get to know God.
  • I also started several regular features – Thought for the Week, Learn to read the Bible, and Your questions answered.
  • Finally, I think the website is looking much better than it did at the start of the year. I think it could stand to be improved, but it’s much better than it was.

It’s been a busy old year! But let me move on to talk about some of the lessons I’ve learned.

Reflections on the year

Getting something started from scratch is really hard

I don’t think I quite appreciate how hard it is to start something from scratch. I suppose that’s the only reason anyone ever does it, or at least, does it for the first time! In some respects it’s been a long, hard slog. I don’t want to make it out to be like it’s been a really difficult year – there have been lots of blessings.

2 corinthians 5:7, "for we walk by faith and not by sight"

But it takes strength to keep putting out content – videos, blog posts, etc – when there doesn’t seem to be much interest in watching them. It’s helped me to really focus on the reason I started UTB in the first place: there aren’t really any other places on the internet which teach the Christian faith in the same way. Understand the Bible is unique. For me, it’s been an exercise in walking by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). You have to focus not so much on the present, but on the future.

Over the last few months, my mind has often gone to Noah. God asked him to build a boat in the middle of the desert. How ridiculous! And yet, he started building – and his faithfulness was rewarded. I have sometimes felt like Noah – creating videos and courses which teach the Christian faith, which not many people are watching right now. And yet, I have faith and trust that God will use them in due course.

Publishing regularly really helps

Over the summer, I did some reading up about how to get websites going. One thing they suggested was publishing regularly. So, since September, I made the decision to start publishing much more regularly than I was doing. Initially this was three times a week, but I’ve now extended this so I publish something every weekday on this blog. I publish videos three or four times a week.

It seems to have begun to work: the algorithms which run the internet now seem to have noticed and the website traffic has begun to increase. The number of people who subscribe to UTB on YouTube has slowly increased.

In some ways it feels a bit like being a slave to the algorithm: if you publish regularly, the algorithm will reward you with more visitors. At the same time, I think publishing regularly isn’t a bad thing, so long as you’re producing useful things. It’s the reason I started the Thought for the Week and the Learn to read the Bible series, and I think both of those have been appreciated. Writing regularly can actually be a good discipline – perhaps it’s no bad thing to be forced into doing it!

God is faithful

The biggest lesson I’ve learned over the last year is that God is faithful. This has been shown in many ways. Let me just give you one example. At the end of 2019, I was thinking that I needed to get a new computer: I had been producing videos on my old laptop, which was getting very slow. I needed something faster, but the problem was computers are expensive. Or at least, the kind of computers you edit video on are expensive. I had a figure in my mind of about £1000, which I didn’t have.

Anyway, before Christmas, we were at our church cafe’s Christmas meal. I was chatting to someone who wasn’t from our church. She just happened to be there that year, and she said that someone else had told us about our situation and UTB. A day or two later, she rang up and said her son had been saving up some money and wanted to give it to us. It turned out to be exactly £1000. That money went on a new computer, which I’ve been using to produce the UTB videos for the last year.

That’s not the only time coincidences like that have happened. Every time I or the family have needed something, God has provided. We have not gone without this year. God is faithful.

A time for thanksgiving

I just wanted to give thanks to God for his faithfulness in sustaining UTB over the last year. I’d also like to give thanks for all those who’ve participated in UTB – whether via YouTube, Facebook, or the website. It’s been a joy to see that people have been appreciating it (I’ve collected some comments on the Testimonials page).

My prayer for UTB is that God would use it to help many people come to faith and grow in their faith. That’s why I do what I do here. I thought I’d finish with Psalm 100, which seems appropriate:

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
    Worship the Lord with gladness;
    come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
    It is he who made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
    and his courts with praise;
    give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures for ever;
    his faithfulness continues through all generations.
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