In A.D. 64 the apostle Paul was in prison in Rome. The Emperor Nero was persecuting Christians and Paul was facing execution.
It is hard to imagine being in these circumstances. What would I do?
Paul wrote a letter to Timothy whom he loved like a son. He gave instructions for going forward in faith. Paul believed that life went beyond physical life on earth.
Paul once wrote to the church at Corinth: So we are of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 2 Corinthians 5:6-8
Throughout the letter to Timothy Paul anchors his instructions in the scriptures. Paul has completed his role and is passing the torch of faith to Timothy.
Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 MSG
This is a wonderful reason to spend time studying God’s word.
The women in our Bible study group were amazed (and amused) by the account of men being circumcised after they crossed the Jordan River and before taking possession of the promised land. We are studying the book of Joshua.
God instructed Joshua to circumcise all the men that had not been circumcised while they wandered in the desert. Before beginning battle they were to be consecrated and reminded of the covenant God made with Abraham.
What is the relationship between obedience and success? The book of Josua gives some perspective.
Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night . . . Joshua 1: 7-8a
These verses remind me how important it is to know the Word of God. We are blessed to have the Bible available to us in so many ways—online, in book form, audible readings on CD. It is an encouragement to meet with other believers to study the Bible.
In our Bible study group we acknowledged that we don’t always understand God’s ways. And His interpretation of success or His timing might be different than ours. Yet God’s desire for us is good and best.
I usually think about the prompt over night and then write in the morning. In bed I mused about all the ways I have made measurements.
As a mom I measured the height and weight of my children as they grew, the ingredients in recipes. I counted the candles on birthday cakes.
As a nurse I measured many things: the medications for each patient, the rate of intravenous fluid, urinary output, the cervical dilation of a woman in labor.
The Bible gives us many measurements: the length, the breadth and the height of the ark, the dimensions of the tabernacle, the number of men (20 years old or more) in each tribe of Israel when they entered the promised land.
Measurements inform us and provide order. They can guide our actions.
But the Bible tells us that some things are beyond measure.
He [God] does not deal with us according to ur sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. Psalm 103: 10-12
The wonderful news is that God’s love and grace are beyond measure.
In celebration of Valentine’s Day I have made a list of verses. The Bible has much to say about love.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. Deuteronomy 6:5
For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you. Psalm 86:5
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
Jesus said, As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Abide in my love. John 15:9
Paul wrote: For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with with Christ–by grace you have been saved. Ephesians 2: 4-5
In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. . . . Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4: 9, 11
We long for love. The deepest and most fulfilling love comes from God. He offers it to us. We simply must receive it.
Sometimes I listen to the radio when I am in the car. At other times I prefer silence. One day I was listening to WMBI and heard an interview with Kelli Worrall. The topic of discussion was her book, Pierced and Embraced.
The discussion piqued my interest and I jotted down the title when I reached my destination. I ordered the book.
Kelli Worral included stories from her own family as she wrote about seven encounters that Jesus had with women. In a detailed account she has shown the compassion and respect that Jesus had for women (and still has), as recorded in the gospels.
The seven/eight women included in the book are: Mary, mother of Jesus; the woman at the well; the woman with the hemorrhage; the woman caught in adultery; Mary and Martha; the woman with the alabaster jar; Mary Magdalene.
Although the book is organized in seven chapters with discussion questions at the end of each chapter and could be studied over a period of weeks, I read it in one week.
Each chapter had insights for me. In the chapter about the woman with the issue of blood, Worrall discusses wounds—or gaps in the way we were mothered. This history of our childhood and transition to adulthood can affect our adult life, where we try to exert control over our fears and desires.
This resonated with me, because I have attempted to control areas of my life. More on this tomorrow.
NOTE: The bull on the cover refers to a story by Flannery O’Connor, a story symbolizing grace. Kelli Worral explains the shocking symbolism in the beginning of the book.
It seems right to start my series for the #Write28Days with two women from the Bible. The first two chapters of Luke tells us about Mary and Elizabeth. They are wonderful examples for us in three ways.
Both women knew the old testament scriptures and the prophecies. Even though it seemed like God was silent for 400 years (the time period between the Old Testament and the New Testament) they were waiting in expectation of the Messiah.
Mary responds to the message that she is pregnant by the Holy Spirit with a song. Here is a portion of the Magnificat.
My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior . . . He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever. Luke 1: 46-47, 54-55
May we read God’s word and wait in expectation for Jesus’ return!
Mary and Elizabeth were an encouragement to each other. They were surprised by their pregnancies and they were able to support each other.
In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. Luke 1: 39-40
If I could time travel I would like to go there and see the friendship and faith of these two women during the three months they spent together.
As Christian women, may we be an encouragement to each other.
That [our]hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Colossians 2: 2-3 ESV
Both Mary and Elizabeth praised God. They were in situations that could be frightening but they praised God.
May we always be quick to recognize God’s touch on our lives, acknowledge him and praise him.
I give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds, I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most high. Psalm 9:1-2
Our deepest need is to be loved. The Bible testifies of God’s love for us. God’s amazing love!
It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praise to your name, O most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night. Psalm 92:1-2
Jesus explained God’s plan of salvation to Nicodemus. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
Jesus said to his disciples, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Abide in my love.” John 15:9
Paul states the enormity of God’s love. “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
We are called to love God and obey his precepts.
Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, to love the Lord your God, and to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments and to cling to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul. Joshua 22:5
Jesus taught the two greatest commandments. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: you shall love your neighbor as your self. Mark 12;30-31
I have been musing on these verses. What does it look like to live out the two greatest commandments? I know that I often fall short. God knows our human frailty. That is why Christ died for us. When we stumble, we confess and we learn and we go on.
The traffic on the expressway was light and I was enjoying the book on tape. Suddenly a road sign for a town that was past my destination appeared. I had missed my exit. I had to keep driving until another exit came up. Then I pulled over to a small shopping center to figure out where I was.
My husband has reminded me many times that my i-phone has a map application. So I pulled out my phone and typed in the address of my destination. I had two choices: turn around and back track on the expressway or reduce the mileage by taking county roads. I chose the county roads.
The scenery was nicer than the expressway. The road wound through farm country and trees that made an archway across the two-lane road. I became anxious when the weather changed. Dark clouds rolled across the sky and a sudden down pour obscured my vision.
I had to check the map periodically. I am directionally challenged and can easily turn left when I should turn right or vice versa. So I went along with periodic pauses, pulling over when it was safe to verify my route. I breathed a sigh of relief when I began to recognize the street signs. I was so glad to reach my sister’s house safely.
Isn’t this like the believer’s life? Events in life can take us to a confusing place. We don’t know what is true or how to respond. We feel like God is far away. We need to take out God’s word and spend some time in prayer. We need direction from the Lord. The Psalmist expresses this for us.
Give me your lantern and compass, give me a map, So I can find my way to the sacred mountain, To the place of your presence, To enter the place of worship, meet my exuberant God, Sing my thanks with a harp, magnificent God, my God.
Psalm 43: 3-4 The Message
Send out you light and your truth, let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and your dwelling! Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, And I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God.
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.
As Thanksgiving approaches, I am aware of so many things to be thankful for—family, church, blogging community and home.
On Thanksgiving my husband and I will have one of our daughters and her family, our son and his wife, at our home. I have ideas for activities for the grandchildren and a couple new recipes from fellow bloggers. I am looking forward to this day of celebration.
We will read some Bible verses together.
I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.
I will be glad and exalt in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High. Psalm 9: 1-2
God’s greatest gift to us is the offer of salvation.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved. Ephesians 2: 4-5
In the midst of preparations for Thanksgiving, I am aware of difficulties among extended family and suffering that is happening in many places around the world. Perhaps you see things that prick your heart.
Praise and gratitude is mixed with questions and doubt.
The Psalmist was able to give praise and thanks in one moment. And then later wonder how God allowed some things to happen.
Why, O Lord, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? Psalm 10:1
There are no answers except the character of God.
The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. Ecclesiastes 12:13
God is just and righteous.
As I give thanks, I will also pray for mercy and grace, lifting the circumstances beyond my control to the Lord.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4: 4-6