I have been pondering a lot lately, it's not one specific thing - it is more thinking about our culture, our society and our direction.
I can't seem to spend enough time in the scriptures - seeking truth and hope.
Here is a little of what I have been learning:
I have studied the book of Esther several times and she is an incredible example in so many ways. So much is packed into only 10 chapters. As I was thinking about our current times and what the media is sharing with us - my mind kept going to those words that we hear often from Esther 4. As Mordecai is inspiring his young cousin he reminds her that there is a purpose for what is happening to her in this time and place, v.14 "Who can say but that you have been elevated to the palace for just such a time as this?" As I went back to study this scripture again I couldn't believe Esther's reply. Do you know what she said? She sends a reply to Mordecai to ask for help, she knew that she needed a support system and she knew she would find it in the faith of her family, now look in verse 16 - "If I must die, I am willing to die." Esther's wisdom and strength is far beyond her years. She understands that God can not be manipulated with fasting or any of our earthly techniques and yet she was willing to do what is necessary to save the Jews at the age of 15!
The next scripture that I studied is in the beginning of Acts. We studied this passage at church on Sunday as our pastor taught about fellowship, but as I turned to chapter two all I could focus on was the word "devoted" that I had highlighted and emphasized at some point in my previous studies. I like the word "devoted." I needed to learn more - who is devoted? what are they devoted to? why are they devoted? Whenever I study scripture I ask a lot of questions. I want to understand, just reading it does nothing for me - I need to take it apart and examine it. So let's start at the beginning of Acts - what is going on? We see the ascension of Jesus, Judas is replaced by Matthias and the descent of the Holy Spirit. Peter's sermon at Pentecost began in an exciting ministry as 3,000 believed and were baptized. Can you just imagine what that would have looked like? I love baptism weeks at my church - what a celebration!
It was this group of new believers that devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and they met together constantly and shared everything they had, They worshiped together, met in homes for the Lord's Supper and shared their meals with great joy and generosity - all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. (v. 42-27) Wow! What an example.
I know that as new believers there is a lot of excitement and thirst for the Word of God, but we should never let that fade. It's not like we know everything there is and there is no more to learn, no more room to grow, no need to worship. It's such a time as this to be devoted to studying the truth found in scripture, to praise, to share meals with great joy and generosity.
Now we are going to travel a little further in Acts to chapter 17 where we meet the Bereans. The Bereans are my heroes. I wrote about them before, you can read the blog post here.
Paul and Silas were teaching in the synagogue and the people in Berea were open-minded and they listened eagerly to Paul's message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to check up on Paul and Silas to see if they were really teaching the truth. As a result, many believed. (v. 10-12) Do you see why I like them so much!
They looked in the Old Testament for final authority as to what Paul and Silas were teaching them. They were ordinary people who read eagerly and diligently with conscious dependence on God for help to understand His word and what they were learning from Paul and Silas. To put it plainly they used their brains to seek out the truth. With all the messages we receive everyday we need to be diligent to seek the truth.
So these are the lessons that I have learned this week:
I will leave you with a passage that is never far from my mind, found in 2 Timothy 3:16 & 17:
All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right. It is God's way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do.
I often catch our daughters lost in thought. I am always running around with my camera, so they are used to me having it near by. That gives me the opportunity to capture moments not just pictures. I am so thankful that they feel the freedom to just stop life for a few moments to pause and think.
After I won the award for my book for teen girls I had a lot of speaking engagements. I would spend time in prayer seeking guidance as to what I needed to teach and asking for direction as to what does this particular group need to hear. I always heard the same "thing" and it was not the "thing" that I thought it should be. This "thing" was not even in my book!
What I continuously heard was: "Teach them to use the brains that I gave them." The voice I hear is usually pretty direct. He knows I respond/listen better that way. :)
As I started to research the topic I realized why I was being asked to help young people think. For years youth are told what to think - from home, from school, and yes, even from church. They are inundated with knowledge, generally presented in a way that leaves little room for interpretation or personal thoughts. That is dangerous and it explains a lot about what is happening to our generation of college and career aged young adults.
What I was being asked to do was to challenge their thinking. To break the mold of authoritarian teaching make them question their belief, to question their character, to question their teachers. Yes, I told them to question their teachers - I even told them to question their Pastors. Yes, I know I am wild and crazy. But it wasn't my idea, if you want to question me you actually need to question the people of Berea. Do you know them? I'll help you find them, they can be found in Acts 17:11.
Paul and Silas went to Berea, while there they taught in the Synagogue. Many Bereans came to hear them day after day and were interested in their message. After they openly listened to their message they searched the scriptures to see if they were teaching the truth!
When I came across this passage I got one of those big Aha! moments. What is the difference between the people of Berea and the people from Corinth, or the people in Ephesus, or the people of Thessalonica? Do you see where I am going with this? Of all the cities where Paul taught, the people of Berea were the only ones that did not have a letter written to them? Why is this significant?
The people of Corinth received two letters because they were surrounded with corruption and negative influence of the people around them, and often gave in to their way of living.
In Ephesus the people needed guidance in how to practically live a Christian life.
In another two letters to the church in Thessalonica, Paul wrote to encourage the people to allow the Holy Spirit to work in their lives and to stay clear of sexual sin.
What this teaches me is that if you honestly and actively seek to know and obey the truth, then indeed the Truth will set you free!
We have a choice to use the brain that God gave us. Let's finish with Paul's closing thoughts to the church in Philippi.
"And now, dear brothers and sisters, let me say one more thing as I close this letter. Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise." Philippians 4: 8