Sunday, October 27, 2013

My Testimony-How I Came to Faith in Christ

What is your testimony? What is your story? If someone asked you why you were a Christian or how you became a Christian, what would be your answer?

This is my story. This is my testimony. I hope it will be an encouragement to you.

I grew up in a Christian home. Sometime during middle school I decided to live my life for Jesus. Also during middle school, I got a call to missions. Don't ask me how I knew it, I just knew it was true beyond a shadow of a doubt. I was excited and passionate, but then I got scared.

I thought that there might be a future day on the mission field where I would be spiritually empty and couldn't do God's work on my own. So I told God that He was wrong, He couldn't use me in long-term missions. So I proverbially sat down and waited for God to tell me His new plan for my life. During this time, I went on several week-long mission trips, because God could use me for a week, He just was wrong about long-term missions.

It turns out that God can out-wait any human, including me. It turns out that God did not answer my question of whether I would marry my hubby, UNTIL I realized that God wasn't joking about my call to missions.

You know what? There will be days (many many days) on the mission field where I'll be empty and can't do God's work on my own. That's because I'm not supposed to do it alone, I'm supposed to do it with God.

What's your story?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Supping with the Lord

 I enjoy the community aspect of Lord's Supper. (If you're like me, you might sometimes think that the portions are a little stingy, but the symbolism, not the filling of my belly, is important).

(Side tangent: I learned that words like the Lord's Supper, communion, and Eucharist aren't actually interchangeable. They indicate differing views on the properties of this ritual. I hope to do a blog post on the differences between these concepts, but that is a big project that is barely a thought-child right now).

Scriptural Basis for the Lord's Supper:
1. John 6:25-59 Jesus tells us He is the Bread of Life.
2. Matthew 26:17-30, Mark 14:12-26, and Luke 22:7-38 tell of the Last Supper from 3 of the gospel writer's perspectives.
3. 1 Cor. 11: 17-34 Paul corrects the church in Corinth in regards to abuses they have had in practicing the Lord's Supper.
4. Exodus 12:1-30 and Leviticus 23:4-8 tell why and how to practice Passover & the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This is significant because Jesus, as a first century Jewish Rabbi, was celebrating Passover with His disciples when He gave instructions regarding communion/the Lord's Supper.

The Lord's Supper is important to Christians for many reasons.
1. It reminds us of Jesus. (The whole "do this in remembrance of me" thing).
2. It fosters community & fellowship. We share an common experience and common experiences draw people closer together.
3. It was a meal initially, but people abused that. I dream about bringing the meal back. It could be a carry-in, so people just bring what they can and we all share. A few loaves of bread & containers of grape juice would be reserved for communion at the start of the meal. A reader would read from one of the gospels, the Lord's Supper would be served, and then we would eat and fellowship together. Yeah, I'm sold on this one.
4. It encourages self-examination prior to participating and serves as a self-check.

You can read a sermon on communion if you wish. (I recommend it)
There is an article here that breaks down communion into its component parts, with a scriptural basis for each point.

How does your church celebrate the Lord's Supper? What do you like best about the Lord's Supper?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Dinotopian Laws

Once upon a time there was a book called Dinotopia by James Gurney. In 2002, a 3-episode tv series was created, also called Dinotopia. In the show, a law code is emphasized. In this utopia, humans and herbivore dinosaurs live in harmony by adhering to 10 main laws. About half of the laws especially caught my attention.

A few of the codes were fascinating to me. (Check out the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 7th, and 10th law codes.) I think that they were fascinating because they resonate with my dreams for a simple, godly life.

The third law code teaches us that a weapon cannot be anyone's friend (not even their owner's friend). A weapon is dangerous to everyone, even their owner. Now I get that the world is a big, scary, dangerous place. Some people find comfort in arming themselves to protect themselves against the bad guys. At the same time, I can easily visualize how weapons can be enemies to everyone. I am intrigued by this concept similarly expressed in "The Awakening of Hope: Why We Practice a Common Faith" by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove. Wilson-Hartgrove's book dedicates a whole chapter explaining "Why We Would Rather Die Than Kill." I wouldn't have trouble with this law in Dinotopia.

The fourth law code urges people to take less ____ and to give more ____. Consumerism screams TAKE! TAKE! TAKE!! It is a radical concept to give, to give a little, especially to give a lot, and to give sacrificially is practically considered a sign of insanity. Yet, "Living More with Less" by Doris Janzen Longacre teaches the same message. She teaches that that we need to choose less, so others can have more (and if our happiness levels go up, that's an additional bonus). Taking & getting more things does not elevate our happiness levels as much as we think. There's always another new gadget, another family with more, a little more money to be earned. Ecclesiastes 5:10 reads "Those who love money never have enough; those who love wealth are never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless." Powerful words that are still relevant today. I wouldn't have trouble with this law in Dinotopia.

The fifth law code asks us to be self-less, not selfish, in our lives. Selfishness abounds. Generations are taught "Me-first!!", to look out for "Number 1", and protect "Me, Mine, and My." Yet selflessness can lead to happiness. Acts 20:35 tells us that "It is more blessed to give than to receive." Huh. That sounds almost identical to "it's better to give than to receive." Living our lives for something bigger than ourselves can lead to a more meaningful life. I wouldn't have trouble with this law in Dinotopia.


The seventh law code challenges us to do one thing at a time. Our society idolizes multitasking. Spinning multiple plates in the air. Never completely focusing on one thing. I yearn to focus on only one thing at a time and be fully present at whatever I set out to do. I wouldn't have trouble with this law in Dinotopia.


The tenth law code directs us to eat enough to live, but not live solely to eat. It discourages gluttony-one of the seven deadly sins. People starve, while others waste. I wonder if we intentionally plan meals and snacks to get our minimum calories for the day and all of the food groups, would we really feel deprived? I don't think we would. In the "More with Less Cookbook" also by Doris Janzen Longacre, this concept is expressed. Simple meals, which take into account the limited world resources, still are tasty.

I find these codes to be interesting because they don't fit into a self-centered, over-focused, over-busy society. Many of the codes align with other books I have read that show there is another way to live, that's different from mainstream society.

What are things that society teaches & values that you don't view as relevant or important? Dare to dream about a better world and then start taking steps toward that world.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Making Faith Bread: A Baking Allegory

Sometimes the everyday, the ordinary, and the routine can become the routes through which God whispers a lesson.

For me, I learned about faith & trust through baking bread.

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It was a new recipe. My typical-go to recipes were unsuitable for my needs. I just wanted one simple loaf of bread, not 2 or 4. I found a new recipe and started to make it.

The directions were odd and different. Why was it necessary to mix 4 ingredients and then let it sit for 2 hours if I would then add 2 more ingredients and let it rise?

I did not see how it would turn out. At first I was convinced that I needed more water than the recipe called for, after 2 hours & more water, I thought there was too much water.

Internally, I rebelled against the recipe. I wanted to change it, fight it, bake my own way. It was wrong. It wasn't right for my circumstances. It needed tweaking to fit properly in my world.

My desire to change the recipe warred with my knowledge that the recipe was created by someone who knew best. It was created by someone with more knowledge & was tried & tested. I needed to obey the recipe, follow the recipe, trust the creator of the recipe, & have faith that it would turn out alright, but it was against my instincts.

I had to choose. Would I follow the recipe, would I submit to it, or would I follow my own path, untested and untried into new waters? I submitted to the recipe. I made a decision to follow it exactly, even if I didn't understand, even if I didn't see how it could possibly turn out well. I was no longer able to predict what would happen next or why it was happening. I took each step as it came & reviewed what the recipe told me to do next.

The bread turned out differently than I typically make, but it was still good, in different ways. I'm glad I submitted to the recipe, even if I didn't understand the "why."



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Suddenly my thoughts weren't about baking bread anymore, but about my walk with God.

It was a new situation. My typical verses & methods of dealing with the situation were unsuitable for the present time. I found a new passage in the Bible that I hadn't studied before and started to read it.

The instructions were odd & different. They told me to do things differently from the world's methods. Why would I put others first or pray for my enemies?

I didn't see how it would work it "real life." I was convinced that my methods were better, that my system was more reliable.

Internally, I rebelled against the words on the page. I wanted to fight them, change them, live my own way. The instructions were wrong. They weren't right for me, for my circumstances. They needed tweaking to fit properly in my world & to be applicable.

My desire to change the instructions warred with my knowledge that these instructions were created by Someone who knew best. It was created by Someone with more knowledge (all knowledge) and was tested & tried by the saints before me. I needed to obey & follow the instructions, to trust the Author of the Book, and have faith that the situation would turn out alright, even if it went against my instincts.

I had to choose. Would I follow the instructions, would I submit to them & to the Author, or would I follow my own path, untested and untried into new waters? I submitted to the Author. I made a decision to follow Him exactly, even if I didn't understand, even if I didn't see how it could possibly turn out well. I was no longer able to predict what would happen next or why it was happening. I took each step as it came & reviewed what the instructions told me to do next.

The situation turned out differently than I expected, but it was still a good outcome. I'm glad I submitted to the Author, even if I didn't understand the "why" of His instructions.

Friday, October 11, 2013

A Big Picture Look at the Bible by Books & Chapters

Sometimes it's a good idea to get a big picture idea of what we study.When we say we read/study the Bible, what is it that we study?

The Bible is a collection of songs, prayers, history, miracles, prophecies, and more about God and His relationship with people.

The Bible is a collection of 66 books.
The Old Testament has 39 books. (That's 59.1% of the Bible based on books)
The New Testament has 27 books. (That's 40.9% of the Bible based on books)

The 66 books of the Bible have 1189 chapters.
The Old Testament has 929 chapters. (That's 78.1% of the Bible based on chapters)
The New Testament has 260 chapters. (That's 21.9% of the Bible based on chapters)

Old Testament
  1. Genesis-50 chapters
  2. Exodus-40 chapters
  3. Leviticus-27 chapters
  4. Numbers-36 chapters
  5. Deuteronomy-34 chapters
  6. Joshua-24 chapters
  7. Judges-21 chapters
  8. Ruth-4 chapters
  9. 1 Samuel-31 chapters
  10. 2 Samuel-24 chapters
  11. 1 Kings-22 chapters
  12. 2 Kings-25 chapters
  13. 1 Chronicles-29 chapters
  14. 2 Chronicles-36 chapters
  15. Ezra-10 chapters
  16. Nehemiah-13 chapters
  17. Esther-10 chapters
  18. Job-42 chapters
  19. Psalm-150 chapters
  20. Proverbs-31 chapters
  21. Ecclesiastes-12 chapters
  22. Song of Solomon-8 chapters
  23. Isaiah-66 chapters
  24. Jeremiah-52 chapters
  25. Lamentations-5 chapters
  26. Ezekiel-48 chapters
  27. Daniel-12 chapters
  28. Hosea-14 chapters
  29. Joel-3 chapters
  30. Amos-9 chapters
  31. Obadiah-1 chapter
  32. Jonah-4 chapters
  33. Micah-7 chapters
  34. Nahum-3 chapters
  35. Habakkuk-3 chapters
  36. Zephaniah-3 chapters
  37. Haggai-2 chapters
  38. Zechariah-14 chapters
  39. Malachi-4 chapters
New Testament
  1. Matthew-28 chapters
  2. Mark-16 chapters
  3. Luke-24 chapters
  4. John-21 chapters
  5. Acts-28 chapters
  6. Romans-16 chapters
  7. 1 Corinthians-16 chapters
  8. 2 Corinthians-13 chapters
  9. Galatians-6 chapters
  10. Ephesians-6 chapters
  11. Philippians-4 chapters
  12. Colossians-4 chapters
  13. 1 Thessalonians-5 chapters
  14. 2 Thessalonians-3 chapters
  15. 1 Timothy-6 chapters
  16. 2 Timothy-4 chapters
  17. Titus-3 chapters
  18. Philemon-1 chapter
  19. Hebrews-13 chapters
  20. James-5 chapters
  21. 1 Peter-5 chapters
  22. 2 Peter-3 chapters
  23. 1 John-5 chapters
  24. 2 John-1 chapter
  25. 3 John-1 chapter
  26. Jude-1 chapter
  27. Revelation-22 chapters
I encourage you to read through the whole Bible and find your favorite verses in each book. What is your favorite Old Testament verse & book? What is your favorite New Testament verse & book?

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Generosity in the Bible

I was severely curious about giving and generosity in the Bible, so I decided to search the Scriptures with the help of www.biblegateway.com.

Genero(sity) or Genero(us) appears 21 times in the NIV Bible.

1. Deuteronomy 15:10...The instructions for the Sabbath year (every 7 years in the Jewish calender) included directions to give generously and ungrudgingly to the needy Israelites. If the people did this, God would bless them. Do I give generously? Do I give ungrudgingly?

2. 1 Chronicles 29:14...David prayed to God after the people prepared for the temple-building project. David was amazed that he & his people could give generously to the project. He recognized that all their wealth came from God. Do I acknowledge God as the source of my money? Am I grateful for the ability to give?

3. 2 Chronicles 31:5...The Israelites gave generously when they were allowed to give after a period of backsliding. Do I give generously when the occasion arises?

4. Psalm 37:21...The wicked borrow & don't repay. The righteous give generously. Do I repay my loans (if I answer no, I'm wicked)? Do I give generously (do I want to be righteous)?

5. Psalm 37:26...They (the righteous) give generously and lend freely. Their children are a blessing. Do I lend freely and give generously or am I a grudging lender/giver?

6. Psalm 112:5...The generous & freely-lending & justice-living people will have good come to them. Do I live ethically? Am I generous with what I have or stingy?

7. Proverbs 11:25...Generous people will prosper & the refreshers will be refreshed. Do I want to prosper & be refreshed? If yes, then be generous & refresh others.

8. Proverbs 22:9...The generous (who share their food with the poor) will be blessed. Do I share my food with the poor? I am generous with what I have?

9. Matthew 20:15...In the parable of the workers in the vineyard, we learn that people get cranky sometimes when people are generous to others. Are fair & generous always going the same direction?

10. Luke 11:41...Jesus pointed out that outward signs of cleanliness does not clean the inside. A generous spirit towards the poor can go a long way to making clean hearts & actions. Am I generous to the poor or do I scorn them?

11. Acts 10:2...Cornelius was commended for being generous and God-fearing, as well as praying and being devout. How am I known? Am I known for these qualities?

12. Acts 28:7...During Paul's shipwreck, he was shown generosity. Do I show generosity to those down on their luck?

13. Romans 12:8...Paul encourages people to do/use/live their gifts. Generosity is a spiritual gift. Do I resent or snub those who have this gift?

14. 2 Corinthians 8:2(-3)...Paul praised the church in Macedonia for their joy and generosity during trials and poverty. They gave as much as they could and honestly a bit more than they could. Do I have joy and a generous spirit during trials and poverty or do I hoard? Do I give sacrificially?

15. 2 Corinthians 9:5...Gifts should be generous, not grudgingly given. Do I give willingly or resentfully?

16. 2 Corinthians 9:6...Generous sowing leads to generous reaping. Do I give abundantly or sparingly?

17. 2 Corinthians 9:11...We are enriched to be generous & through God's workers, our generosity will lead to praise & thanksgiving of God. Do I give to God's workers? Am I allowing opportunities to praise Him?

18. 2 Corinthians 9:13...People will praise God for our obedience & our generosity in sharing. Do I share the Good News generously with others?

19. 1 Timothy 6:(17-)18...The rich are commanded to not put their faith in their money (but trust in God), do good, and be generous. Do I trust God or trust money? Am I generous?
 
20. Titus 3:6...God has generously poured out His Spirit on us through Christ.

21. James 1:5...God gives wisdom out generously. Do I ask for it?

Take-Home Points:


Do I give generously & ungrudgingly to the needy?
Do I acknowledge God as the source of my wealth? Am I grateful for my ability to give?
Do I give generously when I can?
Am I known for being generous, God-fearing, devout, and prayful?
Am I willing to give sacrificially and joyfully?
Do I trust God or trust my money?

The righteous are generous and lend freely. Good will come to them and they will prosper.
I can be generous with my food and what I have. I can be generous with the Good News.
Others may not like generosity towards others.
Giving can be within or outside of my means.
Giving can lead to God being praised & thanked.
The rich should do good and be generous.

God gives wisdom and His Spirit generously.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Giving in the Bible Part 3: Giving & Humanity

This is Part 3 in a 3-post series on Giving. You can check out Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

Giving & Humanity
Deuteronomy 15:10...Give generously to the poor 
Proverbs 11:24...Those who give freely, get more
Proverbs 25:21...Give to your enemies
Matthew 5:42/Luke 6:30...We are to give to those who ask.
Matthew 25:33-41...What we give to the poor, we give to God/Jesus.
Matthew 10:8...We have been given much, so we should freely give.
Luke 6:38...What we give, we are given abundantly again.
Luke 14:12-14...When we give to others, we are to give to those who can't repay us.
Romans 12:8...Use our gifts, such as giving, to help others.
Romans 12:20...Give to those you don't like
Romans 13:7...Give to people what you owe them
Others & Giving
Acts 2:45...The early church were givers.
Philippians 4:10-13...Paul learned the secret of contentment despite our circumstances...relying on God the strength-giver.