Gifts From Granny Archives 2014
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 All articles written by Joanne Beckley unless stated otherwise

  • Controlling Anger
  • Protecting Our Children in the Church Building
  • Taking Sermon Notes
  • How to do a Bible Word Study
  • Oh Ye of Little Faith
  • The Have and Have-Nots
  • Destructive Women
  • Jewish Home Life in N.T. Times
  • False Teachers

 

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Uncontrolled Anger

by Joanne Beckley

“I’m so angry, I could just spit!” Startled, Dave and I looked at each other. Now, where did THAT come from?! Neither one of us realized I had come to such a state. Seemingly, out of the blue I was out of control. But was it “out of the blue”?

Anger is a strong feeling of displeasure and it is given to us by our Creator. If anger is properly motivated and controlled, it is a necessary part of a Christian’s character. But there is a major downside to this emotion for it can easily be used incorrectly (Eph.4:26-27). How can we be angry and yet not sin? We find the answer to this question when we look at the nature of God’s anger. His anger has a different motive and it is always controlled. God’s anger is at all times directed against sin, or against that which is against His nature and law (Ex.32:9-10). God is not motivated by greed, jealousy, lust, pride or selfishness which develops anger in our hearts (Eph.4:31). In Matthew 5:21 and 22, Jesus compared anger toward a brother with murder itself. Let us remember that God is love and this love is what controls His anger (Mat.23:37). We too must love if we are ever to have the right motive and learn to control our anger. 
 
Uncontrolled anger is sinful. It develops when we allow sinful attitudes to build up in our hearts. Not surprisingly, we actually train ourselves not to deal with anger until it grows and grows in our hearts. This self-centred, unruly spirit will only bring unhappiness and insecurity. Anger draws self-pity to our hearts, which in the end develops into bitterness and physical hurt toward others. The trick is to recognize what we are doing to ourselves before it grows. God tried to warn and teach Cain that he must not let his anger grow, that anger can be controlled (Gen.4:6-7). Cain did not listen. Do we?

Controlling our anger is one of the most difficult tasks God has given us. Why? Because we are naturally full of ourselves and we want everything to go our way. When someone insults us or doesn’t do what we want them to do, then we become angry. This is not a good anger and we must change our thinking in order to control this kind of anger.

Our very makeup demands that we learn self-discipline. We cannot afford to think we are protecting ourselves by denying that we get angry. Why? Because denial breaks our own standards which have been trained and built into our character. If we do not face the responsibility to control our anger it produces guilt. The soul knows itself and does not like what it sees. When we do not live up to our own standards we condemn ourselves.

Guilt concerning anger only occurs when we honestly judge ourselves worthy of blame. The human spirit has a divinely given judge – the conscience. The higher we value our own good, the greater we despise our failures. This self-loathing is due to our self-accusing conscience – because of our self-love. The more we value ourselves as God values us, the deeper we oppose ourselves. The wise man in Proverbs 5:22 calls this process being “held with the cords of his sin.”

But guilt is only a temporary tool. It is the soul’s pain, designed to give warning that we must change our actions. If we do not change, our minds will not accept feeling guilty for very long and we will begin to excuse ourselves. We must be thankful the guilt comes, and then quickly clean out the guilt by repenting. The Bible is God’s “rod” of correction that will bring us to repentance (Heb.12:5-13). When we can understand that a properly and timely administered “spanking” will heal our souls and restore us to wholeness of spirit, we will learn self-control and rejoice in being free from the anger that hurts ourselves and others.

Uncontrolled anger is a matter of choice. Yes, each one of us has to learn to control his/her anger if we want to please God. Our anger doesn’t happen because of what someone else did. (This is true about any of our emotions, being sad or happy or angry or lustful.) We CHOOSE to get angry and if we CHOOSE to let that anger build until we lose control, we have CHOSEN to sin. Sin occurs when a bad attitude prompts the anger and when we lose control over the anger. Ephesians 4:27 "Be angry, and do not sin": do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil. Did you notice God’s solution to help us control anger? If we do get angry with any one, we must remove that anger from our hearts as quickly as possible. In so doing, our conscience can be at peace. If we do not remove anger quickly, Satan will use this opening and crack our hearts wide open for malice and revenge (2 Cor.2:10-11). Many of our feelings are produced when we think we are just defending our rights and holding on to what is our own. Satan uses these feelings to tempt us. Our hearts (our emotions) can deceive us! – especially when we become angry. James 1:14-15 vividly describes this process. It is as if Satan is dangling the bait and can only get us to bite if we are hungry. But dangle the bait he does. How hungry are we?

One of the best ways to control anger is to learn to stop anger before it gets started. If we can do this we will take an important and positive step forward. We have to study ourselves and learn WHY we get angry – what triggers our anger? After many personal experiences with anger we develop our own style of displaying or hiding anger. Yes, we can even hide anger and fool ourselves into thinking we are good Christians! Let us ask ourselves: Do I make quick judgments about people, condemning, accusing them? Consider this: When our actions or comments are too big for a certain event, something else is going on – OUR desires, OUR demands, OUR expectations. As you review your anger history (see following quesitons), you may decide that there are certain areas of your life that you would like to work on. Note these areas and pray to God concerning them.

Ask yourself these questions:
1. Do I consider myself (a) a very angry person, (b) about average as an angry person (c) a person with very little anger.
2. My friends and family would say that I am (a) a very angry person (b) about average as an angry person (c) a person with very little anger.
3. When I am angry, my tone of voice is __________________________, my facial expression looks like _______________________, my body movements are __________.
4. I am having health problems that are caused by anger (a) overeating (b) not eating (c) headaches (d) upset stomach (e) nervous stomach (f) troubled breathing (g) skin rashes (h) skin twitches — and the list goes on ___________________________
5. Members in my family who have difficulty controlling anger (I have learned from them) ______________________________________________________________________________
6. I have tried the following to substitute and mask my anger: (a) avoid the person (b) rebellion,((c) just give in to the demands of others (d) use sarcasm or hurtful joking (e) drugs, or alcohol. Other ____________________________________________________
7. The following influences my anger: (a) boredom (b) selfishness (c) injustice (d) insecurity (e) envy (f) past experiences (g) lack of goals (h) feeling rejected (i) drugs (j) loss of respect (k) jealousy (l) revenge. Other ________________________________________
8. Most often I find myself angry toward (a) God (b) my children (c) my mate (d) those in authority (e) my friends (f) injustice (g) my parents (h) myself (i) strangers (j) anyone in my way (k) things or events.
9. The time of day that I find myself getting angry most often is (a) morning (b) afternoon (c) late evening (d) before mealtime. (This could indicate a need for sleep or food.)
10. The events that are usually happening at the time of day when I get angry are __________ ____________________________________________________________________________

David, the psalmist, gives us a good example of his problems with anger. Note the progression in Psalm 39:1-4: David became angry, yet he carefully guarding his tongue (v.1). But his anger grew and grew until it was white-hot – and then his angry words burst forth, uncontrolled (v.3). Then his remorse set in, expressing his grief in prayer to God (v.4). It seems verse 2 indicates where his mistake was made: “I held my peace even from good...” When we are faced with a situation where good can come from expressing our anger in words that will encourage spiritual growth in someone, then we must do so. If the wicked will not hear, then anger must be released by offering it to God, for He understands and is with us every day. Wasn’t it His Son who took abuse without opening his mouth? Yet, without sin.

Take time to read these verses : Psalm 55; Psalm 1:1-3; Psalm 16:7; Proverbs 12:15; Proverbs 15:22; Proverbs 19:2; Proverbs 20:5; Proverbs 20:18; Proverbs 24:6; Proverbs 27:9 Sit down with your Bible and study about anger, forgiveness and patience.

Learn to accept situations which are outside your power to control (time, location, people, etc). This will help you to keep anger in its proper place. Sometimes you can avoid angry outbursts by avoiding situations that trigger your anger – Proverbs 22:24-25.

Rehearse in your mind, your positive responses to the emotion of anger before you are under pressure. If you are going to be around someone who does not like you or you do not care for, you can ask for God’s guidance. He will help you to respond as you should – if you are willing. Read James 3:2-18. The key to controlling your tongue is to plan ahead. Decide before you get into a stressful situation that you won’t speak to hurt and destroy the other person.

Relax a bit. Perhaps you have been taking life and yourself a little too seriously. Perhaps the problems are not as big as you think they are. Find the humour in the tense situation, but do not use cutting remarks or sarcasm toward someone else.

Ask yourself questions like: What would Jesus do in this situation? How would He respond? Do I need to get angry? Will anger help me to handle the issue or conflict any better?

It is also helpful to watch the emotional displays of others in order to help you understand yourself. Listen for the inner origin of their feelings and for what he says and does in the name of these feelings. “You make me so mad I could hit you!” His anger gives him reason to do violence, to satisfy an aggressive urge he would never feel justified in following unless he felt anger. He never says, “I make me so angry. . .” It becomes pretty obvious who is generating the anger when a man says, “The more I think about it, the madder I get.”

Be open to criticism. Listen to it and see if there is truth in it. Grow! Share only one problem at a time. Usually we want to dump all of our frustration at one time, so be aware of the danger. Talk about your hurt without using anger. Try to find a solution that is helpful to both parties. Don’t make threats. Don’t accuse or attack the other person. Learn to use “I-words” Rather than “you- words.” For example, “I am becoming angry” Not, “You are always. . .” If you are bringing a problem to the attention of someone, allow time for the other person to consider what you have said. Give him “think time.” He also needs some time to talk with God and get his own attitude right. Put yourself in his shoes.

Lastly, determine that you will be honest and loving whenever possible. Truth cannot be clearly seen when anger is present. Proverbs 27:4-6 Wrath is cruel, and anger is overwhelming; But who is able to stand before jealousy? Better is open rebuke Than love that is hidden. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; But the kisses of an enemy are profuse. 1Peter 1:22 Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. . . .



THE ANGER PROCESS
Peaceful, calm, serene, Mental response – Tongue Response – Body Response
tranquil, and relaxed. ____EVENT____________\_____________\_____________\______________

Rarely is there ever an approved time to react bodily in anger. But there are times, such as when anger motivates us to protect our family from an intruder. But these times are indeed rare. If we do not train our children to deal with anger, they very likely will continue to express anger in a physical way as an adult. And sometimes the only way to control physical anger in an adult is with physical restraint. If you are struggling with anger in a physical way, seek help. It is a LEARNED response.

Remember, YOU are responsible to CHOOSE how you will respond in anger-producing situations. No one “makes you angry.” You make you angry. If what motivates you to be angry is sinful, then face your anger as sin. Don’t fool yourself and make excuses for your thoughts and actions. Ask for forgiveness, stating that you were angry and lost control. And then commit yourself to make changes in your life.

So how do we train ourselves to control our anger?
1st Identify how you have been reacting in the past. If it is sinful and uncontrolled, name it so. Perhaps you had learned to strike back when you were angry, or you learned to hide your anger until it suddenly came out in a hurtful way.

2nd Change your understanding about anger. God made man with the ability to make choices. You do not have to be controlled by the reaction of others. You can choose how to respond! Use the Scriptures to increase your understanding of yourself.

3rd Determine your course of action. Picture different situations you might have to face and PLAN how you are going to act. Then use the ability God gave you to control yourself.

References:
Various Bible commentaries
Carter, Dr. Les, The Anger Workbook, also Good ‘n’ Angry
LaHaye, Tim, Anger is a Choice
Minirth, Dr Frank, Happiness is a Choice
Rohrer, Norman, Facing Anger

 

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Please don't think the church is immune from the problem of child abuse. I'm aware of so-called "pillars" of the church who sexually abused their children and I wonder if their abuse went outside their home to other children. It is so shameful that, most often, this terrible sin is kept silent... and in the end, the innocent children are the ones to suffer in silence. (As a side note, I've known Christian wives to keep this quiet for the sake of their husbands. This is beyond me that any mother would sacrifice their child in order to hide such sin! Women, stop this! Do you think you are innocent if you remain silent?) Let's be aware, not to where we go overboard and interpret an act of kindness and affection in the wrong light, but if something doesn't look right or feel right, just keep an eye out, be watchful, and use wisdom in preventative measures. -Pat

Protecting Our Children
in the Church Building
Joanne Beckley 

The preacher or an elder gets a phone call. “We need to come and talk with you privately...” Child abuse in all its forms has always been present in every society since the beginning of time. It seems to be increasing, otherwise we have just gotten better at publicizing it. Most of us have no idea how to help any of these families that are in trouble, despite the growing bulk of knowledge available to us on the internet, and various help organizations.

This is especially true when child sexual abuse is discovered among Christians in a congregation, even occurring IN the church building. Suddenly we are at a loss as to how to help such families and the child/children involved. It becomes obvious we should have done our homework before we are tested. Elders especially need to be alert to the growing problem and to the very real possibility that they will have to face it. Ignorance spells danger when there is a lack of education to help these fragile suffering hearts, children, the parents and yes, the congregation. 
Questions will have to be answered. How could we have prevented the abuse from happening? How could we have discovered it earlier? What should we do now? Where can we go for help? Should/must we go outside the church for help? How can we hold the church together in such a time as this?
 
Sadly, there will be those of us who are in denial and take no precautions. Discovery of sexual abuse involving a child leads one down a very painful path. Shock waves hit the leaders in the church. There can even exist an integrity crisis, a desire to ignore the problem. The abuser would be shielded or excused and the victim be blamed or discredited. Even those who do try to help can find themselves hurt by those trying to hide the truth. 

There will be concerns of confidentiality and accountability, even legal ramifications. Because we are taught to forgive we might be too quick to accept a shallow repentance or a promise of “I won’t ever do it again.”

The most helpful attitude the elders in a congregation can have is to admit they don’t know it all. There are Christians available who can give sound spiritual advice and have been trained to help. We can call upon them for help.
 
Guidelines for elders/leaders in a congregation:
1. Learn the sexual abuse laws of your State, including “reporting laws”. If information comes to you as a confession in a counseling situation, you need to consult legal advice.
 
2. As elders in the church, you need to address three problems: how to make sure no further abuse occurred, how to investigate, and decide whom you can trust to help you.
 
3. Be aware that most of us have inaccurate stereotype ideas of who are sex offenders. Be aware a child molester can also be a child.
 
4. Tensions will immediately surface. You will be pulled in opposite directions, and whichever course you choose will feel like the wrong one. Take time not only help families in their homes, but also address the church’s needs and reactions of individuals during this time.
 
5. Denial will be one of the great hurdles you will face. This can come from the offender, his mother, the victims, their parents, the elders/leaders, and/or the congregation. Denial is a defense mechanism when faced with something seemingly too overwhelming to tackle. Persistent efforts will be necessary to reach the point of healing.
 
6. Getting genuine repentance is your goal. There must be a full confession of what the sin involved. There must be an admission of full responsibility for the wrong doing, and a sense of sorrow over the damage done to the victim and a willingness to ask for forgiveness. Then the church is responsible to restore him to fellowship. 
 
7. Honesty should be the guiding principle when dealing with the media. No information should be given out that may jeopardize current or future legal proceedings. Comment only on known facts.8. Keep a journal from the beginning.
 
Is there anything we can do to prevent child sexual abuse within a church building?
1. Education! Books, online services, seminars that address this problem. Learn the signs. Ignorance is not bliss.
 
2. Abuse-proof the church building. Classrooms doors should have windows. Closets and storage areas should be locked. Eliminate lurking around/in bathrooms. During worship walk through classroom area if separated from the assembly area. 
 
3. Be aware of new male members who are eager to serve and seem especially to enjoy working with children just a little too much. A healthy amount of suspicion is a good safety factor for any family or church.
 
4. Parents need to establish open communication with their children.
 
Resources:
Helping Victims of Sexual Abuse - A sensitive biblical guide - by Lynn Heitritter
When Child Abuse Comes to Church - Bill Anderson

http://store.churchlawtodaystore.com/safeatchurch.

http://www.cbn.com/spirituallife/churchandministry/childabuse_glover05.aspxhttps

 

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Taking Sermon Notes
Joanne Beckley 

The Puritans used to ask each other "How did you fare under the preaching today?" So, I ask you, how did you fare today?

Some Christians are able to give their entire focused attention to the preacher’s words. The rest of us battle to keep our minds on target. And then when we fail we go away feeling guilty that we have offered less to the Lord than we could/should have.

Sermon note-taking is one way of making sure to stay on target during the sermon and come away with renewed conviction. But it is the HOW we take notes that can either help or hinder our ability to concentrate and honor God in this area of our worship. I wish to consider three areas: what note-taking accomplishes, methods of note-taking, and what to do with our notes after the sermon.

Listen!

Recently my class has been studying the parables of Jesus. His repeated admonition to take heed how we hear has made a big impression on us. It may seem like a small thing, but how we listen to a sermon is an indicator of what is within our hearts. If our first thoughts as we come away are expressions of disgruntlement, “what a dry lesson that was!”, it may be because we are not hungering and thirsting for righteousness, Mat 5:6. Jesus warned us that if we do not listen with obedience in mind, much can be taken from us, Luke 8:18.

I can’t help but consider Moses’ command to the priests: "Gather the people together, men and women and little ones, and the stranger who is within your gates, that they may hear and that they may learn to fear the LORD your God and carefully observe all the words of this law,” Deu 31:12.

We must do the same. We must find ways to increase our listening skills. Look at the speaker! Follow in your own Bible. Make a decision to change your life according to what you hear and learn, James 1:21-22. Whatever method we use in order to listen needs to allow the majority of our concentration to hearing the word of God. But if our minds have a tendency to take flight, consider note-taking. Research has shown time and time again that writing things down with our own hand is the absolute surest way to make sure we absorb it. This is why in college classes students are often advised to take their own handwritten notes even if using a digital recorder or the instructor makes his or her notes available online. 

Practice recognizing the introduction, the main points and the conclusion in a sermon. Experiment with various ways to accomplish note-taking. If you have a favorite method, consider also experimenting with the following. If you have a method different from what I have described, please share with me.

Methods of Note-taking

1. Outlining the lesson. Listen carefully for each main point and list any helpful sub points. Unless you are fortunate to have a preacher who begins by telling you what the main points of his lesson will be, you may not see the structure until afterwards.

2. Note-taking page is divided into sub points:  a. Scripture Emphasis,  b. Key thoughts,  c. Encouragement (What will encourage me today) d. Challenge e. To study further

3. Charting Method - Concept Map/Starburst/Y-Chart – Using preprinted charts can help you organize what you are hearing. These are helpful if you are not used to the preacher’s methods.  These and other printable charts can be found at http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.noteworthy-publishing.com%2F-note-forms.html&h=KAQGze3lh&s=1

4. Mapping Method - relating each fact or idea to every other fact or idea, a graphic representation. We often see this method used by the preacher in his overhead diagrams. There is free software available at http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.top5freeware.com%2Fmind-mapping-software-for-windows&h=RAQEyoPn5&s=1 

5. Sentence Method - If you are not sure how the points are related and the facts are coming fast and furious – just number your sentences. Later you can recognize and organize main points to be remembered.

6. For expository sermons you may prefer to take notes in the margin of your Bible.

7. The Cornell method can be adapted very well for taking sermon notes. (See above webpages.) This method can also be taught to grade-school children in its adapted form. There is an excellent YouTube presentation of a teacher demonstrating this method. http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3D8lrwrUed8OM&h=KAQGze3lh&s=1

8. Digital record the sermon, or listen to the sermon online and take notes.

9. There are several note-taking software programs that are helpful (Google for these.). Microsoft’s OneNote is at the top of my list and has proven very helpful. Although I shy from using my netbook during the sermon, I can scan my physical notes right in and keep them organized in a useful fashion. (YouTube also has video directions for this method of note-taking.)

What to do with our notes after the sermon?

Too often we take notes on the back of a bulletin, loose sheets of paper, even in a steno notebook – but then what? There are ways we can continue to keep these useful.

1. First, make sure you review your notes the very same day if possible. Remind yourself what was taught. Add additional comments, marking in your Bible, etc. Follow up on any question raised or what spiritual growth area that challenged you. Pray. If you used a digital recorder, take time to listen to the sermon again.

2. Consider if today’s notes will be useful later on. If so, begin a plan to keep them in an organized way so that they can be retrieved when needed. a. Steno notebook. Add a list of subjects covered on the back of front cover. b. List location of sermon notes in an Indexed notebook by subject/text. c. File according to subject/ text in filing cabinet. d. Transfer to computer to facilitate search ability.

Sermon Notes using Cornell Method of taking Notes

As a followup on my article about taking sermon notes, let me share what I am doing with my children and ladies' classes. Oh, the excitement it has generated!

1. Use a file or exercise book.

2. Divide each page as seen in the photo

3. Add date and speaker at the top of your page.

4. During the sermon take notes on the right side of the page (“Sermon Notes”).

5. Write key word questions in the “Recall Column” across from your key points.

6. At home read and review your notes and scriptures as soon as possible. Choose one key verse to memorize for the week.

7. If you did not manage to write down quick questions on the left side of the page, do this now.

8. Write down how the lesson applies to YOU in the “Application and Key Verse” area of the paper.

9. In the margin/top/bottom of your Bible, Code each scripture with the date recorded on your sermon notes.

10. Use the Date Code to refer back to these notes whenever you study the verse again.

11. Revise the sermon during the week by covering the right hand side of the paper and answer the questions you wrote on the left side.

12. NOW you know your time while listening to the sermon was not wasted, but instead has become very useful to you.

 

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 HOW TO DO A BIBLE WORD STUDY

Joanne Beckley 

I have tried to simplify this subject of what used to be very confusing to me as a teenager.
And because most of my ladies here in Africa do not have access to Bible helps or the internet, I thought it would be good to teach them how without the helps you and I are used to using. Yes, they do an adequate work with word studies.

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When I read a passage from the Bible, I often have questions pop up in my mind. The main question being–why is this passage so difficult to understand? I know that I am an intelligent human being. I know that God used words to communicate with me and he expects me, an intelligent human being, to understand His words. Therefore, since God is a logical being, I must use logical reasoning steps to reach an understanding.

1. I must consider the background of the writing – Who wrote this? Who is he writing to? Why is he writing this? What time period is he referring to?

2. I must consider the context of the passage – the verses surrounding the ones I am studying. I need to consider how a statement is applied in the context. (Beware, is the speaker trustworthy? Psalm 14:1, Job 2:9)

3. I must make sure I understand the words used – in whatever translation I am reading from. Examples: propitiation, redemption, atonement.

4. I must realize that words have different meanings in different contexts, ex. “love”. Words even have different meanings according to WHEN they were used, ex. “know”.

So, how does one conduct a Bible word study?

1. Write out exactly what word you are concerned about and why you are concerned.

2. Write down what you already have available about the subject that might help you–other verses, illustrations, sermon notes.

3. Make sure you know the general background of the book you are reading/studying that contains the word you want to focus on.

4. Read the context (the surrounding verses) of the verse/word you are concerned about.

5. Examine the specific key word you want to understand in the following order:

a. Look up the word in an English dictionary. Write down the meaning(s).

b. Compare the verse with other translations.

c. Look at other places in the SAME Bible book where the subject/word is discussed. (Internet online Bible study helps such as blueletterbible.org is very helpful.)

d. At this point, write down the meaning of the word in your own words.

e. If you have access to internet online Bible study helps, find the definition of the word in it’s original language. You will immediately learn that a word written in the Greek/Hebrew language can have a number of meanings and that a translator has used a variety of words to fit each context of where the word is used. There are also books available that are very helpful: Bible concordances, dictionaries, word studies, etc.

f. Go back to the context of the word and use it correctly with the context. Context is important! Do not try to take only one meaning of the word to fit every context!

6. Write down your conclusions. Be sure you file your work so that you can later easily retrieve it.

Enjoy the discoveries you will make in your word studies. Each discovery will whet your appetite to find yet another. The more we learn of these deeper truths in God’s Word, the more we will appreciate the value God’s Word

 

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Oh Ye of Little Faith
Joanne Beckley

 

Are you struggling with doubts concerning your faith in God and his son Jesus? Does it seem like everyone’s faith is stronger than yours? Long ago, while in my 20s I had a very vivid dream. Nothing happened, just the words saying, “You’re not going to make it. You’re not going to make it.” It was just a dream, not a revelation from God. My own mind helped me to face my mortality and what did I really believe. (Yes, I can still feel the fear created by that dream.) Today, I continue to pray that my faith increase. I pray that my prayers are spoken in total belief of what God is and what He can do for His people. I pray that any doubts be used to strengthen my faith.

This fear and doubt reminds me of Moses’ words to the Israelites concerning what will be if they are not faithful to God, I know these same feelings are in the heart when we doubt. Deu 28:65-67 "And among those nations you shall find no rest, nor shall the sole of your foot have a resting place; but there the LORD will give you a trembling heart, failing eyes, and anguish of soul. "Your life shall hang in doubt before you; you shall fear day and night, and have no assurance of life. "In the morning you shall say, 'Oh, that it were evening!' And at evening you shall say, 'Oh, that it were morning!' because of the fear which terrifies your heart, and because of the sight which your eyes see.”

I’m not alone in my struggles. Join me as I look at the problem of doubt. Does the fact that doubt exists indicate a lack of faith? What if we are constantly checking and rechecking? Is there any value in doubt? How can we strengthen our faith?

The literal meaning of the word doubt is similar in both the Old and New Testaments.
Hebrew: (nagad) a front, i.e. part opposite; specifically a counterpart, or mate; (Deu 28:66)
Greek: (diatzo) to duplicate, i.e. (mentally) to waver (in opinion):--doubt (Mat 14:31)
(diakrino) to separate thoroughly, i.e. (literally and reflexively) to withdraw from, or (by implication) oppose; figuratively, to discriminate (by implication, decide), or (reflexively) hesitate:--contend, make (to) differ(-ence), discern, doubt, judge, be partial, stagger, waver. (Mat 21:21)
(meteorizo) (compare "meteor"); to raise in mid-air, i.e. (figuratively) suspend (passively, fluctuate or be anxious):--be of doubtful mind. (Luke 12:29)

From these definitions we immediately notice doubt is the opposite of something and that something is faith. Matthew 21:21 “So Jesus answered and said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, 'Be removed and be cast into the sea,' it will be done.”

I am thankful that John’s doubts are expressed in the Scriptures (Matthew 11:2ff). John is portrayed as a strong man of principle and he spoke unhesitatingly from his faith in God. But he had been imprisoned for his strong words of truth against King Herod. While John languished in his cell, he began to doubt and so sent men to question Jesus. He didn’t panic or become resigned to his doubts and thereby lose his faith. This strong man, yet weakened, SOUGHT for reassurance. So it is with you and me. There will be times caused by difficult circumstances and responsibilities, even doubting our forgiveness from past sins, when we too will have to LOOK for reassurance.

Notice Jesus’ response – “Tell John what you see and hear.” The evidence is clear. There is no need for new evidence to confirm Jesus. Too often its our own expectations of more or ought that we stumble. God’s word is testimony enough to drive away doubt. Remember Thomas? His outlook blinded him from what divine words had offered him. Today we have witnesses: God, His Spirit, Jesus himself and the Holy Word that all is true. Then there are his apostles who willingly gave their lives for that truth. Even secular history admits to the reality of a man called Jesus who changed the world.

  • Doubt in who is Jesus is but one way we might question our faith.
  • We might doubt that we are capable of the commitment required to be a child of God and so, never take the step to become one. Or, once a Christian, trials that require endurance cause me to want to give up. The psalmist said it well: “Surely in vain have I cleansed my heart, And washed my hands in innocency; For all the day long have I been plagued” (Psa 73:13-14).
  • Perhaps we have lost a loved one and long to ask God why. Doesn’t God care? God does indeed. But just as Christians in New Testament times had to wait and endure, so we must “wax not weary, fainting in your souls” (Heb 12:3).
  • When we try over and over to find a good and honest soul seeking God, we might begin to doubt the effectiveness of God’s Word.

Doubt is the result of trusting in self instead of God. I find it interesting that anxiety–doubt that God will come through–indicates the same lack of trust.

When we allow doubt to take a seat in our hearts the heart cannot but react in a very negative way toward truth and thus becomes hardened. Heb 3:12-14 “Take heed, brethren, lest haply there shall be in any one of you an evil heart of unbelief, in falling away from the living God. but exhort one another day by day, so long as it is called To-day; lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin: for we are become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our confidence firm unto the end”

Did you notice the writer’s source of help for those who doubt? EXHORT one another! It is to our brethren we can go for that pick-me-up we sometimes so desperately need – just as John sought assurance, so must we.

Likewise, I find encouragement in the psalmist’s description of his pain, complaints and feeling that overwhelmed him with doubts. He turned to God. “In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord...” “I will remember...” Take time to Read Psalm 77 and highlight his progression as he strengthened his faith. Like the psalmist we must grieve over our doubting God. Let us ask for forgiveness and then walk with Him. We can trust God. He made us, we are His. He is near. He cares. He will deliver us.

“ I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.”

 

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 THE HAVES AND HAVE-NOTS
Joanne Beckley

 

Lately, I’ve had cause to reflect more and more on ”the have’s” and the “have not’s,” the rich and the poor. Why? Because I live in South Africa among the “haves” who are no longer the “have nots.” In the past, men and women learned of the gospel of Jesus Christ and led lives seeking God, joyful in discovering hope everlasting, – yet they taught their children to “get an education to get rich!” The children grew up thinking this was their ultimate goal. The parents never understood that what they lived and what they taught are actually poles apart. Today, I still hear this refrain over and over, for no one wants to be poor.

Yes, the hardships a person faces when he suffers a shortage of life’s necessities is a great challenge, but the challenge of prosperity is even greater because it is against us at the level of our character. Poverty faces physical or outward needs, but I have observed that although there still existed spiritual growth concerns, they found their inward hearts growing in positive ways, utterly dependent on God while striving for their daily bread. Truly, even today, the Christians throughout Zimbabwe (a country just north of South Africa) know how much they must depend on the Lord. Circumstances they cannot control have forced them to reassess their hearts, learning that only God can give them contentment in this life and the hope of living one day in a land of no tears.

By contrast, just a hop, skip and a jump south of Zimbabwe, here in the “new South Africa” I am watching younger Christians who’s characters have failed to grow or weaken now that life is MUCH more comfortable. Affluence does indeed present a greater number of untempered problems that are spiritual in nature. Its all they (and myself included) can do to keep from dying in the suffocating atmosphere of affluence. THINGS now take up their time and energy; they are no longer hungering for righteousness as the previous generation did. Unfortunately, their parents preached getting an education much too well! (Or rather the goal to get rich to be achieved by education).

Across the big water, Americans (and I am of this heritage) have lived with affluence for so long that they have totally separated themselves from the poor and therefore never really see/understand they are truly affluent – flush, loaded, wealthy! Though we seek THINGS, they will not get us to heaven. They actually blind us! The apostle Paul had to face both riches and poverty and he learned neither one are necessary in order to be content, to love and serve God. “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” (Phil.4:11-12). Can we claim the same? Where is contentment? Where is joy is serving? Where is absolute dependence on God?

It takes a lot of effort to be full and to abound without losing our souls. When we’re wealthy, our spiritual survival must go beyond automatic. In fact, Jesus told us quite plainly that the odds are against it (Matt.19:24). Frankly, we (Americans and today’s increasingly affluent South Africans) are not handling our abundance very well. We’re “full” but we’re letting our spirits starve to death. The prophet Isaiah said it well: “Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me” (Isaiah 29:13).

I know all does not have to be lost. We surely have to make a more determined effort to seek the Lord while he is near (Isaiah 55:6). Let us stop thinking that our hearts are knit with God because we “attend” worship every Sunday morning, but our Bible remains unopened all week. Even our prayers may not be reaching higher than the ceiling of our bedrooms. We MUST wake up! Let us acknowledge that WE are one of the “haves” and must travel a difficult road. Let us face the fact that things have become our goal in life, that we can repent. Jesus Christ must take first place in our lives. And upon awakening, we will know with assurance that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Phil.4:13). We can be among the “haves” if we have been so blessed (yes, blessed!), and still reach the goal of eternal life with Him.

 

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Destructive Women
J Beckley


Recently during a quiet spell, I got to thinking about wicked women in the Bible. I blame it on a sermon I heard, which included Amos 4:1, the cows of Bashan. I dislike the thought of ANYONE labeling me as such, so I began to flip through the Bible–and came up with the following five categories in particular of women who are destructive, not only to themselves, but toward others–categories you and I can easily fall into. May we examine each sinful action and the attitude that prompted it and determine not to be shamed of any. (And yes, I have included the adulteress.) Let us set our faces like flint so that we not be put to shame, Isaiah 50:7.

1. Naive of heart - lacks experience, wisdom, or judgement and thus open to all evil, (Prov 9:13)
a. Without discretion, prone to gossip - 1 Tim 5:13; Prov 11:22; 20:19
b. Opposed to being sensible, pure, Titus 2:5
c. A weak faith in God, even to renouncing God in time of trouble or viewing prayers not answered, Mat 14:31
d. “Snared in an evil time”, Eccl 9:12
e. Unbridled emotions, Psalm 81:12
f. Contentious, Prov 21:9,19
g. Examples: Job’s wife, Euodia & Synthche, Phil 4:2

2. Cows of Bashan - Amos 4:1, 6:1,4
a. At ease in their winter and summer houses of ivory, eating and dressing of the best
b. Oppresses the poor, does not grieve over others’ misfortunes
c. Demands riches from husbands
d. Feels secure in her situation
e. Riches destroy any concern outside self. 1 Timothy 6:8 “And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.”
f. Example: Sapphira, Acts 5

3. Adulteress - Proverbs 5, 7; 21:29
a. Morally ruins men, using beauty and sweet, oily words
b. Unstable
c. Takes hard earned money from the foolish
d. Cunning of heart
e. Boisterous & rebellious
f. Brazen and bold
g. A liar, persuading and flattering to please herself
h. Gives no thought toward the end result of her actions, Prov 23:28
i. Notice again, self is her god, 2 Peter 2:14 “having eyes full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin, enticing unstable souls. They have a heart trained in covetous practices, and are accursed children.”
j. Example: Tamar and Judah, Genesis 38:13ff; John 8:1-11

4. Taking the leadership role of man, Eph 5:22-24; Tit 2:5; 1 Pet 3:1-6
a. Examples:
i. Eve, Gen 3:17
ii. Prophesying women, 1 Cor 11:5
iii. Miriam, Num 12

5. A scoffer, Prov 21:24 and a schemer, Eccl 7:26
a. Michal, David’s wife, 1 Sam 6. Her pride saw degradation rather that David’s pure joy.
b. Herodias’ daughter, Mark 6:19
c. Delilah, Judges 16

6. And then there are the women who are idolaters, sorcerers, murderers, liars, etc

 

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  Jewish Home Life in New Testament Times
by Joanne Beckley


Over 2000 years of history are described in the Bible. Nations rose and fell and others took their place. But the way of life among the Jewish people changed little and stayed much the same because of their strong obedience to the Law of Moses with its religious, moral, and physical laws.

Perhaps we can take a journey into the life of a Jewish family in Palestine during the first century. By exploring how we would have travelled and then enter a village to seek shelter, we can virtually experience a Jewish family’s open hospitality, sharing in their daily life.

Travel
1. We would have several choices of important routes that passed through the land of Israel/Palestine because this area had become a busy route for all the nations surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. We would not be the only strangers on the road for, whether during peacetime or times of major wars, strangers were always travelling through this land.

2. Nor would we have any trouble making ourselves understood because by the 1st century, Rome was in control of Palestine and everyone needed to know the Greek language besides their own native tongue, and ideas and customs were shared, or at least known about. But the Jews in Palestine continued to cling to their belief in one God and to them the Scriptures were holy.

3. Whether we decided to walk or ride a donkey, mule or camel–or even ride in a wagon–we would discover the roads are in good condition. The Romans built very good highways, some are still in use today. They were about 4,5 metres wide and built with three layers of material: the base of crushed rock mixed with cement, the middle of gravel, broken pottery, rough stone, and the surface of large stones fitted together. The centre was raised and curved downward toward the edges for drainage. They also had milestones. These roads were principally for the military and had soldiers stationed at regular intervals along these roads. At these points all travellers paid tolls to keep the roads in good condition. The soldiers were there to protect travellers, and to keep the roads repaired. There were about 80,000 miles of fine highways in Rome’s empire.

4. Travel was somewhat like camping out. We would have to carry our own tent/covering, food, etc. and we would quickly discover we need to travel with others so as to discourage robbers.

5. Perhaps we have reached nightfall in a village and desire to stay the night. We could select the house we preferred, and take a stand outside to indicate that we want to be a guest there. If room can be found, we would be offered a warm welcome. It was customary to hang a curtain in the doorway if one had room for a guest. Then the traveller, seeing the curtain, would walk in knowing he would receive free entertainment and food. Hospitality began with washing the dirt of the road from the guests’ feet, and ended the next morning after a solid breakfast.

6. Inns (public houses or hotels) numbered one to a city in the smaller towns and provided only protection from the weather, no beds and no food. These accommodations were free of charge and open to everyone, but there was little more than an open court for the animals, surrounded by a balcony of rooms for the travellers.

Village life
7. No matter what village we walk through, we would find the houses built close together and the streets narrow and winding. Every tradesman would have a small store with the family dwelling behind the store front. Some houses would have a second floor, but most are simple, one-story dwellings: squat, whitewashed, or painted yellow. Three of the walls would be solid. The street wall would have a door and one or two latticed windows (like an “airbrick”) located high on the wall. There would be a stairway on an outside wall leading to the roof.

8. During hot summer nights, rich and poor would sleep up on the roofs. Here also fruit, herbs and vegetables were dried. The roof was often used for times of prayer or meditation, seeking a place for quiet. If the roof was thatched, the homeowner would put a thick layer of mud over it. A stone roller was kept on every roof. When the rains came he pulled the roller across the roof in order to keep the rain, chaff and mud from dripping on his family and his animals. (Because the houses were built right up next to each other, thieves used what they called the “road of roofs” as an escape route.)

9. What would indeed give us pause, is to discover that the sanitation department is the pack of wild dogs which come into the village at night to eat the garbage where it had been dropped. During daytime, the village would be filled with normal business noise, but you don’t want to be out at night for it is pitch dark and the streets are deserted. Each householder kept a flickering oil lamp burning all night, but with the windows small and high, the light filtered by the lattices would not reach the street. The watchman might be about, but it would be the howling, growling, barking dogs, performing their valuable street cleaning job that could be heard.

10. The gateways of walled cities and the open area nearby were popular meeting places for the people, whether to gather an army, or to hold court judgements (Ruth 4:1; Amos 5:15; Prov 31:23).

In the home of a friend
11. Let us now reach our destination, perhaps the small village of Nazareth. From a distance, standing on a hillside, it shone in the sun, for the houses were built from white limestone. We would notice the spring at the foot of hill and as it is evening, the women had arrived to fill their heavy jars with water. It was a time of relaxed meeting with friends after the day’s activities were done. They then carried the water back up the hill to their homes. We too must climb the hill to enter the village.

12. Our host welcomes us into his house in the usual customary manner for he believes that “every stranger is an invited guest.” One cannot help but remember verses like Hebrews 13:2 and Romans 12:13 concerning hospitality. We would be met with a bow and a kiss instead of a hearty handshake of welcome (Romans 16:16). Our shoes would be removed and a bowl would be provided so that our feet could be washed. Best of all, we would be offered a drink of water (Matthew 10:42) and it would become a pledge of friendship between the host and the guests.

13. While we are sitting with our feet in a basin of water and a glass in our hand, let us look around us. It is dark inside the one room house for the only real source of light is the doorway. If we have arrived late, only a candle or small lamp lights the room. The square walls are of stone and the floor also, if affordable. In this one-room houses (8 to 13 metres square) the family eats and sleeps. Their chickens, donkey and goat are brought into the house at night and in bad weather. If the house has a small yard it is shared with neighbours. The box-like room is a split level arrangement. The back part of the room is the upper level. It is used by the family for sleeping and has perhaps a chest, sleeping mats, and cooking pots. The space underneath the platform is used for storage and for the chickens to roost at night. The lower area is reserved for the larger animals. Houses are heated by a fire in the sunken fireplace. With the latticed windows so small and high, and the door its only other outlet, smoke and soot add gloom and darkness to the interior.

14. Each morning when the cock crowed, every family member rolls up his own bed and puts it away. Since one arises already dressed, a person puts on his outer garment and is fully dressed. Breakfast is simple, usually a piece of bread spread with olive oil and perhaps a few dates or figs in season.

15. The father goes to his workshop, or field, or boat, the older son goes with him to learn his trade. The younger boys go to school at the synagogue. The girls stay at home to keep a household, or helped in the fields. The mother begins her day.

16. Her inside chores begin by snuffing out the wick that lay over the edge of her saucer-like lamp. Her housecleaning consists of sweeping the sleeping platform, letting the dust fall through the cracks onto the animals below. There is little else to clean. Her inside chores done, she would take enough grain out of her storage jar to make flour for her family’s bread, grinding the grain with a hand mill.

17. The larger mills need two women to work the two stones, one on top of the other. The bottom stone did not move and it has a stick in the middle around which the top stone turns. On the outer edge of the top stone is another peg by which the women push it. The two women sit on opposite sides of the mill and grind in turn. They would feed handfuls of grain into the centre hole around the centre stick. The flour forced out at the edges would then have yeast, water, and salt added to make bread. The mother made this bread each day of the week, except for the Sabbath.

18. There were three kinds of ovens in use in first century Palestine: the bowl oven, the pit oven and the jar oven. The most popular by far was the jar oven because it was easily moved from house to yard. The jar oven looked like its name. It was a large pottery jar usually around one metre tall. The woman fed handfuls of grass into an opening near the bottom of her oven to make a quick hot fire. While the oven “preheated” the woman would pat pieces of dough into flat cakes the thickness of a finger, then using her arm flattened them still more. She would slap them against the warm inside walls of her oven through the opening in the top. If her oven was too hot she could pat her cakes of dough against the outside walls of the jar. The cakes cooked quickly and were ready to peel loose and turn almost immediately. If she desired to use a public oven she had to prepare her dough herself.

19. The women made most of their own baskets, spun and wove their family’s clothing, and patched older garments. They milked the family’s goats, keeping the milk in leather bottles of skin, and made butter and cheese from the milk.

20. Cooking was simple for the poor people. Breakfast was casual. The substantial meals were the mid-day meal (everyone came home to lunch), and a late evening meal. Bread was the most important food at any meal. To this a woman might add milk, cheese, figs, pickled olives, honey, a bit of rice or barley, cucumbers, onions, leeks or beans and grapes. Most of these foods need no cooking. In season she would have melons or pomegranates. Salted fish would be an occasional treat. Meat was seldom eaten except on feast days. Vegetables like beans or greens were boiled in water or braised in a bit of oil. Honey was the only sweetening source, along with raisins, figs and dates. They made a meal porridge with water, salt, and butter.Market Place

21. Let’s go shopping! The market place was only open for business when there was something to be sold. The arrival in town of a camel caravan would be a great occasion for setting up the market place. It is a time for social visiting before getting down to business (Mark 12:38). Even the Apostle Paul used the market “daily with them that met with him” (Acts 17:17). But we will discover there is no fixed price put upon whatever is to be sold. We will have to take a few minutes even to an hour or so to complete a purchase. Beginning with a high price by the merchant and we offering a low price. This process is enjoyed by everyone and is not seen as a waste of time. Arguments and excitement will become heated until the sale is made and the buyer will go away to boast of his splendid bargain, and will be greatly admired by the seller (Prov 20:14).

22. Payment of goods was often by trade in the place of money. Measures of grain and liquids must run over a small amount into the buyer’s vessel (Luke 6:38). Money changers were necessary because of the different travellers passing through. The money-changer would sit beside the narrow street and charge about ten percent for each transaction. Borrowing money at a rate of interest was practised (Mat 25:27; Luke 19:23).

Mealtime
23. Let us share a main meal with our host. A mat is spread upon the ground and the dishes of food are placed in the centre of the mat with the family and guests gathered around the food. Water in a basin is provided to wash our hands. A prayer of praise is offered and everyone dips into the various dishes using bread as a sop, for there are no separate plates or utensils. Sometimes a prayer of thanks is given at the end of the meal (Deu 8:10). A bowl of water is again passed around to wash hands. In richer circumstances, a U-shaped table holds the food and the guests recline on three couches to eat. The guest’s position was to lie down with the body’s upper part resting on the left arm, and the head raised, and a cushion at the back, and the lower part of the body stretched out. The head of the second guest was opposite the breast of the first guest, so that if he wanted to speak to him in secret he would lean upon his breast (John 13:23-25; Luke 7:38; 16:22)

Occupations
24. But what of the men? A father taught each of his sons a trade or apprenticed them to someone else to teach them. The oldest son traditionally followed his father’s trade. The little shops with wide openings along the bazaar streets might contain, for example, a carpenter who has no use for a work bench and no room for one anyway. He needed very little equipment. He used no clamp but used his hands and feet instead. Seated on the floor he steadied his work with his toes while he hammered and sawed. Most of his orders would be for small, simple things.

25. In Palestine, no flock ever grazes without a shepherd. There is little grass, and the sheep wander far afield. The shepherd’s task was not only constant; it was dangerous. There were thieves and wild animals looking for a meal. The equipment for the job of shepherd was very simple. He had his scrip (a bag made from the skin of an animal) in which he carried his food, and perhaps stones to throw. He also carried a rope sling and he took pride in reaching its target. He carried a staff or wooden club, which hung from his girdle by a leather loop. A rod or shepherd’s crook (hooked staff) completed his equipment.

26. Farmers had to wait for the early rains to soften the earth before they could plough (Psa 65:10; Jer 14:4). While waiting, the farmer would make sure his plough and goad to prod his team were in readiness. He would check that the heavy yoke was smooth and fit the necks of his oxen. If he was plowing a rocky hillside, he would use a pickax or mattock. From Old Testament times, the law of hospitality allowed that the traveller may eat of the wheat as they pass by or through a field, but they must not carry any away with them (Deu 23:25). Grain was also left for the poor (Lev 23:22). To thresh the grain there were three methods. A “flail” was used for threshing small quantities of grain. A “threshing instrument” was made of two wooden planks joined together with sharp stones or pieces of metal driven into them (Isa 41:15). This board was pulled by the oxen over the grain, and the thresher sat or stood upon the instrument, with his goad in his hand. The oxen alone could also be driven over the grain in order to thresh it and this was the most common method used by the poor. The Mosaic Law required the oxen not be muzzled (a guard to keep the animal from eating) (Deu 25:4; 1 Cor 9:9; 1 Tim 5:18). Winnowing (tossing grain into the air) was accomplished by using a shovel or a wooden fork. Women then had the task of sifting the grain with a sieve, using a circular motion, until the extra unwanted bits came to the surface and were skimmed off.

27. Vineyards were found everywhere on the hillsides. When the grapes were ripe they were gathered into the winepress and the entire family worked and sang together as they stamped on the grapes (Jer 48:33).

28. Olives were harvested by using sticks to knock off the fruit, but the trees only bear a full crop every other year. Although it takes some fourteen years before the trees reach maturity they bear for many years, perhaps even centuries with many young shoots springing up all around from the roots (Psa 128:3). Olive mills were used for making oil.

Children
29. What is this we hear? Birth pangs from a neighbour who is delivering a newborn baby. A newborn was first rubbed with salt to firm His skin (Eze 16:4). After washing, the baby was placed diagonally on a square cloth, laying the corners over His sides, and up over His feet, then wrapping him snugly with the soft bands of swaddling cloths (long, soft, worn linen strips of rags prepared for the occasion). Each day the baby would have the bands loosened and cleaned with olive oil. On the eighth day, the father had the responsibility of having his son circumcised, even if this day fell on the Sabbath. In recent years it has been discovered that when a baby is born he does not have the Vitamin K or prothrombin for blood clotting. It takes seven days for the bacteria for blood clotting to grow. On the eighth day the level of bacteria is higher than it will ever be the rest of the child’s life.

The Synagogue school
30. The young sons of our host left to attend the Synagogue school. Let us walk with them and learn how they conduct their studies. Very young children were taught daily the stories of the Old Testament, but when a son was five years old he was usually sent to the synagogue school. It was a public school and held on week days. The school was supported by the members of the local synagogue. There was no written law instructing a man to send his child to the school, but seen as desirable for sons to learn of God, love Him, and have a knowledge of His books. The rabbis, or teachers, were highly respected. The child’s textbook was the Bible. At the elementary school level the teacher would teach him to read and perhaps to write. The children sat on the floor, with the teacher seated on a low stool. Memory work began with the book of Leviticus, reciting it orally in a sing-song chant line-by-line, followed by Genesis, then Exodus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Because of the heat, classes stopped from ten in the morning until three in the afternoon. Discipline was very strict. The teacher would us a strap, but was prohibited from using a rod.

31. Many of the students left school long before the writings of Moses had been committed to memory. Those who were able to keep up next learned the prophetical books and on through the Old Testament scriptures. After that the students who were still in school could attend academies. When they left synagogue school they worked at a trade.

Religion in the home and village
32. Every aspect of a Jew’s life was centred in God and his sacred writings of the Old Testament. Yearly journeys were made to the temple at Jerusalem, and before Jesus came into this world, the synagogue system of worship developed. This building was usually built on high ground and sometimes did not have a roof. The faithful came here three times a day to pray, facing Jerusalem. On the Sabbath, there was a worship of prayers, scripture reading, and preaching. In the synagogue, the women and children sat separated from the men by a latticed partition. They took no active part in worship. The teacher of the day sat as he taught.

33. The teacher of the school also was responsible to remove the O.T. scrolls from the box and arrange them in the proper place for reading during worship at the synagogue. He then returned the scrolls after the service. He was the official appointed to physically punish anyone in the congregation condemned to be whipped with a scourge.

Espousal/betrothal and Marriage
34. It is evening now and we are told an engagement is being celebrated in the house across the street. It is a longed for event for every male for he is not considered a man until he is married. The marriage customs of the Jews of that day were very different from those of today. The engagement was arranged by the parents of the couple, or by a matchmaker. The engagement was often made when the couple were children and had never seen each other. Rarely did a young man marry against the wishes of his parents. The parents of the girl, and the groom’s best man or the matchmaker had to come to agreement on three decisions: the dowry (from bride’s father given to the bride, brought to the marriage), the bridegroom’s gift to the bride (usually clothing, jewellery, etc to her family), and the marriage present (a gift to the bride’s parents to balance the their loss of a daughter). These agreements made, they were usually written out and signed.

35. The betrothal (similar to an engagement) was generally held when the bride reached puberty, or age twelve and a half, and the groom was eighteen. A female was considered a minor until such time and Jewish law fixed the age to be considered an adult. At that age, they reasoned she could control her desires and act on her own in matters of right and wrong. At the time of the betrothal, if the girl was unwilling to go ahead with the plans, the agreement could be broken. But, after the betrothal was entered into, it was legally binding, absolutely, and witnessed. There was a giving and a receiving of a ring. The groom vowed, “She is my wife and I her husband, from today and forever.” There was a ritual of question and answer, followed by a benediction.

36. If the woman did not remain faithful, the law of Moses stated she was to be stoned. If raped and she did not cry out, both parties were to be stoned. (Mary, the mother of Jesus) did not behave as a victim of such an act and this added to Joseph’s concern. His only solution was to quietly divorce her, finding “an unseemly thing in her”, Deuteronomy 24:1.

37. Most betrothals lasted about one year. During that year, the couple were known as husband and wife, and as much bonded together as though they were already married – but had no marriage rights (physical love), and remained as before, in the homes of their parents. Betrothal could not be broken except by divorce or death. A girl whose husband died during this period was a “virgin who was a widow.”

The Wedding
38. The wedding procession was the first part of the proceedings. The bridegroom's "friends" (Joh 3:29) went, usually by night, to fetch the bride in her special dress and white veil to the home of the groom (Mt 9:15; Joh 3:29). The joyousness of it all is witnessed by the"voice of the bridegroom" and the cry, "Behold the bridegroom comes!" (Jer 7:34; Re 18:23). The marriage supper then followed, generally in the home of the groom.

39. At the home all things would be "made ready," if possible on a liberal scale. Joh 2:1-25 gives a picture of a wedding feast where the resources were strained to the breaking point.. There was no formal religious ceremony connected with the Hebrew marriage.

Clothing
40. Have you noticed what everyone is wearing? There was very little difference in the clothing worn by men and women in New Testament times. The man wore a headdress made of a piece of cloth about a metre square of either cotton, linen, or silk, folded diagonally and laid on the head so as to screen the eyes, shading the cheek bones and covering the neck. It was held in place by a band of some corded material. The woman wore a veil. Except for that, all men and women, both rich and poor, wore the following articles of clothing: a shirt, a coat, a girdle (similar to a wide belt), and a cloak.

41. The linen or cotton shirt was worn next to the body, reaching the knees or the ankles. It looked like a nightgown with sleeves. It had holes at the top corners for armholes, and was worn with a girdle so it could be gathered up for heavy work or running. There would be a slit about 12" on each side for ease in walking. If purchased already made, the neck hole would be uncut to show it was unused, and to give the wearer his own choice about the size and shape of the opening. This garment and a girdle were the most usual costume for working indoors. A Jew never wore a fabric of mixed materials (Deut 22:11).

42. Outdoors, the shirt would be little more than bath-towel shape, covering the body from waist to knees. Outdoor labourers, plowing farmers, boatmen, wore this length while engaged in hard work. A man dressed in this manner was considered “naked” as John records Peter in his gospel (John 21:7). A larger style of this was the sheet size, wrapped around the body with the outside upper corner thrown over the shoulder (Mark 14:51,52). Another style of this garment was to have the bottom section sewn up the middle, with leg holes at the corners, making a pair of baggy pants.

43. The girdle was used for many things, made sometimes of leather, sometimes of cloth. The scribe would tuck his pen and ink-horn into its folds, and the watchful man, his dagger. When buying seed, or beans, or such like, the shopkeeper would literally measure them “into his bosom” (Luke 6:38), into the generous folds of the girdle. Part of the way it would be sewed double, with a slit left open near the front, making a wallet. The coins were inserted through the slit and simplified a man’s banking, for he kept most of his money with him. A man could not be robbed until completely overcome. Girdles are mentioned in Proverbs 31:24, Mark 1:6 and Acts 21:11. The banks of the day were in heathen temples where people from all over the world put their money–but not the Jews. Matthew 13:44 gives us another solution for storage, bury it.

44. The coat was an every-day, all-year garment, again of linen, cotton or wool. It could be plain, or with stripes of varying colours woven into it, or it could have strips of cloth sewed on much like applique to ornament it. It was usually so long and wide that it also was gathered up by the girdle for active movement. Looped up under the girdle, it made roomy pouches for carrying bread, tools, vegetables, or fodder (grain/straw) for family animals. After having used his coat for a toolbox, or whatever, the wearer simply shook it, let it hang loose and straight again, and it was a coat once more. It usually had wide, kimono-like sleeves. Often, it was worn over the tunic, with the girdle over the tunic under the coat, letting the coat hang more loosely.

45. The cloak was not used every day and it was in two varieties: (1) a heavy, sleeveless cloak worn as a raincoat, or overcoat as protection against rain, or cold, and used as a cover at night. (2) an overcoat with long sleeves. The sleeveless cloak would run about two metres in width and one and half metres from the shoulders down. At each top corner would be a slit for the hand and wrist. It really looked like a shawl with armholes. Under Jewish law, a man’s cloak could not be taken from him (Ex 22:25-27), for it was his bed cover, and protection from the bad weather. (The Talmud (extra laws made by the Jews themselves) even gives directions as to the order in which the clothing can be removed for bathing, for it was the only time a Jew undressed. (Example: You must always to remove the right shoe first.)

46. An undergarment that every adult male Jew had to wear was the small “tallith”. He wore it under his shirt. It was a scarf-like shape with a slit for the head in the middle. It was of purplish-blue cotton, and had four tassels. It was a command of God to wear this, to help them remember to keep themselves holy to the Lord. (Deu 22:12; Num 15:37-41). In NT times, it was worn outwardly but many made them larger, and Jesus rebuked this practice (Mat 23:5).

47. Sandals were much more common than shoes, usually flat soles of leather, wood, or dried grass, with loops attached through which a leather thong could be passed to strap the shoe to the foot. The poor often went barefoot for most of the year, or wore their sandals outdoors only. Those who could afford shoes for inside the house wore what very much resembles our modern day slippers of black or coloured leather.

48. The veil of the woman was the main difference between men and women. The women wore a small cap and laid their veil over the cap. The veil was generally worn only in public, but not always. The Jewish woman, unlike the women in the heathen nations around them, did not have to cover her face with her veil. In practice, however, when she met a man, she usually pulled her veil up under her eyes. Women’s clothes were more brightly coloured, often embroidered in maroon, blue, or apricot. The women took great pride in their needlework. The veils were white, except for the widow, who wore a black veil.

49. There was a great difference between the wardrobe of the poor and the rich The rich women a better quality of the cloth and fancy ornaments. The poor woman would have a string of coins that she wore across her forehead, used when she had no money for food. The string of coins was important to her and it could not be taken from her for debts–they were hers alone. It was also the sign of a married woman which she had saved for her wedding day.

50. The rich woman powdered her hair with gold dust so that it would have a stylish auburn shade. The poor woman tied her dark hair in a simple knot. On her wedding day, a Jewish girl bound up her hair and never appeared again in public with it loose.

51. If a woman could save enough, she would purchase a small jar, usually made of alabaster, containing a strong perfume. The jar was worn around her neck and could not be opened but once. It was used entirely then. It was purchased with the hope of anointing her own body at death.

52. A sacred ornament worn by rich and poor alike, was the “tephillin” (Mat 23:5). This was a small leather box containing a piece of parchment (paper) on which was written a special Scripture to be used during prayers. It was attached by straps to the forehead or the upper left arm, near the heart, to remind the wearer to fulfill God’s law with both the head and the heart. Jesus rebuked the Jews for the pride and hypocrisy of making the tephillin large and noticeable to gain respect and attention as religious men.

Health Issues
53. What about when someone got sick? Ordinarily, Jews did not go to doctors when they were sick. What little knowledge of medicine was known was thought to be caused by either the sin of the sick person, or of his relations, and that it was sent as punishment for that sin (John 9:2). Sickness was also thought to be caused by demons. Many people thought they could only be healed by supernatural powers (John 5:1-4). Among their healers it was the most religious rather than the most educated man who tried to heal the sick. Notice what troubles the woman in Mark 5:26 had with physicians.

54. But there were sincere practising physicians, and Luke is an example of such (Col 4:14). In the ruined city of Pompeii, there was found a number of instruments exactly as our best surgeons use today.

Death
55. Death was no stranger in those days and as soon as a death took place, a loud continuous cry was raised that announced to all the neighbourhood what had happened. From the time the death cry was heard, until the burial took place usually that same day, relatives and friends continue their crying. The prophet Micah compares it to the cry of wild beasts or birds (Micah 1:8). Sackcloth (rough, course cloth) was worn, garments were torn, breasts were beaten, and tears flowed freely.

56. The dead were wrapped and the face was covered with a cloth. Then the hands and feet were bound round with linen cloth. The body would then be carried on a stretcher (bier) with a pole at each corner, and carried on the shoulders of men to be buried. After the body was buried either in a tomb, or the poor in graves, a mourning feast is held and brings an end to the fasting prior to burial (Jer 16:7).

Taxation
57. Conversation with our host would also contain unhappiness toward the Roman government, especially having to deal with unfair taxes. The Romans seemed never to run out of new reasons for new taxes. The helpless Jews were overtaxed in every way. There were taxes on salt, on water, on meat. There were road taxes, city taxes, house taxes. But, most troubling of all, these taxes were collected for the Romans by Jewish publicans. The Jews despised these publicans, and put them outside of their law. They were the outcasts of society.

58. It is not difficult to understand why the Jews did not respect the publicans when we understand the Roman method of gathering taxes. The jobs were sold to the highest bidder. The man assigned a district or province had to collect the amount decided by Rome or else make up the difference out of his own pocket. What he collected above the amount was his. Of course he collected too much!

59. Collectors of direct taxes were considered less hurtful when compared to the customhouse officials whose duty it was to collect taxes on imports and exports. Their places of toll were usually part of the military guardhouses along the highways. There, with the Roman soldiers to support them in their unfair charges, these tax gatherers set no limit to their greed. They demanded bridge money, road money, and harbor money from the traveller. Taxing wagons was not enough, so they invented taxes on wheels and axles. They taxed the pack animal and the man on foot. There is a record of a tax form from that time in which $10 was demanded on “a female, mouse coloured donkey shedding its front teeth”.

60. The Jewish traveller learned to find ways to avoid these tax collectors. He might try to pass off a taxable slave as his son. He might claim his load of grain or fruit was for the temple and therefore not taxable. He might even become so desperate as to wear the mixed garments of the heathen in order to pass as a Roman and thus not be taxed.

Slavery
61. As we continue talking with our host we learn that slavery is still widespread. It has been estimated that a half of the total population of the Roman Empire were slaves. For the most part these slaves were those conquered in war. Some of those captured were more educated than their captors. Under the Roman law the slave did not have the rights or protection such as he enjoyed under the Hebrew legislation. Jesus’ new law for mankind gives guidance for treatment of slaves but did not force change in society (1 Peter 2:18; 1 Timothy 6:1-3).

Time to leave our host
62. But it is now time to leave our very gracious host. He will do his best to delay our departure. But we cannot linger and must continue on our journey. Because we have been honoured guests, our host will walk out of the village for a distance with us, or until we have urged him to return.


References: Everyday Life in Bible Times, Thomas Nelson PubGrowing up in Bible Times, Thomas Nelson PubHome & Family Life in the Bible, Lion PubInternational Standard Bible EncyclopediaLife in New Testament Times, A Ladybird BookManners & Customs of Bible Lands, Fred H WightManners & Customs of the Bible, James M FreemanMary, Handmaiden of God, Sherlie RoweSmith Bible DictionaryThe Illustrated Bible DictionaryLife in 1st century Palestine

 

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I'm thankful Joanne wrote about this topic. Too often sisters in Christ want to ignore the warning about false teachers or they believe it is a topic that should be left up to men. False teaching is important for we women to recognize so (1) we ourselves won't be caught up in it, (2) so we can teach our children the truth and warn them against teachings that are not from God, and (3) like Joanne said, to support our husbands in their stance on truth. -Pat

 

False Teachers

by Joanne Beckley 

 

In the Bible we are warned against false teachers more than any other danger–especially such teachers from among us. It is one of the most deceptive sins we are told to be aware of, using the reasoning of the world to lead you and me away from the truth. Yes, it could be you or me who are failing to recognize them. . . at a time when we are not steadfast in seeking truth, 1 Cor 15:58.

Take time to read the whole of 2 Peter 2. Highlight Matthew 7:16. Let us look at the fruits among us, Acts 20:28,31. Let us be alert.

Consider how relationships make it difficult to identify a false teacher. It might be the sister or brother who brought you to Christ, who was your wise counselor in the faith transforming himself into an apostle, 2 Cor 11:13. Or the false teacher could be someone in your own family and you will be hesitant to upset your mother or father in standing for truth. What about your friends in the local congregation? Ladies, we can be guilty, making it difficult for our husbands to stand against a false teacher.

It is fear that keeps us from admitting and confronting a false teacher. It is sometimes a misunderstanding of what real love is toward our brethren. Or a desire to be tolerant for the sake of “peace”. It is difficult to realize that self is dominate and not the cause of Christ.

A false teacher is dishonest! A liar! whether he thinks he is such. Look for a motivation of greed, a love of power to be somebody. Notice how he communicates to entice, using eloquent words, a humble demeanor, preferring to teach his beliefs in private bible studies, 2 Cor 4:2. A false teacher appeals to our emotions in order to shut down our minds, using “what if’s”. Look for hidden bitterness in his words (Heb 12:15), seeking to share YOUR unhappiness, and negative experiences about the church, etc. He will recognize a heart that is not a forgiving heart. Look for ambiguity and evasiveness in a false teacher’s response to your questioning.

We CAN stand for Jesus, for His truth. We MUST. Isa 1:16-18a, "Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rebuke the oppressor; Defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow. "Come now, and let us reason together," Says the LORD, "Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.  If you are willing and obedient. . . .”