White-Knuckled. Holding Fast.

I can’t shake this feeling over the last few days that God is moving. I know, God works all the time, but there are seasons when His work is accelerated. There are moments when you realize that all the quiet, all the stillness, all the stuck, was to prepare you for this place, this second, this now. It reminds me of the whispers in The Chronicles of Narnia, “Aslan’s on the move.”

Move. I just want to move. I just want to surge forward. I’m so ready to fly.

But I’m still here. The quiet hasn’t quite receded yet. The time is soon, but not now. Get ready. Be prepared. But, above all – Hold Fast.

“You hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith” (Revelations 2:13), “Only hold fast what you have until I come” (Revelations 2:25), “I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown” (Revelations 3:11).

Yeshua’s final words to us are found in the book of Revelations. He admonishes the Churches by telling them what He sees in them that is good and bad. Three times to two different Churches, He says hold fast. Hold on. I’m coming.

“And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.” (Hebrews 3:6) “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession” (Hebrews 4:14). “So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain” (Hebrews 6:17-19). “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23).

What do we hold fast to? His Name. His Hope. His Promises. He is our Confession. He is our Anchor. He is What We Have.

“So you, by the help of your God, return, hold fast to love and justice, and wait continually for your God.” (Hosea 12:6). “As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.” (Luke 8:15) Wait continually for your God. Hold it fast in an honest and good heart. Bear fruit with patience. I am here now. I am patiently waiting. I am holding fast. 

And here is where the Word of God leaves me – never without hope, never without promise, never without faith. The beginning and closing of 1 Corinthians 15 is the final word on the matter.

“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.” …“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:1-2, 58)

Glory be to God that His Word never returns void! Glory to God in the Highest that He is always on time! Glorious, beautiful Lord Who bestows beauty upon us in due season! He is so wonderfully FAITHFUL!

Unless you believed in vain, your labor is not in vain. Work steadfastly for your King. Listen for His Voice and move as He leads you. Know that every season leads to another. Above all, above all other things, hold fast to Him.

I may be tired. I may be bursting with longing and frustration. I may be spent, weak, and desperate. But I’ll tell you what: With every last drop of strength I have, resting on His inexhaustible Spirit, believing with every fiber of this fragile being – I. Will. Hold. Fast.

Here I am, God. White-knuckled. Holding Fast. Have Your way in me.

 

Kill the flesh – kill it stone dead!

I just finished creating the “Official” (oh, the irony) Facebook page for my music. I know God has been leading me on this journey and I have been praying for wisdom because I am not interested in doing anything, at this point, unless I am really, 100% about giving glory to God. However, I am finding self-promotion to be very anxiety provoking.

“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” – Matthew 10:16

This world is what it is. Yeshua didn’t send us into an “already changed” world, so to speak. He had entered it, so the world was irrevocably changed – Glory be to God! – but the world did not yet know it. When He sent out the 12 disciples, He gave them material instructions about what (not) to bring and where to go. He also warned them of the coming persecution and, in doing so, gave the above warning.

We are called to preach the Gospel of Jesus’ death, resurrection and salvation by any means necessary. Our lives are the greatest tools we have by which to preach this message – i.e. not just the words that come out of our mouths (although I don’t know how people who love Yeshua can help but talk about Him all day long), but with our actions. Wisdom governs actions. Actions are the physical, tangible, observable proof of our faith. They do not save us, but they do speak.

The Holy Spirit started speaking to me about recording my music about a year ago. My son was about to turn a year old. I had always wanted to record an album – since way before I was saved – but since I had been saved, it had seemed like a really self-serving thing to do. I say this realizing the spectacular paradox I create for myself by saying it because, while I feeling self-aggrandizing for promoting the music I have written to worship and praise God, I am also HUGELY blessed and exhorted by the music that others have written to worship and praise God.

I thank God for artists like Hillsong, Jesus Culture, Fernandinho, Kari Jobe, Aline Barros, Cassiane, a million others I won’t list, all of whom have profoundly moved me with their words and brought me into a place of intimacy with God. These are the well-known examples, but I’ve known others like Josh Rubinstein and Aaron Taylor, who have written songs that moved me and haven’t recorded anything (yet). I still feel really “look at me! look at me!” while I am doing this. I’m sure it is a smoke screen of the enemy, because I don’t think other people are coming from that place. Maybe, I’m having a total Paul moment: I just know my own heart and, man, it is dark in there. Chiefest of sinners, here I am.

Since God started speaking to me about this, I started writing songs again. There have been few times in my life when I’ve written because I wanted to write. The words just comes from somewhere and I need to get them out, so I write a song. They come when I’m doing dishes or supposed to be making dinner or vacuuming the floor, because this is my life now. After my son came down with a crazy immune condition, I pressed more into the Holy Spirit than ever before. The reality that the Breath of God is lifeblood to this mortal flesh came crashing down upon me. Then, God started speaking to me about the novel, Taking Form. I proceeded to write the first draft in three months… with an eighteen month old… It was completely God.

I believe that there is power in our testimonies (Revelation 12:11) and in the corporate worship of our Creator (entire book of Acts…). Yet, to tell my testimony and to lead others in worship requires a bit of “self-promotion.” I can’t sit on a pew at Church or stand in line at a supermarket or talk with relatives at a family reunion and expect the Holy Spirit to do all the work for me. The Bible says that He will give me the words (Luke 12:12), but it doesn’t say He will speak them for me. Don’t get me wrong – He can – but He put us here to be His witnesses, not to stare at people willing the Spirit to share our testimony through a word of knowledge. Now, comes the part where wisdom steps in.

“The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that wins souls is wise.” – Proverbs 11:30

There is wisdom involved in the giving of a testimony. Jesus said to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” We need to act in a way that shows us to be “living epistles” (1 Cor. 3:1-3). We should not live our lives with the appearance of evil and we should exalt God above ourselves at all times because we are nothing. This was Paul’s greatest boast – that above all, He endured all things to bring glory to God and preach the Gospel (2 Cor. 11, 12).

We need to realize that our lives are being constantly examined by those around us. Everything we do as believers in Yeshua is scrutinized. And yet – in a the glorious upsidedownness – we are to live with the fear of God, not the fear of man. Providentially, it is the fear of God that is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7). Wisdom is what is to guide us in our testifying as disciples of Yeshua and there is no lack of it for those who ask (James 1:5).

I find myself here in this bizarre disparity of wanting to shout from the rooftops that YESHUA IS LORD OF ALL AND THE ONLY MEANS BY WHICH MEN ARE SAVED, and yet, I want to stop drawing attention to myself as if I’m this great someone. I assure you, I am not. This is another upsidedownness of the Kingdom in which we find ourselves citizens.

The solution to this seeming contradiction is to kill the flesh.

“So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” – Romans 8:12-14

“For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its Creator.” – Colossians 3:3-10

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” – Galatians 5:19-26

We renew our minds in the Word of God – both His Bible and the Words that the Spirit speaks individually to us. Thus, we crucify the flesh and become more like Him. It’s not the other way around. You don’t get your life right and then start listening to the Holy Spirit. You come as you are and humbly recognize your inability to renew yourself, and He renews you as you walk with Him. Slowly, as you are sanctified, you become more like the new self, more like Jesus, and the things of the flesh are choked by His Holiness in your life. You have to want Him more than “the new self”, more than “doing the right thing”, more than you want anything else, and He will do the work as you surrender.

The longer I walk with God, the more I see of myself and, frankly, the less I like it. I had an epiphany in September that truly revealed such depths of my wretched heart, I wanted to eject myself from my own presence. So, as believers, we endeavor to walk with humility and ensure that the Light of Yeshua is the greatest brilliance about us.

Giving glory to God is not an afterthought or a way of exalting ourselves because we know the Truth – it is the only way we can truly walk with the Spirit. To glorify the Father and His Risen Son is to welcome the Holy Spirit’s Presence, in Whose wisdom we are to continually walk and in Whose friendship we are meant to live. To call Him a friend does not denote casual camaraderie or indicate a debasing of His Holiness so He may come down to our level. Rather, it indicates the awesome gravity of Yeshua’s sacrifice, that it gives us the ability to approach and commune with God without us being consumed by His wrath. We can see God face to face and live.

As I draw nearer to Him, my prayer becomes ever more fervent. Please, Lord, help me to daily crucify my flesh. I so desire to know you and love you. I yearn to shed this cumbersome mortality and live only in Your Presence. There is nothing in this life that I want more than I want you. So, Lord, I pray – with every fiber of my broken being – kill my flesh, Lord. Kill it stone dead.

Jesus wept.

The day comes to all families when death wins over this fragile flesh. While those we love go on to glory and are immediately embraced by Yeshua upon stepping over the threshold of this life, we are still here on this earth without them. They are met with love, joy, and freedom, and we are happy beyond measure for them. But our hearts ache for their tangible presence in this life, where we must live without them until our own bodies give way to the earth.

I’ve been struggling with the mundane tasks of life the last couple of days. I made food, I changed diapers, I bought groceries, and all the while, I wondered where my family was. The dear brother and sister that God gave my husband and I were hurting today. They probably spent most of the day hovering near a hospital bed, talking to doctors, and making heart-wrenching decisions. I feel frustrated that things in life “go on” when grief strikes us and lays us bare. It doesn’t seem right that in one moment, our entire lives can be changed, people can be torn away from us, and the rest of the world keeps spinning as if nothing had happened.

Thus far I have only lost one grandparent. My father’s mother, my Bubbe, died about four years ago on Chanukkah, the day after Christmas that year. I was not allowed to go to her memorial because my Zayde is a Rabbi and having a believer in Yeshua at her funeral would have dishonored her memory and shamed my family before the entire Jewish community. Of course, it’s not widely known that I believe Yeshua is our Jewish Messiah, but my father and my aunt’s family knew I would not be ashamed to share it. My sisters went. I heard accounts of the funeral and the shiva at my Zayde’s apartment in New York. By all accounts, it was horrific. Death always is. I had been at home, going about “what needed to be done,” feeling the way I do now, wondering how things continue after someone we love does not. How insidiously evil death is to make a person feel so small and insignificant in the moment when they need the most strength.

And yet, even while life goes on, the world keeps spinning, and the minutiae of the day needs attending to, there is a truth so soul-shaking, so heart-stirring, so earth-moving, that we can place our entire lives in the hands of God. A truth so revealing of His great love for us and His eternal empathy, that we cannot help but run to His feet in our grief. A truth so infinitely vast that it can consume all of our doubts, fears and sorrows.

Jesus wept.

“Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.  And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept.” – John 11:32-35 ESV

Jesus knew that He was about to walk to cave of Lazarus’s tomb and raise him from the dead. Jesus knew that in mere minutes, He would again hear his friend’s voice and see his face. Jesus knew that He had come to bring the dead to life and there was no doubt in His mind that this would take place. And Jesus still wept.

Even the unbelieving Jews that had come to mourn with Martha at the tomb marveled at how Yeshua must have loved Lazarus. His display was not a perfunctory display of tears and He did not hide His grief before those gathered around the mourners. He felt the pain of Mary and Martha in losing their brother and the sting of death on the earth. It was unfathomably bitter and Jesus, “deeply moved,” wept with Mary and Martha for the loss they had just suffered.

Death on this earth does not negate the promise of eternal life. We who believe that Jesus’ death on the cross was a sacrifice thus giving us free access to God and life everlasting in heaven can never lose sight of the amazing eternal plan God has for us. However, Jesus Himself, when confronted with severity of death, wept.

He could have told Mary and Martha, “Stop crying, don’t you know I can raise him back to life?” But, Jesus didn’t say that, He wept. He could have rebuked them saying, “Do you not believe that he is now in paradise and will live forever?” He did not say that either, instead Jesus wept.

Sometimes, we want to comfort people by trying to pull them out of their grief. People say a myriad of things to mourners that do not need to be said because they want to make the person “feel better.” The presence of grief commands self-examination. For Jesus, this process led Him to weep. He knew the reality that He had come to take the keys of death and the grave, but He still allowed Himself to feel the sting of mortality on the earth.

The Word of God says that it is better to be in a house of mourning than in a house of feasting and that the heart of the wise is there (Ecclesiastes 7:2, 4). Psalm 116:15 says, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” Yeshua said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” We have the unspeakable, profound, privilege of being comforted by the Holy Spirit and He is faithful to comfort us when we grieve. 

Wherever you find yourself today, remember the sober truth that, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

If that’s a confession you have not yet made, today is your chance. There will be a day when “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore,” but that’s a promise made only to those who believe in Yeshua. That promise is not made to the “good people,” or the “nice people,” or the “did enough good deeds” people. That is a promise reserved solely for those who trusted God enough to put their faith in His Son’s ability to save them.

The woman for whom we mourn today was taken from us suddenly, but she is with the Lord, Jesus, even as we weep. You do not get to choose the day of your death. The only way to make certain of where you will be when that day comes is to surrender yourself to the reality that you do not have control over your life or the ability to save yourself and to put your trust solidly in the only One Who does.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” – Romans 5:6-11

Unrepentantly Blessed: The Blessing of Money and the Kingdom of God

Someone recently posted an article on my Facebook that was so… I had many responses, I needed to respond with more than a Facebook post. This subject required a blog, which became a series of blogs. I will preface these blogs by saying that I take what I post here very seriously. I will someday stand before God and give an account for everything I say, so I say none of this lightly. As always, I pray that everything I write would bring glory to God, the Creator and Possessor of all things, the King of Heaven and Earth.

The article in question, called The One Thing Christians Should Stop Saying, asserts that Christians should not consider material blessing a blessing at all because 1) “God is not a behavioral psychologist” who uses positive reinforcement to reward his followers, 2) calling ourselves “blessed” is wrong and offensive because there are many Christians who live in poverty around the world, and 3) the beatitudes defines who is blessed and the rich did not make the list. The author closes by saying that material blessing creates a “burden” in that those who are materially blessed are faced with questions about how to use their blessings. He ends with the statement that the true blessing is found in our knowledge of God and that we should ask God to use us as we are blessed.

I have a myriad of thoughts in response to this, so this one post actually turned into three. Read all or none, it’s up to you, but I couldn’t make it one long post and hope that anyone would get through the whole thing.

Unrepentantly Blessed: It all started with Abraham...

Unrepentantly Blessed: It all started with Abraham…

Unrepentantly Blessed: Sowing and Reaping - Gittel Fruma

Unrepentantly Blessed: Sowing and Reaping

Unrepentantly Blessed: The Radical Giver - Gittel Fruma

Unrepentantly Blessed: The Radical Giver

 

Unrepentantly Blessed – Part 3: The Radical Giver

You can skip the next couple paragraphs if you’re following from Parts 1 or 2. For those of you who are just seeing this blog, the next two paragraphs give some context to where this blog is coming from. If you’re now joining the soapbox, you can read Part 1: It all started with Abraham…  and Part 2: Sowing and Reaping, or just pick up where we are. Depends how much brain power you’re willing to spend on the subject.

Someone recently posted an article on my Facebook that was so… I had many responses, I needed to respond with more than a Facebook post. This subject required a blog, which became a series of blogs. I will preface these blogs by saying that I take what I post here very seriously. I will someday stand before God and give an account for everything I say, so I say none of this lightly. As always, I pray that everything I write would bring glory to God, the Creator and Possessor of all things, the King of Heaven and Earth.

The article in question, called The One Thing Christians Should Stop Saying, asserts that Christians should not consider material blessing a blessing at all because 1) “God is not a behavioral psychologist” who uses positive reinforcement to reward his followers, 2) calling ourselves “blessed” is wrong and offensive because there are many Christians who live in poverty around the world, and 3) the beatitudes defines who is blessed and the rich did not make the list. The author closes by saying that material blessing creates a “burden” in that those who are materially blessed are faced with questions about how to use their blessings. He ends with the statement that the true blessing is found in our knowledge of God and that we should ask God to use us as we are blessed.

Yeshua had a lot to say about money, as did Paul, as did the entirety of the Scriptures. Wealth is a powerful thing. It is can be a sacred and wonderful thing when wielded in the hands of one who knows and loves God. It can be a twisted and perverted thing in the hands of those who don’t acknowledge God and use it for selfish aggrandizement. Money, in and of itself, is a creation of God. It is how we now place value on things and barter in the common marketplace. Before there was “money” in the current sense, God spoke of abundance, harvest, rain in due season, fruit on the trees and vines, livestock, etc. God still works in all of these areas, but most of us don’t ride donkeys or plant grapes, so money is what we use in place of these things.

Here are the most quoted phrases of Yeshua in regards to money: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:16-30, Mark 10:17-31, Luke 18:18-30). People love to throw this verse around. However, after this, Yeshua says that with God all things are possible. Even after Peter points out that they (the disciples) gave up everything to follow Him, Yeshua says that they will receive “in this time” houses, lands and family, in addition to the age to come because they followed Him. The reason it is so difficult for the rich to enter heaven is the second most quoted of Yeshua regarding money, “You cannot serve God and money” (Matthew 6:24, Luke 16:13). If you continue reading, Yeshua goes on to another famous passage about how we should not worry because God will take care of our needs. He says “seek first” His Kingdom and His righteousness.

God’s Kingdom and the possession of wealth are not mutually exclusive things. When we make use of these things for the Kingdom of God, wealth becomes a powerful means of working God’s purposes in the world. Yeshua Himself relied on material support for His ministry, so if money was a terrible thing by all means, surely He would not have made use of it. Luke 8:3 references, Joanna, the wife of Herod’s household manager, another woman names Susanna, “and many others, who provided for them out of their means.” In addition to using their means, Joanna is also named as one of the women who went to put spices on the body of Jesus and found the empty tomb. Clearly, she ministered not only out of her checkbook, but with her hands as well. Judas is referenced as having charge of the money in John 13:19, so we know that Jesus handled money and used it for His ministry. When He sent Judas out after dipping the bread in the bowl with him, the Word says that the disciples thought he was buying something for the festival or giving something to the poor, meaning that Yeshua Himself gave to the poor on a regular basis.

The way that God calls us to give is a little understood thing.

“The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (2 Corinthians 9:6). Most people get this verse on a cerebral level. I should give and I get back. That makes sense, right? The chapter continues in v. 10, “He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.” God will “supply and multiply your seed for sowing.”

If you are committed to sowing your seed into the Kingdom of God, He will supply you and multiply you with more seed, so that you may continue sowing into His Kingdom, and thus “increase the harvest of your righteousness.” In v. 12, Paul goes on to say, “For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others.”

This chapter should make one thing abundantly clear. We are not in any way “burdened” by our ability to give. We are blessed materially, spiritually and “in every way” (v. 11). We are to be cheerful, not reluntant (v. 7), overflowing in many thanksgivings to God (v. 12), submitted through our faith in Yeshua, and – most importantly – bringing glory to God (v. 13).

None of these are new concepts. Yeshua and Paul are only reiterating and expounding on the laws and wisdom put forth in the Law of Moses and repeated throughout the prophets and writings. “You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him, because for this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land'” (Deuteronomy 15:10-11).  Psalms and Proverbs speak extensively about how to take care of the needy and give justice to the poor (Psalm 41:1, Psalm 82:3-4, Proverbs 14:21, Proverbs 22:9Proverbs 29:7 ).

Another book of the Bible that brings great insight on how we are to give is James. James 1:9-11 says that the rich should glory in his being made low, because he will pass away like the grass of the field and fade away in his pursuits. It is not necessary to say this of the poor because no one takes note of them. However, the rich men are the ones people pay attention to, so James reminds them of the inescapable fact that everyone will return to the dust regardless of how high and mighty their position may be today. In James 1:13-15, he explains that temptation is not something that God puts us through, but that we are instead tempted because of our own desires. We desire wealth. It is not wealth itself that is sinful, it is not even being tempted by what wealth offers that is sinful – as Jesus was tempted and did not sin – it is giving into temptation and allowing wealth to become your focus that is sinful. In James 3:13-17, he says that “jealousy and selfish ambition” are “earthly, unspiritual, demonic” and that they result in “disorder and every vile practice”. It is so easy to be consumed by these things when you think about your money and what you can obtain with it. We need to realize that it’s not just acting out our faith with works that God wants for us, but for us to be “unstained by the world” (James 1:27) in every way.

James 5 begins with a searing rebuke on the rich. However, again, this is not a warning to everyone who has material wealth. The verses clearly say why they are receiving a rebuke. “You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.” Clearly, he is speaking to people who were only interested in their own selfish gain, who abused others to keep what they wanted, did not pay what they owed and did not lift their hand to help the righteous.

“You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (James 4:2-3). If we are truly invested in the will of God, we are not asking for our own sakes, but we are asking for the sake of His Kingdom.

Your tithe is the minimum you give to God’s house. Let me repeat that. Ten percent of everything that comes into your hand does not belong to you, it belongs to God. You are not “giving” anything. If you do not give it to God’s ministers, you are stealing it from God (Genesis 14:20, Genesis 28:22, Leviticus 27:30-33, Deuteronomy 14:22, Numbers 18:21, 26, Malachi 3:8-9). In the absence of a temple, your tithe belongs to your Church or Synagogue. Paul states clearly that the worker of God is worthy of his wages (2 Thessalonians 3:8-9, 1 Corinthians 9:3-14) and our tithes are one of the means by which we pay them. If the widow was praised for giving all she had, let us so be praised. I promise you, she did not go hungry for sowing her seed into God’s Kingdom.

We should supply those doing the work of God above and beyond our tithe, as Paul says in Galatians 6, “Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”

One of Yeshua’s “woes” to the Pharisees was because they tithed, but they “neglect[ed] justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others” (Luke 11:42). Let us commit ourselves to joyfully sowing into the Kingdom of God by every means that we have available to us – with our money, with our time, with our words, with everything that we have in us, that God may multiply our seed for the sowing and that Yeshua’s Name may be glorified in all the world by our faith and deeds.

Luke 12:48 is the final word on what God entrusts into our hands. In this life, whatever He gives you, be it talent, money, gifts, wisdom, whatever – it is all to be used for the Kingdom of God. It all comes with responsibility. You will give an account to God for everything you did in this life and your position in eternity will be given accordingly (Romans 14:12, Matthew 16:27). But don’t labor for your position – either here or in heaven. Don’t put your focus on anything your eyes see, because it’s all dust. Don’t put value on your wisdom, your perceived control or your current position in life. In an instant it’s gone.

At the end of the day, all things come back to the same place. We need the Holy Spirit in our lives every second. Our relationship with Him needs to be most important things in our lives. He is life. He’s here. In the room. Right now. Belief in the saving power of Yeshua’s sacrifice and constant attendance to the gentle voice of the Holy Spirit – the allowance of God’s will to be our will, the putting away of our own desires to do whatever He tells us – is the only way we will get through this life and be told “well done”. There is no other way.

Throw off your chains, be they of money or mud. He’s calling you right now, if you would only hear His voice. Let us put aside any hindrances that would keep us from Him. As He leads us into all truth, let us be faithful with all He puts into our hands.

 

 

Unrepentantly Blessed – Part 2: Sowing and Reaping

You can skip the next couple paragraphs if you’re following from Part 1. For those of you who are just seeing this blog, the next two paragraphs give some context to where this blog is coming from. If you’re now joining the soapbox, you can read Part 1 – It all started with Abraham… or just pick up where we are. Depends how much brain power you’re willing to spend on the subject.

Someone recently posted an article on my Facebook that was so… I had many responses, I needed to respond with more than a Facebook post. This subject required a blog, which became a series of blogs. I will preface these blogs by saying that I take what I post here very seriously. I will someday stand before God and give an account for everything I say, so I say none of this lightly. As always, I pray that everything I write would bring glory to God, the Creator and Possessor of all things, the King of Heaven and Earth.

The article in question, called The One Thing Christians Should Stop Saying, asserts that Christians should not consider material blessing a blessing at all because 1) “God is not a behavioral psychologist” who uses positive reinforcement to reward his followers, 2) calling ourselves “blessed” is wrong and offensive because there are many Christians who live in poverty around the world, and 3) the beatitudes defines who is blessed and the rich did not make the list. The author closes by saying that material blessing creates a “burden” in that those who are materially blessed are faced with questions about how to use their blessings. He ends with the statement that the true blessing is found in our knowledge of God and that we should ask God to use us as we are blessed.

Money, like all other things on this earth, is governed by the law of sowing and reaping.

“As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” This is the proclamation God makes at the end of the flood in Genesis 8:22. These are laws that we live by on the earth today. Before I go any further, let’s get something straight. The law of sowing and reaping applies to both spiritual things and physical things. You cannot take all the places in the Bible where the Lord talks about physical harvest and spiritualize it, just like you can’t ignore that actions have spiritual consequences as well as physical ones.

The law of sowing and reaping works as powerfully in the earth as does the law of gravity. For this reason, we see echoes of this solidly Biblical principle in other Eastern religions (i.e. karma) and in modern culture (“you get what you give,” “what goes around comes around,” etc.). Again, sowing and reaping can be physical or spiritual or both.

“Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.” – Hosea 10:12

This is a word spoken of spiritual harvest in a time when Israel was seeking after idols and pridefully trusting in its own strength.

“As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” – Matthew 13:23

In Yeshua’s famous parable of the sower, the Word of God – the Good News – is that which is sowed. The harvest comes in the fruit of his life. We are not saved by our actions – being “good” will NEVER get you to heaven – but your place in the Kingdom of God is determined by what you do in this life. We who believe in Yeshua should be set apart in this world because of our actions.

“Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” – Luke 6:38

Here is where people start to stumble. This verse comes at the end of Luke’s account of the beatitudes. In v. 20, Jesus starts the beatitudes by comforting the poor, because the Kingdom of heaven is theirs. In v. 22 and 23, He says “When people hate… exclude… revile… and spurn your name on account of the Son of Man” (not just for any old reason, but because you stood up for Yeshua’s name and Gospel), “then your reward is great in heaven.” In v. 24 and 25 “woe” to the “rich” and the “full” because “you have received your consolation” and “you will be hungry.” If this is condemnation to those who have material wealth as opposed to those who take their comfort in the security of their riches, then v. 38 does not work. If, however, you follow the mandates set out in v. 30-36, you believe in and follow Yeshua, and you do not cling to your wealth, then you will receive the good measure.

Furthermore, Malachi 3 says that your money is the one area in which you can test God. In speaking about the judgement that he is bringing on Israel, He says,”Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the LORD of hosts” (v.5). “Return to me, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you” (v.7b – 9). What are we to do to become right with God? “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the LORD of hosts. Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the LORD of hosts” (v. 10-12).

Wouldn’t it be amazing if we were a nation with no need? But God doesn’t stop there, He says that he will rebuke the devourer – indicating that He himself is not destroying the fruit of their labor, but has withdrawn His protection due to their actions – and that all nations will call them blessed because they will be a land of delight.

As my review of the patriarchs in the first blog demonstrated, God does reward us with material blessing for turning our hearts toward him. God repeatedly withdraws His material blessing from Israel and allows other nations to overtake their land – even sending them into Babylon – because they were not faithfully serving Him and turned away to other gods. God equates this practice with adultery and, as laid out in the blessings and curses in Deuteronomy, God blesses them when they follow Him and withdraws His blessing when they don’t. In this way, we sow spiritual things and reap physical ones.

We live in a nation experiencing unparalleled blessing. Few times in history have been marked by a country experiencing the level of material comfort that we do in this nation. Only God knows why that is right now. He makes His plans in ways that we do not understand. However, it is clear throughout the Scriptures that God moves nations around as He sees fit. When one becomes prideful or destructive, especially towards Israel, He uses another one to bring it down. When one has shown mercy and kindness to His people Israel, He blesses it. This was laid out in the original blessing to Abraham, “I will bless those who bless you and I will curse those who curse you.” That is for nations as a whole.

For individual Christians living in places afflicted with poverty, disease, persecution and other trials, here is what the Bible says:

First of all, everyone who boldly proclaims the Name of Jesus and His Gospel will experience persecution. Period. Even those who are wealthy and use their money to further the Kingdom of God. There is no escape from persecution and trials if you are a bold witness for God. That is what Jesus said would happen and it is part of the cost we count when we put our faith in Him. It’s not the standard Sunday school message because people want to keep seats filled, but that’s what the Word of God says.

Second, while we will all experience trials, God means for everyone to be provided for. While we may live in areas affected by famine and lack, God still wants to provide for us. It is His delight. He provides for us at all times (Psalm 37:4, 18-19; 23-26)

Psalm 37 paints a beautiful picture of how the Lord cares for those who follow Him. God says He will give them the desires of their hearts (v. 4), they will not be put to shame in evil times and will have abundance in famine (v. 19), they might fall, but the Lord will uphold their hand (v. 24), the righteous will not be forsaken or left begging for bread (v. 25), He helps them and delivers them because they take their refuge in Him. Psalm 145:15 says that God gives them their food in due season. Matthew 6:25-34 reminds us that God will supply our every need, even as He does those of the birds and the grass of the field. We need only trust in His provision.

God provides for His children through miracles and wonders that we do not even hear of in this country. God provides for His children through the support and assistance of many different organizations that bring food, clothing and other forms of material support to those in need. Compassion International and Voice of the Martyrs are two organizations in particular that labor to bring support to the darkest of places. God provides for His children when we of greater means go to other countries to dig wells, build houses, plant fields, and physically help our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Regarding God giving us the desires of our hearts, another short story. A few months ago, when my husband and I were in the depths of financial hardship, we had no money for extras. I had really wanted to get a balance bike for our son. I didn’t tell anyone about this desire. One day, I sat looking at wooden balance bikes on Amazon. The cheapest one I found was $80-plus. I thought to myself, “Well, that’s not happening,” and closed the window. Less than a week later, my husband came home from a job (he works in construction) and told me that a customer had given him two bottles of wine, a book for our son, and – you guessed it – a wooden balance bike. I was so overwhelmed with love that God would give me exactly what I asked for so quickly for nothing. I promise you that experiences like this are the norm among those who are faithful to God with their money.

Third, the law of sowing and reaping works even if you don’t have a lot to sow. 2 Corinthians 9 explains how we are to give and what we are to expect in return. “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God” (v. 6-11).

It is not up to me to compare what something in my country costs to what it costs in another country. To compare different countries’ salaries in dollars is a useless practice because, at the end of the day, our needs are the same no matter what paper you use to pay for it. If we were paid $10 a day for work in this country, we would not have enough to live on. However, since money represents a system by which we exchange useless paper for usable goods necessary to live, it doesn’t matter what number is printed on your paper or what your paper would be worth in another country. What matters is that God supplies our needs where you are and the desires of our hearts. The Word of God does not return void. God backs up His Word.

Finally, God uses people to accomplish His purposes on the earth. When Jesus gave bread to thousands of people from a few loaves and fishes (twice), He demonstrated that He is more than capable of providing for people by miraculous means. I have no doubt that miracles like this continue to this day where there is need. However, we are called to support the orphans, the widows, the downtrodden, the stranger, the poor, and all of those persecuted for the Name of Christ. We are to consider ourselves in chains with those in prison. Idle talk is not enough.

Beyond the law of sowing and reaping our material gains as we seek God’s Kingdom and righteousness by backing up our faith with deeds, is the fullness of what God wants from those He blesses.

If you can handle more… Unrepentantly Blessed – Part 3: The Radical Giver.

 

Unrepentantly Blessed – Part 1: It all started with Abraham…

Someone recently posted an article on my Facebook that was so… I had many responses, I needed to respond with more than a Facebook post. This subject required a blog, which became a series of blogs. I will preface these blogs by saying that I take what I post here very seriously. I will someday stand before God and give an account for everything I say, so I say none of this lightly. As always, I pray that everything I write would bring glory to God, the Creator and Possessor of all things, the King of Heaven and Earth.

The article in question, called The One Thing Christians Should Stop Saying, asserts that Christians should not consider material blessing a blessing at all because 1) “God is not a behavioral psychologist” who uses positive reinforcement to reward his followers, 2) calling ourselves “blessed” is wrong and offensive because there are many Christians who live in poverty around the world, and 3) the beatitudes defines who is blessed and the rich did not make the list. The author closes by saying that material blessing creates a “burden” in that those who are materially blessed are faced with questions about how to use their blessings. He ends with the statement that the true blessing is found in our knowledge of God and that we should ask God to use us as we are blessed.

Let’s start with what material blessing is and where it is first mentioned in the Bible. The first man who the Bible pointedly talks about being materially blessed was Abraham, but let’s start at the beginning.

When Adam sinned, death and sin entered the world (Romans 5:12). The specific curse that came as a result of Adam’s actions is that the ground would be cursed, thus he would toil and sweat to get food (Genesis 3:17). Poverty, hunger and lack are direct results of sin. They are NOT from God.

Abram’s is the first case in which material blessing is talked about in the Bible. This blessing begins when God calls Abram out of his home and says, “And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.”” (Genesis 12). God says He will give him an entire land as an inheritance (Genesis 12:7, Hebrews 11:8). “Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold” (Genesis 13:2). He and his nephew were so prosperous that the land could not contain them, so they parted ways (Genesis 13:5-7). He has 318 fighting-able men in his household (Genesis 14:14). God gives Abram the promise of an heir and tells Abram that his descendants will be enslaved, but that after “they shall come out with great possessions” (Genesis 15). When Abram goes to offer his son, Isaac, God repeats that he will be blessed (Genesis 22:15-18). Genesis 24 begins, “Now Abraham was old, well advanced in years. And the LORD had blessed Abraham in all things.”

In Genesis 24:34-36 this blessing is passed onto Isaac. In famine, God tells Isaac where to go and says that He will bless him there (Genesis 26:3). Isaac sowed the land and got back a hundredfold, “The LORD blessed him, and the man became rich, and gained more and more until he became very wealthy” (Genesis 26:12-16). When Isaac blesses Jacob, he says he will have “the fatness of the earth” and “plenty of grain and wine” (Genesis 27:27-29). When Jacob flees his house, he works a total of 20 years (Genesis 31:38, 41), God blesses Laban because of Jacob (Genesis 30:27), and Jacob eventually leaves Laban a very wealthy man (Genesis 30:43, Genesis 32:10).

Joseph experiences hardship as a young man, but eventually rises to a position second only to Pharaoh (Genesis 41:40). When he brings his family to the land – still during a famine – Jacob comes down with “livestock and their goods, which they had gained in the land of Canaan” and Joseph gives them the land of Goshen, providing for them so they do not experience poverty (Genesis 46:5-7, Genesis 45:10-11).

Moses grew up in Pharoah’s courts (Exodus 2:10), after becoming a murderer and a fugitive, he married the daughter of the Priest of Midian and tended his flocks until God calls him to Egypt (Exodus 2:21, Exodus 3:1). Faithful to His Word, when Moses leads the people of Israel out of Egypt, they leave with the wealth of Egypt (Exodus 3:21-22, Exodus 12:35-36). Even after forty years in the desert, their clothes and sandals did not wear out (Deuteronomy 29:5). Before the people of Israel enter the promised land, God lays out the blessings and curses for Israel if they follow the law of God, which speak of material blessing as well as others (Deuteronomy 28:1-14).

God gives us the ability to gain wealth (Deuteronomy 8:18). Proverbs says that wisdom grants inheritance to those that love her and fills their treasuries (Proverbs 8:20-21). I could go on, but I think I have more than made my point.

Material blessing is a blessing and it’s from God. Period. It’s Biblical.

That having been said, there are certain parts of the world that have greater abundance than others. Why that is, only God knows. However, to say that Christians in America experience more material blessings than Christians in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Iran, etc., is not an false statement. It might offend Americans who don’t know what to do with their blessings, but it is a fact. Blessings they are.

A short story to demonstrate my point: A few months ago, I was talking with a close friend about our children. Her son is six months older than my son, who was almost 2 years old at the time. She started the following sentence, “Yeah, I’m so blessed to have a healthy son, I mean… ” She trailed off because she thought she had offended me. Are you wondering how this statement might be offensive?

My son has an immune disorder that affects his blood. In Yeshua’s name, it will be healed, but right now it remains. It started when he was 17 months old, I will discuss it more in my book, and it has continued until now. The nature of it is indefinite and the doctors cannot give any indication of when it might change or stop because they don’t know. My friend knew all this and in saying her son was healthy, she suddenly realized that she had reminded me that my son was not.

“You can say it’s a blessing to have a healthy child. It is a blessing.” I assured her. Any parent will tell you the same. We live in a broken world. Sin and death pervade this darkness, leaving their filthy stain on all of us. Things happen in this life as a result of the fall that are the work of devil. Just because something happens on earth does not mean it’s of God. But it is still not wrong to call a blessing a blessing. I wish my son was completely healthy, but not allowing other people to say that having a healthy child is a blessing will not make my son well anymore than saying I am not blessed to have material wealth will make anyone who is hungry get fed.

The fact that we, in this country, are entrusted with a greater measure of blessing goes without saying. We cannot complain about this blessing by calling it a “burden” or shirk our responsibility to use it as God would like us to because that implies some cognitive discomfort on our parts. To carry on the health vs. wealth comparison, this mindset is the equivalent of complaining about being able-bodied because now people might depend on you for physical help. If you think that’s a stupid comparison, tell that to my husband who gets calls once a month to help someone move.

Sorry to wax Spiderman here, people, but with great power comes great responsibility. It’s not just Marvel, it’s Biblical:

Peter said, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for all?” And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful. And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more. – Luke 12:41-48

What does Jesus say the wise manager does? Gives them their portion of food at the proper time. James tells us that you can’t just wish your brother to be warm and fed when he’s cold and hungry. We are called to action. We are called to be unstained by the world.

We use the world’s wealth to further the Good News of Yeshua’s death, resurrection and ascension to the right hand of God where He awaits the time when He will return and call His faithful servants into glory. Until that day comes, we are to be in tune with the Holy Spirit, with whose direction, our paths are made clear in every way. We cannot live apart from Him. The Holy Spirit is not a ghost or an apparition. He’s a person, not a holy idea or a holy inclination, He is real and speaking right now to all of us – conviction to those who do not yet serve Jesus and instruction to those who do. He will tell you what to do with your blessings if you are faithful to listen.

Think I’ve exhausted this subject? Oh, I am just getting started… Unrepentantly Blessed – Part 2: Sowing and Reaping

 

Sometimes Bibles are Heavy

My little 2 year old is sitting in the corner of my living room with his Bible stories book on his lap. It’s quite the book. While most of his books are about the Bible, this particular volume seemed to be an acquired taste. I am pretty sure that is because it literally weighs 10 pounds. I found it at a book sale for $6 about a year ago. It has an inscription from a grandmother on the inside of it. It is an exhaustive collection of short, accurate stories, each with a beautiful full page drawing. I’m sure it was at least $30-$40 new. It’s pages are gold lined so it glows amongst his other books. He has only recently started reading it and he can only walk around with it because of his Samson-like strength.

So, I’m getting a head start on my taxes. I read some of Ezekiel while I was eating lunch during his nap and I wanted to read more, but I kept thinking about our taxes. We run our own company so doing taxes at the end of the year is a beast. But I have been pressing into the Holy Spirit’s sweet Presence and I really wanted to go into my room. Welcome to my life, I’m a Martha learning to a be a Mary. The taxes won. I felt really proud of myself. I am three months into one account, double-checking charges and marking checks for 1099s. We have seven accounts… I will have to do this on all of them. Yeah, I am being productive!

Then, my little son catches my eye, heaving his Bible book into his lap. He sits down on the folded comforter on our wood floor and the book slides down his legs towards the floor. Undeterred, he pulls it up to his lap and sits farther back on the comforter. Finally, after getting situated, he starts turning the pages. “Muito agua,” he quietly exclaims as he looks over the page about the flood. I watch him out of the corner of my eye so as not to draw his attention away from the book.

“God, You know my life.” This is often how my prayers begin these days. They come while I’m changing diapers, while I’m cleaning my flood, making dinner, washing dishes, and doing taxes. He does know my life. He gave me the blessings of a husband, a son, a house, food to cook, clothes to wash, the list goes on. When I read Proverbs 31, I see that God recognizes the sometimes mundane work of a woman and honors her for it. I also read that He honored Mary instead of Martha because Mary sought the imperishable things of God. It’s such a fine line to walk. I sometimes reminisce about the days when my life was simpler, but these are all BLESSINGS that I prayed for. And yet, in God’s grace, I can walk through them gracefully. When I am sensitive to the Holy Spirit, my life takes a more ethereal shape – less predictable, more moment-to-moment, inexplicably complete – things get done eventually and I feel His Presence more tangibly.

I don’t do New Years resolutions. Since the New Year starts in Spring according to the Bible, I don’t see much point in them. I have this one pursuit and I will continue striving for it. I want to know God. I want to seek the face of my Creator more ardently than ever before. I want to know the Holy Spirit more deeply. I want to hunger and thirst after righteousness. I want to press into His Presence continually. I want to hear and recognize His voice. I want to serve Him in every way humanly possible. I want more than to be plucked out of the fire. I want to live thirsty.

I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. – Psalm 143:6 ESV

O God, you are my God; I will seek you diligently. My soul thirsts for you; my flesh longs for you as in a dry and weary land without water. – Psalm 63:1 LEB

For I will pour out water on a thirsty land and streams on dry ground. I will pour my spirit out on your descendants and my blessing on your offspring. – Isaiah 44:3 LEB

Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LordAnd they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it. In that day shall the fair virgins and young men faint for thirst. – Amos 8:11-13 KJV

Now on the last day of the feast—the great day—Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me, and let him drink, the one who believes in me. Just as the scripture said, ‘Out of his belly will flow rivers of living water.’” Now he said this concerning the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were about to receive. For the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus had not yet been glorified.) – John 7:37-39 LEB

And the one seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new!” And he said, “Write, because these words are faithful and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the one who is thirsty I will give water from the spring of the water of life freely. The one who conquers will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be my son. – Revelations 21:5-7 LEB

 And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And the one who hears, let him say, “Come!” And the one who is thirsty, let him come. The one who wants, let him take the water of life freely. – Revelations 22:17 LEB

The Bible tells me that I was made to be thirsty and I am. Sometimes I have so much longing in my heart, I don’t even know what to do with myself. When I was younger, I thought, “I’m just bored. I’m longing for adventure.” When I grew up and moved across the country, I though, “I miss my family. I must be longing for them.” When I started actively pursuing God, I realized that this is the pull of heaven. I long for the living water of God. I long for the Presence of His Spirit. I long for the end of all things when I will be immersed in His Presence and Light forever, where I will have the water of life freely.

I don’t know where this New Years finds you. Maybe you’re living off the fat of the land, too full to feel thirst. Maybe you’re lifting your head from the pig’s trough to find there’s better food in your Father’s house. Maybe you’re in the center of His will, seeking to know Him better. Wherever you are, it doesn’t matter. Our purpose is the same.

Instead of making a New Years resolution that you won’t keep (or remember past February), commit your New Year to a new pursuit. Resolve to seek the Presence of God in your life, to know the Holy Spirit like a friend, to hear the voice of God because you’re finally listening for it. Sometimes your Bible will feel heavy, your voice will sound hollow and your tears will be more plentiful than laughter, but if you press through your feelings into His Presence, this will be the most amazing, fulfilling, worthwhile year of your life.

Happy Birthday Frankenmama

God is speaking to me through the shredded fabric of my son’s bear’s nose.

The little bear, affectionately dubbed “mama,” became my son’s bedtime companion after he spontaneously decided that he no longer wanted his binky. It fell on the floor at the store, I gave him a new one when we got home and he had already resolved to be done with binkies forever. He refused it and all other binkies after that day. It was shocking because he was “that kid” who ALWAYS had his binky in his mouth. I had no idea how I would ever get it away from him. A couple days after he  was all-done-binky, he got sick for the first time. He was inconsolable and without any means of coping. Then, I got the idea to give him the little bear. It was love at first bite. He started chewing the bear instead of the binky and refused all teethers. After about a month, I told my mom how attached he had become to the “mama”, to which she responded, “how many mamas do you have?” I proceeded to buy three of the now discontinued bears.

I tried to save the mamas and cycle through them evenly, but once teeth started coming in, their little organic cotton noses didn’t stand a chance. About three months ago, I started having to mend them every time they got washed. We cycle through a mama at least every other day, sometimes two or three per day, depending on the day’s disasters. You can imagine what the mamas must have started looking like. In case you can’t, here’s an idea…

frankenmamas - gittel fruma

Progression of the mamas from sheet-nose to frankenmama

The one on the left had been mended with fabric from a sheet. The one on the left had started losing cotton through the hole in its nose and reminded me of a very sad bear-pug. My son likes to pinch the thread on their noses, but also has a sensitive gag reflex, so every time he got the thread too far into his throat, he would gag. He would then come over and ask me to “fix mama” repeatedly, which usually resulted in some stitching or scissoring or something to temporarily rid mama of the unseemly thread. About ten minutes later, we would repeat this process. I realize this seems like really useless information, but that brings me to this morning.

I gave up on the “noses made of sheet” idea. The fabric just rips too easily and I don’t always have time to mend them before some crisis necessitates the immediate presence of a freshly-washed mama. I decided to rip one mama’s sheet nose off and try re-stuffing the actual nose with the sheet. I felt slightly creeped out by slicing the mama’s actual nose open, but it was necessary. As I sat there, using the point of my fabric scissors to stuff pieces of sheet inside the mama’s nose, I started thinking about the daily lengths I go to for my son. Here I was, sewing the first of four mamas that would need this procedure, thinking about how best to get the job done in an aesthetically pleasing way (pretty sure I failed…) so that my son would be happy with a nose well-sewed. I have spent countless hours chasing after lost mamas, darning their noses, cutting pieces off of them as they unravel and searching for new ones on the internet. Why the slight obsession with the mamas? Because I want my son to feel comforted, happy and secure.

Even through my best efforts, I will never be able to give my son what God can give him. I look at the badly stitched, blue-threaded nose of the mama and I think to myself, “this is so clearly my work.” There are times in life when we just need to commit our works to God and say, “Amen.” I will continue to give my best to my son. He is a blessing from the Lord and I love him more with each passing day. And yet, I will never be able to love him as much as God loves him. As I waited to meet him for nine months, God carefully crafted him inside my womb, down to the last hair that would someday be on his head. He loves him more than I’ll ever know or understand. He loves all of us that way. He desires to work in our lives in a deep and meaningful way. The Holy Spirit wishes to have a relationship with each of us. He leaves nothing incomplete. He restores everything. He shapes us into the people He meant for us to be. As much as we let Him, He will transform our lives. There is nothing that He cannot do. He wills for us all things for our good. If God had mended the mama, she would have glowed upon leaving His gentle touch.

While I am here, laboring for the cause of my Messiah, I pray that I would be found faithful in those things entrusted into my hand. Surely, my children will be the most precious things given to me to care for. My husband, my children, my sisters, my parents, my family in Christ, and all of those with whom God knits me together should be the constant recipients of my wisdom and kindness. I will invest all I have to give into the Kingdom of God and I hope to be a light in the darkness all of my days.

But my efforts alone will never be enough because they were never meant to be. I thank God that He sent His Son to be the sacrifice for my sins, and that He sent the Holy Spirit to be my constant comforter on earth. I can’t do it by myself. I can’t live up to my own standards, let alone those of the One, Holy and Sovereign God. Someday, all things will be made new again and all things broken will be made beautiful. In the mean time, I thank God for the work He does in our lives as we commit our paths to Him. This is the most important lesson I can teach my little son. When all else fails, including the nose of your mama, God will always be there for you. Happy birthday, mama. May your nose be ever-intact.

Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His Presence continually! – I Chronicles 16:11

I think I might be a cranberry…

So, after my last post regarding pride, I found it very difficult to write. I felt like anything I shared would be pompous and ridiculous… possibly self-righteous. The result = nothing for the last two months. However, upon cooking a late pot of cranberry sauce (for the first time), I had a revelation. I think I might be a cranberry.
“What’s that you say, crazy lady?” I know, I know. But really. Here’s how I reached this stunning conclusion…
I read the package for the cranberries, which included a simple recipe for cranberry sauce. We are nearing Chanukah and the time for Thanksgiving recipes is past, but I impulsively bought this bag of cranberries and I needed to use them before they went bad. There’s no time like the present, so let’s make some cranberry sauce! The recipe said to let the berries simmer until they start to pop. I thought, “Ok, popping sounds fun.” Sure enough, no sooner did my overly ripe cranberries hit the simmering pot of freshly squeezed orange juice, wild honey, cardamom and clove (you should know I cannot follow a recipe to save my life – always have to make it interesting!) they started a-burstin’. Then it hit me: “OMG, a cranberry I am.”
Before I sat down to write this post, I thought about what I should write. I thought about what’s been rattling around my head the last few months, what have I been doing with myself, where have all my missing neurons flown to… The one thing that I kept coming back to was a recent interaction I had with someone very close to me. It started off as passive aggression, led to a huge screaming match (thank God, they are a rare occasion in my life), then a quiet, humbling conversation. At the end of everything, I felt hurt, vulnerable and exposed. There I was, in the simmering saucepan of life, under pressure and overheated, and I finally popped. I lost it. I felt myself unwittingly leaking all over the place – emotions, thoughts, half-finished sentences, tears, possibly snot – and I felt horribly bare. This conversation has haunted me for the last several weeks. I find myself thinking about it when I’m washing dishes, I have strange dreams about this person, I keep thinking that I want to pull away and protect myself.
It’s not an easy thing to live among people. We are broken, hurtful, and self-centered. But God is love. Yeshua set very high standards for what a community should look like. It didn’t look like a “hi, how are you doing?” on Sunday. It didn’t involve limp handshakes at Thursday night Bible study. It didn’t include selfish self-preservation or entitled attitudes of injury. Messiah called us to Grace and Love.
I am a cranberry. This person is my fellow cranberry. Together we live in a simmering pot. This could be the most idiotic metaphor for my life I have ever thought of, or it could be the beginning of a new understanding of my life in Yeshua. Now that I have popped and this person has popped as well, here we are with our proverbial cranberry guts spilled out in glorious and sweet fellowship. We can’t separate ourselves anymore. We might as well give in to the fact that we will eventually be one. I can’t put myself back together or separate myself from this person because I am not supposed to do either. No one ever did anything in the power of the Holy Spirit by “having it together.” Fake-it-till-you-make-it was not a mandate of God. It is, however, how the majority of us make it through our lives, especially in regards to our relationships.
I am good at being on my own. There was a time when I prided myself on my ability to need no one. Then I let someone in. And someone else. And someone else after that. The more I have opened my heart, the more there is inside. It’s a cliche that’s often repeated and rarely understood. You have to give love to get love.
I don’t love this person because they’re perfect. I don’t love them because they’re always right or always nice. I don’t even love them because they love me. I love this person because I can’t help myself. And I hope the help never comes.

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. – 1 Peter 4:8 ESV