WHY IT’S IMPORTANT TO DIG INTO THE OLD TESTAMENT!
August 2017, the month I chose to turn to God and run in his direction. Sometime later that month, I found a local Christian store and walked into it ready to conquer the Word of the Almighty! With fresh interest in the Word, I was excited and determined! I walked out of, what would soon be, my new favourite store with a pack of gel highlighters, colourful pens and a plain black journaling Bible.
God must have been cheering me on because he had waited for this moment for 23 years and finally here, I was, approaching his throne with a smile on my face and a fierce fire in my soul.
It has now been almost 3 years since that day, and I have read through the vast majority of the Bible. I must say the Old Testament is truly something special!
I mean, we all love Jesus and he is an extremely important part of how the story ties together, but sometimes we tend to forget why we need Jesus. It is so much easier to embrace the New Testament with all the goodies packed inside just the first 4 books! And it’s amazing to read all the wisdom filled letters from Paul, especially being in prison when he wrote 7 of those letters over the course of 3 years. Amazing!
Before I give you 3 of my favourite reasons why reading the Old Testament is so important, I want to give you a little history. I decided to begin reading the Old Testament from Genesis and work my way through; by the time I got to Deuteronomy, I dropped down to my knees in serious praise. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I prayed to God, feeling so ashamed of every little thing I’d ever done, knowing that through it all he never stopped loving me. I can truly say that was the first day my eyes were actually opened, and I had an understanding heart.
How appreciative I am to have a God who still loves me no matter what! A God who knew we would all need Jesus! A God who did not just leave us hanging out to dry on a cold day, but a God who invited us into his palace to be with him and get to know him personally through Jesus!
We must never take the Old Testament for granted and must educate ourselves through the Old Testament as to why Jesus had to come.
We understand the main points: He died for our sins, he is the way, the truth, the light, but why? Why did Jesus do what he did and why does he claim to love us so much?
So, here are my 3 reasons why reading the Old Testament is so important and why it should NEVER be watered down!
- We need to get rid of our boastful attitudes and humble ourselves before the Lord. Reading the Old Testament is the perfect way to do this. (Ref. Psalm 12:3 NIV)
Reading 3-4 chapters of the Old Testament daily can really transform your heart and your understanding of God’s true love for us. Sin is just as bad now as it was back then, as it will be 1000 years from now.
You might be thinking: “I’m not as bad as the people back in the Old Testament days.”
And I would reply: “Maybe not, but we’re still very sinful.”
For example; people cheat on their taxes, steal items from stores, remove discount tags and attach them to an item in their carts and think nothing about committing those kinds of sins. Lying, whether big or small is sin. There’s talking about others behind their backs and mistreating others because they look or act a certain way that’s different from you. We can be really mean, rude and hurtful and those are all sins in God’s eyes. So, thank God we do NOT have to bring animal sacrifices every time we sin!
- The Old Testament also teaches us on how to pray through every situation - when they didn’t have Jesus as their example.
The Old Testament is filled with real people going through some really hard situations. These folks also did not have Jesus as their guide; they trusted in a very invincible God with mighty powers!
God knows we are going to fail; he is not condemning us for that. He wants us to learn how to fully rely on Him and not on ourselves, our pleasures or our friends. Bear your troubles at the Lord’s feet. He wants to hear from you; He wants to help you!
Nehemiah was a perfect example of a man of prayer not just for himself but for Israel! (Nehemiah 1:3-11)
Would you say you have a healthy prayer life? Would you say you have a vital connection to the Lord? He wants to know your heart not your practiced or repetitive prayers.
As Sheila Walsh puts it, “what would you ask Jesus for if you could see Him? If He was sitting right across from you at your kitchen table, listening, inviting you to ask for anything that was on your heart, what would you ask for?” (Praying Women by Sheila Walsh)
Putting prayer this way could really change your perspective on who you’re actually praying to - an almighty God with might powers!
- The tough books should be read to realize our sins are not far off from theirs, and this is why we need Jesus.
One of the most common sins most people don’t put much thought into is their words. We might not kill people, but there are some serious consequences with the words we use; some words have driven others to suicide. Let’s be real, our tongues are no laughing matter when used at a disadvantage to others! (Ref. Psalm 52:2 NIV)
So, here’s the thing; we might not enjoy reading everything in the Old Testament, but shall I remind you, the Old Testament isn’t meant to make us feel comfortable. The Bible is a book about God and who He is! It’s about God's unfailing love for His people no matter how rebellious they were, and no matter how rebellious we still are!
Time and time again I’ve heard the same reason why people avoid the Old Testament - the violence! It can be uncomfortable to read about all the murderous activities, but it should be read to help everyone understand how much more they needed a Saviour just as we do now.
We see real people chasing after God’s own heart, getting down on their knees and tearing their clothes in true agony, weeping out loud, begging the Lord for help. And then we see people tearing down temples and sacrificing their children to Baal just because they could. So thankfully we have two sides to one large story; two examples we should follow:
- The Old Testament folks should be our leading example of what NOT to do.
- Jesus as our PRIME example of what to do.
If we are always reading just one side of a good story, eventually we start overlooking what’s actually good about it. Sounds a little funny right? But it’s the truth!
All things aside, are YOU in his Word? The Lord is waiting for you to chase after His heart and get to know Him through His Word which He graciously gave to us. The Lord wants to hear from YOU!
Thank you, Father, thank you for your Word!
Thank you for our beloved Saviour Jesus Christ and everything He had to endure to become our Saviour.
I pray over the wonderful women who are reading this article which You guided me to write.
I pray you give each and every one of them renewed excitement in their souls, to open up their Bibles and turn to the Old Testament and start digging into your grace and forever unfailing love and guidance.
Lord, be with each and every one of these women, guide them as they journey back with a grateful heart and open their eyes to new perspectives.
Thank you for everything you’ve done and continue to do!
In Jesus’ name
By: Sheena Frederick
Photo Credit: All photos used were provided by Sheena.
Below is a photo of Sheena with her first Bible!
Listen to the deep lyrics of one of Cory Asbury's latest songs: "The Father's House".
Ten weeks into quarantine and we are beginning to see signs of re-entry for various sectors of our society sparking joy in some and fear in others.
The question that remains on the minds of many of us is this: when is the church going to get back together?
Whether churches are in Phase 2 or 3 of the government’s opening plan, we can all agree that it will not be business-as-usual. But what will that mean for us?
Just like we pivoted to virtual community gatherings when the quarantine began, we’d be required to pivot yet again to a “new normal” when it ends. As individuals and families, I believe that we ought to give some consideration to how we see ourselves functioning in this “new normal” reality, making informed decisions for ourselves and our families.
As Christians, this presents an opportunity for us to reflect on how quarantine has deepened our commitment to lives that truly honour God and demonstrate that we are his ambassadors.
When I emerge from this quarantine, I’m hoping that my life reflects one that shows:
- God-dependency - This pandemic has stripped us all of things that we held close to our hearts and that we may have believed were accomplished in our own strength. I pray that this pandemic also strips me of my self-sufficiency as I acknowledge my need for God in every area of my life.
- Gratitude - For many of us, we’ve assumed that all the things we enjoy would always be available and accessible to us, taking so much for granted. I pray that my new normal reflects a life that is grateful for all the blessings I enjoy, even the simplest ones.
- Growth - It’s easy to go through life running on autopilot. I pray that I will come out of this pandemic determined to grow through life as I learn from my experiences and fully apply myself to the mission for which I was created.
Finally, I hope to quit “doing” church and instead move to “being” the church.
Recently I saw a poster that said, “The church has left the building” and it caused me to think about how, generally speaking, we may have been too focused on looking inwardly. Perhaps this is a time for us to focus more of our resources on the needs of the world around us and away from the comforts of church buildings.
I continue to reflect on the question that Bishop Cliff asked of us to contemplate during this pandemic: “What is God allowing to die?”
I may have said in a previous post that when I get on the other side of this pandemic, I hope to be changed for the better – to someone who is more on fire for God, intentionally serving Him first and then to intentionally serve others.
By: Yolande A. Knight
It's the intention expressed in this Sanctus Real song "On Fire"
FOSTERING COMMUNITY THROUGH VIRTUAL PRAYER
I’ve recently acquired my very own copy of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book, Life Together, a must-read for every Christian who desires to do life in a thriving Christian community, in my humble opinion.
I am thankful to belong to such a community at Arlington Woods, which some feared would have been weakened through the physical distancing in this time of pandemic. I am happy to report that the opposite is true; I see a community strengthened through the nightly practice of meeting for prayer as well as intentionally finding ways to connect. I believe the same is true for many church communities around the world; for what the enemy meant for evil, God has used for good and his glory. (Ref: Gen 50:20)
While not every member of our church gathers each night for prayer, the ones who do are interceding on behalf of the entire church. I believe that the earnest prayers offered up for every person who attends Arlington Woods Church, or those who visit from time to time, will have lasting impact in their lives. Because at the heart of every prayer is a desire to see the church community grow closer to God & each other and be more effective in its outreach to the wider community.
But how has it impacted me?
I can think of at least three specific ways these nightly gatherings have impacted me during this time of isolation:
- Enriched Prayer Life - Listening to the variety of prayers by everyone has helped to enrich my own prayer time as I learn from some of the seasoned prayer warriors of our church community.
- Enhanced Faith - To say that my faith has been stirred would be a huge understatement! As we spend time recounting God’s goodness and experience the answers to prayers each night, it bolsters our faith and deepens our trust in God.
- Encouragement to Persevere - I have been challenged to listen, to be comfortable in the silence, to wait and trust God’s timing and to keep running the race even when life gets hard knowing that others are praying on my behalf.
So let me invite you to drop in to one of these nightly prayer Zoom meetings; you don’t have to say anything or even show your face, but I promise, you will be richly blessed by the prayers of God’s people over you as they stand in the gap against this pandemic. (If you are a part of the AWC community, send an email to Alanna for the info to sign in at firstname.lastname@example.org)
By: Yolande A. Knight
One of the viral songs of this season is "The Blessing" by Kari Jobe, Cody Carnes & Elevation Worship. Be blessed by the Symphonic Version from Passion City Church.
I wish I could tell you that every time God speaks to me, I clearly hear his voice or that I always get it right when I believe I’ve heard from God. I wish I could tell you that I know when God gives me a word for someone, and that I eagerly relay that message with confidence and conviction. Unfortunately, I can’t; more often than not, I get it wrong.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been sensing that God is asking me to listen to him and to tune out the distractions around me – and let me quickly say, there are many! For starters, I’m always working on multiple projects at the same time. Then, I spend too much time on my smartphone, scrolling through Social Media, discovering new playlists, responding to those annoying alerts, etc. I also thrive on staying in touch with people, and I occasionally watch too much Netflix.
As I journal my thoughts each morning, I normally get the process started by writing this question in my journal: “Holy Spirit, what are You saying to me today?” On Saturday, April 18th, here is part of what I believed I heard the Holy Spirit say to me:
“When you hear from God, you will know exactly what to do. So keep listening. Tune in and adjust your frequency to hear from God. Get rid of all the distractions and keep the frequency clear. Adjust your antennas.”
Now, I wish I had edited that entry for grammar and spelling but that was what I captured. A few days later, on April 25th, I received a similar message.
Imagine my reaction when our leader at Nightly Prayer on Tuesday, May 5th, instead of starting with the usual Scripture reading, made this announcement: I believe God wants for us to hear his voice and he is asking us to listen to him.
Wow, God! I thought.
You see, I firmly believe that God is preparing us for a great harvest that is going to come out of this season of global hardship. But, he needs his people to be mature and ready for those whom he will send to us.
The question is not; is God still speaking but rather, are we listening? This is the essence of John 10:3-5, that as we grow closer to God, we will recognize his voice.
As I began delving deeper into this topic, I was led to the parable of the sower that Jesus told and was recorded in Matthew 13:3-23, Mark 4:2-20, and Luke 8:4-15 where Jesus says “who has ears, let them hear.” This is one of the few parables that Jesus took the time to explain, which is quite significant, as it removes any doubt as to its meaning - that we need to have prepared hearts to “hear” God clearly. Take some time to read this parable again and get a fresh perspective.
Here are my takeaways from that parable as it pertains to the obstacles that prevent us from clearly hearing God speak:
- A Polluted Heart - We may have too much stuff in our hearts to hear God clearly – these may be self-inflicted, unconfessed sin or they may be relationships that we need to restore. (James 1:21 NLT)
- A Distracted Heart - Hell is determined to keep us from hearing from God so we may need to turn down the world’s volume that keeps us distracted from hearing God’s voice. (Luke 10:39-40 AMP)
- A Neglected Heart - We may need to stop making excuses and start making changes in our life and our worship that helps us to mature in our relationship with God. (Heb 12:1-2 GNT)
Ultimately, God is looking for a Prepared Heart - We can prepare our hearts when we offer true repentance, refocus our priorities, and ask God to bring a revival in our lives. (2 Cor 7:1 MSG)
In this current global crisis, many are calling on God to hear us from heaven and heal our land. I submit that God is listening to us and waiting for us to get our hearts set right and make ourselves truly humble and available (2 Chron 7:14 ESV).
One of the new releases from Elevation Worship - "Available" speaks to this issue.
By: Yolande A. Knight
I can honestly say that I’ve never met someone who enjoys waiting though I’m sure that such a person exists; I’ve just not met them yet. Let me tell you that I am not that person; my patience meter is usually running on empty on any given day. Needless to say, this current perpetual state of waiting has been very difficult for me as it’s been for many of you.
Yet God is asking us to wait! Millions of believers around the world are praying and seeking God for an end to this crisis and no one knows when that time will be.
This reminds me of the Israelites who waited 400 years for deliverance and even then, God took them the long way around, through the desert, to get to the Promised Land. As we have studied their journey and reflected on their response, we have often criticized their grumbling, lack of faith and trust in God. You can read the account in Exodus 13-17.
But how are we measuring up in the face of COVID-19 in 2020?
I’ve read somewhere that in an average lifetime of 80 years, we spend approximately six of those years waiting. Of course, not all at once, but broken down into chunks of time; waiting at traffic lights, in lines at various places for services, waiting on people, waiting for a response to a question, for a baby to arrive, for a call back from our doctor, a job offer, and the like. It all adds up. It begs the question about how our waiting, during this time of COVID-19, will affect that average of six years!
Waiting is not easy, even for the most patient person but it does not have to be unbearable. I have found that waiting is less painful when I shift my focus.
May I share three ways that have consistently helped me to shift focus during extended periods of waiting:
- Refining my worship - Waiting reveals the “thing” that we worship the most. Our worship can be aimed at success, acquisitions, something, or someone other than God. I’ve learned to increase my worship of Jesus while I wait on him and I do so by saturating myself with his Word, being in constant communion with him through prayer, and surrounding myself with uplifting music that glorifies God.
- Recalling God’s unchanging faithfulness in my life - As someone who journals on a regular basis, this has been easy for me to do. During this current time, I have spent hours re-reading journals from several years ago and I have been reminded of and astounded by the many times when God showed up for me in miraculous ways. Will he do it again? Absolutely!
- Preparing for my next season - I recognize that this term “season” is one that we (Christians) frequently use which may cause it to lose its effectiveness. I do believe that, just like God’s natural order has distinctive seasons such as spring, summer, fall, and winter; so too do our lives. I don’t always recognize when I am heading out of a season, but I have come to distinguish when I am being prepared for a next season. I believe that “The Church” is in a time of preparation for its next season.
As I have been reflecting on this time, I discovered this worship song by Lincoln Brewster, "While I Wait" which had me completely undone. I urge you to listen to the lyrics of this song which I believe will encourage you today.
By: Yolande A. Knight