Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Old Testament in 14 Days!


Well...for me...this week sure flew by fast.  I had something booked every day this week...but I did make time to do my September Quest and read a chapter each day from 30 Days to Understanding the Bible.

I actually completed the Old Testament section today.  I am now halfway through this very interesting book.  I haven't posted in several days...so here's what I have been learning about this week:

The Exile Era is documented in books Ezekiel - Daniel.  It takes place in Babylonia. Daniel leads and encourages the exiles. He strives to help them remain faithful through seventy years.  Featured during this time are the Exiles and Prophets as well as Prophecy Warnings and a Persian Power Change.

The next set of books: Ezra - Esther tell us about The Return Era.  In this era, Ezra is the leader of the people as they return to Jerusalem to rebuild the city and their lives.  This is a great time of restoration for both the people and the buildings in Jerusalem.

We then find a period of silence between the Old and New Testaments. Did you know that? This is called the Silence Era. The Pharisees are caught up in religious legalism.  The Sadducees are caught up in their wealth and influence.  It is a difficult four hundred years for the Israelites.

Next, come the Poetical Books.  These five books: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiates, and Song of Solomon give us Lyric, Instructional, and Dramatic poetry. Job shares the story of Job's great suffering and God's wonderful sovereignty.  Psalms shows us beautiful praise while Proverbs offers us tremendous wisdom. Ecclesiates warns us of the futility of temporary pursuits and Song of Solomon blesses us with a manual for marriage.

Finishing up the Old Testament is the Prophetical Books. They are the final seventeen books (from Isaiah - Malachi) of the Old Testament. In this set of books you will find Major and Minor Prophets...stories of the Pre-Exile, Exile, and Post-Exile periods...Foretelling of the Future...and Forthtelling which is proclaiming the teachings of God.

When I finished my chapter today, I realized I had completed the Old Testament section. What an amazing feeling.  I am truly stunned by how much I have learned in these past 14 days.  I have a much clearer picture of the entire Old Testament.  I know I will now enjoy reading the Bible even more.  I know these stories...these truths from God...will have more impact on me...bring me more joy...and inspire me even more because of the understanding I have gained in this Quest.  Amazing!

I am really looking forward to starting the New Testament section tomorrow!


Monday, September 9, 2013

God's Sweet Grace

Happy Monday.  I hope it has been a good day for you.  We had a very nice, busy weekend which included time with Hubby and our Engineer...eating out...cleaning the house...church...and a fun visit from Aunt Love and Uncle Jayhawk.  Busy days do not keep me from working on my September Quest...but sometimes they do keep me from posting about it!

I also have a very busy week ahead with many appointments and plans on my calendar.  Looking ahead through the rest of September...I guess this is my new normal! Anyway...I'll catch you up on my last few chapters of Max Anders' 30 Days to Understanding the Bible.

Saturday, I got to the Conquest Era. That is Joshua's era and takes place in Canaan. During this time, Joshua proves his leadership by the Conquest of the Promised Land.  He leads the Israelites through the God-parted Jordan River....in the taking of Jericho...in a seven year defeat of Canaan...and in finalizing the twelve tribes' dominion of the land.  Joshua was clearly a tremendous leader.

Sunday, I studied the Judges Era.  There were four main judges from this era: Deborah, Gideon, Samson, and Samuel...but it was super strong Samson that was the most famous.  This era also took place in Canaan.  These judges were chosen to govern the people for 400 years.  It was a very rebellious time.

The people of Israel broke God's laws...God would discipline them for their sins...they would repent...God would use judges to deliver them...and then they would sin again.  They went through this cycle seven times. During this time, one special woman stood out.  She was a model woman among sinners and her name was Ruth.

Today's lesson was about the Kingdom Era. It took place in Israel and David was the greatest king in the new monarchy.  He was, however, followed by a terrible succession of mostly unrighteous kings. Then God brought down judgement on Israel and the people were sent into exile for their sins.

Reading about these three eras...three days in a row...really reminded me how forgiving God is. These were God's special, chosen people and He wanted to give them everything great and wonderful. And yet...they continued to try things their own way.

They broke God's laws...sinned...and had to pay the consequences. And this happened over and over again. And yet...God is a loving, forgiving God.  He kept giving them another chance...for 400 hundred years.  Finally God had to send them to a time out.

But I can't judge these people. How many times have I tried to do things my own way...ignoring God and all the good and wonderful plans He has for me?  Reading these stories of the Old Testament again just really reminds me of God's forgiving grace.

He is so good to me.  He is so good to you.  He is a God of extra chances. He is a God of forgiveness. He is a God of sweet sweet Grace.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Just For Fun Friday: Perspective Edition

After a fun Celebration Day, I am back to tell you about my September Quests from these past two days.  I am really enjoying Max Anders' book: 30 Days to Understanding the Bible.

Yesterday's chapter was about the Patriarch Era in the Old Testament.  It takes place in Canaan and Abraham is the central figure of this section.  God chooses Abraham to be the "father" of the Hebrew people. His son Isaac joins him in leading the people as he carries on his father's promise.

Isaac's second son, Jacob, cheats his way into his own blessing of promise. So God makes good out of bad, and Jacob becomes another leader of the people. He has twelve sons which become the twelve tribes of Israel.  Jacob's youngest son, Joseph, rises to power in Egypt.  He is a righteous man who takes care of his people and his brothers.

God chooses Abraham...Isaac...Jacob...and Joseph to be the four major leaders during the Patriarch Era.

Today's lesson focused on the Exodus Era in the Old Testament. It all took place in Egypt with an unexpected leader named Moses. While Moses might appear to be the most unlikely leader (even to Moses himself!)...he is the exact leader God chose for such a time as this.  God empowers Moses, and because of God's help, Moses is able to lead his people right out of slavery.

God also gives the Hebrew people a set of laws to live by...but they aren't that interested in God's laws...and instead of reaping the rewards of obedience to God...they spend the next FORTY YEARS wandering around the desert waiting on God to fulfill his promises to them.  Clearly there were consequences to rebelling against God.

In both eras there is God with His hands full of blessings He would love to pour down upon these special people...but they ruin the fun God has planned for them by disobeying Him.  Rereading these stories really got me thinking.  I wonder....just wonder...what joys have I missed because of my disobedience?

It saddens me to think that while I was busy doing what I wanted to do...God was patiently waiting to shower me with blessings.  I have to say...it makes me want to try a little harder...do a little better...be a little kinder...and handle situations a little wiser.

I mean...after all...I'm only 44 and I don't want to miss out on a great blessing from God for the next FORTY YEARS.  Wow.  That's some new perspective I have gained today.

Speaking of perspective...I haven't forgotten it's FRIDAY....so Just For Fun:

Here's a fun and fantastic way every baby should be welcomed into this world!  This video will make you smile...probably giggle...and maybe even cry!  I just couldn't resist sharing it with you...especially after my post yesterday about how my family and friends make me feel special on my birthday!
So sweet...and so FUN!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Celebration Day

I did my September Quest today...but I'm going to have to tell you about it tomorrow...because today I want to tell you about my Celebration Day.

It was a Celebration Day because it's my birthday...my 44th birthday.  And I am so very grateful for the past 44 years and all that I have experienced in this life.  I'm not one to downplay birthdays.  I have always enjoyed them...and celebrated them...but a few years ago...when I hit that life-changing age of 40...I decided to make a few changes and one of them was how I viewed birthdays.

Growing up, birthdays meant a big family gathering complete with a special cake and presents.  Mom threw the party...made the food...sometimes made the cake...and always had a special gift for us -something we really wanted.  It was a joyous time and it always made me feel special...and loved.

Our Grandmas went to extra effort to celebrate us as well.  Grandma Gem would gather all sorts of fun items for months leading up to our birthdays.  I remember opening a box filled with goodies - things she thought I would like...things she thought I needed...and some things were just for fun.

Atop the present was always a card with my first and middle name written on it. Inside the card I would find a long letter from Grandma Gem about what I meant to her.  It was special...and loving...and very very Grandma Gem. Oh how I miss those sweet letters that would make me laugh...and cry.  

Grandma Teacher also put special touches on gifts to us.  She would spend time hand-making cute little decorations for the gift box.  She would painstakingly cut out each letter of my name in gold foil and tape it across the package.  Inside the present would be something I picked out of the Sears Catalog.

Weeks before my birthday, she would have me look through the catalog and circle pictures of items I would like.  It was SO fun to circle those items and know I would get one of them on my birthday.  I kept many of the crafty package toppers she made.  I have them saved in a box in my closest.  Oh how I miss getting a birthday present with those cute handmade decorations on top.

My Grandmas were so special to me.  I always think of them on my birthday. And I miss them both tremendously.

I guess, as a kid, I was in a hurry to grow up because the day after my birthday...I would start saying I was "almost" the next age.  That went on well into my twenties....but then...I turned 25.

I don't know why...but that was a tough birthday for me. I remember - all of the sudden - feeling SO much older.  That's when I quit saying I was "almost" my next age.  How funny is that?

The year I turned 40...I braced myself.  I had heard other friends say how hard that birthday was and a lot of women make a big deal about that birthday. So in January of that year I started saying it again: "I'm almost 40" or "This is the year I turn 40".  I said it so much that by the time September 5th arrived...it really wasn't that bad.  I mean...I had heard myself say it for 9 months.  I had "accepted" it by then.

As a matter of fact my theme for the day was: "I'm 40 and fabulous". It might seem a bit egotistical...but that mindset changed my attitude about birthdays.  That day I embraced the woman I am and the woman I have yet to become.  I decided right then and there to choose to love and be thankful for every birthday to come.  And that is why I celebrate today.

My birth order places me directly in the middle of the five children born to Mom and Dad. I have been known to say that "I am just the middle child."  It makes my sibling's eyes roll...which is the biggest reason I say it. {Some things don't change with age...}

But the truth is I am the middle child and the third daughter.  Sister is special because she is the oldest...Mom and Dad's very first child...the one that made them Mom and Dad.  Younger Brother came along several years after me and he is special because he is their first boy.  Youngest Brother is their surprise "gift from God" which clearly makes him special.

But what's so special about being the middle child?  As I mentioned...I am the third daughter.  Mom and Dad had a second daughter before me that is our forever Baby Sister.  She died at birth and a heartbroken very young Mom and Dad had to bury their little girl. There were a lot of unknowns at the time...including if it might happen again.

But they put their trust in God to get them through whatever His plans were for their lives. Despite the possibility of having to face such a heart-wrenching experience again...they were thrilled to find out I was on my way.  They prayed over me before I was ever born and celebrated my healthy arrival September 5, 1969.  I came along...a healthy baby...after such heartbreak. And that's why I am special.

Yes all of five of us are special to Mom and Dad.  They love all of us and we know it.  And I am so grateful to God for the blessing of being raised in such a happy loving family.

For the past 24 birthdays I have also had the privilege of celebrating my birthday as Hubby's wife.  We haven't always been able to celebrate the day together...because some years Hubby had to be away on business...but He always did his best to show me his love.  When our boys came along, they joined in on our fun and I had even more to thank God for as each birthday came and went.

And I could go on and on about all the amazing friends that have come into my life and given me so much to celebrate.  They have been supportive...loving...caring...and wonderful examples of inspiration.

So yes...it's my birthday.  And I happily share with you that I am 44 years old.  I openly celebrate this day not because of who I am or what I have done...but because of who God is and what He has done in my life.

While sad...bad...disappointing...or difficult times have come along through the years, I can truly say that God has been incredibly good to me.  He has gifted me with loving family and precious friends.

Today was my "Happy Day". Hubby took the day off to spend it with me. I got to pick where to eat lunch...what to do for the day...and indulge in yummy calorie-filled treats.  I received gifts, cards, texts, messages, and Facebook posts of Birthday wishes. I even got homemade peach cobbler from Mom and a beautiful flower arrangement from my Gourmet Hostess.

It's been a great day of celebration.  And I am most thankful.

I end this Celebration Day with prayers of thanksgiving to God for all the people and love He has brought into my life.  I also ask Him to guide me in the days...weeks..months...and years to come as I strive to live a life worthy of all His great blessings.

And to you, dear reader, I pray that your next birthday can truly be a Celebration Day for you.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

I Want To Be A Real Helpmate

Yesterday, I started telling you about my recent September Quest with this statement:
"So yesterday's chapter was about the geography of the Old Testament."

As Hubby was reading it, he told me his thought was: "Oh, how interesting."

So when he read my next sentence...he laughed out loud because that sentence said: "I know...I know...it sounded super boring to me too."

As usual...we came at it from different thought processes...which just makes me smile.

I love that Hubby and I don't always see things from the same prospective. It makes us more thoughtful because we discuss our different ways of seeing something. We share our thoughts...talk it over...and hopefully, we are true helpmates to each other.  

Today's chapter focused on the Creation Era.  This part of the Old Testament introduces Adam...in the Garden of Eden...he sins...and destroys God's original plan for man. 

Although today's lesson didn't point it out...we all know that Adam had some help with ruining God's plan. There was a snake called Satan slithering around causing trouble....and Adam's own gift from God - his helpmate, Eve, who talked him into thinking they had figured God out.

I feel for Eve because she was the only girl at the time.  She didn't have a mom...sister...or friends.  She was it. And she had to figure out the girly thing all on her own.  Unfortunately, it was a tough learning curve for her, and she brought down Adam and God's original plan with her bad idea.

This one little story...the very first one in the Bible...has so many lessons we can learn and apply to our lives today.  Like...no one knows better than God...don't let others lead you astray...make sure you are really helping someone when you offer your ideas...and certainly trust God because His plan is going to be the best for your life.

It is my goal every day to be a real helpmate to Hubby and to listen to God and follow His plan for my life. Our choices matter and the consequences can be dramatic.  I'm sure Eve was just thinking about how much she wanted to do what she wanted to do and didn't think about the possibility of leading Adam right down the path to the Fall of Man.

Thinking about that certainly makes me want to listen to God.

Dear Lord, please guide me in my words...thoughts...and actions.  I want to be a real helpmate to my husband...family...and friends...every single day.

Oh! And on a fun note...Hubby has decided to do this Quest with me! It's just another way he is a helpmate to me.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Picture This: Learning Can Still Be Fun

Happy Tuesday...that feels like a Monday...but thankfully is really a Tuesday!  Even with yesterday being a holiday, it was super easy to take a few minutes to fulfill my September Quest.  It really only takes a matter of minutes each day to read the chapter...fill in the practice blanks...and come away with a new "ah ha!" understanding of the how the Bible is set up!

It's boggling my mind how simple and yet complex this Quest really is!  The author, Max Anders, does a fantastic job of breaking information down into mini-bite-size pieces to the extent that I close the book feeling amazed at how far more clear my understanding is!  Crazy!

So yesterday's chapter was about the geography of the Old Testament.   I know...I know...it sounded super boring to me too.  But after reading through this chapter, I can picture the entire area - where all those stories took place - in a way I never had before. 

You know...I taught Bible to our boys and my students.  I studied the maps in my Bible and the maps that came with Bible curriculum, but I never had it laid out for me in the way this book does. It's just...well...so cool that I can finally picture this historical area as I read the stories.  It makes me want to read them all again.  

One of our former Pastors was a master of Word Pictures.  He would describe a scene in such a way that you could clearly see it in your mind.  Sometimes it would take my breath away.  Other times his Word Picture would stay with me for days...weeks...and one special one has stayed with me for years. 

There is power in a picture.  Even though I thought it was going to be a bit boring...it wasn't... and I am thrilled that I now have a much better picture of where all those amazing events of the the Old Testament took place.  

Today's chapter was on the main eras of the Old Testament.  Turns out there are nine of them, if you weren't sure on the exact number.  One of the things I love is the fill-in-blanks throughout each chapter in this book. 

Some people might not like this concept, but I love it.  In just a matter of minutes...you are going over the same material five or six different ways by reading it and then filling in blanks.  By the end of the chapter - you've got it.  

So while it might take my nearly 44 year old brain a few minutes to remember it all...I'm pretty sure I can tell you the nine eras...each of their central figures...their main location...and even their story line. It might take me a bit to sort it all out...but I've got it - along with a new understanding as well.

I started this Quest out of a desire to truly understand the Bible better...and I am.  I didn't however, expect it to be so...enjoyable...but it is.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

September Quest

Happy September!  I did say that I would post the announcement of my September Quest yesterday...but I didn't.  I don't have a good excuse for that...but I am doing it today...so all is good!

When I decided on this month's Quest...I was excited about it...until...I sat down to do the first day. Honestly, I was concerned I had picked something I wasn't really going to enjoy.  BUT THEN...I did the first day, and I can say I am actually...Super Excited about this month's Heart & Spirit Monthly Quest.

It's something different...but the cool part is that it's already set up as a 30 day journey.

I can hear you now: "So get on it with already, Rosie...WHAT are you doing????"

Well...let me tell you.  I am doing this:



Ok...I know it might not sound like the most exciting Quest I've come up with during this 2013 Year Long Adventure...but I think it is going to be an awesome experience for me.

The author, Max Anders, says "Just 15 minutes a day for thirty days is all it takes to learn the core teachings of the Bible, the geography of the Holy Land, and the key characters, places, and events of the Bible."

Now...I did grow up in a Christian Bible-reading family.  I own several Bibles and have read and memorized scripture pretty much all of my life.  I even taught Bible daily during my teaching days at two wonderful Christian schools in the Southwest.

I'm not a Biblical Scholar, but I've read it...studied it...prayed over it...and try to live my life by it's teachings.  And yet...I'm pretty sure I'm going to get A LOT out of this September Quest and I am ready to delve into it for the next thirty days!

Today, my reading took less than 15 minutes and I already gained some interesting insights.  Did you know that the Old and New Testaments can be broken down into groups to better understand what you are reading?

Mr. Anders points out that the first seventeen books of the Old Testament are Historical.  These books share the story of God and the Hebrew people.  The next five books are Poetry...and the final seventeen focus on the prophecy of Israel.  Doesn't that make things more clear already?

In the New Testament you will find that the first five books are again Historical.  These are the four Gospels and Acts.  The next thirteen - the Pauline Epistles - are all written by Paul.  Then the final nine are General Epistles written by a variety of different authors.  All of the Epistles are written instructions on Christian doctrine and lifestyle.

I just found this way of breaking down the sixty-six books of the Bible so simple and helpful.  I have to say...fifteen minutes into this book and I'm In.  Yes, I think I'm going to enjoy my September Quest!

What about you?  Do you have a Quest for the next thirty days?  Please share it with me!  I would love to hear what you are doing this month to renew your heart and create a steadfast spirit.