Monday, July 30, 2018

S.S. Lesson 7-29-18 Level Grove Baptist

Yesterday, I had the privilege of teaching my mother's single ladies SS class, as mother is tapped to teach on every 5th Sunday.  I was visiting for a family reunion on Saturday and, at mother's request, stayed over on Sunday to teach in her stead.  Here are my teaching notes from that 30-minute lesson.
I'll return to Genesis in my next post.

5 Themes in 2 Samuel 19:1-15 {text for the lesson}
(Overall theme:  Restoration)

1.  Loss of a Child
The Bible is a book of riveting stories of people and their encounters with the One, True God.  These are frequently grossly imperfect people, hallelujah, because I don't know about you, but I.Am.One.
If all, or even most, of the people in the Bible were super-saintly, we might get discouraged into thinking that  following Jesus was impossible.

David reacted to this victory not as a victorious, triumphant king, but rather as a father who has experienced a great loss.  First, he "lost" his son through his son's extreme rebellion against his father's rule.  That is a terrible kind of pain, to have rebellious children.  My husband and I have raised two young men, with some wonderful qualities, but at this stage in their lives, following hard after God is not one of those qualities!  To see your children going through a stage where they reject God and/or their parent's authority/love is very painful, as some of you know.
Then, he lost Absolom "forever".
I can't even relate to that.
Mention story of family with 3 small children who died in house fire this past couple of weeks.

***David's 20 sons from 7+ wives, plus an untold number through several concubines.

The named sons are as follows. First those born in Hebron:
  • Amnon, David's firstborn, born in Hebron to Ahinoam of Jezreel. Absalom killed him after he raped Absalom's full sister, Tamar.
  • Kileab (or Daniel), second son, whose mother was Abigail from Carmel. He probably died young since there is no record of his life.
  • Absalom, the third son, born to Maacah, the daughter of Talmai, king of Geshur. He was killed by Joab (1 Chronicles 3:1-2) after he mounted a rebellion against his aging father David.
  • Adonijah, the fourth son of King David from Haggith (2 Samuel 3:4). He attempted to usurp the throne during the life of David (1 Kings 1:11ff). Solomon had him executed.[3]
  • Shephatiah, whose mother was Abital.
  • Ithream, whose mother was Eglah, "David’s wife".
The sons born to David in Jerusalem included the sons of Bathsheba
  • The product of their initial sin, the 7-day old infant boy who died without being named [4]
  • Shimea, or Shammua, probably the first surviving child of Bathsheba
  • Shobab, from Bathsheba
  • Nathan (son of David), Bathsheba the ancestor of Jesus according to the Genealogy of Jesus in Luke 3:31, considered by some to be the maternal line via Heli, possible father of Mary.  This is NOT the same as Nathan the prophet, although this son might have been named after him.  Nathan, the prophet was a contemporary of David's.
  • Solomon, Bathsheba, the ancestor of Jesus according to the Genealogy of Jesus in Matthew, often considered to be Joseph's line.
Nine other sons born of other wives
  • Ibhar, Elishua, Elpelet, Nogah, Nepheg, Japhia, Elishama, Eliada, and Eliphelet, and one further unnamed son, who would also have died in infancy.

{Note: Some sources name only 19 sons, and 19 is the number Dr. Bryan James gave in his sermon which followed my lesson this morning.}

David's intense grief made the people, particularly the soldiers, who had gone out there and put their very lives on the line for the glory of God and the salvation of Israel, feel ashamed.  So, they slunk away.

2.  The Difficulty of a Right Perspective
David's problem was not in what he knew; it was in what he forgot.  He forgot that, even in the light of the most tragic circumstances, God is still in control.  Before you can take right action, your thoughts, beliefs, attitudes and perspective must be right.  It is human to grieve a tremendous loss.  It is godly and supernatural to grieve while also worshipping our omniscient, omnipotent God for His perfect plan.

3.  Doing the Hard Thing, but the Right Thing
***First Joab:  Imagine Joab's conflict in killing Absolom.  He viewed Absolom as a spoiled wicked youth, a false traitor to his king and country, whom Israel should have been happily rid of.  Accordingly, he made the hard decision to kill him.  He was a trained soldier, whose first priority was to King David and to the security of the country.  He had remained loyal to David, when the Absolom rebellion began, and thought that David's behavior in light of such a great victory was ridiculous!
***Joab's second hard decision was to confront the king as to his foolish behavior.  The NET version says it like this:   I realize now that if Absolom were alive and all of us were dead today, it would be all right with you.  "What can be more absurd than to love thy enemies and hate thy friends?’’
Joab realized that, if he did not get David to "re-frame", the hard-won recent victory on the battlefield would be for nothing.
***David had to tell his deep feelings to take a back seat to right action.  God had called him to be a father, but also to be a king over Israel.  In this situation, while both were important, one had to take precedence, that being his role as king.  I remember as a school principal, there were several times when the school was in danger from potential outside attackers (bank robber, out-of-control parent with weapon, staff member spouse, tornado warning, etc.  At those times, even when my own child was a student, I did not have the luxury of giving in to my emotions.  Thankfully, God gave me the grace and strength to focus on the more immediate problem.
In David's case, Absolom was dead and no amount of weeping and wailing was going to change that, to bring him back.  Focusing on what he could not change nearly cost him his future.

4.  Taking Correction
***It is never easy to take correction, and it is even harder to give it.  When you have someone not skilled in reproof, paired with the receiver who does not easily receive it, chaos, hurt feelings and larger problems can result.  Both roles take "skill", which I would define as submitting to the Holy Spirit, for the believer.  When we sally forth to correct someone else's fault, full of pride and gleeful condescension, we almost always mess it up.  When we feel the Holy Spirit's leading to advise or correct, we need to bathe that in prayer and make sure it is not coming out of our own carnal selves.  Then, we need to ask God to give us the wisdom to deliver the correction with gentleness and humility.  Joab was in crisis mode.  He was neither gentle nor meek.  He basically "kicked David's butt out of cry-baby mode".
***To David's credit, he received the correction much better than Joab gave it.  Notice in verse 8 that David did not argue with Joab.  He got up, shook off his grief, washed his face, and returned to being the king God had appointed him to be.  This is similar, in a way, to how he grieved the loss of his first son with Bathsheeba.  If you recall, when that baby was dying, he cried out to God for all it was worth, begging God to save the child's life.  But, once the child had died, he washed himself, put on "good" clothes, sat down and ate a meal.  His companions were astonished at the change.  But, he explained that the child was dead and nothing he did could bring him back.  Sort of like "flipping a switch".  This story is recorded in 2 Samuel 12:16-23.

5.  Leadership
***Even though the immediate battle had been won, the kingdom had not been restored to David in the aftermath of the battle and victory.  Some of the people had anointed Absolom king over them, at the start of Absolom's rebellion, and they were not sure about bringing David back as king over them.  They had made a wrong choice in rejecting God's true king over them, and now they were miserable and confused.
***In a very wise move, David did not force himself back onto the throne.  He only wished to return to rule over Israel if he could rule over ALL Israel, as anything less would bring only more unrest and bloodshed.  He requested the voluntary submission of his kinsmen.  The tribe of Judah, David's tribe, was the LAST tribe to bring him back!  His closest kinsman!  We do not always find the most kindness from those from whom we have most reason to expect it.  Jesus conducted most of his earthly ministry out of the fishing town of Capernaum, on the Sea of Galilee, not out of his hometown of Nazareth.
***David chose two, skilled envoys to his home tribe.  Sometimes, we are not always our best messengers.  I sell Beautycounter cosmetics, as some of you know.  One of the training points we are told is that, often, a prospect will be moved by a short video or a print article or some other "envoy" than our yammering, stammering voice.  So, as I speak to people about our company's mission and our products, I try to be sensitive to my prospect and judge well the method that would best speak to her.  In David's case, he realized he needed some "powerful persuaders".  So, he chose Abiathar and Zadok, a couple of influential priests to speak on his behalf.
***And, one of the Judah kinsmen, Amasa, had commanded Absolom's army, in rebellion of the king!  Yet, in a conciliatory move, David replaces Joab with Amasa, as commander of the king's army.  Why else did he do this?   Well, most immediately, it was to put Joab into his place for disobeying David's command to "deal gently with" Absolom.   (2 Samuel 18:5)  Joab had done the "right thing", politically.  But, he had done so in direct violation of the king's orders, and paid a terrible price.  Later on, you will study that he actively participated in a future rebellion against David, perhaps because he felt he had been dealt with unfairly on this occasion here.  And, if you look in 1 Kings 1 and 2, you will see that David asked his son, Solomon, to kill Joab when the time was right, to avenge the blood Joab had spilled against the king's and the Lord's command.
***David's refusal to force his way back onto the throne pictures and pre-figures the approach God through His Holy Spirit takes with us.  Jesus says in Revelation 3:20&21 - - Behold I stand at the door and knock.  If any man hear my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and him with me."
***David's leadership skills won the day.  He had left Israel as a desperate fugitive, rejected by the nation and hunted by his son, Absolom.  He returned escorted by thousands of enthusiastic supporters. 
He did not barge back into Jerusalem as a conqueror.  He sailed back in as a prince.
Pre-figures Jesus Christ's return as our Prince of Peace.


Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Who was Cain's wife?

There are some trigger questions people will ask in an attempt to discredit the Bible.  Some sincere believers ask them too, because the questions are true puzzles.  Believers, not understanding, ask even in the face of their faith, because they want to be able to answer skeptics and critics.  It is in that light this morning I tackle the question my father posed to me 50 or so years ago, "Who was Cain's wife?"

Let's review:  Adam and Eve were the first humans, created by the hand of God.  The Bible also reveals they procreated, producing both Cain and then afterwards, Abel.  Were there other children born to Adam and Eve between Cain and Abel?  The Bible does not explicitly say.
Cain went on to murder Abel, both of them having been born with the sin nature, evidenced by Abel performing a blood sacrifice for the atonement of sin.  This lends credence to the fact both were born outside The Garden of Eden, after The Fall.
The Bible does not mention other children born to The First Couple, other than Seth, who is the progenitor of the Messianic line, the ancestral line which would produce Messiah.

But, let's back up a little more:
Remember that when God created all, He repeatedly pronounced it "good".  When He created man, He pronounced it "very good".  We cannot even conceive of (please pardon the procreation pun) life in such perfection!  It is beyond our thinking, because all we have known for thousands of years is life under the sin curse.

When God pronounced His curse on ALL of creation, in the aftermath of the Fall of Man, His splendid creation began to erode.  This statement of biblical fact flies in the face of the theory of evolution, which asserts that all the physical world is "evolving" from one state to a better, higher state.  Acute observation of the natural world reveals this is just not factual, but is instead wishful thinking on the part of those who wish to disregard creationism.

Fact:  when God pronounced the sin curse, His perfect creation began to slowly show the effects, over a period of years, decades, millenia.
Case in point:  how old was Adam (and Eve was of a similar age, according to scripture) when Seth was born?  Genesis 5:3 states this:

3When Adam had lived 130 years he fathered a son in his own likeness, according to his image, and he named him Seth.

Eve gave birth to Seth when she was WELL over 100 years old.  Is it reasonable to believe that Adam and Eve had no other offspring between Cain, Abel and Seth?  No.  Instead, it seems more reasonable to conclude that they did, fulfilling God's command to "be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth" (Genesis 1:28), even though the Bible does not explicitly mention those offspring by name.
"God did not forbid inter-family marriage until much later when there were enough people to make intermarriage unnecessary (Leviticus 18:6-18)."1
Essentially, these two people, created originally sinless by the hand of Almighty God, were, in a sense "superhuman".  Their bodies were originally perfect, with characteristics we cannot fully comprehend.  Furthermore, the newly-created world was vastly different from the one we experience today.

As the slow erosion of the now sin-infected creation progressed, creation, including man's DNA began to show the effects - - the slow, but inevitable, slide toward eventual physical death.  There is no doubt in my mind, in fact it must be so if the Bible is true, that Adam and Eve produced scores of offspring over their nearly 1000-year lifetimes, and those offspring similarly produced an "incredible" number of offspring - - by marrying their siblings and cousins.  Those offspring spread out and started lives on their own over the first centuries, building and populating cities, etc.

Before you think me completely crazy (because marrying close relatives today produces inevitable genetic abnormalities) keep in mind that early man's genetic composition was vastly superior to ours today.  Again, creation continues to deteriorate, to "groan" as the Bible puts it in Isaiah 24:4 and Romans 8:22.

Back in 2006, a theistic evolutionist named Dr. Francis Collins published a book called, The Language of God, in which he claimed that the human race could have been started by no less than 10,000 "founders" - - original humans simultaneously created by God, with Adam and Eve being the Bible's "Exhibit A" in an allegorical story.  This is a problematic theory, not to mention a false one, because if the ENTIRE human race had not been infected with the sin curse which Adam and Eve brought down upon their genetic line, there would have been no reason for Jesus Christ to come and redeem those "ALL" who have sinned (Romans 3:23).

Are two original ancestors (Adam and Eve) enough to eventually produce the entire human race?
I reference for your inspection this article2, under "Sources", by Dr. Elizabeth Purdom, a renowned molecular geneticist, who argues that, yes, two were enough.

The genetic evidence is consistent with human DNA being “young” and the human race beginning with a very small starting population (the Bible tells us the starting population was two people!).
The International HapMap project endeavors to study a select group of DNA similarities and differences between humans known as single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs).5 The SNPs are believed to be representative of the genome (total human DNA) such that what is true for them would be true for the whole genomeThese studies and others have shown that the difference in DNA between any two humans is amazingly low . . only 0.1 percent.6
Reflecting on this very low percentage, some scientists posited, “This proportion is low compared with those of many other species, from fruit flies to chimpanzees, reflecting the recent origins of our species from a small founding population” (emphases mine).7 They also stated, “[Certain genetic estimates] tell us that humans vary only slightly at the DNA level and that only a small proportion of this variation separates continental populations.”8
These findings are consistent with the Bible’s history that humans were created several thousands years ago; in other words, a short amount of time has passed, so there is little genetic variation.

Astounding.  The genetic evidence argues that, not only did the human race originate from only two people, but the lack of genetic diversity argues for a "young earth".
So, according to the Bible and according to true science (science that avoids circular reasoning) Cain must have married either a sister, niece or a cousin.  And, such behavior was common in those days.  What a world it must have been!




Saturday, July 21, 2018

A Strange, New World

Genesis 2:4-25 is our text for today's post.  Along with Genesis 1, this passage reveals "a strange, new world".  The passage in Genesis 2 more or less goes back and provides a more detailed look into the creation of Adam on Day Six and first days after the first Sabbath.

Verses 5-7, while extremely troubling to those who hold to a creation over many years, make perfect sense when you accept a literal, six days of creation.  Here are the verses for your convenience:

5Now no shrub of the field had yet grown on the earth, and no plant of the field had yet sprouted, for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the earth, and there was no man to cultivate the ground.6Springs would well up from the earth and water the whole surface of the ground. 7The Lord God formed the man from the soil of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
Genesis 2:5-7 (NET)

It is entirely reasonable, then, to accept God created plant life on Day Three, but that such plant life then began growing at a normal rate after its creation, watered by mists and springs.  Three literal days later, on Day Six, God created Adam.

Verses 9-14 describe Eden's location in that day, before the worldwide flood, described in Genesis 6.  This information was transmitted over the generations until Moses formally codified it into the book of Genesis.  The Tigris and the Euphrates rivers still exist to this day, giving us a general idea of the geographical location of the original Eden.  However, we are unable to pinpoint Eden's actual location due to the cataclysmic earth changes that resulted from the worldwide flood.


We would be making a serious error to look at our world today, even the wild "untouched" areas of Earth and deduce that "the heavens and the earth" today are very much like how they were at their original creation.  We tend to look at our current state of being as humans and make false deductions about the past, by observing the present.  This, of course, presupposes the past was exactly like the present, which is most certainly untrue (based on what we learn from Genesis).

Case in point:  take a look back at Genesis 1:29-30 (NET) - -

29Then God said, “I now give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the entire earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30And to all the animals of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to all the creatures that move on the ground – everything that has the breath of life in it – I give every green plant for food.” It was so.

We don't hear many sermons preached on this topic, but the truth is that, before the introduction of sin into the human race and, by extension, into God's original "it was very good" creation, all animal life was vegetarian; all were herbivores.  I'll delve more into that later.

Note also that rain did not fall from the skies to water the Earth in these days (Gen 2:5).  In fact, the first time rain fell on the Earth was when God initiated the process to produce the great flood of Genesis 6.

Adam spent some undetermined amount of time - - scripture does not say - - interacting with God's creation, tending the Garden of Eden, and naming the animals (Genesis 2:19-20 NET)

19The Lord God formed out of the ground every living animal of the field and every bird of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them, and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20So the man named all the animals, the birds of the air, and the living creatures of the field, but for Adam no companion who corresponded to him was found.

At some point, Eve was created.  For some reason, God wanted us to know that Eve was created after Adam and that she was created from the body of Adam.  I'm glad Father in His divine plan chose to reveal this information to us.  Such does not imply Eve was in any way inferior to Adam, but merely that the male and female of our species are inextricably linked.  It also points out the very true differences between male and female.  (All this modern-day nonsense about allowing children to determine their own genders is just that - - satanic nonsense.)

We would also be mistaken to believe that our human biology today is anything more than inferior to that of Adam and Eve.  There is no doubt our race (in fact the entire creation) has been corrupted/diminished by the sin curse which Adam and Eve brought upon all of God's perfect work.  Keep in mind: Adam lived to be over 900 years old.  Living for hundreds of years was, according to scripture, commonplace in those days.  Over time, the sin curse produced more and more negative effects in this world, and not just on Earth.  The Bible says "the whole creation groans" under it (Romans 8:22).  Nasty, destructive "weeds" in the Garden of Life....

How long did Adam and Eve dwell in Eden before that great, fatal mistake was made?  We are not given that information.  But, in the next post, we will continue to look at the early days of Adam and Eve, while considering the question that has been posed by so many doubters:  "Who did Cain, Abel and Seth marry?"

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Shabbat Shalom

It's no secret to those who know me that I love Israel - - the country and its people, its history and cultures.  I marvel at the promises God made to the Hebrew people and long to see them all ultimately fulfilled.  When I arrived in Israel last January, it was at the beginning of the Sabbath.  Greetings of "Shabbat Shalom" were heard, from one person to another.  This phrase means "sabbath peace be upon you".

Ironically, though, the Sabbath concept can be very contentious among Christian groups and between Christians and observant Jews (Jews who practice Judaism).  There are several reasons for this.
We are looking at this topic because we are studying here in the blog the book of Genesis.  Throughout this post, I will give scripture verses for you to explore, as you study this topic with me; and, I strongly encourage you to look all of those scriptures up, to read them all.
It is not my aim to be offensive to anyone, but, rather, to study this topic.  I invite you to comment as you feel led, in the comments section.

1.   As far back as Genesis 2, God established the Sabbath - - a day of both rest and observance.  The word "sabbath" comes from the Hebrew root, Shin-Beit-Tav, which means "to cease, to end, to rest".1
(For a quick overview of how observant Jews and many Messianic Jews "keep the Sabbath" see item #1 under Sources.)  Messianic Jews are people (with or without actual Jewish heritage/parentage) who worship Jesus Christ but who also, according to their consciences - - Romans 14:5 - - observe the Sabbath as well as the other holy convocations (Jewish religious holidays).
Genesis 2:2-3; Exodus 20:8, 23:12, 31:12-18; Leviticus 16:30-31, 26:2; Deuteronomy 5:12-15.
The Sabbath was SO important in the Law God gave to Moses for His chosen people that the death penalty was imposed on those who did not observe it properly.
In Exodus 31:17, mentioned above, we find that God "refreshed" Himself on the Sabbath.  The Hebrew word there is "naphash" ( וַיִּנָּפַֽשׁ׃ ), a word that only appears three times in Scripture, here, and also in Exodus 23:12 and in 2 Samuel 16:14Psalm 104:31 says that God rejoices in His works.  Sabbath has an element of not only rest, but also of a joyful contentment in reflecting on the work of our hands in service to our God, and worshipping Him for all His wondrous works.2
Interestingly, in Genesis 2 the Sabbath was not designated as an "evening and morning" format (as were the previous six days), which some believers take to signify that the Sabbath has no end, making it a foretaste of the believer's eternal rest, eternity.

2.   What has happened, then?  Why do so many Christians worship on Sunday, making that "the Christian Sabbath"?  In fact, when I was growing up in the Baptist church, I frequently heard Sunday referred to as "the Sabbath".  Back then, general society also practiced a Sunday sabbath, because most places of business were closed on Sunday.
Let's look explicitly at what the New Testament says, as opposed to what we think it says on the matter.
A.  Jesus Christ was raised from the dead on the first day of the week, not on a Sabbath.  This is incontrovertible.  If Christ was not raised, His entire work would have been rendered useless and we would still be spiritually dead, enslaved in our sins (John 20:1; 1 Corinthians 15:17).2
This first day of the week is henceforth referred to in the New Testament as "the Lord's day" (Revelation 1:10)
B.  The Holy Spirit was given on Pentecost, which was on the first day of the week (Acts 2:1-36).
C.  Acts 20:7 records that early believers practiced coming together on the first day of the week to "break bread", although Acts 2:46 states that early believers met every day, in homes and sometimes in the Temple courts.
D.  1 Corinthians 16:2 establishes the first day of the week as the day each Christ follower should consecrate his or her tithe.  This is why "collecting the offering" is a key part of Christian worship services.3
E.  The writer of Hebrews 8 (specifically 8:3-7 and 8:13) explains that the old covenant of the Law was made obsolete by the new covenant that Jesus established.
F.  Romans 14 likewise makes it clear that choosing to honor God by esteeming certain days as holy is a matter of personal conscience and conviction.

1Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. 2One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. 4Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.
5One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. 6Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. 8If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. 9For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.
10You, then, why do you judge your brother or sistera ?
Romans 14:1-10 NIV

The scriptural principle of a day of rest, observance, rejoicing and worship is clear.  As followers of Jesus Christ we are to have a sabbath rest one day each week, in addition to honoring God every moment of every day, in all we do.  Beyond that, we are not to judge our brothers or sisters in Christ for which day they choose to worship Him, or other Old Testament practices they choose to reverence (such as the Jewish feast days).

You will notice in the New Testament that Paul as well as other Christians ministered in Jewish synagogues on the Saturday Sabbath.  They did this to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with their fellow Jews, as this was the day the Jewish people gathered in worship.  This past Saturday evening I worshipped with a group of Messianic believers and Native American believers.  What a joyous time!  The preachers told of how they have been able to reach some very religiously orthodox Jews in Israel.  In order to do so, they honored the kosher rules and some of the other requirements of orthodox Judaism.  Even the apostle Paul said this on the matter:

19Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
1 Corinthians 9:19-23 (NIV)

Let's be clear on this point:  this type of reconciliatory and unifying talk does not extend to the approval of clear sin.  Paul was not suggesting that Christians approve sin in order to reach people with the gospel or to help believers grow deeper into Christ.  At present there is a move afoot in the Southern Baptist Convention, a movement which advocates approval of homosexual behavior in order to be more "loving" toward the LGBTQ community, for example. This type of compromise and capitulation to the culture is not what is meant by making ourselves "slaves to everyone".  Even the apostle Paul spent much of his writing to the young churches correcting their leaps off into theological error, usually into relational, sexual sin.  The most loving way we can reach out to those who do not know Christ is by standing strong on the truth which is the revealed, written Word of God.

So....."Brethren, let us love one another." (1 John 4:7) and avoid controversies that threaten to tear Jesus Christ's church apart (Titus 3:9).  As you worship the Lord Jesus Christ, seek His face in all matters of practice and follow His Holy Spirit in "keeping the sabbath".

Shabbat Shalom!





Friday, July 13, 2018

Furrows of Love

I know I said my next post would be about the Sabbath, but then today happened.  And, that changed my blogging trajectory for this one post.  I hope you'll indulge me today, my 60th birthday, as I share about the goodness of God and His great love for me.

That last part sounds unbelievably arrogant, doesn't it?  Well, it could be, if the basis of His love were ME.  The truth is - - His love for me is all about HIM.  I am completely undeserving; He is the very definition of love.  And, that is why He loves me.

The truest example of His overwhelming, never-ending love for me is my life story, the good, bad and ugly. 

I was born into a middle-class,Christian, American family in 1958.  My childhood was spent in the foothills of the beautiful Appalachian mountains, in a small community called Hollingsworth.  My parents both worked full-time but were also musicians in our small, Southern Baptist church.  I was their first-born and also the first grandchild on both sides of my family. Needless to say, I was adored and spoiled, lol!
At age 9, the Holy Spirit drew me.  He called to me through a sermon about Hell.  I accepted Jesus as my Savior, in a revival service at my home church.  This was the most life-changing moment of my life.  Nothing that came before or after has been a greater moment than this, because it began my eternal relationship with Jesus Christ.  Everything changed as the Holy Spirit came to live in me and began to change me.
Mother had begun to teach me how to play the keyboards.  So, also at 9, I began playing the piano and later the organ for our church services.  As a teenager, I attended several Christian camps and was a camp counselor.  It was there that I committed my life to serving Him, wholeheartedly.  
I attended Bob Jones University for four years and graduated with a degree in music education.  At college, I met my first husband.  We went our own ways after graduation, but kept in touch. In 1984, we were married.  Together, we served churches in the music ministry for 7 years.  He was an extremely gifted musician.  In our 7th year of marriage, we divorced.  This, and the events leading up to the divorce, were the most devastating life events I had experienced.
In 1993, Bill and I married.  He was a bachelor until age 51.  He says he was just waiting for me!  Precious man! We have been blessed with two fine sons, Jesse and Will, who are now 23 and 21, respectively, and are on target to graduate from college this year in December.  Our sons were, in my heart, dedicated to God from the moment I realized I was pregnant with them.  I love them dearly and pray for them fervently.
After a 30-year career in education, the last nine years of it as an elementary school principal, I retired from full-time work.  These past 7 years I have worked part-time in my small, home-based business called Hood Educational Services.  Through that, I blog (as you know).  I serve in my young, fledgling church.  I sell the best make-up and skincare on the planet.  And over-arching all of that, I seek to love and minister to my family, friends and everyone God places into my path.
So, that is "my story". 
You may wonder why the title of this post is "furrows of love".  I borrowed the phrase from a John Piper devotional I read this morning, based on Galatians 6:8.  A furrow is a trough in the ground the farmer makes in order to sow seeds.  After putting the precious seeds in, the farmer then mounds the dirt up over the seeds.  Soon, plants appear!  Hopefully, as you read my story, you were able to read between the lines and see how God has sown love and mercy into the furrows of my life.  The story itself is not that remarkable.  What IS remarkable is how God has blessed me with His love and salvation.

As I look back over these 60 years, the best thing in my life is just that.
The love of God does not manifest itself in material possessions or "good luck" or good health or great friends.  All of those blessings flow FROM God's love.
The core of God's love is - - Him.  HE is life's greatest blessing.
Knowing Him, loving Him, worshipping Him - - allowing His Spirit to mold me more into His image, day by day....that is my source of Joy and my life's greatest Treasure.

In order to make me more like my Savior, He has dealt with me as the loving Heavenly Father He is.  At times, He has disciplined me severely.  My besetting sins are, without doubt, selfishness and pride.  The devastatingly sad parts of my life have been designed by Him to break down those strongholds in my life.  This is still a "work in progress", unfortunately.  You know, if God changed us instantly, this would prevent our faith from being strengthened; we would begin to depend less on His mercy and more on our own merits, which would be the very antithesis of faith.

I am so very, very grateful for how He has loved me through the years.  When I woke up 60 this morning, that was one of my first His love is incomparable, and how incredibly blessed I am to be the recipient of it.

Again, I am no one special.  His love is available to every human being who desires it.  I hope and pray you won't miss out on life's greatest blessing.  On the surface, to become a follower of Jesus Christ looks like you are giving up your independence or your way of living life on your terms.  And, that is true.  But, what I hope you can see through this post is that you gain SO much more by giving up those things.  Every day is a JOY to me, regardless of its events and circumstances, because I am His, and He is mine.  And, I want that for you, dear reader, as well.  My birthday prayer is that, if you do not know Him, that you will call out to Him today.