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.

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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!

“I Believe” Bible Study Research Episode Two: It Starts with Believing

Happy Monday!!

Welcome to the second installment of the research and info accompanying the I Believe Bible Study I am launching, as part of my fulfillment of my Christian Studies degree.

To learn all the details about the Bible Study, and how to sign up, head here: Announcing the I Believe Bible Study

To get caught up on the research, head here: Research Episode One

Today’s research focuses on the title of the Bible Study: what does believing in God entail?

There is a reason I titled a Bible Study about fasting as “I Believe.” And that reason is simple and primary and the first step: if God isn’t God, and He isn’t who He says He is, there is certainly no point in fasting to spend more time with Him.

However, in thinking about who this study is for, I do not intend to limit it to being for people who are confident in their faith, and believe fully in/have a relationship with Jesus. If you are in a place of being curious about faith in God; have many questions; want “help with your unbelief” (Mark 9:23-25), even skeptical, this is for you, too.

And I do believe that spending time in prayer and asking of God, the mighty One Himself will answer your prayers (though often not how you think), guide you, and intercede for you.

Drawing on a sermon preached by Pastor Mike Rutledge at my church, Risen City, if we believe in the God of freedom, Jesus Christ, we believe in a God who absolutely is who He says He is. And if He IS the Prince of Peace, the Light of the World, Creator and Friend, then a life lived for Him is going to radically change us. His Holy Spirit promises to intercede for us (Romans 8:26), making us more others focused people.

In this sermon, Pastor Mike talked about the first of the Ten Commandments given in the Old Testament of the Bible.

He explained that, at the time these Commandments were given, the people took them very seriously, as strict rules that, if broken, threatened their relationship with God.

And God spoke<sup class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-2053B" data-link="(B)” style=”font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: top”> all these words:<sup class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-2053C" data-link="(C)” style=”font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: top”>

“I am the Lord your God,<sup class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-2054D" data-link="(D)” style=”font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: top”> who brought you out<sup class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-2054E" data-link="(E)” style=”font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: top”> of Egypt,<sup class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-2054F" data-link="(F)” style=”font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: top”> out of the land of slavery.<sup class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-2054G" data-link="(G)” style=”font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: top”>

“You shall have no other gods before<sup class="footnote" data-fn="#fen-NIV-2055a" data-link="[a]” style=”font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: top”>[a] me. Exodus 20:1-3

But when God came to us in the form of Jesus, He came to set us free from the Law. This doesn’t mean that this Law isn’t for our good, or that these Commandments are not things we should adhere to. They should absolutely be adhered to. But it means that love wins, and that we now have the Holy Spirit to help us, because God knows we can’t live out these Commandments ourselves.

It is truly a fairytale. We have an ever-present help.

And the more time we’re spending with that ever-present help, the more we will grow in and with Him. The less we will desire anything but life with and for Him.

This world doesn’t need a bunch of rule keepers. It needs reformed hearts. –Mike Rutledge, Ten Commandments Sermon 1, https://www.risencitychurch.com/messages/

And where do such reformed hearts come from?

Jesus. Relationship with Him.

Whether you’ve had faith in Him for years and years, you are so full of questions you don’t know where to start, or your heart is stirring for more, this Bible Study is for you.

Feel free to comment, connect with me via email, or send me a personal message for more info about the study. I am always happy to answer any questions.

A Diary of Anorexia and Redemption

Hi Friends!

I am currently surviving off coffee after one of the most exciting/emotional/crazy weekends of my life. Full post on that pending…

Today, however, I am excited to share with you the most well-edited and concise version of my testimony ever published. I am so honoured to have a second piece of mine published in the incredible Canadian magazine, Love is Moving.

Read the article here.

In the publishing of this article, I am humbly reminded of the number of opportunities this story has had to be shared. That being said, I want to iterate how necessary it is that what is gleaned from this is that God through Jesus saved my life, and is saving it every day, redeeming me. I am not perfect, His Spirit is perfect. I still have struggles, but He is a perfect redeemer.

“The only reason healing is difficult to grasp is because it hasn’t been our experience.” Dan Mohler

If you’re curious about eating disorder recovery logistics/physical recovery, I am happy to answer questions.

If you’re curious about a relationship with Jesus, I am a friend and shoulder, but He is the Friend and Shoulder.

Thanks for reading friends, and be sure to check out the other amazing articles in this 30th issue of Love is Moving!

“I Believe” Research Episode One: Prayer Assumes a Need

Since announcing last Monday the news that I am publishing an online and in-person Bible study, I am so excited by the responses and participation. You can find all the details about When and how and what here.

Over the next several weeks, before the study itself launches, I will be sharing some research and prayer that has informed my decision to pursue this topic of study and this format. Several sources from people of different backgrounds and experiences will be used.

To catch you up to speed, friend, here is what the I Believe study is all about:

The above is my thesis statement for this study. Disclaimer: this Bible Study is a project in fulfillment of my undergraduate degree in Christian Studies and Global Citizenship at Wilfrid Laurier University.

Now, let’s dive into the literature today’s research focuses on.

Mark R McMinn, Ph.D., in his book, Psychology, Theology, and Spirituality in Christian Counseling, argues for the importance of Christian morality as part of mental therapy, namely biblical principles such as redemption, prayer, and forgiveness.

McMinn states that “Prayer assumes need. Prayer and helplessness are inseparable.

He supports this with Luke 18:9-16:

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

I think that one of the most unfortunate assumptions about Christians is that they are self-righteous and “holier than thou.” There are certainly people pertaining to all beliefs that operate out of these traits. I would argue that we all do, in various ways.

But the call of a Christian is to be absolutely humble, recognizing his or her brokenness, and “need,” as McMinn says, for God. A recognition of this need, then, should lead to prayer.

If we go on in our selfish ways, thinking, as the man in this parable, “Thank goodness I’m not like the robbers or evildoers,” failing to recognize how broken we are, we will very likely turn to selfish means of living.

When we pray, however, recognizing our need to communicate with our God, our need for His guidance– we can operate out of the humility and love of the Holy Spirit (John 3:34).

McMinn’s explanation of how prayer requires “humble awareness of our need for God” lends itself to the first step in the I Believe Bible Study: praying about what, exactly, you will fast.

I am so excited to see how God continues to work out His plan for this study, and how many hearts and minds will be able to grow and learn from one another!

Announcing…

My first worldwide Bible study.

I am very excited to announce that, as part of my fourth year thesis for my Christian Studies undergrad, I have been working on a project I am very excited to release.

A Bible study done online, and also with weekly meetings in Kitchener/Waterloo, ON, will be launching on Cassie’s Cookery the first week of 2019.

This will entail short podcasts, discussion/journal guides, Scriptures readings and other sourced information, along with much more content.

I am excited to have this incredible opportunity to “practice” ministry in a manner I feel so passionate about, too.

The topic is one I believe so important, and one of the best things, though maybe seemingly most challenging things, we could choose to do. But I believe it will change your life. I believe God will change your life.

Joel 2:12-13

The topic– you guessed it– is fasting.

But I’m not talking about fasting food necessarily.

I’m talking about fasting that is truly returning to the Lord. And this will take some prayer and thought.

Ask yourself… then ask God…

What do you do too much of that doesn’t please God?

What is an idol in your life that you love/pay more attention to than Jesus?

What takes up your brain space/heart/thought/time?

This will be the hardest kind of thing to give up. But it will be the best thing to I’ve up.

Here’s what Jesus promises you..

He will return to you what you sacrifice to Him, better than you could ever imagine.

He will teach you how to love better, and He will expand your capacity.

Bonus: you’ll more than likely be more productive, and reap all kinds of other benefits God has planned for you.

We’re created to live closely to Him. He sacrificed His perfect life for us. Anything we could sacrifice for Him is minuscule in comparison.

Dr. Bill Bright, in his guide Why You Should Fast, listed the following reasons for fasting something that is an idol in your life.
•Fasting was an expected discipline in both the Old and New Testament eras.
•Fasting and prayer can restore the loss of the “first love” for your Lord and result in a more intimate relationship with Christ.
•Fasting is a biblical way to truly humble yourself in the sight of God.
•It enables the Holy Spirit to reveal your true spiritual condition, resulting in brokenness, repentance, and a transformed life.
•Fasting will encourage the Holy Spirit to quicken the Word of God in your heart and His truth will become more meaningful to you.
•Fasting can transform your prayer life into a richer and more personal experience.

It is absolutely free to join and take part in this, and the resources will be available on the blog to everyone. And, for those in KW, we will have weekly studies beginning January 2019. More details to follow.

For now: spread the word, be encouraged, and don’t hesitate to talk to me with any questions!