Sukkot (pronounced Sue coat), is the plural of sukkah, which means "booths" or "huts" in Hebrew. Sukkot is a fall harvest holiday that comes after Rosh Hashanah and 5 days after Yom Kippur. Sukkot is also known as the Feast of the Booths or by some as the Feast of Tabernacles. Although, I personally don’t like to call it the Feast of Tabernacles. This is a bit misleading, because the word "tabernacle" in the Bible was a portable sanctuary that the Israelites carried with them in the wilderness which was a precursor to the Temple. We see this in Exodus 25:8-9 - Have them construct a sanctuary for Me, so that I may dwell among them. According to all that I am going to show you as the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furniture, so you shall construct it. The Hebrew word "sukkah" (plural sukkot) refers to the temporary booths that people lived in, not to the Tabernacle. Sukkot commemorates the forty-year period when the children of Israel were wandering in the desert, living in temporary shelters (Lev 23:33–43). During the time of the feast, each Israelite family was supposed to construct a booth, or sukkah, and live in it for a week.
Leviticus 23:33-43 says: Again the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘On the fifteenth of this seventh month is the Feast of Booths for seven days to the Lord. On the first day is a holy convocation; you shall not do any laborious work. For seven days you shall present an offering by fire to the Lord. On the eighth day you shall have a holy convocation and present an offering by fire to the Lord; it is an assembly. You shall not do any laborious work. ‘These are the appointed times of the Lord which you shall proclaim as holy convocations, to present offerings by fire to the Lord—burnt offerings and grain offerings, sacrifices and drink offerings, each day’s matter on its own day— besides those of the Sabbaths of the Lord, and besides your gifts and besides all your vowed and voluntary offerings, which you give to the Lord. ‘On exactly the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the crops of the land, you shall celebrate the feast of the Lord for seven days, with a rest on the first day and a rest on the eighth day. Now on the first day you shall take for yourselves the foliage of beautiful trees, palm branches and branches of trees with thick branches and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days. So you shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord for seven days in the year. It shall be a permanent statute throughout your generations; you shall celebrate it in the seventh month. You shall live in booths for seven days; all the native-born in Israel shall live in booths, so that your generations may know that I had the sons of Israel live in booths when I brought them out from the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.’”
Yes, this is a long scripture. But, it gives us Sukkot in a nutshell. We see that Sukkot begins on the 15th of the seventh month, or the 15th day of the Jewish month of Tishrei. We also see here that this feast lasts for 7 days. We are to have a Sabbath rest on the first day and the last day. We shall live in booths for seven days and this is a permanent statute throughout your generations. Some Bible versions say you shall dwell in booths. This all sounds pretty straight forward and it is very clear that this is a permanent statute throughout your generations, meaning yes, we are still supposed to do this to today.
So, how do we do this today in our modern world? Well, it is not much different that it would have been back in the days of the Israelites wondering in the desert. Except for most of us, we are not living in a desert. Sukkot is celebrated today by people living in houses, in apartments, or just about any setting. Traditionally people start building a sukkah as soon as possible after the end of Yom Kippur. A sukkah must be built in the open air under the sky, it must have at least three sides and a covering, usually made of cut branches or plants. The covering must be loose enough to see the stars at night, but thick enough so that the shades you from the Sun. It is customary to decorate your sukkah with hangings, artwork, and home-made decorations. Have fun with it! Besides building and dwelling in a sukkah, which of course is one of the most important holiday traditions for Sukkot. On the first day of Sukkot, we should wave a lulav and an etrog in all directions. A lulav is a bouquet made from a single palm leaf, two willow branches and three myrtle branches, held together by woven leaves. An etrog is a citron, a lemon-like fruit grown in Israel. The etrog must have the stem in place if you want it to be kosher. To perform the ritual, hold the lulav in your right hand and the etrog in your left and say a Bracha blessing over them. The blessing is: “Barukh atah Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha’olam asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al netilat lulav.” (“Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and has commanded us concerning the waving of the lulav.”) Then shake them in the six directions: north, south, east, west, up, and down, symbolizing God's presence everywhere. Our understanding as a family is, the particular order is not important. It is simply important to wave your lulav. Again, have fun with this. Enjoy your time with family and or friends. Remember this is a time of the Fall festival season when we just finished Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. This is a time when we just spent the last several weeks mending our relationships through these holidays. Now it’s time to enjoy those improved relationships! Sukkot is a great time to practice the mitzvah (commandment) of Hachnasat Orchim, (welcoming guests and hospitality). Sukkot is a joyful holiday, a time when we focus on the simple pleasure of being close to nature and with family and friends. Deuteronomy 16:13-15 says: You shall celebrate the Feast of Booths seven days after you have gathered in from your threshing floor and your wine vat; and you shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter and your male and female servants and the Levite and the stranger and the orphan and the widow who are in your towns. Seven days you shall celebrate a feast to the Lord your God in the place which the Lord chooses, because the Lord your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you will be altogether joyful. So, enjoy this time of celebration with friends, family and even strangers.
Rosh Hashanah, which translates “head of the year.” Or, in the Bible the Feast of Trumpets, or “Yom Teruah,” Which translates the “Day of Blasting” because God commanded His people on this day to blast or blow shofars. Rosh Hashanah is also called Yom Ha-Zikaron which means "The Day of Remembrance" and Yom Ha-Din which means "The Day of Judgment". Then, there is Yom Kippur which literally means “The Day of Atonement.” We of course have the days in between known as the “Days of Awe.” But, what does this all mean? How are they connected? These are questions that many people ask. So, let’s try to understand this in the simplest was we can.
Rosh Hashanah occurs on the first day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei, which is usually in September. This year (2023) Rosh Hashanah began on Friday, September 15th. Much like Rosh Hashanah begins on the first day of Tishrei, Yom Kippur occurs on the tenth day of Tishrei each year, usually in late September or early October. This year, Yom Kippur is on September 25th.
“But, Rob… This all sound quite serious and even wonderful. But, where is this in the Bible?” GREAT question! Thank you so much for asking.
In Leviticus 23:23–25 the Bible says: Again the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘ In the seventh month on the first of the month you shall have a rest, a reminder by blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation. ‘You shall not do any laborious work, but you shall present an offering by fire to the Lord.’ ”
Numbers 29:1-2 says: “‘On the first day of the seventh month hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. It is a day for you to sound the trumpets. As an aroma pleasing to the Lord, offer a burnt offering of one young bull, one ram and seven male lambs a year old, all without defect.”
So we see here, God has given us specific details about when we are to have Rosh Hashanah. The other things we can deduce about Rosh Hashanah are we are to do no work and we are to blow our trumpets. This is something we can clearly do even in modern times. Some may ask if this still applies to us today. If we go slightly back in Leviticus 23 (where we just were) and read verse 20, we will see that it reads: It is to be a perpetual statute in all your dwelling places throughout your generations. This means these appointed times are for today just as they were for then and for all time to come. I use the term appointed times because there are many instances in the Bible where God sets an appointed time that we are to do things. But, this is not all Rosh Hashanah is about. As we saw earlier, it is the head of the year. Or, the New Year.
Rosh Hashanah is the time of year for us to review our year and consider how we might have done wrong by others or might be falling short in other ways. It's a time to reflect on our actions over the preceding year. But, the most important part of Rosh Hashanah isn't just this reflection on our year. It is the teshuvah, the return, renewal, or repentance that we are called to that makes this time special. This isn't just about us saying we promise to do better in the future. Teshuvah is not just about repentance. It is also beginning the process of forgiveness and of forgiving others. This continues till Yom Kippur. This helps us let go of the past, so we can look towards our new year.
In addition to this time of reflection, repentance and forgiveness, we celebrate this time by lighting candles at sundown and saying two blessings, the yom tov blessing and the Shehecheyanu blessing. This is then followed by eating a meal that consists of many sweet foods. There are apples dipped in honey to symbolize “a good and sweet year.” We also eat challah that can have raisins or also be dipped in honey to make it sweeter. This challah is baked in round loaves to symbolize the cyclical nature of life. You can add other sweet foods like tsimmis. There are many ways to make tsimmis. We make ours with carrots and honey. Sweet potatoes and kegul are also favorites on Rosh Hashanah. Of course, we cannot forget, there is the blowing of the Shofar during the day!
This brings us into the “Days of Awe” which is the ten day season of repentance between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. These days are concluded with the observance of the Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur. This is a time for us to ask for forgiveness from those we may have offended during the past year and to forgive others for their offenses against us in anticipation of receiving God’s forgiveness at the conclusion of this ten day period. For the forgiveness aspect,
there are three stages, whether you’re being forgiven or you’re forgiving others. These three steps are s’lichot (“forgiveness”), m’khilah (“letting go”), and kapparah (“atonement”). Forgiveness begins with the conscious intention to forgive. But if we stop there, the feelings of guilt or resentment can reappear when you least expect them. Letting go means, “I no longer need the past to have been any different than it was.” At this stage, you might still remember the pain, but you are no longer consumed either with guilt or resentment. With atonement, we can accomplish something positive that would have never been possible. We may still remember, we may feel still the pain. But the act of atonement transforms the pain into a blessing.
This of course leads us to the holiest of Holy days. Yom Kippur – The Day of Atonement. We see in Leviticus 23:26-32 is says: The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “On exactly the tenth day of this seventh month is the day of atonement; it shall be a holy convocation for you, and you shall humble your souls and present an offering by fire to the Lord. “You shall not do any work on this same day, for it is a day of atonement, to make atonement on your behalf before the Lord your God. “If there is any person who will not humble himself on this same day, he shall be cut off from his people. “As for any person who does any work on this same day, that person I will destroy from among his people. “You shall do no work at all. It is to be a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all your dwelling places. “It is to be a Sabbath of complete rest to you, and you shall humble your souls; on the ninth of the month at evening, from evening until evening you shall keep your Sabbath.” This is an amazing day! This is the day that after we have spent 10 days reflecting on our lives, repenting of our sins and forgiving others, this is the day that is traditionally seen as the day on which God finalizes the judgment of us each year, sealing people’s names in the Books of Life or Death. We celebrate this day by refrain from bathing or showering, using perfumes or moisturizers, having sex, wearing leather and fasting for 25 hours. One of the most important aspects is of course keeping Sabbath on Yom Kippur as we see in Leviticus 23:28-32. During the day traditionally there are five prayer services:
The first is Maariv, with the Kol Nidrei service on the evening of Yom Kippur. Then there is Shacharit, the morning prayer; Musaf, which includes a detailed account of the Yom Kippur Temple service; Minchah, which includes the reading of the Book of Jonah and lastly, there is Neilah, the “closing of the gates” service at sunset, followed by the shofar blast marking the end of the fast. You then break your fast at sunset with a festive meal. The feast held at the end of Yom Kippur sometimes has rich foods like bagels, souffles, sweet kugel, eggs and cheese. Some people prefer dairy-based dishes (instead of meat-based dishes) because they can be easier to digest on an empty stomach.
And that is how Rosh Hashanah, the Days of Awe and Yom Kippur all come together during this holiest time of year.
If we read Hebrews 9:8-12 you see with the coming and sacrifice of Christ, the way through the veil into the Most Holy Place has been opened. Understanding this, we can see that the Day of Atonement is both symbolic and anticipatory of the work of Christ, whom forgiveness ultimately rests. The effectiveness of the Old Testament sacrificial system rested on the promise of Christ’s future act. Although Yom Kippur is traditionally the last day to atone, we know ultimately that the doors of repentance are open all of the time because the sacrifice that Christ made — it’s never too late. However, we believe that it is extremely important to keep all of the Biblical holidays as Christ himself as well as his disciples did. We believe this 100% because as we had seen earlier these days are “to be a perpetual statute in all your dwelling places throughout your generations.”
The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one who gets the people to do the greatest things.
A few days ago I woke up to a text in my phone. It was from my mother and said,"Boy are you in trouble." It took me very little time to realize I forgot her birthday. The day before was a packed day and ended with a well welcomed and needed Sabbath. I was disappointed to have forgotten. I love my mother. She is one of those people that loves the phone calls and catching up with friends and family that her birthday brings. Birthdays are days we turn from the busyness of our lives and remember a person. The same applies to anniversaries. They are days we celebrate milestones in a person's life. Often times we get invited to a party and do our best not to miss it. To me the Biblical Holidays are like this times infinity. They are appointed times/feasts/festivals that He has set. They are to be kept forever. Lev 23:21
~Sabbath is the first one mentioned. That is the seventh day. It is from sunset Friday night to sunset Saturday night. That is a weekly time that we are to do no work and convocate as the church for a time of teaching and worship. Christ kept it. Before and after His ascension, His disciples kept it. Many still keep it. We are thankfully in that number. Sabbath is an awesome and a very guarded day in our family. We weekly look forward to this time to draw closer to God and closer as a family.
~Another appointed time is Passover. This is a very special time in our home and the homes of many people who follow Christ. It is the feast that was His last supper with His disciples. He commanded them as he broke the passover bread, that as often as they do this, to remember Him. Passover is an appointed time of God that was used to remind His children of how He delivered them out of Egypt. It is full of Messianic significance that points directly to Christ and His profound sacrifice. It is a powerful time of remembering God's all surpassing power and love for us.
~Next we come to first fruits. We are still in the process of understanding this appointed time so I will not talk at length about something I have a light grasp of, but we have come to an understanding that on the outset it is about giving back to God a portion of the best of our produce. Many of us don't have farms, so that could be giving a portion of your time and/or resources. A great scripture we have found to reflect on is in 1 Cor 15:20. Paul tells us that "Christ is the first fruit of those of them that slept." Again, a great opportunity to reflect on the gift we have in Christ and look for opportunity to give back to God using the first and best of our resources.
~Feast of Weeks, also known as Shavuot,“Hag Matan Torateinu” (The Festival of the Giving of the Torah) and Pentecost. It celebrates the giving of the Torah. Imagine your world without the Word of God. How dark and meaningless it would be. God's Word is such a precious gift. This is a very meaningful holiday, but like many, also fun. Lots of people pull an all nighter on the first night devoted to fellowship and the reading of His Word to celebrate the gift that it is. The Ten Commandments are read this night as well. There is a celebration with special food and folk dancing during the festival of Pentecost. It is also customary during this time to help the widow, unmarried and orphan. As disciples of Christ we have an additional gift to celebrate as during this time is when the disciples experienced the infilling of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2.
~The Festival of Trumpets also known as Rosh Hashanah follows. We just celebrated this! This is a time that we reflect on who we are before God. How we can be better. We take account of how we may have wronged others and seek to make amends. We also do our best to examine our hearts to see if we are holding grudges against anyone. If so we let go that frustration and forgive them. It is a new year on the Jewish calendar and we want to start it right. We seek to identify and let go of ways that are offensive to God. In that spirit, many people participate in a tashlich ceremony. This is a newer Jewish custom added to the holiday where they pray and symbolically cast their sins into water with crumbs from their pockets or stones. Many disciples of Christ do this, but instead consider it symbolically casting off each offensive way they found in their soul searching, naming them one by one as they toss them off. As disciples of Christ who are cleansed of our sins by the blood of Christ, this symbolism can also take a different form. As the crumbs get tossed in the water and they are swept away never to be seen again, we remember how Christ's sacrifice washed away our sins. It is very powerful to see those crumbs big and small getting carried away and reflecting on how that came to pass for us.1 John 1:7-9
~After this comes the Day of Atonement, also known as Yom Kippur and the Sabbath of Sabbaths. This is a day of fasting. It is also considered by many to be the holiest day of the year. In traditional Judaism they fast to make atonement for their sins. As disciples of Christ, our sins are atoned for, praise God, but as per the scripture, we can still participate and fast. We can do this to show true repentance for all of those sins we identified and repented of during the Feast of Trumpets. It is a great time to spend on our knees in prayer repenting of our poor choices and praising God for His great mercy and blessings. This time starts with a big meal, time of prayer and study and ends with a time of study, prayer, blowing of the shofar and... eating.
~Last on the list is The Feast of Tabernacles/Booths. This is a time that God commanded as a time of festive rejoicing. We have 7 days of celebrating and encourage others, brothers and sisters in Christ and the unsaved, to join us. This makes it great for reaching out to the unsaved and a great time of general encouragement for all of His people. Having practiced this, I will tell you, even if you do not reach out to others, they will reach out to you. We live in an apartment complex. We are the people who popped up a strange structure on our patio and decorated it. If this did not get onlookers, the shaking of the leafy batton by all.. likely did. The first day this year as we set up our structure in drizzling rain, one of our neighbors we are acquainted with came out and said, "are you guys having a party or something?" Opportunity. We shared with him what we were doing and a bit about this appointed time. Dropping seeds. We also daily spend time in the sukkah. This is a time that draws out the most committed introvert. As people pass, they occasionally start conversations. A brother shared with us once as we were approaching our first Sukkot and considering camping, how one year he set up his sukkah close to the road outside of the place he fellowshipped. Many people camp for Sukkot. He shared how he felt that missed the point. He told us how he had every manner of person from dog walkers to the police, who someone called, stop to inquire what this was about. He shared about God with a great many people that week. I think also notable is, when this curious behaviour is combined with feasting and fellowshipping, it brings the joy we have being children of God out from behind closed doors to a place where others see and are drawn to it. People who may feel awkward approaching God in a church setting, may feel right at home getting to know Him at a barbecue on your porch. Batton and all.
These are God's Appointed Times. The times on the calendar that God has set apart and invited us to join Him. There are many appointed times set by man that many are strictly obedient to. Thanksgiving. Christmas. Independence Day. Memorial Day. Easter. Halloween is a big one that crosses cultural boundaries and many more. People ask at times why we keep God's appointed times. Why wouldn't we? Perhaps the better question is, why has the world abandoned God's Appointed days for Pagan ones? Constantine kicked out Passover in 325 AD, that Christ told us in Luke 22 to keep in remembrance of Him. He rejected it in favor of Easter, which is a Pagan Holiday that predates Christ's crucifixion by a mile. In 321 AD he also changed the the day that he insisted Christians go to church from Saturday to Sunday. I won't say he moved Sabbath, because "Sabbath" was never in fact moved. God defined Sabbath as being on the 7th day of the week - Saturday. He who designed it, gets to define it. Man may have changed the day some folks congregate for church. But, man can not change Sabbath. In what world does it seem acceptable to decline God's invitation in favor of Constantine's in addition to other festivals that in many cases were created to distract from God? My mother responded to my forgetting her day by sending a text. How does God respond? Personally, we began keeping the feasts simply because God said to. The fruit? We have been abundantly blessed by this choice. Man made holidays are fun for a day. We still go and see fireworks on Independence Day. My wife makes an amazing stuffing and pies for Thanksgiving and we do the dippy crafts associated with Presidents Day, Earth Day, etc... but those things will never displace God in our family. God appointed days, to our observation and experience, are designed by our loving Father to train us and draw us closer to Him. They are infused with joy, encouragement and spiritual growth. All good things. Most importantly, God decreed they are to be kept forever. Lev 23:21 To be a follower of Christ, you need to follow Christ. Christ kept God's Appointed Times. He obeyed His Father and told us to do the same. Let us always remember that where we walk, others follow. When we follow Christ, we lead others to God. Where is your walk leading others to?
But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.
Sacrifice : destruction or surrender of something for the sake of something else ~ Merriam-Webster
Passover is a time that draws our hearts and minds to the sacrifice of Christ. We have been doing a lot of reflecting on that this past week. Scripture tells us to "offer sacrifices rightly, and put your trust in the Lord." Psalm 4:5. In Biblical times, very often that was grabbing the best of your livestock or crop and presenting it as a burnt offering. Fortunately, as most of us are both farm and livestockless, we don't live in that world anymore. Christ came as the perfect sacrifice. Romans 10:9 For this reason, sacrifices offered on a physical alter are no longer necessary, but disciples/followers of Christ have the opportunity and call to sacrifice every day. Christ made a world changing sacrifice. I think when many of us reflect on His sacrifice our minds are drawn directly to the cross, but His sacrifice was so much greater. He set the example of living a life completely obedient and submitted to God. He sought God's will in all things. He sacrificed, time, comfort, relationships and even His life, in an effort to serve His Father well, set an example, and save us. In Mark 1:35 the Bible states that, early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. With knowledge of what awaited Him, like hoards of people rushing Him desperate for healing and answers that only He could give, sleeping in would have been a peaceful escape, but that's not our Messiah. He made the most of every opportunity. I have seen many cinema presentations of the life of Christ. They often show Him casually wandering around peacefully fellowshipping, interspersed with having encounters with different groups...but how realistic is that? Years ago our family watched a presentation of Christ's life at Sight and Sounds. It got me tearing up long before they ever reached the cross. I never really thought of how chaotic and harassed His life was. In a scene where he had been walking, talking and healing on His way to a house to teach, He finally reached His destination to find people crowded around it. Luke 5 He made His way through the crowd and sat at a table to teach where He was offered something to eat and drink. My heart was glad to see Him finally rest, but this was short lived in that moments later the roof over His head was being sawed open to lower a paralytic. My stomach sank. The whole scene produced, what I am sure was the intended product, which is a reality check of what His life on Earth was like. He sacrificed from the moment He left the comfort of His Father and home in Heaven to be with us. When His mother asked Him to help with the wine at the wedding, John 2, He said, "my time has not yet come." My interpretation, once this ball started rolling He would have known it was the end of normal and peaceful existence. Mark 3:9 sees Christ asking for a boat to be ready for Him so the people would not "crush Him." Mark 4:36 says they sent away the multitude, took Him in the boat and other boats followed. Even the water provided no escape. Perhaps that explains the storm? It certainly would have made it harder for people to petition Him. The wind and the waves obey Him which means, the storm wasn't accidental... His days were full of healing, getting chastised, challenged and mobbed by people excited by the news that the Messiah had come. This culminated with the most precious light and life of Christ, submitting to being put through the mockery of a trial, torture and crucifixion which He sweat blood at just the thought of. Luke 22:44 Still, He willingly drank from that cup and by doing so changed the world and made a way for us. Even on the cross He was praying for forgiveness for His attackers, making arrangements for His mother and pardoning a repentant thief. Christ's example sets the bar for "sacrificing rightly." Reflecting on this has challenged my heart to daily make sure I set aside time, resources and myself to serve our perfect God and honor that sacrifice. A practical way we are doing this is spending time together, most mornings before the girls rise, deciding how our family can best serve God that day. As I write this we are fighting a virus and so are the girls so for the moment this will be challenging, but Christ's awesome example left us without excuse. We are using a planner to better plan out our time and "make the most of every opportunity." We found Brendan Burchard's High Performance Planner on Amazon. It is fantastic, easy to use and has been a great tool in helping us stay on schedule and live intentionally for Christ. Lord willing this coming week will have God saying, "it is good." :) If you would like to share how you have found ways to serve and make an impact for Christ in your community, please comment below. We are in the Sussex County, NJ area in case you have an organization with a specific need.
But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.
Sacrifice: a surrender of something of value as a means of gaining something more desirable or of preventing some evil
We were studying Cain and Able this week. Genesis 4 is a short and powerful chapter. Two brothers born of the same family, but distinctly different. We marveled at how little detail is included in the account leading to debates and conjecture over what made Cain's sacrifice unacceptable. Some say it should have been a blood sacrifice, but others suggest the blood sacrifice was being made by Able for his family. He after all kept watch over the flocks and would have been the one to identify the firstborn. We see in Exodus blood offerings were shared even between neighbors, so it is not unlikely that Able's sacrifice was acceptable for the whole family. Exodus 12:3-4 Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor... that being said, this theory is plausible. We also know the Bible tells us that God Judges the heart (1 Samuel 16:7) and others think this was strictly a heart issue. Maybe he was grumbly in his heart not understanding why he would take his best produce to set it on fire and so instead gave to God what we would consider seconds at the market. We really don't know as the account in Genesis is brief. Perhaps there is a blessing in the brevity. It is discussed again in other places in the Bible such as Matthew 23:35 where Christ himself refers to Able as "righteous Able" and Hebrews 11:4 states "by faith Able offered a better sacrifice than Cain," but what made that distinction is a bit mum. Perhaps the brevity of the passage is an encouragement by God not to get lost in the weeds? If we focus on what we do know, we see in Gen 4:6 The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” The fact that God tells him to do what is right, means he knew what God wanted him to do and he chose not to do it. Grey areas don't exist with God. He lovingly reasons with this man. He gives him a speech that has, please choose right capped off with you can do this. You are bigger than this temptation. It is a talk that many fathers have had with their boys that frequently ends with a hug and/or a slap on the back. It is also one of those places in the Word that you see God's heart as He lovingly and patiently reasons with him. Sadly Cain does not rise to the occasion. Rather than improving, he killed Able and removed the light that shone on his darkness . (John 3:20-21) He ends up being driven by God from the presence of his family and God Himself. I find it particularly interesting that he acknowledges that he will be a "restless wanderer." A life lived without God is purposeless and restless. A popular slogan is, Know God, know peace. No God, no peace. There is much truth in that. People pontificate about where he went and who he married. I don't expend a lot of energy on this in that that it is irrelevant. They all died in the flood. So what is the critical take away? God is not the hippie anything goes God that is peddled as opiate of the masses these days as a means of filling coffers. The "Burger King God" theoretically standing to the side saying "have it your way." That God doesn't exist in reality. The God that does exist, is a loving father that has expectations of His children. He is very clear about them. You find them reading the Bible. I love the assigned acronym Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. It is so much more, but yes, that too. It is all in there. Exodus 20 is a great place to start. Sacrifice is throughout the Bible. It is there right from the start when Adam sacrificed his rib for Eve and is further seen in the story of Abraham and Isaac which is being highlighted in the movies now. Esther sacrificed her safety. Ruth sacrificed being with her family. Moses sacrificed position and power. Joseph sacrificed comfort when he spurned Potiphar's wife. Noah sacrificed his time and reputation when he took God at His word and built the ark and most notably, Christ sacrificed everything. He is who we follow. As a follower of Christ, sacrifice can take many forms. Maybe it is the job you really want that conflicts with church, so you don't take it. Or it could be a wrong relationship. That friend who is steeped in sin and encourages you to come along for the ride, but you instead hold them at a safe distance while praying for them to find the Lord. For some it is not eating, drinking or smoking something. It is guarding your eye gate and ear gate by choosing to not watch or listen to things that don't honor God. It is giving to others as there is need. It is also taking the time to share God's Word with those God puts in your path. There are so many ways that we can set aside self for God, but one thing is certain, the life of a believer will always be marked by heartfelt sacrifice. A huge blessing is that a life lived this way requires no Jesus Loves Me t-shirts, baseball caps or fish on your bumper to identify you as a child of God. The light you shine will require no introduction. It will permeate everything you do making your life pleasing to God and a beacon to those seeking Him.1 Thess 4
All good things. Have a blessed week!
A Living Sacrifice
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely and the priests rule at their direction;
my people love to have it so, but what will you do when the end comes? ~ Jeremiah 5:30-31
Roman Catholic Church. The definition of Catholic is universal. So, Roman Universal Church. In 325 AD in a conference hall in Nicea approximately 300 Christian leaders assembled under the order and direction of Constantine. He had come to embrace God on some level. Whether it was spiritual or political is unknown. What is known is that he said the "division in the church was worse than war." He had united the Roman Empire physically in 324 AD becoming the sole Emperor. Now he wanted it united in faith and practices. He called the leaders together in an effort to essentially end all doctrinal differences. Of those gathered, it is said that some bore scars from imperial lashes, one pastor from Egypt was missing an eye and another mans hands were crippled by the use of red hot irons on them. This was a brutal time for Christians. Only about two decades earlier in 303 AD, the Roman Emperor Diocletion had issued an edict to destroy Christians and their Bibles. Over a burnt Bible he built a monument that stated "Extincto Nomene Christianorum." Meaning, the name Christian is extinguished. He also fashioned a medal that read "The Christian Religion is destroyed and the worship of the gods restored." It was not. The persecution officially ended in April of 311 when Galerius issued an edict of toleration. Christians now had the right to gather and practice their religion. Now able to openly worship and share their beliefs, it was clear there were some differences and disagreements between the churches. Rome liked uniformity in worship. This meeting was to bring a little.The hope was to unite the many cell churches in their beliefs. You no longer had to worship Roman gods, but you were called to be a Christian according to Constantine and other people in positions of authority. He stated he wanted "no single point in common with the perjury of the Jews." Yeshua is a Jew. His parents were Jews. Many of his disciples were Jews. He came first for the Jews and then for the gentiles (Romans 1:16) and said salvation is from the Jews. (John 4:22) Constantine must have missed all that or didn't care.... Constantine also punished by death people converting from Christianity to Judaism, which swung wide a door for persecuting those who remained faithful to Biblical teachings. Because it was the state religion, most everyone wanted to join and few were declined. Paganism crept in. Heathen feasts became church festivals. Of them was Eostre. Along with turning their backs on Christian Jews, they stopped allowing Jewish input and rooted out much of the influence of Judaism. On that note they pulled out Passover. It is a feast that God's people were commanded to keep in the Bible which unbeknownst to Jews prior to Christ, has many elements that clearly were a foreshadowing of our Messiah. Most importantly, Christ at the last supper, which was a Passover meal, (Matthew 26:17-20, Mark 14:12-17) told His disciples when you do this remember me. The Passover is a reminder of when God rescued His children from the bondage of slavery to the Egyptians. During Passover they sacrificed a lamb. In 1 Corinthians 5:7 the disciples acknowledge that Christ is our Passover lamb. The shank bone on the Seder Plate reminds us that the lamb had to be without blemish and without a broken bone. That is prophetic. (John 19 31-37) Matzoh is placed in a bag called an echad. The bag has three chambers. In Judaism it is reminiscent of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but as a disciple of Christ it is hard not to see a correlation to our Lord. There are three chambers in the bag. You put matzoh in the first and seal it. No one sees it or touches it during the Passover feast. This is symbolic of God who no man has seen. The second pouch gets matzoh broken in half. They keep one half in and the other is wrapped in a cloth for later. The three matzohs are thought by many to symbolize the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and the wrapped piece that is hidden is later searched for by the children present. This is reminiscent of Christ in the tomb. When it is found they usually celebrate with sweets, etc. Also of note, is that the matzoh used must be prepared without leavening. Leavening is often equated to sin in the Bible. It has to have stripes and has to be pierced. We know Christ bore stripes and was pierced for our iniquity. (Isaiah 53:5) There is more, but I believe the point is made. The Passover feast is filled with such powerful symbolism. It is no wonder that Christ as He approached His time to leave this world chose it as a time to remember Him. Not to cast the story of Exodus aside by any means, but to use this time to reflect on the awesomeness of God, His miracles and the precious gift of our Messiah. Conversely, Constantine did away with this in favor of adopting Eoster/Ostara. This was a festival that was essentially celebrating the Spring Equinox. It predates Christianity and is still kept by many pagan cultures. You can likely find one local to you. It is marked by coloring eggs, rabbits, feasting, etc. Constantine hijacked it and ousted Passover in favor of it. It was made an official church holiday at the Council of Nicea in 325 AD in the spirit of "having nothing in common with the murderers of our Lord." This is crazy, racist and sad. This is one of many things they did to ostracize Jewish people from the church. It is an inconvenient historical fact. They stopped keeping Passover that Christ himself prescribed as a fitting way to remember Him and His sacrifice and opted out for egg hunts, six foot tall bunnies, and other assorted pageantry. Now on a personal note, what started us on this journey? Easter Eve of 2021 we tucked our girls into bed. "Bunny is coming better get to sleep" type conversations were happening. It was late and we needed to get those baskets out. As final touches were applied and we set to sleep there was a cough. I went in the bedroom and felt Margaret's head. She was burning up. As I touched her she startled a bit. I picked her up to bring her in my bed and evaluate her. As I picked her up I could feel her little body was trembling all over. Instinctively, I knew this was covid. As I held her in my arms my eyes caught sight of the baskets as she started vomiting over my shoulder and down my back. It is like the world converged in that moment. I thought of Christ on the cross. I thought of what He suffered for me. He sweat blood as He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane at just the thought of what awaited Him. (Luke 22:39-44) This is medically known as hematohidrosis. It happens very rarely when people are under extreme stress. I also thought of how His loving and Holy Father had to watch Him suffer on that cross and stand aside to save me. I thought of how Christ cried out to His Father, "My God, My God why have you forsaken me?" Matthew 27:46 Laden with our sins He was calling out to His Father in a way that seems to be saying please, I have had enough. Take me home. Soon after He left that cross, but not before He made arrangements for His mother, pardoned a thief, and prayed for the soldiers casting lots for his garments. They took something sacred and treated it with irreverence. In Christ's own words, "they knew not what they were doing." I no longer have that excuse, praise God. If you made it this far, neither do you. As a point of interest, it was the same governing body that changed the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday. Remember, "nothing in common with the murderers of our Lord." They really meant it. So, who do you follow? Much of what happens in today's Christian Churches is by Constantine and the Roman Catholic Church's design from the day people attend to the holidays they celebrate. That was our last Easter. Last year we researched a bit for alternatives that were Christ honoring. Passover was the obvious winner. Especially when we discovered the pagan roots of Easter and hatred behind it, but how would little girls steeped in Easter bunnies and jelly beans take to it? They loved it. As I swept and cleaned up after the dinner Elizabeth said, "that had so much more to do with Christ than Easter ever did." She was right. We are excitedly waiting for Passover 2023. This article is scratching the surface. Be a Berean. Search the scriptures. Where the scriptures are silent, look to history. People have made a mess of God's Church either for greed, power or influence. Many people are ignorantly following doctrine made by men. They have exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped created things rather than the creator. Romans 1:25 We were in that number. The great news? You can decide in this moment to be different. His mercies are new every morning. This can be Day 1 of the rest of your life. Personally, we are glad to have escaped the hamster wheel. It is definitely a rabbit hole. What began with discovering that the Catholic Church/Constantine changed the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday, has taken us down a windy road that has been enlightening and liberating. Most importantly we are closer to our Lord and closer as a family. If you would like to join us on our journey, you are welcome to contact us. We weekly have coffee, tea, juice and treats as we dig into God's Holy Word together. We are not a denomination. We are just God's people doing our very best to follow him and love Him well. You can look for updates and announcements for special events on our FB page ~ God's Church.
If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. ~ 2 Chronicles 7:14
If all were a single member, where would the body be?
1 Corinthians 12:19
I was on the playground watching our girls play the other day when Elizabeth ran over and gave me the the broken stick pictured above. "Look at that!" she said as we noticed the little buds. "What will come of it?" This began a short discussion and a lingering thought. The obvious answer is not much. It is broken off of the tree. My mind was drawn to Christ's words in John 15:6 Unless a person remains united with me, he is thrown away like a branch and dries up. Such branches are gathered and thrown into the fire, where they are burned up. I realized there was a message in this stick and referred to this passage. In short the branch needs the tree to survive. The tree sustains it's life and in the tree the branch has the ability to grow and bear fruit. Apart from the tree it is a degenerating waiting game. Sadly, most of us have seen or been that stick. People pull away from God and sin creeps in. It is hard being on the outside looking in on a person who is actively doing this. Whether it is the flash of the world or laziness that causes the separation, the result is the same. A broken disjointed life. We must stay connected. How do we do that? For starters...
1. Study God's Word. Set time aside each day to dig into His Word and see what He has to say to you. You will be blessed by it. If you don't know where to start, try a Proverb a day. After that go for a Psalm a day.
Psalm 119:105 says, Your word is a lamp for my foot
and light on my path. God's Word guides.
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. God's Word protects.
2 Timothy 3:15
and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
God's Word gives us wisdom.
2 Timothy 3:16-17
All Scripture is God-breathed and is valuable for teaching the truth, convicting of sin, correcting faults and training in right living; thus anyone who belongs to God may be fully equipped for every good work. God's Word instructs.
2. Pray. Pray when you wake up. Pray before you go to sleep. Pray in between by taking opportunity like Nehemiah did and pray in the moment.
The king asked me, “What is it that you want?” I prayed to the God of heaven, then said to the king, “If it pleases the king, if your servant has won your favor, send me to Judah, to the city of my ancestors’ tombs, so that I can rebuild it.”
Prayer is not locational or positional. It is a conversation with our Creator. If you are in Christ or wholeheartedly seeking God, He will hear you.
For what great nation is there that has God as close to them as Adonai our God is, whenever we call on him?
Praying to God is a privilege.
Therefore, openly acknowledge your sins to one another, and pray for each other, so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
There is power in prayer.
In prayer we have the opportunity to draw close to God. Share our thoughts with Him. If we listen closely, we may hear Him speak to our hearts and if we look at the world through the right lens, we will see Him work.
3. Meet Together. Brothers and sisters in Christ must Fellowship.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
“‘Work is to be done on six days; but the seventh day is a Shabbat of complete rest, a holy convocation; you are not to do any kind of work; it is a Shabbat for Adonai, even in your homes.
~a large formal assembly of people
~the action of calling people together for a large formal assembly.
God's plan for Sabbath was rest, learning and fellowship. A time of encouragement. God commands us to have the Sabbath set aside for coming together. It is His plan and so beyond contestation. Sitting at home in front of the television watching televangelists was not His plan, but has become the poisonous habit of so many since COVID. This hurts not only the individual, but the flock as well. I spoke to a brother in Christ recently who has been watching his church family dwindle since the pandemic. He is grieved. He misses his brothers and sisters. We need to be in fellowship. We need to co-labor. Every one of us has unique gifts. 1 Corinthians 12 speaks to this. In Christ we are all parts of one body. We each have a divine purpose in God's Kingdom and gifts meant to glorify God and serve His people. If you have a church you serve in, keep up the great work, but if you don't, find a local gathering of God's people and use those gifts there.
I feel as though God spoke to us through this broken branch. I hope it encourages you too. Thank you for reading and if you have any questions, comments or random thoughts, please don't hesitate to share. Iron sharpens iron.
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
Many people of faith state a person is not a person until they are born. You can not believe in God and believe that to be true.
~God knew and named Christ before He entered Mary's womb. Luke 1:30-33 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
~Jeremiah 1:5 God knew Jeremiah before he entered the womb and consecrated him before he was born. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
~Galatians 1:15 God set Paul apart before he was born. 15 But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son to me, in order that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone
~Luke 1:41 John The Baptist lept in his mothers womb as Mary approached. He had a consciousness. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit
~ Isaiah 49:1 God called Isaiah when he was still unborn. The Servant of the Lord 49 Listen to me, O coast lands, and give attention, you peoples from afar. The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name.
I think many people defend abortion because they or someone they love walked down that path and if it is sin/wrong where does that leave them spiritually... I always encourage people to remember David. He was a man who got another mans wife pregnant and then basically had him murdered to cover his offense. He also wrote much of Psalms and was known as a man after God's own heart. We all fall. 1 John 1:9 says If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. So important to remember and encouraging.
Question: Why did the teacher put on sunglasses before starting school?
Answer: Because her students are so bright :)
So light a match, leave the past, burn the ships, And don't you look back
~ For King And Country
Our family has been studying the book of Judges. More broadly, we have been studying the history of the church. It is mind bending to see how strongly culture has impacted God's people since the beginning of time. God's word is clear as to how He instructs us to live, but there is always another voice. One seeks to save, love and protect us, but the other is unrelenting in it's desire to corrupt us, destroy us and ultimately separate us from God. We saw the first example of this in Eden with the serpent. Evil will always vie for our attention and is very creative in how to grab it. This week we have been looking at Gideon. Judges 6 is a really inspiring account. It opens with Gideon threshing wheat in a wine press in hopes of avoiding conflict. Israel had come under attack from the people of Midyan for seven years because they were chasing other Gods. Judges 6:10 and I said to you, “I am the LORD your God; you shall not fear the gods of the Amorites in whose land you live.” But you have not obeyed Me." The Israelites lived in Egypt for hundreds of years. The worship of Baal caught fire there around 1400 B.C. which gave the Israelites a very long time to steep in this practice before the exodus. They adopted many of the Egyptian's customs, of which it seems Baal was one. As for Gideon, because of the persecution from Midyan, the Israelites were living in caves, mountains and other safe places. It seems he was just trying to do his job and stay safe as a wine press likely would have been somewhat out of sight. As he was working, an angel appeared to him and called him to save Israel from the hands of Midyan to which he informs the angel that he is the youngest person in the weakest clan in Manasseh. A.K.A. I am nothing, I have nothing, you have the wrong guy. I think many of us can relate to Gideon here. It would be a rare person who has never come up against a situation that felt bigger than their ability and resources. The encouragement? God has a habit of using ordinary people to do extraordinary things. Fast forward, after the angel's encouraging words that they will come out from under their oppression and physical proof of the authenticity of the angel, Gideon is in. Wasting no time The Lord spoke to him that night. He instructs him to destroy his father's alter for Baal and the Ashera pole beside it. Baal was considered the god of fertility and Ashera was the goddess of fertility. They were kind of peanut butter and jelly as far as paganism goes and as such were often worshiped together. What did Baal/Ashera worship look like??? Orgies, bisexuality, infant sacrifice by burning them alive and more performed at the alters to get good crops... Everything about this is an offense to God. Offense meaning, He hates it. Yet, it is prolific throughout the Bible. God keeps stamping it out and Israel keeps bringing it back. Sex sells and Baal worship offered every and any type of depravity, even to the priests who were very involved in the rituals. It is shocking to me that they were head scratching as to why God would not save them from their distress, but back to Gideon. Under cover of darkness Gideon does what God instructed him to do. He destroyed the alter to Baal, cut down the Ashera, built a proper alter to God, and offered a burnt offering to God using the Ashera as firewood. The next morning when the men of the city got up and found their shrine of debauchery destroyed, they sought out the culprit. After investigating they realized it was Gideon and gathered at his house to demand his father Joash hand him over to be killed. Joash refused saying let Baal revenge himself. "After all, somebody destroyed his alter." As you have likely guessed, Baal is silent. Gideon lives and goes on to do some pretty terrific things. Not surprising considering who was with him. Between 800 & 900 B.C. much of the influence of Baal was successfully rooted out from Israel by Jehu who tore down his temple and made a latrine of the remains. 2 Kings 10:27. Seems a fitting end-ish, as it does rear it's head again and continues around 70 years, but is then stamped out again under the rule of Josiah 2 Kings 22->. He rooted it out and "broke down the houses of the male cult prostitutes which were in the house of the Lord." 2 Kings 23:7 In essence they had whore houses in God's Church.... In case you wondered what happens when sin goes unchecked. Idol worship and the way it upsets God is throughout the Bible and predates the Israelite's stint in Egypt. Genesis 31 is a great example of this. It is however stunning how they incorporated paganism into their worship of God. It is a slippery slope. You see growth from a set of ideas and ways of being, to a carved pole, to an alter, to a temple alongside, to alters, Ashera poles and whore houses inside of God's temple. Are we immune? Are we worshiping the God of the Bible or our own ideals. What forms our expectation of the "church experience?" Is it God's Holy Word or the surrounding culture? I am sure Christ's disciples are glad for Gideon, Jehu and Josiah's efforts to bring purity back to the worship of God. This tugging of peoples hearts back to the word has occurred since the beginning of time. As humans we get distracted and God says over here! Keep your eyes on my word. Why was Israel told in Deut 6 that the Lord is One and we are to love Him with all of our hearts, soul and strength. They were also told to tie these words on their hands, heads and write them on their door frames. God knew what was coming. He is God. His words would have safeguarded them, if they listened and thought about them. As Christians we are given a similar reminder from Christ. Like His Father He used simple elements. When ever you break this bread. Whenever you drink of this cup. Remember me. 1 Corinthians 11:24-25 Christ went through torment, a savage death and lived a selfless life to reform a very corrupt and broken church and make a way for everyone to be saved. One of the most powerful parts of the crucifixion story to me is when the temple curtain was torn in two. Guesstimates are that it was 60 feet long. Can you imagine what that looked like? The reactions of those there as it tore by an unseen force? At Christ's crucifixion the sky darkens for hours and upon His death the earth shakes and an enormous curtain meant to separate the people from God is torn in two...Mat 27:45-54 Checkmate. Judaism's tyrannical hold on God's people was no more for those who accepted Christ. You would imagine this would be met with reverence and fear, but instead they attempt the biggest cover up in the history of the world including, but not limited to, paying off the guards to say Christ's body was stolen. Mat 28:12-13 So, How are we doing? If you look at the first century church, does it seem in step with your worship? Out of respect for His sacrifice, let's take a large step back. What does this new church God established look like? First, the church is not a building, it is God's people wherever they gather. A building, though handy, does not designate a people of God. 1 Corinthians 3:9-17 Second, they should meet on the Sabbath. That is the seventh day, which is Saturday. The Catholic church changed it to Sunday. This is a historical fact and a place where culture has strongly impacted the church. God blessed and sanctified the seventh day. Gen 2:3 It was set aside for rest, fellowship and coming together as a church to worship God. The Catholic church states that they transferred that solemnity to Sunday. If you are Catholic you will be glad to roll with that, for those that are not ... Why adhere to a perversion of God's word established hundreds of years ago by a corrupt church? Third, the first church was not eating wafers and thimbles of juice at fellowship. That's communion for mice. They broke bread together. They spent hours together being taught, eating and talking. They were in each others lives. They were a family of believers, not just congregants. Fourth, men are pastors and deacons. 1 Tim 3 Deaconesses and female pastors do not exist in the Bible. They should not exist in churches. Women are a great blessing in God's church and there are many roles appropriate for them, but leading church is not one. Additionally, money corrupts. This has become abundantly evident in the church. A pastor wrote the other day on social media about a corrupt pastor saying "when will corruption in ministry end?" To which I wrote, "take away the salaries and I assure you that many of these corrupt teachers will fall away." Christ was a carpenter and Paul was a tent maker. 1 Thes 2:9 I am not saying that people should not give to those in ministry as they feel led to. We have given and continue to give, as we feel called, be it to missionaries, churches, people wanting to attend events geared at spiritual growth but finding themselves without means, or just brothers or sisters falling on challenging times. It is good and right to support God's work on this earth and care for His children. I do however believe a person becoming a pastor with "expectation" of compensation is a breeding ground for insincere people to take a job rather than a person following a sincere calling from the Lord to serve His people. This is in no way meant to discredit Pastors who love the Lord are truly following God's calling and are in full time ministry. We have been blessed to know some. It is just a recognition that pastoring for pay is a broken system and leaves a lot of room for corruption. It has let many wolves into the sheep pen. 2 Cor 2:17 So, what does a first century church look like? In the words of a great pastor, "it is easy to say what it didn't look like right?" It didn't look like smoke and lights worship with paid worship pastors. It didn't have a bookstore in the lobby or concession stand. I have sadly seen both. To our thoughts, it was and should be Col 3:16. Followers of God united in their love for Him. It should look like families gathering together on the Sabbath to "break bread" ie bagels, cinnamon rolls, etc, worship with song, the reading of scripture and exchanging of ideas... Additionally, it is a community in and of itself that purposes to find opportunities throughout the week to get together and encourage one another with prayer time, women's studies, men's studies and for us it also includes thoughtfully planned children's activities that demonstrate to children that they are treasured by God and a very special part of His Kingdom. It is a place where awesome Christ honoring friendships are commonplace. It is a place where God's word is looked to as the standard and not simply a guidebook. Does this describe your fellowship? If yes, huzzah for you, yours and the kingdom of God. That is a tremendous gift. If not, perhaps it is time to burn those poles. As a family, we have done this. A common military practice of long ago was burning the ships as an army disembarked giving them no hope of returning without victory. We have done that as we searched for a New Testament church and were found wanting. We found a church that had most on straight but a few things very off. The closer we got the more clear it became. We did the responsible thing and brought our observations up to the church leaders. A few acknowledged the dysfunction and inappropriateness of things that we drew attention to, but also stated this is how it has been done for many years and now was essentially ecclesiastical polity and so would not likely be changed. Wow. Yes, it is against the Bible. No we will not change it as it has been like this a very long time. I want to encourage anyone reading this to choose God. You may be in France and we may never meet on this side of eternity, but at some point, as a people of God, we need to stand up and say enough. Almost is not good enough. As for me and my house we will serve the Lord! Even if it is just my family. Maybe wherever you are it is just you. Seek out other believers. Use social media, meet up platforms, etc... Burn your ships, pray in earnest and find your tribe. God is faithful. If you need an ear to bend, we are here. Please reach out. We look forward to hearing from you. :)
But if it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served, which were beyond the Euphrates River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
Jonah has been on my heart lately. Our girls love this story. I think it takes a child's mind to fantastic places if you graze over the story without digging too deep. As a curious adult, I dig. Jonah opens with Jonah 1:1-3 The word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, the great city, and cry out against it, because their wickedness has come up before Me.” But Jonah got up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. So he went down to Joppa, found a ship that was going to Tarshish, paid the fare, and boarded it to go with them to Tarshish away from the presence of the Lord. This book jumps right in. The whole account is so short and has a don't blink or you'll miss it feeling, but I have been fed so much by this tiny book. So many life lessons. I also love the scriptures where you hear God speak conversationally. It really allows me to see God's heart. The book opens with Jonah running from God. He very clearly didn't want to go to Nineveh. It was a city full of a people known for their savage brutality. Skinning people alive and slicing open pregnant women to destroy both mother and child type brutal, so though some may say, "He tried to run from God!?!" (Lesson 1, you can't Psalm 139) many would have helped him tie his laces. You get a sense that he knew running away from God was futile in that as the ship hit a storm that threatened to break the ship apart, he went below deck and went to sleep. I have to believe alcohol was involved... Through a drawing of lots they found this calamity was because of him and after they found and woke him, they asked who he was and what he had done. He told them he was a Hebrew, he feared God and that they should throw him into the sea and the sea would become calm because it was his fault the storm had come. They prayed, threw him in and the sea became calm. Raging storm ripping your ship apart to calm seas in an instant = sailors so stunned and fearful of the Lord that they made vows and offered sacrifices. Jonah made a poor decision in disobeying God, but he impacted the lives of those sailors when he confessed and acted faithfully. Lesson 2, God can turn a mess into a message, no matter how messy the circumstances. This is good since this is about to get very messy. The Bible states in Jonah 1:17 Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. Lesson 3, God always has a plan. There is so much speculation about what this "great fish was," but in reality, it's inconsequential to the message. It was a fish prepared by God for this purpose. It may not have even existed before that day. He is God. He can do things like that. Also may have been the first and last of it's kind. In the second chapter Jonah seems to chronicle his experience. As he prayed from the creatures insides, he summarized that he was thrown in the sea by God, though it was the sailors, followed by being tossed around and overcome by the waves, seaweed was wrapped around his head, but God rescued him from the deep. He seems to realize in his distress the peace and protection he has in knowing God and acknowledges that those who worship vain idols are turning from God. He also vows to do his duty to God as salvation is from the Lord. This is immediately followed by God speaking to the fish and having it vomit him up onto dry land. He was in that fish three days and three nights. That is a long time to be in a fish. I imagine at first he was in despair, but eventually he prayed that prayer and pop, out he came. I can imagine the fish swimming up and down along the shoreline of Nineveh waiting. God also seemed to be waiting for Jonah to recommit himself to following Him. Jonah's release was just one contrite spirit's prayer away. Lesson 4, prayer is powerful James 5:16 In chapter 3 Jonah walks through Nineveh proclaiming God's judgement is coming in 40 days. The whole city repents, fasts, and wears sackcloth in hope that God would change His mind. He does. These were a vicious people. In fact the kings decree to all the people in hope of being forgiven included turning from their evil ways and violence they practiced. Lesson 5, God is a loving Father and possesses an incredible capacity for mercy and forgiveness. The Ninevites did atrocious things, but God forgave them. This angered Jonah. In the fourth chapter we get down to brass tacks and see Jonah explain that he knew God is compassionate, merciful, slow to anger, rich in grace and that He relents from inflicting punishment. For this reason he fled to Tarshish and then basically explained that he would rather be dead than see the city go unpunished.... God asked Him if it was right for him to be so angry to which there is no recorded response. He simply left the city, made himself a shelter and sat under it to see what happened to Nineveh. God made a plant grow to comfort him and Jonah was pleased, but at dawn God sent a worm that attacked it so it dried up. Jonah gets so angry he is once again asking to die to which God points out he is upset about a plant but expects Him not to be upset about the over 120,000 people of Nineveh, who don't know their left hand from their right. Showing His grace and recognition of their ignorance. He also mentions concern for the animals. Do you see Him? That is our Father. Our amazing, loving and abounding in grace Father. Jonah ends abruptly. Maybe Jonah had his prayer answered and left this world that day. Maybe. This book is entitled Jonah, but to me, this is more a portrait of God and His wondrous love for His people. It also offers the challenge to love like God seeing people who are acting wrongly as broken and lost, not enemies.
There were those who lived in darkness and in the shadow of death, Prisoners in misery and chains, Because they had rebelled against the words of God And rejected the plan of the Most High. Therefore He humbled their heart with labor; They stumbled and there was no one to help. Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble; He saved them from their distresses. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death And broke their bands apart. They shall give thanks to the Lord for His mercy, And for His wonders to the sons of mankind! For He has shattered gates of bronze And cut off bars of iron. Fools, because of their rebellious way, And because of their guilty deeds, were afflicted.Their souls loathed all kinds of food,And they came close to the gates of death. Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble; He saved them from their distresses. He sent His word and healed them, And saved them from their destruction. They shall give thanks to the Lord for His mercy, And for His wonders to the sons of mankind! They shall also offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, And tell of His works with joyful singing.
I met my beloved about 32 years ago when I was 14. I am so glad we met as teens. We were old enough to know ourselves, but young enough that the world and it's leanings stayed far outside our circle of influence. I think as you get older things can get in the way of knowing if you are a good match. Priorities shift. Many marry for wrong reasons. Status, finances, social pressure, career, convenience, etc. can steer you in the wrong direction. My husband showed me a post the other day. An acquaintance of ours announced she's getting a divorce. They have been married two years and after a period of separation they have found they are happier apart. She still loves him very much and wishes him well. I don't know the details, but this scenario has become pretty common. Couples even throw divorce parties? It makes me sad. I feel like marriage is being embraced with a disposable mentality. Rob is a realtor and there is a palpable difference between renters and buyers. When he has shared stories about showing rentals most people know what their basic needs are. In today's market it has become, okay, this meets us where we are. It's clean. It serves the function and the area looks good. Then they toss out an ap to see if the owner feels the same about them. If so, they are in until they move on to something different. People looking to buy? Different animal. What is the neighborhood like? Do people take care of their properties? What are the schools like? Do they treat the kids well? We don't have kids, but some day.. Also, what about the house? What are it's needs? What is under that carpet? They most often pay someone to inspect it top to bottom. They carefully look to find the best person to do this to prevent headaches in the future. Very often they will have a trusted relative like Dad look it over with them... I feel like now a days many people approach marriage with a renters mentality. It wasn't designed to be that way. It is meant to be a forever relationship met with similar scrutiny of buying a house. For those considering marriage, neighborhood can easily be equated to your intended's family. You will conceivably be spending a lot of time with them. Your children too. Be aware of that. It can also equate to personality. So many people go into relationships with intentions of changing the other person. This is disastrous. I spoke to a girl weeks before her wedding. She was exasperated because her guy needed to be picked up from the bar... again. I asked her, do you really want this to be your life? I was about 18, but I could see the book before it was written. It was all over her face when she got the phone call from the bar keeper. "He will change..." He did. Not soon enough to avoid divorce. Another friend married someone mentally unstable assuming a change of environment would fix the psychological issues. It did not. Do not marry someone for who you can change them into. Marry someone for who they are. Any other approach is unrealistic and unfair to the other individual. Marriage is not signing up for a makeover. Imagine those vows... I will love, honor you and make you over into the person I require you to become in order for me to be content. It would be a rare wedding that would make it to the reception. Just be honest, before you get engaged. I have two of the cutest cats. I bathe them often and if you came over to our home you would want to pet them and maybe take them home. They are sweethearts, but what visitors don't see is the occasional hairball... They will likely never step on that wet, slimy, hairy ball of mess with a bare foot as they rub sleep out of their eye on the way to the powder room early in the morning. So gross. There is just not enough soap. Or experience cleaning up said pile of filth. They also don't see them sleeping with their heads on my pillow, which sounds super adorable, unless you have allergies, like me. They will certainly never change the litter box. They will likely not experience the occasional dodge out the front door that leaves me looking like a fruitcake calling for them throughout the neighborhood and hanging up signs. Still we love them. They are mostly amazing kittens with the usual amount of disagreeable habits and needs. This is like getting married. Forgive the comparison, but once the honeymoon is over and you begin the wondrous journey of doing life together, there will be stuff. On both sides. Have a good baseline. Marry someone mostly amazing then working past differences is much less of a struggle because you truly love them and appreciate them for who God created them to be. Kids. You might have some. Discuss how you will raise them, acceptable steps for correction and simple things like how many. My mother was engaged a few weeks before finding out her intended wanted at least a dozen children. She offered to have the first two. That put the kibosh on that. How are they with children? Offer to watch someones children. How do they interact? My son once dated a girl that as she walked in the door drew her hands up and recoiled when his little sister, around 2, came over to say hi. She was not covered with food or paint, just a friendly little girl being reacted to as a vicious dog. It was wildly weird, but super revealing. Finances. Do you have the same goals? What do they need to be content? Financially, emotionally, etc... Talk with a Pastor, Mom and Dad. They may pick up on things you don't. Most importantly, make sure you are equally yoked. 2 Cor 6:14 Once you have taken your vows, you are in it to win it. You are a team. Make sure you are pulling in the same direction in all the ways that count. Imagine walking down the road attached to someone constantly yanking you in different directions. Some of them bad. Straining against this would be exhausting. This is a life long decision. Choose wisely. God meant marriage to be forever.
Mat 19 Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?” And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no person is to separate.” This is the unique and divine nature of marriage. There is no other human relationship like it. When you marry you become one with your spouse. In 19 the only reason given for divorce is sexual immorality, if the couple cannot reconcile. Marriage is an adventure. It is a journey like no other. When you stand before God and family you are making a commitment to love, support, protect and stay with that person. Even when it is hard. In the most trying cases, if a soul is willing, even when they don't deserve it. It is looking on that person every day with the love you felt when you said I do, but stronger. If you are in Christ you are loving them right down to their toes, soul and all. Marriage is Holy. It is beautiful. It is a relationship set apart by God and designed by God. Like all journeys it will have ups and downs. It's a fact. In over thirty years we have walked through many valleys, but most often we were hand in hand. There were times when I have not liked my husband very much, they were few, but I have always loved him with all that I am and I always will. Love is of God. Like is subjective. Every marriage has windows that at times you may want to jump through, but hang in there because as long as you are in Christ you will find the beauty in the mess. Romans 8:28 Rob was most often conscientious, but I did meet him at 17 and he is not Christ. On our journey I have watched him walk, run, fall on his face, find his feet and get back up again with redefined purpose. He has watched me do the same. We are just two ordinary people who fell in love, but we serve an extraordinary God and that has made all the difference. If you are blessed with a great marriage, please share about it. If you are walking on coals and need someones hand to hold while you brave the heat, we are here. ~ Dagney
1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Love is patient, love is kind, it is not jealous; love does not brag, it is not arrogant. It does not act disgracefully, it does not seek its own benefit; it is not provoked, does not keep an account of a wrong suffered, it does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; it keeps every confidence, it believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails
Thanksgiving is over. Maybe you made your sweet potato casserole and had one tuber too many. In the basket it goes and if it sits long enough it starts to get a little interesting. Is that a leaf?!? It is cold out and where the world outside is looking forlorn you have an unintentional garden in your basket. If you add homeschooling family to that, this has a strong likelihood of being exploited. That there is a free science experiment. :) Kids LOVE watching things grow. Me too! This was us a couple of weeks ago. This morning I woke up to find my cat on the counter by the sweet potato plant. My cats are not allowed on my counters. It is just not hygienic, so I go Mexican Hat Dance on them if they are in breech of protocol. Today though I saw Abigail must have spotted our plant. She was nibbling on the leaves and chewing on the vine. Not sure how long she was there, but she really seemed to be enjoying it so I thought of putting it on the floor. From somewhere deep inside, the ex-vet tech in me remembered some plants are poisonous so I looked up sweet potato vines. Turns out they are toxic to cats & dogs because they contain LSD as per the ASPCA and other sources. It can cause diarrhea and hallucinations. So I clapped her off the counter, chucked the potato and turned to the counter behind me to make breakfast when she jumped up on the counter again. I shooed her down and walked out of the room to check on the girls who were still sleeping. When I went back into the kitchen.... I found her up there again sniffing around the empty basket. I put her down on the ground about three more times before she finally gave up. That's when "The Sweet Fatness" aka Ariel enters the picture. She is our less active kitten. A rescue, she is a tabby with a docked ear, round tummy and fur as soft as a bunny rabbit. She never got very big, in length, and is the sweetest baby. In contrast, Abigail looks like Bagheera from Jungle Book. When she stands on her hind legs her front paws can rest on a counter. She is also a sweetheart, usually? Today after I shooed her for the last time she walked to the entrance to the dining room, spotted Ariel, did the jungle cat crouch and it was game over. Abby went after her a few more times before like Bobby Fisher, Ariel disappeared. She may be small, but she's smart. In conclusion, as nobody wants a cat strung out on sweet potato leaves, cat owners might be best to skip this activity until the outdoors are warm enough to do it outside. As a bonus, when they sprout you can put them in the ground. Happy planting! :)
Santa is real!!!! Kinda. Did you know that?To be clear St. Nicholas is real, and today happens to be St. Nicholas Day. I am a lover of history so naturally I dug. This was such a rabbit hole that was incredibly entangled in the religious and political. Quick highlights, he was a man who was born to wealthy Christian parents who died when he was young. He then was raised by his Catholic uncle who was the Bishop of Myra. Nicholas was at the historic Council of Nicea in year 325 AD. Constantine called this meeting because he saw the division of Christians over whether Jesus was God or divinely created by God, as something that could divide his empire. The Catholic church presented their position that God exists in plurality introducing the, homoousion/of one substance, argument. The followers of that belief system were the Homoousians. Arius led the charge of his understanding that God is one. Jesus was begotten and so created, sighting several supporting scriptures. His followers were known as Arians. It is reported that as an Arian was presenting his thoughts St. Nicholas struck him on the face. Religious intolerance much? This was not a society that embraced individuality and respect for different beliefs. The end result? Homoousians won, kind of. Many still hold God alone is God to be true. They did at that time as well, which was pretty bold. Next, Saint Nicholas was stripped of his bishopness?? You get it. They took his Bible, vestments and sent him on his way because.... he lost his cool. That was unbecoming of a Bishop. He still continued in his love for others and pursuing God as was right to him and others. The plurality of God was later changed to include the Holy spirit and this is now accepted by most so we can certainly say he was on the winning side of that argument as it was not only accepted, but expanded upon. Huge take wow, wow, wow Constantine and the Catholic church shaped the modern church in huge ways as Constantine also moved the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday in 321 AD and the Roman Papacy actually made it a requirement not to be idle on Saturday, but instead if possible to work or else "be shut out from Christ" at the Councils of Laodicea in 364 AD. It had to be easier to sell this stuff in a time when regular people could not read the Bible. A gift we possess, but can sometimes forget that people literally died so we could have that right. They wanted to cultivate followers, not challengers. People who would give money to get Uncle John into Heaven and not question the authenticity of that action which was... very, very profitable. I digress. The corruption of the word of God for profit is another rabbit hole, so I will leave that there. As far as Nicholas, he continued cultivating an earned reputation of kindness to children and people in general. An example is three sisters that were set to be sold into slavery, human trafficking, because they had no dowry. The legend states that Nicholas threw three bags of gold into their window at night while they slept to save the girls from that sad fate. That is awesome. There is also a weird grisley tale of him reassembling three murdered children found in a pickling jar and making them live again.... That is stated to have made him the patron Saint and protector of children. Departing from Sci-fi oddness,he factually used his inheritance to serve and encourage the poor. That is the part I really appreciate about him. That is worth emulating. Regardless of where you stand on issues, he was clearly a man that was passionate about God as he could have lived the life if Riley, but instead chose a life of service to God which at times saw him sitting in prison for his devotion. He used his life and resources to serve God as he thought best, so again, Happy Saint Nicholas Day. Maybe in honor of his life of service you can find a way to serve the less fortunate or hurting today. There is a lot of that going on right now. God willing it will become a habit.
Sometimes the greatest gifts are the most unexpected and something you never realized you wanted until it was given. ~ Mark Hamill
Elizabeth Grace, our older daughter, has a special friendship with our Aunt Denise. When we drove to visit her in NC some months ago Elizabeth found a rock at a rest area that she regarded as special. Into her pocket it went and when she got to her Aunt's house she gave it to her. Aunt Denise closely examined the very ordinary rock, stated how sweet it was of her to think of her and she put it in a place of honor on her mantle, "so it would be safe and everyone would see it." Aunt Denise lived very far away. They rarely saw each other, but when she spoke with her aunt, Elizabeth would ask, "do you still have the rock I gave you?" Of course it was a yes. When Aunt called she would ask me to tell Elizabeth she still had her rock. The whole situation is so sweet. That rock, of no physical value, is a reminder to her Aunt Denise that Elizabeth loves her. Aunt Denise keeping that rock tells Elizabeth that she loves her too. People have asked about the rock and Aunt Denise explains that is something special between her and Elizabeth. Her special gift. Being wired the way I am, it made me reflect on the Sabbath. We, like many people, take 24 hours every week and focus on God, family and rest. To me, Sabbath is kind of like that rock. When we first learned about the practice of "keeping Sabbath," like Christ did, we had little understanding of it. Much like the day that Aunt received her rock, we didn't realize how special and guarded it would become. We had crossed the Rubicon. At first it was an understanding that it was important to God and therefore it was important to us. Once we started observing this special time we realized, at least in part, the huge benefits. Our first Sabbath found me that Friday scrambling to get food ready. Making sure loose ends were tied shut and clothes were laid out for the next day, but we did it. Rob and I by nature are hard workers and are constantly going. 24 hours of not working sounded like a lot of hours, but we had a sincere desire to follow Christ closely so we leaped. I fondly remember our first Sabbath. All of us were snuggled under a blanket on the couch that Friday night watching a movie and eating pizza. Rob and I looked at each other and smiled. Even this early in the game, we knew we caught the edge of something awesome. The next morning was church. We reheated our second pizza from Friday night for lunch. We did puzzles, played games, went for twalks (Robert's term for our walks because we spend most of the time talking to each other and neighbors :) and dinner prepared the night before got placed in the oven to reheat so we had an effortless dinner, dessert and more relaxing. It was awesome! As a mom, I couldn't remember a more restful day or a day I was more available to my family physically and emotionally. As a mother that was powerful. When we tucked our girls in it was still light. We read stories and said our prayers as a family. Elizabeth with the most joy and excitement said, "that was the best day ever, can we do it again?" Rob said he agreed and that we would be doing this every week. She was so happy. Rob and I spent time relaxing as a couple and talking about anything but work or business. That was kind of like being teens again when bills and business didn't creep into most conversations. It was a blessing. God's ways are best. Always. We guard the Sabbath. We keep it every week. Like Elizabeth's rock, people have cocked there heads and asked why. We are glad to explain. We are grateful for the gift of a weekly sabbath and are always excited to share about it. We were able to share about this with good friends of ours who were on the brink of divorce. Observing Sabbath completely restored their marriage. I don't believe it was strictly the observance of the day, but also what it represents which is a turning to God and keeping Him central in your life. The Sabbath in short is something special between us and God. Our special gift. It has been thoroughly transformational to our family. We love sharing about this and pulling people over to the bright side. If you are curious about the Sabbath and have questions you are welcome to contact Rob or I and if you are local, welcome to stop over on any Saturday for a Sabbath Bible study. Expect treats, hot coffee and fellowship. :) ~ Dagney
Hebrews 4:9 Therefore, a Sabbath rest remains for God's people
My daughters had an assignment in Science that was very cool. They were studying magnetism. As would be expected, the Earth's magnetic poles were discussed. Her book directed us to take the small bar magnet included in her curriculum, and place it on top of a small round piece of foam in a glass of water. Challenge accepted. Participators astonished. Listen, I have a compass, but there was something special about this organic simplicity. It was soul stirring. No matter how often we reset the magnet it doggedly returned to it's position. The girls spun it around and troubled the water, but still it found it's way and pointed to the magnetic north pole. It began a hunt to understand the force that pulled this magnet. As many things in nature do, it made my mind turn to God. What pulls me? When people look at my life, my family, do they wonder why are we different? Of that I am sure, but does my different point to God? I hope so. Years ago I had an older sister in church share with me about her neighbor. As a young mom, she had trouble managing her three boisterous boys. From the son who refused to eat anything but hamburgers forcing her to make two meals every night, to getting her boys to bed. Sons up to sons down, parenting was a challenge. One day as she was trying to get the boys out of the house and into the car, with much effort as they were protesting, her neighbor also left the house. Her children were neat, bantering respectfully and in a row... She said she had observed this family a lot as she had a front row seat to their lives. She often thought, "what is she doing different?" Today those words turned to action. In a moment of exasperation, she walked over and said, "How do you get your children to mind so well?" The woman's answer was simple and surprising. She told Barbara she was a disciple of Christ and followed God's word. His Word touched every area of her life, including how she raised her children. Her neighbor offered to study the Bible with her. Barbara accepted and this simple yet vital change transformed her life. Her husband also studied the Bible. Their family soon became an example for others. Her boys grew up to be strong in their faith and have awesome families of their own. One life can touch another powerfully and in very blessed and eternal ways, if that life is filled with the Holy Spirit, alive with Christ and under the grace, faithful watch and love of our awesome Father. Barbara went on to mentor me as I raised my son. Her loving and on point advice, much of it parenting, was such a gift in our family. Our son Robert applies quite a bit of her advice to raising his son and so that Godly influence goes on. So, what does your life point to? Questions, comments and insight welcome. :) ~ Dagney
1 Timothy 4:16
Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
See a full quiet time under the Walk With Me tab Dagney, but in short, rainbows are everywhere! Every time I see one I am filled with peace. We know they are a reminder to God, but let them be a reminder to us, God saw Noah. God sees you. Your life and actions matter. Noah could have seen the entire world corrupt around him and said, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Praise God he didn't. He loved God and lived intentionally in a way that demonstrated that. If he hadn't, none of us would be here. One life can make a very big difference. So when you see rainbows on flags, erasers, t shirts, the sky, etc... remember, GOD SAW NOAH.
What does it look like being a homeschool father? I can only speak from my personal perspective. Our family has been homeschooling for over 20 years. We homeschooled our son who is now 24 and continue to homeschool our 4 and 8 year old daughters. Our son and his wife also homeschool our grandson so the tradition continues.
I should begin at the start of all of this when Dagney and I were much younger and embarking on our first journey as parents. We were making decisions regarding schooling 24 years ago when we had our son. When he was only a few years old, we moved to Montclair, NJ. It was partly because of the school system. They had a magnet school system, which at the time we were very excited about. We anticipated that he would receive the best education available. When we went to take a tour of the school that Robert was to be attending, we saw a lot of troubling things with the way the school was run that made us very apprehensive about sending him there. I am a bit foggy on my exact verbiage, but I remember saying something to the effect that Robert had been receiving more education at home to that point and maybe we should keep him home just one more year. Dagney subsequently spoke with her Aunt Jann about the situation and she mentioned that "we might as well keep homeschooling him" and added that she had homeschooled one of her children. Homeschool? What was that? We hadn't heard of it before. But, down the road we went... We looked into the idea and decided to go for it. I was a bit apprehensive about the idea at first not quite knowing what it was all about and did people really do this??? My first exposure to just how many people were actually doing this at the time was when we started looking into various arts co-op programs in the area. We went and checked a couple of them out and much to my surprise, what we saw was hundreds of people at each of these that were all homeschooling in our area. And... They were normal. They were not the odd, reclusive sort of people that I had imagined in my mind that they might be. In fact, the parents, the children, the teachers were all very outgoing, kind, friendly, smart and respectful people. I suddenly felt very awesome about our decision to go on this adventure. Fast forward about 20 years and here we are still at it with our girls.
But, I digressed a bit from the original topic... "What does it look like being a homeschool father?" Well, that has changed in some ways over the years, while at the same time having some very important constants. Sometimes, being a homeschool father meant going along on local homeschool field trips at historical sites, farms, theaters, etc. Sometimes it was hopping in the car and taking a much longer trip to Plymouth, Massachusetts because Robert was learning about the pilgrim settlement there. Or, to Williamsburg, Virginia to spend time there as well as Jamestown and Yorktown when Robert was studying the American Revolution. It sometimes meant going along to the arts co-op that he attended for music, art, gym, etc. Or, of course one of their musical performances, art presentations or any of the many events they put on throughout the year. At one point, I was even asked if I would teach the percussion class at the fine arts school, as they had a need for another instructor and I had vast experience with percussion instruments. Sometimes it is simply unloading the dishwasher as my wife finishes up lessons or grilling up some burgers for dinner. Over the years, depending on where we have been in life, the varying needs with schooling, etc, my role has changed from time to time. I have helped out a lot with math, with this being my strong subject and helped with quite a few science projects... However, there has always been one constant. As God has defined the roles within families, I know it is my role to lead in all things. In Genesis 18:19 it says "I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord..." Proverbs 22:6 says "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." Have I always done all of this perfectly? No, certainly not. But, it is my role and I try my best to fulfill the very important role that God has given me. There are a few basic rules to live by when not only thinking about a father's role in homeschooling, but, in family life in general. 1) The way God defined it, the division of labor in a home and with a family is natural. However, men were called to lead. 2) The mother and father should of course both be involved in the vision of what homeschooling their children looks like, but the father should lead and have an active role. Think about it as you would a public school. The head or principal of the school would ultimately decide on matters of vision, direction, strategy, etc. These are very natural God given roles for a homeschooling father. In our family, my wife chooses the curriculum for our children. She is very in tune with their learning style and what fits best with her style of teaching. We discuss it and decide if it fits our family in terms of our faith, principals, vision and of course...financially. We then work together to make it a great experience for our family. Fathers and mothers both play extremely important roles in the homeschool setting. 3) The main and most important role for a Christian homeschool father (or any father for that matter) is discipleship. The Bible doesn’t say a lot about the classroom, but it says a lot about raising your children to know and serve God.
In the end, leading in a child’s homeschool education for most fathers means re-capturing forty plus hours a week that they’d spend away from the home while at work and any of those hours may be a crucial moment for their spiritual and character growth. We need to always remember that, no matter who is teaching math or history at the moment. So, at the end of the day, when you do arrive home, please remember to take the time that your family deserves and needs to love them, nurture them and teach them in the ways you have been put in your role to do... The other distractions in life that you may be tempted to do instead, just aren't anywhere near as important and those distractions aren't looking to you to do this the way your precious family does.