Posted in bible study, life, summer

Switching to summer mode

I am a 54-year-old kindergarten special education teacher’s aide. School with the kids let out a week ago, and teachers and staff finished Friday. That means this is the first official summer day for me, being the first week-day I am not headed to school for a 7:15am starting bell.

I don’t like to write a lot about myself, but occasionally I believe it’s warranted. People need to get a context of who I am and what I am about so they can assess credibility. There are many Christian bloggers who aren’t members of a local congregation, or who don’t believe in real life ministries, don’t perform a service, don’t submit to oversight of pastors or elders, or who don’t read the Bible. I am not one of those.

The Lord made it clear to me that I am not to be married. It is also clear that He gave me a delight in and a talent for teaching children. I was formerly a certified teacher but stopped some years ago to do other things like travel and become editor of a weekly newspaper. When I moved from Maine to Georgia, I returned to education once again but as a vastly different person. This time I came to education as a single, born-again, elder woman whom the Lord wants to use for His glory both at school and out of school. He designed my life so that I can be fulfilled in working with children in a not-too-stressful job, use it as a ministry both to kids and colleagues, but also to have lots of time off to write blog essays, based on the available time He has blessed me with.

So when the school vacations and summer rolls around, I am aware that I have a duty to redeem the time He has afforded me and to use the talents He has given me as a spiritual retreat and opportunity to dig into His word in a way I would not if I had a more stressful job, or a husband & family.

So I do. I’m filled with gratitude at the life He has given me and want all the more to glorify His name in all I think, say, and do.

However I am fleshly and given large quantities of time I can easily sink into laziness and simply end up watching endless episodes of “Sea Patrol” and reading easy novels in between naps.

In order to stay diligent and productive, I make a schedule. This is my day.

When I awake I am pretty refreshed and I after making coffee I sit down and begin study immediately. I pray through my prayer list. I then study.

I begin with reading the Bible. I recently finished 1 Corinthians so I sought advice from my teaching-pastor as to next steps. The past two summers he has given me a project to do and these have proved helpful in giving me summer structure. He suggested I read Galatians-Ephesians-Philippians-Colossians. He suggested I compare and contrast, and also look for the similarities in each books’ use of presenting the indicative before the imperatives.

I love my Logos 6 software so I plugged in the four books into the software and generated a reading plan that would take 50 days to complete.

I am blessed with having lots of study aids, which I’ll get to in a minute, but I believe that the best approach is two-fold: first prayer, then study the actual Bible. I read it directly.

After I read the designated chapters and have prayed in thanks, then I move to some study aids. Whatever the Spirit has pricked in me is what I go forward with next. Was I interested in looking at a map or atlas to see where Galatia is? Is there an archaeological dig with recent discoveries I can learn from? Did I get hung up on a word and need to do a Greek or Hebrew word study? Was there an animal or plant mentioned I’d like to follow upon? Is there a doctrine I would benefit by comparing to others in the NT? Is there a person mentioned I can learn more about by studying their biography? What does the Commentary say?

After the discipline of reading with prayerful attention, then I let loose my mind and see where the Spirit will take me. In the past, this combination has worked well for me. I believe this is one of the ways, with me anyway, He knits together a wider perspective and a greater understanding. I first put in the work to read His word, and it’s not always easy, then He takes a seed and blows it and I follow. He directs my steps. Almost always, after reading the Bible I will look at my MacArthur commentary and usually the Matthew Henry Commentary to flesh out ideas.

Quite often this is when I receive an idea for a blog essay. Not always, but usually something from my morning reading will spark me into a direction, or will dock with another idea I’d had previously and I’ll follow up on it and write. I put the idea down in draft and then I make breakfast and get dressed.

I don’t like to hang around in my PJs all day. I think it’s important to be dressed early just as if I was headed for work, albeit a few hours later šŸ˜‰

I’ll write. This takes me hours. For the better part of the next four or five hours I’ll write a blog essay on and off, combined with study, cleaning up the kitchen, looking at Twitter or other people’s blogs and listening to sermons or other Christian-oriented audio while I putter.

For the record, I can heartily recommend the following Bible teachers as trustworthy expositors:

John MacArthur
Phil Johnson
David Martyn Lloyd-Jones
S. Lewis Johnson

and also
Alistair Begg, Sinclair Ferguson, Adrian Rogers. I also enjoy Voddie Baucham and RC Sproul but not on the eschatological texts.

Yes here’s the ubiquitous study photo. Bible, commentary, notebook, theological book
I’m currently reading, coffee, laptop with Logos 6,
and tissues because studying the Word is so moving

In the afternoon I slow down and around 3:30 or 4:00, about the time I’d be coming home from school, I’ll switch to personal stuff. Then and only then do I watch Netflix or Hulu. I might read a novel. I listen to sermons while I craft at the kitchen table. I play with my photographs in post-processing software, I’ll cook, go outside and take photos in the softening light. I answer emails.

Mixed in with these usual days are real-life discipling opportunities I do with people once per week, and church twice per week. It’s important to stay connected with a local congregation. Virtual ministry doesn’t substitute for real life ministry. I also go out once per week to get groceries. I try not to use the car much because summer is a time I can save on fuel consumption as one of the only discretionary utility bills I have control over. The less I browse and shop the less I crave and covet, so I restrict my shopping to groceries and try to stay away from Amazon, too, lol, though I LOVE to buy books. Pay for a teacher aide in Georgia is not too high but the Lord provides me with all I need to survive and thrive. I value time more than money. I really do have everything I need here in this little apartment that during the summer I call The Hermitage.

So that’s it. I am a writer/blogger who studies the Word and I really am a member of a Baptist church and I really do serve in real life ministries, as well as all the stuff I do online.

I thank each and every one of you. So many of you have written to me to encourage me or provide oversight or offer sympathy or ask great questions. I love you my brethren, and I’m grateful not just for the time here to write and study but I’m humbled by and grateful to you, real people who bless me with your comments and questions. You keep me continually realizing that our faith constitutes a kingdom of people from all over the world! Because of you I don’t get myopic or depressed at the state of things. I’m encouraged by you and energized by you, the thriving Kingdom of people whom Jesus loves and the Spirit indwells and God in His timing will glorify. Just imagine the Day when we all meet each other in the air!

Let me not forget to mention Study Aid #1: Bert

Study Aid #2: Luke. He’s saying, “Hey it’s my turn!”

Not to be outdone, Murray is on scene below, Study Aid #3

Posted in prophecy, summer, the true vine

The promise of future bounty

The summer has been gentle and the Lord has provides bounty from the earth. The summer garden crops are coming in and they are plenteous. The figs are coming in. The muscadine vine is full. It reminds me in particular of two verses in the bible. They are promises. That is what prophecies are, you know. Promises of things the Lord has in store for the people who love Him and for those who don’t love Him.

“Every man will sit under his own vine and under his own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the LORD Almighty has spoken.” (Micah 4:4).

“In that day, declares the LORD of hosts, every one of you will invite his neighbor to come under his vine and under his fig tree.ā€ (Zechariah 3:10)

In the bible, vines (usually grape) and fig trees were emblematic of agricultural abundance and that abundance bespoke wealth. Many fig trees meant prosperity. The promised land was described in Deut. 8:8 as “a land of wheat and barley, and vines and fig-trees and pomegranates.”

It was not described as a land flat and therefore ripe for land prospecting development. It was not described as a land full of silver and gold mines. It was not described a land of great cities producing a rich population. The prosperity the land promised was riches from a bountiful earth. Remember that after the Fall, Adam was cursed with toil, and that the land would not yield unless he worked it with sweat and labor, and even then it would produceĀ thornsĀ and thistles.

“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground,” (Gen 3:17b-19b).

What was it like before the Fall? I can’t wait to find out, and that is what these prophecies promise. That curse will be reversed and the land will pop with generous abundance. Remember the two spies who came back, in Numbers 13:23 reporting that they saw huge grapes and figs and pomegranates? Doesn’t sitting under our own fig tree and our vine and sound relaxing? Refreshing? Cool? Like walking with God in the garden in the cool of the day.

And Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5). And look what Jesus did! He did everything!

He accomplished redemption for mankind, by breaking His own body and allowing it to be poured out! We are His branches, connected to the Great Gardener whose vine covers us, and which provides all sustenance. When you’re out haying this summer, sweat running down your face, or you’re out mowing this summer, and thirsting because of the heat, or you’re gardening and battling the bugs who are killing your bean plants, remember, the prophecies.

“My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.” (Isaiah 32:18).

“I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard: My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside.” (Isaiah 5:1).

How beautiful the relationship. We are the branches, closely grafted into the true vine. The true vine covers us, and we sit under it in peace and abundance. The abundance comes from the Vine Dresser who is the Father (John 15:1), who cares for the true vine in love and cares for his children, the branches.

Ā Our God is a tremendous God!!!!!