Monday, June 30, 2014

The Power Of Words In The Bible Study

Following last Saturday’s blog, I thought I’d go on to the Christmas story of Zechariah found in Luke chapter 1. Yeah, I know it’s still six months to Christmas, but since we’re doing the importance of words in the Word Series, the story bears a huge significance.

Have you ever wondered why the angel Gabriel shut the priest Zachariah’s mouth after he questioned the angel?

Luke 1:18--Zechariah asked the angel, "How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years."

(You can read the entire account in Luke 1-2)J

When I first read this, then went on to Mary’s account of what happened to her when the angel Gabriel approached her, I thought: Wow! Mary got off easy when she questioned Angel Gabriel. Some commentators believe Zechariah was made a mute because of his unbelief, whist Mary, though only n her teens, didn’t get any rebuke because of her faith. But read the account below yourself and honestly ask if Mary did not also question the angel, in a similar manner that Zechariah did?

30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David,33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

For a long while I thought deeply on this? Why was Zechariah given quite a hefty rebuke--essentially made a mute for some nine months or more. (He only got his voice back after his first and only son, John the Baptist, was born, and named John)

Luke 1: 62 Then they made signs to his (John’s) father, to find out what he would like to name the child.63 He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.”64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God.

Some say, as a high priest, Zachariah should know better than to question Gabriel. I could buy that. But I always ask the question—is there something else here, something not quite so obvious.

One of the things about the Bible is that each piece is like a jig saw (hence the verse in Proverbs 25:2.)

Proverbs 25:2 It is the glory of God to conceal a matter;
to search out a matter is the glory of kings.

Zechariah was a priest. What does the bible say about the words of a priest?

Could it be that because of his station in life—being a priest—Zechariah’s words carry more weight than that of a young girl? After all, the bible warns of heavy penalties of pastors and leaders who lead the flock astray with wrong or bad teachings—a sobering thought but here: the proof:

So, if the reason behind Zechariah ‘s being shut up is because his words have greater import than Mary’s being a priest, could it be because he might unwittingly undo what the angel had pronounced? Or, at least affect it in an adverse manner way in some manner?

And what about you? If you are a believer does your word have any import? Are you a king, or a priest? What does God say about you? I’ll leave with God’s Word in Revelation 1 itself regarding you and your status in God's eyes. 

Rev 1:6
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood,and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father

In the next weeks we will explore the theme of words and their significance in your life.

Stuck? Can't Move?

Chains that don’t chafe…
Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly. Philippians 1:12-14 NIV

Chains are chains for one reason—they keep one object tied to another. We understand their usefulness with inanimate objects whether it means securing bicycles to a hitching post or keeping a gate locked at night. But when we feel bound to our circumstances, imaginary chains become a point of frustration.

Perhaps one spouse is tied to selling a house while the other has to move ahead to start a new job or a married couple has been called to the mission field and they need to sell their house to help fund their ministry. Maybe we feel imprisoned in an area we don’t like, but because of situations with family, and jobs, we are not free to leave.

When writing how his imprisonment had given him opportunities to share his faith, the Apostle Paul refused to fight his chains. History tells us that every four hours Paul was chained to a new prison guard and many became believers. The Bible tells us that as a result of what happened to Paul, the gospel was advanced.

Seeing our life chains as a way to anchor us to God, helps us stop chaffing against them. Those miserable, weighty iron links that seem to hold us down might be necessary to make us stop and do something we might not have done otherwise. When we are stuck in one place with few options, God often does His finest work. Being pinned to one place gives us time to think about our lives, to pray more, to communicate with others in our current community, and spend quality time worshipping our Lord. God might even have a special project for us that we wouldn’t have seen while flitting around in our previous life.

A few years ago my husband and I found ourselves unemployed while trying to sell our house. Fourteen months of showing a house in a down market seemed like an eternity when we wanted to move on, but I have a 70,000 word novel to show for my time of house arrest. I now have my first novel coming out this September because that down time.

 Are you bound to your present circumstances? God may have you anchored for a reason. Look around you. Is there someone God wants you to befriend in order to share your faith? Release from anxiety often comes when we respond to our current situation while looking for opportunities to make good out of it. When we quit fighting our chains, we may find a greater purpose in wearing them.

From the book, Changing Zip Codes.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Beatitudes Are Intended to Change Everything!

The Beatitudes as You've Never Heard Them - Sermons by Charles Spurgeon

When Jesus gave His sermon on the mount, those who heard it were "amazed." They were amazed because the content of that sermon was more radical than anything uttered before or since. The life that Jesus offered to those on that hillside was beyond what anyone could have conceived. Today this sermon is counted as the most important ever spoken, and yet today's finest minds, inside and outside the church, still don't appear to get the potential for change that Jesus laid out for them.

Like most who have spent their life, or most of it, in church, I have heard many sermons on the Beatitudes. Maybe more than most, I have also read numerous books that tackled the hope and opportunity that these simple sayings portended. Many of these teachings were quite beautiful and helpful in forming my Christian life. If you take your Christianity seriously, you probably think you have a pretty good idea of what Jesus was talking about that day. I certainly felt that way until late 2013.

The story begins almost a decade ago. I started a small group for the purpose of reading the Bible straight through in great detail. Members came and went over the years. On some evenings I had only two others sharing their thoughts about the verses we were covering. But we kept moving along and in the Fall of 2013 we finished the Old Testament and moved on to the New Testament.

During almost all of those nine years I had relied on Thru the Bible by J. Vernon McGee as my primary reference. I love Dr. McGee, and had previously read the entire 5 years of Bible exposition he shares on radio even today, many decades after his passing.

As we got into the Beatitudes, however, I was unsettled by his analysis. I felt that others had done it better, and that he was far too eager to make these passages about end times rather than now. I did agree with him on one thing; many Christians have taken the Beatitudes to be the "10 Commandments" of the New Testament, and have missed out entirely on the blessing of grace that Jesus came to proclaim.

In any case, I started doing an internet study on the Beatitudes. In the course of this study I found the most amazing sermons I have ever heard preached. The content was stimulating at every level, from visceral to intellectual, and from emotional to practical. But as a special additional blessing, the writing was just beautiful. I described it to friends as like listening to a picture. I was so amazed that I listened to all eight sermons four times. It may not surprise you to hear that these sermons were the work of Charles Spurgeon.

Of course, they didn't have recording equipment in the 1860's, so we don't have his voice. However, the sermons were transcribed at the time, and a reader has read these sermons very beautifully on YouTube videos available at

I encourage you to go listen to the Spurgeon sermons first hand. In addition, for some time I have been feeling led  to write a modern version of these sermons as a small book so that I might share the wealth of Spurgeon's fabulous interpretation of Jesus' words. As with my last book, I am going to write this new book on my personal blog, and when completed make it into a final manuscript available to buy. Please subscribe to the blog if you want to be kept updated on each new chapter.

In the meantime, please consider reading my just released book God Called - He Needs Your Decision! which is available on Amazon's Kindle, and has just been release in paperback. You can read the introduction here or you can see some of the reviews here.

Tell others! Tweet this:   The as You've Never Heard Them Based on Charles Spurgeon Sermons

The first chapter of The Beatitudes as You've Never Heard Them, begins here.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Why Study the Bible?

Most Christians think it is important to study the Bible 
Most of my Christian friends say that they think they should study the Bible more than they do. Some have a daily time for Bible reading, some don’t, but in general, all seem to feel that they should study more. Churches usually provide Bible study classes in some form, and of course, sermons contain Bible teaching. Why does a Christian need to study the Bible? And if study is a necessity, how might an individual go about it?

I don’t think I can speak for anyone else, so I will speak for myself. My answer to the first question is this. I need to study the Bible, because there is no better way to shine God’s light of truth on myself. If I am ever going to be different than I am today, I need to see the things in my life that ought to change. I cannot be transformed by God’s truth, if I don’t know God’s truth. I can learn the truth by studying the Bible. 

Some might say that it is presumptuous for a private individual to read and interpret the Bible on her own. After all, it is a big book full of complex teaching. An individual can hardly sort it out without help. My response to that point is that there are lots of helps available – dictionaries, maps, commentaries, and even well-designed studies of specific texts. In fact, the amount of help available is almost overwhelming. However, there is one help that is available to every Christian without charge. Every Christian can call on the indwelling Holy Spirit for help understanding the Bible.

It takes time and prayer to develop a habit of studying the Bible

For many years, my personal study time has begun with a prayer that the Holy Spirit will shine the light of Truth on what I read and then shine the light of Truth on my life in order that I may apply God’s Truth in my life. I don’t claim that I have received any startling visions or messages as a result. Rather, as I read, there is a dawning of recognition of the relationship of the Bible text to some aspect of my life. I have never taken any big growth spurts. Rather, my growth in the faith has been nourished bite by bite. When I look back ten years, I can see that I have grown, but day to day, it sometimes seems that I learn nothing.  

I do not limit my search for help in understanding to my prayers to the Holy Spirit. After all, God does not need to take the Holy Spirit’s time (please forgive my anthropomorphic reference to time for an eternal being) to teach me ancient history or Middle East geography or languages or archeology. God has given me a mind, and he has led many people to write many books that are helpful. In fact, with the passage of time, I realize that the Holy Spirit expects me to inform myself intellectually in every way that I can in order for the transformational teaching to be as rich as possible. 

No single study method is best for every occasion or for every person

This realization leads to the second question – if I need to study, how do I go about it?

There are many ways to study the Bible. Whole books have been written on the subject of Bible study methods. I find that listing all the possibilities leaves me very confused and defeated. I can’t do all that. I am not eternal or infinite, so I am limited by time. My intellect has its limits, too, so I don’t understand all the helps. My personality has its own quirks, and that might mean I don’t want to outline the book of Isaiah. There are many ways to study the Bible, but each person must find the way that bears fruit.  

For me, a couple of things are central to my study. First, I read passages from the Old and New Testaments daily. I follow a plan that covers the whole Bible in two years. I also read and meditate on the Daily Texts issued by the Moravian Church. These readings expose me to a lot of teaching. On any normal day, only one thought emerges with relevance to my life at the moment. I probably miss a lot of bigger truths, but I made the decision long ago that I would try to focus on one thing at a time. 

Second, I write down my thoughts and meditations. At first, I thought I was simply keeping a journal of my discoveries. However, I have come to understand that the very act of writing down my thought becomes a vehicle for the Holy Spirit to open my mind to new teaching. For me, writing down my thoughts on the text as they develop allows me to worry with troubling concepts and try out explanations and applications on paper. I might be able to come to the same understanding without writing, but my personality is better served by the act of writing. I explore and think all the time by means of writing, and it is my best tool for study and analysis. 

As I read and as I write, I take my questions and thoughts to other resources. I have the good fortune to possess quite a few biblical resource books in electronic form, which makes it easy to search them. I also have internet access, and I do some of my research there. But most importantly I try to acquire the intellectual resources in order to give the Holy Spirit as much to work with as possible. It is the leading of the Holy Spirit that reshapes my life.

Bible study is not about more knowledge; it is about transformation

When I was a child, I thought knowing about the Bible was knowledge. I could recite the books in order. I knew the names of the twelve apostles and the twelve tribes. I knew so many Bible stories that my Sunday School teachers were annoyed. However, none of that intellectual content changed my life. In fact, if anything, it made me a little arrogant, or fomented what one teacher called a supercilious air. I actually thought that knowing the facts made me a better Christian than others.

I had to grow up to realize that people who couldn’t even find the book of Haggai were generous to the poor and kind to old people. I struggled to understand the deep meaning of “thou shalt not lie,” but I regularly deceived people by playing games with words I thought they did not understand. I knew the names of the fruits of the spirit, but I didn’t possess any of them. 

Then one day, I came face to face with the reality of the cross. I had heard the story and told the story for a lifetime, but the reality had never hit me before. I finally understood that Jesus died for me, and that God had forgiven me, not because I could list the minor prophets, but for Jesus’ sake. I finally realized that knowing about God was not the same thing as knowing God. 

God reveals himself in the Bible; Bible study helps us get to know him

That is when I began studying the Bible the right way. The right way to study the Bible is to read it in the full knowledge that it is a revelation that changes your life. It points you to God, and it shows you your failings. It demands that you make changes, and that is very scary. However, if you are studying with the Holy Spirit as your teacher, then you can face the truth and face the needed change with his comforting presence saying, “I will be with you.” 

Bible study isn’t about knowing things; it is about knowing God

When I study the Bible, it is like the experience Moses had at the burning bush. He met God, and God asked him to do something hard. Moses made all kinds of excuses in an attempt not to make the change God was asking, but God said to him, “I will be with you.” This is what happens when I read the Bible. In the Bible, I see truth that demands I make some changes in my life. Those changes are hard, challenging, overwhelming. I can’t think how I will ever do anything God wants, but the Holy Spirit says, “I will be with you.” 

That is why a Christian needs to study the Bible. 

By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love, available at Amazon . You can learn more about Katherine at Living on Tilt . If you are an author who is looking for an editor, visit Katherine Harms, Editor, and learn how to she can help you prepare your manuscript for publication. 

Photo from Used by permission 


Friday, June 27, 2014

Modesty, the Bible, and Brazilian Soccer Players

The only thing that bothers me more than bad grammar is bad theology.

I heard it again, one more time, on Christian talk radio. “Guys can't help how they feel. They're visual creatures. Girls don't realize what boys feel physically when exposed to their bodies. They need to take responsibility to keep their brothers from stumbling.”
Beautiful Barcelona. We didn't
take any pictures at the beach.
For obvious reasons.

It's time for this idea to die. I know. It's a pet theory in the Christian world. Championed by well known leaders in the faith. Jumping into the fray is already making folks who are reading this angry. But hold on.

See, the problem is, it's just that--a theory. There has never been real proof. The facts "everyone" knows have been catalogued and repeated. But let's look at some other facts.

The idea has been around, healthy and strong, for too long. It's dangerous. It's demeaning to both genders. And—it's unbiblical.

I could approach this psychologically, sociologically, or logically. However, let's go at the question with the criteria that should always come first—biblically.

Four things the Bible does not teach about modesty—and one it does. [tweet this].

The Bible does not teach that the body is shameful.
Four years ago, we spent an afternoon on a beach in Barcelona. Aware that parts of the beach were “clothing optional,” we opted for the first crescent, the one deemed “safe for the whole family.” We learned, quickly, that apparently tops are optional everywhere. So our first "exposure" to cultural norms in Spain was a bit of a shock.

But you know what? I didn't see a single man on that beach assaulting a women because she was topless and therefore he couldn't help himself. What I saw were families and friends enjoying a day at the beach together, completely oblivious to one another's state of not-dress.

Genesis says that the creation of humans was very good. God rejoiced in the forms he had created. Shame entering the world didn't change that. In fact, the Bible tends to celebrate beautiful women and strong men—as well as strong women and beautiful men.

This isn't to say that we don't dishonor our bodies when we treat them shamefully. It's to give a starting point from which to have the discussion. That start is, and must be, that God created the human body fearfully and wonderfully (Psalm 139). It is never to be shamed for its mere appearance.

The Bible does not teach that we can “blame the victim.”
I can't find a single instance in the Bible where a sexual assault is implied to be the woman's fault. Bathsheba (2 Sam 11), Tamar (2 Sam 13), Dinah (Gen 34)--all recorded as sins of the men involved, not women who “had it coming” by the way they behaved or dressed.

No one said Bathsheba should not have been bathing naked on her roof. No one admonished Tamar for going into her half-brother's bedroom without forethought. No one blamed Dinah for wandering into an area where “foreign” men might harm her.

Scripture solidly places the responsibility where it belongs—on the perpetrator. They do not get a pass because the women involved were beautiful or careless and therefore they couldn't help themselves.

Apparently, as sexist as people claim the Old Testament is, it treats women better than many modern evangelicals do when it comes to not blaming the victim.

The Bible does not teach that we can blame others for our sin.
The NT follows suit, with Jesus warning that “everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5.28). Jesus doesn't add, “unless she's dressed revealingly” or “except when you feel like you can't control yourself.” It is what it is—you choose to look with lust, you can't blame the person you're looking at. To imply otherwise is to strip from men the power to look away, to make a moral choice, to obediently honor others.

For no other sin do we offer this excuse. Try these alternatives. “Hey, you parked your brand new sports car in the driveway. You were just asking to have it stolen.” “The company leaves its books open for anyone to embezzle. I couldn't help myself—I wanted money.”

No one would make such ridiculous statements (except, perhaps the thief). Yet that is exactly what we say when we tell girls, “men can't help how you make them feel when you dress immodestly.” No other sin we catalog gets a pass on personal responsibility. Only male lust. Yet we continue to perpetuate the lie that our girls have to cover up to save their brothers from themselves.

Guys can't help themselves, so ladies cover up. That is offensive to guys of good character and enabling to those of bad. It tells men they are lesser moral beings--which is self-fulfilling to those who want that excuse and deeply hurtful to those who strive to be holy.

(And anyone who says girls can't be just as visual hasn't heard women watching the World Cup lately, trust me.)

We have more in common with fundamentalist Islam than with Jesus when we demand that women cover up so that men don't sin. Jesus simply told the men—it's in your power to look away. Do it. Honor what I created.

The Bible does not teach a dress code. Yes, the general message of Scripture is to cloth oneself with dignity. But those verses we always use as proof texts when preaching to girls? Let's look at them again.

“Likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire” (1 Timothy 2.9).

“But let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious” (1 Peter 3.4).

In context, Paul and Peter are addressing the same thing, and it is not lack of coverage. It's excess. Women who appear in church flaunting their wealth on their heads and necks. Ladies who felt the need to show everyone else how much they could afford to look good. The sin was pride—not immodestly.

The word “modestly” in these verses carries the meaning of “downcast eyes”--in other words, Paul is advocating humility and self-control. Funny, I hear plenty of teaching on how girls must cover themselves up to obey the Scripture, but I have yet to hear about how they should ditch the gold and pearls. Lots of folks want to expound on how tight a dress can be, but no one I've listened to recently has commented on the expensive designer label inside.

Yes, scripture warns against “playing the harlot.” It warns against seductive behavior. But this behavior is clearly one of attitude and intent, not dress. It is a warning for women who do try to use their sexual power to get what they want, certainly a valid warning for our day.

The terrible trend of our girls mimicking stage idols who sell their bodies for fame and profit has a host of consequences those idols don't have to live with but our girls do. I've written quite a bit from that side of things, too. (See this.)

It is a pride problem when women dress revealingly to get attention. But the behavior described in Proverbs is that of words, looks, and actions, not of a woman walking down the street in a low cut shirt.

So what does the Bible teach about women's dress?

The Bible teaches self (and mutual) respect. Am I saying women should be free to wear (or not wear) whatever they wish? Rather, I'm saying women (and men) should be taught the truth about why they dress with care.

Girls should learn that their bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, amazing creations of God, costly purchases bought by Christ for His purposes. They should learn to respect and love their bodies as the image of God.

And so should men. The treatment should be equal and no different.

When a girl understands and believes this, truly? She will dress in a way that self-respects. It's a natural reaction. It's the reaction of loving obedience, not shame. It's the reaction God wants from us all.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Hebron - A Biblical City

What’s So Special About The City Of Hebron?

Hebron. You may have heard of it before. It might ring some distant memory, but you’re not sure why. This city happens to be rather important. It’s just a little harder to find out the reason s it’s important. There is no concise paragraph in the Bible telling us all about Hebron. You have to dig in and find little snippets to put together a full understanding of its importance.

Allow me to lead you through the Bible to discover Hebron. There will be several references that we will explore.

Gen 13:18 

     After Abraham separated from Lot, he settle in Hebron and built an alter there.

Gen 23:2, 17-20

     Sarah died in Hebron and Abraham purchased a from Ephron. In the field was a cave that Abraham used as a family tomb, and buried Sarah there.

Gen 35:27

     When Abraham died, he was buried in the cave with his wife.

Joshua 14:13

     Joshua gave Hebron to Caleb, the other faithful spy, as his inheritance. It was given to him “because he followed the LORD God of Israel fully.” Before the city was Hebron, it was called Kiriath-arba. Arba was the greatest man among the Anakim. 21:11 says that Arba was the father of the Anak.

Now I find the Anakim fascinating and more than just a little hard to understand. 

Numbers 13:28 Is part of the report given to Israel by the twelve spies. They said that the people are strong and the cities are fortified and large. You can almost hear their exasperation when they exclaim, “We even saw the sons of Anak. They are huge!” (My paraphrase)

It is the origin of the Anakim that I have no idea what to think about. Numbers 13:33 Is still part of the spies report. They said that they saw the Nephilim, whom the sons of Anak are part of. They compared themselves to grasshoppers next to the Nephilim. Seeming to indicate that these were the giants in the land.

Now the Nephilim are mentioned, by that name, only one other place in the Bible. Gen 6:4 I think that this is one of the most bizarre events in the Bible, and I write fantasy.

I’m just going to quote it here: “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.” NASB

Go ahead and say it, “What?!” Exactly. When I studied Gen. our group discussed this and came to no conclusion. I mean, how is that even physically possible? We discussed the theories, and I don’t think we can say how it happened. It’s one those things that we may not ever understand. And really when you think about it, do you really want to know? Gives me shivers up my spine. 
Update: If you'd like to find out more about the Nephilim, Emma Right has written two blog posts on it. Click here for Part 1 or Part 2

Joshua 21:8-13

     Here we are told that the actual city was given to Aaron’s sons and one of the families of the Kohathites, all sons of Levi. But the fields of the city and its villages were given to Caleb. Aaron made Hebron a city of refuge. A city of refuge was a safe place to run to if you accidentally killed someone. If you made it to a city of refuge before the victim’s family found and killed you, you would have to state your case to the elders of the city and they would take you in and give you a place to live. If the family tracked you to a city of refuge, the elders would not hand you over to them. Nice to know if you’re ever in a tight spot.

2 Sam. 2:1, 11

     When Saul died, the kingdom of Israel was split. God had chosen David as the next king, but Abner, Saul’s general put Saul’s son, Ish-bosheth, on the throne in Gibeon. However, the tribe of Judah anointed David king and he ruled over them for seven and a half years. David ruled from Hebron.

It helps to know the significance of the city that David ruled from. Hebron was an interesting city to say the least. While it’s not a city we talk about much, it sure played a big role in the establishment of Israel as a nation.

If you are interested in learning more about who God is through the Old Testament, I’ve written The Presence of Shadows. This book is the first in a young adult fantasy series in which I dramatize the lives and event of the Kings and prophets of Israel. Dive into the world of Ta-Val and take a journey with Brehane as he decides who to trust.
Find out more about The Presence of Shadows Here
Want to read more of my blog posts? Visit my personal blog Kara's Blog