June 7, 2012 § 2 Comments
While in Zambia, I (Ben) am pursing my Master of Arts in Theology degree from Fuller Seminary. I started taking courses at their campus in Seattle before we moved to Lusaka, and I have been taking online courses while in Lusaka to keep up with my program. I finished my Hebrew Prophets course this week (phew!), and I thought I would share a few keys that will hopefully inspire you to carefully study this section of the Bible.
1) Looking Back – When an average person thinks of a prophet, he/she likely thinks about a person who predicts what will happen in the future (or someone who fails to predict the future, for example a false prophet). While there is truth to this element of a prophet’s role, prophecy in the Bible is about more than looking at what is to come. In fact, prophecy isn’t so much about looking forward to something but rather calling us to look back and live according to what we already know to be true.
In the Hebrew Prophets, much of the writers’ concerns are about how Israel has failed to measure up to their covenants with God. Thus, the prophets serve to remind Israel of who God is and what He has always required so that they may repent and return to Him. In reading through the many failures of Israel contained with the Prophets, it is easy to see areas where we too have fallen short of what God requires of us, thus looking back helps us to properly evaluate how we can move forward.
2) Community – In reading through the Prophets, a person will eventually reach the inescapable conclusion that how we live in community with others is essential to proper worship of God. Many of the sins condemned by the prophets are both sins of evil committed against our neighbor and sins of failing to do good for our neighbor. In our individualistic culture, we tend to think about what God requires of me, rather than what God requires of we. The prophets clearly show that we must live faithfully in community in order to honor God.
3) God’s Faithfulness – Perhaps the most startling thing I see in the Prophets is God’s unwavering faithfulness to a faithless people. Israel fails God time and time again, yet God continues to extend His mercy to those who repent and respond in obedience. In my dealings with people, I may occasionally give someone who fails me a second chance. Perhaps rarely, I will give them a third chance. But eventually my patience will wear out and I will give up on them. Not so with God. His mercy never fails and remains available for all who respond.
Overall, Hebrew Prophets was a tremendously rewarding class that has given me an even greater appreciation for the Scriptures and for God’s faithfulness throughout all generations, as well as a sobering reminder that God will hold all people accountable for how they live in response to His grace.
May 10, 2012 § Leave a comment
I recently completed John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress”, a classic allegory written about a man named Christian who is making his way to the Celestial City. Bunyan’s definitive work is a simple yet profound depiction of the Christian life. Each character Christian encounters on his journey is aptly named according to their behavior. For example, he travels with good friends named Faithful and Hopeful, he fights dreadful enemies like Apollyon, and he dialogues with distracted sojourners like Talkative and Ignorance. Through each of these interactions, Bunyan explores aspects of the Christian faith and pitfalls that may befall hapless pilgrims.
Reading this book was very encouraging to me as I found it to be an accurate picture of what a true Christian life should look like. Rather than promising your best life now, Pilgrim’s Progress emphasizes that we have not yet reached our home, but God will use the trials and difficulties of our journey to prove our faith and prepare us for the Celestial City. As Paul says, “these momentary light afflictions are preparing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17
January 23, 2012 § 1 Comment
I know it’s a little late but the reason I took some time away from this blog was to reflect and think a bit about my goals for the New Year. Ben and I had some mutual goals that we made for our family but I had some personal goals as well (I prefer the term goals to resolutions because it sounds more sophisticated and more flexible if said “resolutions” aren’t met).
A few of them are:
- Wake up early each day
For me, this has always been a struggle. I grew up in a family where my dad worked afternoons and evenings and so I usually went to bed at 10 or 11pm (sometimes even later). It was awesome because I got to see my dad but it meant that we followed a later schedule in our day (we usually woke up at 9 or 10…or later). Also, I spent the last two years working night shift. This further disrupted my circadian rhythm and I found it difficult to bounce back between waking up at a “normal” time and staying up all night. Also, because of night shift, I developed the ability to sleep without end (12 hours, plus). Thus, I have determined that 2012 will mean more discipline for me going to bed at a decent hour (goal of 930pm or so) and waking up some time before 8am (goal of 6:30 or 7am). So far, so good on this one! I’ve been feeling better physically and more productive in my day.
- Meal planning
I started doing this late last year but have resolved to continue this coming year. Sometime during the weekend, I plan out the next week’s meals and then shop for groceries and buy everything that I will need for the coming week. I started doing this for a few reasons – we were throwing out food that went bad or we became tired of and we had to make extra stops to the store for items for dinner that night (I tried asking Ben to stop for me on the way home but found out it’s one of his pet peeves – oops). Now, obviously waste isn’t acceptable whichever country you’re living in but it definitely confronts us more head on now that we’re living in a developing nation. We often have people asking us for money or food. Whether or not this is truly a need, I’m not sure but Ben and I have both determined that we want to be frugal with our living in order to be generous with others. A really simple way to do this is with our groceries. It takes discipline but we’ve significantly cut our budget down with simple planning of meals. More on this to come!
- Studying my Bible
So often, we hear as Christians that we should study our Bible but no one really knows how to do it, or even start learning for that matter. There are many great resources out there (including Rick Warren’s Bible Study Methods) but my new favorite is Kay Arthur’s “How to Study your Bible.” It’s the inductive Bible study method and it is simply you and your Bible and learning how to understand what the text means from the historical context as well as the text itself. I studied 1 Peter with the guidance of a friend and mentor last year and was so excited to have the Bible open up to me in that way that I wanted to keep going! I’ve made it a goal to one Old Testament book and 3 New Testament books this year. I’ve started with Genesis and am excited for the journey!
December 23, 2011 § 1 Comment
Ben and I are going to take some time off for Christmas and my birthday to go exploring in Zambia. We’ll be camping and enjoying the bush, missing our family and friends back home but thoroughly enjoying spending Christmas in Africa! We’ll be back in this space after the New Year.
Much love from our home to yours,
Ben & Laura
December 22, 2011 § 3 Comments
When Laura and I arrived in Zambia 2 months ago, we expected many things. We expected to make good friends, to enjoy our work assignments, and to appreciate living in a new and exotic environment. However, there have been many pleasant surprises along the way. One of the most significant has been our time volunteering at a local orphanage in Lusaka.
On most Saturday mornings, we wake up early to go with our friend Holly Nelson from Special Hope Network on a drive to Kasisi, a small town about 30 minutes outside of Lusaka. In this small town, there is a beautiful orphanage that is run by the Catholic Church. For the next two hours, we spend time playing with, reading to, and enjoying a group of about ten children who live at the Home, many whom have intellectual and/or physical disabilities. On of my favorite children in this group is a little boy named Gift. Gift is about 7 years old, and he appears to have some form of autism. He has difficulty focusing on tasks for more than a few seconds, and his language skills are very limited. He always has a big smile, and he always waves to us and comes to give us a hug when he sees us. Over the last 2 months, I have come to love this little boy and I look forward to seeing him on Saturdays at Kasisi. Laura and I have gradually learned how to keep his attention for longer periods of time, and we have realized that the name “Gift” is truly appropriate as he has brought joy into our lives.
The faithfulness of the Catholic sisters at this orphanage is inspiring and also challenging to us Protestant Christians. It is embarrassing to note that Protestant-run orphanages in Lusaka often will not take in kids with intellectual/physical disabilities, while the Catholic-run orphanage accepts children with all manner of disabilities. Matthew 25:31-46 is fairly clear about what Jesus expects from His disciples – how can Protestant Christians then withhold God’s love from the least of these?
September 8, 2011 § 1 Comment
With this (temporary) new nanny position, I’ve been learning a lot about the care taking of children in a way I haven’t before. I have been nannying triplet two-year old girls one day a week until we depart for Africa. It may sound like craziness (and it is at times) but I love these girls and we have so much fun together every week. Last week, we played outside with chalk, blew bubbles, and took a walk in the woods. The girls loved finding little “balls” (leftover air soft bullets from the big kids in the area). After naps, we ventured over to the park. I knew the girls would need drinks, snacks, and the potty (they are toilet training) so I packed those like a good nanny should. The amazing this is, the girls didn’t even know they would need the potty, snacks, or drinks. They live in the moment and think in terms of themselves. I was struck that this is very much how God our Father sees us. We get so consumed with our lives, our wants, our desires. We find ourselves in situations where we “need” something and yet God has already prepared things for us. We don’t have to be anxious or worried because He is taking care of us.
Matthew 6:25-34 NASB
” 25“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26“Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? 27“And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? 28“And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, 29yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 30“But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! 31“Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ 32“For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34“So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. “
August 19, 2011 § 2 Comments
Here is a guest blog from my husband, Ben. I thoroughly enjoyed this little piece he wrote and found myself relating to these feelings. I hope you enjoy it too!
If I’m not careful, I will find almost any excuse to complain. Here are some common complaints:
– I didn’t get enough sleep
– I didn’t relax on vacation
– I didn’t get enough time alone with my wife
– I don’t like a certain part of my job
– I can’t believe how bad our government is
– my wife isn’t doing something the way I want
– etc, etc, etc
One of my favorite truths to proclaim is that we are sinful people who live in a sinful world. And based upon that truth, I pout and focus on how sinful things are and how terrible things have become. However, I am realizing that I often miss the point. Like a camera that is out of focus, I fail to capture the beautiful landscape that is before me because I am fixated on a single distraction in the periphery of my picture.
I frequently ask myself: why has everything gone so wrong? A better question to ask: why should anything go right?
If I take my thoughts about sin, in isolation, to their logical conclusion, I will find many fantastic reasons to be depressed. But if I take my thoughts of sin to the cross and remember what Jesus did about MY sins, I find myself speechless with gratitude and wonder. I am forgiven! I am free from sin and empowered to live by the Holy Spirit living inside of me. Starting from that point, I can see countless examples of God’s grace in my life – beautiful relationships He has given me, wonderful memories to cherish, the privilege of being used by Him to shine His light wherever I go.
Lord, help me to be thankful. You deserve so much gratitude for all that you have done for me – help me to honor you by living a life filled with thanksgiving and praise to your Holy Name.