Bible Reading

Women shouldn’t teach… or…?

Yesterday I had the privilege and honour to preach my first sermon!! It was amazing. My pastor and I sat down to plan and discuss the summer sermon series, when we realized that one of the days he was away was one of the only days I’d actually be there (we have a travel trailer and had a lot of summer plans already booked.) He asked me if I wanted to fill in for him and preach.  I accepted the challenge with extreme enthusiasm! And so began my first ever sermon.

I followed in his summer series, Life in The Neighborhood, with the topic “God in our Networks.” I wrote it myself, and met with him for some coaching and on Sunday, August 13th 2017 I preached it!  It was amazing. I was overcome with emotion as I approached the pulpit, so I tripped up over a few words especially as I began because I was so afraid of crying, but I think overall for a first shot, I did well. I received some amazing feedback within the church and from people who watched the sermon on YouTube (https://youtu.be/KauTYEj_oRQ) and I feel so thankful for the support and encouragement I received. I am definitely going to do this again!

There are many denominations that will not let women preach, unless its exclusively to other women (they believe women shouldn’t teach men.) I have been in dialogue with my own pastor about this, and it has crossed my mind that perhaps there may be people who feel I shouldn’t be preaching my sermon.  Of course as I sat the morning of my first sermon drinking my tea and reading my Bible, without meaning to, I came across the very verses that have been used to make people believe women shouldn’t teach. Irony, eh?

The verses are from 1 Timothy chapter 2. The book is written by Paul as a letter to Timothy, a man Paul called a spiritual son to him,  and it is written to the people of Ephesus in about 64 A.D. The verses in question are as follows, 1 Timothy 2:11-12:

Women should learn quietly and submissively.  I do not let women teach men or have authority over them. Let them listen quietly.”

Umm. Okay.  So I’m about an hour or so from leaving for church to preach my first sermon and I’m reading this and thinking “well, now what?”

I’ll tell you what! Study Bible to the rescue! (More about that here: https://seekinghispeaceblog.wordpress.com/2016/12/15/note-to-self-read-my-bible/) I have said it before, and I will say it again, owning a study bible is the most important tool you can have because it actually helps you to be able to understand the Bible and make sense out of things that culturally don’t make sense to us 2000 years later.

So, to put these verses in context, Paul said them to the first-century Jewish people. Their culture did not allow women the ability to study. So, though to us today these verses seem restrictive, they were actually liberating! Paul was saying, even though you guys don’t think women should be allowed to study, I’m speaking on behalf of the women to say that yeah they can! Let them learn about Jesus, let them hear and read the Word of God, let them grow in knowledge! Paul was going against everything that was normal at that time and actually liberating women.

But… he is telling them to listen quietly. How does that go along with liberation? Again, its all about context! The church that Timothy was at, in Ephesus, that would receive this letter had women who excitingly were on fire for all that they had recently learned.  The problem was that they were then stepping into roles of leadership and teaching, with very little knowledge. They didn’t have the necessary experience, knowledge or maturity in Christ to be teaching, especially to those who did have extensive scriptural education.  You wouldn’t send someone in to teach Nasa astronauts about space after they watched a few YouTube videos, would you?  Its the same concept. Paul is saying this particular group of women in Ephesus needed to grow in their knowledge and maturity more before they began to preach to others.

If you only look at the verses I shared and try to apply them to women you know in your own church, or in general, you’re doing yourself a disservice and misusing the Bible. The best way to understand scriptural truths is to understand the context, like I mentioned, but also cross reference with other scriptures. Acts 18:24-26 shares briefly about a woman named Priscilla who was a co-worker to Paul and taught Apollos, a great preacher! Paul himself even writes of several women who held important roles in the church too.

In Romans 16:1, Paul commends “our sister Phoebe, who is a deacon in the church in Cenchrea.” In verse 6, Paul asks for the readers to, “Give my greetings to Mary, who has worked so hard for your benefit.” and in verse 12, he adds, “Give my greetings to Tryphena and Tryphosa, the Lord’s workers, and to dear Persis, who has worked so hard for the Lord. ” All were women who worked within the church, and as Paul says, worked hard for Lord.  He knows of these women in these positions and he doesn’t say anything against them like he did about the women in Ephesus.  This shows that Paul is not against women teaching, but he was against the women specifically in Ephesus teaching because they hadn’t yet matured enough in their faith to teach. To top it off, the Ephesian church had a real problem with false teachers in general, so these women who didn’t have the ability to discern the truth without the knowledge were just a further part of the problem Paul was writing to Timothy about in the hopes he could correct the Ephesian church as a whole to see them succeed more.

That’s completely fair!  When I was a new believer, I had a crazy zest for the Lord, but without the knowledge of scriptural truths I wasn’t handling myself properly. I was sharing my opinion without evidence to back it up. Even worse, I judged those who weren’t Christian thinking they need to follow Biblical truths despite them not having a relationship with Jesus as I did. My heart was in the right place, but I was immature enough that it would have been extremely damaging to offer me the chance to write and preach, even, say, 5 years ago when my faith was much more immature than it is now.

Paul was an amazing evangelist, missionary, author, apostle and motivator.  He wrote 2/3 of the New Testament and had a deep theological background having been raised as a Jewish man. He knew his stuff, and when he encounters Christ, he is able to speak with authority because he had the scriptural background and knowledge as well as a deeply personal relationship with Christ.  Simply put, that particular group of women just wasn’t qualified. In fact, Paul never once said that women in general shouldn’t teach. So, I will continue growing and maturing in my faith, and working hard for the Lord, so that I am a woman who Paul will say “good job” to when I meet him in Heaven someday.

But aside from that, I will continue to grow and mature because it brings me closer to Jesus, the one whom I want to be more like because his example on this earth is profoundly amazing.  Jesus himself treated women differently then what was considered normal at that time as well.  Jesus didn’t come for the “perfect,” he came for the marginalized, the sinners, the broken, the hurt, you name it. At that time, women were the marginalized, and yes, Jesus came for them. He showed deep compassion for women, he respected them, taught them, and healed many of them.  He was a bit of a revolutionary, in fact, for how well he treated women.

Honestly, there are too many examples for me to write about but my favourite story of Jesus showing compassion to a woman is from the book of Mark, Chapter 5 verses 25-34:

“A woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding.  She had suffered a great deal from many doctors, and over the years she had spent everything she had to pay them, but she had gotten no better. In fact, she had gotten worse.  She had heard about Jesus, so she came up behind him through the crowd and touched his robe.  For she thought to herself, “If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.”  Immediately the bleeding stopped, and she could feel in her body that she had been healed of her terrible condition.

Jesus realized at once that healing power had gone out from him, so he turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my robe?”

 His disciples said to him, “Look at this crowd pressing around you. How can you ask, ‘Who touched me?’”

But he kept on looking around to see who had done it.  Then the frightened woman, trembling at the realization of what had happened to her, came and fell to her knees in front of him and told him what she had done.  And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over.” “

So what you need to understand about the context of this story was that Jewish women who were bleeding as she was for so long were considered “unclean” and were isolated from their community. Imagine being isolated for 12 years from your parents, spouse, siblings, children, and best friends! Imagine paying every doctor you can to help you, and the problem only gets worse! How disheartening and isolating! This woman had suffered a great deal. Jesus was on route trying to get somewhere and everyone was pressing up against him (picture trying to walk anywhere during a concert or outdoor celebration like New Years Eve!) and yet he knew that one person touched him specifically for healing, and stops to find out who. The men of this time would likely have been rather annoyed with this women who stopped Jesus from doing what he was doing, who interrupted and tried to almost take advantage of his ability to heal, but Jesus wasn’t mad. She was terribly frightened because she knew that culturally she was facing deep consequences for her actions, especially because she was considered ‘unclean.’ Again, Jesus wasn’t mad. He instead tells her that her faith in him has made her well, and she will suffer no more.

Jesus treated women radically different than the cultural norm of the time, and believe it or not, by Paul telling them in 1 Timothy 2:11 to learn quietly and submissively, he was too. I imagine in today’s Canadian society, the woman who touched Jesus probably wouldn’t have been so afraid because women today are seen as equals, able to approach men freely. I can also imagine that Paul’s writing to the Ephesian church now a days would probably be more along the lines of, ‘People, keep growing in your faith. Keep reading the Word of God, keep learning and maturing and when the time is right you will be able to teach with authority and confidence because you will have the knowledge to back up your words.’

So, I will keep on teaching. I will continue to be thankful that Jesus revolutionized the way women are seen and treated, bringing us up to be considered equals and allowing us the opportunity to learn alongside our male counterparts. I will take Paul’s words seriously, and I will really ensure that I continue growing in knowledge so that I can continue teaching, men and women, the Word and Love that God offers us all. Mostly, I will continue celebrating the woman God is growing me to be, thankful for the gifts He has equipped me with, including the opportunities before me.

Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last;
but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.”
Proverbs 31:30

 

 

 

Bible Reading · Spread Joy

Our Motives Are What Define Us

Our motives are what define us.

So often, we think “if I do good things, I will be known as a good person.” “If I am labelled by this job, or this skill or this talent, I will be known as ….” But I really feel challenged to think more internally.

Why do we do the things that we do? What are we hoping to accomplish with our goals, our tasks, our missions? In our darkest and deepest thoughts, what is motivating us to have the behaviours that we do?

Our motives are what define us.

The problem is, we rarely ever place thought into our motives. Sometimes the reasons behind our motives are so deeply buried, we wouldn’t even be able to identify them without help. Other times, people are intentional and know how to be manipulative and that becomes their motive.  Regardless, our motives are what define us with every decision we make, conscious or not.

When we do something good, to look good in front of others, we’re not doing it from a good heart, but rather from an insecure place that needs validation to come from people telling me how thankful they are, how awesome we are, or what a difference we made. When we do something good for the purpose of “having good karma” as many say, we’re not doing good to make a difference, but rather we are hoping that we will get luck on our side so to speak. When we do something good, and we turn to Facebook to post about it, or brag to our friends, we are doing good to be able to boast in our own abilities. When we do something good, so that we can later use it to control someone, or have them reward us back we are doing good but out of manipulation. Those motives are wrong, even though the outward appearance can sometimes seem good.

Its important to be self-examining. Its also important to be committed to growth and learning, to maturing and developing yourself into the best version you can be. I believe that being aware of our motives is a huge step in this process, and I can say this from having learned these lessons in my own life. Luke 6:45 explains it well, “A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart.”

It was Jesus who said that, and it was apart of his longest record message, the Sermon on the Mount. Over and over the point of this sermon was to constantly be reminded to watch our motives.   Jesus mentioned the Pharisees often, and his extreme anger towards them to warn us – you see, a Pharisee was a super religious person, who followed the law to a fault and used the law to oppress others (reminding them they weren’t good enough because they didn’t obey every aspect of the law.)  On the outside, the Pharisees seemed perfect! They followed all the rules, they obeyed every command and they made a big public example of how to behave, setting the bar high. So, why on earth would Jesus be full of anger towards them? Because of their motives, of course!  Our motives are what define us.  They were doing all these outward things to look good, get praise from others, and to be able to say, “I’m perfect, unlike you.” But their hearts were bitter and miserable. They were terrible to those who they considered to be less than them, and they did everything out of oppressive motives.

Jesus spent so much of that sermon and his other lessons teaching us the opposite – for example, a Pharisee would believe they were perfect for obeying the commandments, including “you should never murder.”  Sure, they didn’t murder, but Jesus said “if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgement! If you call someone an idiot you are in danger of being brought before the court.” (Matthew 5:22) Jesus is tying to teach them that even though they didn’t physically murder someone, they still are at fault for having a heart full of hate or anger.  Going back to the first reference I shared, out of an evil person’s heart comes all sorts of evil things, so do you really think your motives can be good when you are full of anger and hate? Will you look out for the person’s best interest? Of course not. So, while you are not murdering them, you still aren’t wishing them well, trying to help them or forgive them, and therefore your motives will start to be out of anger, and hatred, and as a result will produce nasty outcomes.

The author of the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon, was a man who became a King over Israel and asked God for wisdom.  He wrote the book of Ecclesiastes to stop future generations from learning the hard lessons he had learned, including about our motives. In Chapter 4, verse 4, he writes, “Then I observed that most people are motivated to success because they envy their neighbors.”  Is that why we choose the careers we aspire to? Is this why we raise our children the way that we do? Is this why we go into debt to have all the bells and whistles? Is this why we burn ourselves out trying to accomplish everything that we can? Is this why we have the relationship norms that we have? Is this why we have to go see the latest movie, or concert even though the scenes and words do not depict our morals? Is this why we are cruel to those we are jealous of, or show spite to those who have more than we have? Is this where our constant anger, jealously, resentment and bitterness comes from?

Our motives are what define us.

What motivates you?

I can honestly say that I am learning to be more aware of my motives and make sure they are right. I want to stand before God someday and say, “I did many good things out of pure motivation full of love.” I don’t want to say “Well you see God, they deserved it. They had it coming to them. They shouldn’t have treated me as they did.” I don’t want to stand before the creator of the universe making excuses.  Ecclesiastes 11:10 says, “Do everything you want to do; take it all in.  But remember that you must give an account to God for everything you do.”  This someday will come for all of us, because the only certain thing about life is that it ends.

I am human. I have flaws, and I always will. God doesn’t expect me to be perfect, He knows I never will be and I don’t expect that of myself either.  In my imperfection, I make mistakes all the time, but the first step of trying to be aware of my motivation is helping me to mature immensely. Am I motivated to do right for selfish reasons, or because out of a good heart comes good things? Am I motived for human gratification, or for God’s? Am I motived to make the lives of those around me better? Motived to make this world a better place however I can?

Proverbs 21:2 assures me, “People may be right in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 says, “The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  Galatians 1:10 says “Obviously, I’m not trying to get the approval of people, but of God.  If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.” Lastly, Philippians 2:3 says “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.” Over and over again, the Bible is full of verses like these, reminding us that even more important than what we do is why we do it.  The world could be a better place if we all chose to do things entirely out of selfless love and not just to glorify ourselves.

Bible Reading · Spread Joy

Why Jesus anyways?

It was actually a while after I accepted Christ as my Saviour before I truly understood how ‘it all worked.’ We hear it every Christmas, Jesus was born to save the world. We hear it at Easter, Jesus died and on the 3rd day he rose to life and now we are allowed to go to Heaven if we accept him. But, does any of that make sense without the back story? I always struggled to understand this. Yes, I know Jesus is God’s son, and he died, and came to life again, but how does that mean I am forgiven of my sins? It never made any sense to me at all. I knew we were all sons and daughters of God, just like Jesus, and I knew we were supposed to call Jesus our Saviour to be recognized as his before God, but still the connection seemed to be missing for me as to how I was forgiven by someone being crucified.

I want to take some time to explain this, because I feel like many people coming from a non-Christian upbringing may also struggle with connecting these dots as I did.

I grew up believing in God. Without going to church regularly, I picked up a few things here and there, and throughout times of my life, I would pray to God but I never understood Jesus so my prayers never included him. I was sure that God had to have created us and the universe, because things seemed too complicated to be ‘just a fluke.’ I had snow-bird Grandparents who attended church while they were in Florida, and would say grace with us at holiday meals, and I have a few memories of conversations about Jesus with my Grampa but I still never really got it, so I went on believing in God and thinking that was it. Jesus was just some guy all the religious folks seemed to admire. I knew there were religions called Judaism, Christianity and Islam but I didn’t know a single thing about them, their similarities or their differences. I just believed in God.

Fast forward to after I accepted Jesus as my saviour, and still didn’t quite get the connection. I knew from learning about him that Jesus was an amazing man, and someone I wanted to be more like, so I felt confident accepting him as my saviour, but I began to wonder – How do we know that Jesus truly is the son of God not just some other guy from the Bible? What does his death mean?  I found some answers in the Bible, but it seemed like I barely knew anything and there was so much. (This is why I recommend a study Bible in my post titled Note to Self: Read My Bible, found here: https://seekinghispeaceblog.wordpress.com/2016/12/15/note-to-self-read-my-bible/) The more I read through the book of Matthew and learned of Jesus’ teachings, miracles and lessons, the more I realized that I truly believed, he was the true Son of God. He just was too perfect and did far too many awe inspiring things to be entirely human in my eyes.

So, what makes him the Son of God? Before Mary (Jesus’ Mother) was pregnant, as the well known Christmas story goes, she was a virgin. An angel of the Lord appeared before her and told her that she was chosen to carry a child. Here is the text from Luke Chapter 1, Verses 30-36:  ““Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favour with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus.  He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David.  And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.

From this we can see that the baby was conceived miraculously, his true Father being God Himself. We also see reference to Israel and David. Israel is the name of God’s chosen people who today would be referred to as Jewish and the old Testament promised that King David, a wise ruler over Israel (who wrote many of the Psalms in the book of Psalms) would have the Saviour (Messiah, Jesus) born in his lineage. Joseph,  Mary’s Husband, and Jesus’ legal father was a descendant of David, and that’s what the verse was referring to. There is so much more to this part of the story, for example an angel approaches Joseph as well, but in trying to keep this simple, I will invite you to read any of the 4 Gospel books in the Bible yourself for the full version (The books of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John.)

So, why would the son of God have to come to earth? This is where the connection was always lost for me because I didn’t ever read the Bible, or have any experience in understanding the Old Testament or Jewish traditions.

The Israelites (or the Jewish people, referred to as Israelites in the Old Testament) followed the law that God had given them through a previous leader named Moses. Each time a person broke the law, there was a sacrifice that required being made – consider it a penalty for breaking the law, like paying a fine or doing jail time in today’s terms. Often, the penalty was something like an ox, a bird, oil or something of value from that day and time that would need to be poured out or sacrificed at the altar to get forgiveness for the sin committed.

The problem with the Israelites is that they were a sinful bunch (and truthfully, we all are.)  The Old Testament books are full of stories where the Israelites would rebel against the rules God had given them, they would even go as far as to worship idols, and completely disregard God’s will for their lives. Time and time again we see them punished as a nation for the crimes they committed against God, and yet they never seemed to learn their lesson. God came to their aid many times, he bailed them out of many situations, and they were always so quick to forget the miracles He had done and think of themselves and what they wanted.

So, God sees this is not going well. His people are stubborn, they don’t seem to be learning or changing, and therefore they need the ultimate sacrifice: His son. God sends Jesus to earth through Mary, and when Jesus was about 30 years old, he began his ministry. His time spent teaching was very limited  (about 3 years total before his death) as the zealously religious folks at the time really loathed him and wanted to punish him with death for saying that he was the Son of God. They didn’t believe him, and felt he was full of blasphemy. Some even feared he was possessed by demons because of the miracles he was committing. He scared them because they couldn’t explain his actions, they felt convicted by him and they were so focused on the law and rules that they couldn’t understand why this man would act differently than many of the traditions they were accustomed to (including eating with the lowest people of society like prostitutes and tax collectors, healing the lame and forgiving those with major problems.)

During his time on earth, Jesus traveled and taught many. He kept 3 friends very close to him, 12 disciples (followers, in other words) whom he invested time teaching, and had interactions with crowds and people all over. The 12 disciples he taught (including the 3 he was really close to) are the men who spread the word of Jesus after his death and resurrection. Many of their stories are written in the book of Acts, and through out the New Testament. We can thank their bravery for starting the Christian church as we know it today.

It was a fact that Jesus walked this earth, the discrepancy lies in whether you believe or not that he was the Son of God.  Of the three major religions, this is where the difference is. The Jewish people don’t believe he was the Son of God, and the Islamic people think he was just a prophet.  Christians are the people who believe that Jesus was the son of God, follow the teachings of Jesus and believe he was conceived miraculously, died on the cross and rose to life again 3 days later, ascending into heaven shortly after. The Old Testament is full of prophecies predicting Jesus’ life that were accurate, and he fulfilled so many (see: https://bible.org/article/messianic-prophecies for more information and examples.) Jesus himself warned of false teachers, including the Islamic ideology that he was just a prophet. The amount of evidence in the Bible that Jesus is the true Son of God is immeasurable. Again, don’t just take my word for it!

Now, lets get to how the death of Jesus forgave us all: Traditionally, the Israelites would celebrate an event called “Passover”, to commemorate when Moses helped them escape slavery from Egypt. They celebrated Passover every year, and as required by law they would sacrifice a lamb at the altar of God. In God’s perfect timing, Jesus was taken to the cross during Passover (and this is why he’s often referred to as the sacrificial lamb.) His death on the cross was the ultimate sacrifice. It all comes down to that. God sent Jesus to earth knowing he would die on the cross during the Passover celebration. He sent Jesus knowing that Jesus would give us an amazing example of God’s love, a powerful display of how to change our hearts to be more godly, and since Jesus’ death meant the debt for sins was paid, God knew we would all be able to draw closer to him through our thanksgiving for Jesus. Now, when God looks at his people, he doesn’t just see the Israelites who struggle to follow his rules despite how much He loved them, He sees all of us who have accepted Christ as our personal Saviour as children of His. He literally sees Jesus in us, and loves us the very same way He loves his true son Jesus.  He sees perfect, flawless Jesus when he looks at our faces, and not our problems, our faults, our shame, our guilt and our troubles.

On the 1st day (known as Good Friday to Christians,) Jesus was crucified and died. The Bible tells us, at the exact moment of Jesus’ death, “the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” (Matthew:27:51) The curtain in the temple allowed only the holiest leaders to have access to God, and the tearing down of the curtain meant all of us can go directly to God. On the 3rd day (known as Easter Sunday) he was seen by his disciples and many others alive and well, complete with the holes in his hands and feet from the nails, and the incision on his side. He rose to life from death, the ultimate miracle to prove that he was indeed God’s son and not just some random human. When he literally ascended into heaven, the Holy Spirit was left behind on earth as the gift for those who accept Jesus as their Saviour (as though the gift of being forgiven isn’t amazing enough?) The Holy Spirit immediately dwells in your heart when you have accepted Jesus and this allows us so much including the ability to hear from God through promptings, through the words of others, and to be seen as sons and daughters of God himself, just like Jesus.  Think of it as our own piece of Jesus living in our heart, helping us to be more like him, and helping God to see us as his own.

Thanks to Jesus’ death on the cross, when we are sinful (and we all are) we don’t need to sacrifice a bull or an ox, or what have you. Jesus was the sacrifice for the past sins and those future ones too. Jesus paid it all on the cross, he was the sacrificial lamb that changed the face of the world. He didn’t have to die for us, in fact in an other post I made, you can see Jesus had many temptations not to die as he did (https://seekinghispeaceblog.wordpress.com/2016/12/06/all-the-kingdoms-of-the-world/) but he accepted this fate and chose it out of deep love for each of us.

So, how do you accept Jesus’ offer? Its so simple. Romans 10:9 tells us, “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Yup. That’s it. You don’t need to fix yourself first. You don’t need to clean the skeletons out of your closet. You don’t need to be perfect in any way.  Believe that Jesus is the Son of God. Believe that he died, and rose again. Believe that his death was a sacrifice for all sin, and say out loud “Jesus is my Saviour.”  Here is a sample prayer you can pray: “Father God, thank you for recognizing our need for Jesus here on earth. Thank you for sending your Son to earth in human form to die the death on the cross that took the penalty for my sins. I know I am a sinner, and I know I am in need a Saviour, and I am thankful that Jesus is my new Saviour. Thank you for the gift Jesus has offered me through his death. I accept it, and I am thankful for it. In Jesus’ Mighty name I thank you and pray, Amen.”

I really hope you can understand why Jesus is so important now. Don’t just take my word for it though, pull out the Bible and start with the Gospel books to learn of Jesus, his life, his miracles, his lessons and his death. I am confident that the more you learn, the more you will grow to love and appreciate Jesus and the more you will benefit from trying to be more like the example he provided.  He wasn’t just some random religious person as I always thought, in fact, he is extra-ordinary, and someone whom I struggle to describe with human words. But in my heart, Oh do I ever know who Jesus is. I pray that you do too.

Please, if you pray that prayer and found these words helpful – let me know. Reach out and tell someone that you’ve accepted the gift Jesus gave. Allow others the privilege to pray for and with you, and may you be blessed today and everyday.

 

 

 

Bible Reading · Uncategorized

Note to self: Read my Bible!

I have been sick with a stomach virus for three days, and barely had the energy to do anything. Of course, sadly, my Bible reading fell to the wayside. In fact, I realized, I hadn’t actually read my Bible in about a week, so really I couldn’t even blame illness.

Interestingly enough, today I feel well enough to resume normal life duties, and one of the first habits I reached for was my Bible. I began to read, and immediately felt so encouraged and refreshed, until my first distraction. Then I remembered the laundry in my bedroom waiting to be folded, the germs lingering from my bug waiting to be cleaned, the tidying of the toys and clutter I couldn’t keep up with, the laundry needing to be washed, the dinner I had planned to make, you name it, it crossed my mind and suddenly I found myself feeling completely overwhelmed again.

Isn’t it ironic how I picked up my Bible and immediately felt peace, until I remembered my growing to do list..  I’ve read articles that the enemy of our soul resides in our busy schedules, keeping us too busy to even spend time with God. Sure enough, I myself had let distraction then illness keep me from indulging in the Word of God. And oh, how I missed this time! I picked back in Luke where I was trying to read a chapter a day for the 24 days leading from December 1st to Christmas. I was refreshed and encouraged by the things I read. I found myself intentionally choosing to ignore my to do list to spend time with God (which is incredibly hard for me, but I wanted to do after having a taste of His peace.) When I got up, and went about some of my business, I felt so much chipper and lighter than I had felt in days.

I didn’t just feel good because after a few sick days, I was well. I felt good in my soul. I felt peace, and I felt joyous. I even found myself singing worship songs to my daughter as I changed her diaper, or ate lunch with her. This is what studying Jesus’ life does for my soul. This is why daily Bible reading is crucial for any Christian. Think of the Bible as vitamins for our soul, we want to stay well so we take our vitamins. We forget our vitamins for a few days and we feel unwell. My week away from the Word of God left me feeling overwhelmed and unwell.

I’d love to encourage you to read your Bible, daily! I have been trying to read through the history books of the Old Testament, one chapter of Psalms, a few proverbs and one chapter of Luke a day. I didn’t start out with that much! I focused on one book initially, but slowly have added to it realizing I was missing reading about Jesus, and especially with the Christmas season, so of those my priority right now is Luke. If you aren’t familiar with your Bible, I encourage you to find an easier to read edition, NLT, NIV, ESV (New Living Translation, NLT is the one I use.) I encourage you to read a study Bible – this way you can have access to answers immediately as you read things and wonder what on earth the context meant! Remember, culturally, we are in an entirely different time than when the Bible was written. This doesn’t change the TRUTH of the Bible, but it does make it seem strange for us to understand certain parts without understanding the cultural norms of the time, and this is where a study Bible is SOOO helpful!

Some people, like my husband who is on round 2 of reading the Bible chronologically, thrive with a daily plan, and others just kind of go where the Spirit leads them. I consider myself the latter. I will hear someone discussing a book from the Bible, and just go there, I just kind of go where I feel I should. I think this works better for me because if I miss a day or two, I can pick up where I left off, rather than feel like I need to speed read to catch up and get back on plan. Sometimes I read less and sometimes I read more. Sometimes one sentence changes my entire mindset and that’s sufficient, and other times I read pieces here and there, but the point is: I read it. I leave it right on my dining room table so that I can come and go through out the day, a chapter here and a chapter there. That may not work for many, but for me with 4 young children and a lot of demands, it does.

If you have never read the bible, I encourage you to start in the New Testament. Look at the Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke & John. Each tell the story of Jesus’ time on earth as researched and witnessed by the men who’s name the book is after. Matthew’s goal was to show the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah, Mark’s goal was to help the early Christian church, Luke was a Doctor who recognized the importance of interviewing and researching so that he could present the most facts possible and John wrote with the intention of proving Jesus was the true Son of God and that all who believe in Him will have eternal life, and as a result, John is really the most popular among new Christians. The rest of the books in the New Testament are considered ‘letters.’ Many were written by Paul to the Early Christian church, and many where written to encourage early Christians. Paul was a Jewish man who did not believe Jesus was the Messiah, and in fact, participated in the first stoning of a man who identified as a Christian. Later, he has an amazing experience with Jesus, realizes how wrong he is and writes a lot of the New Testament. Personally, I love Paul because he reminds me no matter how much someone is against Jesus and Christianity, they can still come around and do major things for the Kingdom.

I believe that the Bible is the word of God and in reading it daily, our faith is encouraged, educated and strengthened. I think we gain peace, and lose selfishness by spending time with God daily, especially in His word, and perhaps best of all? We hear from God.So many times I have heard God speak to me through the words written in the Bible. The more that I read my Bible, the more that happens – and what an amazing blessing that is!

Jesus says in Luke 8:18 “So pay attention to how you hear. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what they think they understand may be taken away from them.” Jesus said that after explaining the parable of the soils to his disciples. I especially love how he says, “To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given.” This is exactly what happens to me as I study the Bible more. I am sometimes surprised at how things speak to me, or how I am able to recall verses (not completely by heart but I remember the point), or find peace about a situation bothering me. But how cool is that – the Messiah, Himself, promises to reveal more things we could never have imagined knowing and understanding if we listen to His teaching. Wow! Don’t you want to know and understand more? The blessings I find from reading my Bible are endless.

I truly believe this message is directly from God because I sat down intending to write something about Luke, not really knowing what, just knowing that I had missed writing, and this came out so easily. God loves you so much, and He loves spending time in conversation with you through prayer, and while you are reading His word. Relating back to the parable of the soils, Jesus says in Luke 8:8 “Still other seed fell on fertile soil. This seed grew and produced a crop that was a hundred times as much as had been planted.” Go read Luke Chapter 8, and see what Jesus means by this. He later says that the seeds that fell on the fertile soil  represent “honest , good-hearted people who hear God’s Word, cling to it and patiently produce a good harvest.” (Verse 15) I challenge you today, read and hear God’s word, and cling to it!