For more than 20 years I have participated in Precept Bible studies. I started with the women of Faith Community Church, and have continued for many years with women at Village Church of Barrington. We meet every Tuesday morning, September through May. We have become friends through our time together, reading the Bible and discussing it, sharing prayer requests.
Currently we are studying the three covenants that God made: with Abraham, with Moses (Israel), and the New Covenant. Today our topic was the covenant with Moses (Israel) or the law. After God rescued the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt, he made a covenant with them and gave them the Ten Commandments. (Exodus 19 & 20)
No one is able to keep the law. We all fall short. The purpose of the Law was to show them (and us) our sin and need for a Savior.
For by the works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes the knowledge of sin. Romans 3:20
After the Ten Commandments were given on tablets of stone, Moses was given very specific instructions for a tabernacle. (Exodus, chapters 25 – 31) The tabernacle was a sanctuary for God. It was also designed to point to Jesus.
For the law was given by Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1: 17
When my husband and I toured Israel we visited a model of the tabernacle, built to the specifications in the Bible. Here we are in the outer court.
Just inside the gate (entering the outer court of the tabernacle) is an altar. The altar is for sacrifice and symbolizes the sacrifice that Jesus became for us as he offered himself on the cross in payment for our sins.
Beyond the altar is a bonze basin for washing. The basin symbolizes the cleansing we receive by the Word of God.
Inside the tent the first room, called the Holy Place, contains a table with bread (Jesus, the bread of Life), a lampstand (Jesus is the light of the world) and an altar of incense (Jesus continually intercedes in prayer for believers).
A thick veil stands before the inner room that holds the Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat. The Ark contains symbols of God’s faithfulness: Aaron’s rod that budded, manna and the tablets of stone. The mercy seat is the throne of God.
Behind the second curtain was a second section called the Most Holy Place, having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant. Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Hebrews 9: 3-5
The veil enclosing this room was torn when Jesus was crucified giving us access to God. We can approach God with our prayers.
God has reached out to us and has told his plan of salvation through his word. He has given us symbols that illustrate his plan. The Old Testament of the Bible points to the New Testament. The longer I study the Bible, the more I see God’s love.
After our discussion we have coffee and treats. Today I made an apricot bread to share. It was enjoyed–here is the recipe:
1 + ¼ C. dried apricots
½ cup reserved water (from simmering apricots)
½ cup honey
¼ cup coconut oil (melted)
2 large eggs
½ tsp. baking soda
2 + ¾ C. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup coconut (I prefer unsweetened)
Preheat oven to 350°. Butter and flour a 9” x 5” x 3” loaf pan.
Place the apricots in a small saucepan and cover with water. Bring the water to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Let them stand in the hot water for an additional 20 minutes and then drain off the water, reserving ½ cup. Chop the apricots.
Add the reserved water, melted coconut oil, honey and eggs to a large bowl. Mix well with a whisk. Then add the apricots and baking soda. Mix. Add flour, baking powder, salt and coconut. Mix well. The batter will be thick (biscuit dough consistency). If it is too dry, add a tablespoon of water at a time.
Spread batter into the prepared pan. Bake at 350° for 45 to 50 minutes. The bread should be golden brown and when a knife or toothpick is inserted, it should come out clean. Cool on a rack; then turn out of the pan and slice.
In late April of 2012 we visited Windmill Island Gardens in Holland Michigan. The park wasn’t due to open quite yet, but the tulips were early and we were fortunate to see the gardens in full bloom.
Tulips have so many varied colors. It it a tribute to the Creator of all flowers.
The news and politics can weigh heavy on my mind, but God makes rest and joy available in nature. I have some tulips blooming in my yard– and happy memories of Windmill Island.
When I go out to the garden the noise and rush of the world comes to a pause. Now the peony stems and buds are poking through the soil. The lilacs are beginning to bloom and I see the promise of berries on bushes and strawberry plants.
The poem by Winifred Mary Letts (1882 – 1972) makes me smile.
That God once loved a garden we learn in Holy Writ. And seeing gardens in the Spring I well can credit it.
It is easier follow the guidance given in Philippians while working in the garden.
Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8
Can you imagine what it was like for Adam and Eve to talk with God in the first garden?
Today is the 27th anniversary of my son’s passing away and entering eternity. Last year I wrote the illness and faith of our little boy. You can read about Steven here.
God has healed the wound in my heart, but it took time. Only when I was far enough from my initial grief, could I look back and see the hand of God guiding and supporting our family.
Steven was loved. He knew that God loved him.
The Psalms convey both the pain of suffering and the confidence in God’s love.
He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and a buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day,
Nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at the noonday. Psalm 91:4-6
I must confess that in the last days of Steven’s life I felt like I was on the edge of a cliff, about to plunge into darkness. I wasn’t sure of my faith. But I never stopped praying. I poured out my pain before God. The Psalms provided an example for me to follow.
Christian friends stood by us, offering their faith and prayers. Over time I was able to see the places where God had been present with us. I believe that I will see Steven again, as the Bible promises.
If you are going through a stiff trial, don’t be afraid to pour out doubts and fears in prayer. God hears and He is faithful. Let others pray for you also. Trust that as you walk forward you will see evidence of God’s hand on your life.
Recently I completed reading books about two women that demonstrated different kinds of passion. I have read the Autobiography of Margaret Sanger, followed by A Passion for the Impossible: The Life of Lilias Trotter. The lives of these two women had some similarities and some great contrasts.
Both women came from large families, though Lilias Trotter (1853–1928) had more nurture and resources as a child, growing up in England. Margaret Sanger was born in New York and lived her later years in Arizona (1879–1966). Each eventually became involved with social causes.
Lilias attended Christian conferences, taught a Bible Class at the Welbeck Street Institue (which offered a hostel for young women), and opened her own home to provide social hours for working women.
Margaret Sanger was one of eleven children and when her mother died at the age of 48 she had to take on many responsibilities. Eventually she left home, went through nurses’ training and did home visits for maternity care. She saw difficult situations that poor women faced.
As Lilia continued her outreach to young women she was also developing her skill as an artist. She was invited to spend time polishing her gift under the guidance of John Ruskin.
Margaret left nursing, married Bill Sanger, an architect and artist. The couple faced challenges—Margaret’s treatment for tuberculosis, the loss of a home to fire. They had three children. When they settled in an apartment they became involved with radical groups. Margaret writes “Our living room became a gathering place where liberals, anarchists, Socialists and I.W.W.’s could meet.”*
Lilias’ passion was to bring the message of the gospel to people by living with them and loving them. Although she was a gifted artist, encouraged by John Ruskin to devote herself to art, she chose to establish a mission in Algiers.
Margaret’s passion was to relieve the suffering of poor women by making birth control available. She left her husband and young children to travel the world, researching the topic of overpopulation. As she pursued contraception she joined forces with people promoting eugenics.
The difference that I see in these two women is this. One was devoted to prayer and loving service; the other was out to solve human problems through her own intellect and effort.
As I consider the initial goal that Margaret Sanger had, I am saddened. Did she improve the status of poor women? Our culture has become dependent on contraceptives. Are marriages more stable? Are women better off?
What was the impact of Lilias Trotter’s work? She wrote about legacy in a book, Parables of the Cross. “The results need not end with our earthly days. Should Jesus tarry our works will follow us . . . God may use, by reason of the wonderful solidarity of His Church, the things that He has wrought in us, for the blessing of souls unknown to us.”**
Here is the link to an interesting article about the focus in Lilias’ life (written by the author of the biography).
*The Autobiography of Margaret Sanger, Dover Publications, Inc. : Mineola, New York. 1971. p. 70
**Miriam Huffman Rockness, A Passion for the Impossible: The Life of Lilias Trotter, Discovery House Publishers: Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2003. p. 325.
After a week of traveling to attend to extended family needs, it is good to be back home. This morning I participated in Bible study with dear friends at my church. In the afternoon my husband and I went to see God’s Not Dead 2.
Can a teacher mention Jesus in a public school class? The film shows a court case involving religious freedom. Although similar cases have occurred in the U.S., this story is fiction. I enjoyed seeing Lee Strobel, Fred Thompson and Mike Huckabee make appearances in the movie.
Two points made by the movie have stayed with me.
Prayer was a key element in the story.
The teacher prayed, her grandfather prayed and large groups of people prayed throughout the trial.
The community—not just the individual—was involved.
Many Christians, in different places, played a role in supporting the teacher who was on trial.
I know that there are times in my life when I have been so focused on personal issues that I have neglected to see the big picture. Standing firm in faith and supporting other believers is increasingly important.
The gospel of John records Jesus’ instruction for us.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13: 34-35
The early church provides a great example.
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Acts 2: 42
Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. Colossians 4: 2
Prayer: Lord God, we praise you for your great love and sacrifice for us. We give thanks for the examples of faith that we have in the Bible. Guide us when our faith is challenged and increase our love.
The lives of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Lilias Trotter are a great inspiration for me. Both spent much time in prayer. Here are quotes from each.
The morning prayer determines the day.
Squandered time of which we are ashamed, temptations to which we succumb, weakness and lack of courage in work, disorganization and lack of discipline in our thoughts and in our conversation with others, all have their own origin most often in the neglect of morning prayer. Order and distribution of our time become more firm where they originate in prayer. Temptations which accompany the working day will be conquered on the basis of the morning breakthrough to God. Decisions, demanded by work, become easier and simpler where they are made not in the fear of men but only in the sight of God. “Whatever your task, work heartily, as serving the Lord and not men” (Col. 3:23). *
The things that are impossible with men are possible with God. May it not be that the human impossibility is just the very thing that sets His Hand free?–& that it is the things which are possible for us to do that He is in a measure to let alone. **
Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. Ephesians 6: 14-18
This is a practice that I want to embrace. Let me start each day with the Lord!
*Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Psalms: Prayer Book of the Bible, Augsburg Fortress: Minneapolis, MN. 1970
** Miriam Rockness, A Passion for the Impossible: The Life of Lilias Trotter, Discovery House Publishers, Grand Rapids, MI. 2003
Some of the common practices in our culture are worth questioning. As a nurse I like to keep track of health news. I am a firm believer in women learning about their bodies in order to pursue health. I have collected some articles related to women’s health.
Verily magazine published an article, 4 Things Your Period is Telling You About Your Health That You Shouldn’t Ignore. Menstrual periods have negative connotations for us, but they are a part of a rhythm of health. It is good practice to pay attention to signs from the body. Click here to read the article.
A new documentary is being released about the risks and side effects of the pill. The film is produced by Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein and is based on the book, Sweetening the Pill by Holly Grigg-Spall. Late and Epstein also produced the film, The Business of Being Born. To read about the documentary click here.
When I was growing up, the fundamental Finnish Lutheran Church that I attended frowned on birth control—but it wasn’t a topic for discussion. By the time I married, it was assumed at premarital doctor appointments that a young woman would get a prescription for some form of birth control. Birth control has become routine.
When I came across an article by Chelsen Vicari, an Evangelical Protestant, I had to agree with her as she raised questions about birth control. Evangelical Protestants don’t talk about contraception. She states: It was almost as if Protestants were sworn to secrecy when it came to discussions about chemical and hormonal contraception. Is it an issue that we should seek God’s guidance for?
Vicari examines both religious views and the health risks of hormonal contraception. To read the whole article click here.
I am glad that I was able to have open conversations with my daughters. One of my daughters introduced me to the Theology of the Body as taught by Pope John Paul II.
My personal experience with home birth demonstrated to me that many women are able to give birth with a minimum of interventions. The approach to birth is different from the hospital, yet involves safe practices.
The article, 6 Things You Didn’t Know About Home Birth, gives an accurate picture of midwife practice in the home. Click here.
Last weekend I added some apricots to cornmeal muffins. I enjoy creating muffin recipes, a healthy treat for the grandchildren. Muffins are so easy to make. These muffins were moist and tasty–they were a hit on Easter Sunday. Here is the recipe.
First prepare the apricots. Simmer one cup of dried apricots in a cup of water for about 10 minutes to soften them. Then drain the liquid.
Melt ¾ cup of butter and allow it to cool.
Preheat the oven at 375˚ F.
Prepare the muffin tins. (The recipe makes 20 to 24 muffins depending on size.) I like to grease my heavy iron muffin pan. I place the pan in the oven about 5 minutes before I am going to add the batter, preheating the pan.
Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl:
1 + ½ cup yellow corn meal
1 cup gluten free flour (or unbleached flour if no gluten sensitivity)
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
Add the remaining ingredients to a blender:
1 cup softened apricots
¾ cup melted and cooled butter
1 medium carrot, cut into pieces
1 cup rice milk
¼ cup honey
Blend until smooth.
Then add this mixture to the dry ingredients, stirring until combined.
Place about ¼ cup of batter in each muffin cup.
Bake at 375˚ for 22 to 24 minutes. The edges of the muffin will be beginning to brown. Let stand for 5 minutes and then remove muffins and place on a cooling rack.