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ACTS 423 And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them.24 And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is:25 Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things?26 The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ.27 For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together,28 For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.29 And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word,30 By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus.31 And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.32 And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.DANIEL 316 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter.17 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.18 But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.EPHESIANS 610 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saintsDear friendsFor the next ten days, the National congress will be taking place in Beijing. Please pray for this, that God will speak to the many delegates by visions and dreams.Continue to pray for the impact of the new religious regulations. Urban churches like ours who rent flats, will not be able to rent flats and would have to spilt into smaller units. Please pray for us and other churches, that the impact of this, would be that the gospel goes to every part of China and that the fellowship of the believers is sweeter and deeper.Continue to pray for our sunday services, Helen will preach on the next two sunday's. Please pray for our worship, that it would be sweet and powerful.Please continue to pray for the men, especially F, W, Y who need to fully commit to God.Please pray for our older ladies, some don't read, they can only listen to the bible. Pray for our oldest member Sister W, she collects rubbish for a living, as many poor chinese people do.Continue to pray for F and Her mother who are still trapped in a very unstable family.Thanks for your prayersYao Hua Men Family church Nanjing
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But why? Why dream only average? Is that hat a statement of the passionless existence many find themselves in today?
I went to grab me an iced coffee from Dunkin Donuts one early morning a few days ago and the voice coming out of the speaker at the drive through sounded monotone and extremely disinterested in my order. Then when I drove to the window, the girl handing me the coffee was so unpleasant I almost asked her if her middle name was 'Joy'.
I know life can be really tough sometimes but dreaming of a great future destiny keeps hope alive. It reminds us that there's still a chance for great things to happen in our lives.
I've heard people say that they don't want to dream big for fear of getting disappointed later if their dreams don't come pass.
Deaf and blind Helen Keller once said, "The most pathetic person in the world is someone who has sight but not vision." We ought never let our fears keep us from the great future God has planned for us.
Someone ought to restitch that hat in the picture so that it reads, 'Dream BIG' or 'Dream HUGE' or 'Dream Beyond Your Means'. There's a guy in the Bible that did just that. You may have heard of him, his name was Jabez. There are only 2 verses in the Bible that describe him and what happened to him. Check it out,
"There was a man named Jabez who was more honorable than any of his brothers. His mother named him Jabez because his birth had been so painful. He was the one who prayed to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and expand my territory! Please be with me in all that I do, and keep me from all trouble and pain!” And God granted him his request." 1Chronicles 4:9-10 NLT
Imagine having a name that means 'pain' or 'suffering'. Other kids would see Jabez coming out to play and say, "Oh, here comes that pain." Jabez felt like he was a constant reminder of bad, negative, unhappy times.
Maybe you can identify with Jabez. Maybe you feel like you're in that same rut but, Jabez teaches us there's a way out!
This brother refused to let his name or circumstances hold him back to the point that Jabez became more honorable, distinguished, and illustrious than anyone else in his family. What Jabez did is something you and I can do... this is good stuff!!
The first thing we need to do is to talk to God in heaven.
The effectiveness of prayer is not in saying the right words but in addressing the right God! The Lord, the God of heaven and earth is All Powerful and All Knowing! He uses people and places and resources to favor His children. Go to Him with your request.
Next, when you talk to God in heaven, have the courage to make BIG requests.
Dorothy Bernard once said, "Courage is fear that has said its prayers."
Jabez prayed that God would bless him. The word 'bless' in the Hebrew means abundance. He also asked for the Lord to enlarge his territory. This literally has to do with multiplication. "Oh, God, multiply what I have many times over" was sort of the prayer of Jabez.
When you pray for your life, spouse, children, career, future, relationships, throw the addition table out the window. God knows no limits!!! Don't ask for a little trickle from God but request a huge heavenly outpouring to come your way.
Also, pray for God to make His presence known (v. 10, "be with me") whatever you do and wherever you go.
Finally, pinpoint your struggle before God. He already knows where you're at and what you're dealing with but make your prayer specific. Jabez went to the root of his problem: trouble and pain, and God answered him.
God can make things happen for us today as well. When we limit ourselves to what we can do the results will be minimal. But, when we rest and rely on what God can do, the results can be far reaching. One more thing, when the Lord begins to open doors of opportunity in direct answer to your prayers, do what you need to do, put some feet to your prayers, work hard, and get ready to enjoy His blessings.
Thanks for reading! Please leave me a comment.
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“…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23-24, NIV).
“Justification” is another big word in the Christian faith. It is a judicial term meaning that someone who has done something wrong is suddenly declared innocent. In Christian theology the term “justified” means that we, as guilty sinners, are proclaimed righteous before a God who is perfect and just.
Justification can be discussed in a couple of different ways. We can say that universally Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross bought forgiveness for all people. In this regard, every sin of every person has been paid for by the shed blood of Christ. This truth, however, does not mean that all people are eventually saved. Only through faith in what Jesus has done does a person lay hold of this precious gift of God’s grace.
Simply put, Jesus died to remove the soul-staining sin of each of us. But this gift must be received by faith. May God lead each of us to believe this truth and so receive the gift he freely offers.
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It’s easy understanding God’s perfect honesty. The knowledge necessary in grasping this truth takes a personal commitment to learning His word. With this in mind devotion is the key to discovering God’s truth, promises and timing.
And when we engage in the Bible without reservations, then God unleashes His wisdom.
God and truth are inseparable. This revelation showed up in His creations and attested through scripture. When the Lord inspired Moses to write His word it explained the reason heaven and earth exist (Genesis 1). It’s here where God is first exposed as truth putting to rest man’s attempts to disprove Him.
So gaining insight to God’s unremitting truth, one must engulf themselves in His word. And as the result of living in God’s way, we see He can’t lie because His Spirit penetrates our inner-selves with a truth unlike any other.
In both the Old and New Testaments God’s integrity never changes. The Lord’s flawlessness to back up His Word in action smashes disbelief. In fact, every recorded Scripture captures His faithfulness in carrying out His promises. God made knowing Him a relationship full of hope and filled with love.
For example, Noah built the Ark under God’s command (Genesis 6:13-22) and received ridicule for trusting the Lord’s plan. But when the flood came God’s truth became a reality (Genesis 7:1-24). Likewise, Moses took on Pharaoh to free the Israelites, and the Egyptians discovered God’s almighty power (Exodus 6-14). Many other Old Testaments verses support the authenticity of God.
In the New Testament God uses the same demonstrations to heighten His unwavering nature. When Christ became human, it validated the Prophets message that God keeps His promise to send a Messiah. And the Gospels catches God’s consistent righteousness.
Even though the Lord made Jesus His new Covenant with humanity, He didn’t deviate from His truth. As a matter-of-fact Christ proves, God is the one real God. Because once He unleashes Jesus in one’s life, the Holy Spirit permeates the mind body and soul.
The Spirit of Truth
It’s the Holy Spirit that unveils God’s inability to lie. Once the Lord saves a soul, then Jesus takes over and sanctifies the heart. God’s Living Spirit of truth (John 14:17) illuminates our awareness of His existence. And from God’s anointment of the Holy Trinity, the transformation into salvation illustrates the validity of God’s purity.
Our Father’s greatest pledge is eternal life. He assures us if we accept Christ as the way to heaven (John 14:1-6) our inheritance in His kingdom stays secured (1 Peter 1:3-5). Each of us understands this reality because Christ takes away temptation and supplies courage to walk away from sin. This proof of God’s powerful promise revolutionizes our lives giving us the strength to live righteous in a broken world.
My Experience with God's Truth
In my relationship with God, everything He promised came true. Before He saved me my life wasn’t holy. Agnosticism ruled my mind. I centered my life in skepticism unwilling to accept God. And when my disbelief led to self-destruction, He rescued me.
Today I know the way of faith. It’s important to realize trusting Christ dismantles my doubt and takes away the need to live apart from God. The biggest dividend I’ve received knows God’s graceful Spirit. When I turn to Christ my ability to overcome problems increases and gives a most compelling evidence to God’s trustworthiness. For as long as I stay willing to put Him above everything God never leaves me without a solution.
Waiting on God's Timing
One of the toughest challenges in living a Christian life is waiting for God’s response. A point often overlooked is comprehending Christ’s timing. Since the Lord knows our needs and never fails to give, it’s crucial to stay active in our devotion. This means we need to continue praying and meditating on His truth. No matter how troublesome our lives become, God is our greatest strength in moving past our problems.
The first thing to remember God doesn’t abandon us. The key in knowing the spiritual actions Christ directs us to take is spending private time with God. And the more we absorb His truth our ability to recognize His commands emerges.
It’s no accident God allows us to gravitate to His presence. Since our Father is Spirit, then the measuring stick in knowing how to go ahead becomes engaged in the spiritual realm. Nothing matches God’s intuitive commands and once acted upon the wisdom to fathom what to do becomes noticeable.
Sometimes God stays silent. This doesn’t mean He is not listening. Here we need to examine ourselves and make sure our approach is faith-centered. Scripture reminds when asking God for wisdom is trusting Him (James 1:5-8). Humility is a crucial principle in receiving God’s answers.
Other useful tools in waiting are patience and perseverance. Patience is a willingness to surrender our will over to God’s regardless the outcome. Perseverance is faith in action. Each of them alone brings a positive result but when they intertwined an unshakable foundation in discovering God’s answers transpires.
Given these points, we can agree God is the truth, honor His word and never fails to give the spiritual food necessary to live according to His purpose. Proverbs 3:5-6 gives an excellent example of the efforts favorable to God. No matter if you are new Christian or a seasoned veteran trusting Christ gets God’s attention!
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A Snake in the Grass
“Every great story seems to begin with a snake.”
The wind danced over the knee high grass, causing it to ripple in waves down to the bank of the river. A viper lay in the weeds near the edge of the water. Halfway down its body a bulge distended its form. A bull frog, slowly dissolving in acidic bile lay trapped within. With swaying movements the reptile slowly raised its head, flicked its tongue and tasted the odor of the air. The moon reflected disproportionately in the elliptical yellow pupils. With a grotesque heavy-sided slither the satiated serpent began to move soundlessly through the night
There is history in all men's lives.
The newborn banks cut across the land like veins flowing with crystal clear water, nurturing the land and sustaining life, just as the blood in the veins of the “River People” coursed fiercely through their bodies. People who built fires on the river side sand and sang happy songs that morphed into screaming war cries as the new world sprouted a growth of white strangers, who battled their way onto the banks, as the “River People” faded away. Pioneers cleared land, built homes, grew crops, raised families and eventually spread closer into communities, villages and towns. And for a time peace prevailed.
Yet, time travels on and once again war cries began to be heard in the the soggy bottoms beside the water. Rebel yells chilled the blood of the blue coats, but didn't damper their determination to trample the people and the land. The gray screams of defiance melted into moans of defeat as the north moved south and pledged liberty and justice for all... but both will be a long time coming. After the fray, greedy men grabbed their empty carpet bags and headed south to fill them. The strong currents of the river pulled them to its virgin shores , where they built mills. The river turned dark as the buildings emptied the bowels of progress into the once clear water. The slow song of the south was forever changed as men who once found their living on the land were forced to move to the mills and experience a subtle bondage of their own to the textile empire.
The twenties offered another avenue for ill-gotten gain, as the prohibition opened the hidden hollows and river bottoms to covert hideaways that flowed profusely with illegal alcohol and other dark vices. When the prohibition ended, the men it had enriched wandered boldly back into the towns. Engorged with wealth, yet hungry for more, they used their affluence to gain power and the system worked with them. Perverted judges, with black hearts, covered themselves in black robes, and stuffed their bottomless pockets with the fat of the land. Yet, we know every day has its reckoning, after the sowing and growing always comes the reaping. Delayed justice is only a deferred payment and someday whether here or there all wrongs will be righted.
A Snake in the Grass
“Nothing short of the overthrow and death of the just will content the wicked.”
~Charles Spurgeon~ Commentary Psalm 37 verse14
The rooster crowed as the sun rose. The water moccasin crawled out of the wet river bottom and into the weedy tobacco field. It slithered across the short row next to the river and into the row beside it. The snake wrapped its corpulent body around a grass-entangled tobacco stalk, flicked it tongue once, then grew as still as death and waited.
Water From the Well
“Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.”
~J R R Tolkien ~
Crow caws cracked the sky as the soaring birds covered the sun, casting a dark shadow across the field. Like cowards clustered together to bolster their own bravado, they formed a tightly packed flock that dispersed like scattered pepper when they settled in the branches of the trees. Stillness ensued for only a breath, then the creatures again began to squawk and take wing as a bevy of rocks assailed them from the ground below.
Laughing, three boys continued to fling rocks until the last of the crows sailed across the noonday sun and disappeared into the willows down by the river. Running from the waist-high tobacco row, Harlan stopped and leaned his hoe against a tree. He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped the sweat from his brow. Close on his heels followed his two younger brothers. They dropped their hoes and fell to the ground. “I'm tired, I'm sleepy and I'm as hungry as a horse,” Jesse complained. Curtis, the youngest, replied with a fake sore, pretending to have fallen asleep on the spot. “You fella's just stay up here whining and napping while I run on to the house and eat my dinner and yours too!”, Harlan flung the words across his shoulder as he darted off toward the house. Jumping up like rabbits, Jesse and Curtis kicked up dust as they hit the path running after him.
In the kitchen Aunt Dorrie pulled the hot pan of biscuits from the oven. Setting them on the table, she glanced out the window and saw the boys racing toward the house. “Bessy,” she called, “Go tell your brothers to stop and wash up at the hose pipe before they come in to eat. They're as dirty as the hogs.” “Yes, ma'am,” Bessy answered as she bolted from the kitchen, the screen door banging shut behind her. Bessy didn't know it then, but the slamming of that door signaled the beginning of the most poignant memory of her thirteenth year ...
I ran out that door like a streak of lightning, delighted that I'd been given some authority over my brothers, especially my twin brother, Jesse, I headed them off at the edge of the yard and held up my hand like a stop sign“Halt right there,” I commanded. “Y'all can't go in the house yet.” Jesse tried to step around me and I held out my arms straight out blocking him and said louder “I told you, YOU CAN'T GO IN.” “Stop mess'in with us, Bessy. We're star'vin “Harlan said as he pushed my arms away. “Go on in then and see what happens, Aunt Dorrie said all y'all gotta wash up out here, cause you're too dirty to wash up at the sink. She'll be mad as fire if you don't listen to me.” I said. “Well okay then” Harlan answered, but you ain't got to be such a bossy britches about it.” They all walked over to the well house and I followed them and stood to the side with my hands planted on my hips. Jesse picked up the hose and turned on the spigot and before I could even blink he spun around and turned the water on me, in an even quicker instant I lost all my puffed up dignity and I lit into Jesse like a wildcat. Doubling over in laughter, Harlan and Curtis watched us ,drop the hose and fall onto the ground rolling in the mud. Wanting to get in on the fun,Curtis grabbed the hose from the ground and turned it on Harlan, who quickly wrestled it out of his hands and ran it down the back of his overalls. We were all brought to a sudden stop by the banging of the kitchen screen door.
Aunt Dorrie stood on the steps wiping her hands on a dish towel and shaking her head. “Not only are you as dirty as the hogs but you're act'in like 'em too. Wallowing around in the mud like you ain't got no sense at all.” she hollered across the yard. “Get yourselves sprayed off and into some dry clothes, then get in here to eat.” She turned and went back into the house. We took turns spraying each other off, laughing with the kind of laughter that makes you feel real clean inside. We began to move a little faster as we heard the sound of Daddy's pick up truck coming up the driveway.
Roland parked the truck next to the barn. Cutting off the engine, he set the parking brake and opened the door. Hearing a ruckus, he looked across the yard and saw his four children at the well house hosing each other down. He got out and shut the door. As the sound of their unified laughter rang across the yard, a sad smile slid across his face. It was a painful comfort to still be able to hear Esther's laughter in the voices of their children. Even after nine years he could still see her face, hear her singing in the kitchen, feel her heart beating in his world, because of them. In their children she still lived on. Oh God, how he missed her, and how confusing his world was without her. He still struggled to understand what happened the night he lost her. It had been so hard at first, Curtis a newborn, Jesse and Bessy five year old twins and Harlan, the oldest at eight. Dorrie, his sister, had been their saving grace. She moved in the very day Esther died and with her help they'd made it this far. Walking to the back of his pick up, Roland lifted out the box with the tractor starter in it and carried it into the cool sanctuary of the workshop.
Inside the kitchen, Aunt Dorrie cut the hot apple pie into slices and set it on the table. She looked over the spread that included a pot of pinto beans, corn on the cob, mashed potatoes, thick slices of ham and a large tupperware pitcher full of ice tea. Deciding , due to the well house fiasco, that she had some time to pretty up the table, she ducked out of the kitchen to the flower garden to cut a bouquet of flowers for the table. A white picket fence enclosed the flower beds and lush red rambling roses spilled over it and into the yard. A black wrought iron gate gave access to the garden. Dorrie loved working the dirt and tending the flowers, but her reason for nurturing the plants went much deeper than the soil. This garden had belonged to her sister-in-law Esther, who had cultivated it with love. Dorrie had made a vow to herself that she would always tend Esther's flowers. It was something she could do that made her heart feel a little better, a small way to keep Esther's memory alive.
Curtis was too young to remember his mama. She'd died the night he was born. Such an awful night it was. Such an awful memory. Dorrie shook her head and came back to the present. It did no good to muddle herself up with bad memories and unanswered questions when dinner was waiting on the table. She opened the gate and walked to the back of the garden where a late-blooming lilac bush still displayed a fragrant array of blossoms. Taking a pair of scissors from her apron pocket she snipped a handful of the purple flowers. Carrying them back into the kitchen, she rummaged around under the kitchen counter and found a blue mason jar. Turning on the spigot at the sink she filled it with water and arranged the flowers in it. As she was placing it on the table, Harlan, Jesse and Curtis entered the kitchen. “Gosh, I'm hungry” Jesse said. Turning sharply to him Dorrie said “What did I tell you about say'in “Gosh”?” “But Aunt Dorrie, you just said it too” he replied, laughing. “You can't get out of it that way, “ Dorrie answered. “Don't let me hear you say it again, you hear?” “But “Gosh” ain't the same as saying “God” is it?” Jesse protested. “Its close enough,” Dorrie replied. “Now , where's Bessy?” she asked. “Aunt Dorrie,you know her” Harlan answered. “She can't eat unless she's got something to read. She went out to the tree house to get her book.”
After I finished changing into dry clothes, I headed out back to get the latest book I was read'in, Daddy came out of the workshop as I was coming out of the woods . He saw I had something under my arm and asked “What'cha got there princess?” “Its my book, Daddy” I answered. We met at the back steps and I handed it to him. He read the title then opened the cover. With his finger he traced the name written inside, Esther Jones. “ It was mama's book , daddy.” I told him. “Yes, it was “ he answered. Shutting the book , he handed it back to me. “Lets go get some grub “ he said as we stepped onto the back porch. Opening the screen door, he held it as I slipped inside, then followed me into the kitchen.
Daddy hung his hat on a peg by the door and washed his hands at the sink. I jumped into my chair and immediately stuck my nose into the book. Pulling out his chair and sitting down Daddy bowed his head, Aunt Dorrie and the boys did as well , but I was already lost in my book. I heard Daddy loudly clear his throat. Sheepishly putting my book to the side I bowed my head. After grace was said, Aunt Dorrie began passing the food. She made sure everyone's plate was full before she filled her own. There was no conversation during the first five minutes of the meal. Breakfast had long ago worn off we were a hungry bunch.
As the feeding frenzy wore down, Daddy looked up and asked “Did yall spend all morning out there playing at the well house or did you get any hoeing done?” “Yeah, Daddy we worked the field, we're almost finished .” We only have four rows left down by the river side. We can finish those up this afternoon and it'll go quicker if Bessy can help.” Harlan answered. “We can each do one row. We'll give Curtis the short row closest to the river.” Curtis looked up and frowned. He didn't like to be treated like the baby of the family. “I can work just as hard as anyone else” he said. “Don't treat me like I can't, I can hoe all four of those rows by myself, Daddy, if you need me to.” He was serious too. If he thought Daddy needed something , Curtis would move heaven and earth to please him. “I know you would son” Daddy answered him, “but I think Harlan has a good plan,” he looked at Aunt Dorry and added “That is if Dorry don't need Bessy here at the house.” “Aw, no” replied Dorry. “It won't take me long to wash up these dishes, then I'm just going to spread a table cloth over these left overs and we'll have them for supper.” I plan on working out in the flower garden this afternoon and I don't need Bessy for that.” A sad smile fell across daddy's face as he glanced at the bouquet on the table.
I decided it was time for me to get in on this conversation and wrangle out a deal that would benefit me. Putting my book aside I said. “Are y'all talking about me?” “Yeah, “ Jesse answered. “You gotta help us out in the field.” “well, in that case I get the shortest row” I said. “We already gave that row to Curtis, cause he's the baby” Jesse fired back at me. “I'm not a baby” Curtis cried out, and besides Bessy's a girl and daddy says we gotta treat girls better than we treat ourselves, ain't that right ,Daddy?” “you got me there” Daddy replied. “So I think” Curtis continued, “That since Bessy is a girl she ought to have the shortest row.””I can't argue with that logic , Daddy said, “Okay, then Bessy, you can have the shortest row and Curtis will take the one beside you.” I shot a smirk at Jesse, and picked my book back up. “Now that that's settled,” daddy said “Would someone please pass me the apple pie?”
After dinner Roland headed back out to the work shop. He planned to spend the rest of the day putting that new starter on his old tractor. He knew most folks would have junked that old tractor years ago, but Roland had a way with machinery. He knew how to tear a piece down into a thousand parts and put it back together again. No one had ever taught him how, he was just born knowing. His oldest boy Harlan, wasn't like that. He had no head for parts and pieces, at least not machine parts and pieces, but give him words, parts and pieces of sentences and he could grow them into paragraphs on a page and write you an argument that was hard to refute. He had a writing desk in his room and usually spent a couple hours writing at night before he went to bed. But Jesse, well, he was mechanical, like his daddy. If he wasn't needed in the field, you could always find him in the workshop tinkering with something. His twin sister, Bessy took after her mama and Harlan. She loved words too but right now, she would rather read them than to write them. Her mama, Esther, had left a small library of her books and Bessy was working her way through them one by one. She always had a book somewhere close by and if you ever got to missing her she could usually be found out back in the tree house, reading. And his littlest was Curtis, a tender sensitive child. He wore his heart on his sleeve and his light was always shining, although he didn't care a whit about socializing, he was the type to be a true blue friend to a few. And Curtis had a gift. He was an artist. His side of the room, that he shared with Jesse, was papered with his drawings. Curtis spent most of his free time in the woods down by the river' quietly watching the wildlife and capturing it on paper.
Roland loved his children with a deep and steady love, a sacrificial love. When times were tight, and they often were, Roland saw to their needs before his own. If someone was going to have to do without, it would be him. His greatest sorrow in life was that their mama wasn't here to share that love. She was buried on the far side of the farm, in the Jones family cemetery. He often visited her grave, and never missed a special occasion. It was his habit to buy a card, wrap it in wax paper and leave it on her headstone. He always signed it “I love and miss you, Roland.” He was glad , his sister Dorrie kept Esther's flower garden growing so he could carry a fresh bouquet to her grave when the flowers were in season.
Harlan got back to the field first. Picking up the hoe he'd left leaning against the tree, he walked into the longest row and began chopping the weeds. Bessy, Jessy and Curtis followed him and began working in their own rows. With full stomachs and the sun sliding slowly toward the west, they fell into a rhythm of work that allowed their thoughts to wander into daydreams all their own. Chopping with the hoe, bending ' pulling and throwing weeds they worked steadily as the afternoon marched on toward evening.
Placing the last dish in the rack, Dorrie pulled the drain plug from the sink and dried her hands on the dish towel. After arranging the tablecloth so that it covered all the food, she reached for her straw hat, hanging on a peg by the door. Settling it firmly on her head she stepped out onto the back porch. Dorrie stood for a minute surveying the farm yard. To her left was the graveled dirt driveway that ended beside the barn. Roland's truck was parked there. The work shop was on the other side of the barn and she could hear him in there banging on something as she made her way to the shop to get her gardening tools. When she entered the building, Roland was was all up in the guts of the tractor. He didn't see her come in. She gathered her basket of hand tools and quietly slipped back outside. The flower garden was beside the house and the vegetable garden was behind the barn. Dorrie made her way to the flower garden. Glancing across the yard and up the hill she could just make out the four siblings hard at work weeding the field.
I was hoe'in and slapp'in...the sun had just dropped past the tree tops and the mosquitoes were buzzing up from the river, sensing our warm flesh and blood, they hummed into the tobacco field and began to sink their needles into our skin. Now, all our sporadic slaps accompanied the rhythm of chop, bend, pull and throw...it sounded something like this...
Chop, bend, pull, throw slap
Slap, slap ,Chop, slap, bend
pull, slap, slap, slap, throw...
We were all tired and nearing the end of our separate rows when it happened. Curtis told us later that he had been struggling to pull up a clump of Johnson grass growing up tight against the tobacco stalk. He was cleaning his row perfectly so that when Daddy cam out here tomorrow to inspect the job he would be proud of him. In exasperation he'd gotten down close on his hands and knees and leaned in close. He grasped the weeds in a firm hold and in an instant realized he'd grabbed more than weeds. The mouth was open wide and Curtis was near enough to see the inside of its cotton white mouth ,right before he felt the fiery sting burn his right wrist. The snake whipped out of the grass and wrapped itself around his arm. He began screaming and stood up, trying to shake the viper loose. But with every shake the snake held on pumping more venom into his wrist. Hearing Curtis' screams we flung down our hoes and ran to his row. Harlan yelled “JESSE HOLD HIM STILL!” Jesse wrapped both arms around Curtis and did his best to hold him . Harlan got ahold of Curtis' arm, and using his free hand, he began to strangle the snake.
It was too much for me, I began to scream myself and calling for Daddy, I ran from the field toward the house. I saw daddy bolt from the shop and Dorrie running out from back of the house. With Daddy way out front they both ran up the path toward me. When they reached me, I cried out “CURTIS GOT SNAKE BIT, OH DADDY ITS AWFUL!” Daddy ran on up the path to the field, with Aunt Dorrie panting behind him. I just stood in the path shaking and sobbing ,thinking It was me that should've been in that row...then I took off runn'in after them.
When I got there, I saw Harlan and Jesse holding Curtis up. On the ground at their feet was a dead water moccasin. Daddy was lifting Curtis up in his arms as Aunt Dorrie ran up behind him. I saw her pick up a hoe and in a frenzy she chopped that snake to pieces.. I watched her till she threw down her hoe, and then we both followed the others who were already running down the path to the truck.
Thirty Pieces of Silver
But if your eye is bad
your whole body will be full of darkness.
If then the light that is in you is darkness,
how great is the darkness. ~Matthew 6:23~
Our farm was a few miles upstream from the largest mill in Anderson county. It was built by Captain Sherman Bender and had been passed down through the generations of Bender heirs. The current owner was old Arlo Bender but he was stashed away in the nursing home, while his son Buchanan Bender, ran the mill. Buchanan was his given name but no one ever called him that. He was known by everyone as “Buzzard” Bender and had been since he was twelve years old.
Granny Harrell, said it was at the very moment that he acquired this name, that he sold his soul to the devil.
She said what that turkey buzzard did wasn't normal and it was a sign for those “who have eyes to see” . Granny said up to that moment, it could'a went either way, but when Buchanan made that choice on the playground to choose evil one more time, he sealed the deal. She said the LORD takes particular notice of the “least of these” and that He had His eyes on the the school yard that morning.
As for me, I don't know if the hardening of a heart works that way or not, but what I do know, and know for sure, is that Buchanan Bender never got better, he wore worse. From that day forward he pulled evil to himself like he had it tied to his heart with wagon cords. They say it happened like this....
On that morning the sky was dark and threatening rain. In the distance thunder bumped across the clouds in a low rumbling growl. The West Glen Elementary school yard was full of children, waiting for the morning bell to ring them inside. First through sixth graders huddled together in age appropriate groups except for three students who were roaming the yard looking for trouble. Buchanan Bender, Ortho Cates and Walter Newton, sixth graders who shored up every insecurity and deficiency inside themselves, by intimidating and bullying the younger students.
The third graders were huddled together near the school entrance. As the thunder grew louder they moved closer together jostling one little fellow and causing him to drop his lunch money onto the ground. His name was Milton Harrell. He was Granny Harrell's grandson, her only daughter Viola's boy. No one knew who his daddy was. Viola was seventeen when she gave birth to Milton a month prematurely. The birth happened quickly and there wasn't any time to get Viola medical care. Granny Harrell delivered her own tiny four pound 10 ounce grandson into the world. As soon as Viola gained back her strength she took off for parts unknown, leaving Granny Harrell to raise Milton. The early birth had affected him mentally. He was slower than his classmates, but his kind heart overshadowed his incomplete intelligence.
Milton was down on his hands and knees scrambling to find all of his dropped coins when Buchanan Bender spotted him. “There's us some fun,” he said nudging his two sidekicks. Sauntering over to the the third graders, Buchanan raised his foot high and stomped on Milton's hand . Milton raised his head and looked up. “HHHHey.......you're standing on somebody.....somebody is down here and you're standing on them. Hey, I said, its Milton down here.” The first drop of rain fell, baptizing Milton's forehead , he continued “And now its raining down here too...I need to get my money before it gets wet...please walk somewhere else, you're hurting my hand.” Buchanan laughed and ground his boot down harder. Milton trying to stand up, felt Buchanan's foot lift, then cried out as the boot kicked him brutally in the side knocking him into the dirt. Milton held his ribs and looked at his dirtied clothes. The rain began to come down sharp like BB pellets . Milton's pain melted into tears. He cried, “Now I can't go to school...I'm dirty...I'm a dirty mess.” “You were born dirty.” Buchanan said with a laugh, and looked around to make sure Ortho and Walter were laughing with him. “ And you ain't gott'a worry about that money gett'in wet cause you're gonna pick it up and give it all to me .” Sobbing , Milton crawled around gathering up the scattered coins.
Roland, was in the sixth grade too. He was standing with his classmates when he heard someone crying. Looking behind him he saw Milton Harrell crawling around in the mud on the ground. He heard him saying “Thhhis...is my school money...III've got to buy my milk and mmmy lunch with it....I ain't got no more. Granny told me nnnnot to lose it. I got to buy my lunch bbbut I 'll share...you can sit at mmmmy table and I will share my lunch with you.” Buchanan and his goons just laughed at him.
Roland bolted over to the third graders and grabbed Buchanan by the back of his collar and spun him around. Buchanan hooked out his leg and swept Roland's feet out from under him. Outweighing Roland by thirty pounds Buchanan quickly got the better of him . Pinning him to the ground Buchanan leaned in so close Roland could smell the anger on his breath and see the pin hard pupils of his eyes. Buchanan whispered “This is all your fault, you should 'a never laid a hand on me. You deserve all you're gonna get.” He began punching Roland over and over in the face. The rain was coming down hard now. The students had made a circle around the fight and were holding their books over their heads to ward off the rain. The school bell was ringing but no one was paying it any mind. Roland's nose was bleeding profusely, little Milton saw it and ran over to try and wipe the blood off with his hands. Buchanan shoved Milton away and then continued his frenzied attack. Milton ran and jumped on Buchanan's back to trying again to help Roland. Buchanan stopped hitting Roland just long enough to swing around and land a blow to Milton which knocked him back onto the ground unconscious.
Roland took that second to wipe the blood from his face, as he did he saw a dark shadow fall from the sky behind Buchanan. With a cry of “WHAT THE...?” Buchanan jumped up off Roland and turned around beating frantically at his back. On his shoulders with its claws firmly embedded through his sweater and into the skin of his back was the biggest buzzard Roland had ever seen. Buchanan was struggling, reaching his arms around his back trying to knock the buzzard off. The buzzard was flapping its huge wings, looking as if it were trying to lift Buchanan up and fly away with him. Buchanan couldn't budge the buzzard so he began to run. He ran out of the school yard and down the road toward town, That was the last anyone saw of him that day and no one ever knew how he managed to get that buzzard off his back, but from that day forward everyone called him Buzzard Bender.
As a man, Buzzard had lived up to his name. He circled the weak and vulnerable waiting till they were desperate then like a vulture he'd fly in with his sharp beak and pick them apart. Most of them found themselves working in the mill with below minimum wages and manipulated to such a point they actually felt mis-guided gratitude toward him. And with that jolly old smile, that never reached his eyes plastered to his face as he robbed them blind
Buzzard lived in a large restored plantation house on the other side of the river from Roland's farm. He owned the property from his place all the way upstream to Bender's “Fabric's Cotton Mill”. It encompassed about seven hundred acres. Back behind the mill in a river bottom Buzzard had renovated an old prohibition clubhouse , He called it “Bender's Riverside Bar & Sportsman's Club.” Rumor had it that a man could find just about any kind of sport he wanted at Bender's Bar.
Buzzard's wife's name was Brenda Bender. She preferred to be called “BB.” She was a skinny little woman, all sharp knees and elbows but with a backbone of stainless steel. She was obsessed with Jacquelyn Kennedy and tried ever so desperately to copy Jackie's sophisticated wardrobe style. On BB, it came off like a chicken trying to impersonate a swan. Which made Buzzard and BB the perfect couple, a buzzard and a chicken, being as how birds of a feather flock together and all that sort of thing.
The Writing on the Wall
“Everybody has a chapter they don't read out loud.”
I can't give you any specific memories I had of the Anderson County Hospital before we arrived that evening, or why it sent a chill down my spine when we pulled up to the emergency door, but it did. I was afraid to go in yet I was afraid not to. Me and Harlan and Jesse were in the bed of the truck. Daddy and Aunt Dorrie were up front with Curtis. We hopped out of the back and Harlan opened Daddy's door. Curtis was laying across the seat with his head in Aunt Dorrie's lap. She was holding a handkerchief over the bite on his right wrist , his arm was swollen twice its normal size and blood and yellow fluid was oozing out through the handkerchief. Curtis was conscious but talking out of his head, he was muttering something about losing his math book and feeding the cat popcorn. I began to feel sick to my stomach.
Roland turned off the ignition and slid out of the truck. He was remembering the last person he'd carried through those doors and remembering that he didn't bring them back out with him. He hurried around and opened Dorrie's door. She gently moved Curtis' head off her lap and laid his arm down by his side. Roland reached inside and carefully shifted Curtis into his arms. The movement caused Curtis to utter a low moan and vomit.
An orderly met the family at the door and held it open as the they entered. Two more orderlies were coming down the hallway with a gurney. They wheeled it up to Roland and he laid Curtis on it. Curtis roused back into coherency and said “Daddy , please don't leave me.” “I'm right here son, I'm not going anywhere.” Roland reassured him. “What happened,?” one of the orderlies asked. “He was bit by a water moccasin,” Dorrie replied as the gurney was being rolled toward the emergency exam rooms. A nurse met them at the double doors and asked if Roland and Dorrie were Curtis' parents. I'm his father, Roland answered and nodding towards Dorrie said, “She's my sister.” “Both of you come with me,” the nurse said, gesturing toward a door across the hall she said “The rest of you may wait in the waiting area.” Harlan opened the waiting room door and they walked in.
The first thing I noticed was the overwhelming smell of stale tobacco. The room was rectangular, the walls were lined with hard red chairs and at the far end was a table with an overflowing ash tray . Beside the ash tray was an empty paper cup and a telephone book was laying on the floor beneath the table. Magazines littered the table and the chairs. The room felt helpless and forlorn, so did I. I was still grappling with the fact that I should have been hoeing the row Curtis was on. It was my selfishness that hurt Curtis. I was older, if I'd been there I probably would have saw that snake before it bit me or even if I did get bit my body was bigger the venom wouldn't hurt me as bad.
Overwhelmed by these thoughts, I burst into tears. Harlan reached out toward me and I crumpled into his arms. “It should've been me” I admitted. Just speaking the words aloud dumped another shovel full of guilt onto my back. The weight was unbearable and I slid from Harlan's arms to the cold linoleum tiled floor. I felt Harlan settle down beside me, he reached and touched my chin, he attempted to pull my face up to look at him but I wouldn't let him. I sat sat cross-legged on the floor staring down at the black and white pattern of the tile. The colors blended into gray through the deluge of tears that were flooding my eyes. I felt Harlan's hand reaching toward me again. I felt him sticking something under my nose and I cold smell the scent of sweat. It was his handkerchief. I took it and blowing my nose loudly, I raised my eyes to his. He was crying too. I felt an arm reach from behind and settle across my shoulders. Looking behind me I saw Jesse settling down on the floor and Harlan stretched out his arms around us both . We all three just huddled there on the floor together. No one spoke any more words with our mouths because our hearts were talking too loud to hear them.
We were still sitting there together on the floor when we heard someone push open the door. We raised our heads as one and we watched as J.M. Smyth walked into the room and said,“Your daddy called me from the emergency room, he told me what happened. He asked me to drive over here and check on you.” We stood up and sharing that one handkerchief between us we wiped our tears and blew our noses.J.M. was our Preacher. Harlan spoke first saying, “It looks bad Preacher.” Jesse broke in and said “It was a dad-blame cotton mouth that got'em, one of those mean river moccasins, but Harlan choked it to death then Aunt Dorrie killed it again with the hoe.”
I took a deep trembling breath and rushed out these words “What else did daddy say?” Did he say how Curtis is doing?... Did he tell you this is all my fault?... Did he say Curtis is gonn'a die?” That last word did me in again. Die...I just knew Curtis was gonna die, just like mama did. Then I realized why this place chilled my soul so. Mama died here and now Curtis was gonna die here too and it was because of me, and if Curtis died, I was gonna die too, I couldn't live with myself, and if me and Curtis died, then daddy would die too, it had almost killed him to lose mama and like a train off the tracks my thoughts ran head-long into a crash,.I felt the bile rise in my throat and before I could find a trash can I vomited right there on the Preacher. Harlan , who had a hold of that shared handkerchief began to try and dab off the Preacher and me too. That handkerchief had sure done its share of work today.
The Preacher reached into his pocket and took out two clean handkerchiefs, I wondered just how many did he carry around with him anyway, maybe Preachers were required by Preacher code to carry a certain number, it seemed likely to me that , that should be the case as preachers went around dealing with tragedy all the time. Maybe he could just keep pull'in 'em out of his sleeve, in an endless miraculous supply...my thoughts were headed off the rails again.The Preacher handed me a handkerchiefs and he used the other to wipe off his shirt and shoes. Harlan dropped the one he was holding into the trash can. I kind 'a felt sorry that we couldn't some how keep it ...sorta symbolic like ...with all our tears and stuff blended together and all. There I went , thinking crazy again.I was glad when the preacher suggested we all have a seat ...and... a prayer.
The Preacher bowed his head and we did too. “Father” “ he said, This is a family that You love. I love 'em too. They sure have had an extra portion of heartache in their life, but it never caused them to stop lov'in and trust'in You. It appears tonight they've had another helping heaped on their plate. What's done is done and it don't do nobody no good to blame themselves, we can't go back and change anything that's happened, but now we are here in the present and you're here with us and the future is yet to be decided and we know that You hold that future in You're hands. You tell us that You hear our earnest , honest pleas and that our prayers work together with Your will, so tonight we are asking you to protect and preserve Curtis' life, we ask You to give him an awareness of Your presence wherever his conscious or unconscious might be. Comfort him and enfold him in your peace. And for his family, his loved ones I pray that same peace to wash over them and I pray for Your strength to carry them through this troubling time .In the name of Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ we pray...Amen.
The Preacher raised his head and we did too. He said, “Y'all gott'a be hungry, let me run upstairs and check on Curtis, your Dad and Dorrie, then I'll carry you done to the diner for a hot dog.
Everything was white, the walls, floors, tables, gurneys, sheets, blankets, curtains, uniforms, everything except Curtis' right arm which was badly swollen and turning black . The nurse walked into a curtain shrouded cubicle and the orderlies wheeled Curtis in behind her, Roland and Dorrie followed. “ Tell me what happened” the nurse asked as she took a blood pressure cuff from a drawer. “Ma'am,” he said,” My boy was bit by a water moccasin, in the field about an hour ago, we drove him straight here, “ He's been in talking out of his head some and he vomited when I took him out of the truck.” The curtain was pulled open and another nurse stuck her head inside the room, “I'm going to need one of you to come up to the admissions desk with me and fill out some paper work,”. Dorrie looked at Roland and nodded, “I'll come with you,” she answered.
“What's your son's name and how old is he,?” The nurse asked as she wrapped a blood pressure cuff around Curtis' left arm. “Curtis, Curtis Jones, and he's nine years old,” replied Roland. ” Does you son have any other health issues or drug allergies?” Mister Jones. “No” Roland answered. Curtis whimpered, Roland leaned in close and said “Hang on Curtis, we're at the hospital,” to the nurse he added” Where's the doctor my boy needs help!” The curtain parted and Dorrie entered with the nurse who'd taken her to the admissions desk. The admissions nurse replied, the Doctor's been called he'll be here soon.” then she quickly left the room. The emergency room nurse snapped an identification bracelet on Curtis' good arm, the began rummaging in another drawer and gathering supplies. She wet a gauze pad with antiseptic solution and began to clean Curtis' swollen arm. Curtis started to cry and Dorrie moved to the head of the gurney and rested her hand across Curtis' forehead. The touch settled him and he quieted.
The nurse had finished cleaning the wound and taking the vitals. She was writing in the chart when the curtain opened again. The heavy odor of hair tonic entered the room, followed by a man with dark hair slicked back from his forehead. Strapped around his head was an exam light. He wore a white tunic buttoned across his shoulders and a stethoscope dangled from his neck. Roland recoiled at the sight. It had been nine years since he'd seen this man but he would never forget him. His name was Dr. Evans. Roland felt like he'd been thrown back into the middle of a nightmare. During her pregnancies Esther's doctor had been a kindly gentleman named Doctor Talley but the night Esther went into labor with Curtis, Doctor Talley wasn't available. It wasn't that he wasn't at the hospital that night, he was, but as a patient himself. He'd had a heart attack earlier that day and was in room 204. There were two deaths in the hospital later that night, his and Esther's. Doctor Evans had been called in to take Doctor Talley's patients. He had delivered Curtis and attended Esther the night she died. If Doctor Evans recognized Roland, he didn't let on.
The doctor walked over to the nurse who was still making notes on the chart and without saying a word pulled it from her hands. Quickly glancing over the page, he said “Snake bite ...hmmm...lets have a look.” Thrusting the chart back towards the nurse, he walked to the head of the gurney where Dorry was still standing with her hand on Curtis' forehead and roughly said “You're in my way here, you need to move,” as he nudged her out of the away, and grasped Curtis' black swollen arm. Curtis who had been calm as long as Dorrie's hand had been on his brow began to thrash around. Doctor Evan's tightened his grip on Curtis' arm, and with his other hand, reached up and switched on his head piece light. He leaned in close over the gurney. Curtis moaned then making a retching sound he vomited into Dr. Evans slick-backed hair. Dropping Curtis' arm the doctor bit back an expletive and began barking orders at the nurse. Start IV fluids and 50cc's of penicillin, draw a blood sample and send it to the lab, then have him transferred upstairs. Turning to Roland he said “We will discuss treatment options after I obtain the lab results”. Pulling open the curtain he strode from the cubicle. The nurse quickly completed the doctor's orders and soon Curtis was being moved to a room.
The IV pole rattled along side the gurney, tubing, from an IV needle inserted into Curtis's left arm ran up to a bottle hanging from the pole. The nurse walked beside the pole and guided it as the orderlies transported Curtis upstairs. Roland and Dorrie walked on the other side. Roland was staring at Curtis' arm. The nurse had drawn a line where the swelling was at when the first entered the emergency area, the swelling and discoloration has crept an inch or more past that mark. . The fang marks continued to bleed and the nurse had laid a gauze pad over to absorb the flow. Curtis had been quiet since the vomiting episode in the cubicle and appeared to be resting a little since they had started giving him the IV fluids.
“Roland... Hey, Roland” Roland turned, the Preacher was hurrying down the hall way behind them. He stopped briefly and waited for him to catch up. They both caught up to the gurney as it was stopped at the elevator doors. The Preacher reached out and lay his hand on Curtis' shoulder. At the Preacher's touch Curtis opened his eyes and weakly said, “Hey Preacher,” . Roland noticed the whites of Curtis' eyes were blood red. He made a mental note to ask the nurse about it when they got upstairs to the room. The Preacher said, “It looks like that snake tried to get the best of you, but I hear it wound up gett'in more than it bargained for.” Why, I think that's probably the only snake that ever got killed twice. They tell me Harlan choked it to death then your Aunt Dorry hacked to death!” Curtis managed a slight smile. “How are the other kids?” Roland asked the Preacher. “ They are pretty shook up, especially Bessy,” answered the Preacher. “I was thinking I'd take them to get something to eat.” “That's a good idea,” Roland replied as the elevator doors slid open and the orderlies wheeled Curtis in. “Thank you” Roland managed to reply as he and Dorrie hurriedly squeezed inside the closing elevator doors.
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Why is our theology defined by others? Many of our beliefs are based on public acquired knowledge through verbal and non-verbal forms of communication. We believe, to a large degree, what we are taught. Through this procedure we become an extension of the presenter. Very few of these teachings are challenged or questioned. When we base our Faith on someone’s interpretation instead of our own personal study, we will display a faith based on feelings and emotions. We will become Christian traditionalists that are steeped in emotionalism instead of peaceful confidence. Spiritual anxiety comes through adopted teachings that are a result of uncensored acceptance. Simply regurgitating what others have revealed will not always promote spiritual success. I am not saying that one cannot receive horizontal truth, but shared truth without being Biblically filtered is a risk that too many are taking. Every Believer has the responsibility to study the Word himself. Relying on others to do your homework will not guarantee a victorious outcome when facing life’s tests. We need good biblical teaching and instruction, but it must never be unquestioned. There are many avenues of learning that tell us what to believe. Instead of readily adopting others presentations, let us open our Bibles in a quiet environment where the Holy Spirit is free to reveal God’s word.
Holding back so many Christians from a continual life of spiritual victory is incorrect teaching. Lukewarmness and complacency are a result of implementing wrong teachings. Dissatisfaction with the Church is growing at an alarming rate. It should come as no surprise, for what people have trusted and believed for so many years has failed them. For the Word to be effective in our lives, we must fully understand its intent, and that is through the Holy Spirit! The Word will never fail, but it must be correctly interpreted. It is shocking to see so many people accepting teachings that are really “fake news.” Just because a person is a “spiritual celebrity,” it is not a guarantee that what is presented is Biblically correct.
There are some great teachers that have helped to develop strong Christians through their faithful presentation of God’s Word. These men of God need to be encouraged and held up in prayer daily, for Satan will offer them compromise with fame and fortune. I believe that we are all called to present the Gospel, but few are chosen to positions of leadership. Sadly, there seems to be no division of calling. Presenting the Gospel of Truth must be in accordance with God’s directions. Today, the human spirit is competing with the Holy Spirit. Man wants to present his understanding of the Scriptures instead of seeking what God wants him to present.
Believers must examine every teaching, whether it is presented orally, technologically, or in written form, to see if it truly lines up with the Word. The Holy Spirit will also confirm or alert your spirit as to the status of the message.
Not only is our country under spiritual attack, but so is the Church. If we do not recognize this fact, our only hope is that the Lord will return soon.
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At creation, God declared the universe “good” (Genesis 1:31). But, that was creation in its perfect state, exactly the way the Lord intended it to be. However, sin entered the world, and with it every horror, evil, and decay. What God had created as good is now, in its current state, bad.
And this current state is ever-changing, and in the case of its relationship to God, getting worse. The Bible tells us that as we careen our way to the end of this age of human history, man’s condition will continue to deteriorate (see 2 Timothy 3:1-9; Matthew 24).
For Christians, just about every area of culture and law are against us, and this trend will continue. Fortunately, we are told in God’s Word that those who have Jesus as their Lord and Savior “are more than conquerors” (Romans 8:37) regarding all the ills and hardships the world afflicts on us. Translation: Even if the world kills us, it cannot separate us from God (Romans 8:38-39), meaning our eternal existence with Him is assured, no matter what (John 14:2-3).
But for now, we live in this ever-deteriorating world, and we must do what we can to cope until eternity beckons. What is the best way to do this?
A Key Way
One answer to this question is scattered throughout the above section. Notice the amount of Scripture references included in it. This is one of the keys to coping in this ever-deteriorating world: God’s Word. God’s Word – the Bible – is something we must fill ourselves with every day. We must cherish God’s Word. We must embrace God’s Word. We must learn from God’s Word. We must obey God’s Word. And we must cling to God’s Word.
Contained in God’s Word is God’s voice. Though God can communicate to His children any way He sees fit, His primary way is through His “inspired,” or “God-breathed” (God-ordained) revelation (2 Timothy 3:16). It is in God’s Word that He reveals to us what He is like, how He wants us to relate to Him, and how we should behave. Also in God’s Word is undisputed truth and direction. We can trust God’s Word to lead us in the way we should go. We can trust God’s Word to help sort out all the nonsense we are assaulted with daily and how to make sense of it all.
One of the great portions of Scripture which focuses on the Word of God is the 176-verse masterpiece, Psalm 119. The theme is God’s Word, and this glorious psalm radiates with praises and affirmations of it:
- “Your word, Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens” (v. 89). Though the world is ever-changing, God’s Word remains firm and true.
- “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path” (v. 105). Though the world is filled with darkness and confusion, God’s Word illumines our way.
- “You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word” (v. 114). In this crazy, out-of-control world, what can we put our hope in? The answer is obvious.
- “Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me” (v. 133). How should I conduct my life? Only the Word of God can tell me.
“I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word” (v. 147). When in despair, the Word of God is where you can turn to for hope and comfort.
Clinging to God’s Word
This morning, I read a rather difficult portion of Scripture, Leviticus Chapters 25-27. I can’t say there was much in there which directly applied to my life, but this isn’t the point. Not everything in the Bible must apply directly to me.
Rather, the precious aspect of this morning’s reading was hearing God’s voice and spending time with Him. In reading His Word, I heard His voice. I read about things which matter to Him, and the ways in which He orders the activities of men and women. Hearing God’s voice – through His Word – brought order, comfort, and direction to my early morning, and it will carry me through the day.
I will hear many other voices this day, but none which can give me the inner-peace and guidance God’s Word can. Nothing even comes close. Because of this, and because this world is ever deteriorating and getting darker, I find myself clinging to God’s glorious Word more and more. It truly is my lamp and my light!
Read more by David Ettinger: https://ettingerwriting.wordpress.com/
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I have a rare disorder (lymphedema) that causes swelling in the affected limb – in my case, a leg. Because it’s so rare, it’s categorized as an “orphan disease” which are code words for *not enough people have it to justify spending money on research so that the health industry can profit from it*.
Anywhooo ... I was told that the best that can be done is to manage it. I stopped being a guinea pig for curious doctors a long time ago – poked, prodded, invaded and wrapped like a mummy. LOL I also stopped asking “why me?” At one time, I’d actually convinced myself that God let this happen because I’d decided to become a Playboy bunny when I came of age - LOL (whew! Good one, Connie). Truth? Life happens in this fallen world, but God…
One day I was watching a DVD on the life of Dr. George Washington Carver. He loved nature and hanging out in God’s creation. One evening, he was lying out on the ground looking up at the stars, talkin’ to God.
“Tell me the secret of the universe,” he said.
“Can’t do it,” God said, “it’s too much for you.”
“Then tell me the secret to the peanut.” I’ve told this story before (‘cause I love it!) – not only did God unlock the secret of the peanut for George, but the sweet potato and the soybean as well. And Dr. Carver ran with it.
The Bible says we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). Science proves that every single day with each new discovery. I figured nobody knows me and my body better than God does, so I asked Him for the secret to *my* body. Geez, if He gave GWC the secret to the peanut and stuff, why not? And He did. He also told me that complete healing would happen after a particular event took place and not until then (bummer). When I follow the plan He gave me, I’m fine. When I don’t, I got issues. Following the plan is better. I got a call from a woman with the same condition. She spends a lot of time in and out of the hospital. She said someone told her to call me and ask what I was doing and why I wasn’t having the same issues. When I told her what to do, her response was, “Oh, I can’t do that.” Short story? She’d rather spend up to eight visits a year hospitalized on an IV than manage her lifestyle and be healthy and live fairly normal. Then, why ask?
Don’t we do that in prayer? We ask God for solutions to our issues and He’s happy to accommodate us. BUT … when we hear His answer, because it’s not what we expected or wanted, we, like the rich guy Jesus encountered, walk away sad and holding on to *whatever* which in any case, is absolutely nothing compared to what Jesus offers. When you pray this week, know that God will answer you – He promised (Jeremiah 33:3). BUT, if you’re not gonna flow with Him on His solution, why ask?
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By Henry KorsahPure – not mixed or adulterated with any other substance or material.Christian’s often ask for a ‘pure heart’ but it seems like we have forgotten why Jesus came to die on the cross.Romans 4:25. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification (NIV)My beef with all of this ‘pure heart’ prayers is that we are set free from our sins. The reason why you keep on falling into the same sin over and over again, you simply will not acknowledge that Jesus has already done it for you; it is time to stop dwelling on the past and look towards the cross. The bible says in John 8:36. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed (NIV).Especially, if you are a born - again Christian who has been baptised. Jesus, came on this Earth and received the holy Spirit of God through baptism. Matthew 3:16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. After this you will not find Jesus praying for a pure heart in the bible, if we are all trying to be like Jesus we need the Spirit of God.Let us now go into King David’s prayer and, see why his situation is different from our current situation. David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.Psalm 51:10. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me (NIV)Psalm 51: 11. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy spirit from me. (NIV)Back in King David’s time or like your history teacher said BC (Before Christ). Everyone was living under the law. It was essential for King David to say this prayer so that he can remain in God’s presence and still have the Holy Spirit inside of him. In those days, the moment you sinned it was instant death, no way on Earth, you will enter heaven; even for stealing 5p lollipops at the age of three years old. The unfortunate thing is that everyone breaks the law so it was impossible for anyone to get into heaven.Romans 6:14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace. (NIV)Now we are living under grace so even if you sin, you have already been forgiven. Now this is not an excuse to go out to commit any sin under the sun. The Lord does not want you to do that, he wants you to avoid sin at all cost. Hence why we should worship him in fullness and in truth.Romans 6:15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law, but under grace. (NIV)Further Reading: Romans 6Prayer: Heavenly father, help me to not fall blind to your grace. I thank you for the spirit that you have given me. I thank you for what you did on the cross. I pray that I may no longer dwell on the past but that I may always look towards the cross because of your righteousness. In Jesus mighty name I pray. AmenPlease support us by visiting our Blog page:
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We've added a new Publishing Credits section to the ChristianWriters.com site. This is a special area for established members to post and promote information and links to their book, blog, article, or short story.
Publishing credits will be promoted throughout the site. Soon, we will link each member's credits to their profile for an easy reference (or purchase) of each member's published works.
This service is free, but open only to members with more than five posts on ChristianWriters.com.
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No wonder you believed all the messages about you saving the world. You have the smarts, the brawn, the connections. What would be more natural for someone of your talent, Charisma and good looks than to fulfill all the worlds needs, solve all its problems?
After all that, you didn't get what you wanted. Other people let you down with supplies, or they were late arriving for their great moment in your plan. The grass didn't grow fast enough and the milk didn't spill in the right direction and all of a sudden the world didn't get saved. Now you're mad! Angry! Spitting exclamation marks like nails and bullets.
There's a measure of guilt too. A cold, sinking feeling that someone might call up and ask why you didn't save the world. Maybe there were eyes that saw you sneaking out at the last moment, or even if you didn't actually sneak out, you thought about it. That split second of hesitation might have been all it took for the bad guy to win. It sure looks like the bad guy won.
If you're willing, you can peek at the end of the book to see that the bad guy loses, big time. If you're willing to look beyond the beauty, the brawn, the dizzying intellect, you might glimpse the thing that actually does save the world, and shoves the bad guy down, that one thing that you don't have, and can't have (without an intervention) . Can you guess what it is?
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The Book of Psalms is beloved by many. It showcases every emotion, and often brings comfort to the hurting, struggling, or those are facing loss. Who has not heard a portion of Psalm 23 or sang some of these poetic masterpieces? While other cultures in Ancient Near East had praises and prayers written to their gods, Israel had, and has, God’s truth encapsulated in a large book, written over the course of 1,000 years, called the Book of Psalms.
When most people think of the Psalms, they think of King David, because he was the “sweet Psalmist of Israel,” (2 Samuel 23:1). While he penned about half of them, Moses, Solomon, Asaph, and others, wrote the rest of the 150 Psalms, which became known as the song or hymnbook of Israel, inspired by God.
The word “Psalm” comes from the Greek psalmos or, “song.” The Hebrew tehillim, meaning, “praises,” identifies the purpose for them. The Psalms are divided up into five books, based on the Hebrew manuscripts. Book 1 comprises Psalms 1-41. Book 2 includes Psalms 42-72. Book 3 includes Psalms 73-89. Book 4 is compiled of Psalms 90-106. Book 5 contains Psalms 107-150.
The Psalms were written in the context of the Mosaic Covenant, which is important to keep in mind when interpreting them. They are poetic literature and should be treated as such, with figures of speech, history, other literary forms and more. Often, as in other Wisdom literature (Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs), there is a contrast between the “righteous” (those who follow the Law) and “unrighteous” (those who do not follow the Law), with God’s blessing being on the obedient (the righteous) and His curses upon the disobedient (the unrighteous). Each book concludes with praise to God and Psalm 150 is totally dedicated to His praise.
Though the Psalms were written over a period of 1,000 years, they were probably compiled in their final form by Ezra the priest and scribe (Nehemiah 8:9), roughly about 450 B.C. As history went on, Israel used these for specific purposes, and scholars placed the Psalms in different categories, and while these vary, they are helpful.
For example, there are the Royal Psalms: Psalm 2, 20-21, and more. These focus primarily on the Davidic lineage, with some pointing to the Messiah, the perfect King. The Psalms of Ascent: Psalms 120-134. These were sung as travellers went up to Jerusalem, often for one of the Feasts. Psalms of repentance: 6, 25, and 51. These emphasize the Psalmists confession of sin. There are the Imprecatory Psalms, which called down judgment on Gods and Israel’s enemies: 69, 109, and 137. Then there are hymns of praise: 8, 93; thanksgiving: 9, 30; and the Hallel (which also means “praise”): 113-118, read during the Passover celebration.
While there are other groups, the focus of this series will be the Messianic Psalms. They are specifically written about Israel’s promised Messiah. Though these Psalms were written and applicable to the times in which they were written, God superintended their writings for a greater purpose, pointing to the One who would fulfill all of what was written of Him (Matthew 5:17, Hebrews 10:7).
These include: Psalms 2, 8, 16, 22 (23-24), 40, 45, 68, 69, 72, 89, 102, 109, 110, 118, and 132 to one extent or another. These Messianic Psalms encapsulate aspects of the birth, life, work, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the promised Messiah. He pointed to the Psalms about Himself in Matthew 27:46, quoting Psalm 22:1; Mark 12:9-11, quoting Psalm 118:22-23; Luke 20:39-44, quoting Psalm 110:1. New Testament writers referenced the Psalms about Jesus: Matthew 22:41-46, quoting Psalm 110:1; Mark 11:7-10, quoting Psalm 118:25-26; John 19:23-24, quoting Psalm 22:18 and more.
The study of the Messianic Psalms is a blessing. These Psalms show the unity and connection of the Bible between Old and New Testament; and display the truthfulness and trustworthiness of God’s inspired Word. Each article in this series will explore one of these magnificent Psalms. The Messianic Psalms help us see the reliability and consistency of the Bible and most of all; it helps us see Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word, our Lord and Savior, in the inspired, written Word of God!
At the time of this offering,
Jesus, You reign,
Incarnate King Who died and rose again.
Troublemaker Jacob had tricks,
but You pulled the red wool
of undying love over us,
shown at the cross,
freeing us from satan for good.
At the moment you came
back to Heaven from earth,
You began to give Father our prayers.
Petitions uttered in your ever-right-minded will are heard by our Abba,
as welcome family appeals.
In the times when we pause,
and we stand still where we are
to consider your ways,
it is then that we most notice
that your majesty is a
granted to all the faithful
--but as precious as if
it were discovered by one.
And that is why "where to or three are gathered" rings true,*
this miracle of the complementary "us" as the body
means that Christ the Head
reigns now, in the midst of
Whether we are isolated at Patmos or "sabbathing" together at the piedmont of Mount Zion,***
the primary vision is the same,
"Christ in you, the hope of glory"+
* Matthew 18:20
** 2 Corinthians 5:11-21
*** Hebrews 12:18-24
+ Colossians 1:27
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"On that day I will raise up the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down, and repair its damages; I will raise up its ruins, And rebuild it as in the days of old." (Amos 9:11)
Many interpret this prophecy as God’s promise to restore the ministry of praise and worship among the churches. However, as much as we are commanded to praise and worship God in many places in the Bible, this verse is not about the restoration the ministry of a 24-hours cycle praise and worship ministry.
My contention is this, by making this verse to mean the 'restoration of the grace of worship in the church, we will lose the higher meaning God attaches to the verse. Actually, we will lose a lot of ground in the prophetic understanding of the doings of God in our days. On the other hand, there are several scriptural evidences to support the interpretation of this verse in a different way.
1. The tent of meeting where the Ark was kept and where much worship was conducted was never called the Tabernacle of David (See 2 Sam. 6: 17; 7: 1-3; 1 Kg. 8: 1-3; 1 Chr. 16, 21:29-30; 2 Chr. 1:3). It was not even called the Tabernacle of Moses after the first man who set it up under God’s direction (See Acts 7: 44-47; Heb. 3: 2-6; 9, 10).
2. The whole tone of Amos’ prophetic activity is centered on condemning social injustice and ritualistic worship devoid of true spirituality. Amos' burden is to call Israel to do justice for the poor and to return it to its original covenant relationship with God. For example, please look at Amos 4: 1; 8: 4-6. According to Amos true worship is not associated with a place or with a song, but with integrity and justice. (see Amos 5: 4-5; 6: 5-6)
2. Why associate the tent of meeting with praise and worship only? If the tent of meeting represents the kind of adoration and fear David has for God, is it not true that David’s life equally symbolize many important spiritual virtues, such as election by grace (1 Cor. 1: 30), warfare against God’s enemies, disciplines of God, waiting upon, the Messiah and His Kingdom? So what is our Scriptural basis to read ONLY the restoration worship in that verse?
3. In the Scripture, the figure of tabernacle/ tent in often used to represent the human body (person) or a family or a nation. (see Jerm. 30: 18-19; 2 Cor. 5:1). Therefore, it is more likely that Amos 9:11 is about God's promise to restore the royal household of David. It is about God bringing back the line of David from obscurity by raising a righteous and God-fearing king that will hasten to do justice.
"then a throne will be established in gracious love, and there will sit in faithfulness— in the Tent of David— one who judges, seeks justice, and is swift to do what is right." (Is. 16:5)
David in prophetic Scripture stands for such kind, just, and pious rule than for worship per se. For example, see, Is. 11: 1-6; Jer. 23: 5-6; Ps. 77: 69-72). The main concern of Amos is the restoration of social and economic justice, and the true worship of God. This requires a Solomon type king. (See Ps. 72)
4. But why make so much a fuss about such an obscure verse as Amos 9:11? What harm is there to use this verse for a good purpose? Does not God recommend and desire our worship? Yes, He does (Ps. 29: 1, 96: 5-8, etc.) However, we will miss a greater prophetic meaning in that verse if we close our minds to its correct meaning. Amos 9:11 should be interpreted in messianic terms. It should remind us the humiliation (ie. ruin) of the Messiah and His ultimate restoration to glory by God. In that sense Amos 9:11 must be interpreted in the contexts of Ps. 88; Is. 52: 11-13; Dan. 8: 9-14; Zech. 12: 8, 13:1 which highlight the humiliations the Messiah suffers. These verses (along with those cited in '4' above) can provide the right context to understand the intent of the Holy Spirit when He speaks about the ruins of David's tabernacle and its restoration to its former glory. God promises restoration to the royal line of David. It will emerge from its life of obscurity and humiliation to rule again in power and majesty.
Glory be to God
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I sit here, disillusioned and disgusted. And fearful. And apprehensive. I ask the Lord, what can I do to begin the healing process and I feel as though I have nothing to offer. The tear is wide and the two (or three or four?) sides are self-righteously pointing fingers at the "other side," claiming what has happened is all their fault. Is it? Is blame to rest totally on one side while the other side waits for some sort of mass repentance and reconciliation to the opposing side's point of view? Is there no common ground on which we can stand and at least try to agree? I'm beginning to wonder how far this will go and where we will be in a year; in six months. And it's frightening.
Our country is being torn apart by a hardness of heart that resembles what Moses faced with Pharaoh in Exodus. I understand that those who are of the world will not understand, but Christians who refuse to come together with brothers and sisters who stand on the other side of Jordan, should be reaching out in the love that Christ asked of his church. "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35) This was his last commandment and it wasn't a suggestion, it was a requirement and meant to be obeyed.
When we fight with each other, we let all sorts of evil into our midst. When hate becomes the motivation for separation, we play into the hands of Satan. The incident in Charlottesville is but one example of evil creeping in where it should never be allowed. United, we must stand against all hate, racism, bigotry and fascist philosophies in any form. But to hate back and return evil for evil and violence for violence, only makes for escalation, not peace. Just one look at history will prove that to be true.
When Jesus came before Pilate and was questioned about his kingdom and his identity, Jesus answered: "For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” (John 18:37-38)
Have we lost the desire to seek truth? Are we like Pilate questioning even the definition of truth? We live in a very dangerous time where even our right to think for ourselves is being threatened. We must turn again to Jesus' words and his command to love one another. Jesus called us the salt of the earth . . . but if that salt loses it saltiness? He said it is no longer useful. I implore my brothers and sisters in Christ to earnestly seek the Lord for a way to be what we have been called, Children of the Light, Peacemakers, Salt of the Earth and Christ Followers. His way is our only hope, our only strength and our only solution.
Have you ever tried to tell a joke in another language than your own? A little advice—don’t.
When we first moved to Luxembourg we had a coffee house outreach in a ground-floor apartment just over the border in a tough part of the town of Mont Saint Martin, France. We had regular visitors each week but not many were evidently interested in spiritual things. They were more interested in free cokes and cookies.
These rowdy teens made it hard to share the Gospel. They were about as loud as I was. It was the beginning of our ministry in Europe and I struggled to communicate in French.
One evening, out of desperation I think, I told them that I was going to tell them a story.
For once I had their attention and they listened and laughed at my story of how a sweet little old lady had played on my gullibility so that I would pay for her meal at the restaurant. (It wasn’t true).
When I learned how she tricked me I ran after her. She was hobbling on her cane towards her luxury car. Everyone was laughing at how she hoodwinked me, but I was going to have the last laugh on them when I got to the punchline.
In the story, she starts to sit in her car and as I reach towards her she starts hitting me with her cane. “So I grab her leg and start pulling it … like I’m pulling your leg now. Ha, ha!”
The only problem was that as I approached my moment of triumph, my anticipation crashed to the earth with a booming “thump.” The expression, “pulling her leg,” makes no sense in French. I had to tell them it was a joke and try to explain why it was funny.
Needless to say, it all went over like a pregnant pole-vaulter.
I found out later that the equivalent phrase in French would have been, “Je t’ai fais marcher.” “I made you walk.” That would have worked just as well in my joke if I had known.
When we’re kidding we like to say, “I was pulling your leg.” Or if the story we told wasn’t exactly true we say, “I had my fingers crossed.” For our readers in other countries, crossing your fingers can mean, “Just kidding. It’s not true.”
Is God Pulling Your Leg?
Sometimes we read God’s promises and act like we think He’s pulling our leg or that He’s got His fingers crossed.
“For Jesus Christ, the Son of God, does not waver between “Yes” and “No.” He is the one whom Silas,Timothy, and I preached to you, and as God’s ultimate “Yes,” he always does what he says. For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for his glory.” 2 Cor. 1:19, 20 NLT)
God promised to save for eternity each one of us who come to Him in sincere repentance and faith in the work of His Son Jesus on the Cross. Yet, some of us wallow in doubt, wondering if God really saved us.
“And that message is the very message about faith that we preach: 9 If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved. 11 As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced… “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10, NLT)
Was God pulling your leg when He promised to forgive you, change you, hear your cry and make you His child? Did He have his fingers crossed?
Is the Jig Up?
You’re in a storm in your life. That last lightning bolt hit right next to you. The waves rise so high that your stomach seems to leave your body when you plunge into the trough, only to barely ascend the next wave.
“We’ll old pardnur, this looks like it. Been nice knowing you. But, it don’t look like we’re going to make it.”
So, the Lord Jesus was just kidding when He said, “for He [God] Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [i will] not, [i will] not, [i will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down relax My hold on you)! [Assuredly not!]
So we take comfort and are encouraged and confidently and boldly say, The Lord is my Helper; I will not be seized with alarm [i will not fear or dread or be terrified]. What can man do to me?” (Heb. 13:5, 6, Amplified Bible Classic Edition)
Was He pulling our leg when the Spirit breathed that through the author of the Hebrews?
One of the most critical decisions we’ll ever make is to decide whether we believe God is telling us the truth or pulling our leg.
And you? Do you believe that God is pulling your leg?
Worshippers aren't made when they see the enemy on the run, put to flight. The truth is, worshippers of God are made during dark, stormy nights. And how we respond to our storms determines just what kind of worshippers we are.
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In the summer of 1940, everything went wrong. The British Expeditionary Forces landed in France and began to take up fighting positions at the start of World War II. The French heavily relied on the Maginot Line. A line of armed fortifications built to prevent any kind of invasion along the Switzerland, Germany, and Luxembourg borders. German forces unexpectedly went through the “impenetrable Ardennes Forest” an area that was only lightly fortified. In five days, the Germans captured the city of Sedan and headed west. This flanking maneuver cut off the entire Allied Army. More than 350,000 soldiers were surrounded with their backs to the sea at a port town called Dunkirk.
German forces were now on their way and had the ability to wipe out the entire British Army. When it seemed certain that the Allied forces at Dunkirk would be encircled and annihilated, a British naval officer only had time to send a quick cable. He sent three words to London, “But if not.”
These poignant words were immediately recognized as the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the Book of Daniel. These men were given a choice: they could worship the golden statue that King Nebuchadnezzar made or be thrown into the fiery furnace.
Daniel 3:17-18 shares their response: “our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
They bravely chose the furnace, rather than disobeying God. The message of these three words told in Daniel 3:18 were clear. Even though the situation was desperate and the Army was trapped, they would not give in.
One Bible verse and three tiny words communicated a giant message. It also brought about the most unorthodox and successful rescue campaign known in the modern era. The British Navy ordered fishing vessels, yachts, and any civilian watercraft longer than 30 feet in length to report and join the naval rescue effort. The flotilla consisted of over 850 civilian and military vessels with owners and crews, ready to launch across the channel.
Just as the German General was ready to attack the surrounded city, Hitler ordered him to stop at the outskirts of Dunkirk. The German command wanted forces to continue south with their invasion of France, instead of pushing into Dunkirk. This coincidence and several days of cloudy weather gave the “Little ships of Dunkirk” and regular military boats 9 full days to rescue over 338,000 men.
Today, we call this naval rescue mission “The Miracle of Dunkirk” and it began with three simple words from Daniel 3:18.
Rated five stars out of five by reviewer Iris Chacon. A complimentary ARC was provided to this reviewer for an honest, unbiased review.
Imagine that someone you loved very much simply disappeared. Imagine that you know they become visible again for an hour each day at three o'clock, and you go to that place every day at three just to see your loved one. But you can't talk to them or touch them or even reveal yourself to them, because if you do, they'll disappear again immediately.
That's the scenario presented in all its joy and pathos in L.S. Fellows' short story/novella, Magic O'Clock. The story is so empathetic, enthralling, and eloquent that even readers who thought the subject of dementia held no interest for them will be delighted.
One is tempted at several points to simply stop in the middle of the narrative to revel in the beauty of a particular line or phrase. An example might be this passage from the first paragraph of the story:
"It's not that I'm hiding, but Dad no longer recognizes me and it pains me to see his blank expression whenever I visit. I'll make myself known later. After the miracle."
In these phrases, the narrator (a fictional character, not the author) describes the changed man who enters the magic place each day at three:
"He no longer slouches. Instead, he stands upright, shoulders back, chin jutting upward, arms glued to his sides, and thumbs point to the floor."
What an insightful, clear, and wonderful mental image that shows us much more than merely the outward appearance of the man. The melancholy yet celebratory prose continues a page further on:
"The lost soul that inhabits his body and mind for most of the day is vanquished for now and the man in his place is my father of old."
Later in the magic hour, the narrator shares, "He is a true word-smith, a man for whom eloquence and diction make pillow talk while he sleeps." I might say exactly the same of author L.S. Fellows.
Add Magic O'Clock to your reading list immediately. It is so brief and beautiful that you will find yourself re-reading it from time to time (no pun intended) simply to relive the nuances of love so poetically presented in this story.
This novella is suitable for all audiences and contains no offensive material.
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This blog is about the most pernicious teachings of Sunday keeping Christianity, which is 'Once saved, always saved' or Eternal security. The following information was taken off the internet at allaboutgod.com: "Once Saved, Always Saved – is there biblical evidence - The Bible teaches “once saved, always saved” -- that we can be saved once and for all only through a repentant, saving faith in Jesus Christ. Once a person has accepted Christ as Savior, they may wonder if it is possible to lose that salvation. What if they commit a sin? What if they commit a lot of sins? What if they do something very, very wrong? Is it possible to be saved, and then lose that salvation? Fortunately, the answer is a resounding “no.” Once a person has accepted Jesus Christ as Savior, he/she is forever saved. This fact is referred to as the doctrine of “eternal security,” often summarized as “once saved, always saved.” Now the bible teaches just the opposite of what the author says. Peter says this: "Therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 3:17) Who is a 'lawless person’: "But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies… And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words… 2 Peter 2:1-3). Peter is saying that benefactors (Priest, Preachers and such) will teach false theories about the truth, which will seem so plausible that you will believe them. You are being warned not to accept every thought as if it were gospel, but search the scriptures in light of the words of God. So where in scripture does it say: Once saved, always saved? Even Peter tells us that we can lose our stability, which may in turn, cause us to lose our salvation. Take our everyday lives. Say you are driving through a residential area, and the speed limit is 35MPH. There is a cop at the corner and with their radar on and you stay at the posted speed limit as you drive past them. Can the cop pull you over for speeding? No, because driving the posted speed means you are obeying the law, and therefore you are righteous in the eyes of the law. Let’s bring our speed up to 45MPH. Now you are a law breaker, who can be punished for breaking the law, and because you did, you can lose your freedom! The Ten Commandments are to be always obeyed, and in doing so will keep us from getting a spiritual ticket. Yet one of these laws is broken every Sunday, and that law is: "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy...Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy." (Exodus 20:8) A benefactor is one who teaches falsely, and that since the Jews killed Jesus you are not to keep the Seventh day Sabbath! Their argument: Since the Jews killed Jesus, God rejected them and put Christians in their place. Also, since Christians are different; God gives Christians vast amounts of leeway regarding what He will accept in regard to breaking His Sabbaths, or allow you to worship Him on any day that you choose. Peter is talking about these benefactors and their lies. Now false teachers are smart and they know you can read scripture, but they have a degree in divinity, therefore we believe they know more than we do! What they learned in college is the same old lie that has been handed down over the years. This is why they don’t want you to know the truth, because it would take you away from their money pot. But if you understood the truth, you would be leave them and go where the truth was being practiced. So there is that economic reason for holding on to you with lies and fables!
From allaboutgod.com: "The Bible teaches that man is inherently sinful -- that a sinful nature is a part of all of us (Romans 3:10). This means that even after being saved, every single believer is going to sin from time to time. Thinking that we can live a perfect, sinless life after our salvation is not only unscriptural, but arrogant (James 2:10). If we are not eternally secure, this sinning will cause us to lose our salvation, but how much sin is too much? There is no scriptural “yardstick” given to tell us how many or what kind of sins are enough to void our salvation. Without eternal security, the Bible would describe a situation where Christianity is a perpetual game of Russian Roulette; a life in which condemnation and salvation alternate every time we sin and confess, and we never know if we’re saved or not." This author is using a clever argument to confuse you! Which is this: That if we are not saved continuously, and if we sin, that sin could cause us to lose our salvation, which Peter says can happen. Now here is the clever part: "How much sin is too much? There is no scriptural 'yardstick' given to tell us how many or what kind of sins are enough to void our salvation". The logic is this; God says that He will forgive my sins, and he does this through the shed blood of His Son, Jesus! However, if I sin, then there is a penalty as the wages of sin is death, therefore, for the death penalty to be enforced, according to allaboutgod.com, I have to have lost my salvation. So this author says that saved versus sin is a Russian roulette game, that is, on again, off again, which is it? God has said that He will forgive our sins, but there is a caveat here, which is, that you must repent from sinning and make an effort to obey God's laws though not sinning again. Now we know that we are going to sin again, but the yardstick is this: "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ". How? Though reading, studying, and obeying God’s laws! That is why the true Sabbath is blessed, because it shows God those who will keep His word and grow in His grace, and He is faithful to forgive! If you disobey any one of God's Ten Commandments, what are the results? "You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law." (Romans 2:23). James says: "Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing". Notice that James says that the law is a perfect law, and that is a law to make one free. He also says that a doer, will be blessed, whereas, the opposite are those who forgets and is condemned. So how is it, that if the Sabbath and its requirements are among that perfect law, you not keep Sabbath, but instead keep a day that is ordained by man? "For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. For he who said, Do not commit adultery, also said, Do not murder. If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. (James 2:10-11) Let’s rearrange this passage, and something interesting pops out! For he who said, Remember the Sabbath day and to keep it holy, also said, do not murder. If you do not murder, but keep another day other than the Sabbath, then you have become a transgressor of the law. This reversal shows that Sunday keeping is a lie and you are a transgressor of the law. Again from allaboutgod.com: "Scriptural passages (Ephesians 2:8-9, Isaiah 64:6) indicate that our attempts at good deeds will never earn us a place in heaven. We cannot make up for our past, present, or future sins by doing good works. A saved believer will, as a natural product of their faith, shun sin and practice good works (James 2:18). If “once saved, always saved” is not true, then by necessity we are saved both by our faith and our works. If we can do sinful things, or not do good things (James 4:17) and lose our security, then our good deeds are a part of our salvation. This concept is contradictory to Scripture. It also creates an unlivable scenario where we have to try to do enough good to outweigh our sinful natures. The doctrine of “eternal security” goes hand in hand with the doctrine of “saved by faith alone.” To deny eternal security is to endorse a “faith plus works” salvation system." We have to look at what is meant by works? In the days of martin Luther, the Church was selling indulgences and its priests were not coy about taking money or to extract some forms of payment for entrance into heaven. This is the works that the benefactors try to confuse you with! To obey and not sin, takes an effort! This effort is doing works. That is why James said that "...faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." Let’s turn to Paul: "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works" (Hebrews 10:24)! From Allaboutgod.com: "A saved believer will, as a natural product of their faith, shun sin and practice good works (James 2:18)." Rubbish! the author is contradicting James while making you consider that James is supporting him, nor is Peter, because they recognized that works are associated with salvation. James, who was there with Jesus and should know what he was talking about, but you believe in the false teachings of eternal security, therefore all you had to do to be saved is profess Christ, while not understanding that helping one another is an integral part of salvation! Therefore James and Peter challenge the illogic of ‘once saved always saved’ and show that it is in error! Once saved, always saved says this: “Father, while I am spitting in your face by keeping Sunday, you must forgive me for doing just that, because remember, once saved, always saved, right!”
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New Year Expectations
Perhaps like me, each New Year you have an expectation that this year will be different. You look back at the past 12 months with disappointment because goals you set at the start have not been accomplished, hopes you had were not met and dreams you cherished were dashed. When this happens year after year, it is tempting to become cynical, or pessimistic, defeatist or even indifferent. Que sera, sera, you say to yourself (whatever will be, will be!) yet secretly you feel disappointed.
The above is an intro to a post encouraging us to maintain hope. Hope you will pay me a visit and read.
Please don't hesitate to leave a response at my blog site (comments or likes). I look forward to hearing from you.
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The holiness of God never ceases to amaze me when I truly consider it… That is when I actually consider it to the fullest extent that I can. And when I do it shows me how little consideration I really do give to it. It is all that is good. It is all that is just. It is the purest essence of all that is good and all that is just… something that I in myself fail to grasp hold of. It is something that the more I think of it, the further I truly am from grasping it. This would be the expected result though, because naturally we understand that which is bad by knowing what is good. If it were not for our God-given knowledge of what is good then we would never know we were bad. Logically, it would follow that one would not know they had been treated poorly unless they had first experienced being treated good.
This is then my struggle, the struggle with sin. I once was in sin (Ephesians 2:1-3) but now I am not (Ephesians 2:4-9). I once was bad, but now I am good. But now because I am good, I see how bad I am. How is this so? It is because I am not good by what I have done, but rather what has been done for me (Ephesians 2:8-9). I have been risen to life, spiritually, and now that I am good because of Christ, I see how bad I truly am. The good that is within me comes from the holiness of God. This is what is truly amazing. That holy God can make a sinful man a holy man. Because once we understand how bad we are, we then see the miracle of salvation and the lengths that God went to in order to reach us, namely the cross. We are such prideful beings. We think that once we are saved we are either stagnant or to continue life within our own power. But we fail to realize what salvation truly is. It is the act of God making that which is horrifically bad into that which is infinitely good. That which is sinful into that which is holy. That which is dead into that which is alive, and that He didn’t even have to, but rather wanted to. And this is not belittling humanity in the least. Instead, it is raising mankind up to a place of wondrous value in the eyes of Almighty God. God would not die for that which He did not love with all of His heart, you and I. No, He loves us to a caliber that we simply could not fathom, even though Paul prayed for the Ephesians to understand its depth, height, breadth, etc. It is simply true to say that mankind is sinful, bad, evil to the heart, and only through understanding the holiness of God a bit more every day can we see how much we truly are loved in the midst of that mess called sin.
Because of this love I am made good. But if I am now good, how is it that I see how bad I am? Can one be bad and good at the same time? The only explanation is that I am someone different, while yet being more of my true self than I ever have been in who God created me to be. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20) I have died to myself, but yet I am more of who God created me to be in personality because of the righteousness of Christ that has been imparted to me via faith in Christ. In other words, Christ now lives in me through the person of the Holy Spirit who then makes me righteous and holy. However, because I am still subject to the flesh within this fallen body and fallen world, even though I have been saved from the penalty of sin, I still must choose daily of my own will to die more and more to sin.
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing… …For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
(Romans 7:15-19; 22-25a)
While I am made righteous through the blood of Christ, that is justification, and through the righteousness imparted to me in the Holy Spirit, I still deal with the flesh and the free will to choose to quench the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19). I must choose to die to sin each day in order to give Him liberty to work the good that He has implanted within me (Philippians 1:6, Romans 12:2). How does one die daily? Surrender. This is not to say that we are lost and saved every single day. But rather it is taking up one’s cross every day and choosing to follow Christ. Salvation does not quench one’s free will anymore than denying salvation quenches the sovereignty of God. This does not mean that we lose our salvation, but rather choose to love ourselves more than God. We must learn to surrender daily. To die to our own wants, desires, loves, lusts, and sin. We do this through the help of the Holy Spirit. We do it in the mindset that there is no goodness within us and that the only goodness we have is at the cross, because it is only due to the cross that we have the goodness to begin with. We become more of ourselves by becoming more like Christ, and that is more like God (Genesis 5:1).
We are holy creatures because of holy God. To fully understand this concept is something that I am ashamed to say I do not consider every day… but I can say that God considers it, and that He is indeed mindful of us when we are not mindful of Him. Reconciling the infinite grace of God with the terrifying holiness of God is a task that I truly doubt we will ever be fully capable of accomplishing, but God has already done that for us in the cross. When we come to those points in which we are in awe of God and who He is, it is then that we are like Paul when he cries out in helpless praise over his condition and what God has done for him on the cross. Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord… because of Him, who He is, and what He has done… we can know God. Not simply know of God… but know God.
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