How Should Christians View Israel? Part 1

by Rose-Marie Slosek

It is really important for a Christian to correctly understand how we are to view Israel in the plan of God.  There is much misinformation that is widespread and often Christians will mix different schools of thought together without realizing it is confusing their thoughts about Israel. Let’s discuss a few critical points for a foundation.

God chose the nation of Israel to be His own nation in the world, a priestly, prophetic people who would show forth to the world around them Who the Living and True God is. Deuteronomy 7:7 & 8a says, The LORD did not set His affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than the other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But because the LORD loved you and kept the oath He swore to your fathers…”

God chose a people, not because they were strong or special in themselves, to reveal Himself to the peoples of the earth. Israel did not choose God, God chose Israel.  He made a covenant with Abraham and swore by Himself (Gen. 22:16) to uphold it. This made him the chief Upholder of the covenant. Abraham did not hold back his son, Isaac, from God (foreshadowing God not holding back His Son from us)  and so God promised to make the descendants of Abraham as the “stars in the sky and the sands of the seashore” (Genesis 22:17). God honored Abraham’s faith but God swore by Himself and not by man when He made the covenant.

God knew that man was fallible. Israel’s history is a checkered one: they strayed from God, they did not heed the prophets nor obey the commandments of God, they wandered in the wilderness because of “unbelief.” (Hebrew 3:19).  God has always been looking for faith, not just lineage. So not everyone of the household of Israel is or was right before God. What now qualifies both Jew and Gentile is belief in the atoning work of Jesus Christ to save us. Paul says, “ 28 He is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is external in the flesh. 29 But he is a Jew who is one inwardly. And circumcision is of the heart, by the Spirit, and not by the letter.” (Romans 2:28-29).

The nation of Israel, as a whole, rejected Jesus as their Messiah. There were individuals who accepted Him, but Jesus was not accepted by the nation as a whole. Jesus said, “they [Israel] missed the day of their visitation” (Luke 19:44). Judgment was sent: they were sent into a deep spiritual and physical exile. A veil now covers their spiritual eyes (2 Cor 3:15). Paul says that a “I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.“ (Romans 11:25).

We, as Gentile believers, are the wild vine that has been grafted into the vine of God. Some of the original vine (natural Israel)  has branches that have broken off because of unbelief. We do not replace the original vine (Israel), but we are blessed to be able to be added to the household of God. When the “times of the Gentiles” are over, God will bring the nation of Israel to full salvation as a nation! There will not be one Jew who does not know the Lord on the Day when they shall look upon HIm whom they have pierced! (Zech 12:10). ALL Israel shall be saved! (Romans 11:25-26). Let us pray for that Day, but also pray that individual Jews, each come, today, to a heartfelt conversion during their individual  lifetimes. During this season, the “times of the Gentiles,” the gospel is presented to everyone, Jew and Gentile alike, and each must make an individual choice before God, although collectively the “veil” still remains over Israel.

Rose-Marie Slosek is a Board Member of Women of the Word. She also blogs at Pen of the Wayfarer and is a spiritual director. She loves to travel to other nations, especially Ireland and Israel , and is an avid photographer of nature. Rose-Marie also rescues dogs and gives them a loving home.

Women of the Word is an inter-generational ministry dedicated to helping women grow as disciples of Jesus by applying God’s Word through the power of the Holy Spirit. WOW holds conferences, retreats, Bible seminars and trips to Israel. Consider joining us on the next Amazing Israel Adventure March 31 – April 11, 2019.  Trips to Israel are open to men and women. 

Greek Brain, Hebrew Brain: The Way Parables Worked

Jesus’s parables fit perfectly into a non-Western, Jewish culture that expressed itself through tangible metaphors. He was engaging in sophisticated theological teaching, but we miss it if we are looking for the deductive abstract arguments of the Greeks. Jesus often based his reasoning on experience rather than if-then logic. He did this in multiple ways:

Experience of the Natural World

Jesus frequently used observations about nature and daily life to shed light on spiritual realities. Sometimes he highlighted a lesson by pointing out what was obviously true: grapes don’t grow on thorn bushes. Likewise, people are known by their “fruit.” That seems pretty logical.

More often, however, Jesus used physical examples that have a surprising illogic about them to shed light on the mysterious ways of God…..

  • A speck of a mustard seed can grow into an enormous tree.
  • A blossom that wilts in a day is more gorgeously adorned than a king’s robe.

Tiny clues from creation give us a glimpse into God’s unfathomable ways.

In contrast, Western reasoning often attempts to systematize theology by reducing and affixing God’s thoughts onto a logical grid, flattening and straightening them so that they fit into predictable patterns.

Jesus’s parables, however, embraced the fact that our material world is multifaceted and complex. If God’s creation surprises and perplexes us, shouldn’t its Creator do so even more?

Click here to read the rest of this blog: How Jesus used the Experience of Human Behavior and the Experience of the Scriptures to make his point.

From Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus (Baker, 2018), p 96-100. This is from chapter 5, “Greek Brain: Hebrew Brain,” in the section called, “How the Bible Thinks.”

Lois Tverberg

Lois Tverberg holds a Ph.D in biology and was a college professor. While in a Bible study class she became interested in studying the Bible in it’s cultural context. Discovering the answers to head-scratching questions and sharing the “ah-hah” moments with others became a passion. She began learning Hebrew and Greek, studying in the land of Israel, and exploring recent scholarship on Jesus’ first-century Jewish world. Ultimately, she left a life in academia to devote herself full-time to teaching and writing on the topic, and now has been at it for almost twenty years. She has authored five books and also directs the En-Gedi Resource Center, an educational ministry. Lois is  also a speaker and has spoken at Women of the Word events in Connecticut and Wisconsin. 

Women of the Word is an inter-denominational, inter-generational, and inter-cultural ministry dedicated to transforming lives into the image of Jesus through growing disciples taught by God’s Word and empowered by the Holy Spirit. We honor our elders, learning from them as they mentor us. We value and strengthen the middle-aged. We seek to reach the millennials and younger generations to encourage and mentor them in the ways of the Lord. Our prayer is that we honor God together. We welcome men to join us at on our Amazing Israel Adventure trips. 

Why was Resurrection “on the Third Day”? Two Answers

by Lois Tverberg

Every year during Holy Week, Christians scratch their heads over questions about Jesus’ being raised “on the third day.” We look at our calendars and see that Sunday comes only two days after Friday. Elaborate schemes have been worked out to make the timing make more sense.

 

One neglected cultural detail suggests a simpler answer. Throughout the Bible, Jews counted time this way:

– Today

– Tomorrow

– Third day

What they call the “third day” we would call “the day after tomorrow.” It sounds surprising, but here are a couple examples:

When you offer a sacrifice of peace offerings to the Lord, you shall offer it so that you may be accepted. It shall be eaten the same day you offer it or on the day after, and anything left over until the third day shall be burned up with fire. (Leviticus 19:5-6)

The Lord said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments and be ready for the third day.” (Exodus 19:10-11)

The idea is not to count 24-hour time spans but to name successive days, including the day of an announcement, which was understood as the “first day.” If an announcement came towards the end of a day, the beginning of the “third day” could arrive not much more than 24 hours later.

Seen in this light, if Jesus died and was buried on Friday, it would be completely logical that Sunday would be seen as the “third day.”

Why was the “Third Day” so Significant?

Understanding how the Jews counted days solves one mystery for our logical, Greek-thinking brains. But another insight comes from looking at Jesus’ words about “the third day” more Hebraically.

In several places we hear Jesus talk about his death, but then how he’d be raised on “the third day.” He makes this prediction over and over. Jewish scholar Pinchas Lapide thinks that he did so because of a motif that Jewish teachers had noted in their Scriptures that reminded them of a promise from Hosea:

Come, let us return to the Lord;
for he has torn us, that he may heal us;
he has struck us down, and he will bind us up.
After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will raise us up,
that we may live before him. (Hosea 6:1-2)

Hosea had rebuked the people of Israel for their sins, and they knew they were suffering from God’s punishment. But then the prophet invited them to return to the Lord, issuing a gracious promise that God’s forgiveness would soon come. Today might be a terrible day of his anger, but tomorrow would be better, and in not too long, life would seemingly begin again. This message gave them hope that even when God was angry, he desired to forgive.

When the rabbis looked back on the Scriptures in light of Hosea’s words, they noticed several places where the “third day” was when redemption came. They were not being woodenly literalistic in counting up days. They were not developing codes and prediction schemes. They were saying that scripturally, God’s forgiveness and redemption comes on “the third day,” poetically speaking.

Lapide writes that in Jewish thought,

“On the third day” has nothing to do with the date or the counting of time but contains for ears which are educated biblically a clear reference to God’s mercy and grace which is revealed after two days of affliction and death by way of redemption.

It made perfect sense to Jesus’ first Jewish followers that Christ would be raised to life “on the third day.”

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

* Genesis Rabbah 56. Pinchas Lapide, The Resurrection of Jesus: A Jewish Perspective (Minneapolis, Fortress: 1982), 91-93.

For more about this motif of “the third day,” see p 214-216 in Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus (Tverberg, Baker, 2018).  It is part of a larger section called “Reading about the Messiah” (p 178-250) which discusses the distinctively Jewish, Hebraic way of reading the Bible that Jesus used to communicate his Messianic identity. Some of his boldest claims float right past us because we don’t know how he read his Scriptures, our Old Testament.

(Images: Raw Pixel, Dion Tavenier)

Original blog posted at ourrabbijesus.com. Re-posted here with permission.

Lois Tverberg

Lois Tverberg holds a Ph.D in biology and was a college professor. While in a Bible study class she became interested in studying the Bible in it’s cultural context. Discovering the answers to head-scratching questions and sharing the “ah-hah” moments with others became a passion. She began learning Hebrew and Greek, studying in the land of Israel, and exploring recent scholarship on Jesus’ first-century Jewish world. Ultimately, she left a life in academia to devote herself full-time to teaching and writing on the topic, and now has been at it for almost twenty years. She has authored five books and also directs the En-Gedi Resource Center, an educational ministry. 

Lois will be the speaker at “Through the Eyes of Jesus”, a Bible study seminar for men and women in Janesville, Wisconsin April 13 & 14, 2018. Registrations close April 6, 2018.

Registration includes Saturday lunch. Our time together will include worship, teaching, and practical application via round-table discussion. You will receive materials to take home with you for ongoing study. Information here.

Women of the Word is an inter-denominational, inter-generational, and inter-cultural ministry dedicated to transforming lives into the image of Jesus through growing disciples taught by God’s Word and empowered by the Holy Spirit. We honor our elders, learning from them as they mentor us. We value and strengthen the middle-aged. We seek to reach the millennials and younger generations to encourage and mentor them in the ways of the Lord. Our prayer is that we honor God together. We welcome men to join us at Bible seminars such as “Through the Eyes of Jesus” and on our Amazing Israel Adventure trips. 

Waiting for Resurrection

by Rose-Marie Slosek

Our life with God is in the process of growing:  there is a tension between the now and the “not yet.”  While the plan for who He meant us to be was in the mind and heart of God before we were conceived, the living out of that destiny takes place, here on earth, through a process of time and trust.

On this day, Holy Saturday as the liturgical church calls it, Jesus is in a place of utter waiting and trust on God to resurrect Him.  As a man He did not have the power to resurrect Himself, He had to wait for His Father. So likewise, we cannot bring life to ourselves but must surrender to God, knowing that His love for us will not forget us, will not abandon us, will not hurt us, but will bring us to a higher life than we have known.  This is not a hopeful truism, but a living truth!

Jesus understands waiting in trust for God to bring life and resurrection. He understands the vulnerability of waiting in hope, and trusting in faith. Today we can all say that there is something within us that is giving place, perhaps in fits and starts, to who we are yet to become.  The sons and daughters of God are being revealed. The life of God is welling up within us ready to bud forth new things that will glorify and reflect God’s nature in us.

Ponder happily that this day signifies that we are moving from the valley of the shadow of death to our rightful place beneath the shadow of His wings!  So let us surrender ourselves into the hands of our Father. Though we be in an “in-between” place, a place of almost there but not yet, we know that “He who has begun a good work in us will continue to carry it through to completion in Christ Jesus” (Phil 1:6)

Look to your Father and to your Saviour!  Resurrection awaits us!

Re-posted with permission. Original posted here.

 

Rose-Marie Slosek is a Board Member of Women of the Word. She also blogs at Pen of the Wayfarer and is a spiritual director. She loves to travel to other nations spreading the Gospel, and is an avid photographer of nature. Rose-Marie also rescues dogs and gives them a loving home.

Women of the Word is an inter-generational ministry dedicated to helping women grow as disciples of Jesus by applying God’s Word through the power of the Holy Spirit. WOW holds conferences, retreats, Bible seminars and trips to Israel.

Jesus Celebrated Passover

by Betsy Roy

During Passover and “Holy Week”,  our focus is rightly on the things that transpired during this season in the life of Jesus (Yeshua in Hebrew). Glorious LORD JESUS! Psalm 116:12 says, “What shall I render to the LORD for all His benefits to me?” Indeed! We cannot. But, we can set our hearts to follow hard after Him and honor Him with our lives as faithful disciples.

Sometime we get so busy with all the practical preparations, like cleaning,  cooking, and Easter egg hunts that we truly forget what this season is all about. We forget the purpose which is stated by God several times in Exodus Chapters 7-10, “Let my people go, that they may serve (sometimes translated ‘worship’) me!”  God’s purpose has not changed since the time of the Exodus. Jesus came to set us free from all that holds us in bondage so that we may serve (worship) Him and one another in spirit and in truth.

I encourage you to take time during this season which extends past Resurrection Sunday or “Easter” to read God’s Word and ponder it in your heart. Exodus 12 tells us how God instituted Passover. Do you see how it prefigures Jesus? In the New Testament, Jesus celebrated the Passover with his disciples. Read Luke 22:7 – 20. During the Passover Seder, Jesus instituted what Christians now call “Communion”. This all has great significance for us as believers in Jesus. Then read the rest of Luke 22 – Luke 24. Sometimes we are so familiar with a “bible story” that we miss some important revelations the Holy Spirit wants to show us because we don’t take the time to read it prayerfully. What is the text saying to you? How are you to apply the text so that you grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ? Does an understanding of Passover from the Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament) enrich what your read in the New Testament? Prayerfully so!

Also consider prayerfully reading the prophetic scriptures of Isaiah 42:1 – 4, Isaiah 49:1 – 6, Isaiah 50:4 – 9, and Isaiah 52:13 – Isaiah 53:12 known as the “Servant’s Songs” which speak of Messiah Yeshua (Jesus). 

This year (2018) Passover begins at twilight March 30 and goes till sundown April 7.  Passover is really a “season of liberation”. It includes the Feast of Passover,  the Days of Unleavened Bread and the Feast of Firstfruits. Jewish people read certain scriptures during this time and Messianic Believers add readings from the New Testament. I encourage you to read them. A great resource is Hebrew for Christians, which lists the scriptures and also teaches about this season which ends with the Feast of Shavuot (Pentecost) on May 19, 2018.

The celebration of the Passover Seder will occur throughout the world in Jewish homes this year (2018) beginning at twilight on March 30 (Nisan 14, beginning Nisan 15 on the Hebrew calendar). It’s an excellent time to pray for the salvation of Jewish people. Pray that their eyes will be opened and they see that Yeshua (Jesus) is their Messiah.

This year (2018) “Good Friday” falls on Passover. Because the Gregorian calendar, which we observe, and the Hebrew calendar are different, Passover and Easter fall on different days every year. While as Christians we might not take part in a Passover Seder, we can join in by also remembering what happened then and what happened to Jesus, the perfect Passover lamb! Let’s remember and rejoice because Jesus has set us free and wants to deliver us from every bondage so we can live the abundant life He has promised us; a life where we are free to follow Him as His disciples, serve Him, His people and gather in His harvest of souls.

Let’s give Him praise! The Hallel (praise) Psalms of 113 – 118 are read during the Passover Seder. We can read them too! Let’s begin right now!

“Praise the LORD! Praise, O servants of the LORD, praise the name of the LORD! Blessed be the name of the LORD from this time forth and forevermore! From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the LORD is to be praised! (Psalm 113:1, 2)

The Garden Tomb, Jerusalem

We have great reason to celebrate because our Savior is not dead. HE IS RISEN. HE IS ALIVE. The grave could not hold Him. The tomb is empty and because He lives, we have hope and we can face tomorrow. Yes, life has its difficulties and pain, but Jesus has promised to never leave us, nor forsake us. May this reality encourage you and may you truly experience His peace and joy during this season. The Lord abundantly bless you!

Wreath pictured with lilies from wreathswithareason.com, a non-profit organization that raises awareness and funds to combat sex-trafficking. 

Betsy Roy is the Director of Women of the Word, an inter-generational ministry dedicated to helping women grow as disciples of Jesus by applying God’s Word through the power of the Holy Spirit. WOW holds conferences, retreats, Bible seminars and trips to Israel

Betsy and her husband Jim lead the trips to Israel, which include visiting with local believers, both Messianic and Arab. Together they have 3 daughters and 3 grandchildren which are the delight of their hearts. God’s mercy endures from generation to generation. 

Stepping It Up a Notch at 60

by Rose-Marie Slosek

So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. Return, O Lord, how long? and let it repent thee concerning thy servants. O satisfy us early with thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.” (Psalm 90:12-14)

While we are eternal beings in an ultimately real sense, we are also mortals while on this earth. The Psalmist tells us to “number our days” that we might gain a sense of how short they are, and how imperative it is that our earthly sojourn should count much for the eternal kingdom of God.

A couple of us at Women of the Word are turning 60 this year! With that comes a soberness of heart that causes us to turn to the Lord, and implore Him to use us as He wills. There can be nothing held back from Him in this hour. As our bodies age, our spirit can burn every more brightly because we identify with our Lord and understand His purposes and ways in an even greater way. The desire and pursuits of earlier decades give way to wholehearted and unreserved abandon to our God and His passionate work to win all peoples to Himself.

There are some things that can not be done when we are young because we do not yet have the experience. Maturity in God happens over the course of decades– line upon line of faithful walking with God, day in and day out, through the many storms of life.  While youth has energy, the seasoned know that of themselves, they can do nothing and their self-trust has given way to trust in God alone, or at least the beginning of that. There are no shortcuts to some things. Knowing where you end, and where God begins is a great wisdom.

Paul writes, “Moreover [let us also be full of joy now!] let us exult and triumph in our troubles and rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that pressure and affliction and hardship produce patient and unswerving endurance. And endurance develops maturity of character (approved faith and tried integrity). And character produces joyful and confident hope of eternal salvation.  Such hope never disappoints or deludes or shames us, for God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. While we were yet in weakness [powerless to help ourselves], at the fitting time Christ died for us in our ungodly condition (Romans 5:3-6 Amplified).

By the time one turns 60, our character is soberingly starting to show itself for what it is. Now is our wake-up call to be awake, and surrendered, and fit for the Master’s use. For if not now, when? If we have not taken the claims of Jesus upon our life seriously, we had best get down on our knees. And if we have, there are always deeper, more wonderful depths to plumb. I feel that I am only getting to the starting line and I have endeavored to run the race with sobriety for these many decades.

God views our life from the finish point. He stands at our finish line and beckons us to run well, run with abandon, run with character, run with grace.  So let us do that, with all our mind, soul and strength. There is no time to lose, and no time like the present to press into God.

Re-posted here with permission. Original blog posted here.

Rose-Marie Slosek is a Board Member of Women of the Word. She also blogs at Pen of the Wayfarer and is a spiritual director. She loves to travel to other nations spreading the Gospel, and is an avid photographer of nature. Rose-Marie also rescues dogs and gives them a loving home.

Women of the Word is an inter-generational ministry dedicated to helping women grow as disciples of Jesus by applying God’s Word through the power of the Holy Spirit. WOW holds conferences, retreats, Bible seminars and trips to Israel.

Aging from a Biblical Perspective

by Lois Tverberg

To understand your Bible you need to grasp the assumptions of its cultural world. Sometimes glimpsing its alternative point of view can even put our own reality into perspective.

For instance, in the Ancient Near East, advanced age was not seen as something to be avoided. Aging was seen a source of honor and dignity. Job saw a long life as a source of knowledge: “Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?” (Job 12:12)

We, on the other hand, live in a society that idolizes youth, where our heroes are Mark Zuckerberg and Justin Beiber. We can hardly imagine living in a society where growing older is actually seen as a good thing.

Our perspective is not universal, though. Even today, it’s an insult in the Middle East to estimate a person’s age as too young. Hasidic Jews line the cribs of their newborns with pictures of white-bearded rabbis, who are the “rock stars” of their world.

 

The Dynamic Heroes of The Prince of Egypt

Do you remember The Prince of Egypt? In Disney’s animated retelling of the Exodus story, Moses, Miriam and Aaron all look about 23 years old. But have you ever considered the fact that the real Moses was actually eighty, which meant that Miriam would have been in her mid-nineties, and Aaron even older? These three dynamic “leaders of the revolution” were all senior citizens, old-timers who’d be long out to pasture in our world.

Believe it or not, even more of the players in the “original” Prince of Egypt were distinguished by their age. When Moses went to the leaders of Israel with God’s plan, the ones he approached were the zakanim—the elders, or literally, the “beards.” Disney doesn’t seem to realize that every one of the key roles in the Exodus story was significantly aged.

Where Elders were Leaders

Throughout the Bible, communities were led by elders, zakanim. The early church continued the tradition of forming counsels from elders, presbyteroi. In the ancient world, advanced age was seen as a prerequisite for leadership, because of the wisdom that accrues from experience. This was even more important in oral cultures, where traditions were handed down from generation to generation.

Youth was actually seen as a disadvantage, if you wanted to be influential. Jeremiah protested when God first called to be a prophet, because he felt so young that no one would listen to him (Jeremiah 1:6). Likewise, Paul had to encourage his disciple Timothy by saying, “Let no one despise you for your youth.” (1 Timothy 4:12) To have no one in one’s family who lived to an advanced age was a curse. (1 Samuel 2:32)

What would it be like if Christians reconsidered our culture’s worldview and saw aging as a blessing, rather than as a burden? What if middle-aged pastors didn’t feel saddled by the expectation that they act like teenagers?  What if older folks were the most influential, sought-after people in a congregation, rather than being treated as a declining, needy group?

I’ll be celebrating my next birthday in a few weeks. With every year, I like the Bible’s positive view of aging more and more.

Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness. Proverbs 16:31

Original blog posted at ourrabbijesus.com. Reposted here with permission.

Lois Tverberg

Lois Tverberg holds a Ph.D in biology and was a college professor. While in a Bible study class she became interested in studying the Bible in it’s cultural context. Discovering the answers to head-scratching questions and sharing the “ah-hah” moments with others became a passion. She began learning Hebrew and Greek, studying in the land of Israel, and exploring recent scholarship on Jesus’ first-century Jewish world. Ultimately, she left a life in academia to devote herself full-time to teaching and writing on the topic, and now has been at it for almost twenty years. She has authored five books and also directs the En-Gedi Resource Center, an educational ministry. 

Lois will be the speaker at “Through the Eyes of Jesus”, a Bible study seminar for men and women in Janesville, Wisconsin April 13 & 14, 2018. Early Bird deadline is March 19, 2018. Registration includes Saturday lunch. Our time together will include worship, teaching, and practical application via round-table discussion. You will receive materials to take home with you for ongoing study. Information here.

Women of the Word is an inter-denominational, inter-generational, and inter-cultural ministry dedicated to transforming lives into the image of Jesus through growing disciples taught by God’s Word and empowered by the Holy Spirit. We honor our elders, learning from them as they mentor us. We value and strengthen the middle-aged. We seek to reach the millennials and younger generations to encourage and mentor them in the ways of the Lord. Our prayer is that we honor God together. We welcome men to join us at Bible seminars such as “Through the Eyes of Jesus” and on our Amazing Israel Adventure trips. 

Ask Away

by Rachel Hansen

My 5-year-old son posed one of my favorite life questions in a car ride last month: “Mom,” he said. Pause. “We’re rockin’, right?” As I cranked the music volume up a couple more notches, I smiled widely and responded: “Yes, son. We are!”

I’m building a legacy here. As a musician, this moment felt epic! My heart beat to each sound of the drums, feeling the depth of the bass in my bones. My soul rejoiced in the innocence of such a simple, fun question — one of a million questions to date from him in five short years.

Questions. Questions. Questions. My oldest boy is full of them! I guess he’s a chip off the old block in this way. As crazy as they can be – the inquiries AND the kid – the truth is that I enjoy fielding my son’s questions. His asking is funneled through my open ears and an interested heart because I love him. This one inquiry a few weeks ago about pop/rock music was an easy answer. Some questions require much more thought. And others challenge me to my core! The challenge is welcomed because I want him to explore the world with me. He’s growing and trying to make sense of this place, of his world… as am I.  So, questions are welcome here.

If he’s the chip, I’m the block. Despite my laid back demeanor, my mind is a chatter box! The more time I have to think about something, more questions arise. The more time I spend with a person, the more I ask. Maybe it’s the journalist or philosopher in me? I just want to know MORE. I want to wrap my mind around “it” (whatever it is). I seek answers and understanding. I want to go deeper.

Where do you take your most important questions? Who do you entrust with hidden heart inquiries? Each of us needs a trustworthy, wise and available confidant if we intend to grow.

What I’ve grown to love about God is how gracefully He handles my questions. All of them. Grace. I can ask away. No filter.

(Timeout here. Talk to God? Yes.)

I wasn’t born ready to knock at God’s door with all my concerns. Life got me there. God found me in a very tired season when I had exhausted my questions and had no answers. For a moment in time, I had actually stopped asking… I call it a “tangled hanger” season — no matter how hard I tried to find the problematic root, to pull out the source of the tangle, the mess remained intact. How frustrating! The sad truth is I had already spent years confronted with these “tangled hangers” struggling under the oppression of nagging health issues. Doctors had not yet cured me and the Internet confused me with so much hypothesis. I become lost in the pursuit of knowledge while my body, soul and spirit suffered. So tired of dead ends, I stopped my pursuit of healing to rest. My efforts to fix myself had failed.

Sometimes a dead end can redirect us to truly experience the spiritual reality that God’s door is always open. And I needed to open my life even more to Him. Tired but desperate to become unstuck, I realized I had to ask God some REALLY hard life questions to find peace. I had to become completely honest about the struggle before I could grow from it.

So, with nothing more to lose, I made an event out of seeking God. I decided to press into Him harder then ever before! I remember the two seater small table in the bustling coffee shop where I sat and journaled to God looking at the empty chair in front of me (His place). I sat there in this caffeinated seat to hash “it” out. (Fascinating that God got there ahead of me and proved Himself ready and waiting. I think He was holding that last free table in the back corner for me! Little did I know this gut wrenching practice of complete honest dialogue with God — just writing to Him, periodically looking up at the empty chair as if He’d show His face — would become several years of table talk.)

When I sat with God that day and wanted to spill my guts, it felt intimidating to be completely honest! Before I ever wrote Him a single word in my notebook, a few questions haunted me: Was I in fact going to question the God of the Universe? Who was I to demand answers from God? I wasn’t brought up this bold in the church. Talking to God was much more polite. My questions seemed less reverent and way more gritty. I was going there, to the hard places. What would He say? Would I even hear from Him? I had to find all this out for myself. I put my ability to hear from God to the test! I took a risk.

Surprisingly, His immediate response changed EVERYTHING. I heard one simple and profound reply:

“I can handle your questions. Ask me.”

Can you imagine hearing these words? Have you?

God raised the volume of His voice to me a couple notches. It still astounds me! This open door response changed my relationship with God in a moment and began my healing journey. It brought me deeper into prayer and ongoing, honest conversation with Him. I better understood then that I am His child and like my own little boys now, I also need to press into Him as children do to their parents. He could handle me. No filter.

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Now when I look back into my notebooks, I had so many “why” questions at first. (Which is so like my other son, the 2-year-old! One of his first words was in fact “why”!) And in time — as I asked God questions and read His word — the “why’s” turned into “what” questions:
What should I do in this circumstance?
What do I say to him? To her?
What do you want me to do for you God?

Because God met me in my “why’s”, I grew to trust Him with the “what’s” of my life. And then I gave over the “who” and “where” questions. The often most difficult “when” questions came last! I learned that the door to God is open and yet His response timing is His own. If I haven’t heard His voice or seen His response, I can trust He is still working on my behalf. After all, I’m His child.

“No question is a bad question.” I still hear that elementary encouragement because I stored it in my heart. We expect and encourage little ones to press in. Go ahead. Ask away. But when we “grow up” some of us inquire less. And with the hardest questions, we may wait to ask God or not ask Him at all.

Today, if you’re holding onto deep unresolved questions, take a leap of faith! Take a risk and talk openly to God. Ask away. He can handle you! Then wait and see how He responds… He’s waiting with open ears and an interested heart because He loves you.

Maybe you’ve already spoken to God about an issue in the past and received no answers. My guidance is the same: Take another leap of faith! Keep knocking at His door. Or don’t knock at all because the door’s actually open wide! Walk right in and share your heart. Again if needed. No filter. He’s expecting you and has a two seat table waiting for you! Take your seat at the table.

Relationships starve on silence. Don’t silence yourself. Don’t turn down God’s volume. Seek God out. Ask away. My hope is that God speaks personally to your heart and soul. And in these divine moments your spirit will find strength.

Original blog at pressingintogod.com. Reposted here with permission.

Rachel Hansen

Rachel loves tracking the movement of God in and around her, sharing the miraculous hope found by faith in everyday life. An adventure seeker with a curious heart, she loves living by the Spirit exploring wherever life takes her! She has Midwest roots as a former Chicagoan and currently resides in Southern California. As a full time mother and wife serving God, two energetic little boys and her husband, she’s often on the move and lives in her running shoes! Passionate about the transformative power of God, she enjoys prayer ministry and serves as a leader of women’s ministry at her church, The Bridge, in Pasadena. She’s currently working on a faith based book and sharing spiritual insights on her new website.

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Peace in the Storm

by Heidy Fontanez

Most of us have experienced times when thoughts of defeat and hopelessness attack our minds. Fears well up and anxiety takes over when we experience the loss of a dream or the loss of a relationship or the heartbreak of a child walking away from the Lord. The voices say that our sons and daughters are lost and that it is hopeless to pray. Only God knows when our children will return to Him, but we must be convinced that God is working. We must believe; therefore, we pray and wait, but in the meantime we must fight against the thoughts that the enemy and even our own flesh try to throw at us.

God’s Word says, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). Our thoughts can take us on a ride….but we can take the wheel and hit the brakes. The way to do this is to apply the knowledge of God to the argument; this brings our thoughts into obedience. What He says is what is truth.

What does God’s Word say about the argument? The enemy and the flesh say, “It’s impossible.” His Word states, “ALL things are possible” (Matt. 19:26). The flesh and enemy say, “It’s hopeless” but His Word says, “Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord” (Psalm 31:24). They say you are too weak to endure…you can’t do this anymore… His Word states, “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 9:10).

A while ago I had to fight the battle. In the middle of doing everyday life, I got THAT phone call. You know the one that throws you into a frenzy. My son was in jail. WHAT? My world turned upside down, and I began to look for answers. I even thought it might have been a mistake! My heart began pounding, I thought I would faint any minute, my thoughts were hard to manage and I couldn’t understand the words I was hearing…yes, that’s the call a parent never wants to receive.

Well, after my initial panic, the Lord began to remind me of the Bible story about Jesus sleeping in the boat in the midst of a storm. Just days before I was sharing that same story with my son, not realizing that the Lord was already speaking to us before the storm even arrived. I came to a new understanding. As I sought the Lord, I felt the Him say to me, “Even before I lay down in the boat, I saw the storm coming. I already knew the storm was on the horizon, and I already had the answer. Just as I was with them in the boat, I am with you in your storm.”

This word, and many others that the Holy Spirit gave me, helped me to ride the wave during this period in my life. Was it easy? NO! But I decided to praise the Lord through it. I decided to align myself with His Word, with who He is, and who I was to Him.

So…you are probably wondering what happened to my son. Well, he came to the Lord through this tragic time. PRAISE THE LORD! Almost two years later and many trips to the courthouse, we saw the hand of God move in great ways. It was two years of believing Him over and over and over again. This is just one incident in my son’s life that ultimately caused him to come to the Lord. There were many other broken times that we endured with our son, but this was the one that caused Him to begin his journey home to the Father. My son is now married, and he and his wife both serve in their church. God is doing amazing things in both their lives.

I want to leave you with one more scripture on which to meditate: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Phil. 4:5-7

Heidy Fontanez helps administrate H.O.P.E. for Moms of Prodigals, a closed Facebook group, and an outreach ministry of Women of the Word. 

Heidy Fontanez

During the loss of a 12 year old daughter she learned of the power of applying God’s Word and relying on His grace. She serves in various ministries in her church and is the executive secretary to the Senior Pastor of Bethany Assembly of God in Agawam, MA. She speaks at women’s events, both in English and in Spanish. She has traveled on missions to Costa Rica, Panama and Honduras. She and her husband Ramon, have two adult sons and three grandchildren. Her testimony is, “God has brought me a mighty long way and He is not done with me yet”.