On memorizing Scripture

The children and I have been working on memorizing big chunks of Scripture lately. I found that Libby was able to memorize a ton of stuff one day when she came back from school. She quoted this “prophecy” from a book about dragons she was reading with her friend in second grade.

The Lost Continent

Turn your eyes, your wings, your fire

To the land across the sea

Where dragons are poisoned and dragons are dying

And no one can ever be free.

A secret lurks inside their eggs.

A secret hides within their book.

A secret buried far below

May save those brave enough to look.

Open your hearts, your minds, your wings

To the dragons who flee from the Hive.

Face a great evil with talons united

or none of the tribes will survive

Wings of Fire Series

When I heard her reciting all that without skipping a beat, I thought, “And here I am thinking you should only memorize one cute little Bible verse at the time.”

Last year – I kid you not – the three of us memorized Genesis 1. The whole chapter. It took us like a month. But like they said, Use It or Loose It.  We lost it. So this year, I’m trying to strategize better.

What we do is that I read the section we are to memorize. I explain it to them word by word so they know what it means, and get familiar with the context. Then we memorize one or two verses, depending on how long they are. The next day we go back to the verses we already know, we recite them again, and we memorize a new one. And we keep on going like that until we finish the section.

I got this idea from a podcast that you can listen to right here. I have modified this method to the way my brain works, because I memorize better by reading the text, instead of by listening to the text.

Enzo is a listener, but Libby has to see what she is memorizing. Somehow the Lord is working it all out for us. This school year, I am happy to say we haven’t lost anything so far. We are spending time reviewing the verses that we had already memorized every ten days or so. As a reward for reciting them all, I give them extra time watching shows or candy.

They will do anything for extra candy.

Doing this seems like a lot of work, and it might be, but this method has actually been very helpful for us – even for Enzo – who is the most distracted 8 year-old that I know. He is a boy. He is always moving and jumping around. He seems to never be paying attention, and this drives me crazy. I just want him to sit down and listen – without even blinking. But in these eleven weeks of school, we have memorized Psalm 1, Philippians 2:3-11, Philippians 3:1-11, and Philippians 4:4-9.

In my own personal time I have memorized the first chapter of Philippians and Philippians 2:1-16ish. And I’m stuck there because I am not disciplined.

If you take the time to listen to the podcast, this women will say that memorizing Scripture this way is very powerful. It has served them well in counseling women. When you have stored in your heart not just one verse here, or one verse there – but whole sections of the Bible – you will be better equipped to pray for others, pray for yourself, and for understanding the context of a given Bible verse.

Consider this example from social media:

KJV Bibles Store on Twitter: ""God is in the midst of her; she shall not be  moved: God shall help her, and that right early." Psalm 46:5 #KJV  #bibleverse… https://t.co/MuhmSQgQFG"

It is true. It’s in the Bible, so I believe it. An image like that, however, may make the reader think that the SHE in this Bible verse is talking about a woman. We, women, want to be strong. We don’t want to be moved. Some Bible versions say WITHIN HER, so that works out even better to convey the message, I guess.

God is in ME [within ME], therefore I shall not be moved. 

When you go read Psalm 46, though, you will realize that the SHE in verse 5 is not talking about YOU – an individual woman in need of self-confidence.

Psalm 46 talks about God being the refuge and strength for those in trouble. It encourages us not to fear though the earth gives way or though the mountains move into the heart of the sea. And why shouldn’t we fear? We don’t fear because the holy city of God is inhabited by Him. God is in the midst of HER (the city), and SHE (the city) shall not be moved. God will help HER (the city) when morning dawns (Psalm 46:4-5).

I am willing to be corrected if I am wrong. I just find it extremely hard to believe Martin Luther  wrote A Mighty Fortress Is Our God while thinking about a woman.

As Dr. Steve Lawson writes in his blog:

It was 1527, and the bubonic plague was sweeping through Europe. This vicious epidemic brutally struck the country of Germany.  A large number of deaths occurred because of the plague. People were living in fear. Many were escaping town in search of safety. The issue for Luther was: should he flee for the health of his family and his own preservation?  Or should he stay and minister to those who remained and expose himself to the deadly disease?

Luther made the difficult decision to stay in order to shepherd the German people. With his wife Katy, Luther turned their house into a hospital for the dying. Tragically, their young three-year-old son Hans contracted the disease and nearly died. During this season, Luther became so overwhelmed mentally and emotionally that he fainted at the dinner table more than once and had to be carried to his bed.

It was in the middle of this grim situation that Luther anchored himself to Psalm 46. In a time of weakness and pestilence, Luther wrote “A Mighty Fortress is our God” as a testimony to the strength he found in the Lord Himself. One of the verses of this famous hymn reads, “A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing/Our helper, He amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing.”

It was Psalm 46 that gave Luther the inner strength he needed during this devastating plague. This psalm begins, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (verse 1). Here, we see two profound truths, that God is both all-powerful and all-present.

As the psalmist writes this, the city of Jerusalem is surrounded by enemy forces, undergoing a siege. There was a very-present threat––foreign armies that threatened Israel’s very existence. God was ultimately the walled fortress around the psalmist, protecting, preserving, and empowering him.

The same is true in our lives. God remains our refuge and our strength. It is in times of our weakness when we should turn to Him with the greatest trust. God is all-powerful, and He ever promises to uphold us. 

So, can this be applied to me as a woman? Sure. And it can also be applied to a man because, again, the psalmist is talking of HER as the people of God. THEY shall not be moved. You can see the application of Psalm 46:5 here.

So when I see images like that on social media, I really struggle in assuming the best of people. Who knows who makes those images, right? But I see them everywhere. There are so many false teachers who love to make us, women, the center of the universe when we are not. GOD IS.

In short, this is why we are memorizing big chunks of Scripture this year. We want to honor the Word of God, and that includes not twisting it to satisfy our fleshly passions.

I was hoping to go into how memorizing Scripture this way has been particularly helpful for me as I am studying the Book of Philippians with a commentary in the mornings. But I guess I will have to write another post on why we should go hard after Christ.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.

Philippians 3:12

Daniel Aurelius is coming to town!

The last time I wrote something was about four months ago, but for some reason it seems an eternity has passed. Of course, in the middle of it,  we have had the Rona, the BLM situations all around our country, and churches arguing over whether or not to gather on Sundays – with or without masks. Much has happened in our family even though it doesn’t feel like much since we have been in the house most of the time.

To start with, we successfully completed our first year of homeschooling. For many weeks straight I felt that Enzo would never love writing, and still he doesn’t. But it has been wonderful to see that consistency in disciplining him have been key in dealing with his rebellious heart. Last year I was so worried about curriculums, but if my first homeschooling year taught me anything, it is that the curriculum is not the most important thing to focus on. I am NOT saying it is not important. What I AM saying is that shepherding the hearts of my children should be my first priority. 

I had to constantly look  at our “Mission Statement” when I felt overwhelmed by the question, “Why are we doing this?” 

My children are very smart, I have no worries about their academic future life. I sometimes worry about Enzo and his choices in life – what he will do for a living. But it is not because he is not smart, but because he struggles with laziness. Although, he wakes up at 4 am. sometimes to go running with his dad, so he is an early riser… My point is that even if their brains would allow them to become the next Nobel Prize or whatever, that in itself is a gift from God Almighty, and I am convinced that nothing they might accomplish in  this life is worthy of praise – at least not praise from God – if they do it apart from knowing Jesus Christ savingly.

That is a hill I’m willing to die on – daily.   

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Deuteronomy 6:4-9

 

Among other happenings, we also had a fun summer despite the virus. We went to the beach when I was about 20 weeks pregnant. Oh, yes, I am pregnant. That’s a long story, so long story long, God changed Emerson’s heart regarding having more babies. So he had a VR, and after nine long months of trying, God answered our prayers, and I am pregnant with a boy. I think during this season of waiting, God taught me many things regarding His goodness. He is good no matter what. No matter how I feel, or what I think. Even if the answers to my prayers are a NO from Him, He is still good.

 

baby

IT’S A BOY!!

 

During the first nine months of not being pregnant, the anxieties in my heart were a bunch of WHAT IFs – What if I don’t get pregnant? What if the VR didn’t work? What if I’m too old, and the baby is not healthy? 

God really showed me things about my heart that were not right. Even after getting pregnant, the questions were different, but altogether the same, What if the baby dies? What if I have a miscarriage? What if I die during labor? What if Emerson dies?

Fear of death has always been a recurring sin for me. I know that for the Christian death has no victory – no sting. I know that. This is the worst fear I have: If Emerson dies, I don’t know how to handle the finances of the house – that’s it. I simply don’t know how. And that may be super silly for other women, but it paralyzes me.

The issue here is that in every fear that I’ve had, there’s always been unbelief on my part. So during this season God has shown me that I don’t take Him at His Word. Do I believe He will take care of me? Do I believe He will help me go through the death of a husband, and the raising of three children alone? Do I believe He will equip me with whatever He might deem necessary in order to administer the finances? And even if I go broke, do I truly believe in my heart that God will provide for me?

 

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South Padre Island, June 2020

 

God is so good regardless of my circumstances. DUH… yeah.  But when you are going through a season of anxiety, and fears, how do you deal with those?

When we were in the middle of the last school year, we were studying the history of Israel, and so we were pretty much reading the Bible chronologically. The lessons were kind of a helicopter view, but I wanted to study them deeper, so that I could explain it to the children better. So for the first time in my life, I read the book of Lamentations in context. I have read the Bible chronologically before, and it has been a tremendous blessing, but sometimes when you follow a Bible reading plan, you just want to finish. This time, however, I had to stay in Lamentations for a while, not only because I wanted to explain it to the children, but because it really opened my eyes to real suffering and real joy – both at the same time.

I was not pregnant yet, so I was really struggling. Why would God change Emerson’s mind regarding babies, only to NOT give us a baby? On top of that, Emerson told me he was not okay with me taking any medicine to increase my fertility as the doctor suggested. He said this was something about his obedience to the Lord, and that God would be the one to decide whether or not we were gonna have more family. And I was like, “So you spent thousand of dollars in a procedure just for the sake of obeying the Lord. That’s great. I understand that, but if I got cancer, wouldn’t you want me to have chemo? Why is this medicine different? We can have babies faster!

You don’t get it, Karla. Stop trying to control things. If God wills, we will have a baby; if He doesn’t, then we won’t. I had the VR not to give you a baby, but to obey the Lord and go back to my natural state. And if you get pregnant, He will get the glory – not a pill your doctor gave you.

Emerson

Of course, I argued back. If God was gonna get the glory anyway, then He might as well give us a baby without Emerson even getting the surgery – if it was all about not using medical procedures. Of course, I was selfish, and God was merciful to me in my irreverence. Also, Emerson ignored me LOL!

We tried super hard to get pregnant during eight months. But that last month I had been studying Lamentations for a while already. I was asking God to change my heart because the things I was reading were convicting me of my sin. Somehow I had made the desire to have another baby into an idol. I was crying every time I went for my morning walk, afraid that the answer to my prayer was going to be, “No, you’re not going to have another child.” I was doubting God’s love for me over this. I was questioning His goodness over this.

So the only day when we literally could have tried making a baby, I was so exhausted that I told Emerson maybe we could take a break and try next month. I didn’t even know if I was ovulating so there really was no rush. He refused, and then BAM – I got pregnant because of that one time LOL!

 

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Ballon Fight to start the 2020-2021 school year – I hit Enzo right on the face!

 

Of course I didn’t know that night was the night that eventually would lead me to buy a pregnancy test, but I do remember one night when I was crying – again – and I told God I was going to praise Him in the middle of my fear. I did want a child, but I refused to worship the desire of having a baby. I wanted to worship Him. I wanted Him to be my portion, like Jeremiah said in Lamentations. That I was okay if God chose not to give us more children. Of course, I was gonna be sad for a while, but I didn’t really need a baby. I wanted God to teach me how to wait for Him like Jeremiah also said.

I wanted to know whether the answer was going to be YES or NO, but I asked God to help me learn how to wait for His answer – even if the answer was delayed, and even if the answer was NO.

I dwelled on the verses below for months before getting pregnant. I was really expecting not to get pregnant, but the day after I prayed for God to help me wait, I realized my period hadn’t come. I was late. And I was late not for two weeks or four weeks. It was actually day 28, but my hormones had been so crazy, and my cycles had been so random that I never made it to day 28 – ever. So I bought a pregnancy test that day and it was positive. That was so weird. I mean, I had just prayed the night before for God to help me learn how to wait, and then He answered the next day. Then I realized I still had to wait nine more months battling the same fears and anxieties in my heart.

 

But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;

his mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”

 

The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.

It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.

 

Lamentations 3:21-26

 

Why has the book of Lamentations meant so much for me before the pregnancy and during the pregnancy? Well, this might get long, but I need to write about it.

Right in the middle of the destruction of Jerusalem, Jeremiah is praising God and rejoicing. He is suffering when he sees what he sees, but he also rejoices IN God. He is not enjoying his circumstances, but Jeremiah KNOWS his God is sufficient.

I wanted that for my life. My fear of not having a husband to provide for me, or my fear of not getting pregnant, or even losing the pregnancy at any point are things that may happen at any point in my life. God never promised me a bed of roses. So if bad providences were to come my way, where does my hope really lie?

Does my hope lie on people, on my circumstances, or on the God who cares for me? Little by little during that time, I realized that I don’t want to suffer. I don’t want to be bothered with life-pain (that affects believers and unbelievers) or with Christian persecution.

And yet, God tells me suffering for the faith is something every true disciple has to go through. These are some verses, just to name a few.

“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

1 Peter 1:6-7

“When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”

Acts 14:21-22

This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,  engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.”

Philippians 1:28-30

 

People suffer for a variety of circumstances. Christians suffer on top of that for the fact that they are Christians. The world hates us. So if suffering is a given, how would I deal with it when it comes? What is the framework that my mind and my heart have to be aligned with, so that I don’t fall for my feelings, my own ideas or any other false teachings?

The frame work is God’s Word. The Word is what I should believe regarding who God is, what He does, and why He does it.

I wrongly thought God was just enjoying my suffering, like He was enjoying being mean to me. And that is just so… stupid. Over and over as I read my Scriptures, it was super clear His discipline springs out of love (Hebrews 12:4-11). He wants to make me like His Son (Romans 8:28-30). And even when He does afflict – because it is also super clear in the Bible that He does afflict –  He doesn’t do it out of spite or just to get even with me. His wrath against me was put away at the cross. Any punishment was dealt with in Christ. There is no more condemnation for me from God (Romans 8:1). In His dealings with me, God deals as a Father, not as my adversary.

 

For the Lord will not
    cast off forever,
but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion
    according to the abundance of his steadfast love;
for he does not afflict from his heart
    or grieve the children of men.

Lamentations 3:31-33

 

Lamentations is a sad, sad book. Jerusalem is being sacked, the temple destroyed (Lamentations 1:10), and famine, pestilence and the sword are coming – just  as Jeremiah and Ezekiel had warned the people. And Jeremiah is watching all this happening. He recognizes it is the Lord inflicting all this on His people because they sinned grievously (Lamentations 1:8), and Jeremiah weeps (Lamentations 1:16). He recognizes the crown has fallen from Judah and Israel – no more Kings until Jesus is born (Lamentation 5:15-16).

But Jeremiah never makes excuses, he actually acknowledges the Lord is in the right for judging them (Lamentations 1:18), and also that the Lord warned them this would happen (Lamentations 1:21). Jeremiah’s eyes are spent with weeping, he sees babies dying, children who faint from hunger, women eating their own children (Lamentations 2:11,19, 20).

And yet all this is happening according to the plan and purpose of God (Lamentations 2:17). God spoke it and it came to pass, good and bad comes from the Most High. Why would men complain about the punishment of their sins? (Lamentations 3:37-39).

Jeremiah sees the affliction under the rod of God’s wrath. God has made him dwell in darkness, God has filled him with bitterness; Jeremiah has suffered so much that he has forgotten what happiness is. Jeremiah’s endurance has perished and so has his hope from the LORD (Lamentations 3:1-20). And then the most beautiful, contrasting verses come in the middle of all of this.

 

But this I call to mind,
    and therefore I have hope:

 

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”

 

The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.

It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.

Lamentations 3:21-26

 

I think every woman loves that Bible verse – the one about God’s mercies being new every day. I just never had read the whole book of Lamentations in context, so I could not grasp how deep Jeremiah’s suffering was. This is not a “I am terrified of not knowing how to handle the finances of my household if my husband were to die”- kind of suffering that Jeremiah is going through.

And I am not belittling my suffering or my anxieties by any means, but in perspective, I really have never experienced this much suffering. I do not know what it is to eat your own child out of hunger, or seeing the tongue of your infant sticking to the root of his mouth because of thirst. I do not know what it is to beg for food, with no one giving it to me; or seeing people looking blacker than soot, with their skin dried as wood, and shriveled on their bones due to starvation (Lamentations 4:44). I do not know any of that.

In Lamentations 3:18, Jeremiah’s endurance and hope have perished, but two verses later Jeremiah remembers something, and it fills him with hope once again.

Jeremiah calls to mind that the the steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, that His mercies never come to an end, that they are new every morning, and that His faithfulness is great. All this while people are dying around him (v. 22).

Jeremiah then says that YHWH – the LORD – is his portion. It is Jeremiah’s soul confession that makes Jeremiah hope in the LORD. The fact that YHWH Himself is Jeremiah’s portion is what makes Jeremiah regain his hope in Him (v. 24).

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I’ll have great helpers 🙂

It really took me months of pondering every day, I wish I were quick in dealing with my issues. In situations like this, I stop, and I go verse by verse on rabbit trails. I ask Google,  “Google, what does it mean that the Lord is your portion?”

So I end up with answers like the one below that I then double check against my trusted preachers – which involves listening to sermons, or reading articles. It takes FOREVER, but my soul needs it, and that’s how I deal with my sin.

When a biblical writer says, “God is my portion,” he means that God is the source of his happiness and blessing. He is content with all that the Lord is and provides. He has the best inheritance imaginable and does not seek any possession or comfort outside of God. Riches, honor, friends and fame—nothing is as valuable as the promises of God. “My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26, NASB). If God is our portion, we need nothing else.

GotQuestions.org

I realized God was not my portion. I could say He was all I wanted, but the fears and anxieties revealed He wasn’t. So it has taken a lot of time, praying and reading my Bible, asking God to help my soul say the same things Jeremiah’s soul said.

I’ve realized it is a command to rejoice in my suffering – not a suggestion. I am to rejoice regardless of my circumstances, knowing that the Lord is good. It is right there in the text. Jeremiah was able to do it when he took his eyes off the destruction and placed them on his portion, on his everything: the LORD. God is good to those who wait for Him, to those who wait for His salvation.

Jerusalem was not spared, and Jeremiah eventually died, but it is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. Jeremiah’s consolation was that God always sits on His throne enduring all generations (Lamentations 5:19)

This takes me to other rabbit trails, but I’ll stop right there. I cannot possibly write about what has been happening in my heart since Emerson had the surgery sixteen months ago. It’s definitely been a season of God confronting me with my lack of trust, and His abounding love for me, His patience and mercy towards me.

 

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Rooting for the Patriarchy – pregnant, barefoot and cooking in the rain LOL! 

 

Of course, I’m not excited at the prospect of suffering, but my God is good. I know He loves me, and that His love for me extends far beyond my existence – it reaches back into eternity past, where my God choose to enter into a covenant with His Son in order to rescue a people – a Bride for His Son. I am part of that people that Jesus Christ died for.

Nothing makes me feel safer than that – whatever suffering life brings. To know that I have been so profoundly loved by the Creator of the world, even before I was born… even before I came to Him. To think that He had already bought me with His blood even before I was conceived. Even if the loss of a child, or the loss of my husband were to be part of His plan to make me more and more like His Son (Romans 8:28), I rest knowing that I am totally and completely loved. I heard a teaching by Steve Lawson on The Unfailing Love of God. You should check it out.

Christ is sufficient.

 

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4 weeks/ 30 weeks

 

Cleopatra, Caesar and Jesus

This is probably a very silly post, so you have the right to stop reading now.

I was having a conversation with my husband during lunch today and I was so excited talking to him about the History lessons I am having with the children. My husband was not amused. Long story short… Rome was a Republic governed by two consuls at the same time. In our time line – 60 B.C. – those two men were Crassus and Pompey.

These two men had a lot of disputes. Then, cunningly, another man joined a coalition with them (known as the First Triumvirate). This man was Julius Caesar. Julius Caesar – who was actually Pompey’s father-in-law – becomes a great military leader, and eventually, scares Pompey to fled to Egypt. Crassus is dead by then, and so Julius Caesar becomes the dictator Rome never wanted.  This happened in 49 B.C.

Only some years earlier, Ptolemy Auletes, was one of last rulers of the line of Ptolemy. The Ptolemites were one of the four families who took over Alexander the Great’s Empire. Ptolemy Auletes was actually Cleopatra’s father. So Cleopatra was not even Egyptian. I did not know that!!

So Cleopatra is a cunning, manipulative 18 year-old who is only looking for a way to gain power. She was beautiful, she spoke many languages – whatever, she used men to her advantage. She marries her brother to become queen. Brother dies? No problem! She marries the next brother. So when her dad sees they are in trouble in Macedonia, he decides to ask for help from Rome. And who is the power of Rome of that time? Julius Caesar.

So when Caesar is chasing Pompey, he ends up in Alexandria, and that’s how he meets Cleopatra, who is 21, and he is in his fifties, and they become crazily in love and what not. Stupid idiot. I’m still very upset about this. Don’t care about her delivering herself  to him in a carpet showing determination.

Fine. Julius Caesar spends all his time in Egypt with his new lover, but then gets killed by a mob of senators who stabbed him up to 35 times, many of them his closest “friends”. Then Rome forms the Second Triumvirate with Lepidus, Octavian and Mark Antony. Lepidus is kicked out of power, and the other two do not have a great relationship with each other. To add more drama to the tale, Octavian’s sister was Mark Antony’s wife.

 And I’m super pumped telling my husband the story, right?

Why are you so excited about this? You are supposed to know this. I learned this in middle school, Karla.

Well, I didn’t. And if I did, I forgot. LOL!

Okay, so. Caesar is dead, Cleopatra is all alone, and her dreams of becoming a great ruler come to a halt. Mark Antony and Octavian after their many disagreements decide to divide the land, and Mark Antony gets to rule over the East – which includes Egypt.  So he decides to visit Cleopatra, and in an elaborate display of wealth, she travels on a golden ship, with purple sails and silver oars. By using her perfumes and with music filling the air and young boys fanning her, she catches the eye of Mark Antony, and he falls in love with her. He marries her in 37 B.C., abandoning his wife. Another stupid idiot. SMH.

We have had History five times a week this week just so that I can read the end of the story. I seriously told my husband I wanted to read her end, that I was hoping she would die a terrible death. I think I was still very upset at all the pain she definitely caused. I am thinking of the wives. Even if there were political marriages, and there were no feelings involved in these marriages… I mean, the humiliation. So I went ahead and finished the lessons by myself.

If I were Octavian, I would be livid. Mark Antony left my sister for another woman, and on top of that he seems to be more loyal to her and to Egypt that to Rome and his people. The guy even walks behind her chariot like her servant. Heck, no! Mark Antony and her Cleopatra have got to go.  So yes, Octavian accused Mark Antony of treason – which was technically true. So Octavian declares war against Cleopatra.

So Mark Antony has the support of Cleopatra and her navy against Octavian, and history records that as Octavian’s ships appeared to overtake Antony’s, Cleopatra panicked. With her gold and purple ship, and with her fleet of 60 warships, she started to sail away. And when Mark Antony sees this, he abandons his own men to run after her. He leaves behind 19 legions of foot soldiers (that is 19 x 6,000 men), and 12,000 men on horse only to sail after her!

I was livid reading this. Poor Mark Antony sat down alone, below deck, buried with his face in his hands. What a coward!

 

You Can Act Like A Man GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

 

So Octavian, obviously hunted them both down. At some point Mark Antony thought she was dead, so he tried to kill himself, but was taken to her side before he died in her arms. Ugh. Spare me.

Octavian, of course, conquered Alexandria, and this woman, tries to win his heart, just like she did with Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. I told the children before I knew all this, that she didn’t love anyone, but herself, and that her actions reminded me of the prostitute in Proverbs. But, man, I cannot wait to see the children’s faces when I tell them all these details.

So pretending to cooperate with Octavian, Cleopatra asks him to allow her to visit Mark Antony’s tomb, and after perfuming herself and what not, she kills herself, and gets buried next to Mark Antony. Ugh. Spare me, again.

So that’s just the background for my post. LOL! No, seriously.

As I was reading the fate of this woman, and the whole drama of all these lives, I was pretty impressed with Octavian. He literally became the hero in my eyes because he didn’t fall for her. Call me silly. So I kept on reading about him. He was the great-nephew of Julius Caesar who had written in his will that Octavian would be his adopted heir. So Octavian becomes a dictator, but a good one, in a sense. He actually worked with the senators, who ended up giving him the name of “emperor”, and called him Augustus. He also adopted the name of Caesar, in honor of Julius Caesar. So he was known as Caesar Augustus.

And for the first time in all this saga, I was like, “Oh, I’ve head that name before”. And then it hit me.

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.  This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria.  And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

– Luke 2:1-7

This is the Caesar Augustus who ordered the census that brought Mary and Joseph all the way from Galilee to Bethlehem.

I mean, “Who writes this stuff?,” I asked myself. And automatically, my answer was, “God does. He writes history.”

The birth of Jesus was not an afterthought in the mind of the Creator. It happened that way not because Caesar knew he was an instrument of God in bringing a prophecy to come about, but he actually did. The Messiah had to be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). God has always used rulers to accomplish His purposes. We see it with Moses and Pharaoh, and Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus and all those prophecies being fulfilled over and over. By the way, you should check out the Mystery of History I, if you are interested in learning the Bible chronologically, and understand all the prophets and how they all come together. It’s a wonderful resource. I loved it this year. It puts together everything happening around the world at the same time that say, Ezra is coming back from Babylon.

So, if you are a Christian, I hope you already know this, but our faith even though experiential in nature, is not based on feelings or experiences, but in truth. The Bible is authoritative in itself, and claims to be the only truth. I believe that. The Bible is sufficient. At the same time, we also have all these incredible amount of historical data that anchors our faith within a very clear historical background that only gives us more confidence.

Just studying Homer and Plato this year in History, we found out there is no other document in history that compares to the New Testament when it comes to manuscript reliability – meaning no one has altered the text. And I think I have posted somewhere else about Textual Criticism. It is just a myth that the Bible has been corrupted over the years. A myth that Mormons, Jehova’s Witnesses, and Muslims all love alike. They love it because without it, their religions crumble to the ground.

So this lesson on Cleopatra ended up really opening my eyes to this truth again, and it is beautiful: I can trust the God who governs the universe. 

Who writes this stuff? God does. I forget. I forget that God is in control of History. I forget He has already written my history, too, and although it is unfolding I can trust that He wants His glory and my good because I am His child and He loves me.

In this COVID-19 season, I am just thankful that God is not a God of chance. God is not trying to hold it all together, making His best attempt to juggle His wishes and balancing it all out with the choices He foresees humans taking in the future.

Who ordained Caesar Augustus to command a census? God did.

God is in control of History. I have loved studying with the children about Assyria, and Babylon, and Alexander the Great, and now Cleopatra and Caesar Augustus. I am thankful I don’t have to trust my gut or my feelings, but that I can trust His word, and I that I know the One who rules the universe, and the best thing is that He knows me. He loves me. He  has loved me before He created the world.

These are some Scriptures that have encouraged me over the years, but the one from Isaiah is my favorite. There is a wonderful article about it here. 

Matthew 10:29-31 “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

Proverbs 16:33 “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.”

Job 42:2 “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”

Isaiah 46:8-11

“Remember this, keep it in mind,
    take it to heart, you rebels.
 Remember the former things, those of long ago;
    I am God, and there is no other;
    I am God, and there is none like me.
 I make known the end from the beginning,
    from ancient times, what is still to come.
I say, ‘My purpose will stand,
    and I will do all that I please.’
 From the east I summon a bird of prey;
    from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose.
What I have said, that I will bring about;
    what I have planned, that I will do.

Fixing my eyes on Jesus

A lot of things have happened recently. We are in our fifteenth week of homeschooling, and the magic has disappeared. Maybe I mentioned that already in another post. I am not as excited as I was at the beginning, and homeschooling is not as “awesome” as I thought it would be.

Let me rephrase that. My definition of “awesome” was: effortless, leisurable, and comfortable. Homeschooling has been anything but that. Yes, it has been awesome, but my perspective on what “awesome” actually is has changed.

I heard this at a conference, you know – it’s not like I was clueless. They said this was going to be hard – that I should expect it to be hard.  What was I thinking? That somehow my children somehow managed to escape the Total Depravity of man? LOL! 

9 What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; 10 as it is written,

THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE;
11 THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS,
THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD;
12 ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS;
THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD,
THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE.”
13 THEIR THROAT IS AN OPNE GRAVE,
WITH THEIR TONGUES THEY KEEP DECEIVING,”
THE POISON OF ASPS IS UNDER THEIR LIPS”;
14 WHOSE MOUTH IS FULL OF CURSING AND BITTERNESS”;
15 THEIR FEET ARE SWIFT TO SHED BLOOD,
16 DESTRUCTION AND MISERY ARE IN THEIR PATHS,
17 AND THE PATH OF PEACE THEY HAVE NOT KNOWN.”
18 THERE IS NO FEAR OF GOD BEFORE THEIR EYES.”

– Romans 3:9-18 NASB

The children and I spent a couple of weeks memorizing these verses as we have been studying the true condition of man’s nature after The Fall of Adam and Eve. I am a loyal ESV Bible reader, but lately I’ve been using the NASB. It capitalizes the text of the New Testament every time the Old Testament is quoted. How amazing is that?

In Romans 3:9-18, the apostle Paul is simply quoting the Hebrew Scriptures. He quotes Psalm 14:1-3, Psalm 53:1-3, Psalm 5:9, Psalm 140:3, Psalm 10:7, Proverbs 1:16, Isaiah 59:7,8.

And it makes sense, right? That as Paul is making the case for the sinfulness of man, the Jews are affirming everything they hear. They probably are thinking those non-Jews are the worst, and then Paul goes on to say, that EVERY ONE is under sin, both Jews and Greeks [non-Jews] alike. For there is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)

During Bible time we have also talked about how the doctrine of Total Depravity does not mean you are as evil as you could be, but it does mean that the fall of Adam was so radical that the body, the mind, the will, the spirit—indeed, the whole person—have been infected by the power of sin. So our only hope then to overcome that condition is the mercy of God. We cannot just make some small adjustments or behavioral modifications, but we need a new heart. We need to be regenerated, we need to be born again from above. And as Jesus would explain to Nicodemus, being born into the kingdom is not a matter of man’s will, since flesh gives birth to flesh. But being born of the Holy Spirit is like the wind – it goes wherever it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.

So how can someone be born again?

Do you put your faith in Jesus [pray a prayer or do whatever you need to do] and as a result of that action you are born again into the kingdom of God?

OR

You are born again from above [without your input, God changes your heart without your permission] and as a result you willingly come to faith and repentance in Christ?

I am convinced from the Scriptures that the latter is the biblical explanation for why anybody is a Christian. Anyways… it’s not new (at least in my own circles) that Reformed Theology has changed the way I see everything in life, and homeschooling is no exception.

I think this is what I have been confronted over and over again these fifteen weeks. My children were very responsive and excited the first week. They listened for the most part, and were obedient. Now, however, most of our days we are angry at our neighbor who is annoying us for the 24th time in the day…

 

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Civil War Weekend 2019

 

Libby and Enzo sit together side by side, and Enzo gets on her face all the time. Change seats, right? That’s the answer!! Well, nobody wants to change seats. Most of the classes they have to take together, so it is only natural that the older will be faster at some things, like writing or taking notes. The other morning, Libby started a whole argument in the bathroom trying to control the amount of time Enzo brushed his teeth. She is prone to have cavities so the rule for her is that she has to brush her teeth for two minutes using a small sand clock that she has. Enzo had one, too, but he broke it one day when he was angry. So… Libby was brushing her teeth and Enzo did not brush his teeth for the whole two minutes since she had already started with the clock. Well, that made Libby upset and she began bossing him around. He snapped at her about how he doesn’t have to obey her, and in retribution, she stuck her tongue at him and walked away.

Pretty funny, right? Although, it is not.

He then tossed his toothbrush full of toothpaste at the mirror, and made a mess which he proceeded to clean, but was having a difficult time cleaning. Then I realized all this had happened in less than two minutes, and I was not even aware of it. I was making my coffee in the kitchen and the only reason I got involved is because Enzo asked for help  on how to clean the mirror. I just asked him what had happened, and he got all hot again, which is and has always been a struggle for him – his anger. Then he began raising his voice at me, and I was not even part of this argument, but he began disrespecting me.  It took us probably more than ten minutes to settle the whole argument, with both parties involved, and without yelling at each other.

Everybody had to be confronted about their own sin in the situation, because everybody did sin. Libby was controlling to say the least, and then she showed contempt for her brother in sticking her tongue at him. I had a hard time not laughing when he told me he was upset because of that. It is hilarious for me as an adult who sees this from the outside, and has perspective on it, but seriously, what was happening in her heart at that particular moment that made her do that? I have showed contempt for people and for God. In a way, I have stuck my tongue at God when I have disregarded His ways, and have gone my own way.

Enzo, well, he lost control. He let his emotions rule. Yes, she sinned against him, so now how is he supposed to respond? Should he offer forgiveness or should he pay back evil for evil, and made a whole mess out of nowhere? Of course he was angry, and he had a good reason to be angry. One of the things I have learned to do in marriage is to overlook minor offenses, otherwise Emerson and I would be arguing more often!

How do we learn to do that? God is giving us plenty of daily opportunities to practice forgiveness while at the same time learning to confront sinful behavior by talking instead of throwing stuff at each other! God willing, this will be very helpful for their future marriages.

So this was the start of our day… we were just getting ready to start with Bible. I think that’s basically how all our days go – on and on throughout the day. Forget Math and Grammar, what gets me tired is fighting for the spiritual state of my children.

 

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North Houston Baptist Church Camping Trip 2019

 

A while ago I shared with someone that I was gonna be homeschooling my children. They looked at me in horror, I am not kidding – HORROR – and exclaimed, “WHY?!”

LOL! I did not take offense, this was not a Christian woman, so of course we had zero agreement on what matters the most in this life. But Christian or not Christian, situations like the toothpaste are exactly why we chose to homeschool. I don’t think I have ever written it all down. I have the privilege to address my children’s hearts as only I can. I get to disciple them and spend my days teaching them what matters the most in this life.

Who is going to teach them those things if not my husband and I?

Am I really naive enough to think that their home room teacher will? Even assuming the teacher is Christian, that person has no time in the day to address my child’s heart or the other twenty children in her classroom. They do not know my children. We never intended to get the children out of the public school system to put them in a Christian bubble in order to isolate them from sin. I am stuck with these little sinners every single day, and they are stuck with me. Sin is alive and well in our household. I guess it was way easier to send them over to school where somewhere else was bothered by their misbehavior. And what would the teacher do? Have a ten minute talk about sin and how sin gets in the way of our relationships? Of course not. So basically, at the end of the day I am exhausted, but I am so thankful we are doing this.

We are studying about other cultures, and other religions, and the questions have been great so far. I was not expecting Libby to ask me how do we know that Christianity is true.

 

You tell us all the time the Bible is true, and that every other religion is false. But the Muslim mother is teaching her children that Islam is true, and that everything else -including Christianity – is false. How do we know who is right?

– Libby

I froze for about five seconds LOL!

I didn’t have to deal with that question until I was 31 years old. Nobody ever prepared me to answer those things. And it is awesome that I get to use my spiritual gifts in teaching and preaching the gospel to my children over and over again [to my children – you know, in case you are not familiar with the uproar after Go Home].

The LORD has been so good to me and He has equipped me with so much knowledge and understanding about other religions, particularly Islam after living in India. It is a great opportunity that I get to teach apologetics and theology to my children. God has wired me with a passion for this, and it is great to be used by Him in that way. It doesn’t happen often (we do not follow a curriculum), but I think it comes often enough because we are studying the Scriptures every day. And as I write this post, I realize that the things that we have talked about have happened over a period of weeks, not necessarily in one sitting.

We have talked about the nature of truth claims, and how the most zealous sincere believers can be sincerely wrong. We have talked about how all religions share some truths together, but in reality, it is also nonsense to say that all religions teach the same things, because when you really study them side by side, they contradict each other at critical points. Simply said, Islam, Christianity, Jehova Witnesses, and Mormonism all have a different Jesus. For the JW, Jesus is Michael the archangel; for the Mormon, Jesus is the actual literal son of God who had sex with one of his many wives, brother of Satan, among other things; for Muslims, Jesus is a great prophet, but ultimately a man who, by the way, did not die on the cross (despite all the historical evidence from Jewish historians); and for Christians, Jesus is the Son of God, not a physical son, but of the same nature of the Father.

It takes a lot of time to go through many of those things. And I think that’s what I LOVE about being with them all the time. If I were not with them, all these hours that I am investing in their spiritual present and future would be spent somewhere else, with someone else, and they would be learning something else. They would still be discipled, but by other people. I know the LORD saves no matter what. He saved me, and nobody ever homeschooled me. God is mighty to save, but if I can spend this time with them, why wouldn’t I?

 

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He decided to get a haircut 😦

 

Ultimately, what I am striving for is to help them see what the Bible says about the condition of fallen man and how Christ is our only hope.

I have tried to make clear to them that if at any point in their lives (including right now) there is any real desire to follow after Christ in their hearts, that desire did not originate in their sinful hearts, but that God gave them that desire. Even though I believe their confession of faith is true, ultimately only God knows whether or not their faith in Jesus is genuine. And so, if they came to Christ is because it was granted to them by God, the Father, since nobody comes to the Son unless the Father draws him. That is the plain reading of the text.

We have memorized Romans 3: 9-18.

Who seeks after God? No one. There are no true seekers apart from the Holy Spirit already working in the hearts of those people.

Who is righteous in their heart that they fear the Lord? No one. So if they really believe, it is because God changed their hearts. How or when, I do not know. But I believe what Jesus said about the Holy Spirit blowing wherever He pleases, and we only see the effects of it.

If they are Christian, it is not because they are smarter than their peers, or because they are more reasonable than the unbelievers down the street, or more humble than other children or adults who refuse to accept Jesus. No. They are Christian because God had mercy on them. They are Christian because He chose to open their eyes. They are Christian because God chose them in Christ before the foundation of the world, that they should be holy and blameless before Him. Another plain reading of the text.  They are Christian because God, in love, predestined them to adoption to Himself as children through Jesus Christ, not according to their free will, or according to how amazing they are, because the text does not say that anywhere. If they are Christian, it is according to the purpose of His will, for the praise of his glorious grace. Therefore, they cannot really boast in their ability to choose for Christ, because if there is repentance and faith in their lives, even that is a gift of God, so that no one can boast.

So I guess, we pretty much are hanging on the mercy of the Lord at all times,  and that is a sobering thought. I have been very anxious about several things lately, and the original intention of my post was to talk about it, but I got sidetracked… I have been realizing that, literally, my every heart beat is a gift from God – every single time my heart beats depends on the LORD keeping it beating.

So apart from the grace of God, no matter how much evidence I could provide them so that they would believe Christianity is a factual, historical, reliable faith, they would never believe it anyway.  They cannot. That is exactly what the Bible claims. They are blind. They cannot please God on their own. Apart from Christ, they are God’s enemies. Apart from Christ, they are all alone in the world, without hope, following Satan. Apart from Christ, they are dead in their sins and trespasses, and by nature, children of wrath (Ephesians 1, Ephesians 2, John 6, Romans 5, Romans 8, John 3).

So they do not need evidence, the evidence is there, and will always be there. What they most desperately need is a miracle. They need the Holy Spirit to illuminate their hearts. They need to be born again. While I cannot birth them spiritually, I know that my prayers and my teaching of the Word of God to them are some of the means that God might use to bring them to faith. And even if He doesn’t, I am still commanded to do it. I need to trust God will glorify Himself through our lives.

This is basically why we homeschool. If we didn’t, we couldn’t compete with the 16,000+ hours that they would have spent in school. I want that time for Christ.

Oh, yes. Other than that, we are into crocheting, and rock climbing lately. My arms were sore for three days. I am also learning to play the piano 🙂

 

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Libby climbing.

White-Qadhi Dialogue

I hope you find these videos interesting: Dialogue 1, Dialogue 2

We – Muslims and Christians – need to learn to dialogue like this.

 

Inshallah – Part 1

I was given the opportunity at my church to share some of the things I learned in India. Given the fact that I’ve spent a lot of time comparing belief systems – and cultures – I thought it would be a great idea to teach my class about Muslims, and how to relate to them.

Well… I was wrong. I wrestled with God in preparing for that class. Like the Lord God wrestles with Jacob – and God wins – I think God led me to talk about something deeper that just information. The truth is – I told my group – that if they really want to know what Islam is or isn’t, they can go find out on the internet. And even then, information is so widely available that they would go insane trying to figure out who is representing Islam correctly and who is not.

My Muslimah would tell me, “Well, if you want to know about Islam, learn from me. I am a Muslim.” 

Well, yeah… then again, I see other Muslims, and they practice Islam very differently than her. So who is being really faithful to their religion? And the same goes for Christianity. I’m not being a hypocrite here. Therefore, I decided not to talk about these issues in my class. Instead, I decided to talk about HONOR AND SHAME cultures.

Most of you know that I am from Mexico. My society – my people – is very similar to the Muslim society. And for all I know, very similar to Eastern cultures. So I shared basic examples to help them understand how Honor and Shame look like in real life – specially because this is a church in which the majority of people are white. Their culture is totally different than mine. You can adapt to a culture – I believe – but there has to be a basic understanding of the dynamics of a culture (other than your own) if you want to be effective in sharing the Gospel with them.

So what I’m planning to do with the next series of posts is to share the things I talked about in the class, and after that I hope I can shed more light into the issues of salvation from the Muslim perspective, and how it relates to my perspective. I never really grasped why Muslims would say Inshallah.

Inshallah what?!

A Muslim could explain to me that they try to please Allah, and that their salvation is based on whether or not their scale is tilted to their good deeds at the end of their lives. But they would also tell me that even if the scale were tilted to the bad deeds, Allah in His infinite mercy, could still grant them paradise. The point is Muslims do not know. And so when I asked, “So are you going to heaven?” They always replied, “Inshallah, I will”. And that really confused me for a while. I’m learning new things about my own faith, and I’d like to share them.

More and more, I am letting go of myself and really running into His arms. He will keep me. He is amazing. He deserves all the glory, and all the praise, and all the honor. My prayer is that these posts would shed light into what has happened in my life lately. God, through these situations, has enabled me to see Him for who He is – The Greatest name, The All-Compassionate, The All-Merciful, The Inspirer of Faith – and I submit to Him.

NO. I’m not a Muslim at heart. Let me make that perfectly clear.

So just to make sure we are on the same page: I bow the knee to the Lord Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of my faith. Christ died on the cross. I believe in my heart that God raised Him from the dead. Christ is the visible image of the invisible God, for by Christ all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through Christ and for Christ. Christ is before all things, and in Christ all things hold together.

I am not a Muslim, but I deeply love Muslims. I pray earnestly to My Father in Heaven that He will bring His chosen ones from Islam into a relationship with their Creator. If you are Muslim, I encourage you to keep reading. Hopefully, you will get to see for yourself why it is so difficult for you to reject Islam as your identity. You might have no idea of Honor and Shame in your society. Oh, but it is real… so real.

Rest assured though, when Allah calls you to faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior, you will dare to call Him Father.

 

To Muslims, on Ramadan

I’ve been hesitant about whether or not to write this post. There’s pain involved – my pain and others’ – and I’m not sure I will be able to communicate exactly how I feel. But being Ramadan, I felt compelled to write this piece. It will be long for sure. I wanted to share this for the sake of my own memory keeping. It’s easier to write down my thoughts once they’ve been processed.

I know some things about Ramadan. I spent a Ramadan in India. I wanted to fast with my friends, but I just didn’t seem to have the guts. I know it is one of the pillars of Islam. I know it is a time to get closer to Allah, and that Muslims abstain from food, drink, and sex to purify their souls. They feed the poor and the homeless. They make a big deal out of family. They help each other and the community. They pray. They give.

If you’re Muslim, I say to you, “Go for it”

Fast. Pray. Thank God for what He has given you. I love the idea of you wanting to please the Lord of the universe – The Creator of this world who is above all names. The God who made this Earth – so immense and full of glory. I love the idea of celebrating Him and Him only. I love the idea of worshipping Him with all our might.

Make no mistake, though, you will never be able to earn God’s favor. So watch your motives this Ramadan. I pray the LORD will reveal His glory to you this month. That’s exactly why I want to share what has been of me during the past few months: I’ve been in counseling.

I’ll skip you the details of how I got there, but there were some behaviors towards my spouse, and my children that were not right, or good, or healthy. I did not know this, of course. I thought my spouse was the only one in the wrong, and I wanted his behaviors to change. I was angry, but mostly sad – heartbroken. A friend who came alongside me encouraged me to get some help. So I did.

I was terrified of going to counseling. I think I had a panic attack while driving one night. I couldn’t take a deep breath. What am I gonna do? That is all I could think of. I had no idea about my future or my children’s future. I could only see what my fear was allowing me to see – a divorce. I mean, what else, right? If you go to counseling, and your husband doesn’t ever change… What did that mean? It obviously means he doesn’t love you enough to change.

Right?

I cried myself to sleep some nights thinking I was a liar. I had lied to my children… All those times in which I had told them Mommy and Daddy would be together forever might not be fulfilled. But what was I going to do as a divorced woman? I did not work. I had forsaken every single thing that could have allowed me to work. Plus, I was in a country that was not even my own. If I divorced my husband, that meant I was getting out of the country. Would I then stay with him just for my children? And I was so fearful of everything. Of every possible outcome. Then, if we divorced… my parents, his parents.

Oh, God! What was I going to do?

Why would God be doing this to me?  Maybe I didn’t pray enough. I always said I’d pray more for my marriage or my children, but I end up forgetting to pray more. Maybe I didn’t have enough faith. Maybe God was just testing my faith. Maybe I just had to persevere… Persevere? Doing what? I didn’t like my situation…

I just read an article this morning so full of everything I am feeling. You can read the original article here.

You might be feeling that if Jesus really cared so much for your comfort, then you would not be dealing with such pain. But that is not true. What is true is that you likely prefer the comfort that comes from the absence of discomfort, while Jesus prefers you to have the ultimate comfort of your holiness.

So while you might feel frustrated over a very uncomfortable situation you’re being forced to deal with, Jesus is actually pursuing your long-term comfort through that very situation.

That did not make sense six months ago. That Jesus wanted to achieve something in me through pain. Yet, in my counselor’s office, there’s a plaque that says:

Every true strength is gained through struggle.

The article continues:

If you’re a Christian, you are a disciple of Jesus. And by necessity, a disciple undergoes discipline. If a disciple is a student, then discipline is training. Jesus’s discipline for you, however severe (and it is severe at times), is not God’s wrath against you. If you are tempted to believe that, don’t. It’s your unbelief or the Enemy talking to you.

No, discipline is training. Training in what? Training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). The unique training course that Jesus has designed for you (he designs a unique course for each disciple) has one great aim: to teach you to trust him in everything. That’s his goal for you. Jesus wants you to learn to trust in him in all things at all times. For the more you trust Jesus, the holier you become.

And this is horrible. It has felt terrible at times. To trust God in everything…

Fearful, yes, but I went to counseling. Alone. I thought my marriage needed help. I needed help. I needed perspective. Hands down, it has been one of the best decisions of my life.

Of course, I wanted my counselor to tell me if I was gonna end up having a divorce. Or for her to tell me if the situation that had led me to finally look for help was really that bad. Maybe it wasn’t that bad, you know? Maybe I was overreacting, or maybe I was making a big deal of something that was not a big deal.

During my very first session I learned that I am prone to make idols of things or people. And that was so weird. My counselor said, “If you cannot say NO to something or someone, you have made an idol out of that thing”. She then told me to go, and ask the Lord to reveal things to me. I was supposed to do that for the next week. Just to ask the Lord.

“Why do I make idols, God?  Why do I get in these kind of relationships? Why do I feel the need to rescue or care for people?”. 

I kid you not, the word CODEPENDENCY came to my mind. I am familiar with the word because my sister has always said my mom is codependent. I had no idea of what that word entailed, though. And, of course,  I never thought it would involve me. But after reading about it, I realized the condition fits me quite well. Like a 100%

I have always felt that I’m stupid. That I am unworthy. That I am a failure. That I am not enough. I have always felt the need for approval and recognition, the need to control people, and how dreadful it is to make a simple decision. I know about low self-esteem, and compulsive behaviors like trying to be the best mom, or the best cook, or the best wife. Always trying to find purpose in something outside of myself because it helped me to avoid dealing with myself. Pleasing people.

It’s taken me some time to read about codependency, and the reasons that drive my behaviors – specially with my husband and my children. My family of origin played obviously a big part on that. My dad is an addict, and my mom has always enabled him. I can’t generalize a whole culture based on my childhood experiences, but my culture revolves very much around shame.

 I lived in a very dysfunctional family where pain, and anger, and fear – feelings in general – were not to be expressed. There was never confrontation. I learned to repress my emotions, and disregard my own needs. I became a survivor. I developed behaviors that helped me deny, ignore or avoid difficult emotions. I don’t think I had every trusted anyone for real – not even my husband. Just until recently I thought self-control was meant to be swallowing what you were feeling. Stuffing it deep down inside you, and you never talk about it. That was not right.

But that’s how I learned to do life. I asked my counselor, “Where is God in all this? Where has He been?”. She said, “What do you mean? He is in the middle of it…”

I did not understand what she meant at that point, but little by little it’s beginning to make sense that God IS the One revealing all these things to me. He is the One guiding me through all this process. And I’ve been given the opportunity to face who I am – to know who I really am. I heard a sermon the other day in which Rich Nathan said that we really are worse than we think. But God loves us more than we can ever imagine.

Also, God has been singing a lot of songs to me. With me, I think. So I will share many of those lyrics…
Why are you striving these days? Why are you trying to earn grace?
Why are you crying? Let me lift up your face. Just don’t turn away.
Why are you looking for love? Why are you still searching as if I’m not enough?
To where will you go child? Tell me where will you run, to where will you run?

Idols. My husband. My children. My friends. It all made sense. I am always trying to make people happy. Somehow I grew up like this. Trying not to rock the boat. It has become clearer than water that all I have ever wanted is for someone to love me. And the need for love has been so great that I went way too far in so many relationships to make that happen. I would lose myself – if that makes sense – so that other’s would love me.

It was painfully obvious with my husband. He never asked for this, but I put him on a throne. The throne that God deserved. I was expecting my husband to fulfill something that God did not create him to fulfill. I was setting my husband for failure really – expecting him to make me happy and to satisfy my most deepest need for love.

Dear God, won’t you please…  Could You send someone here who would love me?

Who  would love me for me, not for what I have done or what I would become. Who would love me for me… ’cause nobody has shown me what love really means.

I know you’ve murdered, and I know you have lied… And I watched you suffer all of your life. And now that you listen, I will tell you that I – I will love you for you. Not for what you have done or what you will become. I will love you for you, I will give you the love, the love that you never knew.

What love really means

After my first session – that obviously rocked my world – I told my husband that I was going to start making changes for me, and that I hoped that we could really have a good relationship, and work through the challenges that lied ahead. I said I did not want to be afraid anymore of anybody or anything. I was going to follow God wherever He would lead, even if that meant that our relationship would have to come to and end. I never felt that God was telling me to divorce my husband – let me be clear about that.

The Lord has been very gracious to me, showing me that it was not my husband who needed to change, but me. Mainly ME. It was liberating to see that this person I thought was perfect, was so imperfect. It opened my eyes to the fact that I had been trying to get my worth based on my husband, or my children, or my friends. On what people thought of me. Counseling has really changed my life. The Lord is changing my life through it.

God has shown me that even when I had been so unfaithful to Him (basically breaking the Shema Yisrael, and the first three commandments since EVER), He still wanted ME. God wanted ME. He was pursuing me. He was like a husband in love with His Bride.

And I was His Bride! 

I have always wanted someone to love me like this. And I was so angry at God, because this love that He was offering to me, I wanted it. Yes. But I wanted it from my husband. I wanted to be everything to my husband. God showed me, very gently, that I would always be disappointed if I kept on expecting this from my spouse. That was not my spouse’s role. He was not meant to make me happy. That was not what marriage was all about. Marriage meant something much deeper. Marriage was about intimacy.

An intimacy that I had never had – not even with my husband. Intimacy meant more than sex. Intimacy meant feeling wholly accepted just the way I was. Marriage was a mirror, like a reflection of the intimacy God wanted to have with me. But all those dreams, and hopes and expectations were for the Lord to fulfill – not my husband. I would keep hitting a wall if I expected somebody else to fulfill them. Only the LORD was perfect to meet and surpass my expectations of love.

Another thing was I didn’t even know who I was. And I’m still learning. I know this might sound weird, but it’s difficult for me to know what I like or dislike. I was raised to mirror everybody else. I am afraid of making mistakes,  I’m afraid of being rejected. I was rejected as a child. I felt rejected by the people who were supposed to love me the most – my parents. I was abused emotionally. It’s difficult to say those words because maybe it wasn’t that bad. I’ve tried to find memories – good memories – but it is so difficult. I cannot remember my dad telling me he loved me while sober. And I cannot remember my mom not being worried, or angry, or crying, or yelling, or taking care of him. And it hurts.

But it was bad.  Yes, it was that bad. It was not okay. It was not normal to go through what I went through. No child should ever need to hear a parent calling her stupid. No child should ever have to beg for forgiveness from a parent. No child should ever have to wake up in the middle of the night, and decide if she should stay with her dad or go with her mom. I think I faced these feelings and for the first time I said, “Yes. It hurts. And no, it was not okay.”

I had never done that before.

Do you dream of a home you never had?

An innocence that you cannot get back

The pain is real. You can’t erase it. Sooner or later you have to face it down. Down.

You have to face it down.

You are loved.

Do you keep your thoughts inside your head? Will you regret the things you never said? You have a voice. You have to use it. You have a choice. Don’t let them shut you down. Down. Don’t let them shut you down

You are loved

Do you feel the ache inside your soul? You know you’ll never make it on your own.
Sorrow is too great for you to hold it. You’re gonna break. Why don’t you lay it down?
Freedom comes in letting go. Open up the window to your heart.

Freedom comes in letting go. Open up your heart.

Loved

Why would you want to be with me, God? Don’t you know who I am?

I cannot relate to a loving father. Let me be fair. I know my dad loves me – in whatever his idea of love is. I give him that. But then you tell me about a Heavenly Father who loves me. Uh… I know what the Bible says. I know.  It is the very first time that I am experiencing this kind of love, though.

God also has revealed to me that I know nothing about unconditional love. I grew up learning behaviors, and I made them my own to survive. Making people feel guilty, putting people down in order to feel better myself, I manipulated and controlled others. I basically knew emotional blackmail very well. I have blamed others for my lack of self control, and I have let others abuse me. I have tried to fill my need for love and acceptance the best way I had known so far. I don’t forgive. I always remember so that I can bring it back.

God has been been so very gentle and sweet while giving me a reality check of who I am now. I feel like I should not use these corny terms to describe the Maker of the Universe, but He has been so very gentle. Like if I was dating somebody for the very first time, He would be the perfect date. He has shown me that He has loved me forever. That even though I have rejected Him, He is still waiting for me to come back. That now that I had a clear picture of who I was, I was able to walk towards the woman He made me to be. And all this, He does because He loves me. Nothing else.

God is not codependent, that’s for sure. He doesn’t need me. And He loves me. Unconditionally. So it began to make sense. This intimacy thing. This is what it means. It means that God knows who we really are, and He loves us. There’s acceptance. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. It meant that I didn’t fear divorce anymore. Becasue the truth is that my husband is a gift God gave me. He is my husband, and I want to know him, and I want him to know me. So I’ve been open in sharing with him these feelings and issues, and he says he loves me. It means conflict and arguments are there. It means I don’t need perfection. It means I feel accepted. And I also need to work on being accepting.

God loves me. I wanted this with God. Yes, with my husband, too. But God. With God. This is the relationship God wants with me. Why would I say NO to that?

I bought myself a ring. I married God. My other marriage is fine, by the way. We are learning to communicate better, and I’m not stuffing my feelings when I am angry. I’m learning to be assertive, and we are not divorcing – this goes beyond divorce. God is changing ME.

I am the Lord’s wife first. He is the one that will fulfill ALL the expectations of love I have. He is actually showing me what love really means. He has been faithful to me even when I have been a spiritual prostitute. He has shown me what a Covenant Keeper He is. He does not leave nor forsake me based on my performance. He has lived with me the book of Hosea. Even after I had gone after my Baals, my lovers, and forgotten Him; He has betrothed me in righteousness and justice, in steadfast love and mercy.

He is a devoted husband.

Your love is devoted like a ring of solid gold,
like a vow that is tested like a covenant of old.
Your love is enduring through the winter rain,
and beyond the horizon with mercy for today.
Faithful You have been and faithful you will be.
You pledge yourself to me, and it’s why I singYour praise will ever be on my lips, ever be on my lips

You Father the orphan. Your kindness makes us whole.
And you shoulder our weakness, and your strength becomes our own.
Now you’re making me like you, clothing me in white.
Bringing beauty from ashes, for You will have Your bride

Free of all her guilt and rid of all her shame
And known by her true name and it’s why I sing

Your praise will ever be on my lips, ever be on my lips

You will be praised. You will be praised.
With angels and saints we sing worthy are You Lord!

You see it? It is LOVE. It is nothing else. If you know what I am talking about, if you have struggled with acceptance and your self-worth, you understand the need to be loved. And you understand that you would give yourself to people, and do things in order to get a tiny crumb of love. You may not be aware of it, but you stay in relationships that deep down you know they are not good for you, or you don’t even like to get something – acceptance, praise, whatever it might be.

I have given myself to get something in return. Always. Becasue I want to be loved. But God? What does He need? He doesn’t need anything. Why would God give Himself to me like this?

He wants me to be FREE

All my Christian life, I have been a slave. To my idols. I had failed to see that Christ died to set me free from my sin, but also from the things, and behaviors, and patterns of thought that have entangled my earthly life. This is what it means to walk with Christ. Yes, I get heaven, but I also get to enjoy my life here and now. My Lord and my Savior died so that I could be free to choose Him.

That’s what God’s more interested in – my freedom. I understand slavery. I have been a slave to my anger, and to these behaviors that I’m working on changing. Along the way, I had been raising little slaves… They don’t deserve this. No child deserves what I went through. And while I am not and will never be the perfect mother, I do want to change my family history. Without realizing it, I had been encouraging the same patterns of family disfunction that both my husband and I were raised in. It is so clear now.

On my last session I was so very happy to share with my counselor some changes that I’ve made, and some tough conversations that I had with people I was afraid of. I felt different. I turned around, and I read a verse that meant a lot to me:

Remember not the former things,
nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.

Isaiah 43:19-19

This is in the context of the prophet Isaiah speaking to the Israelites. God is telling them He will deliver them AGAIN from Babylon – another “exodus”. Where there is no clear path ahead of me, God will create one. He is always a step ahead of me. He knew about all this. He knew about my fears, and about my shame. He has covered it all.

I am learning a lot about being a parent in counseling. I am learning to show my children who they are, and who God is. To show them, not to teach them. I was teaching them one thing, but showing them a completely different one. I was being harsh, laying down the law. If they did something, they paid. Again, God is changing ME.

I am being more patient. More forgiving. I think that can be mistaken as if I’m letting them off the hook many times, but I don’t think I am. I am just showing my children what I have been learning myself. I am showing them how to regulate their emotions, and really, how to manage them. I just feel that I haven’t been very gracious to them in all these years. I have been expecting a behavior that it is right -like obedience – but I don’t think I have taken enough time to cultivate what it takes for that behavior to develop.

Basically I haven’t been a very good listener. It’s taking a whole lot of help from the Lord to wait fifteen minutes by my son’s side while he cannot stop crying. Waiting until we can talk about what triggered that anger explosion. It was easier to spank him because he pushed his sister, and then make him apologize. And then he would cry more and more. And sometimes I do think, “You know, all this emotional Let’s-talk-about-it-crap takes a lot of time, and a lot of effort…”

And the truth is I don’t want to deal with it. I don’t. Then I close my eyes, and I’m like, “Yeah, well… nobody showed you how to deal with your emotions. You have stuffed them all your life and when they explode, it has been disastrous – in family, in friendships, in marriage… “

The Lord reminded me of this the other day at the library:

The Lord is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.

Psalm 103:8-13

 

I have been treated so tenderly by my heavenly Father. He is showing me how forgiving He is. I deserve the worst, but I don’t get what I deserve. He loves me. Are there consequences? Yes. Is there discipline? Yes. But I am just happy that God is working something in me through both my children and their strong will. He is showing me how to be more like Jesus. Isn’t that the point of the Christian life anyway? Jesus will not leave me alone…

So yeah, feelings are not being stuffed anymore. I think it is being particularly difficult for my husband. Sometimes I think that what I do here at home does not really have an impact on anyone. But I am realizing, basically, that God is helping my husband and I to get closer to each other, and also to potentially change future generations. God is helping me to break away from the cycle of abuse and codependency of at least four generations on my side.

I’ve been swimming, so this next song means a lot to me. I’ve never swam before, so learning to breathe correctly and all that was very challenging for me. All those feelings of inadequacy, of being a loser, would continually come to my mind. But I kept on trying and I’m getting much better. In my class, sometimes we practice drafting for triathlons. When there is a lot of people swimming next to you, the water gets really choppy. And even though I know how to breathe correctly, sometimes when I open my mouth all I get is water inside. No air. I have to put my head back in the water, then lift it up again, and try harder.

This time in my life has felt a little bit like that – like swimming in choppy water trying to get air. But God has been with me every step of the way. We are not done yet. I’m sure He will keep on revealing things to me, things that as of right now I have no idea about.

I like swimming because God showed me that I can swim. When I see a lake or a pond, I feel like swimming there, even though I have never swam in open water before. The idea of drowning in an open-water swim terrified me, but I can’t wait to try it now.

One final thought. I began this post with Muslims in mind. If you are Muslim, and you are reading this, I think you can relate to a lot of the issues I talked about. We do share honor and shame societies. I wouldn’t be surprised if you have been treated like this. I pray that one day you will be able to relate to God in this forgiving, accepting, and unconditional-loving way.  There is no other way,  but through Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.

Life gets choppy at times. Being Ramadan I know you want to please Allah. I know. Ask Him to reveal Himself to you. Ask Him for a dream. Test Him on that. Dare to call Him Father. And always remember that if God calls you to swim, He will keep you breathing above the waves.

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep. My faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name. And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise. My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

Oh, Jesus, you’re my God!

Oceans

Did Jesus really rise from the death?

I believed in Christianity because its message appealed to me. I was raised running on an empty love-tank. I believed it. I never asked if it was true – I just wanted LOVE.

Unconditional love.

But a feeling didn’t matter when I was confronted with other faiths. So I was ready – as difficult as it was – to test my own beliefs, and follow the evidence. It was the worst year of my life, but without a doubt, it was the most enriching experience I have ever had.

I hope you enjoy this debate. David Wood is one of my personal heroes.

Did Jesus rise from the dead?

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins…

1 Corinthians 15:17

He is risen 🙂

 

The Jewish Roots of Christianity

Great video. Go Columbus, Ohio! 🙂

 
 “Did Jesus intend to found the Christian church? This interesting question can be answered in the affirmative and in the negative. It depends on what precisely is being asked. If by church one means an organization and a people that stand outside of Israel, the answer is no. If by a community of disciples committed to the restoration of Israel and the conversion and instruction of the Gentiles, then the answer is yes. Jesus did not wish to lead his disciples out of Israel, but to train followers who will lead Israel, who will bring renewal to Israel , and who will instruct Gentiles in the way of the Lord. Jesus longed for the fulfillment of the promises and the prophecies, a fulfillment that would bless Israel and the nations alike. The estrangement of the church from Israel was not the result of Jesus’ teaching or Paul’s teaching. Rather, the parting of the ways, as it has been called in recent years, was the result of a long process”—Craig Evans , From Jesus to the Church: The First Christian Generation.
Here are the chapters from the book:
Partings—How Judaism & Christianity Became Two - Hardcover
:
I. The Jewish Jesus Movement
Geza Vermes
II. From the Crucifixion to the End of the First Century
James D.G. Dunn
III. The Godfearers: From the Gospels to Aphrodisias
Bruce Chilton
IV. The Christian Flight to Pella? The Archaeological Picture
Pamela Watson
V. Parting in Palestine
Joan Taylor
VI. Christianity in Antioch: Partings in Roman Syria
Annette Yoshiko Reed and Lily Vuong
VII. Living Side by Side in Galilee
Eric M. Meyers
VIII. Jews and Christians at Rome: An Early Parting of the Ways
Margaret H. Williams
IX. Christianity’s Rise After Judaism’s Demise in Early Egypt
Robert A. Kraft and AnneMarie Luijendijk
X. Ebionites and Nazoraeans: Christians or Jews?
Matt A. Jackson-McCabe
XI. In Between: Jewish-Christians and the Curse of the Heretics
Shaye J.D. Cohen
XII. The Complexities of Rejections and Attraction, Herein of Love and Hate
Steven Fine
XIII. From Sabbath to Sunday: Why, How and When?
Lawrence T. Geraty
XIV. Social Organization and Parting in East and West
Arye Edrei and Doron Mendels
XV. Did They Ever Part?
 Who is the Founder of Christianity? Jesus or Paul?
Linguistically speaking, Christianity didn’t exist in the first century. Judaism in the first century wasn’t seen as a single “way.” There were many “Judaism’s”- the Sadducees, the Pharisees, Essenes, Zealots, etc.  The followers of Jesus are referred to as a “sect” (Acts 24:14;28:22); “the sect of the Nazarenes” (24:5).
Josephus refers to the “sects” of Essenes, Pharisees, Sadducees. The first followers of Jesus were considered to be a sect of Second Temple Judaism.

Another quote by Evans:

But we must ask if Paul has created a new institution, a new organization, something that stands over against Israel, something that Jesus himself never anticipated. From time to time learned tomes and popular books have asserted that the Christian church is largely Paul’s creation, that Jesus himself never intended for such a thing to emerge. Frankly, I think the hypothesis of Paul as creator of the church or inventor of Christianity is too simplistic. A solution that is fairer to the sources, both Christian and Jewish, is more complicated. -Evans, Craig A., From Jesus to the Church: The First Christian Generation .

Take a look at both quotes from Evans in this post.  From the author’s own experience, most Christians and Jewish people like the current boundaries. In other words, we have two separate religions- Judaism and Christianity. Thus, we don’t care much about as to how we got to that place. One thing for sure: If we discuss the “imperial Christianity” that was legalized in the fourth century by Constantine and whether Jesus or Paul is the founder of that, the answer is no. By then, the Christianity that existed was so far away from what Jesus and Paul had done, it had morphed into a new and separate religion.

As Evans says, this was the result of complex factors.

Do these issues matter for apologetics?

Yes! See the post called Why the Debate Over Christian Origins Matter!

What if the copies were corrupted?

I think I’ve written on this subject before, but why not to keep on writing? This post was originally written here.


Suppose you own a Bible, but it’s translated in a style that’s difficult to understand. Or maybe your Bible has simply worn out from years of usage. If so, you can easily walk into any Christian bookstore and pick up a different version of the Bible.

The earliest Christians couldn’t do that.

There was no “Polycarp Standard Version” or “Saint James Study Bible with Limited Edition Camel-Knee Binding” on anyone’s bookshelf, and there were no printing presses or photocopy machines. Early Christians read the Scriptures from codexes and scrolls. These copies of the Scriptures were hand-written from whatever manuscripts the copyists happened to possess when a copy was needed. And so, it was crucial for copyists to reproduce these texts accurately.

But did they? What if the copies of the New Testament were corrupted over the centuries?

Certain skeptics give the impression that ancient copyists changed the biblical texts in ways that ought to worry Christians today (this is certainly the case with Muslims).

Here’s how Bart Erhman describes the status of the New Testament manuscripts:

Not only do we not have the originals [of the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament], we don’t have the first copies of the originals.… What we have are copies made later—much later. … These copies differ from one another in so many places that we don’t even know how many differences there are. … Christianity … is a textually oriented religion whose texts have been changed, surviving only in copies that vary from one another, sometimes in highly significant ways.[1]

Such statements suggest that the process of copying the Scriptures worked something like the Telephone Game (much like skeptics have depicted the oral histories you learned about in a previous chapter). In the Telephone game, of course, you might start with “I like pepperoni pizza” but end up with “Don’t let the purple aliens build pyramids when the zombies attack.”

Could it be that the verses in the New Testament have been similarly corrupted by careless copyists? If so, even if the original New Testament texts told the truth, how can we be sure that what we read in the New Testament today is true, since it may have changed over the centuries? Has the message of Jesus been lost in transmission?

Truth be told, the skeptics’ claims are overblown. The New Testament has not changed significantly over the centuries, and nothing essential to the message of Jesus has been lost in transmission.[2] In the first place, manuscripts weren’t copied a single time and then tossed aside, like the individual sentences whispered around the circle in a Telephone Game. Manuscripts were kept, repeatedly copied, and sometimes used to check later copies.

What’s more, textual critics today don’t start with the manuscripts left over at the end of the copying process, like the last sentence uttered in the Telephone Game. The Greek text that stands behind today’s New Testament is the result of careful reconstruction using the earliest surviving manuscripts, not a few leftovers at the end!

So, yes, copyists made mistakes, and some copyists even altered texts. And yet, such lapses were relatively rare. Copyists worked hard to keep their copies correct and, for the most part, they got it right. Even when they didn’t get it right, most of their mistakes were mere misspellings or slips of the pen—variants that are easy to spot and easily corrected. When it comes to more difficult variants, so many manuscripts and fragments of the New Testament have survived that scholars can almost always reconstruct the original reading of the text. In those few instances where uncertainty about the right reading remains, none of the possibilities changes anything that Christians believe about God or about his work in the world.

So did copyists make changes in the manuscripts? Of course they did!

The copyists were human beings, and being human means making mistakes. Since God chose not to override their humanity as they copied the New Testament, these human beings were every bit as prone to short attention spans, poor eyesight, and fatigue as you or me. They had no eyeglasses or contact lenses to sharpen their vision, and they relied on the flickering light of lamps to see.

Since God did not “re-inspire” the text each time it was reproduced, sometimes the copyists miscopied their sources. Once in a while, they even tried to fix things that weren’t broken by changing words that they thought a heretic might misconstrue.[3] The result is hundreds of thousands of copying variants scattered among the New Testament manuscripts.

One popular skeptic’s much-repeated soundbite is that “there are more variations among our manuscripts than there are words in the New Testament”; this statement is technically true but—unless his listeners are aware of the vast number of New Testament manuscripts that survive today—it’s also a bit misleading.[4]

There are around 138,000 words in the Greek New Testament, and hundreds of thousands of variants can be found scattered among the Greek manuscripts— but that number of variants comes from adding up every difference in every surviving manuscript from the Greek New Testament.[5] Well over 5,000 Greek New Testament manuscripts have been preserved as a whole or in part—more than any other text from the ancient world![6] With so many surviving manuscripts, it doesn’t take long for the number of variants to exceed the number of words in the Greek New Testament.

If only one manuscript of the New Testament had survived, there would have been zero variants (and this single manuscript would probably have become an idol to which people would make pilgrimages today!). But early Christians believed that all of God’s Word should be accessible to all of God’s people. And so, every church seemed to have possessed its own codexes of apostolic texts—and that’s why more than 5,000 whole or partial manuscripts survive today.

Spread across millions and millions of words in more than 5,000 manuscripts, the variations represent a small percentage of the total text. According to one scholar, the New Testament text is 92.6% stable.[7] In other words, all these differences affect less than 8% of the New Testament text! What’s more, the overwhelming majority of these differences have to do with words that are misspelled or rearranged—differences that have no impact on the translation or meaning of the text.[8]

What this means practically is that the text of the New Testament has been sufficiently preserved for us to recover the words that God intended and inspired. What’s more, several portions of the New Testament survive from the second century—a century or less after the time when God first inspired eyewitnesses of the risen Lord to write!

The New Testament is, in fact, the best preserved text from the ancient world. Greek scholar D.A. Carson sums up the issue in this way: “The purity of text is of such a substantial nature that nothing we believe to be true, and nothing we are commanded to do, is in any way jeopardized by the variants.”[9]

____________

Portions of this blog post were contributed by Elijah Hixson. 


 

We know (if you are familiar with what the Muslims claim) that every single book in antiquity has been corrupted. By corruption, I mean that people used to keep on copying the manuscripts, and therefore some errors happened. This is certainly the case with the New Testament. There was never an intention to control the text (check out the debate about the Quran with James White that I posted below). The text needed to get out of Jerusalem so that everybody knew what had happened.

Every single person had a different book (either the letter to the Romans, or to the Corinthians) and they made a copy for themselves or for their family. Nobody was trying to alter them on purpose. It is impossible to think that people would get so victorious at changing the doctrines in the New Testament so perfectly, at the same time – without even being organized. The New Testament Manuscript tradition has thousand and thousands of manuscripts.

The Muslim claim is that the Quran we have now has always been the same ever since Gabriel dictated it to Muhammad. But if we are to apply the same standard – not a double standard – on how we treat the Quran and the New Testament, then the Quran is also corrupt. And if it is corrupted – just like any book of antiquity is – then the doctrine of perfect preservation of the Quran is false. That would mean… many things, I guess. No eternal tablets in heaven, no assurance of what Muhammad and his companions wrote down were actually Allah’s words. No hope that Allah’s language is Arabic or that Islam is the religion that pleases Allah or actually true… The Quran is just another book.

If the perfect preservation of the Quran fails… how can Islam survive? Listen to the questions White raises. Where are the manuscripts of the Quran? There are variations in the text of the Quran? How do you know what the original said? Muslims say there are 450 thousand Quran manuscripts. Fine. Where are they? We want to see the list. We can give you all the list of the New Testament manuscripts, and you can go online and find the entire catalog right now. Where is that for the Quran?

Is the Quran reliable? White vs Ismail

Is the Bible reliable? White vs Ismail

Is the Quran perfectly preserved? Part 1

Is the Quran perfectly preserved? Part 2 

You might also want to read Dr. James White’s What every Christian needs to know about the Quran. It’s very a well documented research on the history of how the Quran came to be from the main Islamic sources. But if you watch the top two debates, I’m sure you’ll get the idea.


[1] Bart Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2005), 7, 10–11, 69, 132, 208.

[2] See also Daniel B. Wallace, “Lost in Transmission,” Revisiting the Corruption of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2011), 31–33; Darrell Bock, (Nashville: Nelson, 2010), 71.

[3] See Bart Ehrman’s scholarly work The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993). In those relatively few instances where the text has been intentionally altered, it was not primarily heretics altering New Testament texts to fit their beliefs; it was often the orthodox altering texts for the perceived purpose of preventing misuse of the text by heretics. While one may take issue with some of Ehrman’s specific applications, his overall case is well-argued.

[4] Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus, 90.

[5] Ehrman (Misquoting Jesus, 89) places the high end of his estimate at 400,000. Careful statistical analysis by Peter Gurry has resulted in an estimate between 500,000 and 550,000, not including misspellings (“Demanding a Recount,” presentation, Evangelical Theological Society, 2014).

[6] The listing in 2003 included a total of 5,735 manuscripts of the Greek New Testament represented in whole or in part (Bruce Metzger and Bart Ehrman, The Text of the New Testament 4th ed. [New York: Oxford University Press, 2005], 50).

[7] K. Martin Heide, “Assessing the Stability of the Transmitted Texts of the New Testament and The Shepherd of Hermas,” The Reliability of the New Testament, ed. Robert Stewart (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2011), 138. This percentage coheres well with the seven percent figure for variants suggested by Paul Wegner, A Student’s Guide to Textual Criticism of the Bible (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2006), 231.

[8] Wallace, “Lost in Transmission,” 20–21.