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Sunday, March 30, 2008


We recently started the latest Ladies' Bible Study. It has been very encouraging to see the unexpectedly large turn out. [It's being offered at two different venues on two different nights. One class meets weekly and the other class meets bi-weekly.] I'm encouraged because these women are willing to WORK to learn skills which will help them interpret Scripture accurately, and then be able to use that knowledge in the preparation of lessons for discipleship, counseling, SS lessons, etc. - that is, in ministry.

This isn't the kind of class where you show up every week, chat about "what it means to me" and then go home to forget about it until the next week. No, friends, this is the kind of class where you come to realize how much you have left to learn.... where every week there is NEW material to digest and practice using throughout the week... where you have to relearn things you thought you had left far behind - things like grammar and history and geography.

Why, you might ask, would anyone be willing to subject themselves to such torture? Interestingly, anyone who has participated in one of these classes all the way through usually returns the next year... and they ALWAYS stick with it until the end! I often ask myself, "Why do they do it?" And I DO know the answer. It's because they have learned what a joy it is to be able to know God better, more obediently, to be able to gain new insight into Scripture, to have a whole new world open up before their very eyes as they start to plumb the depths of God's Word.

The hard part is convincing the first-timer to stick with it. It's hard to convince someone who is feeling clueless that ALL of us flailed around when we began. It has nothing to do with intelligence, with academic ability, with some special skill set you may have been born with. It has everything to do with hard work, with pushing yourself to learn, with reading, with meditating and with practice, practice, practice. This didn't come naturally to any of us!

But we discovered the value of perseverance. One day we DID start to notice things in our Bibles, it DID start to make sense to us, truths began popping out of the pages and organizing themselves in our minds. And that godly knowledge resulted in growth in our personal walk with Christ, in our dependence upon Him and in our obedience to Him. It changed the focus of our lives. That made perseverance well worth it!

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Land of Hills & Valleys

In January I traveled to Israel with a group from NE Bible College. Though it wasn't exactly the study trip I had pictured, it was certainly a worthwhile experience. Because there weren't enough students to fill all the slots, they opened it up to people from churches who support the College. The result was that the trip was not as academic as I would have liked... but I was able to make new friends.

We visited some sites I had only dreamed of ever seeing. I'm sure I became quite annoying as I kept trying to explain to people the significance of the gateway at Lachish or the controversy over the "stable" at Megiddo or the importance of all the miqvehs at Qumran as to whether or not this had been an Essene community (a small minority do not believe it was) or why there had once been an Egyptian governor's house on the Tell at Beth Shean. I'm not sure they were able to see how utterly cool it all was! ;)

Other than the archaelogical areas, what was most educational for me? I'd have to say seeing the terrain. I knew that Israel is small, about the size of NJ. But I had not really appreciated that it is pretty much all uphill, except for the coast and Jordan rift valley. When you look at a topographical map you notice that the terrain is arranged in vertical strips: coastline, hill country, Jordan rift valley. So when I read "hill" country, I imagined gently rolling hills, such as you would see in southern NH. But it wasn't like NH at all. The hills, though not always very high, ascend and descend sharply, again and again, so that you are constantly traveling up and down. From the top of one hill you can easily see the surrounding hills, but there are steep valleys in between. And it's just one hill after another after another... I have a new appreciation for Jesus and the disciples walking around that land. They must have been been pretty buff!

The Kidron Valley and Hinnom Valley in Jerusalem are also a lot steeper and deeper than I had imagined. One of the funniest stories happened when we were independently walking around in the Old City. The Old City is like a rabbit warren. The streets are narrow and roofed over in the market areas, so you often have absolutely no sense of direction and can walk from one Quarter to the next without even being aware of it, except for, perhaps, a change in merchandise or the writing being in Hebrew or Arabic.

Rick, Heather & I were walking along and I noticed we were going DOWN a lot of steps. I mean lots and lots of steps. Down and down and down... I laughed, saying at least we didn't have to climb back up all of them. Yes... you guessed it. We ran into a sawhorse roadblock we couldn't pass. The gentleman explained there was a mosque service ahead and we could go no further. We told him we were headed to the Jaffa Gate and he started laughing a deep belly laugh. After wiping the tears from his eyes and chuckling a few more times, he informed us we had been traveling in the exact opposite direction - which meant we had to climb back UP all those many, many stairs. I was pleased to have given him such a spot of joy in his humdrum job of stopping tourists from wandering into a mosque service. I'm sure we made his day and he couldn't WAIT to go home and tell the wife and kids!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

I'm Baaack!

Yes, I am still alive and well. I praise the Lord that we have a new Pastor caring for our fellowship. It is a blessing I am not apt to ever again take lightly. I thank those of you who have been praying for us and want you to know that God, in His faithfulness, has answered your prayers. Now we can focus on the business of doing the work of the ministry.

Personally, I am currently preparing to teach a new Ladies' study entitled, "From Scripture to Implication: Rules and Tools for Personal Devotion and Ministry Preparation". I'd appreciate your prayers that God would use the effort to His glory. The class begins March 19 and I'm sure you will be reading about it here in the coming days.