Book Spotlight: Revenge Fires Back

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Book Spotlight:

Revenge Fires Back

by JR Thompson

Revenge Fires Back

BRADY CLARK’S FAMILY chooses horrible timing for their first camping trip—a night when a fierce storm leaves them stranded in the woods.

Circumstances that leave him running around in the forest wearing, well, let’s just say less than appropriate attire cause him to unleash his anger by physically assaulting his father.

Not yet ready to face the discipline he has coming, Brady makes false allegations against both of his parents. That one foolish move throws the Clarks into a world they knew very little about. A world that could possibly prevent them from ever dwelling together again as a family unit.

Can God use these trials to wake this family up to His purpose?

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Teachings of Jesus While Here On Earth

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by Mary Hamilton

Lately, I’ve been working my way through the gospels to become more familiar with Jesus and his life here on earth. Recently, in John 8, I read the account of the woman caught in the act of adultery who was brought before Jesus for judgment. You may be familiar with the story. The Jewish leaders wanted to find some reason to discredit Jesus and even arrest him. They tried various means of questioning him, hoping to trip him up so the crowd would see he was nothing special. 

This time, they brought a woman caught in the act of adultery. According to Mosaic law, she should be stoned. Would Jesus uphold the law, or break it as he’d done by healing on the Sabbath? 

Of course, we know that adultery requires two people, and one of them—the man—was missing from this scene. Or he may have been one of the accusers. Most likely, the woman was set up for this very purpose. As a capital offense, adultery required at least two witnesses whose testimonies agreed. But adultery is a private sin that rarely, if ever, has any spectators. This, plus the fact the woman alone was brought before Jesus, makes it likely she was set up. 

When the Jewish authorities demanded an answer from Jesus, he bent down and started writing on the ground with his finger. No one knows what he wrote. It might have been the full law on which they based their incomplete case for stoning. It might have been the names of the accusers. Some have thought maybe he followed the Roman custom of writing out the sentence before speaking it. Whatever he wrote, Jesus took his time. Ignoring the insistent demands of the accusers, he bent down to the ground, a position of humility. He put himself on the same level as the woman. 

At last, he stood up, face-to-face with the accusers, and delivered his verdict. Whoever was without sin had his permission to cast the first stone. Traditionally, this was the responsibility/privilege of the two or more witnesses. But one by one, each of the men left until only the woman remained. 

What astounds me about this passage is the way in which Jesus neither condoned nor condemned the woman. He—the only sinless one who had the right to cast the first stone—instead put himself on her level. He stepped into her shame and disgrace without excusing it and without condemning her. Jesus acted out Romans 8:1 that says there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 

It’s a challenge for those of us who claim to be followers of Christ. I find myself quick to condemn. More like the Jewish leaders than the Savior I profess. Only when I remind myself, daily, hourly, minute by minute, that He stepped into my shame and disgrace without condemnation—only then am I able to follow His loving example.

Mary HamiltonBio: Award-winning author Mary L. Hamilton grew up at a youth camp in Wisconsin, much like the setting for her Rustic Knoll Bible Camp series. Her experiences during twenty years of living at the camp, as well as people she knew there, inspired many of the events and situations in her novels. Mary is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), Christian Authors Network (CAN), and Texas Association of Authors (TAA). When not writing, she enjoys a little amateur  photography, knitting, reading, and spending time with her family. Mary and her husband live in Texas.  

www.maryhamiltonbooks.com 

www.facebook.com/maryhamiltonbooks 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mlhamiltonauthor/

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Gems From Pastor Jim

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by Jim Hughes

CrossProv. 11:4 Riches won’t help on the day of judgment, but right living is a safeguard against death.

The only protection you have against the judgment of God is to live right before Him. You will not be able to offer God anything but the blood of Jesus to avoid His wrath. Justice will prevail. All sin will be punished once and for all. And, the only way you will be able to live right before God is by living in Christ. If Jesus is not in charge of your life, changing you, and imparting His righteousness in you, you don’t have any chance at all of living a life that pleases God.

We cannot obey God or be like Him without Christ. The only hope we have is Christ. You cannot earn God’s favor, only Christ can do that. The sooner we accept this truth, the better off we will be. Jesus alone satisfies God’s justice. He did all that can be done in order for us to be right with God on the cross. We cannot earn God’s acceptance. It is by faith alone, accepting Jesus as our Savior and trusting in His atoning work on the cross that saves us.

It is impossible to live right before God apart from a personal relationship with Christ. Only in Christ are we able to have confidence that when we die we will be accepted by God. Life in Christ is eternal life. The only assurance that we have that we will be accepted by God is to live moment-by-moment in Christ. Christ cannot protect you if you wander away from His protective care. It is imperative that we stay closely connected to the Lord, for we do not know when death will come upon us. And, the only way we are going to stay close to God is by maintaining a strong commitment to the disciplines of faith. No one can stay close to the heart of God while neglecting the disciplines of the faith.

Before and After the Honeymoon

About the Author:

Jim HughesSpending his formative years in Ft. Wayne, IN, Jim followed the love of his life to southeast Iowa where they married and have spent the majority of their lives. Jim has pastored several churches throughout his life and has worked many years in local factories to help support his family. The father of two married adult children and one son still at home, Jim is a first-time author.

C Through Marriage came into being through many years of pastoral and life experiences. The book first took on a life of its own over 20 years ago when I sought to address the much publicized moral failures of prominent leaders in the church. In the chapter on Chasity, I include the guideliness that I developed then to protect one’s self from such failures.

I am a firm believer in order to make sense out of life you have to use much common sense. We need to get back to the basics of what has worked for many, many generations. If is isn’t broke, why try to fix it? I strive to return to the basics of what really works in all my writings.

This site contains Third Party Advertising, using online behavioral tracking technology. Some of the links in the post above are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, we only recommend products or services we believe will add value to our readers.

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Do You Love Tea Parties?

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by Rebekah Beene

I love tea parties. I always have. I even have a photo my mother took of me at about age 4. You guessed it. I was having a tea party in my room! Tea parties are such a lovely things and they never cause trouble or point to anything but happiness. All my favorite things.

But this morning I’m thinking about Martha Washington and all the other women of historical action figures like her husband. And I’ll tell you something. They were mighty women! They were strong and their prayers routed demons. How do I know this? Because the men they loved went to war. And the women who prayed didn’t just hold tea parties while they were gone. Martha’s man was in the frigid waters of the Delaware River and his troops were in very bad straits. He planned three crossings but they only made one. Who was with Him? The Lord. Who was praying? The wife.

Oh beloved, I understand your plight. You know what kind of mess your loved one is in. You know it’s impossible. You are afraid. You want to just hold tea parties and have fun with the girls but it’s war. The fear you are experiencing isn’t your outcome. We have all been there. I am there now. We have a wonderful outcome but we haven’t crossed the Delaware yet.

But God says to me and to you: “I understand you’re afraid. Start praying anyway. This is your walk out of fear and into faith.” Pray? I’ve been praying. You and I have loved ones who are in battles we can only see with our eyes, but they are experiencing the battle in their souls. Whether it’s your spouse or your adult child or your friend, this war is not over till God posts the victory flag. But that’s his intention. Victory is always your outcome. Don’t let fear choose the reality – fear is a henchman of satan and satan is always lying and he has taught his troops to lie. We are going to choose the Word of the Lord and we will pray it and pray faith and stay on the front lines of our own battlefield of prayer. We aren’t relenting. We aren’t wasting time wringing our hands or asking to be relieved of our duties. Don’t worry if in the midst of the battle your prayers change. For beloved, every battle is a season of change for every soldier of the Cross. We are all soldiers whether we like it or not. And we are all overcomers whether we believe it or not.

God loves you and He’s for you. You are the most instrumental warrior in your battleground. Don’t stop praying, don’t let fear win and rejoice that you’ve been called, chosen and enlisted. Thank the Lord for His answers ahead of time and keep pushing into the enemy’s camp. And shout out with a voice of triumph as you walk in the Light of God’s overwhelming victory for you.

Romans 12:1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.

I Thessalonians 5:17-18 be unceasing and persistent in prayer; in every situation [no matter what the circumstances] be thankful and continually give thanks to God; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.

I John 5:4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world– our faith.

About the Author:

Rebekah Beene

In a Christian Women’s meeting in 1983, Rebekah was given a prophetic message that she would write books. Several years ago she began writing stories about special holiday memories and travels, sharing God’s love and care through each story. God has gifted Rebekah with the ability to look at the natural and see the supernatural. Both Rebekah and her husband Danny have a heart to share the Gospel and the riches of life in Christ to everyone they meet. They have served in the local church and in ministry to motorcyclists. Danny is an ordained minister and they both have been Bible study teachers for many years. Rebekah also speaks at women’s retreats and conferences. Her tag line says it all “God loves you and He’s for you”.

My website is http://rebekahbeene.wordpress.com

My first book in print is Oh Beloved! Live in the Light of His Word.
Link to buying the book via paypal is on the website.
As well a link to purchasing the ebook on Amazon is there too.
I’m also on twitter @rebekahbeene, tumblr http://rebekah-beene.tumblr.com/
and of course facebook as Rebekah Beene (Warren) I included my maiden name for old friends.
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A Review Revisited: Unforgettable

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by Paula Rose

This review appeared on Books-N-Reviews on Publishers Marketplace by Paula Rose http://www.publishersmarketplace.com/members/booksnreviews/

Publisher: Victorious By Design, LLC | eBook Published: August 23, 2012 and Paperback Published: July 31, 2012 | Format: eBook (267 pages) and Paperback (266 pages) | ASIN: B0091NR6XQ and ISBN: 9780985146801 | Origin: Purchased

Unforgettable

Cover: Courtesy of Amazon

Thoughts:

Ann Marie Bryan’s UNFORGETTABLE, MY LOVE HAS COME ALONG is a chatty romantic, women’s fiction tale based on true events, and with lots of humor, it brings to focus faith, love, family, Jamaican culture, long-distance relationships, and marriage.

I had to chuckle while relating to Annalisa Jones for many reasons, but especially since at one time, anyone would have thought I was born with a phone to my ear for chatting away the hours of my life. However, this kind of talent develops over time as Annalisa displays.

For Annalisa, when you live in America and the rest of your family still lives in Jamaica, the telephone becomes a lifeline. Annalisa has friends and a church family in America, but she was born in Jamaica and a large part of her heart still resides there too. However, she’s rebuffing her family’s matchmaking efforts back home because her life is in the USA now. What good would it do to get involved with a beau from her former homeland?

Family comes to visit Annalisa and brings with them a matchmaking plot, launching two against one in the world of love. Once she caves-in to their request, she worries that she will soon regret this or that it would cause her pain. However, she chooses not to let this “set up” get far at all.

She will deal with an email or two to keep the peace, but she is set against a long-distance love life. She’s especially thankful when the email never arrives.

Meanwhile, Orane Conway is one man that’s easy to fall in love with and from knowing Annalisa’s family, this man wants to know the woman who captures his attention just by the way her family adores her. Orane is not just looking to meet his next date. He is ready to find commitment, and in today’s world, not everyone is on the same page as he.

But when a simple phone call brings this godly woman to life, he’s mesmerized even more. The problem is that the more they talk is the more he’s captured, and the more he wants a relationship to develop. She’s not afraid to let her feelings show about everything from politics to faith, but he’s wondering if she’ll even consider a commitment as she keeps her emotions guarded.

Can faith, family, love, and commitment transcend the boundaries of two countries? Alternatively, will this long-distance attempt leave two people in pain?

***This opinion is my own.*** 

About the Author:

Amazon: http://amzn.to/13x45kB Barnes&Noble: http://bit.ly/13x4bbW

iBooks: http://bit.ly/1xjbjqt Kobo: http://bit.ly/1xp6KI0

Paula RoseAuthor Paula Rose brings an “average” family into extraordinary situations, brushes with life-size strokes of reality, adding just a touch of humor, and coats with suspense inside Christian fiction. Paula’s research gives readers a panoramic view from law enforcement and lends to character authenticity. She enjoys writing in the romantic suspense, suspense, and mystery genres, but when she’s not writing, Paula Rose is reading or playing amateur photographer. Member of ACFW. 2015 Genesis Contest judge. NetGalley member. 2014 Grace Awards judge.

Website: http://paularosebooks.com/ Blog: http://www.publishersmarketplace.com/members/booksnreviews/

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Thoughts on “Flight 259″

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by Staci Stallings

It’s hard to imagine now, but back in 1996, there was no such thing as contemporary Christian romance as a genre.  Seriously. I had people laugh at me when I told them that’s what I was writing. A guy at a bookstore kept insisting that the only way you could have a Christian romance was if it was historical.

“Flight 259” was born during this time—when people talked about writing “marketable.”  The first writing group I got into that was an emerging Christian contemporary group. Around 2001, they posted a question of if you should write marketable or what was on your heart.  Most of the others said marketable, but I already knew better.  Because if I had written marketable when I started, I would never have written Christian contemporary because that wasn’t even a THING!

Now, all these years later, it’s difficult to adequately explain how challenging this was because although I loved writing and loved my stories, knowing that the world thought I was crazy for writing this way was not easy.  After finishing “Flight 259, which was my first novel, someone told me I should have it professionally edited, so I bundled it up and sent it to New York with a $3,000 check.  When it came back, it was marked up something awful, but the one comment that I remember went something like this:

“Okay, so she lost her husband. Get over it already. This is a romance. What is she waiting for?”

Squaring my upbringing with this attitude about love and romance was impossible. They didn’t get it, and I knew they never would.  Honestly, they still don’t, but now I know that there are a lot of readers who think like I do—they just couldn’t have gotten my books through the bottleneck that was the romance industry at the time.

And so, “Flight 259” got buried in what amounted to a computer drawer for a VERY long time. Every so often, I would take it out, ‘dust it off’ and revise it based on whatever it was I had learned since the last time I had revised it.  Some of those revisions were easier than others—taking a book that was written in omniscient point of view and converting it into deep third POV took about four tries, and even then, there were still things that felt “missing” because I remembered what it was before.

Then, last year in 2016, 20 years after I wrote it, I had the chance to put it into a collection with several other authors.  Ironically, it was “Flight 259”—the first romance novel I wrote that hit the USA Today Best Sellers list.  But there was one more revision that I hadn’t seen coming. 

As I was getting it ready to go into that collection, I had a friend read it who has read most of my other books (both those I have published and those I haven’t).  She came back and said it was okay, but it didn’t really have the Staci Stallings’ feel to it.  Okay, that was a bit depressing, but as we talked more, she said that it felt too much like the formula romances—like a fantasy—where my books “feel” more real.  They have real people with real issues.

I tried to explain that while that was true, this book was written at a time that even putting a little bit of God or Jesus in it, prayer or talk about God, was truly groundbreaking.  I was chopping down jungles, making a path for those who would follow at the time.

She understood that, but then she made a suggestion I thought she had to be crazy to make:  I should write a sequel about what happened after the “fantasy” part of it.  I can’t say I latched onto that suggestion right away, but eventually I did see what she meant.  So I revised the ending and dovetailed it into a sequel.

Now, here we are 20 years + 1 in the future, and this year 2017 I will release both “Flight 259” and the sequel to it, “A Time to Love.” The crazy thing is, as I was writing “A Time,” I realized this series was not just supposed to be two books but three.  So now, I have a trilogy, The Hope Series—Flight 259, A Time to Love, and Some Say Love.  And while this series starts out in the romancey-formula way, it definitely takes a detour into REAL LIFE.

I have to say, one thing this writing thing has taught me is that God works on a very long story arc, and He has things planned a long way down the road that we really can’t see when we’re taking those first steps.  “A Time to Love” was my 39th book to write, and “Some Say Love” will be #40. Lotta words across a lot of pages since I first wrote “The End” to that very first book—“Flight 259” all those years ago, but I guess that goes to show you, what we think of as the end might just be an opening chapter from God’s perspective.

So here I am, 21 years later learning all kinds of things I never knew about these two characters when I first wrote their story.  Honestly, I’m really liking this chance to get to revisit them and learn more lessons from them and through them.  I’m just hoping my readers will be able to do the same!

Flight 259

About the Author:

Staci StallingsA stay-at-home mom with a husband, three kids and a writing addiction on the side, Staci Stallings has numerous titles for readers to choose from. Not content to stay in one genre and write it to death, Staci’s stories run the gamut from young adult to adult, from motivational and inspirational to full-out Christian and back again. Every title is a new adventure! That’s what keeps Staci writing and you reading.

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Gems From Pastor Jim

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by Jim Hughes

CrossProv. 11:3 Good people are guided by their honesty, treacherous people are destroyed by their dishonesty.

You have heard it said many times, “Honesty is a good policy.” Everything that we do depends on honesty. Without honesty, there is no trust. And if there is no trust, there is no peace amongst men. We depend on honesty to make accurate decisions. We cringe when we discover someone has not been honest with us. It causes us to develop bad feelings towards them and often leads to bad consequences.

We all know that dishonest people are everywhere. We have to really be on our guard and unfortunately be suspicious of people we don’t know. We live in a world where people are willing to do or say anything for personal gain. We find it to be true in the world and sadly in the church as well.

Honesty comes from a heart of integrity. Honest people know right from wrong and choose to do what is right, regardless of personal gain or not. Being honest often involves personal sacrifices. It often tests the genuiness of one’s character. We are confronted daily with opportunities to be dishonest in our dealings with one another. It is one of the reasons why it is good for the soul to often examine it to see if it is right with God.

Satan is a master at tempting us to compromise our integrity for the sake of our convenience. He relentlessly tries to get us to be less than honest in our dealings or conversations with others. He is good at causing us to lie to ourselves about our relationship with God. He wants us to buy into the lie that we don’t have to be as careful about our soul’s character as God says we should be.

Dishonesty leads the soul away from God and results in very treacherous consequences. In order to be and do good in the sight of God, we must constantly and diligently stand guard over our souls. We must stay deeply connected with the Lord and be in His Word constantly so that we will be able to be honest with ourselves about ourselves and our dealings with others. It may not be convenient or pleasant to be a person of integrity who is honest in all things, but the rewards are eternal. It is far better to be honest and please God than it is to be dishonest and please others or one’s self.

Before and After the Honeymoon

About the Author:

Jim HughesSpending his formative years in Ft. Wayne, IN, Jim followed the love of his life to southeast Iowa where they married and have spent the majority of their lives. Jim has pastored several churches throughout his life and has worked many years in local factories to help support his family. The father of two married adult children and one son still at home, Jim is a first-time author.

C Through Marriage came into being through many years of pastoral and life experiences. The book first took on a life of its own over 20 years ago when I sought to address the much publicized moral failures of prominent leaders in the church. In the chapter on Chasity, I include the guideliness that I developed then to protect one’s self from such failures.

I am a firm believer in order to make sense out of life you have to use much common sense. We need to get back to the basics of what has worked for many, many generations. If is isn’t broke, why try to fix it? I strive to return to the basics of what really works in all my writings.

This site contains Third Party Advertising, using online behavioral tracking technology. Some of the links in the post above are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, we only recommend products or services we believe will add value to our readers.

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Isaiah Chapter One: The Price of Doing What You Want

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by Mary C. Findley

Isaiah_(Bible_Card)

Isaiah was a prophet to four kings in Judah. His book is, in our modern version, 66 chapters long, the same as the number of the books in our Bible. Some have called it a microcosm of the whole Bible. Indeed, we can find many of the elements throughout the Bible in this one book, so studying it gives a chance to hit many of the highlights God wants us to discover throughout His Word.

Heavens and earth are called to witness the declaration. Creation has been an innocent witness to and victim of man’s rebellion from the time of the fall. Romans 8:18-25 details the correct attitude of believers, that of understanding that suffering is part of true service to God, because sin is not good and pleasant and enjoyable, but produces misery and anguish. Creation has longed for purging from the effects of sin ever since it entered the natural world.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. (Romans 8:18-25, NASB)

This should have been the attitude of the Children of Israel in Isaiah’s time, but the truth was that they, instead of acting like sons raised up to love and serve their father, God, they revolted. They weren’t just indifferent or apathetic, they actively rebelled.

Trained domestic animals know better than these people about who to serve and obey. How can these people be ignorant? Sinful as a whole nation, burdened by all of that wickedness, generational guilt and corruption. Abandoning, despising, and turning away from God.

This has to be true because if the traditions were maintained, Jewish children were educated in the Law from an early age. They knew better, from the three methods God has always used:

1. the witness of creation,
2. the witness of His Word, and the message of the prophets. By this time they had numerous books of the Bible
3. plus teachers and prophets like Isaiah.

“There is no room for another mark.” Tars Tarkas said in the John Carter movie, speaking to his daughter Sola. Sola was punished for disobedience against her green Martian tribe by being branded each time she was caught. She had been punished so many times there was no space left on her body for the signs of her rebellion.

Whether this punishment in this movie was just or not isn’t the point. It illustrates the condition of the people of God. He had disciplined them for their true and unquestionable rebellion until there was no space that did not bear “bruises, welts, and raw wounds.” (Isaiah 1:6, NASB)

Put aside your socially-conditioned shock over corporal punishment, please. Even in our permissive society we reach a point where we have laws to try to correct wrongdoing. These were God’s attempts to lawfully correct His people’s wrongdoings. He just didn’t have any place left to administer correction.

From head to toe these people bore the marks of stubbornness and rebellion. The fact that they were untreated (raw) and “not pressed out or bandaged, nor softened with oil” means that they were like sheep who wouldn’t even let a shepherd take care of the injuries sustained as part of the sheep’s natural tendency to wander and get itself injured or corrected with the rod. They’ve run from the tender aftermath where the father who had to discipline would love to take the rebel into His arms and administer comfort and display love.

The man-curated portion of creation also bears witness to rebellion. His structures created from God-supplied building materials are burned. His crops are stolen by invaders, as happened often throughout the book of Judges. These marauders devoured this food right in front of the Israelites. Desolation by strangers. A terrible fate.
This makes it clear that it wasn’t God who wanted to rob them of safety and sustenance. Enemies took the opportunity to swarm in because the people had trampled on God’s walls of protection. They smashed through those loving arms reaching out to defend them and embraced instead false gods and practices. In doing so they also invited in pain, misery, and loss.

All that was left was a little shack in an empty field, the place where someone was supposed to look after the crops as they grew. But there was nothing left to tend or protect. A besieged city will eventually run out of supplies and come to the end of its food and water. Israel had allowed itself to be surrounded and cut off from God’s help. Only a few survivors would remain because of God’s enduring mercy. They could have been wiped out, as Sodom and Gomorrah were, but God did not desire that.

How do we know that they were probably still following the traditions of teaching their children? Because they were following others, the sacrifices, the attendance at the Temple. We know this because God said they were sacrificing, but instead of enjoying the “sweet aroma,” as He has described it elsewhere, God said “I take no pleasure” calls them “worthless” and says “incense is an abomination.” He says “I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly.” It’s as if you invited and important guest to dinner and served the garbage disposal scraps along with the real food. What were the Israelites thinking?

Just as the people were burdened with their sins in verse 4, God was burdened by their hypocritical sacrifices and growing weary of having patience, seeking true repentance in verse 14. That’s what sacrifices were supposed to be for, to show evidence of being sorry, turning away, and seeking forgiveness.

That’s not what these sacrifices were, though. When the Israelites prayed, they couldn’t even see that they were raising up bloody hands, stained by the innocent blood God says elsewhere that people were guilty of shedding. From evil kings all the way down to mothers who killed their own children, God recounts over and over again the horrors His own people were capable of committing. God will not, cannot, listen to the prayers of polluted people when they never give a thought to confessing and forsaking their sin but just feel like they have to carry out a ritual.

“Tradition!” shouts the cast of Fiddler on the Roof in the famous production number of the same name, but these traditions were empty of truth and meaning to those people in Isaiah’s time.

God begged and pleaded that they would see their sin, acknowledge it, and be cleansed from it. They needed to learn what the traditional education was supposed to be impressing on them, the basics of right human behavior.

These were such simple precepts. Stop doing evil. Learn how to do right. You don’t have to have superpowers to become a champion of justice. Tell bad people they are wrong. Stand up for children with no parents. Defend women left without husbands.

Did you think God was only interested in emotion, in mysticism? Then why does He invite us in verse 18 to reason together with Him? Because true belief isn’t weird. It isn’t mysterious and impossible to think through and understand.

God gives an object lesson. If you spill blood on something, it will stain. Just so, the people had stained themselves by killing the innocent. But blood can be washed out, even out of something pure white, like wool, and then it will be bright, clean, and shining pure again.

But of course He isn’t talking about literal blood or wool here. He’s talking about sin and its remedy. Sin is the destruction of innocence. People do murder innocents when they abort babies or leave newborns in a toilet or leave children in a cardboard box someplace because they didn’t want to protect them. The same goes for women who are attacked, molested, raped, or murdered because they are deemed easy prey.

In the days of Isaiah there were human sacrifices, usually children, but women were also victimized, used and discarded as temple prostitutes or subject to other monstrous mistreatment. Anytime we fail to value and protect life we are guilty of innocent blood.

Again, God appeals to simple reason in verse 19. Consent to obey, and you will have the best. Refuse and rebel, and the sword is coming to kill you. You have been warned, just as you are warned about the consequences of misbehavior when you accept a job.

If you keep abusing your position, stealing from your employer (so many ways to do that and no one can pretend they don’t know many ways to betray an employer’s trust) vandalizing his property, mistreating fellow employees, you could end up worse than fired. You could go to prison, at least. This is what the people were doing to God.

How does a person go from faithful to unfaithful? Just to unjust? Righteous to murderer? How does this happen in the heart of a man or woman today? A bride and groom do still sometimes exchange vows, including a pledge of fidelity. Believe it or not, this is still a thing in many marriage ceremonies, even nowadays.

Yet married couples betray each other by adultery, mistreat each other by hiding or misspending income, abuse each other with physical violence, and even murder a spouse, sometimes with the added horror of committing suicide afterwards. This can happen in other areas of life as well, following a pattern of initial faithfulness devolving into downward steps that end in some kind of terribly unnatural death.

Instead of maintaining valuable currency we have, like ancient Sparta, become satisfied with coinage worthless outside our own tiny circle. We can’t get anything but watered-down beverages because we don’t protect the value of things. We are led by the rebellious and form friendships with people who think stealing is just getting what you’re owed or the only way to get ahead. You can pay people to make you falsely successful. Nobody listens to the cries of the real needy, the orphans and the widows. They’re too busy chasing false success for themselves.

These people are adversaries of God. They oppose Him, and He will treat them like enemies in battle. He won’t put up with impurities like the dross in silver. Get ready for the lye soap, you dirty sinner. You will become pure by God’s washing and it won’t be comfortable or make you feel loved, since you didn’t want to be loved when you had the chance.

How do we get back to righteousness? Let God restore it. Stop rebelling. Give in to His wisdom in the choice of judges and counselors. He chose them in the time of the Judges, just to name one example. Wow! Would we have chosen Samson or Jephtha? God’s ways are not our ways, but He asks us to trust Him and to be obedient, not understand or know everything. “Trust and Obey” is far more than a song for children in Sunday school. It’s a life principle.

Only in that way can faithfulness be restored. God does it. We don’t do it. Our efforts fail and so do our sinful hearts. “Redeemed, how I love to proclaim it.” But how do we get redeemed? By sacrifices? By struggling with our own version of righteousness? Nope. Once again, God does it. Verse 27 doesn’t say Zion redeems herself. It says she “will be redeemed.” How? By repentance.

What’s repentance? Simple. It’s when I’m walking that way, the way of sin, doing that thing that is opposed to God, and suddenly I say, “No. I’m going to walk the opposite way, and do the opposite thing!” You say and think the same thing about sin that God says. “No more! I oppose it! I turn my back on it.”

After all, transgressors, that is, people who turn off God’s path, ignore His signs so they can do things ‘way worse than walking on the grass, end up in the trash compactor. Hear that awful din when the garbage man comes with his big truck and those claws grab your can and hoist it into the air, emptying it into the maw of the crusher? Hear the roar and squeal and the grinding of the compactor mashing your trash into … yeah. That’s the fate of the sinner. You don’t want to be in God’s compactor. You don’t want to know what it means when God says these people will “come to an end.” (v. 28)

Why would you be ashamed of trees? Embarrassed by gardens? (v. 29) Maybe you don’t understand the Bible because you don’t see how the cultural applications are relevant today. Ever hear of a Zen Garden? Japanese and other Buddhists create these as a place where they can meditate. It’s a form of worship. False worship.

These trees, these gardens, mentioned in Isaiah, are places to worship false gods. You should be embarrassed if you are worshiping idols. Oh, you don’t worship any false gods? People throw around terms from other religions today, like feng shui, yoga, even mindfulness, claiming they are ways to get healthy, get focused, be more successful. They don’t see the idolatry. Or they don’t want to. These are obsessions with physical things that cross over into supposed spiritual benefits.

God uses parallels to visualize the fate of idolaters. Love to worship at that sacred tree? Watch the leaves wither and fall. Sitting and meditating in that mystical garden? It dries up without water. Who puts life into a tree or gives water to a garden? Look to the Source of life, God, and stop worshiping the mere life itself.

Not only are the tree and the garden temporary, not only do they die off, they dry up and so do the people who worship them. A man might seem strong and successful as he practices techniques of eastern mysticism, but if the focus is on the mere physical, something so temporary, when it dries up it could become just something to spark a fire. It could burn up. In fact, God says the idolater will burn up, no matter how strong he appears. No one can put out a fire that God starts, and He will start one, to do away with the idol and the idolater.

Questions for Further Study, Discussion, or Thought
1. Why is Creation a good witness for God to call upon?
2. How do we know that Israel should have known better than to rebel?
3. How should children respond to their father’s discipline? Why would they not respond correctly?
4. Why did God hate their sacrifices? What is the real purpose of sacrifice?
5. List some ways married couples can be unfaithful, and how this is a picture of man’s relationship to God.
6. Explain the meaning of repentance.
7. Share some cultural examples of idolatry that people may not realize they practice. What is their justification for doing these things?

Image Credit: Isaiah Bible Card from the Providence Lithograph Company, 1904. thebiblerevival.com Wikimedia Commons

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Devotional for August 4, 2017

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by Mark Malcolm

17 Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.  

18 Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share,  

19 storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.  

1 Timothy 6:17-19 (NASB)

God has blessed us with abundance in some areas. Is the only reason He gave us this abundance so that we could give it away? Note there is no condemnation of the rich or riches in this passage. This passage gives instruction to make sure others are taken care of out of the riches that form our abundance. But also, not verse seventeen, “…who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.” (emphasis is mine).

Those things we have been granted in abundance are to be a joy to us, not a burden, not a problem, not a hindrance. God wants us to be happy, not covered in pain and anguish all the time. Our abundance is to be a joy to us as well as relief to others. As long as we are tending to His children whom He sends our way to be blessed by our abundance we too may be blessed by it.

We should not only take care of those around us but ourselves as well. The trouble lies in focusing only on ourselves and forgetting about our brothers and sisters in Christ. Our generosity becomes a burden and a hardship when all we do is give to others and forget about ourselves. This is not a call to simply focus inwardly, no not at all. This is a call to make sure that along with taking care of those God puts in our path, we also take care of ourselves as well.

Recall, this passage is from 1 Timothy written by Paul as the young minister (very young by most accounts) was preparing for his ministry. Timothy most likely had great fire in his heart to do the work of the Lord. Can you recall what that fire felt like? Do you have it now? Does the desire to do something for God burn in you so great that you are crashing about like a bull in a china shop looking for good works to get about doing? If not yourself, perhaps someone you know fits this description? 

Whether it is you and you are in need of this message, or someone you know and they are in need of your wisdom take this to heart. You cannot feed the poor all the time and not eat yourself. At some point you also must eat a meal or you will faint from exhaustion. So too, you must enjoy your own abundance periodically or you will lose the desire to do that which God has blessed you with the ability to do.

The caution here is to enjoy your abundance, that thing or those things you are richly blessed with, but to do so knowing you must return to and continue to bless others with it as well. There is no retirement from good works. We do not complete our 1 millionth good work and now we can sit on the couch and do nothing but eat bon bons all day. Create a plan to enjoy your abundance yes, but also have a step in that plan to return to sharing the excess with God’s children because there will always be someone God needs your unique gifts to help. 

Bio from my web site :

Smiling Mark IIMark Malcolm is a child of God, husband, father, project manager, technical writer, gamer, fiction writer, Marine (’87-’91), has practiced Shao Lin Kung Fu and Tai Chi, been published in magazines and newspapers (editorial anyway), and seen the Southern Cross.

The goals he has currently are to more accurately identify the path God has for him to walk, continue to provide for his family, establish a solid web presence, build a career writing novels through both traditional and independent publishing, and learn to better relate to the people around him.

http://www.firstchevalier.com/about-the-cavalier/

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Unfettered Love

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by Sherry Chamblee

I recently read an article by someone who was declaring that all love should be without any sort of restriction.  

This made me think about some things. Should love be completely unfettered? Is there any restriction on love? Is there a proscription for how we love? Perhaps commands from God about where love should be directed, how it should be portrayed, when it should be reined in?  

Anything?  

I suspect that much of what our society today tells us is “love” is actually the epitome of selfishness. How many times have we heard the line:  

“I love what I’m like when I’m with you…I love how you make me feel…”  

That’s not love. That’s selfishness. It might be romance – but it isn’t love. Notice how many times we reference what another person does FOR US that makes us “love” them. Notice how often we say we “love” someone, and it creates jealousy or anger or elevated expectations in our minds. Notice how often we say we “love” someone, so we want them to only think of us in the best possible terms. I think our society has redefined “love,” then placed it on a pedestal as an object of worship.  

We’re taught through movies and TV shows and books, that the pursuit of love is the highest pursuit possible – that “love” should be the one thing we’re all trying to get.  And of course, I’m still talking about “love” as defined by our society – that feeling of romance that we now tend to associate with the word “love.” We’ve made “LOVE” our “god.” 

What I’m seeing though is that our “love” isn’t love at all. It’s something else. Maybe our society needs to come up with a different term for it, but it isn’t what God describes as “love.”  

Love in the Bible is not romance. It is not lust. It is not a warm, gushy feeling that makes you all goo-goo in the brain.  

The Bible says God is Love.  

The Bible tells us to love our neighbor.  

The Bible tells us to love our enemies.  

The Bible tells the older women to teach the younger women to love their husbands.  

The Bible tells us that love is unselfish – it doesn’t make demands on the other person.  

Love would die for the other person, even if that person never knew about their sacrifice. Love allows the other person to leave if they wish. Love doesn’t hide, doesn’t keep secrets.  

Love is learned. And only after it is learned, can love be lived.  

John 3:16 

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  

John 15:13; Matt 5:43-45; I Cor 12:4-8; Mark 12:30-31; John 13:34-35; John 14:15; I Peter 4:8

About the Author:

Sherry Chamblee

Sherry grew up in various cities around northern and central California. This gave her all sorts of stories that sat and festered in her brain, waiting to be let loose. She eventually went to college in Wisconsin, where she met her equally frenetic husband, Rich. They have six (yes, count them) children, two dogs and a cat, and currently reside in a madhouse in the southern California area. As a family, they enjoy being active in their local church. Sherry spends her time writing when not caring for Granny, the kids, the dogs, the cat and any number of strays in the neighborhood.

Sherry Chamblee can be found at http://www.sherrychamblee.weebly.com Or check out her books at http://www.amazon.com/Sherry-Chamblee/e/B00BA06RJ2/

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