Living In The Light…

“I want to be in the Light as You are in the Light…”  Can you name that tune?  YES!  It’s “In The Light” from dc Talk’s CLASSIC 1995 album, Jesus Freak!  It is one of my favorite dc Talk songs, second to the title track from that album.  “…what will people think when they hear that I’m a Jesus freak, what will people do when they find that it’s true!?!”  Okay, yeah.  I could go chasing a major rabbit trail there!  (But it’s throwback Thursday, so I could technically get away with it…right?)  What’s the point of mentioning this?  In Proverbs 4, the path of those who pursue wisdom is likened to the shining light.  And I couldn’t help but sing… “Oh, Lord be my Light and be my salvation, cause all I want is to be in the Light!”

That said, day six is Proverbs 4:10-27…

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“10 Hear, my son, and accept my sayings and the years of your life will be many.  11 I have directed you in the way of wisdom; I have led you in upright paths.  12 When you walk, your steps will not be impeded; and if you run, you will not stumble.  13 Take hold of instruction; do not let go.  Guard her, for she is your life.  14 Do not enter the path of the wicked and do not proceed in the way of evil men.  15 Avoid it, do not pass by it; turn away from it and pass on.  16 For they cannot sleep unless they do evil; and they are robbed of sleep unless they make someone stumble.  17 For they eat the bread of wickedness and drink the wine of violence.  18 But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines brighter and brighter until the full day.  19 The way of the wicked is like darkness; they do not know over what they stumble.  20 My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings.  21 Do not let them depart from your sight; keep them in the midst of your heart.  22 For they are life to those who find them and health to all their body.  23 Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.  24 Put away from you a deceitful mouth and put devious speech far from you.  25 Let your eyes look directly ahead and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you.  26 Watch the path of your feet
And all your ways will be established.  27 Do not turn to the right nor to the left; turn your foot from evil.”

PROVERBS 4:10-27, NASB

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Hear, my son, and accept my sayings and the years of your life will be many.  The path of those who intentionally pursue godly wisdom does not just lead to maturity in life on this earth but the incomprehensible (because it’s better than life) ultimate reality of eternal life in heaven with God never to be separated from Him.   “But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.  For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23, NKJV).  Did you catch the “fruit to holiness” statement?  Our eternal destiny– where we’re going– ought to be reflected in our daily journeys as a testimony to it.  If I am planning to go to Swaziland again, I wouldn’t hitchhike out to the Midwestern United States.  I would get a plane ticket and head eastward across the Atlantic to South Africa!

I have directed you in the way of wisdom; I have led you in upright paths.  When you walk, your steps will not be impeded; and if you run, you will not stumble.  In other versions “upright paths” is sometimes translated “straight paths.”  Hmm, where have we heard that before?  A couple of verses earlier, we learned that this “straight path” is one of trust…and not of self-confidence but of the truest trust, confidence in the LORD (See Proverbs 3:5-6).  It is not that we won’t be impeded when we walk nor stumble when we run because it’s an easy journey or because of our ability to keep ourselves from such.  No!  It is because our God is our capable Guide!  He lights our footsteps even though a world of darkness fights to encompass us.  He is the true Light in whom is life (John 1:1-9)!

Take hold of instruction; do not let go…The way of the wicked is like darkness; they do not know over what they stumble.  The wicked don’t act wickedly on accident.  They engage in wickedness deliberately…they thrive from doing wicked things (v.17).  And they aren’t happy to do it all by themselves.  “They are robbed of slumber till they make someone fall” (v.16b).  Ever heard the saying, “misery loves company”?  Well, it is somewhat true because misery just doesn’t love any kind of company…misery loves miserable company!  There are even those who aren’t happy about themselves unless they’re putting someone else down.  Know someone like that?  Perhaps guilt won’t let them find rest, so they convince themselves with excuses that they’re not really all that bad because someone else is worse.  Sin is still sin.  It doesn’t matter if it’s “more” sin or “less” sin, the payment remains the same for sin… it’s death.

My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings.  Do not let them depart from your sight; keep them in the midst of your heart.  For they are life to those who find them and health to all their body.  A continuous reminder of the pertinent plea to pursue the Kingdom of Jesus Christ and His righteousness.  Lord knows it’s not always easy, however, it is more than worth it!    

Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.  Put away from you a deceitful mouth and put devious speech far from you.  Let your eyes look directly ahead and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you.  Putting away perversity from our mouths, keeping corrupt talk from our lips, letting our eyes stay fixed upon Christ, etc. are all indications of our hearts!  Our hearts and the lives we live (our attitudes, actions, etc.) as a result MUST be set on and pleasing to Jesus Christ.  We cannot do this without the Spirit of God working within us.

Watch the path of your feet and all your ways will be established.  Do not turn to the right nor to the left; turn your foot from evil.  This is a motto for blameless living.  Stay the course, fight the good fight and keep on fighting, trust in the Lord and keep on trusting.  Don’t depart from it.  The paraphrase of Psalm 119:1-16 in the Message gives us a good prayer to pray as we’ve been called out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9)…

You’re blessed when you stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by God.  You’re blessed when you follow His directions, doing your best to find Him.  That’s right—you don’t go off on your own; you walk straight along the road He set.  You, God, prescribed the right way to live; now You expect us to live it.  Oh, that my steps might be steady, keeping to the course You set; then I’d never have any regrets in comparing my life with Your counsel.  I thank You for speaking straight from Your heart; I learn the pattern of Your righteous ways.  I’m going to do what You tell me to do; don’t ever walk off and leave me.  How can a young person live a clean life?  By carefully reading the map of Your Word.  I’m single-minded in pursuit of You; don’t let me miss the road signs You’ve posted.  I’ve banked Your promises in the vault of my heart so I won’t sin myself bankrupt.  Be blessed, God; train me in Your ways of wise living.  I’ll transfer to my lips all the counsel that comes from Your mouth; I delight far more in what You tell me about living than in gathering a pile of riches.  I ponder every morsel of wisdom from You, I attentively watch how You’ve done it.  I relish everything You’ve told me of life, I won’t forget a word of it.

Victoria

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Urge and Encourage

Titus 2:1-8 says, “But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine. Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance.  Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.  Likewise urge the young men to be sensible; in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us” (NASB).

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Older women…encourage the young women.  Older men…urge the young men.

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Who are the “older women” and “older men”?

The “older women” and “older men” Paul talks about are those longERstanding disciples of Christ.  In other words, they are older or mature in the faith.  They have been in a relationship with Christ, having experienced His Salvation and Lordship in their lives for some time.  The “older” women and men are advanced in the things of the Lord Jesus Christ– understanding His Word, discerning His Sprit, and applying His truth to their lives.  Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words explains, “[older] is a longer form of presbus, the comparative degree of which is presbuteros, “a senior, elder,” both of which, as also the verb presbeuo, “to be elder, to be an ambassador,” are derived from proeisbaino, “to be far advanced.”[1]  It may very well be that the person who is older in age is also older in the faith, just not exclusively.  It is possible for a 75 year old to be “older” or more advanced in the faith and a longERstanding disciple of Christ than a 35 year old, and vice versa.

Who are the “young women” and “young men”?

The “young women” and “young men” are the newer disciples of Christ.  In this passage, “young” comes from the Greek word neos, meaning “recently born”. [2]  It is NOT a coincidence that coming to a relationship with Christ, experiencing His Salvation and Lordship, is described as BEING BORN AGAIN.

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Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.  “What do You mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus.  “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”  Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit.  Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life.  So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again’” (John 3:3-7, NLT).

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Therefore, it is possible for NEW disciples of Christ of any age to be considered “recently born” or “young”.  The younger in the faith are to be encouraged and urged by the older in the faith.

What does “encourage” and “urge” mean? 

“Encourage” comes from the Greek word sophronizo.  Sophronizo connotes “to train”.  “Urge” comes from the Greek word parakaleo.  Parakaleo connotes “to speak to”.

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Paraphrased: Women who are advanced in the faith, train the women who are newer to the faith.  Men who are advanced in the faith, speak to the men who are newer to the faith.

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These are responsibilities not to be taken lightly.  Both women and men (see vv. 3 and 6: “likewise”) are to teach and be taught the expressed qualities (being temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance…being reverent in behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good…loving, being sensible, pure, honoring the will of God….being an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach) for the purpose of spurring  one another to holiness– becoming more like Christ, exemplifying the Goodness of God.        

Who must you urge and encourage today?

In Christ,

  Victoria

 

 

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1. Available from https://www.blueletterbible.org/search/Dictionary/viewTopic.cfm?topic=VT0000070.

2. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon.  Available from https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/Lexicon/Lexicon.cfm?strongs=G3501&t=KJV.

 

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…And the summer mission trip experience series continues! (Guest Contributor)

WaterfallApptrail

Hello readers! My name is Adam and I am a college student, assistant to my church’s youth leader, Awana teacher, and preacher. This past June 23rd–27th a small mission team from my church traveled to Elizabethton, Tennessee to help spread the Gospel and God’s love. It was the first mission trip away from home for all seven members of our team, even though we did not travel very far from our homes.

We arrived safely on Sunday afternoon and settled into our place of dwelling for the week. A local church was gracious enough to allow us the use of their activities building and kitchen. Later on Sunday night we met with our mission’s coordinator from Hale Community Ministries. After our meeting, our mission’s coordinator determined that we weren’t quite prepared enough to do the Bible club on the first morning. As a group, we were extremely disappointed because we were so excited about teaching each lesson, conducting recreation, organizing crafts, and preparing snacks, food, and drinks. However, we decided to use the extra time to prepare more and conduct a small Bible study and discussion with our group.

On Monday afternoon, we visited a local nursing home to witness, pray, sing, and do anything to make the home’s residents feel better. One of our group members had never ministered in a nursing home before and was really touched by the experience. After the nursing home, we met with our mission’s coordinator and went to the area where we would be doing the Bible club— a poverty-stricken mobile home park. Our team began knocking on doors and informing those in the community of our intentions. We returned to the church after spending some time there.

Tuesday was our first day of the Bible club which was intended to be for kids K-6, but we did not turn away kids of any age from attending. Each day we conducted a prayer walk, asking God to continue giving us courage, wisdom, and guidance. After our prayer walk, we went door to door to walk the children to the site where we would conduct the club. Once all of the children were there, we gave them pop-tarts, granola bars, and juice boxes. The ages of the kids spanned from three to thirteen.

We conducted the club and shared lessons about Christ. Our group continued this until Thursday morning which was our last day. We bought each kid a Bible and some toys too. It ended up raining on Thursday morning so we had to cancel the club, but the Lord allowed the rain to subside so we could go door to door to hand the kids their gift bags and the snacks we had already prepared for the day.

It seemed that our trip flew by, but it was definitely fun and an experience I will not forget. We played basketball, hiked part of the Appalachian Trail to a magnificent waterfall (pictured above), and really grew as a group! Everyone who went on the trip was touched by God.

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The most important thing we realized was that the kids were hungry and not just hungry for food, but for attention, love, and the Hope of Jesus Christ.
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The image that touched me the most was a little three year old girl. We grilled hotdogs one day for the kids and anyone in the community who wanted them. The little girl ate three hotdogs on a bun and one more without a bun while only an hour and thirty minutes before eating two pop-tarts. To see how hungry the kids were really spoke to me and made me realize all the things, including food, we often take for granted. I would challenge anyone who reads this to count your blessings and if you have never been on a mission trip, make it a priority to do so. I guarantee you that the Lord will bless you.

I would like to thank first and foremost God, our church, Hale Community Ministries, and many others, but especially Victoria for allowing me to post on the With True Hope blog and giving me the opportunity to share with you what our group did and how the Lord moved in and through our lives, while we humbly served Him.

I will leave you with this verse from 1 Peter 3:15 which states, “but honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (HCSB). Is the Messiah– the Lord Jesus Christ– the reason for the hope that is in you? And if so, are you always ready to share of Jesus Christ’s hope with those who are hungry for Him?

In Christ,
Adam

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BRAIDS AND BRIDGES

braidsandbridges

Connect Mission Trips– Nashville.  Who knew that when Mission Discovery introduced their Connect Mission Trips for 2013 that the Nashville trip which caught my eye would soon thereafter catch my heart and the hearts of those in my church as well!  God did.  Although it probably goes without saying at this point, we recently returned from spending a week in Nashville serving alongside Mission Discovery making new connections and strengthening existing ones!

So “braids and bridges”…what’s that all about?

For one thing, our trip involved a lot of braids as evidenced bellow!

BraidsMural

Half of our group– the half I was with– had the privilege to spend our days at a local community center’s children’s camp!  This is where most of the braiding occurred 😉  While my hair was not quite ideal for scalp braiding, “my” girls fearlessly took on the challenge and gave me my first ever scalp braids!  They did an amazing job!  (If you need further evidence than the above pictures, you could check out this video from 1:55-2:03 too!)

The other half of our group– the half my brothers were with– had the privilege of building a wheelchair ramp for a really sweet lady who has cerebral palsy!  Once they began the building project, it did not take long for them to start referring to the ramp as the “bridge”…  Just look at the pictures below and you’ll probably also agree that the “bridge” is indeed an appropriate term for their project!

BridgeMural

More than the actual projects, I believe I speak for all of us when I say that we greatly enjoyed and appreciated the people we had the opportunity to connect with– or rather were braided and bridged together with 😉

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Connections (kəˈnekSHəns)– a relationship in which a person…is linked…with some[one] else.1

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You see, “braids and bridges” not only signifies the tangible (and very tight if I may add) scalp braids and wood bridge structure but the deeper connections that were made on our trip.  Deeper connections with one another in our group, with other Mission Discovery (and MFUGE) leaders and team members, with the Civil Group youth, with the children and staff at the community center, with Mrs. W…and especially with Christ!

In a song I wrote, What Matters Most, are these lyrics: “Did I know You for who You are?  Did I draw near, not apart?  Did I believe from my heart and show the world who You are?”  Answering “yes” to these question is (or should be) the ultimate goal in our lives… Do we know, really know Christ because it’s not just knowing about Him that is important?  Are we desperate to be nearer and nearer to Him with each moment?  Do we then encourage others to do the same as we live and love like Christ because we truly believe from our hearts that He is who He is?

I believe that it is only in the pursuit and appreciation of a genuine relationship with Christ that we can learn how to pursue and appreciate quality relationships with others!  He shows us what relationships, or “connections”, are to look like.  He is trustworthy, honorable, encouraging, and forgiving, a friend who loves at all times, sticking closer than a brother, regarding the interests of others, laying His life down for His friends…and the list can go on and on!

Towards the end of our mission trip, we were presented with a great idea: to pick a couple of names of the friends we had connected with during the trip and remember to pray for them every day for the next year.

In John 17, Jesus’ prayer for His friends is recorded.  He prays, “…I ask on their behalf…Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are.  While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me…now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves.  I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.  I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.  They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.  As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.  For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth” (John 17:9-19, NASB95).

What a beautiful prayer! And what a beautiful example for us…for me to follow and accordingly live and love like Christ!

Today, I pray for you, my friends that the Holy Father would keep you in His name, the name of Jesus Christ.  I pray that you will have Christ’s joy made full in you, knowing His word and truth; that He would keep you from the evil one; and that you may be sanctified, being who God has called you to be and doing what God has called you to do!

Your Friend,

Victoria

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1. “Connection.” Oxford Dictionaries. Oxford University Press. Available from http://oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/connection.

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Nashville Mission Trip 2013

Hello All,

I hope that you are doing well!  I just returned from a Mission Discovery CONNECT mission trip to Nashville along with my church’s youth!  Some of the things we did included building a wheelchair ramp for a cerebral palsy patient, working with the children at a local community center’s day camp, and volunteering at the Bridge Ministry!  It was great to serve Christ through serving others!  I’d like to share with you a short video that I put together of our mission trip experience: click here to go to the WeVideo location.  Enjoy!

In Christ,

Victoria

(P.S.: Stay tuned to the With True Hope blog, there are more posts about summer mission trip experiences coming!)

Quest to be the Best

I saw on ESPN this week that Major League Baseball may ban several players including such well known players as Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez. It appears that Major League Baseball may have secured a witness in their investigation of active baseball players who may have used “Performance Enhancement Drugs”. As I listened to the reporter, I couldn’t help but think why would a millionaire athlete take the risk of suspension and the related embarrassment by taking performance enhancement drugs? What is it that drives a person to go down this type of path? As I pondered this thought throughout the day, I couldn’t help but think it is the quest to be the best. We live in a culture where everyone wants to be the best…everyone wants to be first. We use phrases like a quest to be the best, or striving for excellence, or a team of “type A” personalities, but what it really comes down to is a desire to be known as being first or being the best at whatever you do.

The more I thought about this, the more I realized that this view — which is applauded by our society — is actually a contradiction to what is taught by the Bible. John chapter 3 tells us about a discussion that Jesus’ cousin – John the Baptist, had with his disciples. You see, John had risen to the height of popularity in his day. Crowds of people were coming to hear the message that John was preaching and they were responding and getting baptized in water. We then see that Jesus goes into the Judean countryside and starts to attract crowds and baptize people. In our vernacular, the rivalry had begun. I can see it now…John’s disciples (agents in today’s “sports environment”) start to point out to John that he was losing his status as the main “go to guy” for baptisms…and to make it worse, to them it seemed that it was John’s cousin that was stealing his title. Maybe he should take some “Performance Enhancement Drugs” so that he could once again be at the top of his game. Maybe he should change his approach so that he could attract bigger crowds once again. Maybe he should serve food or provide designed swimwear to create a “value add” experience. Instead John gives an incredible answer in John 3: 22-36 (NLT)– let’s take a look:

 Then Jesus and His disciples left Jerusalem and went into the Judean countryside. Jesus spent some time with them there, baptizing people.  At this time John the Baptist was baptizing at Aenon, near Salim, because there was plenty of water there; and people kept coming to him for baptism.  (This was before John was thrown into prison.)  A debate broke out between John’s disciples and a certain Jew over ceremonial cleansing.  So John’s disciples came to him and said, “Rabbi, the man you met on the other side of the Jordan River, the one you identified as the Messiah, is also baptizing people. And everybody is going to Him instead of coming to us.”  John replied, “No one can receive anything unless God gives it from heaven.  You yourselves know how plainly I told you, ‘I am not the Messiah. I am only here to prepare the way for Him.’  It is the bridegroom who marries the bride, and the best man is simply glad to stand with him and hear his vows. Therefore, I am filled with joy at His success.  He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.  “He has come from above and is greater than anyone else. We are of the earth, and we speak of earthly things, but He has come from heaven and is greater than anyone else.  He testifies about what He has seen and heard, but how few believe what He tells them!  Anyone who accepts His testimony can affirm that God is true.  For He is sent by God. He speaks God’s words, for God gives Him the Spirit without limit.  The Father loves his Son and has put everything into His hands.  And anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life. Anyone who doesn’t obey the Son will never experience eternal life but remains under God’s angry judgment.”

Did you catch that? John basically says that he doesn’t need to be the best, he doesn’t need to be first, in fact he states boldly that “HE [Jesus] must become greater and greater, and I [John] must become less and less”. What an incredible statement! This shows us that we don’t have to strive to be the best. We don’t even need to try to be first in everything. As Christians, our role is actually to become less and promote JESUS CHRIST! This is the opposite view of our society. It is not about being the first or the best, it is all about willingly recognizing that first place belongs to JESUS CHRIST.

Are you on a quest to be the best today? If you are, I want to encourage you to be less and less and allow JESUS to become greater and greater in your life. This is the type of radical attitude change that will truly impact the WORLD!
Become LESS and let JESUS BE GREATER in your life today!

–Stephen

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Willingly and Wholly Devoted?

BurgerAndFries

My mother and I are preparing for an upcoming women’s Bible study centered on the theme, “FROM DEMONS TO DELIVERANCE AND DEVOTION: THE TESTIMONY OF MARY OF MAGDALA”.  Mary of Magdala (or Mary Magdalene) is mentioned multiple times throughout each of the four Gospels (Mt. 27:56, 61; 28:1; Mk. 15:40, 47; 16:1-13; Lk. 8:2; 24:10; and Jn. 19:25; 20:1-18).  This is quite remarkable being as the authors of the Gospels wrote them with distinct emphases for their original audiences and functional themes, yet they each understood the testimony of Mary of Magdala to be relevant to their Gospels’ specific audiences and themes to each make repeated mentions of her. 1

The accounts of Mary of Magdala in the Gospels are pretty evenly split between descriptions of her individually and descriptions of her with a group of women.  It is interesting to note that in the places where she is mentioned with a group of women her name heads the list.

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Mary who was called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who were contributing to their [Jesus’ and the Twelve Disciples’] support [or care] out of their private means” (Luke 8:2b-3, NASB95).

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These women devoted themselves to Christ, and accordingly, to the work of His ministry.  They attended to Christ, ministering to (serving) Him out of their substance – of their possessions, what they had.  Scholar Ben Witherington II writes in his socio-rhetorical commentary of the Gospel of Mark, “the women [among whom Mary of Magdala is included] are disciples, for they are clearly described as those who both followed and served Jesus in Galilee, two things that characterize discipleship”.

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“There were also some women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the Less and Joses, and Salome.  When He was in Galilee, they used to follow Him and minister to [or serve] Him; and there were many other women who came up with Him to Jerusalem” (Mark 15:40-41, NASB95).

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Discipleship…I thought that we were talking about devotion, so which is it!?!

Devotion and discipleship are not either-or’s.  Devotion and discipleship are both-and’s — they are like both hamburgers and french fries (or sweet potato fries, if you’re like me), both spaghetti and meatballs, both oreos and milk, both coffee and mornings, both leather jackets and Fonzie — they go together!  A disciple refers to “one who puts himself [or herself] under the teaching of someone else and learns from him”.2  Discipleship refers to “follow[ing] the precepts and instructions of another”.3  Such definitions imply willing devotion on behalf of the disciple.  In order to be a disciple, an individual must be willingly devoted the one and therefore the teachings of the one of whom he or she is a disciple.

Mary of Magdala and the group of women who accompanied her were willingly and wholly devoted disciples of Christ.  Jesus had delivered them and they did not forget that!  They had received grace and in gratefulness they responded graciously.  They were those described alike “good soil”; they had heard the word in an honest and good heart, and held it fast, and bore fruit with perseverance (Luke 8:15).

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Are we “good soil”?

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Are our lives seen as works of faith and labors of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father (1 Thessalonians 1:3, NASB95)?  Is it obvious that we have been delivered by Christ and are disciples who are willingly and wholly devoted to Him?  Do we respond graciously in gratefulness to the grace we have received?  Will we follow Christ and serve Him wherever, however, whenever He instructs?

“YOU live among the least of these: the weary and the weak, and it would be a tragedy for me to turn away, all my needs YOU have supplied. When I was dead YOU gave me life. How could I not give it away so freely? I’ll follow YOU into the homes of the broken, I’ll follow YOU into the world, and meet the needs for the poor and the needy, GOD, I’ll follow YOU into the world…I give all myself, I give all myself, and I give all myself to YOU” (Leeland, Follow You <– Click to view the music video)!

Victoria

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ENDNOTES:

1.  The original audiences and functional themes of the Gospels are typically considered to be as follows:

–  the Gospel of Matthew was written with a Jewish audience in mind, emphasizing Jesus as the Promised Messiah and Expected King who fulfills the Law, Prophets, and Writings;

–  the Gospel of Mark was written with a Gentile audience in mind, emphasizing Jesus as the Sovereign Savior and Servant who suffered on our behalf taking the penalty for our sin upon Himself;

–  the Gospel of Luke was written with an specific individual (Theophilus) and general Gentile audience in mind, emphasizing Jesus as reliably and verifiably Perfect God Perfect Man; and

–  the Gospel of John was written with a unbelieving audience in mind (John 20:30-31), emphasizing Jesus as the Eternal Word, Wonderful Truth, and Everlasting Life.

Please note that while the Gospels as literary works have distinct original audiences and functional themes, they maintain a consistently unified theological purpose– Jesus the Christ is the Son of the Living and Loving God and Eternal Risen Savior of Jews and Gentiles (all men and women alike) through His absolute and gracious sacrifice for us sinners in utmost need of Him, to those who believe He gives forgiveness, redemption, and life through His Precious Spirit – and their message is equally meant for us!

2. Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: For the English Reader (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1997).

3. Ibid..

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Satis…what?!?

Highway

SATISFICING according to Oxford Dictionaries pertains to the decision and pursuit of a course of action that is perceived will satisfy the minimum requirements necessary to achieve a particular goal.  This interesting term is a synthesis –or what we would refer to in Italian as a “mescolanza”– of the words satisfy and suffice.  It basically describes the natural tendency of humans to be lazy.  Believe it or not, I encountered this term when studying decision making in the context of international political relations.  But it made me think, “Does the Bible say anything about satisficing?” and “If so, what does the Bible say about it and how it applies to my life?”

A particularly relevant scripture I came across is Proverbs 15:19, “The way of the lazy is as a hedge of thorns, but the path of the upright is a highway” (NASB95).  The structure of this scripture is in line with the antithetical parallelism which is a distinctive feature of Hebraic poetic literature.  Antithetical parallelism is the contrasting of ideas, such as “The Lord lifts up the humble; He casts the wicked down to the ground” (Psalm 147:6, NKJV82).  Proverbs 15:19 contrasts the way (Heb. derek) of those who are lazy or sluggish (Heb. āṣēl) to the path (Heb. ʾōraḥ) of those who are upright or conscientious (Heb. yāšār).

Why are laziness and a hedge of thorns contrasted with uprightness and a highway?

The descriptions offered in the context the scripture suggest that laziness is foolish and senseless for although a course of action may be perceived to satisfactorily suffice with ease it is actually a course of inaction, reluctance, restriction, and hardship.  In other words, satisficing hinders and hurts.  Just think about this…how appealing does stumbling barefoot in a hedge of thorns sound?

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Satisficing hinders and hurts.

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In contrast, uprightness (or conscientiousness) is wise and sensible.  Those who refuse to satisfice pursue a course marked by diligence, excellence, precision, enthusiasm.  The New Living Translation conveys this contrast especially well: “A lazy person’s way is blocked with briers, but the path of the upright is an open highway” (Proverbs 15:19).

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In whatever we do, we should faithfully aspire and endeavor to do it wholeheartedly in the Name of the Lord Jesus, all to the glory of God (I Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:15).

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Wait just a minute there!  Didn’t you say that it is the natural tendency of humans to be lazy?  So doesn’t that mean that for us to NOT be lazy would be unnatural?

My friend, this is yet another reason we need Christ to give us a new nature.  WE CAN DO WHATEVER WE DO WHOLEHEARTEDLY IN THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS ALL TO THE GLORY OF GOD ONLY BY THE GRACE OF GOD.  That is why all the glory is to God and God alone–because neither you nor I could wholeheartedly serve God and faithfully walk in “uprightness”, which is adverse to our natural tendency to satisfice, of ourselves without the Divine Intervention of Jesus Christ!

Serve Wholeheartedly By The Grace Of God!

Victoria

Samaria…

Photo: BiblePlaces.com. BiblePlaces.com Image Library. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software (2009).

Photo: BiblePlaces.com. BiblePlaces.com Image Library. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software (2009).

The Woman of Samaria (also known as The Woman at the Well) is one of my favorite testimonies in Scripture.  In the past I have always tended to look at this Scriptural account from the perspective of the woman.  When I read the account this time, however, I endeavored to look at it from the perspective of Jesus.

Jesus was a Jew and the woman of Samaria was, well, a Samaritan.  The Jews were historically known to abhor the Samaritans so much that they wouldn’t even pass through the region of Samaria to get to their destination (even though it was the shortest, most practical route).  Samaritans and Jews would have no dealings whatsoever with each other.  No communion.  No transaction.  No association.  They wouldn’t even dare to drink out of a common cup or well, let alone share a meal.  And they would especially have no religious dealings.

“HE left Judea and departed again to Galilee. But HE needed to go through Samaria. So HE came to a city of Samaria called Sychar” (John 4:3-5, NKJV82).

Jesus NEEDED to go through Samaria!?! Why did Jesus NEED to go through Samaria?!?

John 3:16 says, “For GOD so loved the world that HE gave HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON that whosoever believes in HIM should not perish but have everlasting life” (NKJV82).  Jesus went to Samaria because of who He is ―the Lover and Savior of souls in desperate need of Him.  There were souls in need of Jesus in Samaria.

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Is God asking you to go somewhere or do something you usually aren’t fond of going or doing for the sake of others?

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Jesus went to Samaria.  He was tired, weary, and thirsty from His walk.  He broke through gender and ethnic barriers.  He was in Samaria to do the will of His Father.  Glory to God!

The woman who came to the well day after day for water to quench her physical thirst did not know that particular day she would meet Jesus and receive living water to quench the eternal thirst of her soul.  The LORD met her where she was and she was forever changed so much so that she left her waterpot at the feet of Jesus and went into the city to tell others about the Man who told her all things that she ever did.

Jesus ―God Himself― went to the cross for us!  He was despised, rejected, pierced, crushed, wounded, oppressed, and afflicted (Isaiah 53).  He broke through the barriers of sin.  He did the will of HIS Father.  Glory to God!

What a wonderful Savior!  He is respecter of no persons― His Salvation is not dependant on whether we are a man or a woman nor Ethiopian or Arabian or Indian or German or Australian or Canadian or American.  “[T]he righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ [is] for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith” (Romans 3:22-25, NASB95).  “For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all” (Romans 6:10, NASB95).

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Is there a “Samaria” you NEED to go to?

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“Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest” (John 4:35, NIV84).

Mary

Apples, Oranges, and Grapes!?

Grapes

One of my favorite lines from the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding comes from the scene in which Toula’s father gives a toast at her wedding reception.  He explains that their surname, “Portokalos”, means “orange” and that Toula’s husband’s (and her new) surname, “Miller”, means “apple”.  He then concludes, “In the end, we’re all fruit”.  From then on, I couldn’t help but think of Nia Vardalos, Lainie Kazan, Andrea Martin, and Michael Constantine every time I saw fruit!

What’s the point of mentioning Greek weddings and fruit?  Similar story– When I was a young child and it came time to learn about “The Fruit of the Spirit”, I would literally visualize fruit.  I heard and read this: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23, NASB95).  However, I pictured this:

FruitOfTheSpirit

You know, it’s not far off.  In Galatians 5:22 Paul uses the Greek word karpos which does indeed refer to fruit.  Yet, it goes beyond literal apples, oranges, and grapes to offer us a visual for understanding how we must live.  The conjunction “but” in Galatians 5:22 designates the existence of a rational relationship in the text; specifically, it designates a contrasting connection to the immediately preceding text.  The term “fruit of the Spirit” in verse twenty-two is used in direct contrast to the “deeds of the flesh” in verse nineteen.

“For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please” (Galatians 5:17, NASB95).

“Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these” (Galatians 5:19-21, NASB95).

Essentially, the question is: Is it evident that we now live according to the life we have been given by the Holy Spirit?

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are qualities which ought to be evidenced in what we do and say AND in what we refrain from doing and saying.  The manner in which we live should produce such “fruit”.

How can I know if my life is producing such “fruit”?

Well, the best way is to consider God’s perspective.  What is God’s perspective of love?  Joy?  Peace?  Patience?  That said, I thought that I would do something a little different this week.  So I’ve compiled some scripture references into an “Apples, Oranges, and Grapes” daily reading suggestion of sorts.  Here are the suggested “portions” for ten days of studying about God’s perspective on the fruit of the Spirit:

FruitPortions

* Please note that this daily reading is meant to escort you to select passages of Scripture with fruit of the Spirit themes.  To more fully appreciate and benefit from this daily reading, I would encourage you to read the verses in their (specific and general) context.  Knowing a verse’s context helps clarify its meaning and profound relevance!

Joyous Readings!

Victoria