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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A Letter to My Best Friend on Her 21st Birthday

Dear Maddie,

You’ve heard it before. But when I met you, literally from the moment I saw you, I remember thinking, consciously, “I want to be that girl’s friend.” Little did I know, less than a week later, I would share more of my soul with you than I ever had shared, and feel so quickly like you had been one of my closest friends for a long time already.

Embarking, then, on university together, every step of the way, I cannot imagine a university experience without you. From crying what feels like all my biggest cries with you, feeling 100% completely unjudged and 100% fully loved… from laughing some of my most obnoxious laughs with you, spending endless late nights half writing papers half fully engaged in long, sometimes deep, sometimes very not deep, conversations… living together the past two and half years, teaching each other, learning from each other, growing together. Maddie, I have learned so much from you.

I have learned that truly listening is one of the greatest gifts you could offer anyone. I always know I am so heard when I talk to you.

I have learned that long tangents about leggings, ketchup, grapefruits, socks, and other “little things” are possible, and that I love listening to yours.

I have learned that a life centred on Jesus that starts with prayer and submission to Him shows in that person’s selflessness and love. He is in you, Madds.

I have learned a lot about laundry, hair care, and the importance of removing my make-up.

I have learned and established some of my greatest morals and values alongside you and with your help.

I have learned the importance of laughter and taking breaks from being in the school zone.

I’ve learned and witnessed the beauty of trusting God with some of the things we feel we don’t want to trust Him with– knowing that His plans are always better.

Maddie, thank-you for being one of the greatest blessings of my 21 years. I know you are my lifelong sister, and I cannot wait to see what Jesus has in store and calls you to this year. I love you so very much.

One Major vs. Two: Is a Double Major the Way To Go?

Today’s post is all about double majoring.

Why did I decide to complete my undergrad as a double Major? What are the pros and cons of this? Who I recommend it to?

My application story:

I cannot recall ever being stressed about post-secondary, having doubts, or thinking twice. Looking back, I truly see this as a gift from God.

I declared in middle school that I was going to go to Wilfrid Laurier University for Christian Studies, for a couple main reasons: I was under (wrong) the impression that this was one of the only programs in Canada for Christian pastoralship, which I believed to be my calling since the age of nine, and my opa, one of biggest inspirations, was once the dean of the seminary at Laurier. I saw myself following in footsteps.

Throughout high school, while colleagues stressed about where they were applying, what schools might accept them, and how many different programs they should apply for, I… just wasn’t stressing. And in Grade 12, when it came time to apply, I applied solely to the Christian Studies I graduate program at Laurier.

I was accepted (the main requirement was a good English grade, which I had always had).

Coming to Laurier, still without question, boy was I ever made more aware than ever of just how much God has guided my path.

Not only have I grown closer to Him and learned about Him in ways only He could have foreseen;

I met the love of my life,

Some of my lifelong best friends,

and discovered naturally what gifts I really wanted to/felt called to utilize for ministry, and what my dream of “being a pastor” might look like.

In the process, I realized that majoring in solely Christian Studies meant I had to take a lot of electives, which, in first year, were very random according to my availability, from art history to Spanish (my only Cs in my university career– can you tell my interests?!). However, I took one English elective called Reading Fiction, and remembered words of many peers and role models in my life, from my opa, who said, “You would love to take literature courses,” my English teachers over the years, who encouraged me to pursue writing, and my own parents. These affirmations helped me to recognize a fire inside of me that I had always known, but never considered in terms of university, because what kind of job does one get with an English Literature degree?

All I knew was that I wanted more English classes. And so, I applied to double Major, and was accepted.

And the English classes I’ve taken have contributed to my degree, my maturation, and my learning in more ways than I can begin to express. I am a more well-rounded writer, more in tune with the importance of history, and in tune with my passion in analyzing classic writers.

Double Major If…

1. You realize most of your electives are in one field.

2. Your grades are suffering in your electives.

3. You cannot pick between two majors.

Don’t Double Major if…

1. You’re not incredibly confident in your choice of 1st major.

2. You find yourself wanting to explore a variety of other fields.

3. You don’t want to be on a strict schedule with course options.

My English Lit studies have complimented my Christian Studies in that the literature I’m reading for English classes has caused me to think critically about the application of ministry to different individuals in a Christian setting and in the world.

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.

Money, Money, Money: How I Went From Being a Self-Serving “Hyper-Saver” to Finding Balance with my Finances

Money.

It’s one of those things I was always taught not to talk about. I learned in childhood not to disclose how much of it I had, not to talk about my savings– and to save as much as possible.

Proverbs 13:11

Dishonest money dwindles away, but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow.

Proverbs 10:4

Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth.

These two proverbs are I think important when considering the use of money and, actually, the importance of saving it and “being smart” with it.

However, one could easily go to far with this, and save money with only his/herself and his own life in mind.

1 Timothy 6:10

The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

When I was in this hyper-saving, can’t-spend-a-penny-outside-my-budget mindset, I thought I was pretty awesome. I thought the amount I had in my savings was a virtuous thing. I thought I was better off than someone who spent a ton of money. Now, I didn’t think these things consciously, but they were definitely beliefs in my subconscious.

Now, reflecting on what I actually believe to be true, and praying about it, I have learned a few things.

Budgeting is important, but it’s not everything. As those proverbs state, wisdom with money is certainly important, because I don’t want to spend it all on myself. A lack of a plan with money is not what I’m called to. But an inability to go out with a friend for coffee who is having a really hard time because I “went over my coffee” budget is not necessary. If that friend really wants Starbucks, I can afford a couple dollars for a coffee– and even think about treating her of course! If this becomes excessive, I may think about inviting that friend for at-home coffee instead, but it doesn’t need to be so wound up in “my budget.” That is where I’m convinced of my conviction that it becomes selfless saving.

It is always better to give than to receive. Jesus Himself says this. And a giver is who Jesus is. And since really recognizing this is as Truth, this importance of giving– I’ve experienced such freedom with money.

Obviously, I’m not going to give all of my money away! Part of the calling I have with money in the society we live is to look after myself, paying bills, and even understanding when I’m meant to bless myself with that money. But knowing that I am blessing myself because I’m honouring God when I bless others with money– also recognizing the privilege it is, but that it’s not everything, is man-made, and temporary– is important.

All things belong to God– including “my” money. It isn’t really mine if everything under Heaven is God’s.

There is a common saying along the lines of “you earned it!” But I would urge you to think critically about everything you hear. As a Christian, I think about this in light of Scripture. My life story, actually, is that I am undeserving of any of the blessings graciously bestowed upon me– it is entirely because of Jesus that I have this life. This is my core belief. And so, when I work, and receive money for that work, I didn’t “earn” it or deserve it as much as I was given it as part of duty: working for the glory of God. And so, I come under Him with my money.

I had an experience in church a few months ago in which I heard God’s voice so clearly.

I don’t experience His audible voice very often, but He was incredibly clear to me about an amount of money I had in my bag that I was called to give to the church that day.

I was tight for money for the month based on the arbitrary budget I had in my head, and going over that budget would usually cause me stress.

Rather, I was overcome by Jesus’ love and very easily gave that money up. I have already watched Him tangibly bless and multiply it, as He promises to.

Since then, I have learned that it’s ok for me to like budgeting. It’s actually a blessing that I enjoy saving. But the Holy Spirit will always speak about generosity, and when He does, it’s always for all good that I listen.

There is also always room, and in Christ, I am literally, actually, truly free from the law. I have learned my fair share about the destruction strict rules can wreak on a person.

Matthew 6:21

Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Above all, I pray my treasure is in Jesus Christ, and that my heart, then, is fixed on serving Him.

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.