Monday, January 31, 2011


        "As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him."   (NIV)



      There is so much going on in this scripture verse that many books could be written about it.  Some would say that this is the first reference to the idea of the Trinity, but they would be in error.  The first reference to the Trinity is in Genesis, with a look at the beginning of the book of John for further clarification.  Genesis 1:1 reads, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters."  Thus, the very first verse of the first book of the Bible refers to God the Father (Creator) and the Holy Spirit - the Spirit of God.  By taking a quick look at the first verse in the book of John, we see another perspective to the creation: "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God."  Further explanation is found in John 1:14 :"The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us..."   Thus, the Trinity was present at creation.  Some people have problems with the idea that God is three-in-one - Trinity.  The best way I can explain it is that I am a mother,  I am a daughter, and I am a wife.  All three are me;  I am all three.

       Matthew 3:16 refers to the Baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist.  As Malachi foretold,  John the Baptist appeared preaching the imminent arrival of Christ: "After me comes He who is mightier than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie." (Mark 1:7)  Imagine how John must have felt when Jesus appeared and asked to be baptized!  The only sin-free person to ever walk this earth, asking John to baptize Him! John replied, "You should be baptizing me." But Jesus persisted, and was baptized.

    The sacrament of baptism is not a new thing.  From ancient days came the ritual cleansing of God's chosen people, the Jews, before they could enter the temple.  This was called a "mikvah"; and, Jewish people still use this term today.  A mikvah  is always done in moving water (living water) such as a river or stream.  And, the person dunked himself, while being observed by a priest or rabbi.   Nowadays, most people consider baptism a spiritual bath through which believers are sanctified and washed in the name of Jesus; and, baptism is performed only after a public declaration of faith in Jesus as ones' personal Saviour.

      When I was in Israel in 2006,  even though I had already been baptized many years prior, I took the opportunity to be baptized in the Jordan River - the very river where John baptized Jesus.  I was struck by the fact that white doves were flying around, going in and out of the trees along the river banks.  What a beautiful visual metaphor for this scripture!  It was easy to imagine the heavens opening up and the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus like a dove.

      John the Baptist and the disciples of Jesus baptized many, many people.  But, the scriptures clearly state that Jesus never performed a baptism with water.  I wonder why... Perhaps it was because He knew how the hearts of men are, and realized that people would somehow think they were better because they were baptized by the Master?  Or, perhaps it was simply because He had so many disciples;  He was the overseer, and they did the baptism in His name?  Or maybe it was because He was destined to baptize in a much greater way, as proclaimed by John the Baptist:  "I have baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit." (Mark 1:8)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Old Covenant to Renewed Covenant

   Yesterday I posted about Malachi, the last book of the "Old Testament", which I prefer to call the "Old Covenant".  And, tomorrow (or the next day) I will begin posting about the "New Testament", which I prefer to call the "Renewed Covenant".  Meanwhile, I thought I'd write a little about how just the right word can make a difference, and about how we Westerners (the West part of the world, that is - NOT Western America!) tend to get some of our interpretations wrong.  It's all about language.

        The original Greek word, "diatheke" was translated by King James and others as "testament".  Testament  means a statement or a legal contract, such as one's "Last Will and Testament".  But, the more accurate translation of the Greek word, "diatheke", is covenant. There is the big difference:  a contract is an agreement in which there is  an escape clause or some manner in which one of the involved parties can get out of the deal. There might be a penalty for getting out of the contract, but it can be nulled. On the other hand,   a covenant is a promise;  a covenant doesn't have an escape clause;  it is permanent.  A renewed covenant is an extension of the original covenant - not a replacement of the original one.

         I have some close friends who have been married for many, many years.  On their 25th anniversary they renewed their wedding vows.  They had a wedding ceremony almost identical to their original one;  she even wore her original wedding gown!  Did the new wedding cancel out the original one?  No!  It was a renewal of their original promises to each other.  It is the same with God's promises to us;  He didn't do away with the Old Covenant when the Renewed Covenant was established through Christ the Messiah.  The Old Covenant spoke of the coming Messiah;  the Renewed Covenant speaks of His fulfillment of Old Covenant prophecies.

      Thus - and this is important - the laws of the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) are not null and void, as many believe nowadays.  The Old Covenant is still in place;  likewise, the Renewed Covenant is also in place. In Matthew 5: 17-18,  Jesus the Messiah states, "Do not think I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished." (NIV)  Jesus did not speak against the Law - only against the abuses and excesses to which it had been subjected by some of the Jewish leaders.  He was actually trying to get His people to return to the original purpose of the Law.
    If you are wondering what happens when a person changes even one letter of the Law,  go back to my posting  about Solomon's decision to do so... it is the posting for Ecclesiastes 3:16.  God did not intend for us to pick and choose which of His commands we are to follow. And, we will reap the consequences of disobedience.
     There are three types of laws and commandments in the Old Testament. (1) The ceremonial laws related specifically to Israel's worship in the Temple.  Obviously, since we do not live in Israel and there is currently no Temple, these laws cannot currently be maintained.  (2) Civil law applied to daily living, and can be found primarily in Leviticus 1,2, and 3. The principals behind civil law are the same principals America's founding fathers based our laws on.  Many of these laws are difficult to understand in a non-agricultural mode of living, yet they are timeless because of their underlying principles of daily conduct. (3) Moral laws (for example, the Ten Commandments)  are direct commandments from God and they require complete obedience.  Moral law reveals God's character as well as His expectations for us;  He always wants what is good for us, even when we don't quite realize it!

      I could go on and on; but, will limit this posting to what I've written.  Should a reader be interested in further investigation,  leave a comment and I will recommend some books to read to help clarify.  As I said in the beginning of this post,  this idea is foreign to those of us with a Western mindset, because we do not understand the context in which it was originally written.

Saturday, January 29, 2011


      "Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard.  A scroll of remembrance was written in His presence concerning those who feared and honored His Name." (NIV)


       Malachi was the last prophet until the appearance of John the Baptist, who came to prepare the way for the Messiah. There was a four-hundred-and-some year period of silence between Malachi and John the Baptist.  That would be a long time to go on hoping for a Messiah, without a new word from God. The book of Malachi is written in a certain style, wherein the author asks a question, then answers it; it is the only book of the Bible written in this style.  Malachi asks the questions that God would ask, then answers them for the benefit of God's people.


         Have you ever been talking to someone, only to realize that they haven't heard you at all? This person could be your spouse, or your best friend, or a coworker, or anybody.  Their intentions might be good... but, the phone rings, or a child hollers, "Mommy", or there is a knock at the door.  Or, they might be distracted by their own thoughts.  Or tired.  Who knows... But God always listens and hears.  Always. This "3:16" begins by referring to the fact that God listened and heard as His people were talking with each other. God is eternal and unchanging, so He still listens and hears us today.

   Malachi delivered the Lord's message at a time when most of God's people were disobeying and disregarding the ten commandments, providing poor religious training for their children, and withholding tithes and offerings from God. (Sound familiar?)  God, in His great patience and mercy, wanted to remind His people of their need to repent. Thus, He spoke to Malachi, assigning him with the task of speaking the message of repentance to the people.  The book of Malachi forms a bridge between the Old and New Testaments - which I prefer to call the Old Covenant and the Renewed Covenant. (I will expound on that in tomorrow's post.)

      Because of His amazing love, God presented us with a plan - the New Covenant..  We don't deserve it.  We certainly can't earn it. He gives His love with a capital "L" to all those who will open their hearts and receive it.  Just as He gave His message to His people through prophets such as Malachi, he gave us His plan of redemption through His only Son, Jesus the Messiah.
     Absolutely nothing is known about the prophet Malachi except the fact that the Lord spoke to him and he delivered the prophesy to God's people.  Isn't it interesting how God takes the most ordinary people and uses them?  Often, He takes the ornery and unworthy folks, makes them the object of His love, and uses them for His glory!
     Maybe even someone like me...

Thursday, January 27, 2011


     This third I will bring into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold.  They will call on my name and I will answer them: I will say, "they are my people", and they will say, "The Lord is our God."
                                                                                               Zechariah 13:9   NIV)


Zechariah by Michaelangelo
      The book of Zechariah has so "3:16".  The awesome verse quoted above refers to purification.  Refining.  As in strengthening as well as beautification of precious metal by placing them in the fire...
     The prophet Zechariah wrote this book of fourteen chapters to encourage his people to put off their sinful ways, and to accept refining and purification through the observance/obedience of God's law.  Zechariah foretold of the coming Messiah and of the coming of a renewed covenant through the Messiah.  He urged the "faithful remnant, which was approximately one-third of the Jews, to remain pure and obedient.  He encouraged this remnant to continue building God's temple - because this was God's plan.
     As is often (probably always!) the case, Zechariah's prophecy was for his time AND for the future. Zechariah also foretold of Christ's second coming.  The second coming will occur after the temple is rebuilt once again. We today need that same refining and purification that Zechariah wrote about thousands of years ago. Purification and obedience are still God's plan.  Why is it that we want so badly the rewards of salvation, yet balk at the purification process?

       When metal is refined in the fire, it comes out shinier, purer, and more precious with each step.  If you feel as if you've "been through the fire" lately, perhaps you are being refined.  You will come out stronger and more valuable every step of the way, until, finally, God will pull you out of the fire and you will be so pure that He will see Himself reflected in you.  This is His plan.

      God's  message to His people through Zechariah was "Trust me; I have a plan.  THE  PLAN.  Continue building the temple.  I need you to build the temple."  The great temple prophesied about for Israel has not yet been built.  But, there is another temple... And, where is that temple?  "Don't you know that you yourselves  are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him, for God's temple is sacred, and you are that temple." (I Corinthians 3:16,17)  We should be encouraging one another - not criticizing.  We should be building - not tearing down.

     Two sure methods of destroying a building are to mess with the foundation and to make the building with inferior materials.  The Church must have Christ the Messiah as its foundation, and each member must be willing to go through the refining process so as to be the best he can be.   I heard a preacher say recently, "Jesus told us that we would be like sheep among wolves.  If there aren't any wolves in your life, maybe you're not really a sheep."  The wolves of life... stress, financial worries, sickness, strife... are part of the refining process. Work at coming out of the fire with a pure heart and a renewed spirit.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


               "Then the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai: 'Is it a time for you yourselves  to be living in your paneled houses while this house remains a ruin?' "     (Haggai 1: 3,4   NIV)

Old city wall, Jerusalem
     The prophet Haggai wrote this brief book of the Bible to give God's people a message from the Almighty: "Stop concentrating on your material possessions and start working on the restoration of the temple of God.  Stop putting me at the bottom of your priority lists!"  (my paraphrase).  In Haggai's day, God's chosen people had returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple.  But, true to human nature, they became sidetracked with family, social gatherings, careers, life. Fifty years passes, and God's temple still lay in ruins.  The Lord was angry and spoke of it through Haggai.
     Haggai 1:9 continues the message: "You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why, declares the Lord Almighty.  Because of my house which remains in ruins, while each of you is busy with his own house."

     The Lord spoke to one man - Haggai.  And Haggai spoke to some of the older men... men who could still remember what the  old temple looked like before its destruction.These men then motivated others, and the people began rebuilding the temple 23 days after Haggai's first message from God.  The completed the foundation within 3 months.  And, God immediately blessed them. Haggai 2:9 states the blessing from God:
 "The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house... And in this place I will grant peace.."  God is so good;  even though we disappoint Him frequently, He blesses us when we obey.  (He could have waited until the temple was completed, but He sent His blessings when just the foundation was done.).
        Speaking of foundations, that is the whole point of the book of Haggai. God wants to be the foundation of our lives.  He wants to be number one. He deserves to be the foundation of our every decision, every action, every reaction.  And then we will experience the blessings in our temples - which are our renewed lives and minds through Christ the Messiah.  Haggai was "just one little man". But look what a difference one person can make.
     Hundreds of years later, the apostle Paul wrote a letter to Timothy, encouraging him to always do his best for the Lord.  Paul's message remains appropriate for each of us today.  Give God your best. Allow Him to shape you into an excellent worker as you seek to please Him.  Make Him the foundation of all that you do: "Nevertheless, God's solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: 'The Lord knows those who are his, and, everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.'  In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble.  If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work."  (II Timothy 2:19-21  NIV)
     Is God your foundation?

Monday, January 24, 2011


      " On that day they will say to Jerusalem, 'Do not fear, O Zion: Do not let your hands hang limp.  The Lord your God is with you. He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you. He will quiet you with His love.  He will rejoice over you with singing."  (NIV)

my photo, sunrise over Jerusalem

     The prophet Zechariah wrote this short book of the Bible in which he summarizes God's plan for Israel and the world. (God had a "Plan A"; and, when that didn't work out, He presented the world with "Plan B".)  I will attempt to write an extremely abbreviated version of the plan, the results, etc., as follows:
     Israel - the Jewish people - are God's chosen people.  No one knows why this small nation was chosen to be God's "evangelists", and it really doesn't matter... God did the choosing;  only He needs to know the reasons. God formed an eternal covenant with Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation.  This was a blood covenant - unalterable and eternal.

my photo, Israel countryside

         But, the people of Israel refused to be God's "missionaries".  They disobeyed. (For any of my regular readers - there's that pesky obedience word again!)  Much like us today, the people were comfortable with the status quo.  They liked life as they knew it.  The familiar was easier than the unknown. Well, the status quo is just not going to get it with God!  Not then;  not now.  Remember, the covenant between God and Abraham was eternal. Thus, it extends to all mankind.  In Deuteronomy we can read the scriptures that describe that covenant:
     "See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction.  For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you... But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed... this day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.  Now choose life."  (Deuteronomy 30:15-20  NIV)
there is only one way to choose life
   You might be asking yourself, "What does this ancient story have to do with me?"  The answer: Everything!  God loves people so much that when Israel refused to be His evangelists, He promptly went to "Plan B".  He hasn't given up on "Plan A", mind you... He will get back to that in the latter days.  But, for now, He went to "Plan B" wherein the gospel spread to the Gentiles. God accomplished this by sending His only Son, Jesus, who came to us in human form to be our Savior.  Jesus died for the sins of all mankind - the ultimate blood covenant - unalterable and eternal.
     So, once again, God is saying to each person on this earth, "I set before you life and death, blessings and curses... Now choose life..."
     Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me."
(John 14:6  NIV)
     Choose life.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


"I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound, decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled.  Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us."  (NIV)

     The prophet Habakkuk wrote this short book of the Bible.  Like so many of the prophets, he had observed corruption, unrest, famine, and violence.  He went to God in prayer with earnest questions:  WHY?  Why, do  the deceitful people seem to get away with their dishonesty?  Will they ever be punished? Why do the righteous suffer and the wicked prosper?  And, WHEN?  When will You rescue us from our enemies?  When will You answer my pleas?
     Habakkuk was honest and direct with God about his concerns.  And God answered, explaining that He would make things right, but that it would be done in His time - not according to man's wishes. (Often, we think we know what's best for us, but only God can see the big picture... His vision extends all the way to eternity)

my photo, entitled, "Lone Tree Seeking God", taken in Israel

       This book of the Bible reminds me so much of how I feel. Right now. Today. In a world filled with corruption, violence, and blatant sin... Sometimes it seems as if evil people will prosper forever, while the "little people" struggle to get by from day to day.  I find myself asking God the same questions Habakkuk asked Him thousands of years ago... WHY?   and, WHEN?  I find myself pleading with God to rescue me from the worries of this world... Food prices going up. Utility prices skyrocketing. No end in sight to the apparent political unrest of the world.  "Wars and rumors of wars..."

       But, Habakkuk sets the example: He remained faithful and obedient despite the terrible times he was living in.  The  next three verses, following the "3:16" reveal Habakkuk's faith:   17  Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,  18  yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.  19  The sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to go on the heights."  And, that is how the book of Habakkuk ends.  What a nice, uplifting ending!
     Sometimes it seems as if evil will prosper forever.  But this isn't so... God believes in justice.  We are often impatient, unable to see the full picture.  But, trust Him and He will be your strength.

     "In the multitude of my thoughts within me, Thy comforts delight my soul."
                                                         Psalm 94:19  KJV)

Friday, January 21, 2011

NAHUM 3:16


       "You have increased the number of your merchants till they are more than the stars of the sky, but like locusts they strip the land and then fly away."   (NIV)

      This book of the Bible was written by Nahum the prophet.  It was written to the people of Ninevah as  a warning of God's anger over their evil ways. Nahum warned the people that unless they changed their ways, God would completely destroy their nation. Sadly, they did not heed the prophet's warning;  they thought they were invincible.  They thought their armies were so powerful, their money so vast, their government so wise, that they couldn't be defeated.  But, in less than fifty years after Nahum's warning, the entire nation collapsed.  They were gone.

       So, how does this apply to us today?  A quick visit with any newspaper or television news show reveals that many nations nowadays are in this very same condition.  New stores cropping up everywhere even though existing ones are going out of business or filing for bankruptcy.  Are not the number of merchants more than the stars of the sky? And how about all the credit card offers we get in the mail?  Have not those same merchants stripped our land like locusts?

      When will we learn?  The lesson applies to the individual as well as to nations.  Don't let power, wealth, or fame fool you. These things can appear to be the answer; but, you end up feeling empty and alone.  The REAL ANSWER is having a personal relationship with God, through Jesus Christ the Messiah.  He will not leave you.  He will not forsake you.  He will not abandon you.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


          "  He has showed you, O man, what is good.And what does the LORD require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and walk humbly
 with your God."  (Micah 6:8   NIV)

      Another of the "minor prophets",  Micah was written by the prophet of the same name.  The book of Micah is a poetic Hebrew writing.  There are three main sections, each beginning with a command, "Hear" or "Listen".  And each closing with a promise. Micah was a contemporary with Isaiah and Hosea, and they probably knew each other.  Micah was primarily prophesying to Samaria and Jerusalem. The upper class was oppressing the poor, and God gave Micah the vision of His upcoming judgement should His people not repent.  Micah preached that God's greatest desire is not offerings in the temple, but, rather, faith that produces the fruits of obedience,  justice,  and love for others.

     The book of Micah has harsh words for those who do not repent, but it also reveals God's love.  God will only send judgement after many, many attempts at turning His people back to Him. And, even when judgement comes, God has promised to preserve the faithful remnant.  Micah also speaks of the coming Messiah, the King of Peace, who will be born in Bethlehem.
      Like so many books of prophecy, one can read it and see that the prophesy was fulfilled centuries ago - but, it also will be fulfilled again in the future. We know from history that Jerusalem and Samaria were indeed captured and put into captivity.  But, the prophecy also speaks of parallel occurrences in the latter days. The two major sins Micah wrote about were: injustice towards the poor; and, perversions worship.  (Does this sound familiar? Are we in the latter days?  Will history repeat itself?)  All of the same messages are appropriate for us today... Let's look at some of Micah's words...

       #1 "LISTEN TO WHAT THE LORD SAYS":  Wouldn't it be awesome if we would just DO this?  Listen and really HEAR.   Hear and truly BELIEVE.  Believe and truly RESPECT.  Respect and truly LIVE what the Lord says!  (Micah 6:1)
     #2: "STAND UP, PLEAD YOUR CASE BEFORE THE MOUNTAINS; LET THE HILLS HEAR WHAT YOU HAVE TO SAY..."  (Micah 6:1)  In Micah's time, the mountains were the location of idol worship, where many people built altars to their pagan gods, their false idols, their carved images. Today, we too have many idols to which we bow... Money, houses, clothing, jewelry, job advancement, community recognition, cigarettes, alcohol, the mirror, club membership... and many more.  So, here's an interesting idea... Stand up and plead your case before these idols.  Hear your voice as it echoes back to you, trying to defend to yourself why these idols are more important to you than  God... You will be unable to plead your case, and will find yourself pleading for forgiveness.  Amazingly, He is always there, willing to forgive.

     #3: "AND WHAT DOES THE LORD REQUIRE OF YOU?  TO ACT JUSTLY AND TO LOVE MERCY AND WALK HUMBLY WITH YOUR GOD."  (Micah 6:8)  God requires that we be fair and honest in our dealings with others - even when others may not be fair and honest with us.  This takes humility. And, God requires that we walk humbly with Him.

      Isn't that what God's Son did for us?
     Why would we expect to return any less?


Tuesday, January 18, 2011


               "But the Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish tree days
 and  three nights."   (Jonah 1:16  NIV)

    The story of Jonah and the great fish is a popular one.  The great fish topic is much-debated among scholars and scientists.  I have seen photos of big fish with human skeletons in them, so this story is not a myth!  Because its  uniqueness, it is often told in children's Sunday school classes.  But, aside from the fascination with the great fish, there are many lessons to be learned from the four brief chapters of Jonah.

     The unusual lesson that I glean from Jonah's story is that God is so awesome that He will even take our mistakes and use them for His    glory! Now, you might ask, "How did she come up with THAT  from reading about a man and a great big fish?"  Well, let's go back to the beginning of the story...

 The story begins with Jonah, a known prophet and man of God.  God instructed Jonah to go and preach to the people of Ninevah.  But, Jonah didn't want to go there. The people of Ninevah were enemies with Jonah's people, and he simply did not want to go.  So, Jonah disobeyed God.  (There's that obedience thing cropping up again!)  Jonah went in the opposite direction, trying to run away from God.  But, when God gives us a mission to fulfill, He expects us to work at it... not run from it.
courtesy, National Maritime Museum
     Jonah was the passenger on a boat - heading away from Ninevah - when God sent a violent storm onto the sea.  The boat was in grave danger.  Trying to save their ship, the sailors threw all the cargo overboard to lighten the load. All of these sailors were pagans, and they cried out to their various gods - in vain. Jonah said nothing, although he knew that the storm was the wrath of God and that it was aimed at him.  He went below board.  The captain went down, saw Jonah, reprimanded him, and implored him to call out to "his god", as the sailors were.
     When Jonah came back up on deck, the sailors were casting lots to see who was responsible for the situation.  The lot fell to Jonah.  They began to question Jonah, and he finally admitted that he worshiped the God of heaven, the Creator of the land and the sea. And he confessed that he was trying to run away from God.  The pagan sailors were terrified and asked Jonah what they should do to calm the sea.(Sadly, at this point, the pagan sailors showed more respect for the LORD than the "man of God" did!  Only after being reprimanded by the captain did Jonah join the sailors.  Until then he was too wrapped up in himself to consider their peril.  Jonah knew the storm was because of his disobedience, but didn't admit it until the casting of lots turned all eyes upon him.  Then, he FINALLY  acted like the man of God that he should have been in the first place!)
painting by Louise August
    Jonah told the pagans to throw him into the sea.  That bit of selflessness was what the LORD was asking of him in the first place when He told Jonah to go to Ninevah!  But, even in this Jonah wasn't very brave... Why did he expect the other men to throw him in?  Why not voluntarily jump in? We people sure do mess things up with our wrong attitudes, don't we?
     The pagan sailors showed more compassion for Jonah than he showed for them.  When he told them to throw him overboard, they refused.  Instead, they tried rowing even harder.  They tried to row back to land, but were unable to do so. Then, they cried out to God, asking for forgiveness for taking Jonah's life, and they threw him into the sea.


       The sea grew calm, and the sailors made vows to God and greatly feared Him.
     God provided a great fish to swallow up Jonah.  After three days and three nights (which I am certain were filled with repentance, fear, and awe), Jonah was spewed onto land by the great fish.
     So, you see, even our mistakes can be turned around and used for God's glory. Once Jonah got honest with God, himself, and the sailors, he became a living testimony of God's power and mercy.  The once-pagan sailors now knew God..

my photo of the Sea of Galillee

     Often, admitting our past sins and mistakes can help lead another to God.  God is not looking for perfection.  None of us has perfection to offer.  God is looking for you and me - "as is" - because each of us has a story to tell.  What is your story?  You probably weren't swallowed by a great fish, but I'll bet there was some sort of storm involved... Share it.  Your testimony could help a "pagan sailor" or two...

Sunday, January 16, 2011


     "The day of the LORD is near for all nations.  As you have done, it will be done to you; your deeds will return upon your own head."     (Obadiah 1:15   NIV)
          The book of Obadiah had only one chapter... twenty-one verses.  It is the shortest book in the Old Testament.  Not much is known about the author.   Obadiah means, "worshiper of the LORD". The book of Obadiah is a poem, written in the form of a funeral dirge of those times.
    Historically, Edom had harassed the Jews, constantly attacking Judah, the southern portion of Israel. Because of their seemingly invincible fortress, built into the high cliffs of their mountainous country, the Edomites felt that they could get away with their constant attacks. 

photo courtesy of Ruth and Frank Harmon

      The Edomites were prideful and overly self-confident.  Complacent. But, God had other ideas.  God judges those who harm His people.  Obadiah was sent to warn Edom of their upcoming judgement and destruction, but the Edomites did not heed the warning.  Obadiah even told them the reason for their upcoming judgement - their arrogance toward God and their cruelty and persecution towards God's people.  When you read the book of Obadiah, you begin to see the underlying message of what it means to be a child of God:  our heavenly Father wants to protect us.
  Sadly, the Edomites and the Israelites were blood relatives.  The two groups of people descended from twin brothers - Esau and Jacob.  But, just as these brothers fought constantly when they were alive, so did their descendants.  Now, God was pronouncing judgement on Edom's malicious behavior.  The Edomites were extremely prideful; they were proud of their city which was carved into the rock cliffs. (This city was probably what is known today as Petra - a magnificent city discovered by archaeologists  in 1812.)  Petra was known for its wise men.  But, there is a difference between the wisdom of men and the wisdom of God.. These people thought they were too smart to need God;  they mocked Him. Again, pride was their downfall... We should never think that we can get away with sin... "Oh, nobody will ever know."  God's character is that He is completely moral, completely just.  He will eventually see to it that justice prevails.

   Of all Israel/Judah's neighbors, Edom was the only one God completely wiped out.  This was because the Edomites had robbed and looted the holy city of Jersualem, and had rejoiced over the Israelites' misfortunes.
The book of Obadiah was probably written around 600 BC.  Edom was destroyed in 164 BC.  Edom may have seemed impregnable,   and it may have seemed as if Israel/Judah would be more likely to be destroyed. But Edom vanished and Israel still exists.  

      Edom is an example to all nations - of all times.  If a nation is hostile to God, it will be punished no matter how powerful they might appear to be.
     Likewise, we as individuals can not permit ourselves to become complacent because of wealth, power,  knowledge, or technology.  As soon as we begin to think that we are "above" others and that we are not obligated to help God's children, we are failing God and will be punished - if we don't repent. 
     Obadiah 1:3,4 reads: "The pride of your heart had deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rocks and make your home on the heights, you who say to yourself, 'Who can bring me down to the ground?' Though you soar like the eagle and make your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down.", declares the LORD.  

Saturday, January 15, 2011


     "The words of Amos, one of the shepherds of Tekoa - what he saw concerning Israel two years before the earthquake, when Uzziah was king of Judaha and Jeroboam son of Jeroash was king of Israel.
                                                                                   (Amos 1:1   NIV)

      The book of Amos does not have a "3:16", so I chose to write about the very first verse of Amos. This book of the Bible was written by Amos, a shepherd and grower of figs.  Because Amos was a true worshiper of God, God gave him visions and the responsibility to deliver messages to God's people.  Amos didn't have a prestigious job.  He didn't come from royal blood lines.  He wasn't the son of a priest, but he prophesied to Israel when Israel was at the pinnacle of success and prosperity.
     Unfortunately, along with Israel's prosperity and power came spiritual decline.  As the people prospered, they became complacent.  Idol worship became common - even the city of Bethel was overcome with idol worship.  ( At the time, Bethel was supposed to be one of the major religious cities of Israel.  The word "Bethel" means "House of God." ) The people had consistently refused to repent and turn back to God.  Amos warned them of the coming judgement should they continue on this path of destruction.
     Now, Amos raised sheep - not a "spiritual job"... But, this humble shepherd became a conduit for God's word. Do not think that your job or your circumstances can keep you from being a witness for God.  No matter where you are, God can use you... You need only to be willing.

  In the Bible God is often pictured as a shepherd and people as sheep. Most people are familiar with the 23rd Psalm... " The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want"...etc.  This Psalm is full of wonderful analogies
describing the similarities of shepherd-to-sheep  and God-to-mankind actions and attitudes. The prophet Isaiah describes people as sheep:  "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way."  (Isaiah 53:6  NIV)   And, Christ called Himself The Good Shepherd:  " I am the Good Shepherd. The Good  Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep." (John 10:10,11  NIV)

this one reminds me of the one I had as a child...

 When I was a little girl, there was a picture in my bedroom of a shepherd and sheep.  I kept that picture, moving it back and forth across the country in my adult years.  But then, when my daughter and I moved into our big old house "in town",  the movers lost at least one box of stuff.  Missing were at least two treasures I can think of... a set of dishes from my childhood, and the shepherd picture.  It wasn't an expensive item;  it was a print in an ivory-colored plastic frame.  But I loved that picture...
     Years later, when I became disabled, I tried to search the Internet for the picture.  I found several Good Shepherd pictures, and ordered one print, but I never found the exact one.  Anyhow, the picture shows the Shepherd, with His staff, His cloak, and a few sheep nearby.  On His arm or over His shoulder is a little lamb that He is carrying.  When I was searching for the picture from my childhood, I stumbled across the explanation for why He is carrying the lamb:
 by Bernhart Plockhurst ; this is the one I bought

 You see, shepherds have to control the sheep.  Sometimes controlling can be difficult if a sheep is stubborn.  If a sheep consistently goes astray, the Shepherd breaks its leg and carries it until the break heals.  By the time the break heals,  the sheep has become so accustomed to its' Masters ways, that it will never stray again.  I wept when I read this, because I was unable to walk at that time without a walker, and  spent part of my time in a wheelchair.   I could see that I had gone astray... that without His allowing me to be slowed down with illness, I would be separated from Him.  And, I said aloud "Lord, thank You.  Thank You for 'breaking my legs'.  I thank You because I know that this is Your way of holding me close to You until I am able to walk on my own. Thank You for caring enough to teach me the lessons I need to be taught.  Lord, You are MY Shepherd. I praise Your Holy Name."

  Life isn't perfect...  Nowadays, I can walk - with a limp, but I'm walking.  I  sometimes need a cane.  And I still have quite a bit of pain.  And, I still wish I had that old painting. But I have the Shepherd of shepherds. Who gave His life to save mine.