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    I was a long distance runner when I was in the Army. I stubbornly decided to do better on the physical fitness test than anyone - including the men. I never met the max for men, but I did leave more than my share of men in the dust in the two-mile run.

     

    Not saying I'm proud of my attitude. I had need for speed.

     

    I had the same attitude when it came to reading God's Word. I would buzz through the chapters in the "Do the Bible in a Year Race" thinking I was gaining spiritual fitness. I powered my way through Bible from God's Creation and to Revelation.

     

    I would leave the room full, but not fulfilled.

     

    At my last doctor appointment, he announced, "No more running for you."

     

    I thought, "What? Wait! You mean I have to walk? Walking is for wimps!"

     

    Again, not proud of my attitude.

     

    So I walked.

     

    I hated it at first. But, in the slowness, I began to see things from a different perspective. I experienced things on a whole new level. Colors were colorful. I saw the redness of a cardinal. I felt the sweet caress of the wind in my hair. I noticed a yellow butterfly flit from flower to flower as if taunting me with her, "Don't you wish you looked like me?"

     

    Walking awakened in me the reality of a beautiful world.

     

    This experience changed the way I approached Scripture. I started walking through the Scriptures. I breathed in God Word with a heart of expectation.

     

    I wasn't gulping in the Word; it infused me. It wasn't gobbled up but savored. No guzzling. I was drinking cool, clear living water. I dug deep shovel-by-shovel until the hidden treasure surface.

     

    This reading awakened in me the reality of God's love. He whispered Words of Wisdom in my ear and my heart slowed to the rhythm of my Master.

     

    My spiritual senses matured. My approach was prayerful, and intentional.

     

    I realized God was present in the reading of His Word. We walked together, talked about Abraham, Sarah and the foolishness of Lot.

     

    I watched in amazement as Jesus showed me how He walked on the water. I tried to warn Peter to keep His eyes on Jesus moments before he falls. I saw Him take the once stormy waters and make them calm, peaceful, and safe. We laughed as we watched the bridegroom taste that water turned to wine. It was good!

     

    I lifted my heart in praise with Psalmist and accepted Wisdom's call in Proverbs.

     

    I can't explain it, but my times in the Word were better than ever before. His knowledge extra sturdy and I handled His correction with grace and not guilt. Now my eyes open, my ears clear, my mind uncluttered and my soul touched by the Holy.

     

    It's my manna - enough nourishment for the day. I'm not full but fulfilled.

     

    Sometimes I miss a step or two, stumbling in the ebb and flow of life. But I miss Him so much I have to return. I need His faithful presence like a flower needs sunshine.

     

    I no longer feel guilty or frustrated. We start all over again. He knows me and need to know for today. It's no longer a run, but a walk. God's not disappointed in me. He walks with me and talks with me.

     

    I trust Him.

     

    I found the secret of the Yielded Heart. It's a beautiful thing. It's a sweet, personal and intimate. It's the race set for me. He knows the finish line.

     

    People wonder today, "Is it possible to walk with God today?" I say, "Yes!" We take it one day at a time.

     

    It's not so much as footprints in the sand, but footprints on the heart.

     

    How about a walk?

     

    My son (daughter), do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring prosperity. Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straights. Proverbs 3:1-6

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  1.  

     

    The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and the Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6) are often looked at as one event recorded in two Gospels.  Matthew’s account goes into greater detail, while Luke presents a limited discourse.  But on careful study, one will see a distinct difference between the two accounts.  The settings of the teachings give evidence of geographical locations that are obvious to the reader.  Matthew records Jesus’ teachings on a mountain, while Luke emphasizes a plain in the shadow of a mountain.  Matthew tells us there were a considerable number of disciples that came to Jesus to hear His teaching.  It seems this was a thinning out of prospective applicants for the ministry of an Apostle.  Some time later, Jesus went once again up into a mountain, and after a night of praying, chose twelve men to become His “inner circle.”  After His selection, He descended from the mountain with His Apostles and addressed the multitude of people that had assembled from all over Judea to hear Him speak.  In Matthew, Jesus actually was teaching an introductory class on ministry.  In Luke, Jesus is sharing the Word with the general population. 

     

    As one studies the Sermon on the Mount one will see the importance of selecting men who would be an asset to Jesus’ ministry.  Ineffective ministries are directly related to ineffective ministers.  Jesus began His teaching by defining whom they would be engaging.  “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”  All the Beatitudes identify the needs of the seekers whom they would encounter.  Jesus pointed out that there would be opposition to their teaching, but they should rejoice for there would be a Heavenly award awaiting them.  He told them they are to be the salt and light of the world.  He told them that He came to fulfill the Law, not to replace it.  He stressed the importance of practicing what they taught.  He told them their righteousness must be greater than the righteousness of the Pharisees.  An Apostle would not speak with anger toward another person.  If they owed past debts, they were to take care of them immediately.  He told them to be on guard against sexual temptations, initiated by wandering eyes that could lead to impure thoughts and eventually sinful actions.  If they are married, never seek a way out of their marriage.  He told them that their word was all that was necessary when it came to making promises.  He told them to be willing to respond positively to the challenges from others.  He told them to love their enemies.  Whatever they gave to others, they were to do it anonymously, and God would bless them outwardly.  They were not to make long, flowery prayers, for God already knew what their need was.  Fast without doing it for show.  Don’t make money a goal in life, for you cannot serve two masters.  Be careful what you set your eyes on, for it will influence your life.  He told them not to worry, that God would take care of all their needs.  They were not to judge one another.  He told them by asking, seeking, and knocking they would achieve results.  The way to serving Him was a very narrow way and few of the applicants would succeed in being called.  He told the potential candidates that there would be false prophets, but they would be able to recognize them by the fruit they displayed.  He pointed out that some will claim they are called to be ministers, but Jesus would say He never knew them.  Finally, Jesus told them if they obeyed His teachings they would be able to survive any storm that came their way.  I wonder how many spiritual leaders today meet the criteria that Jesus laid out in the Sermon on the Mount!

     

    The Sermon on the Plain was an illustration for the Apostles on how they were to share Jesus’ teachings.  He starts out by addressing the people specifically.  “Blessed are you poor.”  He lists four beatitudes which spoke to their needs.  He addresses the Pharisees and religious hypocrites who were scattered among the multitude with four Woes.  He tells the seekers to love their enemies and not to judge.  He stresses the importance of bearing good fruit.  He closes by telling them it is more than giving Him lip service; it is hearing and doing what He says.  There would be challenges to their spiritual walk, but by obeying His word they would not be moved.  May God grant us understanding to the intent of His Word!

     

  2. PathOfWarriors
    Latest Entry

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    By Lizzy Korsah

     

    Are you a lovable person? Can people talk to you and not feel afraid? Can you forgive when someone does something against you? Have you forgiven your ex? Are you a giver? Do you help the poor, homeless or give to charities that work with third world countries? Have you spoken about Jesus to your loved ones or even out on the streets? I know these questions are forward but I want you to think of them for a quick moment before you read the blog.

     

    I remember there was a song that I liked when I listened to Drake called “No new friends”. It was such a catchy tune that in the end, people began to live for the phrase. If we haven’t been friends for the longest or if we’re not close enough then I don’t need you (a better way to say it as we all know what the lyrics say). As much as I was hyped about the song, I didn’t really agree.  What’s wrong with making new friends?

     

    In this modern day society, I believe it is hard to make new friends with people. If you are not with the times or if you are not as popular as you should be, people hardly want to know about you. It seems as if you need to be of a certain standard before you are approachable to even say hello. Or, we have become afraid of betrayal by the people we trust we hardly try to make new friends. That way we don’t get as hurt. “Lizzy it really isn’t that deep. I don’t need to make new friends”. But it is deep if you have the ability to help those who struggle making friends and are contemplating suicide as they have no one to talk to. They feel alone and inadequate. I’m not saying make friends with everyone as we should be wise. Let the Holy Spirit guide you in being a friend to those who may not be as social as you are.

     

    Proverbs 27:17 mentions (in NKJV) “ As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend”. We as seekers of the Kingdom should encourage each other daily in the faith. We need to be open to help others. We need to be approachable, we shouldn’t judge, or become liable to gossip someone’s business as soon as they leave. Sometimes we may be so used to doing these things that we forget that doing this is wrong. Encourage someone with a bible verse a day. Speak on the goodness of God. Be a helper when they need help. I know oyster is a bit expensive but if you need to visit them, do so. Let them know you are there. Be a shepherd to them.

     

    Forgiveness is a touchy subject as it is difficult to forgive someone who has hurt you. It can be an ex who has lied, used and abused your trust to get their own way. It could be a friend who you trusted to tell your secrets and goals with but they hated you in long sight. It could be a parent who has neglected you. It could even be a teacher who said you will not make it in life. Urgh, aren’t they annoying? Even the thought of them gets you heated. But I want to encourage you to forgive. “Why?” You may ask. Well that’s why. You are so mad at them that thinking about what they did to you ruins your day. “Well, I’m just gonna live my best life”. You can’t live your best life if the past life is still making you upset and peeved off. This is what the devil does. He doesn’t want to see you happy and so he uses the people you trusted to make you angry that you may never forgive.

     

    May I remind you of Jesus? That moment when they were mocking Him on the cross, what did He say? He said to His heavenly father, in Luke 23:34 “...Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” He told His heavenly father while He was in excruciating pain to forgive them. They were killing Him, ending His life and He told the God of everything to forgive them. See God did not play when it came to Jesus. He loved Him as He was the perfect son, and to see His other sons and daughter mocking Jesus, wow it must have got Him fuming. But Jesus, being who He is decided to forgive and let it go because that is what He had to do. 1 John 3:16 (NKJV) says “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”

     

    The things that we go through in life aren’t to bring us down, but to make us stronger. When you decide to forgive, it shows how strong you are. It also shows that you don’t want to be bondage to emotional pain anymore. You want to ‘live your best life’. “And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32 NKJV). If Jesus can forgive you your sins, you can also forgive that person. “But it’s hard” you may say. That is what Jesus is there for. He is there for you to lean on Him to help you. Tell Him you cannot do this on your own and that You need His grace to forgive the people who hurt you. I’ll tell you this; the best revenge is forgiving and moving on.

     

    Do your bit to help the homeless, the poor and the people who are struggling in third world countries. Doing an act of kindness a day shows the Jesus in you. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not by force to give money especially when you are lacking in the money department (I pray may God grant you wealth so that you may never want ever again). I remember reading a quote somewhere from a high profiled evangelist who said that evangelising is not only to the rich and wealthy but to the poor and to those who have lost hope in humanity. By showing love towards people, you show why God is love and you bring forth a light which signs in the darkness. Just as it is mentioned in ‭‭I John‬ ‭2:10‬ ‭(NKJV) “He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him.” I want you to think about this. Giving is only a struggle when you think of yourself and not the person you are giving to. You may not even have to give money. It may just be sacrificing your time to just sit with the homeless and giving hope to them.

     

    I am reminded of the parable Jesus told about a man who travelled to Jericho from Jerusalem and thieves stole his garments and beat him on the roadside. He was hurt, bruised and looked like he was hanging on for dear life. A Priest and a Levite looked and walked past. Then one good Samaritan, helped this poor man, took him to a nearby inn and looked after him till he became well. This parable can be found in Luke 10:25-37.

     

    “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil your ministry” II Timothy 4:1-5. I believe this passage is a decree to all of us that we must tell people of Jesus. Telling people about Jesus is a way of showing love towards our neighbour.

     

    If you’re anyone like me, I’m a very shy, quiet girl. I actually struggle in making small talk to people I hardly know and I find evangelising quite daunting. But I cannot use this as an excuse not to tell people about God as I would become selfish, causing me not to show the love that I am meant to show. In order to show love you must direct people to love Himself. “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” I John‬ ‭4:8‬ (‭NKJV)‬‬. It is an honour to proclaim the name of Jesus in all areas of our lives and it’s a blessing for the people around you to know the light that is in you. For greater is He that is in you than He that is in the world. (1 John 4:4). We shouldn’t just throw it aside and allow others to tell people about Jesus. It is our duty. Even if it is not preaching, but letting people know that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, it is a way of fulfilling the good commission. If they do not want to hear about it that is fine, continue to pray that one day they will meet and love Jesus in their own way.

     

    Throw pride out the window and introduce Jesus to a friend who’s never met Him before. Begin to fellowship with believers who are struggling in their faith or in their lives. Forgive those who hurt you. Give or help those who are less privileged than you. Do this is all with the HELP of the Holy Spirit. Don’t do things without a conviction from Him because it will not end very well. Always, in every area of your life, learn to be led by the Holy Spirit. Luke 12:12 says “...For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say”.

     

    At this Christmas time, become a reflection of the God that you serve. Planting seeds of love eventually brings forth fruit. Ask the Holy Spirit what you need to do. Let Him show you His wisdom and go for it. Allow the Holy Spirit to flow through you in order to show the love and the light that God gives us. Before you know it, you will be completing what Jesus spoke of in Acts 1:8 which says (in NKJV) “ But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

     

    So again, I pose these questions for you as reflection. Are you a lovable person? Can people talk to you and not feel afraid? Can you forgive when someone does something against you? Have you forgiven your ex? Are you a giver? Do you help the poor, homeless or give to charities that work with third world countries? Have you spoken about Jesus to your loved ones or even out on the streets?

     


    Christmas time is the remembrance of when love came down to this earth in the bleak mid-winter. God loved us a lot and brought His son, Jesus, to show us how to love others as God loved Him. His ministry was built on love, even when no one believed. And when that day came for Him to die, He still showed love. So make the decision to love your neighbour as yourself. Decide today, to give the gift of love this Christmas!

     

    Prayer:

     

    Dear Abba Father, I thank you for your love towards me. Thank you for sending an example of love to come and die on the cross for me. I pray that as I pursue to live like Jesus, may I too show love to my neighbour. May I forgive those who have hurt me as you have forgiven me. May I interact with my friends more, may I give to those who are less fortunate then I am. May I have the courage to speak about my faith to people who do not know you. May I do all of this through your Holy Spirit. Not on my own will but through Your will, so that Your name will be praised and glorified. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen!

     

    Read more by Lizzy Korsah on her own blog link below:

     

    https://lifeinthepathofrighteousness.wordpress.com/ 

     

    Read more on the Path Of Warriors blog:

     

    https://pathofwarriors.wordpress.com/ 

  3. “Then Jesus told them this parable: ‘Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?’ ” (Luke 15:3-4, NIV).

     

    Jesus was a masterful storyteller.  He once told the story of a wayward sheep and its shepherd.  According to the parable, the shepherd was willing to leave the rest of his flock to search for the one sheep that was lost.  And when he found it… well, when he found it, there was a party!

     

    Jesus’ parable of the lost sheep reminds me of another group of shepherds living in Bible times.  They were keeping watch over their flock on the outskirts of Bethlehem that first Christmas night.  An angel appeared to them, sharing the good news of the infant Messiah who had just been born in a Bethlehem manger.  The shepherds, of course, could hardly wait to make the short trip to see the baby Jesus.  I imagine them dropping everything in their haste.  But, I wonder – what did they do with their sheep? 

     

    Is it possible that these shepherds left the “ninety-nine” in search of the One?  Were they willing to risk the safety of their flock of sheep to worship at the baby feet of the true Lamb of God?  Now, I’m not suggesting that Jesus was lost - he was exactly where God wanted him to be, in a cattle stall; but the shepherds were lost, perhaps directionally, but more importantly spiritually.  All their lives they had waited for this moment, to lay sight of the promised Messiah, their promised Savior.  Finally, they had found the Lamb they had long been looking for.  And they worshiped him. 

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  4. Ragamuffin_John
    Latest Entry

    Barren forests act like Oz,
    full of air, the curtains pulled.
    Not so daunting for pilgrims now,
    forced by birth to walk through, barefoot.
    But, this is still a gift of life,
    this winter advantage should make us pick up pace
    before snows drift, suddenly waist-deep.
    See, there are select times of relief!
    Silhouettes of prison bars
    from small, skinny trees show on our shirts
    when we dart amidst bushes which mock leaves,
    claiming for themselves more coverage we yet barely see.
    Grace this winter sets us free,
    engrossed in the race through the trees.*
    ________
    * 2 Timothy 4:7 and 1 Corinthians 9:24

  5. Hope Everyone has a Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving.

  6. SERMONS
     
    CHINESE
     
    CONTROL OF THE TONGUE BY YE GUANGMING
     
     
     
    ACHEIVING MATURITY BY YE GUANGMING
     
     
     
    1 CORINTHIANS 13:1-13 BY JONATHAN EDWARDS IN CHINESE
     
     
     
    THE WORD OF GOD BY PASTOR DENG PSALM 119
     
     
     
     
    ENGLISH
     
     
     
    THIS IS THE STONE BY ALLEN FOX ACTS 4:1-17
     
     
    WHY WEAKNESS IS GOD'S GIFT BY DAN BROADWATER 2 COR 12:7-10
     
     
     
     
    PETER'S LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT BY MIKE CHASTAIN 2 PETER 2:1-10
     
     
     
     
    THE GOSPEL OF STEPHEN BY KYLE BORG ACTS 6:8-15
     
     
  7. Many years ago I decided to help around the house by cleaning the inside of our old oven. I grabbed a pair of gloves, a steel wool Brillo pad, a bowl with water, turned the light on inside the oven so I could see but then took the bulb out so it would not explode if any of the water hit the hot glass, and went to task. Scrubbing hard and without thinking I stuck the steel wool Brillo pad in the hole where the bulb used to be and... you know what's coming... I got the shock of a lifetime, tingles and everything! I jumped back a few feet and sat there numb. My hair was standing like a porcupine and it never returned to its original form. 

     

    I hope that true story made you grin. Smiling, that upward turn of the mouth and eyebrows, along with the natural relaxation of the earlobes in lighthearted moments, is critically important if we want to survive Thanksgiving and Christmas this year. The wise king wrote,

    "Being cheerful keeps you healthy. It is slow death to be gloomy all the time." Proverbs 17:22, GNT

    The hectic pace of the holidays make it essential for us to be on the lookout for those precious moments that make life more than just bearable. SNAP OUT OF IT and celebrate life this Thanksgiving and Christmas!

     

    I want to share a few of my recent moments that God used to cheer up my disposition. Ready?

    While walking to a building in the back of our church property that's next to Lake Jordan (our church's pond) I caught a glance of this... 

     

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    I relished the rare moment, quietly took this pic, and slowly walked away so not to disturb that critter doing its laying eggs business. Hours later I walked back to the exact spot and  only saw this... 

     

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    The turtle had covered its nest so that no person or predator would know of the eggs underneath. I couldn't help but pause and thank God for the intuition He gave that turtle. It was one of those moments that make one go 'Humm' and 'Yeah!'

     

    Another moment happened a few weeks ago when I was with a friend of mine that's a senior. He said to me, "Man, I've been feeling real good lately since I've been taking these natural pills for arthritis!" He then proceeded to stretch his arms and do a few calisthenics in front of me. I'm still cracking up as I write this. I said, "What in the world? What you've been taking?" He said, "Royal Jelly!" I said, "Royal what?" When I think of jelly I think of the sweet preserves one slaps of hot, butter dripping biscuits. But that' wasn't it. 

     

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    I'm not sure if this is the brand he uses and I'm not advocating you take these for your arthritic pains and aches. It was just a precious moment to see my 70 year old buddy bust out some quick 'reps'. Life is good when moments like that linger in the brain.

     

    Another one of those great moments happened last week when me and some fellow pastors had a private tour of a privately owned muscle car museum here in town. The whole experience was memorable but check out this 2017 Rolls...  

     

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    I can hear some of you saying, "It's just a car, brah." I know, I know... but just for a few moments, refuse to be a stick in the holier than thou mud and dream a little. I could see myself riding that heavenly machine down the road with my shades on, one hand on the steering wheel while my other arm leans on the opened window. I'd be looking like one cool cat! We are talking about sweet cheerful moments, yo!

     

    One last moment the Lord allowed me to enjoy recently happened at a place called Yard House with one of my daughters. It was one of those perfect Florida days. When the food came to the table I couldn't help but take a picture...

     

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    MERCY! That was one tasty bad boy!! Better than that, sitting there with one of my most favorite persons in the world was an amazing experience.

     

    Well, there you have them, moments that have helped me celebrate life. How about you taking the time today to live life one great moment at a time? They are there for you to grab and enjoy. Capture them moments, not with your camera necessarily, but with the lens of your mind and heart.

     

    Thanks for reading! Please take the time to share a great moment in your life with me in the comment section and get ready for a great Thanksgiving and Christmas!

  8. Four of us have been praying for and supporting each other through issues each of us have been dealing with for some time. We have each questioned why the answer or promise is so long in coming while enemy attacks are like machine gun fire. It appears now, however, that the final leg of each journey is unfolding, and as we carry that hope – expectation – we’ve seen some things.

     

                Each of us has a different gift of the Holy Spirit and that gift has been most often used for the others in their time of need. We have discovered the best place in the middle of all this is in the will and the presence of God.

     

                In His will is the measure of confidence that God is working all things out for our good and in the end it will have all been worth it. In His presence is perspective – we begin to see things from His point of view and the pain lessens and even disappears as long as we see it His way. It only returns when we lose focus.

     

                The most amazing thing is tracking transformation – withstanding what we thought we just couldn’t take anymore. Watching peace bring storms and chaos to an end. Releasing people and things to God, not because we didn’t know what else to do, but because with Him is the best place for them. 

     

                Not debating God over His works, His ways or His instructions to us – just roll with it … just do what He says. In the process, miracles happen – while we wait for the answer or the promise.

     

                Yesterday, a couple of us discussed what might have been the overriding reason God has taken us this route. We’ve approached the point of no return. That place where we most definitely know what God *can* and is *willing* to do. But, even if He doesn’t, there is no turning back. We’re all in.

     

                We may not understand, but we trust Him (Proverbs 3:5).  What time we are afraid, we trust Him (Psalm 56:3). Nothing is withheld from Him – like Abraham, we’ve have given Him who or what we love or cherish most, knowing that past hope, He is able to bring life out of dead things. Because He promised, and God cannot lie (Numbers 23:9).

     

    Inspired byBILL JOHNSON BETHEL (God’s Sovereignty and Our Responsibility):

    The Lord is trying to raise up a company of people that can weather the storm and come out on the other side still believing He’s good. Still believing He is absolutely faithful. And embracing fully the privilege of mystery in the middle of things we can’t understand or control.

  9. Lester Carney
    Latest Entry

    Most parents try to teach their children to do their best.  Do their best at school.  Do their best in sports.   There is a Biblical principle for this: whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.  Fewer parents teach their children to give their best to God.  God often gets the leftovers.

     

    Parents also have their “wise” sayings to pass along to children:  “Let the hammer do the work,” “You can’t always get what you want,” “You don’t NEED it, you only WANT it,” and “Practice makes perfect.”

     

    Combine giving your best to God and “Practice makes perfect” and you have a potential formula for lifelong guilt, disappointment, and self-loathing.  Many of us do want to give our best to God and actively try to live that out in our lives.  Many believe the lie that practice makes perfect.  When we discover how miserable our best is, the fact that no matter how hard we try we still slip into sin, we can sink into depression.  Why am I not perfect yet? What is wrong with me?   We expect to become perfect, although we have never been perfect and don’t even have a perfect idea of what perfect is.  We beat ourselves up over the fact that we are human, over the fact that we are imperfect.  Many people give up trying, believing it to be impossible.

     

    The builder starts building a house by taking the building site and actually making it look worse.  He gouges out the ground to lay the foundation.  The foundation is the most important part of the building, but the foundation doesn’t look pretty.  He then starts framing the walls, and the size and shape of the building becomes visible.  With each addition to the structure, the house comes closer to looking like the plan the builder has in mind.  It is only when the builder stops building that the house can be said to be complete; until then it is an unfinished house.

     

    I would like to propose that you and I stop thinking of ourselves as sinners (though we are) and imperfect (though we are).  Instead let us start thinking of ourselves as unfinished.  There is no shame in being unfinished.  In fact the process of seeing a house builT can be very stimulating and satisfying.  God isn’t finished with me yet.  Praise God!  He is still working on me.  I am unfinished.  He is the builder.  What he has ultimately in mind hasn’t taken place yet, but he is still building.  Let’s let him finish his job.  I am unfinished, not because there is something wrong with me, but because he has a much grander plan in mind for me than I can possibly know.  I AM UNFINISHED!

  10. One of the greatest examples of God’s eternal outlook on how humans should live is Psalm one. It depicts the way He intends for us to respond to Him. Here we discover His separation between good and evil and His grace versus the wrath imposed on evil doers.

    God Defines His Eternal Outlook

     1 Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, 

    2 but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night. 

     

    Nothing captures the Lord’s attention more than walking away from unfavorable living and follow His commands. This isn’t easy because we realize a few family members and friends are among those who live in spiritual blindness.

     

    So the question God asks is am I willing to trust Him and make the right choice.

     

    God is precise in the way He teaches us to live. He never changes. Even though the psalmist lived thousands of years ago, the validity of this truth still stands today. And in the New Testament Christ preached the same reality.

     

    Here our Father shows us to place Him first by building a mindset anchored in His word. God wants us to think of Him, follow His truth, and take action on His commandments. Each of us must remember our salvation is His gift. And we need to show Him gratitude for delivering us from evil.

    God's Eternal Outlook

     

    On the positive side, meditating on God unveils spiritual wisdom; an attribute reserved for faithful believers and delivered through Christ. And the more one embraces Jesus, a life filled with God’s love, grace, and mercy emerges.

     

    It’s a joyous and enlightening experience to understand God. One no one wants to miss. I love building a private relationship with God. It’s uplifting and filled with peace. No matter how troublesome life becomes, He is my way out of distress and into serenity.

     

    How willing am I to follow God regardless of the outcome?

     

    To receive God’s blessing, I must abandon myself and be careful who I call friends.

    eternal haven

     

    3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers. 

     

     The third verse God promises an unshakable future. This analogy shows God’s intentions to give an eternal foundation for our faithful adherence to His truth. This endless delivery of spiritual nourishment removes the sinful roots of Adam and Eve.

     

    Our Father’s promises prosperity.

     

    Since the Lord provides us with the means to meet our physical demands (food, water, and shelter) and sin separates us from His grace. Then our need is spiritual. Here God wants to give us an abundance of His Spirit. And with His guidance, everything needed to live in the Spirit of Truth blossoms.

     

    So, it’s not by accident we find God improving our spiritual lives. Remember real prosperity is losing our individuality and living in Christ!

    The Eternal Penalty For Disobedience

    4 Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. 

    5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. 

     

    Make no mistake. Our Father is straightforward in how He handles unfaithfulness. A point often overlooked is the penalty for turning away from Him. It’s a serious offense with deadly consequences.

     

    Under those circumstances, no one wants to face His power in handing out the sentence of condemnation.

    But through Christ, He shows mercy.

    God’s Eternal Protection

    6 For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

    God never abandons those who pick up their cross and walk in Christ. He makes this known by protecting His chosen ones.

    I know what is to embrace God’s shield. In the spring of 1985, He revealed Himself. Before this time, I never experienced His presence. He allowed me the privilege to connect with Him. But He knew I wasn’t ready to concede to His will, and in 1991 He released me back into darkness.

     

    It took twenty years before He rescued me again. Even though I lived in disobedience; His hand kept me from many evil encounters. Living outside His kingdom wasn’t pleasant, but He made sure I didn’t sink deeper into self-destruction.

    I’m forever grateful He pulled back from the gates of wickedness.

     

    Given these points, God’s eternal plan is a blessing full of grace. Our Father wants to give us His blessings and will do so for as long as we stay loyal to His word!

     

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    PROLOGUE

     

    The River

     

    There is history in all men's lives.

    ~William Shakespeare~

     

     

    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.

     

     

     

     

     

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

     

     

     

    CHAPTER ONE

     

    A Snake in the Grass

     

     

    Every great story seems to begin with a snake.”

    ~Nicholas Cage~

     

     

    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.  With a grotesque heavy-sided slither the satiated serpent began to move soundlessly through the night.

    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.

     

     

     

     

    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.  The slamming of that door ushered in 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 chop'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.

     

    CHAPTER 2

    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.

     

     

     

    CHAPTER 3

     

    The Writing on the Wall

     

    Everybody has a chapter they don't read out loud.”

    ~Word Porn~

     

    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.

     

     

  11. 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.

     

    The Publishing Credits section replaces the recently archived Publication and Plugs forum.

     

     

  12. Leoshine

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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?

  13.  

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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!

     

     

  14.  

    by

     

    TLD

     

    (2002)

      

    "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

     

    © TLD, 2017 - 2025. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Teddy L. Desta and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
     

  15. DrRita
    Latest Entry

    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.

  16. New Year Expectations

     

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    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.

     

    https://womenofwarfare.wordpress.com/2017/01/07/what-is-your-expectation-and-hope/

     

    Please don't hesitate to leave a response at my blog site (comments or likes). I look forward to hearing from you.

     

    Best wishes,

     

     

    Carol

  17. 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?

     

    _______________________________________________

     

    Hmmm--

     

    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.

    David Wilkerson

  18. 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.

  19. Rated five stars out of five by reviewer Iris Chacon. A complimentary ARC was provided to this reviewer for an honest, unbiased review.

    51Rl1fB37KL.jpg

     

    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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    Peter Bellone
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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!”

  20. dadcard2
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    I have posted a new poem on the Writing Critique Forum

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