Prengnacy and the Mother of Jesus

As I’m getting my insides rearranged by this 3-pound “head of cabbage” (that’s how my weekly update describes her size), the strangest thought crossed my mind…

How did Mary feel when she felt baby kicks from Jesus?

I actually had this thought around Easter, but since then I’ve pondered on it a little more.

First of all, she didn’t get the normal human experience of conceiving a baby.  But she still went through the normal human experience of pregnancy – hormone changes, body changes, emotional changes.  So, how did she feel when she felt those first tickles of baby moving around inside her?

I can only try to imagine the toll that cultural isolation had on her – with or without preggo mood swings.  But I can also imagine that once those baby tickles became more regular throughout the months, that she’d have a sense of peace and confidence regarding her position.  I mean, if ever there was someone who got to have physical evidence of their promise coming to pass on a daily basis, it was Mary.  (Sarah would fall into that category, as would Hannah).

The thought I had at Easter was more of what kind of memories did Mary hold on to when Jesus was being crucified.  Did the thought of that little baby kicking inside her and making her belly change shapes come back to her on that day or on the days after?

I have been told by mothers before me that you never forget those first memories of your baby moving around on the inside, and now I believe them (even if her favorite place to play is that nerve on my left hip that makes my leg tingle)!

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A Reading Comprehension Lesson from the Bible

Well, I said I would give you an example of how I have used the steps from my last post to better understand scripture and to make it relevant to life.  It hasn’t quite been a month since I posted that, but it’s close and I’m finally getting to the example.

Note: I wanted it to be relatively short 1) for the sake of me typing it all out and 2) so it’s quick and painless for you to follow along in one sitting.  **Shameless plug – I absolutely LOVE YouVersion!  You can find it at YouVersion.com and there is a free app available the device of your choosing.  It’s all FREE!  They make no money off of it, therefore I’m certainly not getting anything for promoting it, but it’s a fantastic Bible-reading application that is painless to use and gives you so many translation options at your fingertips!  Ok, that’s over, let’s begin…

Colossians 1:20-23 (KJV)

20 And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.21 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled22 In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:23 If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister.

#1: ID your pronouns – Yep, lots of him’s and he’s and you’s and ye’s.  Let’s find out who’s who.  My first step is usually to go to the amplified version of the verse – that’s my natural tendency because my paper bible is a parallel bible KJV/AMP so I just switch columns on the same page.  I gave Ken a NIV/MSG parallel for his birthday one year and so that makes 4 translations in 2 volumes when I’m in a place to page-flip.  So, start with the version you’re most used to and branch out from there (again, thank you YouVersion!)

Colossians 1:20-23 (AMP)

20  And God purposed that through (by the service, the intervention of) Him [the Son] all things should be completely reconciled back to Himself, whether on earth or in heaven, as through Him, [the Father] made peace by means of the blood of His cross.21  And although you at one time were estranged and alienated from Him and were of hostile attitude of mind in your wicked activities,22  Yet now has [Christ, the Messiah] reconciled [you to God] in the body of His flesh through death, in order to present you holy and faultless and irreproachable in His [the Father’s] presence.23  [And this He will do] provided that you continue to stay with and in the faith [in Christ], well-grounded and settled and steadfast, not shifting or moving away from the hope [which rests on and is inspired by] the glad tidings (the Gospel), which you heard and which has been preached [as being designed for and offered without restrictions] to every person under heaven, and of which [Gospel], I, Paul, became a minister.

See?  Lots less pronouns – and we can see that sometimes “he” is God, and sometimes “he” is Jesus Christ, though there are still some that may be questionable.  I

n verse 20, “all things should be completely reconciled back to Himself” – that’s God, and “the blood of His cross” – that’s Jesus.

In verse 21, “estranged and alienated from Him” – that’s God.

In verse 22, “in the body of His flesh through death” – that’s Jesus.

And in verse 23, “And this He will do” – that’s God.

In most of the letters written to the New Testament churches, “you” definitely refers to the church members, but (whether you like it or not) it can be extrapolated to “you” the present and future Christians who will be reading it.

#2 History – There’s not a lot of cultural history context to this passage but there is “Gospel” history.  This passage actually takes you all the way back to the beginning where we (the human race) became separated from God and throughout the fabric of time, God had a plan to reconcile that separation once and for all.  It also references the detriment of sin, saying that we were of hostile attitude and wicked activity.  It also gives you insight into the purpose of the crucifixion and resurrection – why it had to happen and who played what part.  All things that happened before this letter was written (Remember, Colossians was a letter from Paul to the believers in Colosse [Gentiles]).

#3 Definitions and origins – When doing this with the verses from the amplified, I’ve learned not to get bogged down because a lot of the verses have a built-in thesaurus (that’s why it’s amplified!).  But sometimes the vocabulary still ends up ambiguous, so it’s important to take the thesaurus words and simplify, especially since one of the goals for this process is for you to be able to summarize in your own words.  I’ll be pretty thorough for this example.  (Most of the words I just Googled definitions to, to save time).

Reconcile – restore friendly relations; make compatible.  (Yep!)

Estranged/Alienated – isolated; separated; unwelcome (Yep!)

Faultless/Irreproachable – beyond criticism; without defect or error (aka holy)

The fun one for me in the verse was “the Gospel”.  In the amplified verses it says “glad tidings”, which is the cute way to say “good news”.  We’ve all heard the Gospel referred to as good news before, so that doesn’t add a whole lot of depth to these verses.  I’ve heard and read a lot of people talk about “the Gospel” as being one of 2 things – Salvation (believe in Jesus and go to heaven) or Redemption (salvation from sin plus all the other things that are listed as part of the curse of sin – death, sickness, poverty, etc).  My “eureka!” moment was seeing that all the verses (in this example) before the word “Gospel” even shows up are defining “the Gospel”!!!  So what’s the good news?  That God worked out this plan, by sending Jesus to earth to die, to reconnect all of us back to Him in the same way that Adam was connected to Him before he sinned (and thus reap all the benefits that connection affords).

*Something that I didn’t plug in the first time I did these verses, if you replace the word “faith” in a lot of places with the word “sonship”, things make a lot more sense.  And there’s a whole other exercise (longer than this one) that can help you see that the substitution is not arbitrary, but you’ll have to do that one yourself.

#4 Re-write it

So here’s my own words…

And God made a plan that, through the intervention of His son, all things on Earth and in Heaven should be completely reconnected back to Himself by the means of the blood of the Son’s cross.  And although we were, at one time, disconnected from the Father, now, Christ has reconnected us to God through the death of his faultless body, in order to present us holy and free of defect in the Father’s presence.  And God will do this, provided that your sonship (new attitudes and actions) remains in Christ, and don’t move away from the hope inspired by the reconnection with God, that was designed to be offered without restrictions to every person under Heaven.

So, it’s good news that God worked his plan and by believing it and acting on it, you are reconnected with God in the same way Adam was in the garden, and can reap the benefits of that connection.  And this opportunity is available to anyone on the planet!

What I learned:  Having this understanding of the Gospel (because it’s not just about knowing verses) has changed the way I see and do life.  I had to work on Easter Sunday and it was because I understood these verses in this way (thus the meaning of the Easter/Resurrection celebration) that I could do it without feeling condemned or like I was missing out on a touch from God.  I’ve been reconnected to God, I’m a “son”, I’m not missing out on the benefits from my relationship with Him just because I was sitting in a Walgreens pharmacy rather than a church service!

One other thing: can you imagine seizing the opportunity to talk to someone you know that needs God in their life, and you know that they’ve been Bible-bashed, street-preached to that you’re not sure what new you can tell them?  Can you imagine the response you’d get when you actually talk to people in English, like humans – and instead of always quoting John 3:16 or trying to take them down the Roman Road, you were living out and “continuing in your sonship” (based on what you learned in these verses) and presented them with this Gospel?

What you learned about the Bible in the 1st grade

One of my new pregnancy symptoms turns out to be insomnia.  The past several nights, I’ll wake up to go to the bathroom and then suddenly I’m wide awake!  3 am, really?!  And I usually spend the next 2-3 hrs just awake – no reason at all.  So during these dark hours when NOTHING is going on anywhere, I’ve had some interesting things rolling around in my head.  Some of those things I have found interesting enough that I wanted to share them with you…one at a time, of course.

I remember the complaint a lot of us had regarding what we were taught in school.  “How is that going to help me in the real world?!”  One of the things that I know we all learned during school that is SOOOOO important to our lives in the “real world”, and that I am discovering it is especially in our relationship with God.  READING COMPREHENSION!!

You learn to read as you start school, and learning to read is not just about able to recognize the words on the page that form the sentences.  It’s about understanding what you read, recognizing how the sentence/paragraph/chapter you just read relates to the one you’re presently reading.  Yet somehow, there’s this disconnect when kids/teens/adults read the Bible.  Reading the Bible becomes about memorizing the “catch phrases” (“by his stripes we were healed”, “trust in the Lord with all your heart”, “For God so loved the world…”).  And then actually understanding the Bible requires “revelation from God.”  And guess what?  You will not insult God or remove the “holiness” of the Word if you break down chapters and verses (aka paragraphs and sentences) the same way you did Lord of the Flies in the 11th grade!

So, in case you need a jump start, here’s a few steps that will get you started.

1) Identify your pronouns

– If you start reading a passage and everyone is a “he” and everything is an “it”, then maybe you need to back up a bit to figure out who “he” is and what “it” is.

2) Identify the historical/cultural setting

– Somehow it becomes easy to forget that “bible times” wasn’t a separate time period from other time periods in history.  The people written about in the Bible had to learn to co-exist with the Babylonians and the Egyptians and the Romans – all of which are studied and documented cultures in history.  They weren’t some special breed of Egyptians from another dimension that just interacted with the Israelites, they were the same Egyptian culture that you watch documentaries about on the History Channel.  So, use that knowledge and information to enhance your understanding of scripture.  And the Bible isn’t the only documentation of Mosaic law-based cultures or even early Christian cultures, so learn some history!

3) Identify word origins

– The English language has proved to be a very limited language when it comes to accurate expression of thoughts and concepts.  We are all aware of the example of the word “love” – you’ve got a 1 in 4 chance to get the meaning right when you translate it to Greek.  Look up words, learn their roots.  You might be surprised to find that what teachers and preachers told you a verse meant really isn’t what was intended by the writer.

4) Re-write the passage in your own words using what you learned from completing steps 1-3

– This was probably my least favorite assignment from any Literature class I took.  But is probably the most useful when it comes to testing if you really understood what was being said by the author and what was happening in the story.  So, when it comes to doing this step with the Bible, it does a couple of things for you.  A) It gets all the thee’s and thou’s and heretofore’s out of the way to make it feel more natural B) It increase the remember-ability of the subject at hand for you to be able to summarize and share

I’ve learned that taking this seemingly academic approach to the Bible leads me to one of three places: 1) I learn something about God – his characteristics and his way of thinking.  2) I learn something about my role as a child of God – the characteristics I should have and the way I should be/think.  3) I learn something about my role as a disciple of Christ – the way I should speak and act.  Therefore, this process isn’t about getting brownie points because I read my Bible.  It’s about me taking what I’ve read and learned and evaluating my view of God or my ways of being and thinking or my ways of speaking and acting to see if they line up with what the Word says.

So, if you just want brownie points, keep it up, you’ve probably got more than you can count.  But if you want to know God, understand the Bible and how it applies to you and where you fit in with all of this, then dig in!  You don’t have to sit around and wait on a “zap” from Heaven.

Grammar and the Bible

Luke 18:27 – And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.

Grammar is a funny thing.  In elementary school, we learn proper English grammar.  We learn the parts of speech and what order they’re supposed to go in to form a complete sentence.  Then as we got older, we used what we learned to write that A+ (well, maybe B) papers for anyone who required it.  And once school is over, we don’t care much about the form of sentences just as long as the people we are talking to get the point.

One of the parts of speech that really wreaked havoc on my writing life was prepositions – and all because of the rule “don’t end a sentence with a preposition.”  (And since I’m writing about it, I’m very subconscious now about what I’m typing.)

I had an enlightening moment with the verse above, all thanks to prepositions.  Wherever I was and however it happened (I really don’t know), I learned this verse with the wrong preposition.  I quoted that verse this way: “That which is impossible for men are possible for God.”  And while there is some truth in the way I learned it, it has a completely different meaning.  The best way I can define “for” in this situation is “intention”.  So it basically makes the verse say “the things which men intend to do that are impossible, are possible when God intends to do them.”  So, when men can’t, God can.  There’s some truth there, right?

But the verse doesn’t say “for”, it says “with”.  “With” had a “accompanying, relating, togetherness” definition.  Here’s the verse again: the things which are impossible with men are possible with God. So, the things men and I do together that are impossible, are possible when God and I do them together.  See the difference?

It’s not about saying “okay God, it’s impossible for me, so go ahead, do your thing,” and then sitting back to watch God turn the impossible into the possible.  It’s about grace (God’s ability to do through you and for you – and shall I say – with you, what you can’t do for yourself).  He sent the Holy Spirit to be our helper, not our errand-boy.

It changes my view on so many of the things I do – how I do church, how I do work, how I do marriage, how I do relationships, how i do communication – how I do all the things I believe God had called me to do.  Am I trying to do them all on my own?  Am I trying to do it only with the intellect of “great” me? Am I trying to do it with the religious “expertise” I think I have?

Or am I doing it with God?  In the grace of God.  Where I keep God close at hand during every move I make, instead of him being the far away consultant that I only call when I’m stuck and don’t know what to do next.

So, how are you trying to accomplish the impossible – with men or with God?

Humans will be Humans

Throughout my life, I’ve heard preachers talk about Moses and how he dealt with the Israelites.  And somewhere before it’s all over they say something like “even after 1000’s of years, church people haven’t changed.”

Well, it’s true…

…but it’s not just church people.

During the 1000’s of years between the Fall and now, Sin hasn’t changed.

There is something about Sin that causes people to defy authority and instructions – it’s Sin’s nature.

When God promises to provide manna for the people to eat every day, he says to gather only enough for today, because if you try to save it for tomorrow, it will be rotten.  But on the 6th day, you should gather enough for the Sabbath because manna won’t be available on the Sabbath.  Sounds easy right?

Well, there were still people who tried to save up and reaped the consequences of rotten manna.  And there were other people who tried to go gather manna on the Sabbath, and had to go hungry for the day because it wasn’t there.

Yes, the people were complainers and whiners.

When the 12 spies came back from their scouting mission, Joshua and Caleb believed God.  The other 10 spread rumors and instilled fear in the people.  God said go take the land, the people said no.  Then God told Moses that they would have to wander around until all the doubters died out and the next generation would take the land.  The next morning, Moses wakes up and goes outside and sees the people prepared for war and they got their “toe” kicked.

Every time God said “don’t send your daughters to marry their sons and don’t bring in their daughters to marry your sons” – all because He knew they were take on their idolatry and customs – they did it anyway, and fell into the problems that God said they would.

So, in Sin, you’re destined to stay in a cycle 1) get instructions/law 2) say “ok” 3) disobey/break the law 4) pay consequences 5) repent 6) start over.  If they obeyed God, they had the blessing and protection of God.  If they disobeyed God, they were on their own.

It wasn’t until Jesus came and became the sacrifice for all that we were able to break out of the cycle and have a nature that didn’t inherently disobey.

So, without Jesus, humans would just be (and stay) Human.

Who is Abraham to you?

Today is Day 4 of 90 reading all the way through the Bible. I made it to the end of Genesis (will make it on into Exodus before the night is over).
So, with one book down and 65 to go, I thought I’d share what I learned from Genesis…
And this may have been obvious to everyone else but I’m usually the last one to know, so I’m just now finding out – Abraham was rich and strong! The Bible tells me so.
Remember the part where he & Lot parted ways? It says they both had so much that they had to split up because the land could not sustain both their herds together! That’s rich.
And then when Lot was kidnapped during the war of the kings, he gathered 318 of his own men to kill the kidnappers and rescue all that were taken, not just Lot. And he even used battle strategy to do so.
That is so not the Abraham that I remember learning about from the Felt People – that Abraham was an old, decrepit nomad wandering around in his robe & with his staff all his life. And maybe he did some of his life but not his WHOLE life.
So, now Abraham seems like a strong hero instead of an old, gray-bearded man.

YouVersion is now my version

Here’s a shout out to the folks at LifeChurch.tv and a wonderful product they’ve provided called YouVersion.com.

Sign up for free.

Many versions of the Bible available.

Keyword searches.

Parallel view options.

Your own personal journal and notes section.

A community to share with.

Even mobile apps.

It’s easy to navigate and you can hightlight (star) and save passages that you want to come back to. While bulky concordances and commentaries can be intimidating, having a resource I can trust for quick, accurate results and cross-referencing when writing lessons.

My new favorite thing:  One-year reading plan.  You can get daily reading updates in your email or as an RSS feed (for all you super-bloggers) to read the Bible in a year.

I encourage you to check it out – YouVersion.