Jules Suman †

Finding my voice as a wife, mother, teacher, and a follower of Jesus

Bible Study – #4 “Today” August 1, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — susanmkopp @ 10:30 am

467359811_640The text for this study is taken from Luke 23:39-43.  This text is from the crucifixion of Jesus.  We don’t normally copy over the exact text but it seemed appropriate this time.  Keep in mind, this is text taken while Jesus hung on the cross, between two other “criminals.”

 

39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

 

For me, there has always been something tragically beautiful about the crucifixion.  I realize that sounds a bit morbid but hear me out.   A man gave up his life for me.  A man was tortured, hung on a cross and died for me.  What is not beautiful about that?  But that’s not the only beautiful part of this story.  He did all of this for everyone, including the thieves that hung beside him.

 

As I type this, I struggle to find the right words for this study so I’m just going to ramble on (like I do best) about what is so astounding to me, about this story.

 

Jesus told that criminal that he would be with Jesus TODAY.

 

Are you hearing me?  TODAY.

 

There was no “I’ll swing by and get you when I come back in three days.”  Or “Hey, let me chat with big Papa and we’ll think about it.”  Or “Let me think about it, I’m a little preoccupied right now.”

 

He said TODAY.  Right now.  As soon as you take your last breath, the next one will be taken in glory.

 

Isn’t that amazing?  Isn’t that epic?  Doesn’t that give you chills?  If it doesn’t, it should and let me tell you why.

 

God forgives those who ask for it.  Instantly.  You don’t have to wait, you don’t have to do penance, you only have to ask.  BOOM.  Done.  God just asks that you believe in him.  This criminal clearly believed that Jesus was the Messiah.  He confessed this with his mouth when he asked those mocking Jesus why they weren’t afraid.  Then, he simply asked that Jesus remember him when he got to his kingdom.  He acknowledged Jesus was Lord, asked for forgiveness and it was done.  Done.  Done.  Done.  Here are a few scriptures you can read on your own time to back this up:  1 John 1:9, Acts 3:19, 2 Corinthians 5:17…I had to Google some of these, I need to be better.

 

God loves us.  It’s true.  He loves us so much that he sent his son to die for us.

 

This small scripture may go unnoticed by most and certainly isn’t really thought of when you think of Jesus’ last moments on the cross and I can understand why.  There was quite a bit going on in those last hours of his life but it strikes something in me (and chokes me up with tears, and causes me to rant to Brian and Jules about how awesome this moment was) that he says “Today you will be with me in paradise.”

 

This makes my heart sing.  Crazy, unfathomable love.  It’s hard for me to understand but I can relate to this criminal in the sense that I need redemption.  I need to be saved.  I need a savior.  I need this kind of love.  I need someone to love me beyond what I’ve done, beyond the mistakes I’ve made, beyond what I think of myself.

Questions:

1.  What do you think paradise means in this context?

2.  Put yourself in the shoes of this criminal – what do think his emotions/thoughts were after Jesus said this to him?

3.  Think of another promise God has made in the Bible that has stuck out to you.  Explain why.

4. What kind of criminal do you think you are?

5.  What does “today” mean to you?

 

Bible Study #3 – “Neither Do I” July 29, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — julessuman @ 10:43 am

The text for this study is taken from John 8:1-11. There are debates about whether this story was in the original (greek) gospel of John, or whether it was added 100 years or so later. That debate is not the purpose of this post from my viewpoint. This happens to be one of my favorite stories (I think I say that about a lot of stories from the Bible).

Jesus was at the Temple one morning. The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They most certainly understood the law and what it said the punishment was – however they ignored the fact that the law said that both parties should be punished…they only dragged the woman to the temple. Hmm.

So here is this woman. Caught in the act…and dragged into a large crowd of people. I can’t imagine what she must have felt. Barely clothed. Terrified for her life. Completely shamed and humiliated.

These men though were only using the woman as a pawn in their game to trip Jesus up and trap him into saying something they could use against him (they wanted him dead). Now this makes me really not like these guys. They are using someone to accomplish their own agenda. Not just using her, but publicly humiliating her and threatening to stone her – all to make their point! Jesus was the real target, she was just their weapon of choice.

At this point Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. Some scholars suggest that he was stalling for time as he figured out how to handle the situation. Perhaps he was doodling – some people do this when they think. I’ve never much thought of Jesus as a doodler. I like to think he was just taking his time – giving the teachers and Pharisees time to squirm and get really anxious. At this point he stands back up – and the teachers demand an answer from him. “The law of Moses says stone her. What do you say?” I’m sure at this point the Pharisees are feeling pretty good about themselves, thinking they finally got him on this one.

Jesus answers by saying, “The one who has never sinned should throw the first stone.” (As I read this story over and over it came to me…isn’t Jesus “the one” who has never sinned?) And then he bent down and began writing again. At this point it is believed by some that he was writing the names and sins of each of this woman’s accusers (he’s Jesus – he certainly knew what they were guilty of). I truly hope that is what was happening here. I picture him thinking “Alright, boys…if this is how you want to play it – let’s go”  I can see Jesus waiting for their reply. Looking at each one of them and then back down to his list in the dust, and then back to each one of them.

One by one the men dropped their stones and left the scene. Of course they didn’t mind exposing this woman’s sin – but when it came to their own sins begin exposed they were gone! They could very clearly see and point out the sins of others, but could not see their own sin.

Finally just Jesus was left with the woman. She had to be wondering what in the world would happen next. Still scared and humiliated. Jesus walked to her and asked her “Didn’t even one of them condemn you?’

“No, Lord.” (She called him Lord…)

“Neither do I…Go and sin no more.”  He didn’t yell at her. Shame her. Tell her how worthless she was. Call her an adulterer. He did acknowledge that she had sinned, but in those simple three words…Neither do I, he offered forgiveness and compassion and hope. Jesus saw her with love, not judgment. He told her to go and leave her old life behind and that there is true life in him. Jesus was much more concerned about the woman’s future than her past. In those three words, Jesus freed her from her past. She was understood by Jesus rather than condemned by him. Rather than being stoned, she was saved.

Questions:

1. Think about something that has caused you shame. What does it feel like to even think of that thing? Now imagine if it were publicly announced.

2. This woman was judged by the religious leaders and the Pharisees? Have you ever felt judged this way? Have you ever judged someone else?

3. What do you think about the fact that the woman called Jesus “Lord”?

4. Tell about a situation where you have seen God show mercy in your life instead of letting you suffer the consequences of your actions. How has God shown mercy in your past circumstances?

5. Describe what you think was going through the woman’s mind as Jesus wrote in the dust.

6. In what practical ways can we be merciful to others in our daily lives?

 

 

Team Me July 26, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — julessuman @ 11:24 am

teammeAnd we wonder what’s wrong with society today…Last night I saw someone wearing a t-shirt that had the school’s football logo (not Edgewood) on the front, and on the back the shirt read “Team Me”. If you are the person that was wearing that shirt and are reading this, I apologize…and this is no reflection on you personally. Every time I saw those words I just kept thinking that there was something not right about them. I mean, I know I’m a girl but, first of all, from a football standpoint, it’s pretty much a team sport, right?! But as the phrase settled in my mind, I know that it’s really about something so much bigger. In our society we are bombarded with the idea that life is really all about ME. Life here in America is about looking out for #1 and stepping on anyone who gets in the way. We are teaching our children (and ourselves) that WE are the center of the universe and that what WE are doing, wearing, eating, is of utmost importance to the rest of the world. If our society was not so driven on being so self-centered, would we be overwhelmed with a non-stop barrage of SELFIES?

This concept of TEAM ME is so counterintuitive to the teachings of Jesus.

Jesus says, “If any of you want to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23, emphasis mine). The world says “You can’t be number 1 if you’re following.”

In Galatians 2:20, Paul says, “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.”  If anybody out there would understand dying to self it would be Paul. He was a zealous persecutor of Christians who believed whole-heartedly in what he was doing…until Jesus showed him the true way to life. And that true way to life was in death. No longer living for oneself and one’s selfish desires. Not needing to be number 1.

In the book of John are written the words that I must remind myself each and every day when I become selfish and want my way rather than following the way God has planned. “He must become greater, and I must become less and less.” Is this what we are teaching our kids? There IS someone greater out there. And we must make him the leader over us as we become less. His desires for us become more, our selfishness becomes less. His way in our lives become more, our plans become less. His love in our hearts for others, our love for ourselves becomes less.

There is no room for TEAM ME if we want to follow Jesus.

 

Bible study #2 – Jonah and the whale…the whole story! July 25, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — susanmkopp @ 1:26 pm

whaleHi!  It’s Susan and Jules has given me the honor to write the next study for everyone.  Yikes!  I’d like to say that I’m not as great of a writer as Jules and am still “new” to the Bible and studying it.  So, please, be kind and patient with me!

The text for this story is Jonah 1-4.

I know that most of us know the story of Jonah and the whale.  Right?  But, do we really know the story?  I didn’t, until I thought about this blog and the lesson I was going to work on.

In the beginning, God asks Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach against their wicked ways. Jonah ran away. He boarded a boat to Tarshish to feel from the Lord. The Lord saw Jonah and sent a great wind and storm into the sea. All the sailors were terrified but not Jonah, he had gone below deck and fell into a deep sleep. The sailors went to Jonah because they knew he was running from the Lord. They asked him what to do about the rough waters and Jonah instructed them to throw him overboard.  At first, they balked but eventually, they did. Immediately, the seas and wind calmed. Jonah was swallowed by a giant fish (whale) and spend the next 3 days and 3 nights in the belly of that giant fish. While inside the whale, Jonah (who knew of his disobedience) prayed and cried out to God to spare him. God ordered the fish to “vomit” (ew) Jonah onto dry land. Growing up, this is where the story seemed to stop (for most of us) but the story doesn’t end there!

God then asked Jonah to go to Nineveh and give the people there, a message from the Lord. Jonah obeyed (can ya really blame him?) and went into Nineveh. He proclaimed that Nineveh would be overthrown by God. The people of Nineveh believed in God and Jonah’s message and fasted (putting on sack clothes) and turned from their evil ways. God saw what they did and relented, not bringing on the destruction he’d threatened.

Jonah got MAD at God! The compassion that God showed Nineveh angered Jonah. Jonah then asked God to end his life. God asked him if he had a right to be angry. Jonah sat outside of the city and God provided a tree to shade Jonah. Jonah was happy. The next day, God provided a worm which ate the tree and the sun rose and sent blazing heat. Jonah asked God to kill him again.

But the Lord answered:  (Jonah 4:10) – 10 But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. 11 And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?”

I remember as a child thinking about this and being desperately afraid of being in a dark, slimy belly of a whale for disobeying God but I don’t know that I really got this (and maybe I still don’t) until I read it now. You see, in my opinion, God was teaching Jonah several lessons here. The one that stands out to me the most is what God says to Jonah at the end. Jonah was pouting. He went to the edge of the city where he could pout and be mad at God in peace. So, God, in his own way, showed Jonah by using the tree. When God first created the tree, it please Jonah. It provided shade from the hot sun so he had a cool place to hang out while he pouted. Along came the worm. The worm ate at the tree and ultimately destroyed it. God created Nineveh. Along came sin. Sin ultimately ate at the people of Nineveh and it was wicked in the sight of God. God almost destroyed Nineveh, but instead, he used Jonah to go into the town and preach to them about their wickedness and to turn away from their sin or destruction was coming.

Nineveh repented!  They turned away from their wicked ways and went back to God.

Aren’t our lives much like that? God creates us (like he created the tree). He loves us, with all kinds of crazy, unfathomable love. Our lives ROCK. Then…sin (the worm) comes along. And sin is like “Oh hey…come do this…” And we do. Or sin is all “Hey, that’s not true…you really aren’t awesome like God wants you to believe…” And we believe it.

God sighs heavily, shakes his head (this is how I picture it) and he sends various things/people/a whale – into our lives to give us a chance to come back to his grace, love and mercy. Because in the end, God doesn’t want us to be destroyed. He wants us to be with him forever, worshipping him, loving him, caring about him because he does the same for us.

God punished Jonah but when Jonah saw the error of his ways, God forgave him. It didn’t stop God’s purpose or request from Jonah but he forgave him. Just as he did for Nineveh.

Follow up questions for “discussion.”You may choose to answer any or all of them. In your comment, either refer to the question number or refer specifically to the question.

1.  Do you feel like God has ever called you to do something that you’ve not wanted to do?

2 .  Have you ever been mad at God for his compassion/love/forgiveness towards others?

3.  In what ways can you identify with Jonah?

4.  Has God ever sent a whale into your life to teach you a lesson?

5. Is anyone else deathly afraid of being swallowed up by a whale?  Or is it just me?

 

Sweet summertime July 24, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — julessuman @ 8:21 am
Tags: , , , , , , ,

photoThe house is quiet, the coffee is hot and filling the air with a “comfortable” aroma. The date at the top the page reads July 24th. Summer is speeding by…moments like these will be packed away soon for another season. Bible study has become my favorite part of each day – but especially int he summer, when I’m not really on a schedule. On a summer day I can dig into the word and get lost in my study time – not having to worry about getting ready for work, for being on time, the day that lies ahead. I can let the word lead me from one subject to the next, as prompted by the Spirit. To me it has become beautiful time of discovery. About my God, and about myself. I am so grateful for these quiet moments in the morning spent with my creator.

 

Bible study #1 – The Widow of Zarephath July 20, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — julessuman @ 8:29 pm

widowDisclaimer: I am not a Bible scholar! I love reading God’s word and learning and studying it – but I do not claim to be a deep theological thinker or teacher. You’ve been warned. This is the first of this type of blog – a type of small group study – to share ideas and thoughts and answer some questions. So here goes.

The text for this story is I Kings 17:8-16

The story of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath is found in the 17th chapter of I Kings. When I first heard/read this story, I thought it was mostly a story about the great prophet Elijah. And it is…but there is a lot to be learned from the obedient widow in the story as well. First of all, she was living in the land that was associated with the worship of Baal – a god thought to be responsible for nature – rain, crops, etc. She did not worship the one true God. This is evident in verse 12 when she says to Elijah, “I swear by the Lord your God…” (emphasis mine). She and her son are in the middle of a famine. They are both facing starvation. Along comes Elijah and asks her for the very little bit of food that she has left. She doesn’t know this guy. All she knew was that she had very little food left…so little that she told the great prophet that she was going to “cook this last meal, and then my son and I will die.” verse 12. But you know what she did…she gave it to him. She was obedient to Elijah and to God. She gave it to him knowing that it would leave her with nothing. She gave it to him not knowing that God would provide. But Elijah told her “Don’t be afraid.” So she was obedient, trusted him, and stepped in faith to do what he said. She was such a shining example of faithfulness. True faithfulness means that we must place the kingdom of God above any personal concerns. Matthew 6:33 tells us, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”

So here is why I love this story…my lessons and takeaways. First, God used this dying widow (whom we assume worshipped a false god) to take care of and sustain one of his greatest prophets. God knew her situation, he knew her needs and he knew her heart. He used her as an instrument to demonstrate amazing faith. If God knew her like this, this says to me that he knows each of His daughters – including me! He is aware of my needs! She had so much faith. She did not know how the situation would turn out. She did not know that God would truly provide enough to sustain her and her son…but she walked blindly – by faith – into the unknown. She sacrificed what very little she had to be obedient. God wants us to be willing to sacrifice everything for him. Even when it looks like there is nothing left in our “barrel” we should be willing to be obedient to him. And here is the part I really take a strong lesson from. God gave the widow enough flour and oil in her jar to make that day’s meal. And each day she was faithful to know that it would be there. He didn’t give her an endless supply all at once. He gave just what she needed on a daily basis. I believe that God truly does know what we need and asks us to trust him to supply it as we need it. We just have to be faithful and obedient.

So here are some follow-up questions for ‘discussion’. You may choose to answer any or all of them. In your comment, either refer to the question number, or refer specifically to the question.

1. Why does God ask us to sacrifice?

2. What made the widow’s faith remarkable?

3. What other examples can you find in the Bible when the Lord asks for complete surrender?

4. When was the last time you had to reach out in raw faith trusting in what you could not see or understand?

5. How is this woman similar to you and experiences you have had in your life?

Here are some follow-up verses that I think connect well with this story; Philippians 1:6, Proverbs 28:27, Luke 6:38

 

We need to do something July 6, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — julessuman @ 4:41 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

believe
Hi there! Me again. It’s been 3 months since my last blog. I am ashamed of that but I’m back and starting again. I think I have had lots of thoughts and ideas for posts in the last three months, but I haven’t allowed myself to sit long enough and make them happen. But then today, something that I said to Brian after lunch kind of collided with a few things that Pastor David spoke about in his sermon this morning and I knew I needed to explore them here.

Brian’s dad, Dennie Suman, is battling cancer. He has been for a few years, but about a year ago it was “under control” and he was on monthly “maintenance” treatments. Recently it has begun growing again, and now the doctors are finding new tumors. He is rapidly losing weight and honestly, things do not look good. It’s sad to watch. Brian was moved to go spend some time with his daddy and really ask him where he stood with the Lord. He was able to pray with Dennie, and invited him to church today. I’ll admit I was a little surprised when I turned the corner this morning and found he and Pat (his longtime “girlfriend”) in the lobby. I had feared that he would just be too tired to get up and out the door for church – but he made it! I did my best not to let the shock of his sunken face and dramatic weight loss show on my face. I was thrilled they were there to worship with us.

Pastor David continued his series entitled “Who We Are” and spoke of how the world views us as Christians. Are we a people who would walk to the other side of the road and right past someone in need? Or do we stop and help people out of their ditches and love on them and let them see Jesus in us. (Okay…there was much more to his sermon – this is what really  resonated with me). Are we, as Christians, telling people what they need or are we showing people Jesus in our actions and in our lives?

So – here is where these two parts of my world came together today. After having lunch and a tearful, tough goodbye to Dennie and Pat, Brian and I quietly came home – both kind of fighting tears (he may not admit that). I told him that I just feel helpless and that we need to do something for his dad and Pat. Maybe I could cook some dinners, maybe we could go do yard work or clean their house. Whatever!?!? I just felt like we needed to DO something. But why? Of course any or all of those things would be nice things to do – and I’m sure they would be appreciated and helpful to them. But those things were really about me. Why did I feel the need to just do and do and do? I guess because I don’t know what else there is…If I could run out and find a cure for this horrible disease, I would certainly do that. But I don’t know what else to do! And then I was reminded of this morning’s sermon…maybe I don’t need to necessarily DO….maybe I need to show. Perhaps what Dennie and Pat need the most right now is to be shown the love of Jesus. Maybe they need to see Him in the midst of our prayers and tears. Should we be showing them our belief that if it’s God’s will that he will heal Dennie. Can we show them God’s love for them through us in a prayer-filled visit?

As these words flow through me to this screen, I’m thinking – well isn’t helping them with daily chores a way of showing them Jesus? Can’t we be the hands and feet of Jesus through small acts of service? Yes – those are ways of showing love – but what if what they need is more than simple chores done around their house! To me that is showing – and doing out of love. But I think that sometimes there is more. Can we show them our faith through this storm by not wavering and by leaning in to God through these scary times? We can show them our worship and praise to a God whom we KNOW is bigger than any of this on earth. I believe that if we really need to DO something for them at this point, it should be by SHOWing them that we believe in our heavenly father and will follow him and trust in him to make all things good, so that he may be glorified.

 

 
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