Most of us have wondered at some point if there’s more to the Christian life.
Is the routine of attending church every weekend all there is?
Is there a richer life and greater revelation I could be enjoying right now?
As newlyweds, my husband and I attended a Spanish-speaking congregation. The church I grew up in was all I knew. Working in corporate, English-speaking America during the week and attending Spanish-speaking services on the weekend was my normal routine.
I recall feeling frustrated at times. My life felt divided living two worlds I couldn’t connect. Frustration led to seasons of unhappiness. Looking back, I don’t recall being genuinely happy about life.
I always felt there was something missing—a deeper knowledge, true contentment, real closeness to God, and knowing God as the perfect Father. I longed for a peaceful satisfaction that I could not fulfill with my success and achievement. Though I knew God was with me, I felt there was a glass ceiling I could not break through. And I was not happy.
How could that be?
I grew up in church. Love the Lord. Have always served, helped, and shown compassion to others. I learned from my parents to be a generous giver of my time, talents, and tithes to the Kingdom of God. From my mother, I learned to be giving to others. I am the daughter of a pastor who gave his life for the work of the Kingdom, and the daughter of a faithful woman who is a tremendous prayer warrior. I am the wife of a preacher who loves God wholeheartedly.
And yet I went so many years without feeling truly satisfied or fulfilled in my connection with God! I knew that true contentment and happiness are found in God, not in material things or achievements. If I was pursuing God with all my heart, what is it that I was missing?
How can I find true contentment?
2013 was the year that marked a turning point in our spiritual walk as a family.
When I started learning about a Messianic perspective of Jesus and the Bible, I was very skeptical. It felt like a new religion and I was fearful of losing my faith in Jesus. My daughters embraced the newfound knowledge my husband shared. They were ages 10 and 12 at the time. My husband’s mission trip to Argentina in August of 2013 deeply impacted him as it was the first time he ministered in a Messianic Jewish congregation.
We began attending the monthly Shabbat Service at our church that fall. Faithfully, we went month after month. We scheduled our lives around the Shabbat Service so as not to miss it. It became a priority.
Attentive to the sermons, I began to notice a greater depth of knowledge of the Bible imparted through various speakers and teachers that I had not known before. The teachings were different. Richer. Deeper. With weightier spiritual substance. This also began to give our older daughter, Gianna, a taste of the Messianic world that eventually led her to select Messianic Jewish Studies as her major at The King’s University. My husband completed the three levels of studies with the former Messianic Jewish Bible Institute (MJBI).
Havdalah classes were launched on Saturday evenings and I continued learning. My husband and I began leading a Shabbat group in our home. Later, we were asked to lead the Jewish Ministry at our home campus (Gateway Church NRH).
I also started reading books that shed light on the lost Jewish roots of our faith. My family was way ahead of me in understanding. Eventually, I began to take my own shovel and do my own digging in personal study to understand this “new Messianic thing.” My rabbi girl, Lois Tverberg, and her books really helped me understand the Jewishness of Jesus, the Gospel, and the Bible. With the little I knew, I even led a book study on Reclaiming Our Forgotten Heritage by Curt Landry.
In January 2020, I began to sense a deeper calling in my personal walk with God that entailed reading the Bible daily and consistently following an annual plan. Though I started 35 days late, I felt the urgency to jump in and catch up.
Thankfully, I caught up by playing the FreshStart Bible on my phone. I listened to it diligently while going to client appointments, grocery shopping, cooking, etc. I’d pause it many times to highlight passages, take notes, and bookmark verses.
The Bible took on full color. After a few weeks of reading the Bible, I was hooked! I fell in love with the Tanakh (Old Testament). Or better said, I fell in love with the God of the Tanakh! And oh my goodness, the transformation began.
I started to see things I had never seen before. In times past, I had attempted to stick to different Bible reading plans but was unsuccessful. The Old Testament had seemed dull and dark, a little boring, and irrelevant to me as a New Testament believer. I did not understand the Bible more than the surface level. Growing up in church, I’d heard the popular Bible stories hundreds of times—David and Goliath, Samson, Joseph, Daniel and the lions, Mary and Joseph, baby Jesus, etc.
I’d heard thousands of sermons since I was little. They ranged from historical, to encouraging, to too elementary and lacking depth. Prior to my awakening, the Old Testament was colorless, soundless, and too bloody. The New Testament was too theological.
It wasn’t until I began listening to sermons and teachings with a first-century perspective, and considered the Hebraic cultural background of the Bible, that I began to understand the greater depth of Scripture.
Truly, when you learn to study the Bible in its original cultural context, it takes on full color. I love how Lois Tverberg puts it:
Have you ever tasted fresh pita bread made by the Bedouins? It’s out of this world—chewy and hot, crispy in spots, and a little smoky from the open fire… Sure, you can buy bagged pita bread in your local grocery store, and its nutritional value will be exactly the same. But the mouthwatering aroma of the original simply can’t be captured and transported to you. Similarly, the Bible’s ideas are often best appreciated “freshly served” in their original Middle Eastern setting.
(Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus by Lois Tverberg Baker Books, 2017, page 9.)
Or put another way in the words of Ken Bailey, a prominent biblical scholar in Middle Eastern culture and languages:
Suppose I’ve spent my life going to a beach. I’ve seen waves splashing against rocks, ships on the water, fishermen casting lines. One day at this beach someone says, “Ken, I have two snorkels. Let’s go.” Suddenly I see coral, seaweed, and fish. These undersea views in no way invalidate the beauty of what’s above. In my work, I’m looking for the coral and the fish.
(Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus by Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg, Zondervan, 2018, page 23.)
Lois Tverberg encourages us to look at the Bible through a Jewish lense:
Instead of undermining our faith, looking at the Jewish background of the Bible deepens our understanding of Jesus and his times, increasing our awe as we look more closely at this extraordinary rabbi and his astonishing claims.
(Tverberg, page 23.)
As I continued my daily reading looking at the Bible in its Jewish cultural context, God’s Word took on a new life. I began to see the “coral and the fish” beneath the surface and much more. Now I could hear the ocean roar. I could see Moses raising his staff toward the Red Sea to part the waters. In addition, I could also see how verses I’d heard before were taken out of context. More importantly, I began to see God’s love threading the entire Bible together as one cohesive story.
One Bible. One story. One God.
Reading biblical passages in context brings the original intended meaning to life. The Bible changes our perspective about God, ourselves, and others. To me, it added colors, sounds, understanding, wisdom and fresh revelation. It gave me greater confidence to approach God as my Father.
Today, I enjoy reading the Bible. I am in love with God’s Word! It’s impossible to say we love God if we don’t spend time in His Word. From experience, I know what it’s like to be a Christian without the power of God’s Word and with it. It’s a massive difference. Now I understand why Jesus said that His word is Spirit and life. God’s Word shows us His heart, reveals Himself, and dissolves our ignorance while boosting our confidence.
I feel happier than ever! Even though fear, confusion, and stress may envelop the world around me, I’ve found my happy place. I’ve found the well, the true fountain of youth available to everyone.
Tip #1: Change Your Mindset
My problem with going through seasons of confusion and unhappiness was that I was not drinking from the deep well of life with the right perspective or mindset.
I was swimming in a secular humanistic culture that taught me to pursue success and happiness in worldly things. Inevitably, I was approaching the Bible to see what I could get from it, rather than allowing God to tell me His story.
Being wrapped in Western thinking did not allow me to see “the coral and the fish” beneath the surface of every word and every page of the Bible. God set me free through His Word. And when God sets us free, we are free indeed!
The wonders of the Bible only come alive to the diligent seekers. God says:
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.Jeremiah 29:13
God does not volunteer information to the casual observer. He reveals Himself to the passionate seekers.
The Bible comes alive when we put on the “snorkels” to see through its original Hebraic context to understand what it means to say.
Tip #2: Understand that The Bible is NOT a Western Book
The Bible is God’s revelation available to every person.
Yet it is important to understand that from Genesis to Revelation, God chose to reveal Himself through one particular group―the Jewish people in a Middle Eastern setting―to whom He revealed His Laws (Torah) and whom He chose to be a light to ALL nations. This is foundational to know so that we understand that the Bible is God’s story of His Creation and how He relates to us.
In His sovereignty, He chose one man called Abram, through whom He would bless all the families of the Earth. Hence, God changed Abram’s name to Abraham, which means “father of multitudes” (Genesis 12).
Therefore, the Bible includes details about God’s dealings with the Jewish people, in a Jewish culture, with a Jewish mindset, revealing a Jewish Savior to redeem the entire world—Yeshua (Jesus) who:
- Was, lived, and will return as a Jew
- Was circumcised on the eighth day according to the Torah (Law) of Moses
- Was bar mitzvah’d according to Jewish custom
- Taught in Jewish synagogues
- Preached the Gospel mainly to the Jewish people
- Healed many Jewish people
- People called him “rabbi”
- Had 12 disciples who were all Jewish!
God revealed Himself to the nation of Israel first so that they would be a light to all the nations. Every person, whether Jew or non-Jew, who puts their trust in Jesus also becomes a light to establish God’s Kingdom on earth.
Tip #3: Let God Tell His Story
Think of it as sitting for a cup of coffee (or tea) with your grandma, grandpa, or your favorite aunt or uncle, and LISTENING to them tell their life story.
God reveals Himself through His Word. Want to know God’s will for your life? Read the Bible.
What transformed my life is my “accidental” discovery of allowing the Author of the Bible to tell His story.
I guess this approach is what’s called “humility” but I did not know what it looked like on a practical level.
Because of our Western thinking and desperation to diminish our stress in a fast-paced world, we often make the mistake of reading the Bible or devotionals to get a quick fix for our problems. Only wanting to fetch a Word from God when we’re in trouble or feel anxious.
Though initially it seems that there is nothing wrong with this attitude as we are going to the right source, it is a selfish approach to reading the Bible. We are reading it to get something from it, yet we come out empty-handed, more confused, or frustrated because we did not get the answers we wanted.
God desires relationship, not a vending machine approach.
Therefore, my suggestion is to read the Bible allowing God to tell His story.
Read the entire Bible in a year following a plan.
In this way, you will NOT limit yourself to personal agendas but will instead allow the Holy Spirit freedom to open the eyes of your understanding and give you fresh downloads of revelation. In fact, the answers to the questions you’ve had will begin to rise to the surface. It’s a fascinating journey!
You’ll start making connections between different books of the Bible and will discover the true meaning of popular verses that are taken out of context.
You’ll become a smart little sheep that will NOT be easily swayed by any sound of sophisticated or altogether demonic doctrine!
Reading the Bible daily transformed my life. Changing my approach to letting the Author tell His story and understanding its cultural context truly made the Bible come alive.
CJB – The Complete Jewish Study Bible: Insights for Jews and Christians
TLV – The Tree of Life Family Bible
NLT – New Living Translation
LBLA – La Biblia de Las Américas
NTV – Nueva Traducción Viviente
Fresh Start Bible One-Year Reading Plan
Bible Project | Old Testament In a Year
Bible Project | New Testament In a Year