I Feel Like I’m in a Holding Pattern…

Definition of a holding pattern:  a state or period of no progress or change; a usually circular pattern flown by aircraft waiting to land.

Then all of its occupants can resume their lives.

This is me.

I’m stuck in this in-between phase of my life where nothing is getting done.

And it’s driving me nuts!

I’m waiting to move into my new home.  Unsure of the date as of yet.  I’ve done all I can do:  called utility companies, put a forward on our mail, submitted change of address forms, done all of my little errands, etc.

Now it’s all a wait game.

I have tons of stuff I need to be doing, but I can’t do any of it until I move.  Like get Internet.  Library cards.  Unpack.  Make a home.

It’s hard to do anything here–in a home not your own.  Play guitar.  Read books.  Cook. Clean.  All of my normal day-to-day activities.

Time still drags and sometimes I count the minutes.

But at least the circles are getting smaller and smaller and the destination is getting closer and closer.

That’s all we can hope for, right?

Something You May NOT Have Known About the Three Wise Men…

Were there more than 3 wise men?  When did they visit the Baby Jesus?  Was it at the stable?

I picked up a kids’ book at the library entitled The Fourth Wise Man Retold by Susan Summers but based on the story by Henry Van Dyke.  It appears as well under the title The Greatest Gift:  The Story of the Other Wise Man.  This tells the story of a Fourth Wise Man named Artaban who did not make it to Bethlehem in time to see the Baby Jesus and spent his whole life searching for this teacher.

Along the way, he lives a godly-life, helping those who cross his path such as a sick man along the road.  He sells his beautiful home in exchange for gifts to give the child.  Slowly, he ends us selling everything he owns (including his beloved horse, Vasda) to follow the path of Jesus.

His last act came at the foot of the cross where Artaban gives his last precious gift he was saving for the King of Kings to a girl to save her from slavery.

He hears a voice at the end, saying, “As often as you did these things for the least of my children, you did them for me,” and he dies finding the King.

Great book promoting how to live a life full of God even through the disappointment of not finding what one is seeking right away.  All through faith.

After reading this book I wanted to find out where the wise men were listed in the Bible so I could read it to my kids.  I found this website listed below that collaborates the story I had just read.  I did not know most of this!  Like most kids, I had grown up with the tale of Three Wise Men as popularized in modern culture.  This website is fabulous!

Enjoy!

http://www.gotquestions.org/three-wise-men.html

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 14, Day 5: Acts 18:1-22

Summary of passage:  Paul next journeyed to Corinth where he met a tentmaker named Aquila and his wife, Priscilla, whom he stayed with and helped for a time.  He preached every Sabbath in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks to accept Jesus.  Having little luck after months of preaching, Paul one day announces he is giving up, telling the Jews it will be on their heads they haven’t accepted Jesus and he will turn to the Gentiles now.

Paul did have some success, converting Titius Justus and Crispus.

The Lord then encouraged Paul in a vision:  “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent.  For I am with you.”  Paul stayed for another year and a half.

The Jews tried to attack Paul by bringing charges against him in Achaia in front of Gallio.  Gallio dismissed the complaint, telling them to work out their squabbles on their own since the matter was within their (Jewish) own law.  Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, was beaten because of it.

Questions:

15)  Personal Question.  My answer:  When I am at my lowest, usually something happens to pull me up:  a comment from someone, a hug from a child, a word, something in the Bible, or a peaceful night’s rest.  God comes alongside us in unexpected ways to encourage and tell us not to be afraid; to remind us to trust in Him.  It encourages me to focus on my writing despite the chaos around me.

16a)  It seems to me he had an attitude of “I can’t be bothered with such petty squabbles.”  He was more important and had much more important things to deal with then an argument he had no interest in.  He didn’t even care Sosthenes was beaten in front of him.  He was indifferent and apathetic.  He probably thought all these people were beneath him since he was a Roman citizen and most Jews were not.

b)  Concern

Conclusions:  The scene with Paul reminds us that God is always with us even in our most trying trials.  The scene with Gallio gives us insight into Roman culture in the first century AD.  If you weren’t Roman, forget about justice.

This scene also shows how something insignificant as this scene  in Gallio’s mind (I doubted he even remembered it) could be so significant to the spread of Christianity.  Gallio (proconsul in 51-52 AD) by his actions officially gave Christianity protection by lumping it into Judaism (a recognized religion within the Roman Empire).  Gallio was the brother to the well-known philosopher Seneca.  His actions gave Paul the protection he needed in order to continue his work in Corinth.

This goes to show how sometimes consequences of our actions are unknown and could have serious ramifications.  Good lesson for everyday decisions in our own lives:  to remember we can’t always see the consequences of our decisions.

End Note:  Map showing Corinth:  http://www.apostlepaulthefilm.com/paul/journey_02.htm

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 14, Day 4: Acts 17

Summary of passage:  Paul next went to Thessalonica where as was his custom he preached in the Jewish synagogue, explaining and proving Jesus Christ using the scriptures.  Some were persuaded and joined him as well as some Greeks.  But the Jews were jealous so they rounded up some ruffians and started a riot in the city.  They went to Jason’s house where Paul and Silas were staying, and not finding them there, arrested Jason and some others instead.

That night, Paul and Silas left and went to Berea where they preached in the Jewish synagogue as well.  The Bereans were of more noble character and compared what Paul was saying with the scriptures.  They were eager to know God more so many were converted as well.  But the angry Jews from Thessalonica trailed Paul and stirred up trouble in Berea as well.  So the brothers sent Paul away to Athens.

In Athens, Paul was met with idols everywhere and meeting harsh resistance with the intellectual culture of the Athenians as he preached in the synagogue and the market places.  He got into a dispute with a group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers and was dragged off to the Areopagus (council) to make his case.

Paul told them about what they referred to as “the unknown god” who was the One, True God.  God who made everything in the world, who does not need anything from mankind, who controls nations and time, who is near to us, who commands people everywhere to repent for one day they will be judged, and who had given proof by raising Jesus from the dead.

Upon hearing the raising from the dead (something the Greeks balked at:  they were big on the spirit living on but believed the body to be merely a physical medium), Paul was cut off but invited to speak again.  Only a few were converted.

Questions:

11)  Converting and saving of souls because that’s what’s most important to God.

12)  Similarities:  Paul preached in the Jewish synagogues and converted people–what he does every place he goes.  The difference is in the people.  We are told the Bereans are of “more noble character” and they searched the scripture every day.  This means that the Bereans did not just accept what Paul was saying or were persuaded by his speaking ability.  They turned to the word of God to see if what he was saying lined up with God’s word.

Another difference:  they were eager to learn.  Some people before were there just because they were.  They wanted to know God with heart, mind, and spirit.

13a)  He’s discouraged.  He’s been followed by people who only want to disrupt his teachings.  He’s alone so he doesn’t have any support.  He’s probably tired (who can sleep well with a mob constantly after you?).

As Paul arrives, he is bombarded by the refined Athenian culture, full of images of gods and temples everywhere.

We must remember Athens is considered the birthplace of philosophy.  Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle all were from here and established schools of thought about 400 years before Paul’s journey.  So the Athenian people are used to thinkers roaming around, spouting ideas.  But they are also used to analyzing ideas thoroughly to see if they match up with the known world.

b)  The Athenians disputed with Paul (verse 18) and called him into a meeting to explain himself (verse 19).  Sounds like our political system from the local city councils to Congress.  Council after all comes from the Latin meaning an assembly for consultation, advice, or discussion.  Verse 21 describes universities to a T.

History:  The Epicurean philosophers were a group of people who believed pleasure is the greatest good and should be the pursuit of life and who believed in gods but believed they had nothing to do with man.  Based upon the teachings of Epicurus in 307 BC, pleasure was obtained by living modestly and gaining knowledge of the inner workings of the world.

The Stoic philosophers were a group of people who believed god was in everything and everything was god; however, they did not believe everything had a purpose or that things could be preordained.  Based on the teachings of Zeno of Citium in the early third-century BC, they believed in formal logic and the ability to overcome destructive emotions.  Man had a will based on nature.

So if we just compare these Athenians, then our culture has much in common with the ancients.  However, not everyone belonged to these sects of society.

c)  The resurrection of the dead

14a)  Verse 25 “He is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself give all men life and breath and everything else”

b) Verse 24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands”

c) Verse 27 “men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us”

d) Verse 24 “God made the world and everything in it”; Verse 25 “he gives men life and breath and everything else”; Verse 26 “He made every nation of men and determined the times set for them”

e) Verse 26 “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live”

f) Verse 26 “he determines the times set for them and the exact places where they should live”

g) Verse 29 “Since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone–an image made by man’s design and skill”

h) Verse 30 “he commands all people everywhere to repent”

i) Verse 31 “he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed”

Conclusions:  Have you noticed the argument for God is the same?  It never changes.  It is just put in different ways and said by different people.  Choosing God is an act of faith–plain and simple–just how God wants it to be.

The Areopagus means “the Rock of Ares” in Greek and is also known as Mars’ Hill.  It was originally a court of appeal for criminal and civil cases in the times of the Greeks.  It was also where the council of elders met, similar to the Roman Senate.  Later, in Roman times, it was a philosophical council that oversaw religion and morals.

End Note:  Map of Journey from yesterday:  http://www.apostlepaulthefilm.com/paul/journey_02.htm

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 14, Day 3: Acts 16:11-40

Summary of passage:  In Philippi, a Roman colony in Greece, Paul and the gang met with a group of women on the Sabbath outside the city (this tells us there was not a synagogue there at this time).  Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth, was converted and baptized along with others and invited them to stay at her home.

A demon-possessed slave girl began to follow the group around until Paul was so troubled he commanded the spirit out of her.  The girl’s owners who no longer could make money off of her, seized Paul and Silas and dragged them to the magistrates, accusing them of violating Roman customs.  They were stripped, beaten, and thrown in jail.

In jail, whilst singing, an earthquake happened that threw open the prison doors.  The jailer was distraught; but seeing the miracle he and his family became converts and were baptized.

Paul and Silas were then released.  However, Paul announced his Roman citizenship, striking fear in the magistrates, who then tried to appease them.  The group said good-bye to Lydia and the other converts, offering encouragement, and left.

Questions:

7)  Women who had gathered at the place of prayer.  They accepted Jesus as their savior and were baptized in his name.

8a)  They were preaching the word of God when a slave girl who could predict the future began following them.  Paul got so fed up he commanded the evil spirit out of the girl.  That got the attention of the slave girls owners, who dragged Paul and Silas before the magistrates, accusing them of advocating unlawful practices for Romans.  They were stripped and beaten and thrown into jail.

Paul and Silas began singing prayers and an earthquake threw the doors of the prison open.  The jailer and his family was then converted, baptized and saved by Paul and Silas and they were eventually set free.

b)  The jailer and his family were saved for eternity.  Lydia and the other women were saved as well.  Lydia was the first European convert to Christianity so the seed was planted which would spread to convert thousands more.

9)  Personal Question.  My answer:  It’s hard to say.  I just don’t know if I’ve touched anyone to be honest outside of my family circle.  Definitely nothing as dramatic as Paul’s experiences.

10)  As a Roman citizen, you were afforded many rights.  You were at the top of the caste system so to speak.  Paul wanted the magistrates to know who they were dealing with.  As Roman citizens both Paul and Silas were treated inexcusably.  There could have been repercussions on the magistrates of Philippi for their actions.  By Paul revealing himself the magistrates probably were fearful and would be sure not to cause them trouble next time they were in the city.

This also afforded them the time to meet again with their converts (Lydia and company) without being thrown out of the town.

Conclusions:  Great example of the hardships of converting in the early church and what we should be thankful for.  Also, I think converting Lydia and a group of women helped to put women on equal footing with men, showing them that women are just as important in God’s eyes as men are.  Every soul counts.

Philippi was a Roman province full of Gentiles and not many Jews as indicated by no synagogue.  Philippi was named after Philip, King of Macedonia, Alexander the Great’s father, when he conquered the city when it was a part of the Greek city-state of Thrace in 358 BC.  (I didn’t know this and found it interesting!  I like knowing where the names of things come from.)

End Note:  Map of Journey from yesterday:  http://www.apostlepaulthefilm.com/paul/journey_02.htm

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 14, Day 2: Acts 15:36-16:10

Summary of passage:  Paul wanted Barnabas and him to go back and visit all the brothers he had preached the word of the Lord to on his first missionary journey.  Barnabas wanted to take John (Mark) along but Paul refused, citing his desertion the first time around as his reason.  They fought over it, resulting in Barnabas going with Mark to Cyprus and Paul taking Silas through Syria and Cilicia.

Paul met Timothy in Lystra and wanted to take him along with him.  Timothy (who was half-Jew and half-Greek) was circumcised because of all the Jews around them.  They delivered the decisions reached by the elders in Jerusalem and the church grew.

They headed out through Phrygia and Galatia, avoiding Asia and Bithynia because the Holy Spirit told them no.  They headed to Troas and then to Macedonia after Paul had a vision he should preach there.

Questions:

3a)  They parted ways which allowed them to cover more ground for Christ and reach more people.

b)  Paul was right because past behavior is a predictor of future behavior.  Yet Barnabas was right to have faith in a young man who can (and did) change.  Mark eventually became an assistant to Paul and wrote the book that now bears his name (Mark) with the help of Peter as they journeyed together throughout Rome.  Barnabas took Mark under his wing to mentor and train while Paul pushed forward with his divine work.

4)  Silas (verse 15:40), Timothy (verse 16:3), Luke (verse 16:10) as indicated by the “we” since Luke is the author of Acts

5)  Timothy was circumcised so he would be a credible witness for God amongst the Jews whom he was preaching to and so the Jews would trust him more.  The Greeks were part of the ruling class who had subjugated the Jews in the past so most Jews did not trust/like Greeks.  He did this to avoid a potential conflict and ultimately to fit in more with the crowd he was preaching to.

For Titus, it was important to show that God accepted all no matter what the external appearance may be as decided at the Council at Jerusalem (Acts 15).  His role was in converting Gentiles, not so much in converting Jews.  He would have calmed some fears by his example, which showed you didn’t have to be circumcised to be a Christ-follower and a believer.

Further, Timothy was part Jew; whereas Titus was full Greek.  Jews were supposed to be circumcised.

6a)  The Holy Spirit guided them (verses 6, 7, and 9).  Paul’s goal is to hit the major cities but he remains open to divine guidance as this passage indicates and goes where God leads him to accomplish his mission.

b)  God will guide you if you listen.  God teaches what is best for us and directs us if we only would pay attention to His commands.  We’d have peace and righteousness.

This reminded me of the post I recently did on The Chronicles of Narnia and how man is great at hearing only growlings and not God’s voice.  You can see the post HERE.

It also reminds me of Jeremy Riddle’s Full Attention song, which says, “May your voice be louder, May your voice be clearer, Than all the others”.  A great prayer in itself.

We must learn to hear God’s voice clearer than all the others in our head.

c)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Yes.

Conclusions:  It took a minute to jump back into Acts right where we left off after a month on Hebrews and jump right back to the circumcision argument again.  I liked the example of Mark on how we all can change (especially when we’re young and do stupid things) and how the Holy Spirit guided Paul on his journeys.  He set out with complete faith, having no itinerary in mind.  Great example for us in life!  I think most of us have experienced this.  I know I am no where near what I had envisioned for my life so far.

End Notes:  Map of Paul’s Second Missionary Journey:  http://www.biblestudy.org/maps/apostle-paul-second-missionary-journey-large-map.html

My favorite map as it’s interactive and moves along the path Paul took:  http://www.apostlepaulthefilm.com/paul/journey_02.htm

The Beauty of Aesop…

Aesop, believed to have been a Greek slave who lived around 600 BC, accomplished what most writers can only dream of:  longevity.  He wrote timeless, meaningful pieces that have been told and retold for over 2500 years now.  Wow!

I was reading a collection to my kids when one particularly hit me.  It’s called The Lion and the Donkey.  It is a very short but the point hit home.

A lion is walking through a forest and all the other animals are making way for him except for the donkey who brays a scornful remark.  At first the lion was angry until he realized it was only the donkey, a fool, who had spoken.  He walked quietly on, not even deeming to respond.

Moral:  Do not resent the remarks of a fool.  Ignore them.

I wish I could do that.  I do take things so personally.  I couldn’t get over 30 comments of people telling me where to go in my newspaper column.  I just couldn’t.  The same with this blog.  The hurtful things people have said in the past still stings.

Part of me wishes I would.  But the other part doesn’t.  Because I think it’s this part that makes my writing better than average.  That makes it unique.  That tells the story as only I can.  That will one day fulfill my dream.  And purpose in this fleeting life.

This is at least what I cling to.  Hope.  God.  Family.  Purpose.

What Exactly DID the People in Old Testament Times Believe In?

This question has been on my mind since Lesson 13, Day 3.  What were God’s promises that everyone staked their lives on?  What were they striving for with their lives?

Again this is hard to answer from our standpoint since Jesus has come and gone in our time.

Today it seems it’s all about Heaven.  “You gotta have faith in Jesus to get to Heaven.”  True.  But back then…not so much.

I think Heaven was a very far off idea since the people of the Old Testament did not go to Heaven immediately upon death.

Instead, the people of the Old Testament clung to God’s promises to His chosen people, the Jews, which entailed the Jews being His chosen people, atoning for sins to be right with God, and God’s promise of a seed (ultimately Jesus but in Old Testament times all the people knew was it would come from Abraham’s line) to defeat evil and bring ultimate salvation.  (Genesis 3:15).

It was more vague for the OT people.  If they had faith in God and obeyed Him, they knew good things would come.  All the nations would be blessed through God’s seed.  (Genesis 22:16-18).  But the people had no idea how or when this would happen.

This is why I believe these people probably had greater faith than we do today.  They went about their every day lives obeying God and his laws, trusting Him and His promises, and one day they would have salvation.  Even if they did not know when.

Today, we know we will have Salvation immediately upon accepting Jesus into our hearts.  Done.  No more worries.  Our sins wiped away.  Forgotten.

In Old Testament times, it was a constant struggle full of sacrifices to atone for sins and probably a lot of worry involved.  “Are we doing this right?” they may have thought.  “If we do this wrong, God will not accept our sacrifice and we’re toast!”

Therefore, we have in much easier than the people under the Old Covenant.  We have the benefit of the New Testament and Jesus who has made the path to God as simple as “I believe.”

I loved this piece.  Very succinct and detailed:  http://www.testimony-magazine.org/back/Promises.pdf

More details on the promised Salvation woven through the Old Testament:  http://gregscouch.homestead.com/files/otsalvation.htm

End Note:  I’m talking here about the average, everyday person.  I think it would have been easy for men whom God spoke directly to (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses–those from Lesson 13 Day 3) to believe in God’s promises.  I think most people would believe if they saw God in the burning bush or He spoke directly to them in a dream.

So it was remarkable a woman such as Rahab would have believed.

There are times in the Old Testament where God stopped communicating through prophets, the time of Judges and of Kings.  People had to have faith in other people and what they said God said–something not so likely in our skeptical, untrusting society of today.

The Magician’s Nephew

One of the best parts of having kids is you get to relive your childhood all over again and experience the things you might have missed as a child.

Somehow I missed the captivating Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis when I was a kid.  Never heard of it really.  But since the movies, I have purchased a complete set and when we are on road trips I read one whole book to my family.

Last weekend we read The Magician’s Nephew, the first in the series that was written after the others in order to explain the creation of Narnia itself.

As you may or may not know, C.S. Lewis was a Christian writer.  He wrote tons of books for adults on the subject.  But he also wrote kids books.  And in the Chronicles of Narnia, God and the battle with good and evil are skillfully woven throughout allegorically.  It’s magical really.  You can read the whole series and see God everywhere or you can read it and not see God but you are left wondering about a Creator of the universe.

The Magician’s Nephew tells how Digory (the nephew) discovers Narnia as it is being created by Aslan the Lion.  However, Digory unwittingly brings the Witch (evil) into the world at the very beginning.  The Magician who forced Digory to time travel cannot hear the Lion’s voice.  Aslan explains why:

“This world is bursting with life for these few days….But I cannot tell that to this old sinner, and I cannot comfort him either; he has made himself unable to hear my voice.  If I spoke to him, he would hear only growlings and roarings.  Oh Adam’s sons, how cleverly you defend yourself against all that may do you good!”

I LOVED this.  Absolutely loved it!

For I think:  how often God does speak to us but we cannot hear Him?  How we have made ourselves unable to hear and we do only hear growlings and roarings.  How God only wants good for us but we somehow misconstrue the message by our own actions and Free Will.  How we are so consumed by something miniscule in our lives that God’s voice is blocked.

Then Aslan gives the Magician the one gift he is able to receive:  the gift of sleep.

This struck me as well since many times over the past year I have gone to sleep just so my mind would rest.  Just so the growlings and the roarings would stop and I’d have a chance to hear God speak.

These books are classics, timeless, and ingenious.  This is something I strive for in my writings.  Making God seen and teaching life’s lessons to those who desperately need to hear it.  To both believers and non-believers.  As I needed to hear this one.

I cannot recommend all of these books enough.

Focus on the Family

This was the words I received from God last night as I was praying about my family and everything else in my life and about what I needed to do.

I’m once again going through some major changes.  We are moving to a place I’ve never lived before.  I have quit my newspaper column, which took a major impact on me emotionally (I don’t think I will ever return to such an endeavor.  It is too easy to knock people in today’s society of the Internet and I want to be loving, not argumentative).  Homeschool has hit a bump in the road.  I think we all need a much deserved break.

On top of all this, I feel no Christmas spirit, which is rare for me as this is usually my favorite time of the year.  We won’t have a tree as we are moving.  We have to stay with my in-laws again for a week until our house is ready (never pleasant).  Plus, a personal complaint:  I hate moving in the winter.  I told my husband never again but here we are.

The last 6 months have been a huge strain on me and I think the whole family suffered because of it.

So focus on the family is going to be my top New Year’s Resolution.  This includes everything:  physical, spiritual, mental, etc.  And this includes myself as well.  Focus on the things I need to do to be a better wife, mother, and pet owner (although I think the dogs are doing quite well.  They are both happily sleeping on my bed at this very moment).

I think the rest (personal, professional, and passion goals) will fall into place once I realign myself with God and what’s the most important thing in my life.