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 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

 

“The devil wasn’t cast out of heaven for adultery.”

In the last few weeks, I have been earnestly seeking to understand how I can serve God while being the most wretched of sinners. I’m not going to vie with Paul for the position of “foremost,” but my heart is no better than anyone else’s.

I can project the image of being a good, little servant of God. I learned to “front” from a young age. As a Jew, actions dictate whether your name is written in the book of life and how you will be judged. Being outwardly pious gets you good standing in the Jewish community and honor before men. I remember standing in the same row as my father on the women’s side of the synagogue, close to the partition, to make sure that he saw me with my prayer book in my hand.  If social hour occurred during service instead of davening, I may not be able to see my friends later on. I’m sure my parents were not trying to instill in me this mentality, but that’s what happened. I understood you need to do and be seen doing to get what you want, be it a sleepover or an inscription in the book of life.

I have struggled with many a sin in my heart. Perhaps the first words of Yeshua that cut me to the heart were those of Matthew 5:22 and 28. “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. … But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” It was then that I realized there was no consolation in the fact that I didn’t act on my impulses. I had them, God saw them and nothing I could do would remove them. My heart was stained with the stench of sin and there was nothing I could do to change that. Psalm 51:5 says, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Sin is a part of my DNA. I can do nothing to get rid of my sin. Only Yeshua can do that. 

Yet, even as I know I am saved, I still strive to seek the things of God. This leads to the most insidious type of sin because its birthplace is the belief that you are doing right. It’s a fine line to walk – the line between fake-it-til-you-make-it salvation and being renewed daily in His Holy Presence. They are not the same thing, but sometimes we convince ourselves they are.

Pride.

It is the most hideous thing I have ever uncovered in my heart. So revolting was it, that I wanted to eject myself from my own presence. Pride is so disgusting and abhorrent because it twists itself around everything you do. It’s easy to get puffed up when you’re following all the rules. Yeah, that’s right, I’m getting pretty good at this Christian lifestyle. I can’t even remember the last time I lied or watched an unedifying television show or listened to secular music. I felt the Holy Spirit when I was singing the other day, so that must mean I’m doing good, right?

NO! EMPHATICALLY NOT RIGHT! And pride rears its ugly head. In Ecclesiastes 7:16, Solomon says, “Be not overly righteous, and do not make yourself too wise. Why should you destroy yourself?” In Romans 12:3, Paul says, “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” In 1 Corinthians 4:7, he says more emphatically, “For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?”

So, where does that leave this wretched sinner? In the love of the Father, the grace of Yeshua and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 13:14). It leaves me humble, grateful and willing to be filled. I have nothing without Him. The minute I forget that, pride gains a foothold.

As my sister said, “The devil wasn’t cast out of heaven for adultery. He was cast out because of pride (Ezekiel 28:15-17). ” This inclination comes to us naturally and yet I wish it wasn’t there.

I leave you with the hope that drives me on, the culmination of Yeshua’s work on the cross, nothing less than the redemption of all things. There will be a day when all things will be made whole, new and pure. In that day, pride will no longer have a place in my heart. Until that day, I work to fix my eyes on Yeshua, the fulfillment of all my hopes.

“But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” – 1 Peter 3:13

There are no lattes on the battlefield!

I recently had the pleasure of hearing Reverend Russell McCollough preach a message at Impact Church titled “The Lion, The Snow and The Pit.” It made me laugh quite a bit and, honestly, I was in need of a good laugh. He preached from 2 Samuel 23:20, “Benaiah was the son of Jehoiada, the son of a valiant man from Kabzeel, who had done many deeds. He had killed two lion-like heroes of Moab. He also had gone down and killed a lion in the midst of a pit on a snowy day.” After reading this verse, he opened his sermon with this admonition: “If you have to kill a lion, don’t do it in a pit and, definitely, don’t do it on a snowy day.” Now, call me corny, but I thought that was pretty funny. He shared during this message that he is a veteran of the Korean War, so I took this message to heart even more, realizing that this man knows a little something about a battlefield. The Reverend went on to say that when conflict comes, it is always unequal, unavoidable and untimely.

There were two things he said that really struck me. First of all, he said that when God told Gideon to take the 300 men who lapped water by bringing their hands and to send home those who had lapped with their tongues (click here if you haven’t the faintest idea what I’m talking about), God was looking for men who were alert on the battle field. A war is no place for people who bury their faces in a river to take a drink when your enemy could bear down on you at any second. You need to be aware of what’s going on around you, as is a person who brings water to their mouth with their hands and keeps their eyes watchful as they drink. He then proceeded to say, “You can’t sit and sip your latte in the battle!” Again, I laughed. However, the truth in this is as unavoidable as the battle itself.

Yeshua said in warning His disciples of the coming day of the Lord, “Stay awake!” (Mark 13:35-37). At Gethsemane, He said, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mark 14:38) Again, in the parable of the ten virgins, they all fell asleep, but only those who had oil in their lamps were able to meet the bridegroom (Matthew 25:1-13). Peter says, “Be sober-minded and watchful,” (1 Peter 5:8-9). Most importantly, as we are so close to the Glorious Day of Yeshua’s return, in Revelations 3:1-3, Yeshua says to the Church of Sardis, “Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die.” Finally, in Revelations 16:15, as the evil armies are being assembled against God, He says, “Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on.” God does not repeat Himself needlessly. Anything He sees fit to say multiple times is of vital importance.

The willing spirit and weak flesh, the virgins with oil in their lamps, they all imply a need for the only One that can keep us awake and alert – The Holy Spirit, the Living Breath of God. Yeshua said that He died so that the Holy Spirit may come to us and He knew that we would be in desperate need of Him (John 16:4-11). Read the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit is busy. If you have a real, day-to-day fellowship with the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 13:14), you will not fall asleep. You might want to because the enemy will bring the battle to your front door every day, but you will be constantly aware of His Presence going before you into battle. He sent the Holy Spirit so that we may not be orphans (John 14:15-18). A Father does not let His children get eaten by the lion. Even still, we allow ourselves to be eaten when we are not vigilantly seeking the Holy Spirit’s direction and allowing His power to work in our lives. The moment you take your eyes off of Yeshua to look at the adversary, he wins. Be alert, be awake, and be watchful. The Holy Spirit is faithful to guide you through the battle. Fellowship with Him is what we were made for and it is the only way to live the life that Yeshua meant for us to have on this earth.

The second thing that Reverend McCollough said, and this was the most encouraging sentence of the entire sermon for me. “When you find yourself in the snowy pit with the lion, there is only one way out: Victory!”

I tell you what, if I hadn’t been working on teaching my 20 month old to sit quietly in my lap during service, I would have shouted one heck of a “Hallelujah!” That’s what I’m talking about! He didn’t say, fight the lion or get out of the pit. He said victory!

Victory is what we are in for if we stick with God. I go again to 1 Peter 5:9-11 – the present anthem of my soul, “Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, Who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To Him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” I totally understand why Peter suddenly broke out into that last sentence. When I read those verses, my spirit yells something like, “Amen times infinity!!!!” 

There may be no lattes on the battlefield, but I’ll tell you what there is: There is victory. Even unto death, the worst that this world can do to us, there is eternal victory for those whose hearts belong to Messiah Yeshua. TO HIM BE THE GLORY, HONOR AND POWER FOREVER AND EVER, AMEN!