Yes, I know it’s supposed to be a monthly blogterview series. But I hope this interview totally makes up for it!
Julie Ferwerda is one of my favourite bloggers – her blog (http://www.julieferwerda.com/) is down-to-earth, heartwarming, inspiring, and truly reflects how God is embedded into every part of her life. This month, I was privileged to be able to interview her for our blogterview series! (Yes, it’s a long read, but it’s truly enjoyable and filled with many interesting bits, so read on!)
Read some of Julie’s favourite verses that have inspired her and kept her going through tough times here!
HH: Thanks for agreeing to be Voxbiblia’s second interviewee. I’ve only recently discovered your blog, but it is beautifully crafted and I’m already addicted to it. I find myself having to stop myself from reading what you write – there’s so much to read! – and get on with my other tasks!
Julie: Thank you so much Chris…I appreciate your wonderful feedback and kind words!
HH: Tell us more about yourself – I know you’ve already given a great intro on your blog, but it’d be lovely if you could give us some insight into how you came to Christ, and how He became such a huge part of your life.
Julie: I love the verse, Luke 19:10: “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” I have come to understand that truly no one “comes to Christ” because we all start out wandering and lost (Isaiah 53:6). There are three parables back to back in Luke 15—the lost coin, the lost sheep, and the lost son. They all tell the same story—each is sought after UNTIL it is found. All people have been created in the image of God, and all are that coin, that sheep, and that son.
To answer your question as to my personal journey, it has been a process of learning truth and being set free to know and love God in stages. As a young child I put my faith in Christ for saving me from my sins. As a young adult I surrendered myself as much as I could, considering my flawed understanding of God and areas of distrust. After a few more years of wandering in the wilderness of holding back on God and trying to create my own “Promised Land,” I began to really learn who God is in that desert because I had nowhere else to go. That’s when I experienced His faithfulness and was able to surrender all. Since then, life has been an amazing journey of living by faith. It has been a great adventure! Since He found me and brought me “home,” He has never let me down.
HH: Bible study is a tough number for many Christians – It requires dedicating time and effort, and it’s just so convenient to say “I’ll do it tomorrow”. How did you get started on Bible study, and how would you encourage someone to start doing it regularly?
Julie: The best way I know of is to read through the Bible in a year and commit to doing it for at least two years. I did this for 8 years and used the One Year Bible, divided into 15 minutes of reading each day in the Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs. I liked this a lot because when I came to a difficult book (like Leviticus), I still had three other places that were relevant and easy to understand. But some people don’t like jumping around, so there are many reading plans to choose from.
In my opinion, the most accurate modern, popular version is the NASB, but the NLT is the easiest to understand and GREAT for beginners. The Bible looks so different when you put it all together. You begin to see themes emerging, you begin to see God’s bigger plan for mankind, and naturally you get excited about digging in deeper. Anybody who really wants to grow in relationship with God can set aside 15 minutes a day to read. And getting into the Word is like priming a pump—it takes water to get more water! Start reading, and watch God put desire in your heart to know Him more and search out His mysteries.
For those who might be interested, I wrote a commentary for the One Year Bible last year that explains the text with deeper insights and I am happy to share it. It reveals symbolism, historical and ancient Hebrew perspectives, themes, and many other insights.
HH: You mentioned that some areas of personal passion in Bible study are Hebrew perspectives and the bigger picture of the Scriptures as offered throughout OT symbolism – Would you like to elaborate more on that?
Julie: As I have begun to study from a Hebrew perspective, I realize that the Western application of the Bible is completely missing the boat. This is really why you see a spectrum of zealous scholars who insist on many dogmas and doctrines, yet none of them agree. If you start a book mid story, and you don’t go back to read the first few chapters, you can pretty much make up your own context and base the rest of the story on false presumptions and errors.
The fact is, the Scriptures contain a Story (His-Story) about a plan of ages. It just like any great novel—there are characters, a plot, a villain, a hero, tension, conflict, mystery, romance, and a happily ever after. But the first half of His Story (the OT) is much different than we have been taught. This is due to a couple thousand years of the development of misinformation and human agenda (much like the telephone game where a story changes after being retold several times). The OT (Old Testament) is rife with critical symbolism and critical details of the Story, and ancient Hebrew perspectives are vital for unlocking the meaning for us.
I will give a couple brief, tangible examples. First is the Abrahamic Covenant. Nobody in church today talks about the Abrahamic Covenant, yet it is foundational to God’s plan for mankind. It is a unilateral covenant, meaning that God “signed it” for both Himself and mankind. He will be faithful to fulfill it regardless of the actions of men:
And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed. …Abraham will surely become a great and mighty nation, and in him all the nations of the earth will be blessed…” Gen 12:3, 18:18
Now, if you were someone who had never read the Bible and you were not indoctrinated to see it through certain lenses, and you read those two verses, what would they be saying to you about God’s plan for mankind?
Here is one more of many examples. One of the most dangerous and ridiculous doctrines of the modern church is the doctrine of “free will.” You will not find one ounce of support that man has “free will” in the way that the Church teaches today. Free will would imply that man can change destiny for himself and for others, against the will and plan of God. If Adam was exercising this type of free will when he sinned, and God had to come up with a plan B, then what’s to keep mankind from messing up plan B? And then plan C? The truth is, Adam and Eve fulfilled plan A, and plan A will continue on schedule until the last chapter of this Story (Rev. 22). God frequently declares throughout Scripture that everything is ultimately under His control, not the control of man. “Have you not heard? Long ago I did it, from ancient times I planned it” (Is. 37:26).
What God did give to mankind, in different, individual proportions, is called, “dominion.” This is basically the influence that God allows each person to have over his or her environment, but it is completely limited. Sure, it involves a measure of choice, but ultimately, that choice cannot cross a set boundary. This is the meaning of the parable of the talents that Jesus taught. To each is given so many talents—or so much influence and impact—and each is responsible for what they do with that influence. Investing it in heavenly things (loving God and people) multiplies the return, investing it in earthly things (loving yourself) brings about discipline and great loss.
HH: Are Bible translations important to you? You’ve expressed that lay people are qualified to study Greek and Hebrew texts – If people have studied Bible texts in its original form, do translations still matter?
Julie: Well, first of all, there is no “original form” in our world today. The earliest manuscripts are not available, so even in the Greek and Hebrew, we are operating on copies of copies of copies, etc. Most Christians teach that the Bible is the infallible, inerrant Word of God (on practically all doctrinal statements), yet even pastors learn in seminary many glaring errors and inconsistencies that they don’t bother to inform their congregations. In essence, they are living a lie to do this because, though they are aware of the contrary, they require their congregations to agree to the inerrancy of their Bibles.
If you try to question inerrancy with most Christians, they quote Matthew 5:18 and 2 Timothy 3:16-17, saying that God promised to preserve His Word. But if you actually read these verses, you will find no such guarantee. In fact, a simple comparison of different Bible versions will reveal many bold contradictions (compare Philippians 2:6 between KJV and NASB)! Is there evidence that this would happen? Consider Jeremiah 8:7-9:
“But My people do not know the ordinance of the LORD. How can you say, `We are wise, and the law of the LORD is with us’? But behold, the lying pen of the scribes has made it into a lie. The wise men are put to shame, they are dismayed and caught; Behold, they have rejected the word of the LORD, and what kind of wisdom do they have?” Jeremiah 8:7-9 (NAS)
At closer inspection, it becomes clear that all versions of the Bible are corrupted in various places—whether through innocent errors of interpretation or in many cases, blatant human agenda. Was God sleeping when this happened? Was it another plan B? On the contrary, He planned it this way. Proverbs 2:1-5 says IF we seek for understanding as if looking for buried treasure, THEN we will find the knowledge of God. Many times in the NT Jesus talked about hiding truth from the crowds, as well as the scholarly, learned, religious leaders of the day and revealing it to the childlike. It is still the same today. God has allowed His Word to be “shrouded” so that those who seek Him “in Spirit and in truth” would find Him, while those who take a lazy, half-hearted approach, or those who are full of pride in their knowledge, would not.
It is important to understand that lay people (average Joes) can certainly study the Hebrew and Greek texts with success. It is no accident that God chose Greek for one of the Scripture languages because it was the common people’s language of the day, was understood in the inhabited world, and has maintained meaning in the last 2-3 thousand years. Also important to note is that the New Testament quotes from the Old Testament Greek Septuagint. I believe this is significant. You can find the Greek Septuagint today and it is, in my opinion, a critical study tool because of the consistency of words, phrases, and themes between OT and NT (http://www.apostolicbible.com/index.htm).
So how do we distinguish truth from error if we don’t have a single, unadulterated Bible or manuscript to turn to? For honest seekers, very first is to learn Hebrew perspectives on the Bible so that the correct foundation is laid for understanding the symbolic pictures of the Old Testament and for understanding the bigger picture of God’s plan for the story of the ages. One of my favorite Hebrew teachers is Mark Biltz at ElShaddaiMinistries.us. Second, it’s important to compare different translations (i.e. KJV, NASB, Hebrew and Greek Interlinear Bibles*, Septuagint LXX) to see which wording from any given passage fits into the bigger picture of God’s plan. Ultimately, it is not an exact science, and MUST be Spirit-led. However, as you begin uncovering truths, the Bible begins to become an immense, multi-layered Master-Piece, much deeper and mysterious than you ever imagined! You also become more attuned to things that don’t belong.
HH: Here’s a work related question – Voxbiblia and Biblesearch.org has come up with an ‘album’ system, which allows people to categorize the Bible into different topics (e.g. marriage, depression, etc.) and, for Biblesearch.org, comment on them. Do you think this is useful, and would you use it?
Julie: I don’t think I would personally use it. I use concordances now for theme studies of Greek and Hebrew words and concepts. I think it’s probably a great idea for some people though who don’t know where to look for hope and encouragement.
HH: Finally, to end things off with a swing, if you could sit down and have lunch with anyone in the Bible, who would it be?
Julie: Either David or Joseph. Both of their examples/testimonies got me through the two darkest battles of my life. One was deep, life-altering sin (an affair) and the other was extreme injustice. And what is super encouraging? Someday I will be able to sit down with both of them over lunch and discuss how much their strength and example got me through this life with hope!
HH: Once again, thanks for taking time off for this interview! I really appreciate it!
Julie: My pleasure!