"If you write FOR a particular market or FOR a particular editor you will often miss the mark. But if you write because your fingers have danced across the keyboard, because a character has tapped you on the shoulder, because a story has settled in your heart, then even if you never sell it you have done the work you were meant to do. And sometime, dear readers, real magic happens." Jane Yolen

1/30/13

Introducing Reuben: One Act Changed Everything

When Reuben returned to the cistern and saw that Joseph was not there, he tore his clothes. Genesis 37:29

This is my third of many (planned) Bible character biographies. Today, I'm going to focus on the Old Testament character of Reuben.

First, some background: Reuben was the firstborn son of Jacob, one of the Old Testament patriarchs. His mother was Leah, Jacob's first and "unfavored" wife. He had five full brothers, a full sister, and six half-brothers. He was the namesake of one of the twelve tribes of Israel. You can read about him in Genesis 29-50.

One of the first places Reuben shows up in the Old Testament narrative (other than his birth) is in, shall we say, a compromising position. And one that had far-reaching repercussions for himself and his descendants.

While Israel [Jacob] was living in that region [beyond Migdal Eder], Reuben went in and slept with his father’s concubine Bilhah, and Israel heard of it. Genesis 35:22
This was not a wise choice - but it wasn't until I did research for this post that I realized how unwise it was. Most remember the rivalry between Jacob's two wives, Leah and Rachel. And if you look in Genesis, you will discover that Bilhah was not only Jacob's concubine - she was Rachel's servant. Rachel - Jacob's favored wife, who died three verses earlier (Genesis 35:19).

Reuben wasn't all bad, however. It was he who saved his younger brother's life. As his brothers planned to kill Joseph, Reuben convinced them to change their plan.
When Reuben heard this, he tried to rescue him from their hands. “Let’s not take his life,” he said.“Don’t shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern here in the wilderness, but don’t lay a hand on him.” Reuben said this to rescue him from them and take him back to his father. Genesis 37:21-22
They agreed, but before Reuben could rescue the boy, they sold him off  to the Ishmaelites (you know the rest of the story, I'm sure. If not, check out Genesis 37 and following). And, it seemed, his guilt followed him, as Genesis 42:22 and 42:37 can attest. Perhaps this sense of responsibility and shame were his attempt to make things better with Jacob.

Yet, what he was remembered for most (especially by his father) was his sin with his step-mother's servant. Check out Jacob's final words to Reuben:
Reuben, you are my firstborn,
    my might, the first sign of my strength,
    excelling in honor, excelling in power.
Turbulent as the waters, you will no longer excel,
    for you went up onto your father’s bed,
    onto my couch and defiled it. Genesis 49:3-4
He lost his rights as firstborn, and his descendents even settled on the "wrong side" of the Jordan. It seems, no matter how much he tried to redeem himself, that one act changed everything.


Sometimes we forget that the people in the Bible are just that - people. They're not fictional characters created to make a point. They were born, lived, and died just like we did. And there is much we can learn from their lives.

Can you relate to Reuben? Is there "one act" that has defined you? Aren't you glad we're on this side of the cross?

Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths
Graphic courtesy of  Christians Unite

1/28/13

The Ministry of Silence

When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. Job 2:11 NIV

 In my chronological Bible reading, I'm currently in the book of Job. This book frustrated me for a long time, but as I read it over, and understand more, it is a bit less so.

One thing I've noticed especially this time through is how many windbags there are in this book. Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar have plenty to say - and so does Job. Even "friend #4" Elihu gets his words in edgewise. There is a lot of talking in this book - and very little of it accomplishes its purpose.

Graphic courtesy of  Christians Unite
And it's like that in our own lives sometimes, too. We argue with folks, and they don't change their opinion. We defend ourselves, and the others don't trust our words. We seek comfort and get criticism. We ask for confession and get insults.

We often talk about what poor comforters and sympathizers Job's three friends were (and if you look at the verse quoted at the top of this post, you'll see that WAS their initial purpose). But they didn't start out that way. Not only were their intentions good, but one of the first things they did when they arrived, reported in a single verse in this book of forty-two chapters, is something many need in struggle, and so few provide.
Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was. Job 2:13
Sometimes, when someone is suffering, we don't know what to say. Have you ever considered that it is because we aren't supposed to say anything? That our presence is the greatest comfort we can provide? That our silent prayers are more helpful than our spoken suggestions? That silence is a ministry - one even the Holy Spirit practices.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. Romans 8:26 
Sometimes, God gives us the words to say (Mark 13:11) to comfort, and other times, He wants us to use the gift - the ministry - of silence.

Heavenly Father, help me to know the best way to comfort my struggling friends, whether it be with words, admonitions, or silence. I want to listen to your guidance so I can bring Your comfort to those who struggle. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4) In the name of Your precious Son I pray. Amen
**
We're discussing this devotional here, and at Living by Grace on Facebook. Won't you join us?

How hard is it for you NOT to say something when someone is struggling? Have you practiced the ministry of silence?
 
Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths

1/25/13

Jewish Holiday: Tu B'Shevat

I'm excited about this post - as it is my first discussing a Jewish holiday - and it's one I'm guessing very few of my Christian friends have heard of.

If you're unfamiliar with the Hebrew calendar, I've written a post about it. Just click on the link in this paragraph.

Anyhow, at sunset tonight (see the link above), the minor Jewish holiday of Tu B'Shevat begins, ending at sunset tomorrow. This holiday is not mentioned in the Bible, but is referred to in the Mishnah, a collected group of oral traditions written down by second century AD Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi.

The name of the holiday literally means "fifteenth of Shevat (the fifth month of the Hebrew calendar)." It is the New Year of the Trees - or sometimes called the Jewish Arbor Day. Tradition states that it originated as the date when the growing season began for Old Testament tithing purposes. 
photo credit: _Blaster_ via photopin cc
Almond trees are often the first to bloom in Israel

This is the season in which the earliest-blooming trees in the Land of Israel emerge from their winter sleep and begin a new fruit-bearing cycle. And Jews often celebrate this holiday by eating plants that are mentioned in the Old Testament as being abundant in Israel, including wheat, barley, grapes, figs, olives, pomegranates, and dates. Another common thing to do on Tu B'Shevat is to have a tree planted in Israel in your name (or plant one where you live, if possible).

Just FYI - having a tree planted in Israel in your name is a pretty common thing for special occasions - at least among American Jews. I'd guess that there are at least a dozen somewhere in Israel with my name on them ;). At least where I grew up, this was done through the Jewish National Fund. Just a way to help bring streams in the desert (Isaiah 35:6).

And now, for your listening pleasure, a video of the song I most remember singing as a child in Hebrew School for Tu B'Shevat. (The version I sang was about 75% English and 25% Hebrew - this one is all Hebrew)


Here are the lyrics in both English and Hebrew.

(note, for more information, click on any of the links within this post)

Had you heard of this Jewish holiday? What did you find most interesting?


Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths

1/21/13

Training for Struggles

I’ve often found that, before God asks us to give up something huge, He prepares us by having us give up something smaller.

It happened to me. Just a couple years before my husband was diagnosed with a brain tumor and declared disabled, he was laid off from work for several months. Learning to live on less at that time was great training for adjusting to disability payments.

God has been doing this since the very beginning. Look at Abraham. Isaac wasn’t the first son God asked Abraham to give up.
The child [Isaac] grew and was weaned, and on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. But Sarah saw that the son [Ishmael] whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, and she said to Abraham, "Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that slave woman's son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac." Genesis 21:8-10
As you may recall, Ishmael is Abraham’s first son, born to him by his wife’s servant, Hagar. Now Abraham's wife asks him to kick his son out, along with his mother.

Can you imagine the turmoil? Sure, this boy wasn’t Abraham’s heir, but it was, after all, his first child—his son. He wasn’t ready to just give him up. Abraham was, as God’s Word said, “greatly distressed.”(Genesis 21:11) And he hesitated.
But God said to him, "Do not be so distressed about the boy and your maidservant. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. I will make the son of the maidservant into a nation also, because he is your offspring." Genesis 21:12-13
And that was enough for Abraham.
Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy. Genesis 21:14, emphasis mine
He acted right away, with assurance from his Heavenly Father.

This experience helped grow Abraham's trust in the Lord, which is evident in his next dilemma involving a son: this time, his promised son, Isaac.

I’d guess you are a bit more familiar with this story. In brief, God tells Abraham to sacrifice his son to Him. Abraham obeys, but God stops him at the last minute and demands a ram instead. (See Genesis 22:1-18 for more details)

This time, Abraham acted immediately, with no reassurance of “blue skies” from his Father. In fact, the only words he heard from God were the command to take his son to Mount Moriah and sacrifice him as a burnt offering. Not very encouraging.

But Abraham had grown. He trusted God even further. This time he didn’t need the reassurance.
Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. Genesis 22:3, emphasis mine
Again, he acted immediately, with the increasing faith he had developed through the first trial.

May we grow in the same way.
Heavenly Father, thank You for preparing us for trials beforehand, and thank You for using Abraham as an example to us about the need to trust You more and more each day. Help us, Lord, to learn through experience Your faithfulness and love. May our love for you, and our belief in your sovereignty, increase with every instance of its exhibition in our lives. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
**
We're discussing this devotional here, and at Living by Grace on Facebook. Won't you join us?


Has God prepared you for a big trial by getting you through a smaller one? Did you learn from the process?
 
Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths
Graphics courtesy of  Christians Unite

1/19/13

Bible Beginnings

Almost everything has a beginning - and January is a common month to think about it - naturally, as it's the beginning of a new year.

I'm pondering two of the most important beginnings at the group devotional blog Jewels of Encouragement today. Two verses in the Bible that make bold statements we must accept or reject - and what we do with them affects how we read every other verse in His Word. Beginnings we should all take note of.



 
Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths

1/18/13

Appeasing Anger - Some Biblical Fiction

The Bible is full of angry folks - and many, many different attempts to appease it. Here's my take on one scenario you may or may not remember from Genesis - from a perspective you may not expect. I read about this incident in my chronological Bible reading last weekend. Hope you enjoy it.

Five Hundred and Fifty Animals Richer


I'm sure, at the time, he thought he was taking the easy path. It was at my expense of course, but that's certainly no surprise. He's been grasping at my heel since before I can remember.

What I can tell you, however, is that it took every bit of livestock he gave me to appease my anger. Years of bitterness are not easy to remedy. I have to admit, though, that the menagerie he sent did the trick. All's good with us again - after twenty years of bad blood.

Since my brother was a child, he'd been a mama's boy. He was no lightweight, though. That deceiver tricked me into selling him my birthright for a hot meal. He was always one to try to get something for nothing.

You see, I was the hard worker in the family, and Dad's favorite for sure. I'm a hands-on guy: working in the fields, hunting game, the outdoorsy type. I work hard and generally reap the rewards of my labor. Sure, I'm impulsive sometimes, but who isn't?

My brother, on the other hand, is a schemer, an "intellectual," who only works as hard as necessary, using trickery to get more than he deserves. When I lost my birthright, I was mad, but after a few weeks, I was over it. After all, I sold it to him of my own free will. I should have known to watch out for him. Anyway, it's not like he stole it from under my nose.

The blessing, though, was another story. I couldn't have stopped him if I tried. That brother of mine waited until I was doing some real work, then he cut corners, convinced Dad he was me, and stole what was rightfully mine, with the help of my mother. All I can say is Mom was wise to send him away. I probably would have strung him up if he'd as much as come near me.

Of course, if she thought I was mad when Jacob left, she was clueless how much that anger would build inside me over the years. Every time I looked at my mother, my hatred for my brother intensified. By the time Jacob's messengers arrived in Seir and told me he was on his way to see me after twenty years, murder was all I had on my mind. I gathered up 400 of my closest friends (well, my closest angry friends, anyway) and started marching his way. "Favor in my eyes,*" indeed!

Anyhow, as we marched, a servant approached us - with 220 goats! Now this was something I didn't see every day. I asked the man to whom he belonged and where he was going. He told me, and I quote, "they belong to your servant Jacob. They are a gift sent to my lord Esau, and he is coming behind us.*"

Well, who in their right mind would refuse 220 goats? So, I took them, as at least a partial payment for what that deceiver had done to me. I was still planning to tear him limb from limb, mind you - but at least I now had some livestock to show for it.

What do you know, but a few minutes later another servant showed up, this time with 220 sheep. I took those too - who can't use a nice big herd of sheep? I have to admit these gifts were softening me a bit. I might have only injured him severely if he'd shown up then.

This went on for at least an hour. Next, it was thirty camels and their young, followed by forty cows and ten bulls. That Jacob sure knew how to break down a man's anger. I was only mildly peeved (as I drank a nice cup of fresh milk). I still wanted to do that boy bodily harm, but a few slaps in the face likely would have satisfied my wrath.

It was the next delivery, however, that removed that last bit of animosity. When I saw those thirty donkeys braying and strutting toward me, I suddenly realized how ridiculous I had been acting. Here I was, a wealthy fulfilled man, fuming over a grudge twenty years old.

As Jacob and his family approached, I ran up and embraced him. All was forgiven. Like I said, those gifts did the trick.

You know what, though? If he'd just apologized sincerely and maybe made me a nice dinner all those years ago, Jacob could have been 550 animals richer today.

* Scripture references, in order: Genesis 32:5, 32:18 NIV

Have you ever had to pay the price to appease someone's anger? How much easier would it have been to do the right thing in the first place?

Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths
Graphics courtesy of Christiansunite.com

1/16/13

Introducing Lot: Stepping Away From God's Will

Lot looked around and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan toward Zoar was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt. Genesis 13:10

My last Bible character biography discussed the righteous Noah. Today's subject stepped away from God's will, despite Godly influences around him. And each step away from God was a step closer to disaster - for him and his family.

Who? Lot. You can read Lot's story in Genesis 11:27-14:16 and Genesis 19. He is also mentioned in Luke 17:28-29 and 2 Peter 2:6-8.

Lot was Abram/Abraham's nephew - the son of his brother Haran, who died in Ur of the Chaldeans. Lot traveled with Abraham and Sarah when they left Ur and headed toward Canaan, and he stayed with them until they arrived in Bethel.

Once there, the conflict began. Abraham and Lot's herders quarreled, and the land could no longer support both of them. So Abraham allowed Lot first choice of where to settle.
So Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herders and mine, for we are close relatives. Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.” Genesis 13:8-9
And here is where Lot took his first recorded step away from God. He decided to go east, to the Jordan plains. Abraham, however, stayed in Canaan, the land of promise.

Here the progression begins. If you note in Genesis 13:12-13, the text indicates that he pitched his tents near Sodom - a people who were known to be "wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord."

But it doesn't stop here. Just a chapter later, Abraham needs to come to his nephew's rescue when he and his possessions are captured by local kings. And Lot is no longer simply living near Sodom at this point. He is now living in it (Genesis 14:12). Not a step in the right direction. 

So Abraham rescues his nephew and they both return to their homes and Lot disappears from the story: until Genesis 19:1, when we find him standing at Sodom's city gates. This is the place where business is transacted; where judgements are made. Apparently, Abraham's nephew not only lives in this wicked place, but he is a leader of the city. 

And the city has not improved under his guidance. In fact, Sodom, along with its sister city Gomorrah, is about to be destroyed by God. If you want to see how bad it had gotten there, just take a peek at Genesis 19:4-9.

And we know what happened to Sodom. I could go on and talk about his wife's longing to stay and the consequences to her (Genesis 19:26), Lot's daughters and their successful plan to obtain heirs (Genesis 19:30-38), or the legacy of enemies his children brought to his uncle's people. But I think you get the point. Every step away from God's will led to disaster.
It's easy to get caught in Lot's mentality. He probably didn't think living near a city like Sodom would hurt. But he was drawn in. And you and I could be too. Every time you step away from God's will, you step toward disaster.
Have you ever been on Lot's slippery slope? What is the best way to avoid the sad circumstances of Lot and his family?

 
Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths
(graphics courtesy of christiansunite.com)

1/14/13

The Most Dysfunctional Family in the Bible

Esau said, “Isn’t he rightly named Jacob? This is the second time he has taken advantage of me: He took my birthright, and now he’s taken my blessing!” Genesis 27:36 

 It's a well-known buzzword these days. But the dysfunctional family didn't start when the phrase appeared in the American lexicon. It goes FAR back - even the first family was dysfunctional. (Brothers don't kill each other in functional familes, do they?)

But as I was reading through Genesis this past week, one family struck me as likely the poster child for conflict-ridden relationships. And it all centers around one man: Jacob.

Image Credit
He deceived his father and brother (Genesis 27). His Uncle Laban tricked him into marrying BOTH of his daughters (Genesis 29:14-30). His wives, and their concubines, fought for his affections (and bed!) for years (Genesis 29:31-30:22). And don't even get me started on his children (remember Dinah? Joseph?). If this isn't a dysfunctional family, I don't  know what is.

And yet, Jacob is one of the patriarchs. He's mentioned as a member of the "Hall of Faith" in Hebrews 11:22. The name God gave him, Israel, became the name of God's chosen people. He is the father of the twelve tribes of Israel.

Obviously, God didn't bless Jacob and his dysfunctional family because of their works. They were blessed because of grace - because of His promise to them.
“I am God, the God of your father,” He said. “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there." Genesis 46:3
And He did. Despite their weaknesses - their sins - their dysfunction. Aren't you glad God worked through the likes of Jacob? It means he could even work through someone like you or me.

Heavenly Father, thank You for working through imperfect people and dysfunctional families like mine. Even when I am deceitful, selfish, violent, or just plain disagreeable, You still love me and are willing to bless me, just as you did Jacob. Thank You for reminding me that salvation and love is Your gift to us (Ephesians 2:8-9). Help me to appreciate it. In the name of Christ I pray. Amen
**

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

Do you feel unworthy of God's favor? How hard is it for you to remember God's grace isn't anything we can earn?


Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths

1/10/13

Unauthorized Fire and No-No Lists

God doesn’t always give every particular fact we might desire to know in the Bible. I hope I’m not the only one who finds herself wondering about the missing (in my view, anyway) details from various Bible narratives.
  • Where did Cain’s wife come from? 
  • Why didn’t Jacob notice he was marrying the wrong woman? 
  • What was so special about Enoch? 
  • Why didn’t Balaam act surprised when a donkey talked to him? 
Lately, the question that has gotten me thinking is found in Leviticus.
What, exactly, was wrong with Nadab and Abihu’s sacrifice? What did they do that warranted God’s punishment of them?


I'm at Internet Cafe Devotions today, talking about just this issue. Hope you'll click here and stop by to see what I, and the Lord, have to say about this unanswered question.

 
Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths

1/9/13

Halfway to Heaven

I have a post at the Midwest group blog The Barn Door today. Hope you'll stop by and learn a bit about my - and my family's love affair with the blanket. Especially this time of year, we're Snuggling Up!

I wrote this bit of biblical fiction for the FaithWriters Writing Challenge, where I broke in my Christian writing chops, so to speak (a great site, by the way - and I'm not just saying that cuz I work for them! LOL).  In my chronological Bible reading, I read about this particular Bible episode this past Friday, so figured I needed to pull it up to reflect on and share with you.

Hope you enjoy it, and that it gives you an interesting perspective and insight into a well-known event.


 Halfway to Heaven

Voices seemed to ring out discordantly from every direction.

"Wiederholen, bitte."

"Que?"

"Haud agnosco."

"I don't understand."

What had just happened? Uz had no idea, and there wasn't a person in hearing distance, it seemed, who could explain. In fact, there likely wasn't a soul on Earth who could help him understand the change that had just taken place.

The physical surroundings were, it seemed, unaffected. The sun still shone. The flowers still bloomed. The ziggurat, not yet fully constructed, was still in view; with the sun reflecting off the tar binding its bricks together. The people were physically unchanged since the last time he'd looked -- not ten minutes earlier. Yet, at the same time, everything had undergone such a metamorphosis, such a radical change. Would anything ever be the same again?
Graphic courtesy of Phillip Martin

At first, it seemed like a dream: a hallucination. Yet, it was so real. One moment he'd been chatting with his wife Sera about the weather and its effects on the building project, and the next minute every sound coming from her mouth was incomprehensible.

He asked her to repeat herself, but she seemed as baffled by Uz's words as he had been with hers.

"Ich verstehe nicht," Sera had said.

Uz had never heard words even remotely similar to those come from anyone's mouth, much less his wife's.

He'd then turned to his friend Javan, a foreman for the ziggurat.

"What's going on here?"

Uz would never forget the look of sheer perplexity on Javan's face. It was as if his friend had no idea who Uz was, much less what he was saying.

"Quod? Quod?" Javan's hopelessness was evident on his face and in his tone. "Revolvo, commodo."

Uz glanced at his wife, but found her as baffled at Javan's proclamation as he was. It appeared that not a soul could understand the words of any other human being anymore.

How would they get anything done? How could anyone meet the most basic needs if no one could communicate with anyone else? Body language could only go so far. Of one thing Uz was certain: there was no way they'd ever finish the tower.

Sighing, Uz gestured for his wife to follow him. The pair walked dejectedly from Shinar, leaving their dreams, and a tower halfway to heaven, behind.

Based on Genesis 11:1-9

Have you ever pondered how God confused the languages at Babel? What it might have been like for the people then? What did you think of my interpretation?

 
Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths

1/7/13

Of Trees: Good and Evil, and Life

The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Genesis 2:9

We all know the story of Adam and Eve. The first humans. The first sinners. 

God created a beautiful garden for them, and only one restriction: don't eat from one of the trees. 
And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” Genesis 2:15-17
And, being God, He knew exactly what would happen. They ate. They got knowledge of good and evil. They brought death into the world.

But there were actually two named trees, likely among hundreds, in the text: the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and the tree of life. Have you ever thought about what would have happened if Adam and Eve had eaten of the latter before the former?

What if Adam or Eve had taken a bite from the tree of life (which was NOT forbidden) before the serpent showed up and tempted her?

What if humanity had to live forever in transgression? What if sin's wages (Romans 6:23) couldn't be paid? What if our everlasting life was filled with sin, rather than grace? With condemnation, rather than peace?

I don't know about you, but I'm VERY glad that God did not allow that to happen. Cuz I sure don't want to live in sin forever - or live forever in sin.

And there's more good news. The Tree of Life? It'll be making a return visit. It will take a trip from the first book of the Bible to the last.
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.No longer will there be any curse. Revelation 22:1-3
 Eternal life WITHOUT sin - that sounds a LOT better, doesn't it?

Heavenly Father, thank You for making a way for us to have everlasting life in You, despite our sin and the legacy of Adam and Eve. Help us to live out our love for You in light of Your gift of eternal life to us. In Jesus' 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

1/4/13

Introducing Noah: Just As the Lord Commanded

But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. Genesis 6:8

As I'm reading through the Bible chronologically this year, most of my posts, for now anyway, will be related to to Bible folks and situations in the early times covered in His Word. And the first person who grabbed my attention was Noah. You can find his story in Genesis 5:28-9:29. He is also mentioned in Isaiah 54:9, Ezekiel 14, Matthew 24:37-39, Luke 17:26-27, Hebrews 11:7, 1 Peter 3:20, and 2 Peter 2:5.

First, the genealogy and some facts and figures:  Noah was the firstborn son of Lamech and the grandson of Methuselah (the longest-living man reported in the Bible - he died at the ripe old age of 969). Noah was 500 years old before he had children, when he had three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. He boarded the ark at the age of 600, and he lived 950 years total.

Noah lived in tough times. The world around him was desperately wicked, and "every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time." (Genesis 6:5b) And God had had enough of it. He decided to wipe the earth clean of humanity, the animal kingdom, and the plant kingdom. Desperate measures, to say the least.

But in all the wickedness of the world He created, and that sin corrupted, there was one man who didn't turn the Lord's stomach. And that man was Noah.
Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God. Genesis 6:9b
So God chose him, among all the people who populated His world, to survive. And his family - his wife, their three sons, and three daughters-in-law. But that was IT.

God's Word tells us of Noah's favor in God's eyes, and of his righteousness, blamelesness, and faithfulness, but it also shows us these very same things.
  • Noah spent years building a gigantic ark (450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high) with nothing but God's direction. And almost assuredly scoffers from those around him. Genesis 6:14-22
  • Noah and his family boarded the ark - before the rain started - and stayed there for a week waiting for it - because God told them to. Genesis 7:5-7, 10
  • Noah took care of the hundreds of animals on the ark without complaint - for a full year.
  • Even though the land appeared dry, and he had to be ready for a change of scenery, he did not get off the ark until God told him to.  Genesis 8:15-18
  • The first thing Noah did after getting off was offer a sacrifice to the Lord. Genesis 8:20
Sometimes, the evil and corruption of the world seems overwhelming. We might feel like Noah - the only good person left in the world. And sometimes we wonder if following Him is really worth it - or possible with all the worldly influences and temptations. But if we look to Noah, we know it is. For, despite the odds, this man of God "did all that the Lord commanded him." Genesis 6:22, Genesis 7:5

And we can do the same, with the help of the Lord, and the inspiration of Noah.

Have you ever felt like Noah? Do you find him to be an inspiration? What is your favorite part of his story?

  
Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths
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1/1/13

The New An Open Book

 Today is my first tech-free Tuesday of the year. I'm planning to "up the ante" and do these twice a month in 2013 - the first and third Tuesday of the month. If you don't take time away from your puter (and phone and tablet) occasionally, I can't recommend it more highly. It has been SO good for me.

And on that note - see ya Wednesday!

Welcome to 2013 - and the new focus and direction for my blog.

As I mentioned here a month ago, for a bit, I've felt that I needed a new focus and direction for my blog. Mostly because my current one didn't really HAVE a focus or direction.
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Well, that changes now.

Because my heart - my passion - is God's Word and the truths in it, An Open Book will now focus on just that. Bible-based devotions, biblical  fiction, and other lessons from His Word (with a touch of my Jewish heritage).

As of now, I am planning on four different kinds of posts.

BIBLE-BASED DEVOTIONALS: As I continue my connection with the Facebook group Living By Grace, each Monday I will have a devotional here on my blog, taken from my Bible reading from the week before (I'm planning to read the Bible through in 2013, in chronological order. I'll be using the NIV One Year Chronological Bible).

BIBLICAL FICTION: Many of you know I'm working on a full-length biblical fiction novel, but I've also written several short stories in this genre, and I love bringing Bible stories, and characters, to life. So some posts will be fictional stories, based on Bible characters and/or events.

BIBLE CHARACTER BIOGRAPHIES: There are a LOT of people in the Bible. Some you probably are quite familiar with. Others, not so much. And we can learn from just about every one of them. I'll be introducing you to some of the many people in the Bible - and what we can learn from them.

JEWISH HOLIDAYS/TRADITIONS: Most of you know I was raised Jewish, and several folks ask me questions about my faith of birth. And while some Jewish holidays are discussed in the Bible, there are others that aren't - and even those that are do not include all the traditions current Jews practice. So, watch for those types of posts as well around the holidays.

You may have noticed I do not have a schedule, per se - other than a devotional on Mondays. As of now, this is purposeful. I plan to post two to three times a week, depending on how I am led in each of these areas. At some point I probably will get more firm with a schedule (cuz that's the way I am), but for now, I'm going to be loose with when I post what.

And I am not, by any means, limited to these four different types of posts. These are the ones I've come up with - but I'm certainly open to other ideas within my focus (Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths - which is also my new tagline/brand). If you have any ideas, I would LOVE to hear about them! Just share them in the comments, or drop me an email.

(also, please excuse any nonfunctional links and such - I'm in the midst of updating the blog to fit my new focus - but I'm not QUITE done yet)

Anyhow - I'm looking forward to getting busy with these posts, and showing you the timeless truths in God's Word. Stay tuned (and subscribe - check my sidebar to follow me in one of several different ways!)!

 So, what do you think? Any more ideas for me?



Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths

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