Thursday, January 30, 2014

Java with the Judges - Week 3

"The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, "Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!"... Then the Lord turned to him (Gideon) and said, "Go with the strength you have and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!" ".  Judges 6:12,14

This is the Gideon that I remember from my childhood stories: the mighty warrior who defeated God's enemies with only 300 men!  So, as I re-read this story, in it's entirety, my jaw hit the ground more than once.  I was flabbergasted to read that Gideon questioned God over and over again.  That he doubted and was afraid, both of the people and of what God was telling him to do.  I just couldn't believe Gideon was so - human!

I was also taken aback by the violence of the whole story!  This I had to deal with first because, for me, it interfered with understanding God's message.  Knowing that this is an historical book of the Bible and these events took place, does not lessen the importance of it's relevance for us today.  So, I started to read this as an allegory.  It's not, but it certainly helped me to make the leap from the physical world of Gideon to the spiritual implications for today.  An aside: in chapter 7, verse 5-7 the NET translation reads a little differently than some other translations. The short version is that God chose the men who lapped water from their cupped hands rather than the ones who drank directly from the water.  As always, if the NET translation raises a question, read another translation or two for clarification.

Keeping the focus on Gideon - his character, his actions, his conversations with the messenger of the Lord and with God - allowed me to see myself in this story.  It also helped me to see more clearly how God works!  He called the youngest member of the weakest clan, a coward and doubter, to be a great warrior and spiritual leader!

Sandra Glahn, through her questions, keeps bringing us back to the important part of studying the Bible: how do we fit into it and what can we learn about our own spiritual lives?  Some of the questions this week are personal, using Gideon and his life as a spring board to examine our own lives.  It is crucial to spend time reflecting on these more personal inquiries - this is where our journey takes place.

Gideon's God is our God!  Reading Judges 6-9 with that foremost in our minds, we should ask ourselves a few questions:
Where do I see myself in this story?  Is there any part of it to which I can relate?
Is God telling me to do something I'd rather not?  What is it and how have I reacted?
What  questions do I have for Him?
How can God use what I (society) consider to be a weakness to glorify Him?
How can I avoid falling back into a sin that God has helped me to overcome?

I hope you mustered some strength to read through these challenging chapters!  I know I needed to reach deep to digest it, and there are still parts I just can't 'get over'.

Comment below (go to the website if you're reading this in your e-mail) - I'd love to read your reaction to Gideon's story!  Can you relate?  If so, how?  And if not, why not?

Your Partner in Ministry,

"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Java with the Judges - Week 2

"Deborah, the wife of Lappidoth, was a prophet who had become a judge in Israel.  She would hold court under the Palm of Deborah, which stood between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites came to her to settle their disputes."  Judges 4:4-5 NLT

Wow!  What a loaded description of this woman!  Unfortunately, some of the descriptors are lost in translation.  Below is a link to an article that fills in some of these gaps.

My first thoughts when I read Judges 4 & 5 were: how did she become Judge?  It seems backwards from the other stories of the Judges; I thought a Judge was raised up after the people cried out for help, but Deborah was already leading them (4:3-4). And if that's the case why isn't Barak or Jael the Judge?  Or why wasn't Doborah the one victorious in battle like the other Judges?  What is the deal with Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali?!  And so many more!

As I worked through the study questions each day, an understanding started to break through.  I read and re-read some of the passages and went to my favorite translation, the New Living Translation, and read it again.  I encourage you to do the same.  If you're just not "getting it" with the translation in the study guide, try your favorite translation or go to and choose a different translation.  That and the foot notes in my study Bible helped to shed light on what was going on during this time in Israel's history and specifically during this fierce battle.

But that still wasn't enough for me!  I Googled 'Deborah the Judge' and found some very interesting information - stuff that really got me excited about Deborah and what this story means for me, a 21st Century woman!  Click here to read an informative article by Tikva Frymer-Kensky (1943-2006), who was a professor of Hebrew Bible at the Divinity School at the University of Chicago.  It's well written and not very long.
Let me whet your curiosity with this: according to Frymer-Kensky, "the wife of Lappidoth" (4:4) can be translated as "wife of Lapidot", but it also means "woman of torches" or "fiery woman".  That certainly adds depth to Deborah's personality!  She also tells us that "Her weapon is the word, and her very name is an anagram of "she spoke" (dibberah)".  Please, please, please read the article - it's worth it!!  

Another tool that I found useful was a map I found in my Bible.  The study guide map only shows the territories of the Tribes and Judges.  When I looked at a map with more detail, with the places in this story marked (the cities, Mount Tabor, and the Kishon River), along with the Tribes and Judges, I started to get a clearer picture of the enorimity of the battle and the importance of Deborah's leadership.
I especially like this map.  Zoom in to see the city & river names.

Deborah is not the only interesting character in this story!  Barak and Jael can teach us a thing or two, too!  Keep reading the study guide and working through the questions and pray for understanding and insight.  And it's okay to read Saturday, Sandra's summary, before the end of the week :)

Comments: I love 'em!  How are you doing with the book of Judges so far?  What message do you hear from the story of Deborah?  Which version of the story do you like better: Judges 4, the prose telling or Judges 5, the poetic song?

Your Partner in Ministry,

"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body." Proverbs 16:24

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Java with the Judges - Week 1

"Whenever the Lord placed a judge over Israel, he was with that judge and rescued the people from their enemies throughout the judge's lifetime.  For the Lord took pity on his people, who were burdened by oppression and suffering."  Judges 2:18 New Living Translation

Welcome to the first week of our new study, Java with the Judges, by Sandra Glahn!  I'm so excited that you are here!

Let me encourage you to read the Introductions on page ix and xiii-xvi.  Here you will find valuable insight into the study, helpful chart of the Judges, map, and "The Cycle of Misery".  The study book includes almost all of the Scripture that you will need and is broken up into daily readings & questions.  Feel free to use the study in a way that best suits your schedule!  You don't need to read 'Monday' on Monday, but do read it in order.  Also note that we will discuss the entire week (Sun-Sat), during our Friday morning group session.  My last note about the study itself: Ms. Glahn uses the NET Bible translation.  I personally am not familiar with it, but so far it seems to be okay.  If you prefer to use a translation that you are more comfortable with, then please do.  As we found in previous studies, it's often a good idea to read different translations of the same passage, as different schools of translating use different philosophies, etc.  For instance, I love my New Living Translation Bible, so I used it for the openeing Scripture.  You'll notice it is different than the NET translation, but not significantly.

This first week (the first three books of Judges) introduces us to 4 of Israel's Judges.  There are lots of names of people and places!  Don't get hung up on them :)

If you find the proper nouns are giving you trouble, here's some helpful tips: 
* shorten the name or use a nick-name 
* use initials 
* replace the unprouncable name with something similar, but familiar 
* you can try this online prouncination guide, click here .  It doesn't include all of the names.    

The chart and map are helpful to keep track of what's going on, too.  There aren't many details about the people, places, or battles, so we'll have to use our imiganations a little bit.  But the details aren't the important part of this particular study.

The daily questions will help us focus on individuals, relationships and we'll start to see a pattern between God and His people emerge.   What can these stories mean for us in 21st century America?   Is there a corrolation to our world, society, or communities?

What does any of it mean for us personally?  How can stories about conquest in ancient, foreign lands possibly have any meaning to us individually?  Although reading stories of brave warriors can be quite exciting, it's in asking these questions that will provide insight, exploration, and bring us to a deeper level of understanding the Love God has for us.

Enjoy your cup of java (or tea, soda, water) while delving into the ancient world of the Judges!  Spend some time contemplating what it is God has to tell us through these stories.

I'd love to read your thoughts on our new study!  Please comment below about Judges 1-3, the study guide, or anything that's on your mind as you're reading.

I am looking forward to sharing this journey through Judges with you!

Your Partner in Ministry,


"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Happy New Year!

"Since God chose you to be the holy people whom he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. You must make allowance for each other's faults and forgive the person who offends you...  And the most important piece of clothing you must wear is love. Love is what binds us all together in perfect harmony." Colossians 3:12-14

Happy New Year!                                                                                                                                     
Tradition holds that this time of year we evaluate our lives and resolve to make changes for the coming year.  I don't know about you, but I don't remember ever keeping a New Year's Resolution for more than a few weeks.  Whether it be to live a more healthy lifestyle through diet & exercise, improve my finances, or to be more organized, my best efforts get swept up in the busy-ness of life, making it difficult to maintain new habits.  There are endless systems, gurus, books, and gadgets that promise success.  Have you tried them?  Did they work?  Life, it seems, is a series of trials-and-errors when it comes to changing or improving who we are.

While I have fallen short of many goals I have set over the years, I can admit that I am a different person (hopefully improved) than I was in the past.  The ongoing process is gradual, and I am still me with my flaws & issues & buttons that can be pushed, just a kinder, more accepting me (most of the time).  Even my husband noticed, so it must be true!  The way to truly bring out my better attributes and limit my negative responses was to rely on God.  Rely on His promises, His guidance, His teachings, and His plan for my life.  I don't always lovingly submit to Him or accept His challenges, but I try my best.  Remembering His promises for me has been most reassuring during times of doubt, struggle, and just plain stubbornness.   Remembering that God forgives my transgressions has encouraged me to return to His path when I stray, rather than totally giving up.

The passage from Colossians is a wonderful reminder of how we should train our attitude.  It says that we are holy and chosen by God.  WOW!  I wish everyone could absorb that truth!!
It tells us how we should think and act towards each other every day.  And in being kind, humble, gentle, patient, and merciful, by offering forgiveness and making allowances for each other, we also do those things for ourselves.  How wonderful a world we would live in, if we could do even half of these consistently!  And then there is Love, the most important command of all!  It's what holds everything else in place.  It does not allow pride, anger, or judgement to overtake us.  Just imagine the changes that would take place if everyone chose even one word of this passage as their New Year's Resolution for 2014.  And if not one of these words, another single word from The Word of God.

It's this idea of focusing on one word, supported by The Word, that we studied last April (My One Word, by Mike Ashcraft & Rachel Olsen).  This focus has given me my greatest growth.  As I work on viewing the world through just one word from Scripture, everything is starting to reflect a positive move towards being the person God created me to be.

If you make New Year's Resolutions, what is yours this year?  I hope you share them in the Comment section below - I'd love to read about them!!  I am continuing with my one word, honey, until Lent.  But I have resolved to work more diligently on using my word to live the life God has designed for me.

I cannot express fully the gratitude I have for each of you who read this blog or attend the Friday gatherings.  
It is your gracious and loving support that gives me courage to continue to write and lead a Bible study.  Thank you for your prayers, your words, and your attendance.  You make my heart sing with praise!

Let me remind those who can meet, we are resuming our Friday morning gatherings this Friday, January 10th, at 9:15 am.  We will be starting a new study, Java with the Judges by Sandra Glahn.  The 10th will be a 'welcome back' and review, so no need to prepare anything for our first week back.  This is the perfect opportunity to join us for the first time and to bring a friend!!  

Your Partner in Ministry,


"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body." Proverbs 16:24