Showing posts with label Our Saviour. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Our Saviour. Show all posts

How We Celebrated Reformation Day (And Why)

(Some affiliate links in this post!  Just on the books you know, so I can buy more books...)

A few weeks ago, we were working through a history lesson, and somehow I got onto the topic of the Reformation.

"So Martin Luther nailed his 95 points to the church door, and there is a thing called Reformation Day now."

"Reformation Day?" Wyatt asked.

"Yes, and it's actually on the same day as Halloween."

Gwen looked thoughtful for a moment.  "Mom, can we celebrate Reformation Day this year?"

And just like that, we were celebrating Reformation Day this year.

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I already explained a few weeks ago why we choose not to celebrate Halloween in our family, so I am not sure why it hasn't occurred to me to celebrate Reformation Day.  Reformation Day is on October 31st, which is the day that Martin Luther nailed 95 theses to the door of a church in Wittenburg.  He was mostly arguing against the practice of indulgences at that time, but he came to realize through this process of studying the Bible that our salvation is purely by the grace of God.  We contribute nothing to our salvation, because we have no righteousness of our own with which to approach God.  Christ took the punishment for our sin and gives us His righteousness when we put our trust in Him, and our salvation is completely through His sacrifice and apart from our own works.

You can read more about the Reformation on your own (that was a very surface-y explanation above), but the bottom line is that if you are part of any Protestant Christian denomination, it all started right here.  With Martin Luther and other Reformers, who studied the Bible, through their study rediscovered the truth of the good news of the Gospel, and brought the church back to the firm foundation of the Word Of God.

This is YOUR history, and you are still reaping the benefits of the work the Reformers did in bringing the truth of the Gospel to light. 

I think that is worth celebrating for sure!

As a mom, I really want my kids to know Christian history, and the heritage that has been passed down to us through the sacrifices of people like the Reformers, who fought and died for the truth of God's Word.  I think in Protestant circles, we tend to get a little disconnected from our history, and I'd really like my kids to have a sense of the history and heroes of the faith between the end of the Bible (around 96 AD) until today. I explain these things to them, but I think making a celebration of this part of our history is a wonderful way to help personalize it for my kids.  As I was thinking about how to celebrate Reformation Day, I was trying to think of some ways to have a little fun while we remember our Christian history too.  Here is how we celebrated this year!



1. Reformation Day Shirts 

Several months ago, I stumbled across Diet Of Worms apparel, which makes clothing for "little (and big) reformers".  I laughed out loud at their "It's Hammer Time" t-shirt, and I ordered one for Wyatt and a "Sola Fide" t-shirt for myself.  They have since gone out of business, so I took some inspiration from them and made t-shirts for everyone else in our family myself!  A little guide:

Sola Fide - Latin for "faith alone".  This is one of the five "solas" of the Reformation.


Image via Facebook



1517 - The year Martin Luther nailed up his theses (this year was the 501st anniversary!).



"The Righteous Shall Live By Faith" - the phrase in Romans that led to Luther's epiphany that our salvation is through faith alone.



"On This I Stand, I Can Do No Other" - This is what Luther said at the "Diet Of Worms", which is actually what they called a church council/trial held in the city of Worms, when church leaders asked Luther to recant his writings.  The full quote is here:

“Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason (I do not accept the authority of popes and councils because they have contradicted each other), my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen.”

The kids loved their shirts and asked to wear them again the next day!  This was fun for me, because it was a like a little Reformation Day present/surprise I could give them.
Speaking of the Diet Of Worms...

2. Worm Pudding
As a play on the Diet Of Worms, we had a "diet of worms" in the form of gummy-worm-and-orea-pudding!  I thought this was really funny and clever of myself, ha!  My kids were a little young to get the joke I think, they just enjoyed the pudding.
3.  A Sausage Dinner
This is in honor of a different sausage dinner, and a sermon preached by a priest there, which kicked off the Reformation in Switzerland.  You can read more about that here.  (Sausage dinner not pictured, but it was really good.)

4. Reformation Day Books
I first toyed with the idea of celebrating Reformation Day last year, for the 500th anniversary, but I was hugely pregnant, and to be honest, I wasn't sure if my kids were old enough to "get it".  This year my oldest two are 7 and 5, and I have to say, it's been really pleasantly surprising to me how much they understand about what the Reformation means!  The got an idea of what we were celebrating just through conversations together, but I wanted to find some books to drive it home.  These are the two I picked:
Reformation ABC's - This is a thorough book for kids, covering a different aspect or hero of the Reformation for each letter.  We didn't read this whole book, since it's probably geared for kids a little older than my kids, but we read several pages, about the Bible, Luther, Hiedelburg and Westminster.  my kids were excited when they recognized a catechism question on the Westminster page!
The Life Of Martin Luther: A Pop-Up Book - This is a pop-up book (obviously), and my kids asked me to read it three times!  It's the story of Martin Luther in a nutshell, and the pop-ups make it so fun.  The only thing I'd change about this book is a line on the last page that mentions Luther introducing "new ideas" - I would rephrase that "biblical ideas" - but other than that, it's just perfect!
5.  Reformation Reading For Me 
This whole celebration of Reformation Day really started with my reading challenge this year.  One of the categories was to read about church history, so I picked up a couple books about the Reformation.  I have been a Christian since I accepted Christ as a child, and I grew up in the church, and it was shocking how much of this history I DIDN'T know!  If you want to celebrate Reformation Day with your kids, I highly recommend familiarizing yourself with the history too!  Not only has is been helpful in teaching the history to my kids, but it has made me pay more careful attention to different verses in my Bible reading, and really enriched my own faith this year.
The Reformation: How A Monk And A Mallet Changed The World by Stephen Nichols - This book is short and sweet, and most importantly, very readable!  I found this whole book really fascinating, and learned about how I've benefitted from the sacrifices of Reformers I'd never even heard of.  This is a must-have primer on the history of the Reformation, in my opinion.
Why The Reformation Still Matters by Michael Reeves and Tim Chester   -  If the book above is about the history of the Reformation, this book is about the nuts and bolts of what the Reformation was really about.  A lot of the theology discussed is more subtle than I originally thought, but the distinctions are so, so important.  I'm almost done listening to this one on audio, and highly recommend it!

Also a heads up - one of my favorite podcasts/websites has a free "Reformation Day Celebration" for download!  I haven't had a chance to watch it yet because our internet was out last week, but it's still available here!


Stay tuned for Reformations Days in years to come, because I have more ideas already spinning in my head for next year!

Have you heard of Reformation Day?  Have you ever celebrated it (and how)? 

I highly encourage you to give it a try next year!  We had fun with it!









A Point About Evangelism


(A picture from when we visited our friends' ranch in the Spring.  Ranch...agriculture...seeds...let's just go with it.)


Last year I started going to the Community Bible Study I went to as a child with my mom.  I can't express how much of a blessing this Bible Study has been to me since I started back!  It's so encouraging to hear everyone else's insights, and it challenges me to get into God's Word and think about things a little deeper.

Today we talked about the parable of the sower in Mark 4.  To be honest, I didn't love the questions and commentary in the lesson book this week - I felt like they muddied the waters a little.  I was also frustrated with myself for not preparing my lesson ahead of time this week, which limited my ability to contribute to the discussion.  Since I couldn't really get my thoughts out today in class, I thought I'd write them out here since I've had a little more time to think about it.

 “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed.As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”

Mark 4:3-8

The parable of the sower is a tricky parable, and I've heard it applied different ways.  But as I've read it, I've always understood it to be a representation of how different people who have not yet believed will respond to God's Word when they hear it.  I did a little more research on it today after our lesson, and I wanted to write out my thoughts for my own clarity, and because I thought about one point in a different way after the discussion today.

"Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? 14 The farmer sows the word. 15 Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satancomes and takes away the word that was sown in them. 16 Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. 17 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 18 Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.20 Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.”

Mark 4:13-20

These are the categories and my thoughts:


The Hard Soil - Those with hard hearts, who hear the word but it doesn't sink in or take root at all.  Satan immediately snatches it away, and they do not believe.

The Rocky Soil - Those who have an emotional response to God's Word, but who only have superficial, incomplete understanding of it and have never truly repented.  They may even say they "believe in Jesus" in a superficial sense, but we know from other places in the Bible that just acknowledging the truth does nothing.  Even the demons know the truth (James 2:19), but they will not accept it and repent.  When tribulations come, the true colors show, and it is shown that these people never truly believed.  They superficially accepted God's Word because it made them feel good, and as soon as it doesn't anymore, they fall away.

The Thorny Soil - From the way I read this same passage in Matthew, these are the people who hear the Word, and initially want to accept it - but they love the world, they love the things of the world, and as soon as they get back to their lives, it all comes to nothing.  John MacArthur (his sermons were some of my "research" - listen to them here) gave the rich young ruler as an example of this.   They love money and everything else the world has to offer, and that love stifles the Gospel, because we cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6:24).


I think the important thing about those second two there is that these people did NOT lose their salvation!  Jesus tells us that once we are His, NOTHING can snatch us out of His hand (John 10:27-30).  Those second two categories of people are those who were never truly converted in the first place.  The love of the world, and misunderstanding of the truth, led to false conversions.

I think the temptation is to try to fit people we know into these categories, but I don't think we should do that.  God knows what kind of soil a person is, and in the end, time will tell, because true believers will abide with Christ and bear fruit (John 15:1-6).  If someone eventually falls away, it's because they never truly let the Word of God take root in their heart and change them, they never truly repented.

I think another important note here is that we shouldn't assume that just because someone "prayed a prayer" that they are actually saved.  God is the only one who truly knows, but if a person has turned away from God, by all means, I think we should preach the Gospel to them again!

Our CBS director said something that was encouraging to me today - she said that no "soil" is beyond hope.  God can pull out those weeds.  God can remove the rocks.  God can break the hard ground.

He can make the soil good.

The final category:


The Good Soil - Those who hear the Word, understand it, and accept it with repentance and faith.  They bear fruit, and spread the truth to those around them, leading to a greater harvest.


All that we have to do is be faithful to spread the seed of the Gospel.  The true Gospel, not a incomplete, feel-good, emotional gospel; not a false, you-can-follow-God-and-keep-all-your-sin gospel.  The true Gospel that we are sinners, people who broke God's law, who deserve death and Hell, but that Jesus, God Himself, came to take our punishment.  He died in our place and rose again to save us from our sin.  We must recognize the truth of who we truly are as sinners and what Christ has done, repent, turn our back on everything the world offers, turn our back on our sin, and follow after Christ alone, with all that we have.

The thing that I realized today is this:

It is not in my power to change the soil of someone's heart.  Only God can do that.

I can't make the soil good by saying things a certain way, or following certain "strategies".  If I am living out and speaking the whole truth of the Gospel, I can't mess this up.  My only job is to spread the seed of the truth of God's Word to those around me.  I can spread the seed, I can water it, but it is God who makes it grow.

"So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth."

1 Corinthians 3:7

I can't explain how comforting this is to me.  I've lately tried to speak to people about the Gospel more, for the first time in my life really, and I've been shut down, and it breaks my heart every time.  It's easy to worry that I did it all wrong.  But according to this passage, I should expect rejection, I should expect that some will not truly understand.  God is in charge of that, not me.  I don't know how big my personal harvest will be, and I'm not in control of that anyway.  I only need to be faithful to the Great Commission, to spread the seed and pray for God to prepare the ground.

And oh, the joy when some of that seed will take root in good soil.

That's what will make it all worth it.


Evangelism Is Scary



Confession: I've been a Christian for over 20 years, but I struggle with evangelism.  A lot.  I know I'm not alone in this, because I've recently heard a statistic that only 2% of the church shares their faith on a regular basis.  Yikes!  That's embarrassing.

I like to think that sharing the gospel in written form on this blog counts for something, but let's be honest, if I really are about those around me who are headed for Hell, I should be willing to speak up in person too.  But I get scared, and I don't know what to say.  It's a problem.  I've been feeling convicted about this for a couple years, but it's so hard to know where to start.

After praying about this for a while, I feel like the Lord brought a couple resources into my life in the last few months that are making me feel a lot less terrified of evangelizing.  I was going to share about all this in one of my life update posts, but then I thought, hey, evangelism is an important enough topic that it certainly deserves it's own post.  And I know some of you out there have the same struggles as me.  Speak up in the comments!


Resource #1 - Wretched Radio

In December we started listening to a podcast called Wretched Radio.  Derek and I are officially hooked now.  Todd Friel, the host, has a sarcastic sense of humor that is entertaining, but the meat of his ministry is all tied back to the importance of the gospel and evangelism.  We don't always agree with his style or word choice, but he's very grounded on God's word.  Each week he does a "Witness Wednesday" episode, where he gets random people on the radio and witnesses to them right there.  Just hearing how someone else witnesses to people, in real conversations, has made me feel so much more prepared for the moment when I might get a chance to witness to someone myself.  And feeling prepared is half the battle, right?

Resource #2 - Living Waters

On a related note, Friel started this part of the podcast with Ray Comfort, who has a whole Youtube channel where he witnesses to strangers.  His boldness in sharing the gospel is so inspiring, and makes the whole thing seem less scary and more doable.  Derek and I could sit for hours and watch his witnessing videos.  You can see all those here, but be prepared to get sucked in for a ridiculous amount of time.

Resource #3 - Successful Christian Parenting by John MacArthur

I've mentioned Successful Christian Parenting before, but this is my go-to book for refocusing on evangelizing my children - who are the people I want to point to the Lord the most, for obvious reasons!  That's really the whole point of Christian parenting.  I think this book would be great in particular for anyone who has children in their life that they want to lead to Jesus, even if you aren't a parent yet, and the approach he explains in this book would be helpful in witnessing to someone of any age.  I'm reading it again this year.

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Evangelism is one of those things that I think a lot of us put off because we don't think we have the "gift" of evangelism.  But the thing about spiritual gifts is that they are often things that we are supposed to do whether we have a "gift" for it or not.  We're all supposed to be practicing discernment, hospitality, mercy, etc.  And we're all supposed to be evangelizing.  Plus, this is purely a guess, but I imagine that since we know God is not willing that any should perish but all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9), He probably has gifted more than 2% of the church with the gift of evangelism...and maybe a lot of us just don't realize it because we're too scared or lazy to give it a try.

That would be me. But I'm working on it, and I wanted to encourage my fellow sisters in Christ to work on it too.  Checking out these resources is an easy place to start.

Do you have a hard time with evangelism too?  Are you trying to work on it?  What resources have helped you?






How To Explain The Gospel To A Four Year Old

(Forgive me for using springtime pictures in the summer - this is my boy in April.)

When I was six years old, all the girls in my class had seen the Little Mermaid - except me.  My mom had yet to screen that very popular movie, so I really had no idea how to play the Little Mermaid when I visited a new friend’s house.  Her basement was the ocean, and she of course, was Ariel, singing her six-year-old lungs out on the “rock” at the top of the stairs.  When it was my turn to be Ariel, I did not know the mermaid’s songs.  I still have no memory of what I sang instead, but I’m pretty sure the other girl could tell I hadn’t seen the movie.

That visit with a friend I (who I rarely saw again) stands out in my adult memory now - let’s be honest, largely because of the Little Mermaid game that I didn’t really know how to play.  How embarrassing! (Except not really, because I didn’t care that much about the Little Mermaid.)  But it also stands out because of something my friend said.  Don’t ask me how we got on this subject - I think either me or one of my siblings must have asked her if she was saved.  And my friend said she was saved, because every night she asked Jesus to come into her heart.


We Can't Pay Our Own Debts (All The Missing Girls Book Review)



I recently started listening to “What Should I Read Next?”, which is a podcast by Anne Bogel (otherwise known as Modern Mrs. Darcy).  I've been enjoying it - it's the perfect podcast for book nerds!  She puts out a summer reading guide every year, and this year I picked up a few books on her list to check out.  All The Missing Girls by Megan Miranda was one of them, and I gave it a try because the story sounded interesting.  It’s a secular book, and I find that reviews of secular books need more breaking down than Christian books, so here we go.

For The Love Review - Disappointed




It is rare that I actually end up reading a "trendy" book right at the height of it's trendiness - but somehow I heard about Jen Hatmaker's For the Love enough in advance that I am able to give a timely review of the "big book to read", for once!  You are welcome, my readers who like book reviews.  I will try to work this out more often.

To be honest, I have mixed feelings about this book.  Let's start with the positive, shall we?


Are You Angry At The Right Thing?



I woke up, blurry-eyed, and snuck quietly into the living room to do my morning devotions before the kids woke up.  But before I started I shot off a quick text, apologizing to Derek for the night before.  I had gotten angry at him for something, and yes, I'm admitting right now that we don't always resolve arguments before we go to bed.  This case is a good example why - they night before I was furious, and felt perfectly justified in my anger.  When the morning came, I realized what a "contentious women" I was really being (and if you've ever read Proverbs, you know that is not a good thing).

Appropriately, after reading the day's passage in the Bible, I opened up Matthew Henry's Commentary, and this is what I read:


"The way to be angry, and not to sin, is to be angry, as Christ was, at nothing but sin."  
-Matthew Henry


Initially my reaction was one of ugly self-righteousness and trying to justify my own actions (even though I had already recognized that I was wrong - just being honest here, guys).  Could it be righteous anger then, to be angry when someone has sinned against you?

But immediately this verse ran through my mind:


"For the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God."  


And I realized what a hypocritical attitude I had, to direct anger at someone else's (supposed) sin against me, and completely forget the blackness in my own heart.

The only way to really be safe in righteous anger at sin is to be more angry at your own sin than anything else.  

The example of righteous anger that is always cited is when Jesus become angry because of the money tables in the temple.  And Jesus did have righteous anger at the cheating and lying that was going on, but there is a big difference between Jesus and me - Jesus has no sin of His own.  He had a pure right to be angry.  I, on the other hand, have a heart full of sin - and if I am going to claim to have righteous anger, it needs to be directed at my own sin first.

And today, of all days, it is easier to be angry at my own sin.  Because today, thousands of years ago, Jesus suffered unspeakable things to pay for it.  

Justice is a big talking point among Christians these days, and people mean so many different things by it.  But if we are going to talk about justice, let's apply it to everything.  What would be just here, really?  God could have chosen to be angry with us forever, to give us our punishment, and He would have been just in doing so.  But instead Jesus, our righteous Judge, took our punishment Himself.  That is the most unjust thing that ever happened, but He did it because He loves us, and He continually offers us every chance at His forgiveness.

When we accept and believe what Jesus did for us on the cross, there is no more anger there, though we continue to do things to deserve it - but Jesus took all that anger on Himself.  Now, for the one who trusts in Him, there is only love, and mercy, and grace. I am so grateful for what He has done for me, even though I constantly prove I am unworthy of having the King of the universe die for me (see example above).

And I love that it doesn't end with death.  Death and sin did not defeat Jesus - He defeated them once and for all when He rose from the dead on Easter morning!


"One day the grave could conceal Him no longer
One day the stone rolled away from the door
Then He arose, over death He had conquered
Now is ascended, my Lord evermore!"
-One Day, J. Wilbur Chapman


He is risen, and He is coming back someday to take His own home!

Are you one of His too?

I hope and pray each of you reading this can know the mercy, and grace, and victory that is only found in accepting who Jesus is, and what He has done for us!  

Happy Resurrection Day (on Sunday), my Friends!  

He is risen indeed!


Jesus Is Better | Hebrews 1-2

Photo 13
(I originally took this photo for The Peony Project's Instagram feed.) 

I have decided to do an in-depth study of the book of Hebrews - to read why, check out my first post in this series!

I think the main thing that I have learned so far is that if you don't understand the Hebrew culture and traditions, you are not going to understand Hebrews.  Which totally makes sense since this is a letter to Hebrew Christians.  I thought I knew a decent amount about Judaism, but there are so many subtleties in the Hebrew traditions, and knowing those subtleties goes a long way in understanding where the writer of Hebrews is coming from.

The main point of chapter one is that Jesus is better than Moses and the angels.

As a modern day Christian I was thinking "Well, of course He is!  Why are we reading about this?"

I learned that this was not actually a given for the early Hebrew Christians.

The Hebrew Christians that are addressed in this letter came out of the Old Covenant of sacrifices to cover their sins.  In the Old Covenant, the High Priest would sacrifice a bull to atone for the sins of the people, as well as his own sins, and he had to do this year after year.  This was a system passed down through Moses, and it was given to Moses by God, through angels.

But then God became a man (Jesus) and brought about a New Covenant that changed everything.  The Hebrews weren't sure how much of the Old Covenant they should keep.  They didn't understand the sufficiency of the New Covenant that Jesus brought through sacrificing Himself for our sins.

The writer of Hebrews was trying to show them that this New Covenant was fully sufficient and superior to the Old Covenant.  It replaced the Old Covenant, because it was better.  In order to show them that the new was better than the old, he needed to show them that Jesus is better than Moses, and the angels who they believe passed the Old Covenant to Moses.

I think my favorite aspect of chapters one and two is that the writer shows with Old Testament scriptures why Jesus is better than Moses and Angels - it's such a smart way to do it since the Old Testament scriptures obviously carried a lot of weight for the Hebrews.

The author of Hebrews goes over so many ideas through the scriptures he quotes.  Jesus has inherited a more excellent name than angels because He is called Son. He made the worlds.  All things are made by Him and for Him.  All things will be put in subjection under Jesus.

And then after all that, Hebrews reminds us that even though Jesus is so much better than everyone and everything, He is not ashamed to call us brethren.  We are His children.

As His children, He holds us in His hand, and through his death and resurrection He releases His children from bondage to sin.

As His brethren, He was made like us in all things.  He was tempted like we are.  And He can aid us because He overcame those temptations and lived a sinless life.

He doesn't give aid to angels, but He does give aid to us.  He became a perfect sacrifice for our sins, and we are His children when we believe in Him.

What a beautiful thing to belong to Jesus.

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In addition to studying Hebrews, I have decided to try to memorize it as well.

I'm not sure why, but I recently picked up a book that has been sitting in my shelf for years, called His Word In My Heart by Janet Pope.  It is all about memorizing Scripture.

I used to memorize chapters of the Bible as a girl, but I haven't memorized any new verses in years.  This book really made me want to start memorizing Bible verses again - if you need some motivation, I definitely recommend it.  The whole thing was very timely, because I started reading this book right as I started studying Hebrews - so it only seemed natural to start my memorization with Hebrews.

Ever since I decided to memorize Hebrews, I've been hearing about the importance of Scripture memorization everywhere, so I think it's just a confirmation that this is a good thing to focus on right now.  I've also realized how much more I get out of Bible study when I memorize the verses that I'm studying!  It makes a big difference to me in remembering the context, and I understand the subtleties of each verse so much better when I can remember all the verses around it.  That is especially useful when studying book that is as complex as Hebrews.

So all that to say, my goal is to memorize a chapter a week.  I've got the first two chapters of Hebrews down.  I'm falling a little behind in my memorization schedule, but I'm working on chapters three and four now to try to catch up.

I recorded a vlog of me saying Hebrews 1-2 from memory, because knowing I have to record myself saying the verses is good motivation!  Here it is - I'm reciting from the NKJV if you want to follow along, though I know I mixed up a couple of the words in this video.


If any of you want to join me in memorizing chapters of the Bible (whether it's from Hebrews or a different book), I'd love it if you'd post a video of yourself saying your verses - then come back here and let me know so I can check it out!

Oh Hebrews, You Puzzle Me

IMG 4985

Earlier this year I bought a Bible Study guide for the book of Hebrews.  I bought it because I thought it would be good for me to do a more in depth study on my own, since I usually only do studies like that in groups.

I stuck with it for several weeks, but then I kind of tapered off, for one main reason.

I don't get Hebrews.

I think I originally picked Hebrews because I like Hebrews 11 - the "faith chapter".  I had it memorized as a girl, and it is always inspiring to me, so I thought, why not study the whole book?

Which was good in theory.  But then Hebrews goes into a whole bunch of deep stuff about angels and sacrifices and Melchizedek . . . and I just didn't get it.  I'm not a newbie when it comes to Bible study either - I've been listening to sermons on this stuff since I was born, and I've read through the Bible several times.  But I found myself reading about concepts that I had never really thought through on a deeper level, and I was just confused and not getting a lot out of it.

So instead of trying harder, I just stopped.  I guess I got discouraged.  But every time I heard something about the book of Hebrews over the last few months, it niggled at my brain.

Recently I found my Bible study book stuffed under my bed.  I have been reading more theological books lately, books that make me stop and think - so when I saw my old Hebrews study guide, I decided that if I really apply myself, I can figure this book out.  It might require me to take a little more time to stop and think, but I don't want to abandon it just because it is not an easy book to read.

Not a single word in the Bible is wasted, and God put everything in there for a reason.  I know Hebrews has some deep truths that will be applicable to me.  I just get this feeling that if I dig into it, I'll find something valuable.

So over the next few weeks I'm going to buckle down and really apply myself to the book of Hebrews - and things tend to stick better when I know I have to write about it, so I will post updates here.
These are the study tools I am planning on using:

John MacArthur Study Guide - I have been listening to John MacArthur sermons for years, and I really respect and generally trust his interpretation of Scripture.  I like his study guides because he includes the complete scripture passages with commentary on the key words and phrases, plus questions for reflection.

The Mounce-Reverse Interlinear translation on Bible Gateway - I did a little search on "hermeneutics" (which basically means interpretation of Scripture), and I realized that Bible Gateway has a version of the new testament that allows you to see what each word of a passage is in the original Greek - and if you click on the words it gives you a definition, plus other places where the word is used!  It's pretty spiffy, and as someone who does NOT know biblical greek, I'm kind of excited to get my feet wet with this tool.

My good 'ole NKJV Bible - I've had it for years.  

Notecards - I have decided that I don't just want to study Hebrews - I want to commit as much of it to memory as I can.  I have been reading "His Word In My Heart" by Janet Pope, and it has really been inspiring me to memorize more Scripture, and part of my process is writing out my verses on cards - so there you go.

I'm excited to start this study!  Like I said, I have been in the habit of reading the Bible daily for years, but this is probably the first time I have chosen one book and really studied it in depth on my own.  I'm going to try to do a post every week or two about what I'm learning, so stay tuned!

Have any of you ever studied Hebrews?  Any resources you have used (I know She Reads Truth just did Hebrews, so I might look at that too)?  What resources do you use for personal Bible study?

Remembered, Redeemed, Refined

One of my favorite blogs to read is Kerrie's blog, Life On A Mission.  Periodically she hosts a link-up called "Hello, my name is ______".  The point of the linkup is to recognize some of the lies that Satan has been telling us, and to remember what the truth is - what our "new name" is in Christ.

She hosted the linkup again last week, and I sat there thinking for a little while about "names" that have come to mind lately that are really lies.  And this might sound melodramatic, but a couple words came to mind.

Forgotten.  Punished.

Things have not been running smoothly around here lately.  Derek is traveling again, and I am truly so over it.  It's hard.  It's hard to have him gone.  I feel lonely, I feel overwhelmed, I feel tired.  And that does sound melodramatic unless you have a husband who travels a lot - and then you understand.

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I give major props to military wives or single moms - because I only have to do it by myself during the week, a few months at a time.  I think it would be ten times harder to have to run a household completely alone for a year+, or indefinitely (and some moms have to work full-time too!).

Anyway, the bottom line is that it's just hard.  Not as difficult as a lot of trials other people have to walk through, but hard for me none the less.

Then our car broke down the other day, which seems minor (and really, it is), but this is the fourth major car issue we've had over the last six months. We've already got quite a bill we're working on from our previous car issues, and then this is adding to it.

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 So the other day I found myself wondering when we're going to catch up?  When things are going to start getting easier?  How much longer can I do this?  And it crossed my mind that maybe God has (1) forgotten about my requests here, or (2) that maybe I'm doing something wrong and He's letting all these frustrating things continue in order to punish me.

But you know what? Those are both lies.

God has not forgotten about me.  He loves me more than I can understand.  He knows of my frustrations, my loneliness, my weariness.  And He cares.  He hasn't forgotten about my requests.




He's not punishing me.   Are there areas where I need to search my heart, maybe correct my course a bit?  Of course.  But these bad things that happen aren't God saying "First you straighten up here, and then I'll take away that painful stuff".  That's not how He works.  I've already been forgiven for all my failings.  Jesus already took all that punishment for me on the cross. 

I do think that God works in us through the bad things in life.  I think He allows certain things to happen or continue.  It's not to punish us, or to get us to "shape up".  God is working through all our difficulties to shape us - to teach us how to be more like Him.  There are things we would never learn without the hard stuff of life, but God wants us to learn it - and He walks us through the hard times, guiding us and teaching us.

Not because He's angry at us.  Not because He doesn't care about the little things.





Sometimes He allows things because He loves us.  If He just took away all the pain and difficulties in our lives, what would refine us?  Which precious lessons would we never learn? He knows that the best thing that can happen is for us to draw closer to Him, to learn to be more like Him - and that's what trials do.  If we react rightly, they chase us further into His arms.  That is a good thing.  It is the best thing.

So I'm not forgotten.  I'm not being punished.

I am being molded.  I am being taught.

I am remembered.  I have been redeemed.

I am loved.

And because He loves me, He's refining me.

That is the best thing.

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Hello My Name Is


(For the printables of the verses in this post, left click on the images above, then right click to save the full-size versions to your computer.)

Light of Christmas

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"Once the light of Christ shatters your dark, shadows forever flee your shadowlands.  

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There's no going back and living in the dark; you live in the impenetrable, safe Light of light, and Christmas never ends for you.  

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A Christian never stops living Christmas.  True, you cannot light Christmas - because it's Christmas that lights you.

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It's Christmas that dawns on you, and you only really believe in Christmas when you really live it.  When you light a dark world and the unexpected places with a brave flame of joy; when you warm the cold, hopeless places with the daring joy that God is with us, God is for us. . .

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When you are a wick to light hope in the dark - then you believe in Christmas."

-Excerpt From "The Greatest Gift" by Ann Voskamp

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If you know Christ, you truly know Christmas, friends.  So go scatter His joy.  May you, and all those you touch, have a very merry Christmas.

Choking Christmas

Christmas time can be stressful.


It sounds grinchy to say that, but it can be.  I have been running our family Christmas celebrations for the last six years, but this year I am feeling it.  The stress.  Crunch time.  The song "If We Make It Through December" has finally started to make sense.

There is so much to balance, and so much to do at Christmas, some of it fun, some not so much.  Trying to manage the Christmas budget and scrape up enough money for everyone's presents.  Wrapping the presents.  Making the cookies, decorating the house, ordering the Christmas cards.  Addressing and mailing the Christmas cards, going to cookie exchanges, family gatherings.  Watching the Christmas movies, remembering to do advent before kids go to bed, listening to all my Christmas music.  And in the midst of all that, trying to carve out some time to do some fun Christmas activities with my own family.

(Me and my beautiful family at the zoo lights last weekend.  Which was fun, by the way.)

But even though I'm up to my neck in "Christmas", I still feel like I'm missing it.

I realized the other day that I'm letting all these Christmas activities choke Christmas.

I am so busy with Christmas festivities that I don't take time to sit down and think about it.  Christmas is not about everything I mentioned above.  Those things aren't bad, and most are lots of fun, but that doesn't make Christmas.

Christmas is Christ.  And like the innkeeper on the night He was born, I'm letting my busyness squeeze Him out.  

The to-do list is a mile long this week, but I'm going to make some of it wait.  I'm going to slow down and think about Christ, and spend time with Him.  



I think that's what God wants from me most for His birthday.  To make time for Him.  To make Him first.  That's more than just reading a Bible story or going to our Christmas Eve service.  It's waking up early to have my morning coffee with Jesus.  It's talking to Him, and listening, reading His word. It's setting my mind on Him, and His birth, and His life, and the reason He came, instead of letting myself be consumed with all these earthly holiday concerns.

He is what it is all about.  And I don't want to miss Christmas.

Storybook Bibles

 

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Have any of you heard of The Jesus Storybook Bible?  Silly me, I'm sure you've heard of it.  It's the most popular storybook bible in blogland.

And for good reason. A few months after Wyatt was born I bought it for him, and Derek and I started reading it to him for Bible time at night, even though he was too little to understand it.

I loved it!  I love how the author relates each story back to Jesus, and so many of the stories made me want to cry.  There is a lot of biblical truth in this storybook, and as Wyatt got older he loved looking at the colorful illustrations too.

 

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Last year though, something started to bother me, and I wasn't quite sure what it was.  But after a few nights of stories, I figured it out.

The Jesus Storybook does a wonderful job of explaining God's love and Jesus sacrifice, which are so important for little ones to understand.  But I feel like they drop the ball a bit on one thing.

I couldn't find a single story that satisfactorily explained how to be saved.

It's important for children to realize that God loves us.  He loves us enough to die for us.  The book explains that He had to die for us because we have sinned.

But then it just kind of stops.  What do we do from there?  It doesn't really go over that we need to believe that Jesus is God, and that He died for our sins and was raised from the dead - and that's critical to being saved.

I think this bothers me because of the "love wins" philosophy that has started to creep into the church.  Yes, God is love.  His love is what drove Him to die for us in the first place.  

But you know what?  God is also holy.  He is also just.  Because of what Jesus did, God's justice was satisfied.  Because of Jesus, God looks at those of us who believe in Him and sees His Son's holiness.  The Bible is very clear that we must confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead in order to be saved.  

You can't be saved by default because "God is love".  Because God is more than that.  And the Bible is very clear that we need to believe in Jesus in order to be saved.  

You can't believe anything you want and still end up going to Heaven.  There is one Way, one Truth, one Life.  His name is Jesus. He is the only key.

I still like The Jesus Storybook Bible, and I will keep it because it's so beautiful, and I still like how each story points back to Jesus. But I also know that I want to be there to read it to Wyatt,  because I need to add my own explanation of how we need to believe in Jesus to be saved.  

It's important for him to understand that.  And I have to admit that I'm a bit disappointed that I have to worry about adding an explanation, because I think something so critical as salvation should have been covered in detail, even in a children's Bible.

I went out and bought another Bible storybook that explains better what we need to do to be saved.  If Wyatt wants to read his Bible storybook by himself as he gets older, I want to make sure he has one that covers that.  Otherwise, what's the point?

 

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Note:  Not saying I don't like The Jesus Storybook Bible"at all, because I do, but I am disappointed that it wasn't more clear on that critical question of "What must we do to be saved?"  

The new Bible I bought for Wyatt is The Beginner's Bible - very straightforward and accurate, with cute pictures too, and I felt it explained things well for young minds.


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Also, I strongly recommend Arch books!  We love them!  They tell individual Bible stories in a poem format, with beautiful illustrations, and they cost about $2.50 each.  Wyatt really likes the "Jesus Blesses The Children" one.  I'm always catching him reading it after his nap.  Check Amazon or your local Christian bookstore.

Chosen

 

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I'm about to get all deep and theological on you, so be prepared.

I've been wanting to write about this subject for some time, because it plays into my testimony, but for some reason I haven't.  Maybe because it seems like such a huge topic.  But I feel like the time has come for me to tackle it on here.

As most of you know, I grew up in a Christian home, and we went to church every Sunday.  I heard so many sermons about what it took to be saved that I could preach one myself probably (which is a good thing, because every Christian should know how to explain how to be saved!).  God paid the penalty for our sins when He gave His son to die on the cross for us.  Salvation is a free gift for us, and we just have accept it.   All we have to do is believe in Jesus and we will be saved.  All true.

 

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But when I was about 16{isn}, something came up which I had never heard before.  We made some friends who were hardcore Calvanists, and they got pretty fired up about predestination.

Just in case you aren't familiar with this topic, there are two camps on this issue - one is the "free will"  camp, which believes that every person has free will and chooses whether they will believe or not - and if they choose not to, they will go to hell because God isn't going to force them to believe in Him.  He wants us to follow and love Him willingly, because love isn't really love if you force someone to love you, so that wouldn't make sense.  This is what I heard mostly when I grew up.

The other camp is the predestination side, which believes that God predestines some people to believe in Him.  Because God is sovereign over everything, that means God is also sovereign over who will choose to believe in Him and who won't.  If He is not in control of everything, including who chooses to believe in Him, then the parts of the Bible that say God is sovereign would be wrong.  And that wouldn't make sense.  

This "predestination" is the new concept that was presented to me when I was 16{isn}.  Just one little theological issue, but it rocked my whole world.  I have never doubted my faith as much as I did then.  All this time I had been believing that all a person had to do was believe in Jesus, and they would be saved (still believe that, just to be clear).  If they wouldn't, they would spend eternity without Jesus.  Cut and dry.  Easy peasy.

 

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But all of a sudden I was presented with all these verses about the sovereignty of God, how God has chosen, predestined, called certain individuals to believe in Him.  And it was complicated, and I was confused - because if God chose, then was He choosing to send some people to hell?  That wasn't the God I knew.  The God I knew was "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance".  

But if it's all up to us to believe to be saved, then that would mean that God isn't in control of everything.  He isn't sovereign.  And that wasn't the God I knew either.  The God I knew was all powerful, sovereign, in control of everything.

I struggled to reconcile the two, and I couldn't.  I cried.  I felt shaken, and I didn't know what to believe anymore.

 

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I have a very wise mother.  She told me at the time that it was okay to doubt.  That every Christian doubts at some point, but we can chose to turn to God with out doubts, or let our doubts turn us away from Him.  She encouraged me to just pray and tell the Lord how I was doubting, and ask Him to make things clear to me.

And I read verses.  So many verses.  Verses regarding our faith to believe in Jesus.  Verses regarding God's sovereignty.  Free will.  Predestination.  And I was confused, because I saw the two concepts both presented in the Bible, yet I didn't see how they could work together.

 

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I remember especially one verse in the Bible where it says that God chose to love Jacob and hate Esau.  And I remember praying over that verse, asking God why, because it didn't seem very fair to me.  But there it was in ink, in my Bible.  And I was struggling.

And somehow, in the midst of these struggles, I feel like God opened my eyes, and spoke to my heart.  Because what it boiled down to was whether I really believed that God was good.  

 

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I realized that I did - no matter what, I did believe that God was good, and that what He did was always right.  I cried and told God that I believed that He was good, and that His Word was true, even if nothing made sense.

And in the moment when I accepted that, I think my faith deepened, and truly became my own in a deeper way.  Because in that moment when I didn't understand, I chose to hold fast to the fact that the God I served was a good God, and even if I didn't understand Him sometimes, I could trust in that.

After this realization, I felt like the issue cleared up for me.  Both concepts were in the Bible.  I didn't understand how they could work together, but they were both in there, and I trusted that God's Word was true - so somehow they must work together.  

My mom told me something that someone had told her, and it was like a light dawned.  Why can't God know something that we can't?  And I realized that of course He can!  If I knew everything God knew, then God would be too small.  And I don't serve a small God.  

 

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Of course He can know something I don't know, and I came to realize that this was one of those things.  The mind of God is so much greater and higher than our minds - so even if I don't see a way that both sides of the predestination issue can work together, God can.  And I can't, because I'm not God.  I don't have to know everything He knows, and my tiny, three dimensional brain probably couldn't handle it anyway.

I learned to be okay with the not knowing.  Because even though I might not know all the answers on the predestination debate, I know what kind of God I serve.  I know Him.  

In the midst of that struggle, I feel like I also received a gift.  Because while I do believe both must work together, I've also come to see the beauty in a truth I hadn't really thought about before - that God chose me.  And it's a blessing to my heart - to be chosen by a God like that.  

When I get to heaven I might ask God to explain this whole thing to me.  Because I still don't get it, and I don't think I ever will unless God Himself explains it to me.  

But until then, I know that however it works, He is good and His Word is true.  And that's enough for me.

 

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Linking up with Kerrie.

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