Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you had a wonderful holiday filled with joy and peace. We had a lot of fun celebrating Christmas here in Australia – but more on that at the end of this post! This was our last week of lectures (we can’t believe we’ve completed 12 weeks of lecture phase!) and the topic was the Living Word of God, a.k.a. the Bible. This week we learned that the Bible isn’t written to us as individuals, but for us. Everything we know about God comes from the Bible, and we are extremely privileged to have it so readily available in the West. Since learning the Word reveals more of the Father to us, we need to devote time and discipline to studying the Bible. A simple, effective way to study the Bible is to first pray and ask God to reveal truth to you and speak to you through the Word. Remember this isn’t a textbook but a letter written for you from God, and if you leave Him out of the process it becomes boring and dead, kind of like math class. The next step is of course to read, but to read not by chapters but by logical breaks in the story. The Bible didn’t originally have verse and chapter markers. Those were added much later for organization and reference purposes. To understand the Bible better, stop reading at the natural break in a story or letter, not the end of the chapter.Third, observe until reading becomes seeing or understanding. Next, interpret the text accurately, meaning don’t come to the text seeking to prove your own idea and then interpret it based on your own opinions. Remember the context in which it was written and who it was written to. Finally, apply what you learned. This is the most crucial step and is the goal of the Bible. Knowledge and revelation are useless without application.
This week I enjoyed learning more about how to be more effective and disciplined in my quiet times reading the Word. I enjoy reading the Bible and have found it is one of the primary ways God speaks to me, but I still lack discipline in reading it every day. I also learned that reading the Bible deductively (reading with an idea and seeking supporting evidence for it) can be dangerous. A better way to read is inductively, in which you make conclusions based on patterns you see in the scripture, allowing the Bible to speak for itself. Most importantly, I realized how rich every single verse in the Bible is in revealing God’s character. Each book was put into it on purpose (even Leviticus…ugh) to bring us into greater intimacy with the Father, so don’t skim over any part because it seems less exciting. God wants to tell you something about Himself in that book!
Something I have taken for granted about the Bible is that the base of everything we know about the God who we follow, praise, worship, and devote our lives to comes from this book. We know God’s character because of how He is described in the Bible. We know that Jesus is God’s son because scripture proves it. We know that we have the Holy Spirit because the Bible tells us so. Because of all of these facts, we can carry our our lives as Christians and live like Jesus did – bringing love and healing the sick. I also loved learning that the Bible is NOT a rule book. Being a Christian isn’t about following a bunch of rules. You do not reach God through acts; only through love. Jesus died on the cross so we all can have life; nothing we do can bring us closer to God than the love Jesus showed us all. All He wants us to do is love Him back, and through that love, we see transformation and revelation within ourselves as we become more like Jesus. Then, we see our lives starting to resemble the Bible’s teachings more and more, without trying to just live by its rules. Finally, I appreciated this week’s teachings because now that lecture phase is over and we are heading out to be tested on outreach, I won’t have staff and lecturers to constantly guiding me toward God. I will have to rely on the Bible every day during outreach and the rest of life for information, strength, revelation, confirmation, and so much more. It is the Living Word and I can always get so much applicable knowledge out of it – it just depends on how much time and effort I put in!
Christmas in Australia
Our lecture phase ended with the best celebration we could think of – Jesus’ birth! This Christmas away from home was bittersweet without the family, traditions, snow, and activities that we are used to, but we now have the great memory of an Aussie Christmas. On Christmas Day, the whole base woke up to stockings and secret santa presents. We received a bunch of chocolate and coffee (they know us!). Christmas dinner was amazing compared to the usual fare – we had chicken, turkey, and ham with grilled winter veggies, and a few (slightly strange) Aussie desserts. After we stuffed our faces, there was a hilarious talent show for the rest of the night where students put on comical skits, sang, played instruments, and “danced.” We wished we could showcase our talents of soccer and mountain biking, but the stage was pretty small. The day after Christmas in Australia is called Boxing Day, which has been described to us as basically Black Friday (but not as insane). Our school went to Anna Bay, a mile long, clean, white sand beach, and we spent the day running barefoot, tidepool hopping, dune hiking, and barbecuing. All in all, a very memorable and very Aussie Christmas!
Now that lectures are behind us and Christmas activities are over, our minds are presently in outreach mode. Our team will be preparing on Monday and Tuesday, then we leave for our first destination on Wednesday! We won’t be going far, just a few miles south to a different suburb for 2 weeks, but the mindset and daily activities will be vastly different. We will continue to update whenever possible depending on our schedule and internet availability. Thanks again for following along, and make the new year 2016 a memorable one!