Be Stirred, Not Shaken

"We ask you not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled…" ~ II Thes. 2:2 *** "But stir up the gift of God that is within you by the laying on of hands…" ~ II Tim. 1:6

Author: poodster Page 1 of 5

Eyes on the Horizon:  Navigating this Life

“Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids look right before you.  Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established” ~ Prov. 4:25-26

A while back, I had the chance to spend a few days sailing off the coast of Sweden.  It was an idyllic off-the-grid weekend, and we had the opportunity to act as first mates to the boat’s captain, Patrik.

The first time I took my turn at the wheel, he gave me a point far out on the horizon to aim for (a tiny white speck that ended up being a lighthouse) and then sat back to chill.  I steered for a while, but increasingly found myself staring intently at the small GPS screen, which had two lines—the one he’d charted and the one we were currently on.

Navigating this Life - example GPS from the boat

I was laser-focused, trying to keep our direction completely aligned with the course he had charted, making tiny adjustments, struggling to turn the right way and guess how the boat would react to the waves and wind.  The result was me zig-zagging through the water rather than smooth, straight sailing.  When he realized what I was doing, he corrected me.

“Don’t look down, look at the horizon.  That point I gave you out there, that is your goal—navigate by that.  Yes, look down every so often to check for rocks and obstacles, but down there shouldn’t be your focus.”

Perils while navigating this life

Why does this story stick with me, even a few years later?

First, it immediately brought to mind the statement in Hebrews 11 about how the faithful of God through the ages were focused on the promises they saw “afar off,” remaining intent on that vision of the future no matter what threatened them in the present.

Secondly, it made me consider the needs and impact of the immediate vs. the eternal, and how we should be balancing the two while navigating this life.  Make no mistake, we’re meant to actually live our time on this earth, which means we do have to give attention to “right now”.

But it’s also easy to get caught up in the daily grind, with all the negativity, what’s going wrong (or right), not understanding the direction of things or why things happen.  And if we spend too much time thinking about the immediate, it can cause us—ultimately—to lose sight of the eternal.  We’ll zig-zag through life, wasting energy and ending up slowly but surely off-course.

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A Practical Approach to Worry & Anxiety in the Bible

Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow. ~ Swedish proverb

Worry.  Anxiety.  There are a lot of different words that can describe these types of feelings.  I tend to differentiate in that worries are specific—a presentation at work going poorly, a friend being offended by what I said—while I think of anxiety as a more generalized feeling of dread or fear.  That’s not necessarily scientific, just how my brain tends to separate them.  Personally, I’m more prone to the latter.  And while I wouldn’t consider myself a worrier, I do struggle with this on occasion—pretty much everyone does at some point.

There is a famous quote that says, “Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.”  Intuitively we know that being anxious all the time isn’t healthy, and yet often it seems like we can’t help ourselves.

I thought it would be worth digging into the topics of worry and anxiety in the bible, to see how we should approach them—are we dealing with a true innate personality trait, or something we can and should overcome?  And then we’ll dive into some practical ways to apply this in our lives.

Read next:  Eyes on the Horizon: Tips For Navigating This Life

What does the bible say about worry and anxiety?

Actually, quite a lot.

Here are a handful of verses that get right to the heart of the bible’s take on worry and anxiety:

  • “Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad” (Prov. 12:25)
  • “In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul” (Ps. 94:19)
  • “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on” (Matt. 6:25-34)
  • “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27)
  • “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7)
  • “Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved [shaken]” (Ps. 55:22)
  • “And Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her’” (Luke 10:41-42)
  • “I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears” (Ps. 34:4)
  • “For what has man for all his labor, and for the anxious striving for which they labor under the sun?” (Eccl. 2:22; NIV)
  • “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties” (Ps. 139:23, NIV)

And these don’t even count the 100 or so times that we are commanded to “be not afraid” or “fear not”.   God clearly sees these topics as relevant to His people and worth addressing.

Read next:  Fear & Love Can’t Coexist (Musings on Faith)

How does worry affect us?

The word typically translated as worry or anxious in the New Testament is merimnao (G3309), and it simply means “to be anxious about”.  It’s translated “worry” in the New King James mostly, while the King James tends to prefer “take no thought for” or “do not care for”.  This word is what’s used in some of the more well-known verses on this subject, such as Matthew 6 and Philippians 4.  Let’s dig into that (lengthy) passage in Matthew for starters:

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Circumcision, Baptism, and the Passover:  Coming Into Covenant

[Author’s note:  I wrote this study almost 15 years ago as a means of trying to understand what God’s word said about who should partake of the bread and wine within the Passover ceremony, as that was a topic of debate in our small group at that time (specifically regarding children).  The study outlines what I concluded, though in my mind this is not a topic I would “fall on my sword” about.]

Circumcision required in God’s covenant with Abraham

Abram was a righteous man who followed and obeyed God throughout his life.  In Genesis 12, we see the Lord (who later came as Jesus Christ) come to Abram and initiate a covenant, which was later reiterated and expanded upon in Genesis 13 and 15.   More than thirteen years later, the Lord again appeared to Abram, tells him to be blameless, and instituted a new part of their covenant:

“This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised; and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you…and My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. And the uncircumcised male child, who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.” (Gen. 17:1-14)

These verses show circumcision being added as requirement of God’s covenant with Abraham and applying to his descendants as well.  Circumcision was a symbol of the faith Abraham already had, an outward symbol or action of the change already evident in Abraham’s heart.  It was also used to signify the people God had made a covenant with.

Circumcision involves the shedding of blood, a crucial component in sacrifices for the atoning of sins.  Leviticus 17:11 tells us that “the life of the flesh is in the blood…for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul”.  This is a forerunner of Christ shedding His blood for the atonement of mankind’s sins (I John 1:7).

Israel’s requirements as God’s covenant people

Fast-forward to Israel preparing to leave Egypt and to keep the Passover for the first time.  Throughout Exodus 12, God gives Moses and Aaron the instructions for the sacrifice of the lamb, the blood on the doorpost (again, the shedding of blood and coming under it), and eating the meal.  Towards the end of the chapter, God instructs them that no foreigner shall eat the Passover (the body of the lamb that has been sacrificed), and tells them:

“All of the congregation of Israel shall keep it. And when a stranger dwells with you and wants to keep the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised…For no uncircumcised person shall eat it.” (Ex. 12:47)

The Lord is very clear that no uncircumcised person can keep the Passover, because it’s impossible to come under the blood of the lamb (Lamb) and partake of its (His) body without being circumcised—the sign of God’s covenant with His people.  In this patriarchal society where God made a covenant with the nation as a whole, circumcision for family members was ascribed to the head male family member, who stood for the whole family (and all males in the family were also circumcised).

Over the centuries, God frequently made a connection between the act of physical circumcision and an analogy of spiritual circumcision, or circumcision of the heart.  Throughout many years of wandering in the desert, Israel continually rejected God and longed with their carnal hearts to return to their old ways.  Before they finally were allowed to enter the Promised Land after the 40 years of wandering, God hammered home this connection and how He wanted His relationship with them to function.

  • “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the Lord and His statutes which I command you today for your good?…Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer.” (Deut. 10:12-16)
  • “Then the Lord your God will bring you to the land which your fathers possessed…And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live…And you will again obey the voice of the Lord and do all His commandments.” (Deut. 30:5-8)

Circumcision represented removing the part of a person that is resistant to God.  This never happened with physical Israel, though they were (often) physically circumcised.  The fact is that this circumcision of the heart can’t truly happen without God’s spirit at work in a person, and this was not available beyond a few specific cases until Christ’s sacrifice.

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Touring the Holy Land: Jerusalem, Masada, En Gedi, & the Dead Sea

This is the final post in a series about our trip to Israel and Jordan, where we’ve been focusing particularly on the history and biblical relevance to areas we visited.  At the end of our trip, over the course of about two days, we immersed ourselves in Jerusalem’s Old City, visited the Temple Mount, and spent some time exploring the fortress of Masada, ancient oasis of En Gedi, and the Dead Sea.  

If you missed the other posts in the series, here are the links.  I’d definitely recommend starting with the maps and introduction post, which gives some helpful context to the geography, history, and politics of the region.

After spending two days in the fascinating modern-day country of Jordan (historically Moab, Ammon, and Edom in the bible),  our friends picked us up at the border in Eilat, and we drove toward Jerusalem.

Drive from Eilat to Jerusalem

We took a different route coming back from Eilat than we’d taken from Tel Aviv down there a few days earlier.  Instead, we came up along the coast of the Dead Sea.

Qumran Caves

As we drove toward Jerusalem, we could see the Qumran Caves in the distance, with their distinctive striations, points, and cave holes.  The caves are famous for being where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered.  Specifically, thousands of fragments of the Old Testament scrolls dating back to between about the 1st-2nd century BCE through the first century AD.

You can visit some of the Qumran Caves but we didn’t have time for stops on this particular drive.

West Bank

I won’t even attempt to thoroughly explain the West Bank, because I’m not remotely equipped to do so.  It is an important thing to know about if you’re traveling in Israel, however.  It encompasses a large swath of modern-day Israel that is hotly contested by Palestinian Arabs, who claim it should be theirs as part of a Palestinian nation state. 

Towns such as Bethlehem (where Jesus Christ was born) and Jericho (thought to be the oldest city in the world) are here, as well as Hebron, where tradition says Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebekah, and Leah are buried.  As such, it’s a popular place to visit despite some of the complexities.

When you are driving through Israel, you will encounter various checkpoints.  We didn’t have any issues getting through, but if you’re visiting certain areas it’s recommended to go with a day tour or you can use public transportation and then hire a Palestinian taxi driver to take you around.  The Gaza Strip, however, is basically considered off-limits (to the point that the U.S. government explicitly says they will not help you if you’re dumb enough to go on your own).  

Most of the time when we were within the West Bank, I didn’t even know it.  However, as we approached Jerusalem and then from certain viewpoints in Jerusalem, you could see it a bit more clearly.  There is a wall at certain points that delineates.

Jerusalem in the Bible

Because Jerusalem is obviously present throughout most of the bible, we’ll have to approach this section a little differently than in the previous articles, since we could list scriptures for days.  Instead, we’ll cover the highlights of specific sites in Jerusalem in the bible or history.

One of the first things we did upon arriving in Jerusalem was visit the Israel Museum, because we arrived on their Independence Day and museum entrance was free.  While I’m not a big museum person, this may be one of the best in the world (from a historical standpoint). 

One of the things you can see there are fragments of the actual Dead Sea Scrolls (which were discovered in the Qumrum Caves above).  These are housed in the Shrine of the Book, a beautiful white dome meant to look like the clay jars the scrolls were discovered in.

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Becoming Strong, Useful Instruments In The Hands of a Master Blacksmith

“For You, O God, have tested us; You have refined us as silver is refined…we went through fire and through water; but You brought us out to rich fulfillment [abundance]” (Ps. 66:10-12)

There are many verses about God testing us and allowing us to go through trials.  Obviously in some cases, trials are of our own making, through poor decisions or sins.  But in many other cases, they seem to come out of nowhere, and it’s normal for us to wonder why, and what God’s intention is in allowing the trials.  Is it because He’s angry and wants to punish us?

Of course not.  God’s ultimate purpose is to make us into strong, useful instruments (James 1:2-3, I Pet. 1:6-7).  He has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the strong and wise, and so that those chosen don’t think it’s because of their own amazing capabilities (I Cor. 9:27-28).  But just because he selects us when we’re weak doesn’t mean we’re meant to stay that way.  Myriad verses make it clear that God is tearing us down and remaking us in His image (Rom. 12:2, Eph. 4:24).

In Acts we read where Jesus told Ananias through a vision that Saul (Paul) would be “a chosen instrument (or vessel)” of His plan (Acts 9:15).  This is the same word used when Paul tells the Romans that the potter has “power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor” (Rom. 9:21).  So how does God make us into the strong instrument He is looking for?

A while back I read an article from a modern-day blacksmith talking about his craft, and for whatever reason, on that particular day the biblical analogies just jumped off the page at me and I had to dig further.

Removing impurities in the midst of fire

The first thing the blacksmith does is take a piece of metal and heat it in the fire until it’s almost translucent.  Or he might melt the metal down entirely to pour into a mold.  Both of these processes make the metal workable, but also illuminate the metal’s impurities or deficiencies.

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The Feast of Tabernacles and the Fleeting Nature of Man

We live like we have unlimited time.  Even though we know better, this is human nature.

As I’ve said before, I don’t believe the fall holy days are really about us, as they picture God’s plan for reconciling the whole of humanity to Him (while the spring holy days are about the salvation of His called-out people).

The spring holy days are quiet, personal, intimate.  It’s about salvation on a one-to-one level, focused on inward change.  The fall holy days are about the whole of mankind, with dramatic and world-encompassing events that no one will be able to ignore.

We know that the Feast of Tabernacles pictures the 1,000-year reign of Jesus Christ on the earth.  His faithful saints will have been resurrected to eternal life, and God will begin reconciling the rest of the world to Himself.  So for those of us who understand God’s plan and are striving to be in that first group (the spring harvest), what should this holy day period mean to us on a personal level?

Dwelling in tents

Let’s look at the original command to keep the Feast, back in Leviticus:

“Speak to the children of Israel, saying: the fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days to the Lord…when you have gathered in the fruit of the land…you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook: and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days…You shall dwell in booths for seven days…that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel dwell in booths [tents] when I brought them out of the land of Egypt:  I am the Lord your God” (Lev. 23:34-43)

Why did God make the Israelites dwell in temporary dwellings during this time of rejoicing and feasting?   Yes, it’s a literal reminder of how the Israelites were made to wander for 40 years, living in tents in the wilderness and relying on God to sustain them before they could enter the Promised Land.  But we know that there’s a spiritual analogy here as well.

He commanded it to remind us of where we’re going.  Dwelling in tents during the Feast of Tabernacles is meant to remind us of the lack of permanence—the fleeting nature of mankind, of this life, of this world.  It also is meant to drive home our total reliance on God.

Ephemeral humanity

Several of David’s psalms dwell on the idea of humanity’s transience, how man is “like a breath…his days like a passing shadow” (Ps. 144:4).  He gets to the heart of why he’s focusing on this idea in Psalm 39:

Lord, make me to know my end, and what is the measure of my days, that I may know how frail I am.  Indeed, You have made my days as handbreadths, and my age is as nothing before You; certainly every man at his best state is but a breath.  Selah.  Surely every man walks about like a shadow; surely they busy themselves in vain; he heaps up riches, and does not know who will gather them.  And now, Lord, what do I wait for?  My hope is in You.” (Ps. 39:4-7)

The book of Ecclesiastes explores this idea in-depth, making it a perfect pairing with the Feast of Tabernacles (the Jews traditionally read Ecclesiastes during the Feast).  At its heart, Ecclesiastes asks the reader:  What direction is your life headed in—toward man or toward God?

It starts (and ends) with the famous exclamation that “All is vanity!” and then Solomon goes on to talk about all the ways he tried to seek physical fulfillment, only to discover that it’s all emptiness.  That word translated “vanity” is hebel (H1892), used heavily in Ecclesiastes but more than 70 times throughout the Old Testament (including David’s Psalm 39).

The KJV/NKJV versions exclusively translate it as “vanity”, and other translations (like the NIV) use “meaningless” or “emptiness”, but none of these really captures the true meaning intended—it’s definitely not accurate to say that this life is meaningless.  Hebel is a notoriously tricky word to translate, but its true meaning is closer to “breath”, “vapor”, or “mist”.

Or in other words, insubstantial, temporary, and impossible to cling on to.

James cautioned his readers about this very thing, saying, “You do not know what will happen tomorrow.  For what is your life?  It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14).  The prophet Isaiah echoed a similar sentiment, likening flesh to grass that withers and fades (Is. 40:6-7).

Like the Israelites in the desert, God is showing us we are in temporary dwellings until He gives us a permanent habitation (“a body incorruptible”).  The apostle Peter, as he neared the end of his life, wrote of knowing his “tent must soon be folded up” (II Pet. 1:13-14; Moffatt version).

Do we see our lives—our bodies, our jobs, our houses—in this manner, as a flimsy covering that one day will abruptly be taken down?  Generally speaking, the way we focus on our houses, careers, and physical appearance would suggest not.  Paul also uses this analogy, telling the Corinthians, “For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands (II Cor. 5:1).

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Being a Light in a Dark World

“The entrance of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple” (Ps. 119:130)

“The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?” (Ps. 27:1)

Light is one of the most prevalent themes throughout the entire bible, a thread that starts man’s journey on the physical earth and closes out the story in Revelation.

In the first few verses of Genesis, the very first thing God (the Word, Jesus Christ) does in recreating the earth is to bring physical light.

“The earth was without form and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’ and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness” (Gen. 1:2-4).

Then, in the last few verses of the bible, John explains that after God has set up His kingdom and recreated a spiritual heaven and earth, that “they need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light” (Rev. 22:5).  The physical celestial lights that God created for man in the current kosmos—sun, moon, and stars—are no longer necessary because we will have the Light with us and God’s glory will be all that is needed to see.

During His ministry, Jesus told His disciples (and us, by extension), “You are the light of the world…let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:14, 16).  We’ve each probably read that verse a couple hundred times in our lives, and typically what I’ve heard said is that it’s about how we’re meant to live righteous lives and be examples of God’s way.  And that’s true.

But a message I heard at the Feast last year got me to thinking about the analogy a little differently, including various aspects of being a light—basically, what does that really mean and require of us?  After digging in somewhat, there are a few insights about light that helped me in seeing even deeper meaning to that verse in Matthew.  They’re not earthshattering revelations, but rather reminders that should enhance our understanding of the type of light we are meant to be.

Light illuminates

I know, that feels like a “duh” statement.

So maybe another way of putting it is that it reveals.

The Hebrew word that’s used in that very first Genesis verse referenced above (ore, H216) means illumination, bright, or clear.  In Jesus’s command in Matthew 5, the Greek word used (phos, G5457) also means to shine or make manifest (a.k.a. clear, plain, apparent).  Both imply an enlightening or uncovering of something that was there but hadn’t previously been seen or understood.

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The Pursuit of Happiness…What Does That Mean?

The beginning of the Declaration of Independence makes an interesting statement.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

The writers believed that this was self-evident, meaning that it was completely obvious and didn’t need explanation.  The right to life (a.k.a. to stay alive) and right to liberty (a.k.a. freedom) make perfect sense to us.  But the phrase “the pursuit of happiness” doesn’t have the same meaning to us today as it did to the patriots in 1776.

We live in a world today that is obsessed with the pursuit of happiness.  But it’s not a world that our founding fathers would even recognize.  Today the words “happy” or “happiness” have become watered down, speaking more to a temporary mood or shallow state of being.

But when that sentence was written, the phrase signified a combination of fulfillment, contentment, self-worth, dignity, and community or civic duty.  I love the quote from this article, which sums it up by saying that “happiness was about an individual’s contribution to society rather than pursuits of self-gratification”.

So our founding fathers thought that this was a core tenet of humanity, but is the pursuit of happiness a biblical principle as well?

Related:  Comparison & Envy: the Key to Unhappiness

What does the bible say about happiness?

A lot, it turns out.

It’s worth just getting this out of the way to begin with:  pursuing happiness does NOT mean pursuing your own desires at the expense of others, or at odds with God’s way.  It does not say “the pursuit of pleasure”.   And it’s NOT the pursuit of materialism, humanism, and hedonism (II Tim. 3:1-4).  Solomon was clear that pursuing these things was pointless vanity (Eccl. 12), and the bible reiterates this again and again.

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A New Lump, Purged From Sin

“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me and I shall be whiter than snow…Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Ps. 51:7, 10)

In a previous year’s study as the Days of Unleavened Bread drew to a close, we explored how the command is that we must eat unleavened bread for seven days—the focus being on taking in Christ as the Bread of Life, rather than on thinking, even unintentionally, that we can get sin (leavening) out of our lives on our own.

One of the scriptures we really focused on in that study was a key passage where Paul tells the Corinthians:

Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you are truly unleavened.  For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.  Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity (clearness, purity) and truth” (I Cor. 5:7-8)

The word translated “purge” in this passage means to cleanse thoroughly, with the implication of cleaning or purging out rather than just wiping down.  It’s a very evocative, active word, and I think the King James translators used it very intentionally in this passage and one other (that we’ll get to later).

I hadn’t ever really thought about why and how the word “purge” is used here, but it caught my attention these past Days of Unleavened Bread, and brought to mind a few trains of thought that I wanted to share.

How are we supposed to become a new lump?

You can’t get leaven out of or “deleaven” your leavened bread dough.  The yeast spores so thoroughly permeate every inch of the dough that it’s physically impossible.  You have to start fresh with new dough.  When the Israelites left Egypt, God forced them to completely throw out their old dough starters, with yeast that had built up multiplied over potentially decades.  But He didn’t want them bringing any of that old leaven with them.

We, too, have to start fresh with new dough, metaphorically-speaking.  Paul covered this topic a LOT.  He illustrated it for us when he said, “For I am crucified with Christ:  nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20).  In a letter to the Corinthians he told them, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (II Cor. 5:17).

When we came to understand the gravity of our former sins, repented, and were baptized, we entered into covenant with God and symbolically died in the watery grave of baptism.  We came out of it as a new being (Rom. 6), free from sin, a new, unleavened lump.  This is our purging, and it continues throughout the rest of our physical lives. 

So let’s explore a couple things related to purging out our old leaven and being purged from sin.  I’ll try not to get *too* graphic, but there are some parallels to our physical experiences that are hard to ignore.  Like I said, they chose the word for a reason 🙂

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Studying Bible Prophecy: Where to Start

When I was growing up, bible prophecy was something that was discussed quite a bit in my family, so it’s always been a part of my life.  The church I was in also talked about it quite a bit, though it seemed to be falling out of favor around that time.  What I’ve witnessed in the last 15-20 years has been a pendulum swing the other way, to where talking about prophecy in the bible in any kind of detail almost makes people uncomfortable.  People who study it in-depth are looked at as radicals, and the very idea of speculating about events, times, etc. gives people hives.

I get where some of the reaction is coming from, to some extent—for a long time, people were setting specific dates and claiming to know things, and none of it was true.  And certainly, there are many other things besides prophecy that we should be focusing on, such as growing in Godly character, showing love to our brethren, and readying ourselves spiritually for the kingdom.  I’ve had people argue that if we’re doing all of these things, it doesn’t really matter if we’re studying prophecy in the bible.  But I don’t agree with that argument.

This post is meant to be a thought-starter for people who don’t or haven’t studied prophecy, not an all-encompassing look at the topic.  This was originally a presentation that’s been adapted into article form, so we’ve included a downloadable Powerpoint at the end that covers the highlights and can be printed out if desired.  The main purpose of this post is to talk about why studying prophecy in the bible is important, and then offer some key insights and direction for getting started or digging back in.

3 reasons we should care about prophecy in the bible

The bible is a lot more seamless than we give it credit for—prophecy is one of the major common threads, if not THE major thread, through the entire thing

You’d be hard-pressed to find a book in the bible that doesn’t contain prophecy (there may be a couple, but you have to try really hard).  In fact, Genesis—which many people wouldn’t list as a prophetic book—is one of the most important prophetical books we have, the foundation of all bible prophecy.  Go read Genesis 3, when God pronounces the punishment of Satan and Adam and Eve, and basically tells them that they’d totally screwed up, but it’s okay because He’d thought ahead and already had a plan to fix it.  Read about the Tree of Life, and God commanding the start of a family.  In fact, the bible starts and ends with a marriage and the establishment of a family—think that’s a coincidence?  It all starts there.

Additionally, the holy days give us a framework for God’s plan for mankind.  They’re the macro view of prophecy, a large-scale roadmap of when He plans to step in and how He plans to accomplish His will.  Bible prophecy is a constant reminder of God’s power and omnipotence, His everlasting nature, and His ability to accomplish everything He says He will.

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