Monday, September 30, 2013

A Dinner Invitation

What if you opened your mailbox and along with the bills and flyers was an old-fashioned embossed envelope. You pull out a note that says simply, "You are called to the wedding supper of the Lamb."

I got to thinking about this scenario because of the 23rd Psalm. One morning when we recited the poem, my older daughter pointed out something I had never seen before. Although David spends the first half of the Psalm comparing himself to a sheep, he spends the second half comparing himself to a guest.  

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over. 
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Forever.

David pictures himself nearly vanquished in the valley of the shadow of death, his enemies crowded round.  God, however, is at home, in his own house, getting dinner ready. Imagine the astonishment and envy of those enemies. Instead of destroying David, they have to watch while God sets a table for him.  When he comes in, God pours oil over his head in welcome.  When he sits down at the table, his cup is filled to the brim and over by his gracious host.    God doesn't offer David one short meal. Rather David is invited to dwell in the house of the Lord with all its abundant blessings forever.  

I want to be David.  I want to be invited to come to God's house for dinner.  In Matthew 22 Jesus offered just such a dinner invitation.  Once, he said, there was a king who hosted his son's wedding.  He sent out servants to invite the wealthy and the nobles (in Jesus's parable this is representative of either the Jewish ruling class or perhaps the Jews of that day altogether).  Some don't want to come, others snatch up the king's messengers to abuse or even murder them.  After exacting revenge, the disgusted king sends messengers out to beat the bushes, gathering everyone they found to come to the wedding supper (in this case representing both Jew and Gentile, noble and common, "righteous" and unrighteous gathered together into the Kingdom).  Luke with his typical sensitivity towards social justice tells a similar parable where the invited are too busy come so the wealthy landowner calls in the "poor and crippled and blind and lame." (Luke 14:16-24).   

Parables aside, Jesus was once a host himself.  To be fair we more often see him in the position of guest, perhaps because he was homeless.  Nonetheless at his last Passover supper, he stood in the rented room as his disciples' host. In the position of the lowest member of a host's household, he washed the disciples' feet.  At the head of their table, in the place of the host himself, he waited till everyone was reclining and told them this: "I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I shall never again eat it, until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God."  (Luke 22: 15-16).

The New Testament uses this phrase, "The kingdom of God" in a remarkably three-dimensional way.  Jesus sometimes uses it to describe the people following him right then but here he has a future fulfillment in view (Mark 1:15, John 4:23). To understand we have to consider the two related meanings of the phrase.  

Sometimes the Kingdom of God represents the living church.  We are now citizens of that great kingdom (Revelation 1:6).  So in communion we gather again at the table and receive from our host.  This time we pray, and the bread we receive is not from his hand but from his body, the wine not from his cup but from his side.  When we are there we are communing with him: guests at the fulfilled Passover once again hosted by the Savior (1 Corinthians 11).

Finally in the last incarnation of the Kingdom of God the resurrected saints will live eternally as the subjects of the King of all Kings.   The Passover is fulfilled most perfectly in the wedding supper of the Lamb.  John pictures it beautifully in Revelation 19:7-9. 

Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready. And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, "Write: 'Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!' " And he said to me, "These are the true sayings of God."

The King, who once called all those lame, poor, unrighteous, unworthy people to come to his son's wedding, is calling still.  On that final day, when the church comes in all her glory arrayed as bride, we will be called to dinner.  We'll sit at God's table, to the admiration and envy of every person who hated his name.  He'll fill our cup again and again.  We'll rejoice and give Him glory dressed in the good we've done in the world. And we'll be blessed to be guests of God. 
Helene
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Who Does She Think She Is?

Constructive criticism.  Advice. Reproof. Correction.  Instruction.  We have a lot of words, both Biblical and secular, to describe this process of correcting an erring sister. Yet despite all the language surrounding the issue, I wonder how much of it is actually going on?  Of course, if reproof is being done correctly, I would never know if someone else has been corrected because it would be private (Matthew 18:15).  Yet no one outside of my husband has ever taken me aside to reprove me, and I'm positive I've needed it through the years.  I'm inclined to believe that this kind of loving, patient correction has become rare in the church.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

S-21

S-21 is the prison where Pol Pot had thousands of political dissidents, ethnic and religious minorities, and ordinary innocents interrogated and tortured.  I walked through it on a recent visit to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia.  

Literally sick to my stomach, I sank onto a bench outside the museum and tried to pray. The victim's pain was stunning.  Even more nauseating was a question lingering in my mind. How did this happen?  I've read biographies that tried to explain how men become tyrants, dictators and mass murders, but that's not what was bothering me. Rather it was this: How do ordinary men become professional torturers and executioners? In one upstairs galley I read the profiles of the wardens and the prisoners - nearly identical.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Walking Back to God

We can recognize an emergency, right?  We'd never let a situation slide without recognizing the moment of no return. Then comes the moment that the doctor says, "It's colon cancer/ liver cancer/ lung cancer." Or our husband comes home, papers in hand, and says, "I want a divorce."  And we wonder where was the moment?  How many times did we say to ourselves, "I should eat/drink/smoke less." or "I ought to work harder on my marriage"? 

Have you ever thought, "I used to be closer to God." I have. Even worse there have been times that I have let that thought play over in my mind for weeks, even months and done nothing to regain the lost ground.  

This is an emergency. I don't want you to look up and say, "Wait?!  How did I get here? I did not mean to leave God behind!  How did sin push me into this mess?"  If you've had the nagging thought, "I wish I was closer to God again," today's the day!

Friday, September 20, 2013

What Motivates Mom?


I bought an app a while back called "Motivated Moms." It's a program that takes all the chores in my house, from daily chores like dishes to less frequent ones like cleaning light fixtures, and assigns them to specific days.  Each day when I get up, I have a chore list. It's set up in such a way that if I keep up with the daily chores for a few weeks, I'll be able to keep my house maintained with less effort, so I can focus on more important things. 5.99 is expensive for an app, but it was worth it to me.  

There is one thing the app won't do, though.  It doesn't make me want to do the work.  It certainly gives me an organized way to keep the house clean, but as far as I know, there is no app to cure laziness.  

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Contentment: A Guest Post

We've been enjoying highlighting some amazing sisters who are different from us: older, wiser, more experienced (Dene and Netagene).  Today though we wanted to share our space with an equally amazing sister who is like us in more ways than we can count.  Let's see...she's a young mom; she's got this adorable little girl; she's beautiful inside and out and lives in the lovely land of Australia...no wait...maybe not so similar.  Please after you read this lovely piece all about being content, skip over to her blog and enjoy more of the adventures, of Velle, Tony and Arddun.

I have not been enjoying my holiday.

This sounds dreadfully posh and ungrateful once you realise that I am typing this while intermittently nursing a cold Coke Zero and drinking in the splendiferous view that only a five-star resort in Fiji could conjure. It is postcard-perfect here. From where I am lounging, there is nothing between me and the ocean except a thin glass balustrade. Coconut trees strategically dotted along the coastline by wise hotel developers in times past now sway lazily behind me in the breeze. It looks and appears ridiculously idyllic here.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Bible Talk

My nerdliness is firmly established, so I don't mind admitting that I'm a talk radio fan. I listen to it whenever I'm in the car to keep my mind engaged. Lately, though, I've been noticing a trend of being mildly depressed and anxious after hearing too much talk radio. It's no wonder.  Talk hosts are masters of sensationalism.  It's how they make their living.

One day, when I was tired of hearing about how common core will be the death of education, I started flipping stations (carefully, with my eyes on the road).  On the lower band, where I often hear fuzzy sounding gospel music or screaming preachers (no offense to any screaming preachers out there; it just isn't my style), I instead found a scholarly sounding man giving an excellent exegesis of a prayer of Daniel, including some fantastic application. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

How to Have a Fantastic Ladies' Bible Class

I love ladies' Bible class.  I have been a member or a teacher of a class ever since I was an adult.  I think amazing things happen there.  I have seen women drawn to Christ simply by the fellowship.  I have seen marriages turned around as sisters gathered together to learn how to love their husbands (Titus 2:4).  I have cried, prayed, been convicted and been gathered in when I was altogether lost by wonderful women of God. 

Not only that, but I feel that these "Ladies' Bible classes" are an application of Paul's words in Titus 2.  Women are commanded to teach each other-older to the younger.  It's how we learn how to do what we should like love our kids and our husbands, keep our houses to the glory of God, and be kind, sensible and good.  

So this week, I am drawing on more than a decade of teaching and enjoying ladies' Bible classes to offer you some dos and don'ts on how to have a great class. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

7 Tips for Helping Kids Memorize Scripture

Back when we spent a month discussing spiritual disciplines on the blog, Helene had an excellent post about memorization.  At the time, I had not done very many memory verses with my children, partly because I just didn't think of it, and partly because I thought it would be too hard to do since they couldn't read yet. Well, as iron sharpens iron, Helene spurred me on to be more proactive in my childrens' Biblical education.  Do you know what I found out?  It isn't that hard.  Once again, I'm going to share tips for what worked for us, and I'd love for you to share with me what has worked for you!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The New Inductive Study Bible

We've said it before; Bible study is hard.  I was a good student in school, but nothing I did there really compares because there is no other book like the Bible.  Written over a period of 1500 years by 40 different men, each book is unique.  Yet the Bible is also a unified story of the redemption of mankind.  The Bible is steeped in ancient eastern culture, yet it is totally relevant to us today.  God wrote it.  It is spectacular.  And we can't always use simple reading or memorization of facts to really dig deeply into the word! 

I've mentioned before that I am always looking for Bible study tools that will allow me to study the Bible using the Bible.  I don't always want to know what the celebrated commentary says about the Scripture, although commentaries can be helpful at times.  I want the Bible to speak for itself.  In my search, I have found a great study Bible.  

The New Inductive Study Bible is a Bible that has a study method included within its covers.    Along with the text of the Bible, this study Bible helps walk you through the Inductive study method. At its core, this method entails three different skills: observation, interpretation, and application.  Observation asks: What does the passage say?  Interpretation asks: What does the passage mean? Application asks: What does it mean to me personally?

By far the biggest step is observation. This is where the Inductive Study Bible really shines. For each book of the Bible, there are instructions for the student to follow to help her really know what the text says.  Most of these directions involve marking directly in the Bible with colored pencils.  For example, the directions for every book of the Bible I've studied so far had me color each reference to the author one color and the recipient another color.  Each book also has a list of key words.  As the student, I can choose how I want the key word to be marked.  These markings helped me to find key words when I was given the instruction to make lists.   Another benefit to marking key words like this is that I had to read the book (or at least skim it), several times, once for each key word, in order to mark them all.  Multiple readings really help the book to "sink in."  

A page from my BibleAnother part of the "observation" step is to develop themes for each chapter.  It's kind of like putting your own headings on each chapter, letting the text do the speaking.  This is another place that the key words really help, as well as the lists.  These themes are also recorded at the end of each book in the "at a glance" section.  This section is a place where you fill in not only the themes, but the author, date, and purpose of the book.  None of the information (besides perhaps author and date) is given.  The student uses the study tools mentioned here, as well as some others, to find them for herself.  

Completing the "observation" step of Bible study requires multiple readings of the text and a good understanding the context.  With such a good background, the second step, "interpretation,"  becomes easier.  The Study Bible gives some basic principles like: remembering the context, looking for a single meaning for the passage, and seeking the full counsel of the Word of God when trying to interpret a passage. The instructions for each book also have some questions that will gently guide the student in interpretation.  For example, in Ephesians, the directions include comparing Ephesians 6:10-20 and Ephesians 1:18-23 and noting what the references to "powers" and "rulers" tells you about the importance of spiritual warfare.  

Most of the "application" step of the Bible study for the book is contained in the "things to think about"  section of the instructions for each book.  The book of Philippians has this question: "What have you learned about your own needs and sharing with others in need?"  But by the time I get to that part of the study, I have read the passage many, many times, and I've spend a lot of time in prayer. God's Word is very powerful.  With that much study of a portion of it, God usually has an application ready for me that I don't need help to find.  So far, I've only used the study Bible for a few New Testament books; the application for some of the Old Testament books can be harder to see.  In flipping through, I found this question for the book of Joshua: "Do you consult with the Lord and His Word and then walk in obedience to what He says?" Ouch.

I have really found the New Inductive Study Bible to be a useful tool in teaching me how to study the Bible.  Instead of staring at a page of Ephesians, or reading it with no clear idea of how to study it, I have a set of tasks in front of me.  Each task, from marking key words to finding the theme of a chapter, helps me to understand the book a bit better without having to guess at what it really means. It is a long process, but it is worth it.  
Melissa
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Principles of Prophecy 2

Welcome back!  If you missed yesterday's post on understanding the principles of prophecy, you'll want to go back  and catch up before you keep reading. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Principles of Prophecy

As a Bible class teacher one of my primary roles has been in instructing young Christians.  They are often very new to the Bible, entranced with Jesus (me too!), and easily upset by various media spewings about God.  The controversy surrounding things like Dan Brown's novels or the movie 2012 confuses the kids I love. 

I am afraid however that very often even mature Christians find prophecy difficult.  It's full of images that are frightening like Ezekiel's field of dead bones or bizarre like his mobile throne made of angels.  (Ezekiel 37, Ezekiel 1) It's full of tough pieces of history like Daniel's list of the kings who followed Alexander the Great (Daniel 11- see this link for a clear historical lay out of the prophecy's fulfillment).  Worst of all prophecy is one of things most likely to spark argument among believers.  It's no wonder we avoid it. 

Yet I think a few simple principles taught to me over the years (Thanks Dr. Fortner!) make understanding books of prophecy much easier.  Add to that some resources for filling in the details we don't know, and I'll bet you'll be excitedly digging into the Old Testament by the end of the week. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

There's No Wrong Way

There's no wrong way to eat a Reese's.  Do you remember those old commercials?  I especially liked the one where the vampire sucks out all the peanut butter!  Although there could conceivably be a wrong way to eat a Reese's (an IV drip of chocolate and peanut butter comes to mind), the point is that I can eat a peanut butter cup in many different ways and still be doing it right.  

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Holy Parenting: A Book Review



I was talking with a pregnant friend.  A godly young woman, she relayed a conversation that she had had with a mutual friend: "She says that after she was a mom everything changed.  She didn't get to hear a lesson for months; she didn't have time to spend closeted in prayer like before; she didn't even have the time for Bible study.  She said her spiritual life really suffered."  I know she wanted me to smile and deny the truth of it.  But I couldn't do it.  

What I am going to do instead is recommend a book to her.  This summer I downloaded Holy Parenting, by Benjamin Kerns, for free, and I devoured it in a single afternoon. (I downloaded it based on the recommendation from the Deputy Headmistress at The Common Room Blog.  She's got a regular free book feature often including books about faith, childrearing, Christian fiction, clean mysteries etc).

Monday, September 2, 2013

Diaper Cakes, Flowers, and Little Kids

Everybody has their "thing."  Let me tell you three things that are not mine.  

Diaper Cake (2009)
1. Diaper Cakes: a beautiful idea but entirely outside of my abilities
2. Flowers: plastic or real put a flower in my vicinity and it will die
3. Little kids: love mine, like yours, as a teacher though I am hopeless!

So if you start to read about teaching, studying, reading and growing this month and think to yourself, 'That is not my thing!" I understand. However, I have helped a friend make a diaper cake; I have planted marigolds with my then three year old and I have taught more than one Wednesday night class for kiddos.  Sometimes we HAVE to do things that are not "our thing."