I Believe Bible Study Registration

Study Title: “I Believe” Bible Study in Partial Fulfillment for Christian Studies and Global Citizenship Undergraduate Degree

Principal Investigator: Cassandra Wolfe

I am a student at Wilfrid Laurier University, in Department of Christian Studies and Global Citizenship & English Literature. I am planning to conduct a Bible study, which I invite you to take part in. This form has important information about the reason for doing this study, what I will ask you to do if you decide to be in this study, and the way I would like to use information about you if you choose to be in the study.  

Why are you doing this Bible study?

You are being invited to participate in a Bible study about the results of abstaining from, “fasting,” a particular activity that has been prayed about for a period of time, and spending intentional time in prayer and with God instead. I, the creator and researcher, believe that more time with God and in prayer, and intentional sacrifice, results in a less selfish attitude, and a more others-oriented lifestyle.

What will you do if you choose to be in this Bible study?

You will be asked to follow along with the content posted on a private blog page for which you will be given the password for seven weeks, participating in the comments section as you are comfortable and feel called. New posts will occur every Wednesday evening at 8pm EST, beginning Wednesday, March 6th, and ending Wednesday, April 17th, and will include discussion questions and prompts for the week. Week 1’s content will include how to go about choosing an activity to fast, and we will share what we are fasting in the comments section by the following week. The discussion board will be available for comments throughout the week. Only those who have signed up for the study will be able to see your comments. You will be encouraged to share your experiences and participate in discussion about relevant Scripture, but never forced.

I may quote your remarks in presentations or articles resulting from this work.  A pseudonym will be used to protect your identity, unless you specifically request that you be identified by your true name. You are also welcome to use a pseudonym as your blog name for participation. It is up to you what you want to get out of this study and learn from it, and that does not need to involve others knowing your identity if you feel you would be more willing to participate anonymously.

You will be asked to refrain from overly personal or potentially triggering information using best judgement.

What are the possible risks or discomforts?

To the best of my knowledge, the things you will be doing have no more risk of harm than you would experience in everyday life.

However, depending on the nature of your fast, you may experience various emotions in participating in discussions. You ALWAYS have the right to refrain from participating in conversations, and requesting that a discussion be halted.

As with all research, there is a chance that confidentiality of the information we collect from you could be breached – we will take steps to minimize this risk, as discussed in more detail below in this form.

What are the possible benefits for you/others?

The possible/expected benefits to you from this study include…

-A deeper relationship with God

-A broader understanding of Scripture related to fasting and prayer

-A renewed prayer life

-Higher productivity

-Reduced selfishness and greater compassion

How will I protect the information I collect about you, and how will that information be shared?

Results of this study may be used in publications and presentations.  Your study data will be handled as confidentially as possible. If results of this study are published or presented, individual names and other personally identifiable information will not be used. Any information I have your permission to keep will be kept on my private Google Drive account, not accessible to others, and will be used only for the purposes of my final presentation and paper. While confidentiality between participants will be requested, it, of course, cannot be assured of.

Financial Information

Participation in this study will involve no cost to you.

What are your rights as a Bible study participant?

Participation in this study is voluntary.  You do not have to answer any question you do not want to answer.  If at any time and for any reason, you would prefer not to participate in this study, please feel free not to. If at any time you would like to stop participating, please tell me. We can take a break, stop and continue at a later date, or stop altogether. You may withdraw from this study at any time, and you will not be penalized in any way for deciding to stop participation.  

If you decide to withdraw from this study, I will ask you if I am still able to quote any of what I have learned from your time in the study.

Who can you contact if you have questions or concerns about this research study?

If you have questions, you are free to ask them now. If you have questions later, you may contact me at any time:

Cassie Wolfe

519-570-8939

wolf3740@mylaurier.ca

Consent

I have read this form and the Bible study has been explained to me. I have been given the opportunity to ask questions and my questions have been answered. If I have additional questions, I have been told whom to contact. I agree to participate in the Bible study described above.

By registering for the online Bible study, you are agreeing to the information presented above and agreeing that all of your questions have been answered. To register for the online Bible study, simply fill out the form found here. You will be notified of the password for all the content by Wednesday, March 6th, 2019.

Again, for all the information about the Bible Study, the vision for it, and the research that has gone into it, head here, and peruse all the posts!

Advertisements

I Believe Bible Study: My Own Experiences

Happy Monday!

If you’ve been tracking along, you know that I am releasing research and information about the Bible Study I will be launching both online and in person in Waterloo this March. For all the information about the study, head here.

Today, I am talking about one of the reasons I decided to focus the study around fasted prayer, which is my own personal experience.

To be straightforward, fasting something that was a conviction in my life, and spending more time in prayer, changed my life.

“Kintsugi, meaning that which is bonded by gold, is an ancient art form of pottery within the richer provinces of China. The potter does a remarkable thing where they take the broken pieces of any bowl, using gold to mold the whole bowl together, creating something new. When I learned of this my mind instantly looked to the Lord and how he uses us, as the broken pieces we are, molding us by his sanctification. And though we have nothing worthy to give back to the Him for the life he has given for us, we are now able to bear his image and share who he is to those around us.
I’m not sure where your heart sits with this, but for me, I feel a joy and confidence in our Lord. He is making us anew each and every day, and all we may do is love Him in return. That is it. There is no bargaining or wager we must win, but a given reward. We do not earn, work, or gamble our way into the kingdom of God, for He had already done so. We cannot trade Christ’s pure love with work, and we must dare not to try. Know you have been given grace. And know you are loved. Reflect on his gift.”

This was written by a friend of mine at church, and I think it is so true of who our God is.

To support these statements with Scripture: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

This to say, WE cannot save ourselves. Nothing of our human flesh is worthy of God, and nothing we could give our beautiful Saviour makes any one of us more worthy or holy. HE is the only Holy one, and wants to dwell in us.
We CAN, however, choose of our flesh to gift Him what we ARE able to control, and He blesses those choices. I’ve experienced this.

As much as I have often recognized struggles within myself of things that I succumb to that I shouldn’t partake in, I know that I am not condemned for these things, but rather can look to the Truth of His joy and freedom from these things.

“These things”– for example, watching recipe and workout videos on YouTube for hours of my free time.

I have recognized that I can enjoy these videos for a period of time without conviction from God that this is not how I should be spending it. But there is a point where this becomes too much, and not honouring to Him/simply a waste of time. And while I know there is no CONDEMNATION for these things (Romans 8:1-2), that I am not to feel guilty for them, I simply know the Truth of my God and that He is my Creator, Past, Present, and Future, and it’s when I spend time with Him that I do not WANT to spend hours watching YouTube videos.

This is why I have chosen to “fast” these videos, and pray in times I would usually watch YouTube. And, man, has God changed my life.

-Prayer during these times has literally opened me up to retreating from my room at home for prayer time with my roommates.

-I believe that the Holy Spirit brought me to the Scripture verse He wanted me to talk about at the women’s event I spoke at at Redeemer University this past Thursday night. And God did AMAZING things through that Word, setting people free from addictions.

-I have noticed less anxiety and more peace in my life since spending more time in prayer and less time on YouTube.

These amazing benefits and more are my passionate desire for the world: for others to experience the way that sacrifices that feel big, but that are tiny in comparison to the sacrifice of Jesus’ LIFE on the cross, are so life-changing when we allow Him to take up the space. Time with Him has made me more others-focused, in that I have been more apt to think pray for my friends and acquaintances and people that have asked me for prayer, and to check up on them.

I truly believe in this practice. Not that it is something that makes us better Christians, because truly, in God’s eyes, that isn’t possible, or the point. But it’s simply a practice of loving our perfect Creator.

Do You Want to Be a “Global Citizen?” Reflecting on the Title of My Degree in Relation to My Bible Study

The Bible Study I’m launching in March, called the “I Believe” Bible Study, is in partial fulfillment of one half of my double degree, titled Christian Studies and Global Citizenship.

I personally enrolled in the program for its Christian Studies component, with an interest in applying Christian, Biblical theology to a ministry career. I didn’t think too much about the “Global Citizenship” title. But, in my years of studying, what i have deduced is that global citizenship is the role of any Christian person.

Let us first define “global citizenship.” My favourite definition is this one, from Oxfam Education: “A global citizen is someone who is aware of and understands the wider world – and their place it. They take an active role in their community, and work with others to make our planet more equal, fair and sustainable.”

A Christian, then, believes in Jesus as the redeeming, saving God of the universe. God, who “so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Someone who follows God, then, loves the wider world, seeks to be aware of hardship within it, and looks to Jesus as the example. Jesus, who says, above all else, Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbour as yourself” (Mark 12:30-31).

So, what does global citizenship have to do with a Bible Study on fasting and prayer? Isn’t fasting and prayer all about personal relationship with Jesus?

Yes… and no.

I truly believe that the best way to become a better global citizen is by prioritizing prayer. 

If we are spending time with the Spirit of Jesus, He is going to convict us and mold us more into His image, which is one of others-focus and unconditional love. It is focus that is humbled to treat every neighbour with love, kindness, and non-judgement. If we spend time seeking God’s will, I believe His Spirit will equip us to be the best global citizens we could imagine being.

Pair this with time spent fasting/abstaining from activities that aren’t productive, and we will be left with even more time for others, loving and caring for them.

JAMES 5:13-18 Is any one among you suffering? Let him pray. Is any cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects. Elijah was a man of like nature with ourselves and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth its fruit.

I Believe Bible Study: All the Information You Need

Happy New Year!

One of the things I am most excited about for this coming year is the Bible Study I am developing as part of fulfillment of my undergrad degree in Christian Studies and Global Citizenship at Wilfrid Laurier University.

WHAT is this study?

The “I Believe” Bible study is an in-person discussion or blog discussion-based study that focuses with a group of people on Biblical Scripture and literature about fasting and prayer. The participants will pray about something that is a time-consuming part of their lives (amount of “time-consuming” will vary from person to person) to give up, and dedicate time usually spent in that activity to prayer.

WHY is the study a “thing”?

The Bible Study is called the “I Believe” Bible study, created with the strong belief that giving up, or abstaining from, something, ie. an activity or habit, that one would miss for a time in order to pray and spend more time with the Spirit of God results in reduced selfishness. I believe that we are often so consumed in our own agendas and habits and activities that we forget, or maybe haven’t even realized, the ever-presence of our God.

WHEN will the study take place?

The study will take place on Wednesday afternoons beginning Wednesday, March 6th, 2019, from 4:00-5:30pm, until Wednesday, April 17th. The study will also be available beginning and ending on the same dates via this blog, sign-up for which will begin mid-February.

WHERE will the study take place?

The Bible study will take place at Seven Shores Community Cafe in uptown Waterloo, ON, Canada. Alternatively, participants can take part via the blog from anywhere in the world.

WHO can participate?

The study is open to males and females of 16 years of age or older. Christian, or interested in Christianity and the topic. Participants must have a level of self-motivation and determination to participate in the activities, but do not need to self-affiliate as Christian in order to participate. As long as he/she is aware that the Study will consider the Bible as its guiding tool and as Truth. However, study will be made accessible for all.

HOW does one register to take part?

To secure your place in the in-person study, email me at wolf3740@mylaurier.ca, or with any questions! Registration for the online study will be available in February.

Interpreting the Bible: Have You Ever Wondered…

This semester, I have been fortunate enough to take Biblical Greek with one of the greatest professors I have ever had. 

The following is part of my final assignment for this class, and I wanted to share it here, because I am truly blown away by the knowledge I’ve gained from this class. Can I write or speak the Greek language with ease? Not a chance. Do I have a much better understanding of how a knowledge of how the Greek language works is crucial for proper interpretation of the Bible? Absolutely. 

And here is just one example.

Let’s look at the New Living Translation of John 15:11-17:


I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! 12 This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. 13 There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. 16 You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. 17 This is my command: Love each other.

Context and Background

The Book of John is found in the New Testament of the Christian Bible, and is the fourth canonical Gospel in the New Testament. John 15 is one of the chapters that is commonly called the “farewell discourse” of Jesus (Carson 1980), as it features Jesus speaking in first person to his disciples the night before he is crucified. Prior to verses 11-17, Jesus had been discussing a parable in which he stated that he is “the true grapevine, and [his] Father the gardener” (John 15:1 NLT).

Beginning in verse 11, Jesus says, “I have told you this so that…” and goes on to explain his purposes for the discourse in the first place.

Ἵνα” Explained

“The single most common category of the subjunctive in the NT is after Ἵνα, comprising about one third of all subjunctive instances” (Wallace 1996). Phrases in the subjunctive mood express a “hope or desire,” while also recognizing that that desire becoming the outcome is not sure, but probable (Wallace 1996). There are several uses of the subjunctive, but John 15:11-17 is written in what is called the final subjunctive, “to indicate the purpose of an action” (Black 1998). Ἵνα itself, though, regardless of mood, is a conjunction translating most basically to “that” when introducing indirect discourse.

To recognize the subjunctive mood, we might look for “lengthened connecting vowels; no augment in the aorist” (Mounce 2009), as well as the word Ἵνα. So, when we read John 15:11 and see Ἵνα, we can assume we are reading a subjunctive message: an uncertain hope.

John 15:11 is translated as, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (NLT). While these verses were spoken to His disciples, many scholars agree that it was also a message for the coming church (Carson 1980). Let us imagine we are reading this verse as one who is mourning the death of a closed loved one in today’s world, and is not experiencing any sort of joy in that moment. If that reader read Ἵνα as a conjunction indicating a certain outcome, they would likely feel confused and doubtful, as “complete joy” is not their current experience. However, if the same reader understood that Ἵνα in this phrase is relaying Jesús’ hope for him/her, and His purpose for His discourse, a purpose that may or may not be reality, they are more likely to understand Jesus as one who loves and wants the best for His people, rather than one who makes false claims.

Jesus continues in the proceeding verses that we love each other as He has loved us… and that we “did not choose [Him], but [He] chose [us] and appointed [us] so that [we] might go and bear fruit–fruit that will last–and so that whatever [we] ask in [His] name the Father will give [us]” (John 15:16 NLT). Now, let us imagine that we are the disciples listening to Jesus as He is speaking these words. If I were one of His disciples, and understood Jesus to mean that I absolutely must bear fruit, or as I understand it, be Christ-like in my love, and do so in a way that lasts, I can only imagine the immense pressure I would feel. This sort of command would give way to a works-centred Gospel, or one that suggested I must bear fruit in order to reap the “rewards” of the Father. Even the word “and,” placed where underlined in: “we might go and bear fruit–fruit that will last–and so that whatever we ask in His name the Father will give us” is so crucial for the translation of this sentence. Without that “and” separating two ideas, two “Ἵνα” phrases, it would seem as if one action was necessary in order for the other: “we might go and bear fruit–fruit that will last– so that whatever we ask in His name the Father will give us.” However, what we have in reality is two separate “Ἵνα” phrases, in the subjunctive mood, and therefore phrases that are desires of the speaker, Jesus Christ, to His disciples and, likely, a exhortation to all Christ-followers, that He appointed us because He hopes that we will go and bear fruit that will last. As a reader personally, knowing this phrase in subjunctive in nature alleviates any pressure to “do good,” and rather pushes me on in wanting to follow Jesus, rooted in Him.

Finally, the latter half of verse 16 could be very easily mistranslated: “and so that whatever we ask in His name the Father will give us.” Now, imagine you are a newcomer to Scripture, reading the Book of John for the first time, and come across this phrase. You were told that Scripture is “Capital ‘T’ Truth,” and so you are very excited when you come across this verse! You close your eyes, and pray, “God, I ask you for a million dollars, in Your name.” You open your eyes, and… no money. You are bitter, and refuse to acknowledge the Bible as Truth.

Now, when we read this same verse in the subjunctive mood, we know that Jesus is speaking with a hopeful desire for His disciples and followers, also understanding that this is not a sure equation of “ask and receive.” This phrase, also separated by the and conjunction, so not directly linked to “bearing fruit.”
We might also add that the “asking in the Father’s name” is an action that follows abiding in Him and bearing fruit. We might assume, then, that the things we would ask the Father for when abiding in Him would be more in line with His will for us, and thus more likely things that He “would give us.”

Conclusion

It seems so bizarre that understanding such a small word, Ἵνα, is so vital for translating Biblical texts. But, upon close analysis of John 15:11-17, it is very clear that an awareness of the mood Ἵνα is used in, its meaning, and what it might be mistaken for meaning is so important for correctly interpreting the English translation of Biblical texts that use it.

I Believe Research Episode 4: Do I Have to Fast Food?

Welcome to the blog, and welcome to the fourth instalment of my research for the Bible Study I am launching in March 2019!

I am so excited to be sharing the official graphic for the study, credited to my wonderful and compassion friend, Sam Stuckless.

And so excited about today’s topic: aren’t you supposed to fast food?

It is true that the Bible does not speak of fasting beyond fasting food.

And I think it is very important to acknowledge this.

Fasting literally translates to “abstinence from food.” So, perhaps a word other than “fast” should be used for the abstinence of something other than food in order to spend that time with God.

The important distinction here is that food is a necessity for life. Social media, television, a favourite sport, or anything else you might be convicted to fast certainly are not necessities.

Still, I think the key is that a fast is meant to remind one of their need for time with God, in prayer, worship, and in the Word.

And perhaps you’ll find fasting food is something important for you to do when you pray– but God meets us where we’re at.

I come from a past in which restriction of food itself was my idol. So, I would not restrict food. And I would urge you that if any slight part of you is thinking, “ooh, maybe I’ll lose some weight” at the idea of fasting food, that is probably not the thing you should fast.

Fasting [food] is not worthwhile if it costs you your health, and is in fact discouraged It is not necessarily what item you give up, but more about what that item means to you and how it reminds you to stay focused on the Lord (Mahoney 2017).

To clarify: the definition of fasting is the abstinence of food.

For our purposes, and in our culture, the goal is to give up something that is in idol in our lives, and spend the time we would be giving that idol in prayer.

What is an idol?

Exodus 32:1-5 When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.” 

Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” 

So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. 

He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.

In the Old Testament, the idols of the Israelites were often of images or physical objects, such as the golden calf above.

The people knew they were meant to worship something… but they didn’t know what.
I can relate to this very personally.
I used to worship diets. I devoted all my time to planning the “perfect” day of eating, and gave that all my attention. It was like my heart and soul knew they were meant to pour their energy into something… but oh, how meaningless and temporary these “food rules” were, like the golden calf.
But God, perfectly loving Creator, immortal, who promises to “never leave nor forsake you… who has set you free”? Worth worshipping and knowing.
Do you believe? Feel your heart stirring? Curious?
Or already following Jesus, but would love the accountability to give up an idol in your life?
Message or contact me for all the details on the Study starting in March: worldwide, and absolutely free.

I Believe Research Episode 3: Commentaries on the Importance of Fasting

Happy Monday friends!

Today, I am so excited to share some of the prayer and research I’ve been up to in preparing for the interactive Bible Study I’m releasing in March 2019.

The research Im releasing will be extensive in its range of sources, all focused on the topic of fasting: what it is, how it has been shown to be beneficial or otherwise, what the Bible says, what to do during fasting, potential contentions/other interpretations, etc.

Today, I am focusing on a biblical verse from the book of 1 Corinthians that I think very important to include in this research.

1 Corinthians 5:7

Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

1 Corinthians is one of the documented letters of the Apostle Paul to the church in Corinth of his time.

Here, Paul is referring specifically to married couples, as he explains in the verses preceding this verse.

Commentators and scholars vastly agree that Paul is explaining the importance of sexual activity within marriage, and the blessing that it is to each person in the marriage. The only time that sex should be disregarded, Paul says, is if the couple is in agreement that they should be taking some time to seek God in individual prayer, thus “fasting sex” to pray– but always to come together again.

The Expositer’s Greek Testament explains that the deprivation of sex within marriage is in fact unjust, with the exception of mutually agreed upon prayer, likely discerned by the Holy Spirit together as a couple.

What does this mean for the purposes of our Bible Study?

A few things, I think.

Fasting is intentional and purposeful. In the case of sex, Scripture states that it should not be fasted, unless the purpose of the fast is for prayer that is discernibly needed.

For our purposes, we don’t want to just fast anything. What I’m getting at is that the fasted substance of one person may be absolutely right for them in their context, but horribly wrong for another person.

For example: I have a history of restrictive eating, obsessing with food counts, and idolizing the “perfect” diet. So, if I fasted unhealthy food, that would be incredibly self serving and actually dangerous for me.

However, there may be someone else who is in prayer about what they may be called to fast, and is convicted that junk food and eating consume their thoughts, and that abstaining from junk food/those thoughts to pray instead is exactly what they are called to do.

What we fast isn’t necessarily inherently “bad.” Sex is a beautiful, necessary-for-life and vital for healthy marriage, good thing. The emphasis in Scripture is that it should only be fasted for the purpose of prayer in a season of need for that!

Television isn’t evil, and neither is social media (I’m still debating both of these😉). Neither is online shopping, or drinking a glass of wine, or thinking about your next workout. But if you ask the Holy Spirit to reveal your heart in matters of your life that consume a lot of your thoughts, He may reveal that fasting something for a period is going to be an important thing for you.

Prayer is the purpose. Scripture is very clear in 1 Corinthians that prayer is the very purpose of any time of abstinence from sex. So, if we fast something for “self-improvement,” and not to be closer to Jesus, we need to check our heart. Ie., if you’re thinking about fasting a certain food, but your heart is screaming, “ooh, maybe I’ll lose weight/get a better body,” you probably should reconsider the substance you’re fasting.

Prayer should substitute the fasted activity or substance. Since I’ve been praying about this study, God gave me a picture of a young man who often finds himself playing video games in his downtime choosing to spend time with God instead, and being amazed at how quickly the time passes as he spent it getting to know his Lord.

Are you interested in joining the Bible study? You will be able to follow along online, or, if you’re in KW area, attend our weekly meetings, too! Im so excited to get started in March 2019. As always, please reach out to me with any questions, and share with your friends!