“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. ’tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” Mark Twain

Ear, Thumb, and Toe Check

Take the other ram, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on its head. Slaughter it, take some of its blood and put it on the lobes of the right ears of Aaron and his sons, on the thumbs of their right hands, and on the big toes of their right feet. Then sprinkle blood against the altar on all sides. Exodus 29:19-20

 When Aaron and his sons were originally consecrated as priests, part of the process included placing blood of a ram on three specific parts of their bodies: the right thumb, earlobe, and big toe. This was not a random choice on God's part.

In those times, only the High Priest could come into the presence of the Lord, and so needed to be purified. Their primary focus needed to be on their job as intercessors and "go-betweens" for the children of Israel and their God.

But this was not just a physical purification. It was much more than that. The priest must not just be cleansed with the ram's blood; he must live a life of purity.

Photo credit
And thus the three body parts: reminders of exactly what is required to be holy in His sight.

The blood was placed on the right ear lobe. What we hear has a huge impact on our thoughts, and ultimately our actions. While we cannot always filter out all "negative" sounds, we can certainly limit some of the ungodly, sinful influences on our minds. And when we do hear something displeasing to our Father, we can keep it from influencing us by focusing on pleasant and godly thoughts instead. (Philippians 4:8) Of course, we must also keep our ears open so we can listen to, and heed, His voice.

It was also necessary for the right thumb to be bloodied. It is with our thumbs, and their hands, that we accomplish works that please our Father, or that disappoint Him. Our actions - what we do with our hands - must be done as to the Lord if we are to be pleasing in his sight. (Colossians 3:23) Actions against our Lord naturally follow thoughts against Him.

And then there's the right toe. Our feet are our natural mode of transportation. Where we go is as important to the Lord as what we hear and what we do. If we are to be consecrated to Him, we must be willing to walk with Him, no matter where He may be leading us. And we will get the blessing. (1 John 1:7) If we refuse to listen to our Heavenly Father, we will not do what He wants us to do, and our walk with Him will most certainly suffer. Then what good are we as a priest of the Most High?
For, yes, my brothers and sisters in Christ, we are His priests. Once that curtain was torn in two from top to bottom, we have the same access to our Lord that Aaron and his descendents had once a year. However, our Heavenly Father has given us that incredible access to Him continuously.
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9

Have you been consecrated to Him? Is it time for you to make an ear, thumb, and toe check?

Heavenly Father, what an amazing honor and blessing that You have chosen me to be a part of your royal priesthood. Help me, Lord, to daily consecrate my hearing, doing and walking to Your purposes. Help me to listen closely for Your voice, to act in response to it, and to walk circumspectly in the midst of Your will, no matter what the world or my own fleshly desires may be saying to the contrary. I pray, Lord, that everything about me will declare Your praises, and the praises of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, in whose name I pray. Amen

We're discussing this devotional here, and at Living by Grace on Facebook. Won't you join us?
Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths

Jewish Holiday: Purim

Here's my second post on a Jewish holiday, and unlike Tu B'shevat, this one you've likely heard of (or at least have "read the story").

First, you might want to check out this post about the Hebrew calendar (which is quite different from the one we all follow).

Are you back? Good. Now on to the holiday at hand.

At sundown this evening (see Hebrew calendar link above), the Jewish holiday of Purim begins, and ends at dusk tomorrow. This holiday celebrates the Hebrew's rescue from destruction told in the Old Testament book of Esther. In fact, the creation of this holiday is in the book itself - in Esther 9:20-23, 26-28.

Briefly, after the Jews were exiled, many settled in Persia, and through various circumstances mentioned in the book of Esther, a young Jewish girl, Esther, became queen. Her uncle, Mordecai, was a respected man in the kingdom, and he told Esther not to share her nationality with the king.  The king's second in command, Haman, had a great hate for the Jews (and Mordechai in particular), and plotted to have all Jews killed, and got the king to sign an edict allowing it. God worked through Esther and Mordecai, the tables were turned, and Haman ended up killed on the gallows he'd built for Mordecai - and Moerdecai got Haman's job in the kingdom. (That is a VERY brief summary - read the book of Esther for all the details - it's not that long!)

There are four mitzvot (commandments) regarding the celebration of Purim, and all but one come directly from Esther 9:22. Celebrating the holiday is to include feasting, giving gifts to one another, giving gifts to the poor, and reading the book of Esther from beginning to end.
The book of Esther, referred to as the M'gila (scroll in Hebrew) Esther, is read aloud in synagogue. One of the more interesting traditions associated with this portion of the holiday celebration is the use of noisemakers. Children, of course, especially enjoy this part. As the Book of Esther is read, each time the name of Haman is said (fifty-four times!), the congregation stomps their feet, claps their hands, and shake their noisemakers (gragers) to drown out the name.

People also have feasts, give baskets of fruit or other things to friends and/or the poor, and sometimes dress up in costume. It is one of the more festive holidays on the Hebrew calendar.

There are many different traditions associated with Purim. Check out one of these sites for more details (or come back next year and I'll share a few more). Wikipedia Union for Reformed Judaism
 Chabad (Orthodox Jews)

And check out a couple of Purim songs below!

Here's a favorite song of mine from Purim - it's in  English, and it even includes a bit of the Purim story. And just FYI - Hamentaschen are yummy cookies with a fruit filling (they're supposed to look like Haman's ears- check out a recipe here)

And here's another I remember - this one in Hebrew.
Purim was always a fun holiday when I was growing up. I hope you have enjoyed learning about it!

What part of this holiday is most interesting to you?
Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths

Dead and Hidden

I'm over at Jewels of Encouragement today, talking about an amazing truth- one that is valid for you and me. Come learn how I (and YOU) am Dead and Hidden.

Scripture Stories: Timess Truths

By the Teaspoon - or the Bucket?

I'm over at the Internet Cafe today, talking about generosity - by us, and our Heavenly Father. Is our giving as abundant as His? Does it even come close? He wants to demonstrate - and provide - Abundant Giving.

Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths

Looking No Longer

Yesterday was my fourteenth "rebirthday." To commemorate that day that changed my life forever, I thought I'd share a favorite version of my own salvation testimony. I wrote this a bit over four years ago for a contest at the Internet Cafe (I actually won it). I hope this blesses you.
Looking No Longer

My people have been looking for Him for thousands of years. Every Jewish mother, since the beginning of my race until this day, has hoped that perhaps her son would be the One. The Anointed. The Messiah. The Righteous Branch.

As I sat in my easy chair on that cool February morning a decade ago, I realized that, for the past two thousand years, these Jewish mothers had hoped in vain. You see, the Anointed One had already come. The waiting was over, but they were still looking.

Photo credit
You hear sometimes about soldiers, decades after “their war” was fought and forgotten, hiding away on the old battlefield without communication, thinking they still had that enemy to defeat. That’s how it is with many of my people. They are anxiously sitting by the front door, waiting for their precious child to come in from his date—when he’s actually asleep upstairs.

I however, have found Him. I am looking no longer. And in the moment it took me to connect my Jewish beliefs to His Truth, I was transformed. I went from a searcher of the scriptures to a lover of their Writer.

It began as a curiosity five months earlier. Through a Christian conference I was covering for the newspaper, I developed an intense interest in Christianity and the Word of God. I fed on Christian teaching. I enjoyed the fellowship of a local church. I read—no, devoured—His Bible: Old and New Testaments. I pondered what I had read. I examined it logically.

But on that late winter day, there was no logic. No mere emotion. On that day, Jesus Christ, my Messiah, swept me off my feet and into His loving arms of forgiveness, grace, and mercy. For it was on that day, while reading His prophet, that my spirit was, after more than three decades on this earth, awakened to His “Messiahship.”

I had read about it several times in the past five months: in the Gospels, in Paul’s letters. But those were “Christian” books. I was a Jew. The Lord needed to show me in His chosen people’s writings. He had to show this modern-day Pharisee that my lineage, my good deeds, my upbringing was not what I needed. What I needed was Him—the Messiah I had hoped would come for 32 years. The same Messiah I’d learned about in Hebrew School and synagogue. He had already come—and Isaiah had told us about it hundreds of years previous.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5 NIV
My Messiah loved me so much, that He was voluntarily pierced and crushed for my sins. I could not be pleasing in God’s sight on my own. He willingly took on excruciating punishment so I could have peace. His wounds on the cross healed me.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53:6 NIV
Joanne Sher, observant Jew, one of “God’s chosen,” was a lost sheep—a dirty, unholy, messed up sinner. But the Lord laid my iniquity on Christ. It is no longer mine. He died for me, so my Father will see me as sinless and holy.

How can I not love Him? How can I ever doubt again? And why would I, or anyone else, want to? There is nothing left to wait for. The Messiah—my Messiah—has come.

Heavenly Father, I cannot thank You enough for saving my soul, for initiating this intimate love relationship I have had with you for almost ten years now. Thank You, Lord, for helping me to get beyond the doubts and the “mechanics” of my faith and into the amazing love of You. Help me, Lord, to never forget the wonder and excitement of that first love. In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen

We're discussing this here, and at Living By Grace today. Won't you join me?
Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths

Introducing Bezalel: Spirit-FIlled for the Task

I'm hoping you aren't expecting too many of these Bible character biographies to focus on the well-known Bible folks. Cuz, it seems, they're not the ones that are reaching out and grabbing me. Sure, Noah is pretty major, but the other three - Lot, Reuben, and Jochebed - are hardly the heavyweights. And this character? Well, let's just say you might have no idea who he is.

Bezalel appears in the last fourth of the Old Testament book of Exodus. He is first mentioned in the thirty-first chapter of Exodus, when the Lord, speaking to Moses, says that He has filled Bezalel "with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills—to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze,to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts." (Ex 31:3-5)
Graphic courtesy of Christians Unite
I don't know about you, but when I think of the Lord filling someone with His Spirit, I think of evangelism. Preaching. Teaching. Mercy. Maybe even speaking in tongues. But that's not what happened here.
Bezalel was filled with God's Spirit, which made him a craftsman - a worker in metals, stones, and wood. 
He was the one who made the tent of meeting, the ark of the covenant, and all the articles within it. With help from Oholiab  and some other artisans (Exodus 35:34), Bezalel designed, engraved, embroidered, and wove the tent of meeting, the ark, the atonement cover, clasps, bowls, candlesticks, cherubim, altars, priestly garments, and pillars - every sacred article for the tabernacle.
Graphic courtesy of oChristian clip art

He wasn't simply given talent. No, God filled this man, from the tribe of Judah, with His Spirit for the tasks He gave him. Not to preach or teach or prophecy, but to work with his hands.

Perhaps it's not so surprising that this same God might use the same Holy Spirit (which is already within every NT believer) to help us with our tasks - whether they be spreading the Gospel or making a handmade card, discipling a new believer or writing a poem.

He has done it before. And He never changes.

Has God filled you with His Spirit for a task? How are you like Bezalel?

Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths

Majestic. Awesome. Wonderful

Who among the gods is like You, Lord? Who is like You - majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, doing wonders? Exodus 15:11

They had left the land of Egypt - a land of many gods.

Osiris. Isis. Hapi. Uatchit. And others.

And God had shown Himself more powerful than each of them. Ten plagues, each showing the Lord's dominion over one or the other. Each displaying His superior power over what the Egyptians worshipped.

Who among the gods is like You, Lord? Who is like You...
The children of Israel, His people, were enslaved for hundreds of years. Those who worshiped Him were forced to work in slavery. But His chosen people couldn't stay that way forever. For the Lord had promised He would let them go (Genesis 15:13-14). And in His holiness, He would NOT break His promise.
majestic in holiness,
And He got them out - but didn't leave them to fend for themselves. No - He guided them. A pillar of cloud to follow during the daytime and a pillar of fire at night. The essence of His amazing Glory to lead them where He wanted them to go.
awesome in glory,
And He led them - to an unpassable spot. Ahead of them was the Red Sea. Behind them was the Egyptian army. There was nowhere to go. Nowhere to hide. Until God made the way. He parted the Red Sea. They crossed on dry ground. Every one of them made it to the other side. And every Egyptian was drowned.

doing wonders? Exodus 15:11
And they sang a song to Him. A song of praise. Of deliverance. Of thanksgiving. (Exodus 15:1-18)

And we serve the same God.
How has He shown His majestic holiness, His awesome glory, His wonders to you? How has He demonstrated His power over every other god?

And what song has been - should have been - on YOUR lips because of it?
We're discussing this devotional here, and at Living by Grace on Facebook. Won't you join us?
Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths

In Search of Snow Boots

You'd think, in the middle of winter, it wouldn't be a problem, right?

The Barn Door

Well - maybe you think wrong. :) I'm over at the Midwest blog  The Barn Door today, talking about my (probably) typical experience of trying to find seasonal clothes IN the season I need them. Not as easy as it should be. It's winter - right? Somebody tell the stores!

Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths

Introducing Jochebed: Devoted Mother

I've moved into Exodus in my chronological Bible reading, and yet another character has grabbed my attention - enough so that I'm sharing a Bible character biography on her with you. This time, the topic is Jochebed - mother of Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.

Jochebed is mentioned by name only twice in the Bible (Exodus 6:20 and Exodus 26:59) - both times in geneologies/censuses. Her story only covers ten Bible verses (Exodus 2:1-10). But her impact? Her devotion? Unquestioned.

Jochebed gave birth to Moses at a critical, and dangerous, time in the history of her people. They were slaves to the Egyptians, and the pharaoh was trying to reduce their numbers. So he ordered that all Hebrew baby boys be thrown in the Nile. (Exodus 1:22)

Jochebed, however, hid her son for three months (because, according to both Exodus and Hebrews, she knew he was not an ordinary child). She was not afraid of Pharaoh's edict (Hebrews 11:23).

But you can only hide a baby for so long. So she hatched a plan that I'm sure you are all familiar with. The basket. Her daughter to observe. The Nile. Pharaoh's daughter.

And then, the most remarkable thing happens - likely in Jochebed's eyes, anyway.

This baby, who she protected and hid for three months, then set in a basket along the Nile, is given back to her, if only for a while.
Then his [Moses's] sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?” “Yes, go,” she answered. So the girl went and got the baby’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.” So the woman took the baby and nursed him. Exodus 2:7-9
So Jochebed not only saved her precious son's life - she got to be his wet nurse. And get paid for it.

I wonder how scary it was to let her boy go like that. To take her precious child and leave him in a basket - to trust God to take care of him.

It's so encouraging - to me anyway - to see how He rewarded her. Not only did she get to be her own son's wet nurse, almost definitely teaching him as she wanted to from the beginning, but she became the mother of one of the greatest men of the Old Testament - and the very first high priest.

All for this simple woman who sought the Lord, and His will, for her child.
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Hebrews 11:6
May we all have this kind of faith.

Do you have the faith of Jochebed? Have you given something up and been rewarded for it?

Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths
Graphics courtesy of Christians Unite

A Reluctant, God-Led Leader

But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.” Exodus 4:13 

Though his confidence certainly improved with time, when Moses first began interacting with the Lord, he had nothing but questions and objections.
Who am I that I should go? Who should I say You are? What if they don't believe me? (Exodus 3:11, 13, Exodus 4:1)

I am slow of speech and tongue. Please send someone else. Why would anyone listen to me? (Exodus 4:10, 13, Exodus 6:30)
Moses was, in the truest sense, a reluctant leader. He did not want to accept God's call to be the catalyst to his people's salvation.

But he did it anyway. He ignored the concerns and frustrations and spoke to the Israelites. He set aside his questions and objections and presented God's case to Pharaoh.

And Moses triumphed...after a while. But not before countless difficulties.

After the Israelites blamed Moses for making their slavery worse. After ten plagues, several of which affected not only the Egyptians, but the Hebrews as well. After being chased from behind by Pharoah's army.

Yes, they were finally delivered, crossing the Red Sea and watching their masters drown.

I would have been reluctant too. And this, of course, is only part of Moses' story. There's more frustration to come.

But here's the thing. Moses was 100% right smack in the middle of God's will. Don't let reluctance, hard times, or frustrations stop you from doing what God asks you to do. They aren't necessarily a sign you're on the wrong path.

They weren't for Moses.

Heavenly Father, help me to know what exactly You want me to do. I know that sometimes You put obstacles in my path or doubts in my mind to direct me elsewhere, but it isn't always that way. I want to be in Your will, no matter how difficult it might be for me. Help me to be like Moses in that way. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.

We're discussing this devotional here, and at Living by Grace on Facebook. Won't you join us?

Do you allow circumstances to help you decide if you are in God's will or not? How can you really know?
Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths
Images courtesy of Christians Unite

Moving Along - a Goals/Progress Update

It seems it's been a good month here at An Open Book - and in the Sher household - as far as writing and such is going. I feel like I've been plodding alog. But the proof, as they say, is in the pudding.

So how did I do with my goals for January, you ask? Let's see. Here they are, copied from my last goals/progress post:
  • Post, on topic, two to three times a week on my blog (with at least 75% of it fresh content) - this does NOT include "teaser" posts to other places I blog.
  • Finish steps five and six of Snowflake for Handmaiden to a Princess, and start step seven
  • Keep up in the blogging class on the ACFW course loop
  • Work through Margie Lawson's lecture packet Defeat Self-Defeating Behaviors with a friend (or two or three - if you're interested in joining us, drop me a line. We're starting January 7. Not sure of the pace yet.)
So, I posted eleven times on my blog in January (not counting teaser posts), which does average out to between two and three times a week. Eight of them were fresh content. That's 73% fresh, so I'll give myself a yes on that one. (close enough?)

Snowflake steps five and six are done, and seven is VERY close to finished (will likely be done by the weekend, if not later today!). Good progress for sure - and only two steps after that before I start actually writing the book.

As far as the classes, I DID keep up in the blogging class (EXCELLENT), and my friends and I are working through lecture four of nine of Margie Lawson's lecture packet. It's REALLY good. Extremely. We're going through a lesson a week, and so far it's working.

Gonna be a little more ambitious on my novel work in February (cuz I'm hoping to participate in Seekerville's SpeedBo in March!). So, here are this month's goals:
  • Post, on topic, two to three times a week on my blog (with at least 2/3 of it fresh content) - this does NOT include "teaser" posts to other places I blog.
  • Finish steps seven (character charts), eight (list of all the scenes I'll need), and nine (narrative description of the story) of Snowflake for Handmaiden to a Princess.
  • Be finished with lecture seven of Margie Lawson's lecture packet Defeat Self-Defeating Behaviors, and started lecture eight.
So, there they are! Back to "on-topic" posts next week :)

Do you set goals? How are you doing?
Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths

My One Word: 2016 and 2017

Most who know me know I am a very goal-oriented person (in fact, I already shared my goal wrap-up for 2016 and my new ones for 2017 on this...