Love, assumption, and discernment

photo made with the #vrsly app, photo subject…a very much loved Zeke-y. 🙂
Day 5 – Discernment is Excellent
So much is excellent in our lives. We know that every good and perfect gift is from above. All the gifts we have come from the Lord. Look around you, take a moment, and praise Him by lifting up some things, some people, and some moments in life you are thankful for. He is truly an Awesome God.
Today we are going to reflect on one more form of “excellent.”
Philippians 1:9-11 tells us that we can approve what is excellent, we can discern that which is excellent:
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
Again Romans 2:17-23 reflects the same phrasing:
“But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law.” 
I added the emphasis in the ESV translations above, but can you see the similar phrases stick out this way?
The Greek word in these passages for excellent is diapheronta, which means to carry through, to show what is different, to surpass or excel. Let’s use Scripture to interpret Scripture.
I love the way the passage in Philippians says, “that your love may abound more and more…so that you may approve what is excellent…”
It is in love that we are able to see what is excellent. When we look at everything around us. We look with the rose colored glasses of God’s love for His people.
Occasionally, our zeal for the law, our legalism for things that are, in fact, excellent and righteous even, blind us to being able to see what is Christ. Certainly the Gospel cannot be understood apart from the Law, but we can be so wrapped up in how we think the law or the gospel should look, that we miss it standing in front of us. Let’s let our discernment be Christ’s discernment in us, not our ideas about what is right and wrong, but firmly planted in God’s Justice and God’s Grace, revealed in His Word.
Romans 2:21 above, asks, “you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself?” It is only in being the constant learner that we can discern. 
We identify our assumptions and call them out for what they are. We approve what is excellent by sitting as Mary sat at Jesus’s feet, by letting Grace sweep over us; letting dishes stay unwashed and work left undone. We daily are invited to pick up the Word, and use a moment to bask in His purity, His goodness, and His Words of Excellence.
Excellence in the passages today is discerned in the daily life with Christ. It’s not found in the Sunday morning box we check, but in the authenticity of the journey because we firmly believe in an authentic God, and He gives us His authentic Word to learn and grow and love.
What, therefore, is excellent to you? What do you see around you that surpasses because it is of Him? That may be your church (It is excellent! He created it!). It may also be your garden, it may be the laughter in your home or the tears of a friend shed over a shared life. It changes our idea of what is excellent, because to be excellent, it simply needs to be touched by Him, redeemed by His Grace.
Go and discern, ladies. We have something a little different to share. Something that will carry us through. This life, this walk…excellent.   

Giving excellence where excellence is due…

Session 4 – Excellent authority, excellent correspondence 
Honorable Ladies of the Philippians Bible Study,
How happy I am to have you join me on this journey of discussion and growth! How wonderful it is to discover the nuances of His Word, and the sweetness of His Grace through the text. Please continue on! Forge ahead in setting aside a moment each day to read, to laugh, to be challenged, and to grow up in Him, in Jesus.
May Christ’s grace go before you, behind you, and in you.
Much love and affection, Heidi
Ok, so maybe we don’t usually talk like that. But if I wrote you a letter today, that is what it would say. I’m so thankful for hearing from all of you and sharing in fellowship and learning side by side.
And this, friends, is how letters in the New Testament were written. People talked a bit different, but not so different.
The form of the word excellent that we are going to unwrap today is associated with those in authority. It has to do with a way of addressing those of distinction by rank or order, and is often found in a letter or formal address.
The root word in Greek is Kristos and it refers to one who is noble and/or strong, but it also is very specific as an “official epithet” of a Roman of high rank. It’s a governmental word. (Bear with me, this does have impact on our lives, I promise!)
Let’s look in Acts 23:16-27 first:
“Now the son of Paul’s sister heard of their ambush, so he went and entered the barracks and told Paul. Paul called one of the centurions and said, “Take this young man to the tribune, for he has something to tell him.” So he took him and brought him to the tribune and said, “Paul the prisoner called me and asked me to bring this young man to you, as he has something to say to you.” The tribune took him by the hand, and going aside asked him privately, “What is it that you have to tell me?” And he said, “The Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul down to the council tomorrow, as though they were going to inquire somewhat more closely about him. But do not be persuaded by them, for more than forty of their men are lying in ambush for him, who have bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they have killed him. And now they are ready, waiting for your consent.” So the tribune dismissed the young man, charging him, “Tell no one that you have informed me of these things.”
Then he called two of the centurions and said, “Get ready two hundred soldiers, with seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen to go as far as Caesarea at the third hour of the night. Also provide mounts for Paul to ride and bring him safely to Felix the governor.” And he wrote a letter to this effect:
“Claudius Lysias, to his Excellency the governor Felix, greetings. This man was seized by the Jews and was about to be killed by them when I came upon them with the soldiers and rescued him, having learned that he was a Roman citizen. “

So, there is a plot against Paul by the Jews. His nephew finds out and goes to a Roman Centurion with power to impact the situation. The Centurion (Claudius) writes a letter to the governor, alerting him of the plot. Note the tone invoked in the letter by the simple use of the word Kratisto, or Excellency. When is it appropriate to honor someone because they hold an appropriate title? This isn’t manipulation. It is recognizing and accepting authority. So often we see Facebook posts or political comics that dishonor and poke fun at those who lead us. While, sometimes this is all in fun and our leaders are kind enough to laugh along, we need to be cautious, as Christians, to give credit where credit is due. If we want change, the Bible shows us in this passage (see also Acts 26), the appropriate way to go about it is through speaking the Truth with respect and having care with our words.
 Luke uses this form of excellent in another New Testament letter.

Read Luke 1:1-4:
Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.
This is the beginning of the Gospel of Luke, a letter to help Theophilus understand and “have certainty” about the life and work of Jesus Christ.
This gives us a new insight. We can address those that we share the Gospel with from a place of relationship and with honor and respect due to them as children of God and people in our lives. Luke knew Theophilus and knew what he had been taught. He shared further about Jesus to help him grow and learn, but he used language that lifted up. Who knows where Theophilus’s theology was at, but we can guess that he didn’t have it all perfect, because why else would the letter be necessary? Still, Luke calls him “most excellent.” He uses the appropriate title of authority, as a way to honor the one whom he is sharing with.
We may not be writing letters or sending texts to the President or the Governor. However, we can:

    A) honor those in our society whom honor is due…soldiers, police, political authorities,    rescue personnel, teachers, pastors, etc. (Who am I missing? I know I’m missing someone!  Please share in the comments!)
    B) honor those we share the Gospel, whether believers or unbelievers, by our language.  Maybe it comes back to the gentle-bold words of day 3. Words matter and the Holy Spirit  will surely guide.
Challenge: Write an actual letter! Crazy talk, right?! Dig out the notecards, find a sheet of paper, or even one of your Scripture Engagement Tools, and send an encouraging note to someone today. Share Jesus, share His love, share yourself.
Dear friends, you are most Excellent to me.

Ending my battle with Proverbs 31…Excellent.

Session 2 – Ending my battle with Proverbs 31…Excellent.
Interestingly enough, in my Biblical search of the word excellence, Proverbs 31 kept popping up. Interesting because this is a women’s Bible study, and interesting because I avoid the passage at all costs.
Proverbs 31, any proverb really, is a minefield, for the Bible study writer, in my opinion. Proverbs is wisdom literature, which means it is helpful, insightful even, but isn’t meant to be always and never. I don’t need to get up at 4am and sell yarn in the marketplace to be a wife of noble character (v. 13-15, interpreted by Heidi, tongue in cheek) Wisdom literature is intended to do just that – impart some broad wisdom. Think of it like talking to an older and wiser mentor woman from church. You thank God for her and discern her thoughts and ideas, but your situation may not exactly line up with her suggestions and that’s ok. Complicate all of that with the inerrancy of God’s Word and “ta-da!” – minefield.
However, the Proverbs 31 woman, is indeed called excellent. More than once!

Let’s read together. Don’t get wrapped up in it yet. Just let the words flow from the page and sit a bit.
Proverbs 31:10-31:
An excellent wife who can find?
    She is far more precious than jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her,
    and he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good, and not harm,
    all the days of her life.
She seeks wool and flax,
    and works with willing hands.
She is like the ships of the merchant;
    she brings her food from afar.
She rises while it is yet night
    and provides food for her household
    and portions for her maidens.
She considers a field and buys it;
    with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
She dresses herself
 with strength
    and makes her arms strong.
She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
    Her lamp does not go out at night.
She puts her hands to the distaff,
    and her hands hold the spindle.
She opens her hand to the poor
    and reaches out her hands to the needy.
She is not afraid of snow for her household,
    for all her household are clothed in scarlet.
She makes bed coverings for herself;
    her clothing is fine linen and purple.
Her husband is known in the gates
    when he sits among the elders of the land.
She makes linen garments and sells them;
    she delivers sashes to the merchant.
Strength and dignity are her clothing,
    and she laughs at the time to come.
She opens her mouth with wisdom,
    and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She looks well to the ways of her household
    and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and call her blessed;
    her husband also, and he praises her:
Many women have done excellently,
    but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Give her of the fruit of her hands,
    and let her works praise her in the gates.
So we find excellent in verse 10 and verse 29. It’s reflective of the sandwich idea again. So, in Hebrew, that draws attention to the reader, emphasis on the idea – She is excellent.
Most days, I feel not so excellent. I’ll be honest, lately, it’s been so much less than not excellent. I try to keep my family’s schedule together, but I show up late everywhere. I even show up at the wrong places at the wrong times. I want to make healthy meals and forget 3 out of the 7 ingredients at the store. It feels like my husband and children want every little piece of me and, girls, there’s only so much to go around.

The Hebrew root word for excellent in this passage is hayil. I think it can shed some light on the subject and help us redefine Proverbs 31 and excellent for us. Praise the Lord!
Hayil is actually a masculine noun. It can mean capable, wealthy, efficient, and is reflective of strength, valour, and power. Hmmmmmm…that does not sound very feminine to me.
And maybe I’m taking this too far, maybe I’m too wrapped up in my ideas of gender roles and trying to be the mom who does it all that I’m desperate for a little scrap of Grace on the subject, but I think there is another reason this particular word is used for excellent, when there are other Hebrew roots available that also reflect excellence.
Maybe, just maybe, it’s because we’re not supposed to be Excellent.
But He is.
Christ is strong. He is capable. He is efficient. He has it all together.
I am His instrument. I go through my day. I honor Him with my lips. I let His Spirit leak out of me in the market, at my table, in bed beside my husband. It’s my job to be weak and real and open.
An excellent wife who can find?
A wife that reflects Christ, because He lives in me.
That’s me. That’s it.
That is excellent. I am excellent in Christ.
Excellent Mom. Excellent wife. Excellent me.