Gutamuma

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What a drive!  Traffic in Ethiopia is an experience that will quickly make you a believer in the sovereignty of God.  Ethiopia has the highest rate of traffic fatalities in the world.   Here’s why:

Traffic

The only thing you can do here is allow God to take care of you as He wishes.  All of us who are visiting are surprisingly at ease on the roads, knowing we have a very experienced driver and trusting that God will see His work done here.

We left our hotel at 7:00am, and arrived at the village sometime around 10.  The drive took us through a few small towns, and then to a back road out into the desert.  The road from the last town was rough and dusty, but the scenery was beautiful.  Gutamuma is a place where people build mud huts with thatched roofs for shelter.  That’s what made this church so amazing when we drove up to it–it’s a cement building!  Strong and safe.

Mud HutsScenery

They farm the land and sell their crops on the road or at an open market, and they don’t have much in the way of possessions.  I imagine there is a lot of bartering that goes on, and the children (every place you go in Ethiopia, not just Gutamuma) have all learned to ask the tourists for money (and candy).

Side note – the most interesting thing we saw today was outdoor foosball tables.  They had 6 of them in the alley where there was a sort of swap meet going on.  We joked that they were playing a tournament for potatoes.

FoosballTight Road

Around the homes and fields they literally build hedges of protection mostly of cactus.  ALL of the people who attend this church have come to Christ from Islam.  The church has bunkers for them to hide in if necessary.  These people are so incredibly sweet and genuine it makes me jealous.  They are content and joyful in their harsh circumstances.  Americans could learn a lot from them.

The church service was beautiful, and the choir was amazing.  I’m sure it was partly because I couldn’t understand the words to the songs, but they just have a different way about them.  There were also these beautiful women who the pastor called the Prayer Warriors of the church who sang a special song.  They all sang beautifully. You’ll have to wait till we get back to hear a song, because with the spotty, slow internet we get here there is no way I can upload an entire song.  It will give you something to look forward to.

Choir Prayer Warriors'

A few of the Americans spoke to dedicate the church, and then we had more praise music.  After that, we went outside to see the rest of the property, and take lots and lots of pictures.  Here are but a few:

Church Inside Outside the churchChildren Baby wearer Haha Transcending CultureLooking at Photos Where's Dinah 2

Randy’s remark at the end of the visit: “If this was all we did, this trip was worth it.”  I completely agree.

Randy and boy

The day ended with lunch at a very large hotel with a seemingly endless restaurant.  We had about 30 people and it wasn’t even difficult to find seats all together.  The food was great, and I still can’t get over how affordable it is.

We finished the drive home, and here I sit and write.  Lunch was so big, we just had some coffee and cookies for dinner.  Shhhh.  Don’t tell anyone.

Coffee-wallpaper TLC

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Three Days to Addis Ababa

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It doesn’t always happen this way, but this trip took 3 days.  Day one was a drive to Phoenix, where we spent the night.  Day two we woke up at 5:00am to go to the airport.  We left Phoenix in the morning and arrived in Washington, DC in the early evening.  We had to spend the night there because there was not a direct connection from DC to Addis.  Dinner was at a local Irish restaurant, and it was really nice.  I ate a Thai salad at an Irish restaurant.  Figure that one out.

The next day was the biggie as far as travel goes.  Up again at 5:00am, except that means 2:00am to us since we live in Arizona. It’s hurry up and wait at the airport since you have to arrive 3 hours early for an international flight.  All our bags were checked and we found our gate and proceeded to hang out for a couple of hours.  Of course, Dinah used this time to scope out a boutique in the airport that sells clothing and accessories for women, designed by women.  She asked the clerk if they would be interested in carrying the earrings that the ladies make at Living Hope, and the clerk said that the owner would most likely be very interested.

The flight from DC to Ethiopia was just under 12 hours. It was both exciting and excruciating at the same time.  The anticipation being great, but the muscles getting very sore from all that sitting.  It was a bit hard to sleep, but we managed, because if we stayed up all night we’d end up being awake for 36 hours.  Not good for the brain.

After touching down in Addis, we went about the business of entering the country.  First we got our visas.  No excitement there, just paperwork and a $20 bill.  Then we went over to the bank, which is conveniently located on the other side of the room, coincidentally next to the line for customs.  We changed our spending money into Birr, and went to get into the customs line.  The exchange rate is over 18 to 1, so we are living on the cheap.

The first day in Ethiopia was full of getting here and there, and mundane activity.  But there was one thing that really stood out—what some folks would call a “God thing.”

We knew we would be hassled by Ethiopian customs officials because of what we were carrying.  Dinah and her other traveling companions had experienced it before, and so had I the last time I visited.  Here’s what normally happens: After you go through the customs line, you proceed to the baggage claim area.  You get your checked bags and then stand in another line.  This line is for an x-ray machine.  Your bags are scanned and then the officials give you the third degree about what’s in the bags.  This happens because we carry multiple copies of many items.  This time we had hundreds of DVD’s to give away with a National Geographic movie about the development of a baby in the womb.  We had cameras, cables, painting supplies, candy, diapers, baby clothes, and the list goes on and on.  So we fully expected to be given a very hard time and maybe even asked to pay tariffs in order to keep our belongings.

There were 5 of us, each having 2 (50 pound) checked bags, and 2 small bags.  Yep, that’s a lot of bags.

Lotta Luggage

Now here’s where it gets really good:

We got close to the x-ray machine and all of a sudden there was a line of 6 or 7 porters who were loaded with bags and wanted to cut in front of us.  The customs inspector came over from his post at the x-ray machine, clearly annoyed with these guys, and looked at Dinah.  He asked her what was in her bags, and she told them, clothes, diapers, etc.  He asked if there were any electronics and she said a camera and a laptop.  He asked a couple more things, and then he waved her through.  He let all of us bypass the x-ray machine and just leave.

This doesn’t happen.

But there had been many people praying for this very thing, and so we call it providence.  We thank Him for it, and praise Him, but truth be told, if all had gone badly, He would still be praised.  He just made things much easier on us on that particular day.

After the airport, we went to Ebise’s home to rest and wait for a traveling companion who was coming from Colorado on a different flight.  She was due to arrive the night before, but weather had delayed her, and so we were to pick her up at 1:00 that day.  We ate, napped, ate some more—Ebise knows how to feed a crowd!  Then it was back to the airport.

We couldn’t find her.

We waited an hour, and finally decided to go on to the home in Adama.  But this would leave her on her own to find a ride, and that would have been pretty hard on her, even though she is a seasoned traveler.  So we were relieved (though tired!) to hear that she had made it to the airport after all, and we circled back to pick her up.

Now, all were safe in the van, and on the way to Living Hope to drop off the bags.  We said a quick hello, had coffee (of course), unpacked some of the bags and left the others for another day.  We headed to our hotel and checked in and completely crashed!

The next day we would go to Gutamuma for a church dedication.

Stay tuned!

Coffee-wallpaper  TLC

Life . . . And Ethiopia

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A while back I started reviewing Name Above All Names, and I really, really (no, really) promise I will get back to it at some point.  Maybe a chapter every few weeks.  Sorry, my life got in the way a little.

But what I really wanted to tell you is that my husband and I are getting ready to travel to Ethiopia, and I will hopefully be blogging our adventure.  Internet can be a tricky thing to find, but I’m pretty sure I can hop onto wifi at our hotel when it’s not being used by all the other guests.  They only have one router with 5 slots, and you have to sit near the front desk.  🙂

So, stay tuned–we leave for our first leg tomorrow.  It will be boring, and not worthy of writing.  We drive to Phoenix, then fly tomorrow morning to Washington DC.  Oh, if only I could stop by the White House and give someone a piece of my mind.  But that’s beside the point.

Signing off for now.

 

Hey!  Did you know Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee?

 

Coffee-wallpaper TLC

 

 

 

The Prophet who was to Come

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The Bible is about one thing, or rather, one Person:  Jesus Christ.  He is not easy to find when one picks up the Bible and begins reading in Genesis, but He’s there.  The Bible is the original inspiration for the ‘twist at then end’ literary device.  Think about it–you watch a movie like The Sixth Sense, and there’s that huge reveal at the end, and then you go back and think about all the things that make sense from the rest of the movie in light of the plot twist at the end.  Until Jesus Christ is revealed as the long expected Messiah, the Old Testament seems like a collection of history books, but when Christ comes on the scene, suddenly it all makes sense!  The offspring that will crush Satan–and now, the Prophet that Moses spoke of.

Jesus was to be the light for revelation to the Gentiles, and everyone knew it.  It would be like … I don’t know what to compare it to, because nothing compares.  A story that everyone knows, only it’s not a story, it’s reality.  Here’s a neat quote from the book:

We see the same thing illustrated in Jesus’ conversation with the unnamed Samaritan woman he met at Jacob’s well. Such an expectation (as Calvin also notes) “had spread even beyond the realms of the faithful, and had infiltrated the minds of the Samaritans.” She knew enough theology to be able to say to Jesus, “When [the Messiah comes], he will tell us all things.” What a fascinating statement from an unlikely source! Here is a Samaritan woman who has already had multiple husbands and now has a live-in lover. She meets this Jewish stranger at the well, and an unexpected conversation begins. It is really remarkable, isn’t it? As Jesus speaks to her, she immediately responds, “I can see that you are a prophet.” And then as the dialogue continues, she seeks, as it were, to put an end to it all by simply telling this stranger this whole thing will get sorted out when the Messiah comes. “Because when he comes—all of this will become absolutely clear.” Little did she expect Jesus’ response: “I who speak to you am he.”

And another:

“O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.   Now, none of the other prophets could say that, could they? Jesus is the embodiment of all that the prophets have previously said. Essentially, Jesus is able to take the Scriptures as they are, open them up, and say: “Do you see? This is a book about me. This whole book is about me!”

And now, we proclaim His Word, so that all may hear.  He is the Word, He is the source, the subject, and the Prophet who proclaimed Himself to us–the ignorant.  And now we share it with others.  But we shouldn’t simply share–one of the points that was brought up in the book is the difference between lecturing and preaching, and it was a quote from John Murray, “preaching is a personal, passionate plea,” that caught the attention of a friend of mine.  We should share Christ in such a way that there is a personal, passionate plea for one to be reconciled to God.  And this is the way we should raise our children.  Our job is not simply to produce good little robots who can perform a certain task or two, and get by in this world.  Our job is to proclaim the gospel to our children throughout the course of their lives, and to plead with them to be reconciled to God until we are sure they are, or we have no breath left in us. And the same should be said of all those we come into contact with.

This is not just for the pulpit and the big public occasion. This is for the grocery store, for the golf course, for the coffee shop. Wherever we tell others about the Lord Jesus, through God’s power and with an awareness that Christ himself is the great prophet of God, we say—in our own words—“I implore you. Be reconciled to God. Receive the reconciliation that he has provided.” And when God begins to work, people say, “I didn’t know about that; tell me more.”

When God begins to work.  Never forget that part.  It’s not you doing the work, it’s God.  Plenty of people will reject the message, and reject God, but there is no guilt on your part for that.  God is completely sovereign in all things.  I know there are a lot of people who find that difficult to believe, but if you search the Scriptures, you will find that it’s the truth.  So we share the gospel with boldness tempered with compassion given to us by Jesus Christ.

And may we never forget to give Him the honor that is due:

As Christ’s ministry now begins to unfold, we see that the designation “prophet” is inadequate to fully express the wonder of all he is and does. That is why we should never think of him as prophet except in the context of his threefold office. His prophetic ministry must never be isolated from his other two offices, as if somehow or another we could view Christ as prophet apart from his also being priest and king.

I cannot wait for chapter three!

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TLC

 

Jesus Christ, The True Prophet

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“Learn much of the Lord Jesus. For every look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ. Let your soul be filled with a sense of the excellence of Christ.”  ~~Robert Murray M’Cheyne

Oh, the things I learned from chapter two.

For starters, on the meaning of Christ – I had been taught that ‘Christ’ means ‘Anointed One’ but had not heard the rest of the story, so to speak.  In the old covenant three offices were anointed for God: the prophet, the priest, and the king.  These titles each contain an inherent judgment on you and me.

“As king, Jesus comes to us to subdue our rebellion.  As priest, he comes in order to deal with sins.  But the reason he comes to us as prophet is to deal with our ignorance.” 

This would be a good time to say in your head, “Thank you, Jesus.”  I don’t know about you, but I think my ignorance of the Word was the largest hurdle I needed to get past.  I knew I was filthy with sin, so was everyone else.  What’s the big deal?  I had no clue of my need for a savior or what that savior had been willing to do for me.  I thought, like most of the rest of humanity, that if I was ‘good enough’ and changed my ways I would be okay.  Whatever okay meant.

Are you using the study guide?  Questions 1 & 2 basically cover what I just said.  Question 2 asks about John 3:18-19, and why we don’t react to our sin with horror.  My answer: since we don’t know we are in need of a savior, evil is our “normal.”  We like it because we don’t know not to until God opens our eyes.  Consider the following verses:

The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention
of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. ~Genesis 6:5 ESV

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds,
there is none who does good. ~Psalm 14:1 ESV

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity;
there is none who does good. ~Psalm 53:1 ESV

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became
futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. ~Romans 1:21 ESV

[18] They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance
that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. ~Ephesians 4:18 ESV

Are you beginning to see a theme?  There is no possible way we can clean ourselves up and come to Christ on our own, because we didn’t even know we had a need for Him.  He had to tell us.

Left to our own devices, we simply make up our own god, one we think sounds nice to us.  The gods we make up are usually pantheistic or panentheistic — we assume nature is sacred, or that we can find God in anything, or that if we just look deeply enough into ourselves, God is there.

WRONG.

 “This is why we need a prophet who is able to dethrone our ignorance.” 

So, if we can’t save ourselves, who can save us?  From the time of Moses, there was talk of another prophet who was to come.  That’s where I’ll pick up next time.

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TLC

What Exactly is Moralism?

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In a previous post, I mentioned moralism, and I gave one resource for your edification.   All of a sudden I’ve had a short stack of these come to my inbox from different sources, and it’s like a theme has developed.  I love it when that happens.  So I am compiling a list of great messages to help us further understand what moralism is exactly, and what happens when moralism is taught, and am sharing them here.  Click each link that is in red below.

This first resource is a video on the Ligonier website by RC Sproul, and to give you a taste, here’s the blurb from the website: “In many American churches, we have replaced the proclamation of Christ and Him crucified with an easy-listening legalism of ‘do more and try harder.’ R.C. Sproul explains the crucial difference between the law and the Gospel and why it is absolutely necessary for Christians to know this difference.”

Good Advice, or Good News? 

The following article appears in Credo Magazine and is written to women by Jessalyn Hutto of Desiring Virtue.  It reminds us as women that we are more than the things we DO.  An excerpt: “It has been my experience that women especially can find it hard to keep the gospel at the center of their daily pursuit of holiness. Why would I say this? Because there seems to be a disproportional emphasis within women’s ministries, retreats, conferences, the blogosphere, and friendships focusing on biblical texts that are specifically applicable to the female sex but lacking in proper biblical context.”

Women need more than Proverbs 31 and Titus 2

Next, an article written by Jared Wilson to pastors on the subject.  This comes by way of a Tim Challies recommendation and originally appears on one of the Gospel Coalition blogs.  Here’s a little teaser: “The message of the law unaccompanied by and untethered from the central message of the gospel condemns us. Because besides telling us stuff to do, the law also thereby reveals our utter inability to measure up.”

How Your Preaching Might Increase Sin in your Church

Finally, the one I mentioned in that previous post.  This is well worth listening to, because moralism is the slippery slope to the heresy of Pelagianism (believing I am good enough on my own to choose God, so basically I can save myself).  If you are a fan of feel-good preachers, you need to hear this message.  Here’s the blurb: “The goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself, and good people will go to heaven when they die. Some who profess this creed also profess to be Christian. Michael Horton explains how biblical Christianity has been replaced by this vacuous moralistic and therapeutic deism.”

Moralistic and Therapeutic Deism

I may add to this list from time to time, but this should get you started.  Happy learning!

 

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TLC

I Forgot the Best Part! Woman.

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“Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”

How could I forget this??  I know I said I was finished with chapter one, but as I was paging over to chapter two to do some writing this morning, I ran across the best highlights ever, as evidenced by all the quotes in this post.

“Woman, behold, your son!”

Why did Jesus address his mother this way?  Was he being disrespectful?  Not on your life.  This is foreshadowing the next chapter – Jesus Christ is the True Prophet!  He is informing Mary that HE is the seed of the WOMAN.  So, what does that make Mary?  WOMAN!  I don’t know why, maybe the simplicity (the “duh factor”) of it all, this just struck me like a giant light bulb.  Of course she is the woman. This is such an illuminating piece of the puzzle that can only come from the Holy Spirit.

Here’s another great set of quotes from the book:

“This style of address between a son and his mother does not appear elsewhere in the Gospels. Could there be a deeper reason why John records this language at both the beginning and the end of Jesus’ public ministry? Is he saying: “Don’t you see what is happening here? Jesus sees he is the seed of the woman who would bruise the head of the Serpent.””

“Remember how Paul says that when the time was fully come, God sent his Son. He describes Jesus in two arresting phrases, “born of woman, born under the law.”  “Born of woman”—is he echoing Genesis 3:15? Surely, for lineage elsewhere in Scripture is traced through the male line.  But God had said, “The seed of the woman will crush the head of the serpent.” Paul is, as it were, saying to us, “Now do you see in the incarnation who the seed—the one born—of the woman actually is? It is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ.””

So, there it is–my huge light-bulb moment.  Now here’s one more for free.

When the Bible speaks of the man who was possessed with so many demons they called themselves Legion, why do you suppose that is?  I had always been taught, like so many others that it was common for people to be possessed by demons in that period of history.  But why would that be?  What makes us who came later in history so much more resistant?  This is what I learned:

“But catch this. It takes only one demon to destroy a man. Why, then, have thousands of demons invaded him? Because the Lord Jesus was there. That is the whole point. This is not simply a poor man possessed by a legion of demons. That would be an extravagant deployment of forces Satan could never afford. No, not this man, but the destruction of Jesus’ ministry is the ultimate target. The reason there is so much demon possession in the time period recorded by the Gospels is not—as is sometimes assumed—that demon possession was commonplace then. In fact it was not. Rather, the land then was demon-invaded because the Savior was marching to the victory promised in Genesis 3:15. And all hell was let loose in order to withstand him.”

We’re not the special ones–HE is!!

And don’t miss this final point:  Satan has great knowledge of Scripture, and he teaches his demons well–they know it too.  Legion asks Jesus, “Have you come to destroy us?”  They know their leader will be crushed, and they know they are doomed with him because they know Scripture.  Does it not behoove us to know our God better than they do so that we can spot a fake?

I think I really am done with my chapter one comments now.  Sorry about that–but it is a woman’s prerogative to change her mind. 😉

Don’t forget to get your copy of Name Above All Names if you’re just reading these posts.  You really need to get this book and savor it.

 

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TLC

 

Cosmic Conflict

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(The Seed of the Woman, Part 2)

Before I begin, I promised to talk to you about something–the little section entitled Emmaus Road Reading.  You’ll notice the authors talk about our minds being illuminated by the Scriptures.  The fact that God creates a passion for himself in our hearts by the reading of the Scriptures is often misunderstood.  The verse, “They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”” (Luke 24:32 ESV), is often thought to mean that everyone must get a feeling like that or else their hearts are not genuine.  This could not be further from the truth!  We cannot and should not test ourselves by our feelings (See Jeremiah 17:9).  This is a case of reading the experience of someone in the Bible and wrongly interpreting that it must be the prescribed norm for all believers.  Not everyone (and I venture to say, hardly anyone) will get a ‘burning’ feeling in their chest when they have a Scripture passage rightly explained to them and they finally understand it.  It’s more like a light-bulb moment followed by the desire to learn more.  If you desire to know more about God by reading your Bible, don’t worry about getting butterflies in your tummy or a burning sensation in your chest.

That said, let’s move on to my favorite part of this chapter.  Three quotes stand out:

 “This is the underlying plotline of the whole of the Bible. It appears in embryo in the very next chapter of the book of Genesis. One brother (Cain) is in conflict with another brother (Abel) because the latter’s sacrifice was acceptable to God.  Jealousy and murder result as the seed of the Serpent (Cain), seeks to destroy the seed of the woman (Abel). The same plotline makes its way through the tower of Babel as man seeks to build his kingdom over against God’s. But in sovereign power God pulls down that kingdom and destroys its unity.  This is also the story of Egypt against Israel.  It is the story of Goliath against David.  It is the story of Babylon against Jerusalem, of Nebuchadnezzar against Daniel.  It is the story of Satan against Jesus, and of Pontius Pilate and Herod seeking to destroy the Savior.  It is the story that runs through the Gospels and beyond. The Jews seek to destroy Jesus during his ministry: “You are of your father the devil,” he says.  It is the story of how the enmity then turns on the Christian church.”

I’ve never had this explained to me quite like this before.  Of course, it makes perfect sense.  This is where we stand today–the world is in enmity with the Christian church.

“We sometimes make an elementary mistake when reading the temptation narratives. We assume that their chief purpose is to teach us about our temptations and how we should resist them…But their point is not to say, “Jesus was tempted, and you are tempted just like him, so respond to temptation as he did.” That would turn his temptations into a mere example for us to emulate.”

This is very important, because the last thing we want to do is teach moralism.  What is moralism?  It’s teaching all the rules–the do’s and don’ts without teaching the gospel.  It’s telling people to be like Jesus, but not telling them what Jesus did for them.  Unfortunately, the teaching style is very common.  My absolute worst moralism pet-peeve is being taught the ‘command’ to be like the Proverbs 31 woman.  There is no command in the Bible to be like the Proverbs 31 woman.  She is not even a real person.  The very best thing to learn from Proverbs 31 is that nobody can be like the perfect picture of what a mother-in-law thinks her son should marry!  Jesus Christ was perfect in my place.  He gives me the grace to lean on His perfection, not to strive for my own until I go insane.  The worst thing about moralistic teaching is it can easily slide into a heresy known as Pelagianism.  If you have time (about 45 minutes), listen here for a very informative message on the subject.

“Jesus’ temptations were not a series of unfortunate events that overtook him unexpectedly. They constitute an epic confrontation taking place within the divine strategy. What we see here is Jesus’ work of conflict, victory, and salvation. He came face-to-face with Satan. He appeared as God’s new man, the second Adam, to do what the old man, the first Adam, had failed to do.”

And aren’t we grateful He did!!

I have dallied long enough — I must get on to chapter 2.  I hope you are enjoying this book as much as I am!

 

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TLC

The Seed of the Woman, Part One

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Have you read chapter one?  I’ve read it 3 times now; I think it’s time to move on.  But before I do, I have at least two posts in me that are just busting to get out.  So here goes one:

If you downloaded the Study Guide, you’ll notice the first question.  I hope you answered it for yourself:  “What are some personal obstacles in thinking long and lovingly about Jesus? What steps can you take through the course of this study to help you recover this dying art?”

I’m going to get a little transparent here and share my answer to this one.  My biggest obstacle used to be making and then keeping my appointment.  I didn’t see why it was important to make a scheduled time to read the Bible and pray.  I thought that sometime during my day I would magically find some time.  Not so.  Things happen, issues come up, people call and want stuff, the kids don’t take their scheduled nap, and on and on it goes, and pretty soon it’s time to figure out what’s for dinner and I’ve forgotten to take anything out of the freezer.  And so I learned much later in life, really only about 4 years ago, that I’ve got to make time, rather than find time.  So that was step one.  The next step for me was to start reading my Bible.  The whole thing.  Not just the good parts, or the understandable parts, but the entire thing.  Yes, even Chronicles & Numbers.  And then to pray through the time.  In the last three years, I have read the Old Testament through  3 times, and the New Testament multiple times, depending on the book.  The system I use has you reading certain books of the NT every 30 days and certain others every 90 days or so, that’s why the difference.

The other thing I started to do thanks to a sermon I listened to by John MacArthur, is now that I’ve got the general Bible storyline down, have read through it enough to be familiar with it, I am reading one book of the New Testament over and over again for an extended period of time.  I have been reading Galatians every day for a month, and I’ve decided that I will extend that for another month.  I am getting so familiar with it that I have memorized a little.  Not enough.  But a little.  I got a commentary on Galatians (John MacArthur’s, big surprise there), and will slowly read through that as well.

The next part for me is to spend time meditating on a portion of the Scripture I have read.  I don’t have a ‘system,’ per se, but what I’ve been doing lately is reminding myself of a verse that resonated with me during my reading time, and saying it to myself throughout the day.  Saying it in different inflections, putting stress on different words, and thinking about what it means.  What it really means, not what it means to me!  I’m not so good at remembering to dwell on this yet, and sometimes I forget to do it altogether, so I’m not sure where this will lead.  But I am going to make it a point to ruminate on something from each chapter of this book, so it becomes ingrained in my mind.  I have whole sections from chapter one that I have gone back to read over and over again.

Whew!  That was just the first question.

The next question:  “Before you read this book, what was your answer to, for what reason did the Son of God appear?”  I thought my answer was pretty good.  At least it was biblical.  I said, to seek and save the lost.  Maybe a little selfish, since I was one of those lost.  God had a bigger picture in mind–destroying the works of the devil.  I like His better.

Back to the book.

The first thing that struck me is the nature of humanity and the way we see the world.  It looks good, therefore it must be good.  We all do that, right?  God’s Word says don’t do such-and-such, but it looks soooooo good.  Everyone else is doing it!  This is why we need to know the Word of God so well.  Because when something that looks good and innocent comes along, our inner radar will go off and our conscience will tell us that there is something wrong here!  I like the way the authors put it – believers “see” with their ears, not with their eyes, by listening to God’s Word.  But of course that means reading God’s Word today.  So it’s still with our eyes, but I know what they authors are going for.

Here’s where following the footnotes pays off and you get yourself another example that everyone is familiar with:  2Samuel 11:1-2.

“In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel. And they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.  It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful.”

Whatever temptation a person is faced with, it always looks great.  But the repercussions aren’t always that great, are they?  You remember how the story ends.  And you know what happened to Adam and Eve in the garden – Eve eats of the fruit, blames the serpent, Adam eats the fruit, blames Eve…it’s never our fault.  Then comes the judgment.

[14] The LORD God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
cursed are you above all livestock
and above all beasts of the field;
on your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life.
[15] I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”
[16] To the woman he said,
“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children.
Your desire shall be for your husband,
and he shall rule over you.”
[17] And to Adam he said,
“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
[18] thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
[19] By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.”
(Genesis 3:14-19 ESV)

But right in the middle of the judgment, a promise!  Verse 15b – he shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heel.  Who shall bruise the head of the serpent?  The Seed of the Woman.  And now we know that to be the first Scriptural reference to Jesus Christ.  It is amazing to be looking back into history and realize, it really is HIS story!

There is a part in chapter one that I feel we need to talk about so there are no misunderstandings.  The part in the next section entitled, Emmaus Road Reading. Specifically about the ‘warm feeling’ in your heart when you read Scripture.  That’s for next time.

 

TLC

 

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Name Above All Names Introduction

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Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. — Philippians 2:9-11 ESV

Thanks for joining me in reading “Name Above All Names,” by Alistair Begg and Sinclair Ferguson.  If you haven’t started yet, no worries.  I won’t give too much away in this first post but I’m hopefully going to whet your appetite for reading.  The book covers seven of the names for Jesus Christ in the Bible.  As described by the authors, it is not exhaustive–there are more names for Christ, as well as much more that could be said about each name that the book covers.  It is meant to be a starting point to enable us to learn of and meditate on the character of Christ, the work of Christ, and the person of Christ.  

My first impression of this book:  

W-O-W.  This is going to be awesome. 

As I read chapter one, my intention was to skim it, and then go back and read it again.  But right away I ditched the skimming and began highlighting passages, and pretty soon I realized I was highlighting whole pages of information.  My second read-through during last night’s gift of insomnia brought even more highlights.  This book is packed so full that it is advisable to use the footnotes and follow some of the rabbit trails that they may take you on.  Also, see the bottom of this post to download and print a Study Guide for some extra contemplation.  If you do these things, you’ll have yourself an incredibly rich Bible study.  

It is so rich, I’m thinking there will be more posts than I first anticipated (Only one for each chapter–what was I thinking?).  Otherwise, I’ll end up with 3,000-word blog posts, which is not necessarily a bad thing, just too long to read when you only have a few minutes.  My intention is to summarize a little, describe my “aha! moments,” and talk about some of my footnote-following and select answers to the questions in the Study Guide.  

My first aha! from chapter one was along those lines that I just mentioned above – why don’t we know what it is to meditate any more?  I agree with the authors: we are a society that has lost its patience.  We refuse to spend any “down time” simply thinking about something.  We feel guilty–like we should be doing something else.  But what better thing is there to do than to sit and marvel at the person and work of Jesus Christ?  So I beg you:  do it!  Set some time aside to read chapter one and just stop and think about Jesus as the Seed of the Woman.  Think about Adam and Eve’s sin in the garden and what that means to you today.  Would you have done things differently?  I doubt it.  We are so self-important, though, that we like to tell ourselves we would do better.  Ha!  Is all I have to say about that.  I’ll have much more about chapter one in the coming days. 

For now, a brief lesson on what meditation is, and what it is not.  Please take heed, because we have so many mainstream teachers out there who teach very dangerous things about meditation.  

First, the negative.  Meditation is NOT: 

Emptying your mind and asking God to fill it, or asking Him to speak to you.  It is NOT any sort of mystical “experience” to be sought.  There have been whole books written on this subject, and even some very beloved Christian authors teach this unbiblical practice.  A very brief history of the practice reveals that at its heart is Eastern Mysticism, not the Bible.  I will not delve into the specifics, but here is a short article you can read on the subject from GotQuestions.org, which is a great resource, and here’s one from CARM.org, a great apologetics site. 

Now, the positive.  Meditation IS:  

Thinking deeply about something–one thing–so as not to be all over the map with your thoughts.  Staying on topic; thinking about all facets of a thing, the blessings, implications, natural consequences, etc.  A quick search of the ESV reports the following:  every instance except one of the word, meditate, contains an object of meditation, not an empty mind.  The odd verse out that doesn’t contain an object still does not contain the idea of an empty mind.  If you click the ESV link, you will see each verse.  Notice the theme.  Minds full of God’s character, His Word, His precepts, His works, etc. (Plus one bad guy who meditates on treachery.  I don’t recommend that.). 

So, as you read chapter one, take some extra time to really think about Christ, His work on the cross, and the theme of the epic battle between good and evil.  I can’t wait to write my next post! 

 

Name above all names

Purchase Name Above All Names

Download the Study Guide here

 

-TLC