Bible Reading · Healing · Spread Joy

My biggest new adventure!

I am thankful for the fun I’ve had practicing and learning how to blog on Seeking His Peace. It has all come down to my latest dream coming to reality, an online ministry called “Guarded Hearts Ministries” based on the principals of my life verse. Please read all about it here, and of course go check it out:

http://www.guardedheartsministries.com

So, Why Guarded Hearts? And whats with the reference to Proverbs 4:23?

Early on in my faith walk, I realized Proverbs 4:23 is a life verse for me, in the New Living Translation (NLT) it reads:

“Guard your heart above all else,
    for it determines the course of your life.

This verse came to me after several periods of growth and regression as a Christian. I began to realize the truth behind it – the more I immersed myself in the truth of the Bible, the more I felt closer to God. The more I felt closer to God, the happier and more joyful I felt. The more joyful I felt, the more I sang praise and worship, and sought out private time to pray to God through out my day.

On the contrary, when I would miss a few days of Bible reading, I would find myself quick to react, frustrated and just down in the dumps. I would avoid prayer because when I’m angry, I don’t feel the least bit interested in praying to God (most times if I’m being honest, it’s because I know my anger is not justifiable, and is instead caused by my own selfish thinking.) I would spend more time watching TV that I knew was not at all helpful in my life (lets all compare ourselves to a pretend storyline), reading things I shouldn’t be reading (lets all complain about our spouses) and then would drown my sorrows in some music that often had selfish motives. I’d wonder where God was, but it was clearly me that moved.

I began to recognize over and over the importance of my relationship with God and what I fed my mind. Just like I take vitamins to help my physical health, so too do I need to take something for my spiritual well being. When I’m spiritually well and healthy, the rest of my life seems to follow suit: my anxiety lessens, my patience increases, and most importantly I am just overwhelmed with joy and gratitude. I am literally that person walking around with a dopey grin on my face, just loving life.

I recognized how much this verse was not just a reminder for me to immerse myself in the goodness of the Bible, prayer and meditating on how God sees me, but also a way of life. My Christian faith doesn’t just guarantee me life in heaven when my time here expires, but also promises victory in there here and now, and honestly who doesn’t want that?

I was very fortunate to have several leadership opportunities before me, which enabled me to teach others discipleship tactics. I still can not believe the blessing I received to be able to speak into the lives of others, and encourage them in their faith. It was an incredible opportunity that showed me I was made for ministry work. On a personal note, I also began to really work on healing from the pain of my past, and I have found so much victory in the Word of God and this life that I never knew before now.

That is what motivates me: I want to encourage others to pursue the victory God offers them! I was surprised when many people began to speak into my life, and tell me I should be writing, and that I had a way with my written words. I started with a simple blog and honestly most posts were written because the message was in my head and was burning a hole, like allowance money in a child’s pocket.  But, this lead to confirmation that God was indeed calling me to write.

I was away at a Christian camp when I had this vision of a webpage, full of encouraging discipleship material, things to encourage spouses, parents, and Christians in general. I pictured guest authors, and a community full of encouragement built from the authoritative Word of God, the Bible itself.

I knew right away the name, Guarded Hearts. When you guard yourself in God’s word, keep yourself covered in prayer, and spend time reflecting on Jesus and who he is, you are immersing yourself in victory. You are literally guarding your heart, and determining that the course you take will be one of victory.

That is my goal: to encourage readers to victory in their lives. To instill in them a desire to open their Bible and read. To strengthen their knowledge of God, and what he wants for them.

So here we are.

Guarded Hearts Ministries… a place of encouragement for all aspects of Christian life, with an emphasis on Christian truths. A place where people can be encouraged to immerse themselves in all of the goodness that God has promised to his children. A place of different areas built on one key ministry concept: Guarding your heart above all else, and letting it determine your steps.

Thank you for reading, encouraging me and praying for this ministry as it begins and hopefully grows for the years to come.

www.facebook.com/guardedheartministries
@guarded.heart.ministries on Instagram.
& Click “Follow” and fill in your email address to be sent postings to your inbox. 

❤ Leslie Deane-Mountjoy

 

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Bible Reading · Healing

He Took It All…

“He took up our infirmities
    and bore our diseases.”

The author of Matthew quotes many Old Testament books in a bid to show the Jewish people that Jesus was truly the Messiah they were awaiting.

One such verse is quoted in Matthew Chapter 8. At this time of his ministry, Jesus was healing many people, including those sick with physical and mental illnesses.  The author writes,

“This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:

“He took up our infirmities
    and bore our diseases.” (Matthew 8:17, NIV)

He is describing the healing works of Jesus to be in line with what was prophesized about Jesus by the Old Testament prophet, Isaiah.  This original quote is from Isaiah chapter 53.

First, I was caught by the wording. The word infirmities literally means ‘physical or mental weakness.’ So the author is stating that Jesus took our physical and mental weaknesses and our diseases. Isaiah predicted this, and Matthew showed it had come true, and is true today.

I thought about the struggles I have with anxiety, and how my biggest relief comes through prayer and meditation on God’s Word.  Often I feel somewhat guilty going to God with my same burdens over and over, and at times equally as frustrated, but this verse showed me that Jesus doesn’t mind. He wants me to give him my mental weaknesses because he already took them to the cross.

To understand this on a deeper level, we need to go back further.

First of all, where do our diseases and mental and physical weaknesses come from? So many people are quick to blame God when they hear of a loved one’s diagnosis, but God never created these things. When he placed Adam and Eve on this earth, in Eden, they were healthy and disease free. They were strong and vibrant. Until, that is, sin entered. When the forbidden fruit was consumed, sin entered the world, and everything changed.

Diseases, physical and mental weaknesses are all a consequence to the sinful choice that Adam and Eve together made in disobedience to God.

But God loves us too much to leave us there. Enter Jesus. His son, our Saviour. Destined to bring about healing and victory to each of our lives. Before he walked on this earth, many spoke prophetic words about him, especially Isaiah. Here is the some of the original scripture that Matthew was quoting from:

Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:4-6, NIV)

By looking at the original verses, we can understand deeper the truths about the verse from Matthew. Isaiah’s verse shows much more detail, including the words that Jesus was pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities.  These words referring to his death on the cross.  The punishment that brought us peace, the debt for our sins, was laid on him on Calvary’s hill.

The debt Adam and Eve gave us all in their choice to sin, Jesus willingly paid.

Its already been done. Jesus has already paid the price. This means all of our physical and mental weaknesses as well as our diseases don’t have to be ours to bare any longer. We are welcome to give them to the Lord, because he’s already paid the price.

So what physical weakness do you struggle with? What mental weakness can you not seem to escape? What disease inflicts your body?

Keep on handing it over to Jesus, as often as you need too. He already paid the price. Allow him to heal you, to comfort you, and to take care of you.

The best part of this verse is that it covers all of our sin too. Our mental weaknesses don’t just cover things like anxiety, depression, or insomnia, it also covers all the things we think that cause us to sin: our lust, our hatred, our anger, our jealously, our false motives, our rage, our manipulation, our gluttony, our greed, our pride, … Our physical weaknesses aren’t just our exhaustion, our digestive issues, our muscular problems, but they include the physical sins we do, too: our sexual sin, our violence, our addictions to drugs, alcohol, food, whatever it may be you can’t seem to stop abusing, our thefts, our wrong turns – literally all of it, covered!

Jesus took our physical and mental weaknesses and our diseases. He took them. We can stop living in condemnation because of our sin, and claim victory over it because he has already been victorious.  We can stop living in misery, because he has already been victorious.

We can literally give him every single physical and mental weakness and disease every single day and trust in him for a better outcome because he literally took it all.

I am so thankful.

 

 

 

Bible Reading

Submitting to Political Leaders in Uncertain Times..

I’m currently studying the book of 1 Peter with a lovely group of women. The book itself is written by one of Jesus’ closest disciples – Peter, whom Jesus refers to as the rock on which he would build his church. Peter was there to witness Jesus’ ministry first hand, and had great authority when he wrote because he was so close to Jesus himself.

Peter wrote the book of first Peter around A.D. 64 which is a time totally different from today. A lot of the verses in 1 Peter seem counter-cultural to today’s society, and yet the more you study the background and reason for them, the more that they seem beneficial, even now.

That is, until you find something that absolutely makes you uncomfortable.

Respecting People in Authority

 For the Lord’s sake, submit to all human authority—whether the king as head of state, or the officials he has appointed. For the king has sent them to punish those who do wrong and to honor those who do right.

It is God’s will that your honorable lives should silence those ignorant people who make foolish accusations against you. For you are free, yet you are God’s slaves, so don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do evil. Respect everyone, and love the family of believers. Fear God, and respect the king.” – 1 Peter 2:13-17, NLT

Submit to all human authority? Even the King or Head of State? Those are the officials God has appointed, wait – what?!

Rewind almost 2000 years to when Peter wrote these words. Times were a lot different then they are now.  First of all, who were these words written for? Peter addressed this letter to the Christian believers who were living in the Roman Provinces of Asia Minor (which is the Northern part of Modern Turkey.) Biblical scholars believe that the intended audience was Christian Gentiles, so in other words non-Jewish people who had given themselves to Christ.

These people faced serious persecution, often dying excruciatingly painful deaths at the hands of their government for their belief in Christ. The Roman Emperor at the time was Nero. Remember the words Peter wrote above, as you learn some facts about Nero:

Nero was adopted by his biological Uncle, who was the Emperor of Rome, and as such he inherited his position as Emperor in A.D. 54 until his own death in A.D. 68.  Five years into his reign, he had his own mother murdered. It is alleged that he also murdered his first and second wives too. Many ancient scholars believe that Nero started the great fire in Rome in A.D. 64 (right around the time 1 Peter was written) so that he could rebuild Rome as he wanted it to be. In order to stop the rumour that he had started the fire himself, Nero blamed the Christian community and so began intense persecution leading to the deaths of Christians in many merciless ways including being thrown to wild dogs to be eaten alive, being tarred and burned alive as human torches during the night and many other despicable ways.

When you compare Nero to modern day leaders, suddenly they don’t seem so bad, eh? Justin Trudeau wearing the emoji-last supper sweater and Donald Trump claiming to be Christian suddenly pale in comparison! It doesn’t make the actions of modern day leaders right, but it sure does help us to recognize that we have a lot less to worry about under their watch then Peter did while he wrote those words while living under Nero’s leadership.

So how on earth could Peter write those words when he faced such intensely frightening persecution and a leader who didn’t even remotely have Peter’s best interest in mind?

Just prior to these verses, Peter reminds us that we are temporary residents in this world. Peter walked very closely with Jesus during Jesus’ ministry years. He was one of the three disciples who Jesus really brought into his inner circle. Peter had a true appreciation for the temporary life that we have on earth. He was able to keep his eyes focused on the bigger picture: eternity.

Peter’s entire goal in his writing was to remind us to submit ourselves for the sake of the Lord. When we walk in obedience with scripture, we are trusting that God knows better than we do. We are showing that we hold honour to God and His way even when society thinks we are nuts. We are learning to control ourselves and our own tendencies in faith that God does indeed know what’s best for us!

Submission seems to equal weakness in society’s view, but I would argue it is the exact opposite. It takes true strength to submit!

It takes true strength and faith to submit to a leader when you believe in your own self! When you think that you know what is best for you, that you know how to overcome or do what needs to be done. Learning to submit is a process of really demonstrating true faith to God. Its literally giving Him permission to take the driver’s seat of your life, and that is not easy at all.

I compare it to our call to forgive others. Learning to forgive, to actually truly forgive, enough that I was able to pray for my enemies and literally make an active decision each day to forgive was not easy! Its easy to harbour hate and anger, but I know that God’s plan for forgiveness is for my own benefit because it allows me to stop allowing those who have hurt me to live rent-free in my head, stealing my joy. In trusting God, and letting Him be the ultimate judge, I was able to forgive completely and now my life is not rooted in anger, but rather in God’s joy and peace that passes all understanding.

So, now I have to learn that submission to my leadership in government is what’s best for me too. Even though I didn’t vote for that particular party. Even though I don’t agree with what that particular politician is doing or saying. Even though I don’t agree with some of the laws and bills being brought into place. Even though, even though, even though…

Submitting to my leaders isn’t accepting defeat. It is not laying over and letting our leaders walk all over us. It is not allowing anyone to take our fundamental rights away. It is not ignoring my right to vote, or partake in a democratic society. Our submission does not mean that we change our conscience because even with submitting to leaders, we submit to God first and foremost.

So what does submitting to leadership actually look like? It looks like living a life that God called us too. How can we submit to our leaders in today’s culture?

God calls us to pray for our enemies. If you disagree with your political leaders, pray for them! Allow God to change your heart so that it is not filled with anger and hatred for the choices your governing body is making. Allow God room to give you His grace so that you may see your politicians as human, capable of error just like yourself.

If you don’t agree with policies, laws, legislations, bills or even just the current word usage of politicians, take proactive steps to help. This doesn’t mean heckling, or threatening. It doesn’t mean calling them names that would have warranted your mother threatening to bring out the soap. It means being professional and explaining your position perhaps through written word, or even by reaching out to your local representative respectfully and maybe even vulnerably.

If you feel certain issues need to be dealt with, or aren’t being addressed adequately than educate those with like minds. Help them to know how to take a stand respectfully, instead of simply sharing an article on Facebook declaring the idiocy of our politicians. Spend time fact checking things before you share them, so as to share truths and not slander.

Take time to consider that we will some day answer for our own behaviour. Can you imagine trying to justify the word choices you have used for your leaders to God someday? Regardless of how far apart you are in beliefs with your leaders, they are still children of the Lord in His eyes, whether they are serving Him or not.

My words are not coming with judgement, but rather with personal application. I tend to be like most – angry and disrespectful – when I see a political leader make a decision I disagree with.  Now that I have studied and reflected on these verses in depth, I need to put them into application and practice what I preach. For me, this means actively praying for my political leaders. First, for their salvation if it is not yet there, but also for them as individuals. When I began to pray for the strength to forgive my enemies, it didn’t necessarily change my enemies, but it did change me!

So, now I will pray for the same thing to happen regarding my political leaders. I will pray that God will equip me with the strength that I need as a person entitled to free-speech in the 21st century, to submit to my authority figures. I will pray that God will show me how to obey Him first, and how to show respect when my governing body defies the Word of God so that I may defend my rights as a Christian adequately and responsibly.

I will celebrate the victory that the leaders of today can not light me on fire as a human torch for believing what I do. I will take the time to consider that the leaders I may disagree with are there for a reason, with a purpose even if I can’t understand it. I will submit understanding that my God always has my best interest in mind. I will consider the Non-Christian world as they watch me and how I speak about politicians, leadership and authority.

If all of us as Christians dutifully submitted to our leadership and held them up in prayer instead of hate filled comments and Facebook fuelled debates – what could happen? Jesus said mountains could be moved if we have faith as small as a mustard seed, so what could be done if our entire body of Christ prayed dutifully or our leaders?

Ultimately, God establishes all authority. He is sovereign and in control. Our submission ultimately shows our trust in Him, not in our politicians. Our submission does not make us doormats, but rather it makes us respectful and honourable so that we may demonstrate God’s calling on our lives. Our submission allows us to stand out from the crowd, and speak with an ease that other groups may not show. Our submission allows us to not resent the rules and regulations that are designed to keep us safe from chaos and sometimes even danger.

Most importantly, our submission shows honour for the Word of God, and truly that should be our ultimate goal.

 

 

 

 

Bible Reading · Christmas Devotional

Day 1: Fellowship

The Christmas season is always full of work parties, children’s events, church festivities and family gatherings. It is the time of year where so many events can keep us in fellowship with one another, often seeing people we haven’t seen since the holiday before.  The worry is that we can spend so much time preparing for these events, and travelling to and from that we lose our time to fellowship with Jesus. We can be so busy immersing ourselves in other things, that we lose sight of what really matters. Listen to these paraphrased words from Hebrews 10:19-25 about the importance of being together in fellowship.

Beloved Child,

You are welcome to approach me confidently, despite my holiness. When Jesus died, the curtain keeping the Most Holy Place private for only the High Priest to enter was torn from top to bottom.  My plan in this was to show you that through the death of My Son, you are free to be in the Most Holy Place, My presence.  The life-giving blood of Jesus gives you full access and permission to stand in My holy presence even though you are sinful. When I see you, I no longer see your sin.  Now, I see My beautiful and innocent Son because his blood is covering your sins and shame. My Son is now your true High Priest, ruling over My home.  Please, come into my presence with a sincere heart, fully trusting in Me, God, your Father.  Your acceptance of salvation has washed you with the purest water, removing guilt, shame and condemnation. You have no reason to hide your face from Me now.

Stand firm in that faith! I am affirming your innocence as a promise, and I always keep my promises. Please dear child, think of ways to show My love to the guilty and shameful so that they too may know of My love through your good works. Please, do not neglect your Christian family in these busy days. It is My sincere hope that you will spend time with Me, and each other, so that you may encourage one another. Everyday you spend on earth is one day closer to My Son’s return, and I need you to stay in fellowship with Me so that your hearts are prepared for that day. Do not neglect the relationship I so badly desire from you.

Love Always,
God the Father

Hebrews 10:19-25, paraphrased.

Application Questions:

  • How will you find time for the relationship that matters most in this busy season?
  • Who do you need to show God’s deep love to? How will you do that?
  • How can you encourage your brothers and sisters in Christ?

Alternate Verses for your reflection:

  • Romans 1:12
  • 1 John 1:7
  • Colossians 3:16-17
  • James 5:16
  • 1 Corinthians 1:8-9

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Bible Reading · Spread Joy

The Gardener, the Grapevine & the branches: My 2nd Sermon

About a year ago, I began a course taught by my Pastor called “Communicating For Change” where the students learned to write devotional materials, study the Bible more effectively, and eventually learn to write and speak an entire sermon.

For the last 5 weeks, our church held a sermon series called ‘The God Ladder’ where we explored our relationships, and each student preached on one area. We covered our relationship with the world, our friends, our spouses and our children.

Then, came my turn to close the sermon series off with our relationship with Jesus, which I preached last Sunday (November 26th).

This was my second sermon, and it was an adventure! I had pages and pages of notes. I wanted to address so many things, and suddenly I realized the verses from John 15:1-15 covered them.

I wanted to touch on God’s love, Jesus’s character, being non-Crusty-Christians both to our brothers and sisters in Christ and the whole as a whole. I wanted to talk about the glory of heaven, the pitfalls of religion, and the acceptance of Christ.

As I wrote, and rewrote, I realized I could not get in as much as I wanted. Each of those topics alone could be an entire sermon on its own! So, thankfully, spirit-lead I found a verse that allowed me to touch briefly on all of those things.

John 15:1-15, The branches, the gardener, and the grapevine. Instructions for love. It was the perfect verse for this sermon.

Check it out:

 

I was relieved when I was finished, and received some great feedback. I’m thankful for those awesome friends and family members who came to listen, and cheer me on. I’m thankful for a church who praises and encourages its own. Of course, I am also grateful for a Pastor who leads us, cheers us on, forces us out of our comfort zone (seriously, I once told that same man I wouldn’t pray in front of others.. lol) and then guides us through all the emotions that come along with being in that uncomfort zone!  I have some amazing prayer warriors in my life who prayed for me through this, and I just cant help but consider how blessed I am for my support network.

Thanks to all who have helped get me to this point! 🙂

On an other note – tomorrow begins my Christmas devotional series, if you are interested – sign up as an email recipient and you are able to get the devotionals emailed to you each morning. Again, I look forward to your feedback on this series!

 

 

 

Bible Reading · Spread Joy

Where is God for the starving & poor?

Our church had an amazing guest speaker on Saturday evening, Dr. Tony Campolo. For those who don’t know him, he is the author of over 30 publishings, including the popular series “Red Letter Christians” which focuses on Jesus’ teachings (the red letters referring to copies of the Bible that put Jesus’ words in red ink.) He is an educator, a guest speaker, a sociologist and a pastor. He has been featured on many TV shows including as The Colbert Report, The Charlie Rose Show, Larry King Live, Nightline, Crossfire, Politically Incorrect and The Hour, and he was once the spiritual advisor to President Clinton.  At 82 years old, this man knows his stuff! He spoke with humour and also a clear passion for the calling of Christians to love others as Jesus did and as he called us to do too.  I was so blessed by and fortunate to have heard him speak, and to have the opportunity to introduce myself and my oldest son to him on Saturday, September 16th.

Tony Campolo

Dr. Campolo spoke with clarity and authority.  Without needing notes, he was able to direct us to verses all over the Bible to support his message, and it was evident that the love of Christ is very strong in him.  He challenged his listeners to ensure the Spirit of Christ was living in them, which is more than just being a believer of Christ. Even the devil believed in Christ, but there certainly isn’t any Spirit of Christ living in the devil.

In talking about the Spirit of Christ living in us, he mentioned the great joy we would feel. He drew from some amazing stories to demonstrate the immense warmth we receive when we freely allow God to inhabit us. He explained that we are here on earth as agents of Christ’s love, meaning it is our responsibility as representatives of Christ to spread the love that Jesus did when he walked this earth. He challenged us to see the faces of the poor and needy as the very face of Jesus, and he challenged us to actually think about what Jesus would do if he were in our place and to live so that we actually reflect Jesus himself.

I was very challenged by his message. I hope that people can see Jesus when they see me. But more importantly, I want to see Jesus in the faces of others and learn to be a better ambassador of God’s Kingdom.  In Matthew Chapter 25 verses 34-40, Jesus describes a day of final judgement and he says the following,

 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink?  Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

The first sentence is describing what will happen on the final day of judgement. People will be divided into two groups, and those on the right are who Jesus is speaking to, those who loved like Jesus asked. Jesus tells this group that they took care of him, though they don’t understand how as they never actually saw Jesus.  His response is so crucial, when we take care of the poor, the sick, the needy, the impoverished, the socially challenged, the imprisoned, the strangers, the lost, the starving, the widowed, the ones suffering greatly, the condemned, the broken, then we are facing Jesus Christ himself. We are serving him by carrying for those who are in need.

So where is God for the starving and poor? He is in us. He is represented by us. We are his hands and feet on this earth. We are called to feed the poor, clothe the naked, heal the sick, and love every single one of our neighbors.

This is OUR responsibility. This is our God-assigned task, and in my opinion, the very purpose of our life!

As Christians, we spend time debating scripture. Our various denominations have differences for things like infant baptism, women in office positions, homosexual topics, and alcohol to name a few. We debate these things, and stand united in our separate congregations on our opinions. Yet, none of this matters as much as doing what we are called to do, being who we are called to be. Dr Campolo made an interesting point, he stated that over 5000 times in the Bible there are verses about taking care of others, and yet only a handful of verses about homosexuality. So why are so many Christians debating the topic of homosexuality and not discussing feeding the poor? His thought was that its easy to discuss topics that don’t affect us personally, or allow us to talk about others, but it isn’t so easy to talk about things that convict us, or challenge us to be doing something better or differently. Ouch. I heard that loud and clear.

Since I heard about the more than 5000 times the Bible calls us to help, in my personal Bible reading I am amazed how often I have noticed this command and yet I didn’t pay as close attention to it before having it bopped over my noggin like a V8 commercial. Thank God that he opened my eyes even more.

Dr Campolo shared some amazing statistics that I also feel are note worthy – He said that 25 years ago, 45 000 children a day died from malnourishment, 1 out of every 6 people didn’t have access to clean water, and 80% of the planet was illiterate.  Today, he said that its down to 17 000 children dying each day (ouch, still a very scary number), 1 out of 12 people now do not have access to clean water and the illiterate now number 20% of the world’s population! Wow! 25 years is really not a huge time period considering the difference of those statistics! Where can we be in 25 more years if we the Christians representing Christ actually live out our calling? Dr Campolo stated that much of this change was from Christians rising up and implementing literacy programs, creating food programs to meet the needs of the poor and hungry, and fundraising to dig wells all around the globe just as a few examples. What an amazing accomplishment to be thankful and proud of! But, because there is still starving children, and still people without access to clean water, and still people who cant read or write, we aren’t done yet.

So again, where is God for the starving and the poor? He’s represented by us here on earth. We are the ones responsible to help. What does that look like? While I think it depends on your passion and position. But certainly it requires action. Dr. Campolo was representing World Vision and strongly encouraged Child Sponsorship.  Our own family sponsors a boy and girl through Compassion, again, I don’t think the difference matters (much like the denominational differences) I think it just matters that we accept the mission we’ve been given.

There are a million ways to support the needy around each of us, it would take me an entire week to even be able to research the ways in my own community.  Whatever your passion, whatever your church, whatever your hope just get out there and take action as often as you can. Once in a while is not enough! We truly don’t recognize how good we have it in a first world country – even our poor aren’t a reflection of the poor in 3rd world countries. But both groups need support, regardless. People need support. And its our job to support them.  And when we need support, we should rest assured knowing that there will be people to support us too.

There’s a beautiful song that I feel like captures what I’m trying to communicate as well, Matthew West’s Do Something. I urge you to absorb the words and message of this song. Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_RjndG0IX8

Lastly, I will leave you with a verse that I read in my personal devotional time this morning that also really spoke to me, reminding me that even the little things we do add up, and every single thing matters. Paul encourages us in 1 Corinthians 15:58, “So my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.” !!!

Do SOMETHING!

 

 

 

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