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.

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Forgetting to Be Expectant: How Breakfast At Work Changed Me

It’s something I’ve been piecing together for many months now about the state of my own mental and spiritual health (SO not a fixed state), and about the way I’ve been living.

And it was something so outside of me that I will attempt to put to words that revealed to me what it is that has been a struggle of late. It’s a struggle, I think, that much of our Western, social-media-absorbing, iPhone-adjusted generation deals with.

Last Saturday, the day after my fiancee Johnny headed back to the next province over for his final year of university, after a glorious month of time together, I didn’t necessarily go into work consciously expecting a wonderful day. After chatting on the phone with Johnny, though, and already feeling more uplifted just by his kind, familiar voice, my favourite voice, I headed out to work, and ran into my co-worker on the walk over. Will is one of those friends who doesn’t let a shift just be a shift. He starts conversation, he’s so curious about everything, and he has such strong passions. He humbly doesn’t let a shift just be about tasks, but communicates with his staff.

This is my natural personality, too, I’d like to think. It’s also the joy of Christian person, I think. But, recently, my brain has been so hyper-focused on an overwhelming amount of tasks on to-do lists that it has traded compassion for check-marks, and selflessness for just-getting-stuff-done.

That kind of exhausting mindset, though, has also led me to more moments spent scrolling on Instagram than I care to admit, and less productivity than could possibly satisfy such all-or-nothing thinking.

Will saw me that day. He saw ME, as a person, and met me where I was, caring about nothing but doing his job well, and interacting with me as his co-worker and friend. And when my mind wanted to wander to tasks, Jesus Himself stopped that mind in its tracks and prompted me to meet Will, and all my customers, with the same genuine care.

And so that morning, to start off the shift, Will exclaimed “I’m so excited for today because I’m makin us the best breakfast.”

And breakfast was HAD. Will’s kindness inspired so many of my customer interactions, as well as our conversations throughout the whole day, which were anything but surface level as we worked.

Eating the breakfast without asking questions like, “what oil did you use on these eggs,” or “how many potatoes is this?” Is still enough to make me smile. Read about the freedom I’ve experienced from disordered eating here.

And, after work, I had a healing, timely, and uplifting conversation with my parents that I don’t think I will ever forget.

Death to anxious thoughts that want to keep me from speaking for fear of saying the wrong thing. And I pray for Jesus’ mouth and words of which there is no anxiety and simply endless love.

And, may I be expectant that each day would be great because of what JESUS is going to do in fulfilling His promise, and being Himself in our broken world. Nothing of us, and all of Him.

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

Couple Q&A: From Long Distance to Comparison

Last week, as I had been getting some questions about my relationship with my fiancee, Johnny, I put out a question on Instagram to inspire a Q&A blog post about our relationship that I hope is helpful to someone out there. Maybe you’re in the thick of a long distance relationship you believe to be right, and need some encouragement. Or maybe you’ve been feeling that your relationship is not one you see as resulting in marriage, and you don’t want to be in it anymore.

Johnny and I are in no way experts on these things, but we do have 21 months of long distance, an almost break-up, and lots of prayer under our belts. We both also have theological educations, and hearts for Jesus-centered relationships, which we believe to be the most thriving and purposeful.

That said, let’s dive into the questions!

How did you wait for the right person?

Cassie: Personally, “waiting” for a relationship has never been a struggle. If anything, I’ve always been quite independent and confident, never feeling like I needed a man to complete me, or to be in a relationship. If there was ever a person in my life that I was interested in or that I hoped would pursue me, that was different, but I’ve always known that relationships are only good in any way if you’re in love with the person you’re in a relationship with. “Any old relationship” is not only cheap, it’s unfair, selfish, and pointless.

That said, if you are someone who struggles with feeling like you might be happier in a relationship, remember that being single is far better than being with the WRONG person. My answer to this question is that, before I met Johnny, my person, I wasn’t “waiting” at all, or seeking a relationship. And, when Johnny met me, he had just been reflecting on the fact that he might be happiest if he were single all his life. God truly had other plans, and made those clear.

If you feel like you’re in a waiting period, seek God, the only eternal and perfect lover, as your ultimate satisfaction. Even as I’m preparing to marry Johnny, he will always be my SECOND love, with Jesus being the only one who can truly and perfectly fulfill me. Consider praying, without your own interest, for your future husband/wife, that he/she also would be rooted in Jesus as his/her first love.

Have you ever received negative comments about your relationship? How do you deal with it?

Johnny: I don’t think I’ve ever received negative comments about Cass and I, but there have been comments out of concern and care for us.

If someone is voicing concerns to you, it is important to listen to and consider any and all concerns and pray about them. Consider who the person is that is speaking these things, too. Have they proven trustworthy prior to your relationship? Who are they, and are they gossipy/spiteful, or people you hold with high regard and respect?

Cassie: Ultimately give these concerns to God in prayer, and ask Him to reveal any truth to them if it is unclear to you of the motive behind the comments. Relationships can be blinding, and it is important to hear outside opinions and respect them. But if you are truly and wholly aware of the fact that your relationship is sound and healthy, and someone is simply being rude about it, talk to people you do trust about those comments, and stand firm in the assurance you have in the health of your relationship.

How did you survive long distance?

Johnny: We supported each other’s differing passions, hobbies, and callings. We focused so much on communication with each other, trust in each other and establishing trust, and finding cool and unique, Christ-like ways to love each other and show each other love.

Cassie: One of these crucial things for us has been letter-writing. Taking time out of our days to sit and write, and putting the effort in to mailing these letters, has been one of the most tangible ways we’ve shown each other love.

Ultimately, without being able to trust each other’s faithfulness to Jesus, and His work in each of us, long distance would have been much harder. But we both very vehemently believed from the beginning that, if we were part of God’s plan for each other, distance should not stand in the way… and because of God, and simply, our selfless love for EACH OTHER, we’ve almost kicked it in the butt.

How do you avoid jealousy of other relationships?

Cassie: If “social media” jealousy is the issue, remember that SOCIAL MEDIA IS A FACADE. The same way that photos, bodies, and captions are touched up and altered and simply not real life (the real life is the person behind the screen monotonously scrolling, posting, adjusting), many people use social media as a means of affirming themselves, and feeling better about aspects of their lives that they aren’t actually very happy with. Remember these things, and resolve to be happy for others, and work to genuinely hope the best for them.

Johnny: However, if you see or hear about something in another relationship, such as focus on prayer, couple devotions, humour, date nights, etc. that is a positive thing lacking in your relationship, talk to your partner about these things being important to you. If that sort of communication is not done in a healthy way between you and your significant other, this may be a red flag.

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.

Our Proposal Story (+How We Met Three Years Ago)

I had just told myself university would not be the time for a boy.

But God knew differently.

I noticed Johnny Fulford the moment I sat down in my Tuesday afternoon “Public Faith and Theology” class. He was smilely, shy-looking, and downright handsome. When the professor asked us students to share our names, and a little bit about ourselves, I knew his name, “Johnny,” would stick in my mind.

Every Tuesday afternoon that first semester of my freshman year in university, I was encouraged and excited by what Johnny had to say on the topic of Christianity, much of which related to God’s almighty power and sufficient grace. In a place fraught with haughty opinions and lacking semblance of truth, Johnny only spoke when absolutely necessary, and without drawing attention to himself… except for, perhaps, my attention.

I also caught him nodding along with some of the points I would bring up, while I tried not to care. After all, I didn’t want to get caught up in a boy.

But God had other plans.

I always hoped Johnny might talk to me after class. Instead, when we had a field trip to Queen’s Park in Toronto, and I asked a classmate who would be driving there if we could carpool, I saw Johnny approach the same classmate to ask for a ride a few minutes after I did.

Hmmm…

And the car ride was the beginning I’ll never forget.

Johnny and I must have spent more time getting to know each other than I realized, because, when we got to Queen’s Park, a fellow classmate who had also been in the car asked me, “So, are you and Johnny a thing?”

At Queen’s Park, we watched a political debate, and then had the opportunity to ask the politicians questions about their faith. I remember Johnny asking questions that didn’t spark my curiousity about Johnny, but drew me to prayer and to seek God’s will. I wasn’t distracted by him, but pressed forward to focus on God’s heart for these politicians, and our classmates.

It is for that reason that, when Johnny asked me if he could take me for coffee after the field trip, I didn’t say, “I’m actually not dating right now,” I said, “Yes.”

I would later learn that Johnny had also recently wondered if he was called to be single all his life. He had also recently turned down a few other potential relationships. And he had also felt drawn to the way Jesus was working in me.

The coffee date led to more dates. The couple months before Johnny asked me to be his girlfriend were spent awing in Jesus Christ and not in each other. And that is why I love Johnny second. Jesus Himself has called us to, and built up, the foundation on which our relationship stands.

Flash forward three years. Johnny and I are both almost done university… but in different provinces.

When Johnny and I met, he already knew that the school we both attended in Waterloo, ON was not his forever school. Ten months into our relationship, he transferred to Providence University in Otterburne, MB, as it is a Christian university where he could play varsity soccer in the States.

So, much of our relationship has been long distance, though we see each other four months of the summer, over Christmas, and have surprise visited each other, too.

This December 14th, 2018, Johnny returned home from Winnipeg for Christmas, and we reunited emotionally and excitably as always. Johnny’s birthday was the following day, and his sister-in-law had texted me a few days before, having bought us tickets to the Toronto Symphony, and recommending a dinner spot as a birthday gift to Johnny for both of us.

That next day, I was so focused on making Johnny’s 23rd birthday special. After giving him his birthday gift, which included 23 photos of us with 23 things I love about him, Johnny suggested we dress up fancy for the symphony.

We drove to Toronto, talking endlessly, and were so pleasantly surprised by the beautiful atmosphere of the dinner spot that Johnny’s sister-in-law recommended, Bar Reyna. We enjoyed delicious food in one of my favourite settings of all times, and each other’s company, before deciding to walk half an hour to the symphony rather than drive over.

Being pretty clueless with directions, I didn’t realize we were passing Queen’s Park until we were standing right outside it. “Wow, is this Parliament?” I asked. There wasn’t a soul around, and it was dark outside, lit only by tinselly Christmas lights adorning the trees. “Yeah,” Johnny smiled. “I’m surprised you only just noticed.”

I immediately started reminiscing on that field trip three years ago. “I knew I was drawn to you, not because of who you were, but because of who Jesus was in you,” I said. “I knew I believed in Him the same way you did. I just had never before had the vocabulary for it.”

Johnny and I were both tearing up. I was silently praising and thanking God.

And it wasn’t until he stopped me, right out front of Queen’s Park, that I had a single CLUE that he was about to ask me a very important question. “I have a confession,” he said.

My heart went into my throat in excitement, emotion, and joy.

“Sarah didn’t plan this day, I did. All to bring you here, where we first met. To have the hopes of having the best birthday gift in the world.”

The rest of what he said was a blur. I was in the midst of the greatest surprise of my life.

When he got down on one knee and said, “Cassandra Andrea Wolfe, will you be my wife?” I nodded vehemently before pulling him up and kissing him.

Finally, Johnny pointed to the bushes far off, where my sister, Krystal, was taking photos. Johnny had paid for her trip down to capture the moment.

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.