A Not-So-Known Martyr, St. Valentine

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Valentine. You see this name and what you probably DON’T think of first is the town in Nebraska! Most likely you think of the holiday of “love.” But there is a man worth knowing something about behind this famous name.

Who was this mystery man and why do we spend $19.6 BILLION on cards, candy, flowers and gifts. It occurs to me that we, as human beings, have a deep desire to be loved – to experience loving relationships and to set aside a day to show and receive love is very appealing, fun, and worthwhile in many ways.  But I celebrated this day for years and years never knowing that St. Valentine was a real man who made the ultimate sacrifice – giving his life to stand for the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

St. Valentine was a third century Roman priest during the reign of the emperor, Claudias, who was a persecutor of the Christian church.  One of the ways Claudias persecuted this growing religious sect was to issue an edict that prohibited the marriage of young people (not a value in Roman society).

Rome at this time was very much a pagan society and Christianity was not fitting in well.  Rome was also a very permissive society where polygamy was common; but Christians were encouraging marriage between one man and one woman for life. Also, the Romans didn’t think married men made good soldiers to carry out their plans to conquer and control the world.

Despite the emperor’s threats, Valentine continued to secretly marry couples who wanted to honor God in their relationship through a Christian marriage ceremony. For this, Valentine was imprisoned and martyred because he would not deny his faith and suffered a three part execution through beating, stoning, and finally, after refusing to recant his faith in Christ, was decapitated.

Martyrdom such as Valentine experienced was not uncommon during this time.  During the 300 years after Jesus’ resurrection and the formation of the Christian faith, estimates range from 100,000 to 2,000,000 Christians were martyred for their faith.  Christianity just did not fit into the Roman culture where it was expected for citizens to worship the emperor, celebrate Roman pagan holidays, and fit in with the Roman lifestyle of immorality.

Severe persecution of Christians began under the reign of Nero in 64 A.D and continued until the Edict of Milan by Constantine in 313 A.D.  What is very interesting when studying Church History – during the years of persecution Christianity flourished in numbers and in devotion.  But when Constantine made Christianity the “state religion,” very sadly the church became complacent and in many arenas, corrupt.  Very interesting indeed!

In Rome today many people make the pilgrimage to a church built to honor the courage and memory of this Christian saint, Valentine. Funny (or maybe not) we don’t hear much about the real life of St. Valentine, do we!

It’s a sobering thought to consider the sacrifice of many martyrs, who, for the cause of Christ, even in many parts of the world today, are willingly giving their lives. And it is for love – their love for God.

In Matthew 22:37, 39, Jesus said the greatest commandment is to LOVE God with all our heart, soul, and mind; and the second – LOVE our neighbor as ourself. John 15:13 says, “Greater LOVE has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” And if you need a refresher on what loving people looks like, spend some time today in I Corinthians 13.  We can very quickly see, “It’s not about me!”

Jesus Christ was the ultimate demonstration of LOVE – laying down his life for us. I certainly do not consider myself to have been worthy of this kind of LOVE –to be considered a friend of Jesus. I was one who was and still can have days being rebellious towards God not deserving of His LOVE. But in His mercy, He gave His life for me – and for you!

So, knowing the example of St. Valentine and thousands of other martyrs, it seems some time during this holiday to reflect on how the LOVE of Christ that has been poured out on us would be appropriate; and in addition show extra affection and attention to our family and friends. And even more so letting love be shown to a stranger – the unlovely and forgotten – those we can so easily overlook or don’t like – sometimes for very good reasons. That’s an exercise in laying down our lives.

I send to you, readers, a blessed St. Valentine’s remembrance day! Remember what Jesus did for you was because He loved and valued you – that was St. Valentine’s motive to preach the Gospel regardless of the cost and how he became this hidden inspiration for a multi-million dollar holiday 2,000 years later. Spread the word, he was a saint worth remembering!

Thanks for reading!

Georgiann

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Thankfulness and a Miracle – It Happened to Me!

“For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.”  I Timothy 4:4-5

These verses were included in my daily Bible reading “schedule” back in November of 1979 when I was going through a very difficult trial.  I wasn’t expecting to receive a word from the Lord that day, but God had a plan for me and I’m so glad I happened to be where I needed to be that day to hear His voice speak something to me I desperately needed to hear.

I had two beautiful babies in 1979.  Carrie was a healthy four year old and Andy was two – not so healthy.  He had been born with severe allergies that manifested in an extreme case of eczema and a weakened immune system.  He learned to scratch himself when he was just a few days old and was sick often.

Although these were not life-threatening illnesses, so to speak, it was heartbreaking to have a baby boy who was so uncomfortable with terrible rashes and a constant series of miserable respiratory infections.

There were not the abundance of allergy doctors available in those days or much knowledge available about allergies.  We believed in the power of prayer and faithfully presented this need to the Lord as well as taking him to be prayed for at various churches and evangelistic meetings.

It is discouraging when you pray and things seem to get worse, isn’t it?  Especially when it is your child.  There were many days of tears mixed with  prayers.  One church “friend” expressed her “concern” that Andy was not getting healed.  In fact she rebuked us for being weak in faith.  That was helpful.

As a last resort, I took him to Children’s Mercy Hospital where they did a blood test to more definitely define his allergens.  Since his skin was so broken out all the time, we couldn’t do skin testing.  I didn’t hear the encouraging report from the doctor that I had been hoping for.  In fact her report was the “last straw” moment when we really knew that our only answer was for Andy to be supernaturally healed.  She said they had never seen a child have such a high allergy count and he was basically allergic to everything that you could eat or have around you in your environment.  She said, “I’m sorry, there’s really nothing we can do for you.”

My eyes were stinging with tears and fear gripped my heart as I drove home from the hospital that day with my mom thinking to myself, “Lord, what am I going to do to see this child be able to eat enough to live if he’s allergic to every food?”  Then the thought immediately came into my heart to not be anxious – God would make a way for us.

A few days later as I was doing my reading-through-the-Bible study,  and there it was –  I Timothy 4:4-5, “For every creature of God is good and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.”  As I read those words, my heart literally leapt within me – God was giving me the plan of action for Andy.  I was to focus on the foods that he was the least allergic to according to the testing and pray this scripture over everything he ate.

So before every meal that Andy ate, this would be our prayer:  “Lord, we thank you that you have created this food for Andy’s good.  We receive it with thanksgiving.  Thank you for providing it for him, and that this food is now sanctified for his body to use according to your Word, Lord Jesus.  Amen. ”

That’s what we did – consistently, daily, and as time went on we saw his skin condition and health improve.  He eventually was able to eat every food except peanuts which he still avoids today.  That’s ok – he can live without eating peanuts.  With the help of allergy shots for inhalants, we were even able to have a cat and a dog share our home with us and Andy has had a very healthy life.

This may not seem like a “miracle” to some, but to our family – this was a miraculous healing that started with standing on the promise of God in I Timothy and remembering the importance of giving thanks for what God provides for us.  It didn’t happen the way we thought it would, but it happened!

In John 6:11 when Jesus was feeding the 5,000 what did he do?  He “gave thanks” before he began to distribute the loaves and fish to the disciples. That term is “eucharisteo” in the Greek and means to express gratitude – now used as the word Eucharist – the generic term for the Lord’s Supper.

When we give thanks, we recognize that God is the author of life and everything we can possibly experience or enjoy comes from Him.  We are so helpless – so hopeless without Him and He is so worthy of our praise, worship and thanksgiving.

We especially recognize this time of the year the importance of being thankful.  It’s so easy to focus on the tasks at hand and problems rather than thankfulness.  Every time I read I Timothy 4:4-5 I am reminded of that day 38 years ago when the Lord dropped a promise in my heart.

Psalm 107 begins with, “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!  For His mercy endures forever.”  It ends in v. 43, “Whoever is wise will observe these things, and they will understand the lovingkindness of the Lord.”

Living in thanksgiving actually causes us to be have the capacity to experience more of God’s presence and power in our lives.  That’s what His word says.  I have experienced it many times in my life.  Let’s live in thankfulness and expect great things from the Lord!

Blessings to you, Readers,

Georgiann

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I Just Didn’t Get It – But Then I Did

It’s my 65th birthday eve.  I’ve been feeling a little nostalgic today so even though I normally write a Bible study blog, I’m thinking I want to just talk about life.

When you’re having a “later in life” birthday, you have, of course, a lot more life to look back on, but you also look at life very differently than you did in younger years.  40’s and under you’re a lot more focused on what is ahead.  Even at 65, I am focused on “ahead” because I know that God always has a plan for my life or I wouldn’t be here.  But on this birthday eve I’m also looking back at some of the events that have been significant destiny markers in my life.

A few weeks ago in his Sunday message from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:13-14 about the “narrow way,” my pastor husband, Tom, briefly alluded to a time in his life when he was making the most significant decision a person will ever make in life – “I’ve heard about Jesus now and what He can do in my life. What am I going to do with that information?” To make a decision to completely surrender his life to become a follower, a disciple of Jesus Christ, was not a decision he was going to make lightly, or as he said, out of emotion or manipulation, but rather a once in life, forever commitment.

He was in the Navy on an aircraft carrier off the coast of Vietnam and had been introduced to the authentic Christian life through some guys he worked with. They had challenged him to read the Bible and it was changing his life.  But he had more than a few reasons to be contemplating this life decision – one of those being there was a good chance he was going to NOT be a “fiancé” to Georgiann Moore if he made a decision to be a follower of Jesus.  What???

This is a hard thing for me to write to think of the condition of my heart in those days but I always like to remind my husband that he was a lot responsible for that condition. Yes, it was really all his fault!  Kidding, of course, but he had become a significant influence in my life – I found myself doing things I never thought I would do thanks to the “Tom factor.”  Yeah, he was not the guy you want your daughter hanging out with.

Among other things, he had suggested before he left for Vietnam that we not make any big decisions while we were apart – such as about what religion we would follow. (Was this prophetic??)  Silly me . I said, “Deal.”

In the meantime as the “Jesus Movement” was making the cover of Time Magazine, I had become quite the skeptic of any religion and actually argued against Christianity (the “crutch” I called it) when my precious college roommate, Melissa Dew May” chose to follow Jesus. Let’s be honest and say I asked her (told her sternly) to not be my roommate anymore but she wouldn’t listen and was sweeter to me than ever.  FRUSTRATING to a non-believer it was!

When Tom had told me in a letter the summer of 1971 that he was talking to some Christians about their beliefs, I had a stern warning for him –“ DON’T LISTEN TO THEM! They will brainwash you!”  (This is so embarrassing!)  Later I told him I DID NOT want to be married to a Jesus freak.  Yes, I did that.  He knew that I meant it.

So it was with those thoughts he was making this decision – will I choose to follow Jesus even if my girlfriend breaks up with me? Well, Jesus won (thank God) and he became a full-on, devoted Jesus freak regardless of my reaction – my greatest nightmare!

I say that word, “freak,” with great tenderness because he loved God with all his heart from that day forward.  The Bible calls that being “born again.”  It’s the start of a new life in Christ.  That’s just too weird for many, including me at that time, to understand.  Yes, to me he had become someone I wouldn’t want to be with.

After about a month following his conversion experience, Tom took the step of faith to write me a letter to tell me what had happened to him. I remember sitting on the side of my bed in my dorm room reading that letter in utter shock, followed by hurt, followed by pretty intense anger.  I felt betrayed.  What about our “deal?”  What a jerk!

The utter devotion I had had for this sailor boy whom I had not seen for 7 months and wrote to EVERY day, twice a day was abruptly ended. I was ready to get even.  I fired a not-friendly letter back to him letting him know we were no longer engaged, and by the end of that weekend I had a new boyfriend.  (Seriously, this is so embarrassing).

I didn’t know it at the time, but I was in the thick of an intense spiritual battle. My life was at a fork in the road as Tom’s had been that would determine not only what my life direction would be, but more importantly my eternal destiny.

What’s pretty amazing is that although I was fighting against Tom and against God, my Heavenly Father was at work to save me even when I didn’t want to be saved or even know I needed it. Faithful people were praying for me – Tom’s friends on the ship and my sweet Melissa Dew.  While I thought I was a good person who didn’t need this “crutch” to make it through life, I was walking in spiritual darkness.

So how is it that Tom and I have been married for 45 years and most of those years have been spent in ministry? There must be a miracle in there somewhere – and there was.

Briefly speaking, a couple of weeks after the big “break up” Tom’s ship came into port and he was able to call me early one Saturday morning.   I hadn’t heard his voice for over a month and my heart melted.  “Oh, I can’t give this guy up even though he is a Jesus freak.  When we get back together and get married, he’ll forget about all this Jesus stuff.”  That was my plan!

We got married but my “plan” did not work out so good. It was the honeymoon to be forgotten and a few weeks into marriage I was lying in bed at night wondering how I could get out.  “Unequally yoked” is not easy for the believer or the non believer.

But God! He was not going to give up on me and friends were still praying.  (Maybe even Tom!)  I got a phone call that the other Jesus freak in my life,  Melissa Dew May, who wanted to come and visit us in California for her spring break.  “Great,”  I thought – “me and TWO Jesus freaks.”  Tom and Dew had a great time talking about Jesus.  I was the stranger in the room who was not fitting in well.  Fun.

But what a “coincidence!”   There was this revival going on that week at the church Tom was dragging me to every Sunday where the black congregation there was so sweet and loving I dreaded going.

Tom had to work the first night of the revival so I let Melissa talk me into going with her – a night I will never forget. A precious black pastor from Chicago shared the Gospel from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes, Matthew 5:3-11.  I had never heard words like he spoke that night explaining that “blessed” (happy) are the poor in spirit (humble), the meek, the merciful, and the peacemakers.

The way he explained it, I knew that I wanted to be that kind of person. But wait.  I can never be that!  I need Jesus in my life!   I gave my heart to Jesus that night and I knew it was a forever commitment.  It wasn’t about escaping hell, although that came with the package.  It was about having the life change I was longing for but could never have apart from Jesus.  I remember feeling the love of God for me – that He would die for me.  How could I not have understood this before?

But did I rush home and excitedly share with Tom what had happened to me? NO!  I found it very difficult to say, “You were right,” after all the arguments we had had about the subject.  There was just one problem – I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face!  Without a word, he knew something had happened to me.

Yes, “something” had happened to me.  I was lost, but now I am found.

So, now 45 years later, I’m having a birthday and reflecting about life – about those days of decision and inner conflict. If not for the grace of God, where would I be?   I shudder to think.

My “life verse” is Romans 5:8 and maybe after reading this blog you will understand why. It says, “BUT GOD demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  “Us” includes me.  I not only did not deserve God’s love, I arrogantly disregarded it.  He loved me anyway and that’s amazing!

“Us” also includes you, my reader friend. Perhaps you have not made that life-changing decision to be a follower of Jesus – to receive His sacrifice on the cross as payment for your sins.  Maybe like me, you don’t get it – but you can.  It just takes a simple prayer, “Jesus, please save me.”  The Bible says He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  (I John 1:9)  Not that you will be perfect, but you will be forgiven!

So, while celebrating my 65th tomorrow, I will be remembering to thank God for all He has done in my life, my marriage and family and life in ministry.  I’m following Jesus and there’s no turning back.  If someone calls me a Jesus freak I will smile and remember how at one time I just didn’t get it either – but then I did.

Thanks for reading!

Georgiann

PS – This is a pic from those brand new, early days of new life in Christ  – two kids who have no idea all that God has before them!

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Seeing Jesus in Moses’ Tabernacle

One of the best parts of reading through the Bible is learning that there is one amazing, single redemption story from Genesis through Revelation.  Never has a book been written over thousands of years by dozens of authors and remain one miraculous story!

The Bible is not a collection of random acts and teachings.  It is God revealing through every character, every situation, every prophecy, every word, His plan to bring man back into a complete knowledge and relationship with Him as He had intended to have with Adam and Eve culminating with Jesus’ return to earth as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

By the time we study the life of Moses in Exodus, God is opening the plan of salvation even wider for all to see through the details of design and operation of the Tabernacle of Moses – not only God’s desire to have relationship with His chosen people, but to give understanding through “types and shadows” seen in the Tabernacle of the coming of the Messiah to save the whole world.

Just as the work that God does in each of our lives is a beautiful story, so, too, the Tabernacle is a beautiful picture of the character and nature of God.  There are many more details of the Tabernacle than we can mention here, but just an overview I believe will increase our understanding of the goodness,  beauty, and awe-inspiring holiness of God.

So here are the Hebrew people, thousands in number,  in the middle of the desert.  Where did they get all the resources to build this beautiful place of worship?  We see the prophetic answer in Genesis 15:14. God spoke to Abraham that his descendants would spend 400 years in captivity but would come out with great possessions – and they did! The Egyptians were so glad to see them leave that they gave them anything they wanted!

God gave Moses the instructions of what to build and how to build it – after He had already arranged for the materials they needed to be at their disposal and the talented men and women came out of Egypt who could design, weave, build, and sculpt every detail.

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THE ENTRANCE TO THE TABERNACLE

We begin at the entrance door – there was only one way to enter the presence of the Lord. It was wide and the pattern in the tapestry looks like the outstretched arms of the Lord welcoming all who would come.  (Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6)

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THE BRAZEN ALTAR

The next thing we see is the Brazen Altar where the burnt offerings were presented every morning and night. This altar was a type of the cross where Christ would offer Himself as a pure offering before God on behalf of sinners. It stood on an elevated place to remind us of the “mountain of God” where Moses received the commandments of the Lord and also of the place Jesus was raised up at Golgotha.

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THE BRAZEN LAVER

Next is the Brazen Laver which was filled with water and had no measurements, for cleansing before the priest entered the Holy Place. This reminds us of Titus 3:5 – the washing of the water of the Word.

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THE TABERNACLE COVERINGS

The Tabernacle itself contained the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. It had four coverings – each one significant:

  1. The outer layer was badger skin – the badger was a loner and vigilant.
  2. The next layer was of dyed red rams’ skin representing the sacrifice of Jesus life.
  3. The next layer was of goats’ hair – the garment of the prophets.
  4. The final covering which was seen from the inside of the tabernacle was an intricately woven tapestry of heavenly hosts (cherubim). The cherubim were angelic beings associated with guarding and bearing God’s throne and represented the worship of God Almighty.

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THE HOLY PLACE

The Holy Place contained three key elements –

  1. The Table of Showbread which symbolized Jesus, the Bread of Life. There were twelve loaves representing the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve disciples signifying “authority for administration.”
  2. The Golden Lampstand served as a symbol of God as the light that was the guide for the children of Israel and a type (picture) of Christ, the Light of the world. It was made from solid gold – 75 pounds. The holy oil that was used in the Lampstand represented the presence of the Holy Spirit.
  3. The Altar of Incense was used to offer up the most pleasing and acceptable aroma that can be imagined representing the prayers of God’s people ascending up to God. The intricate recipe for the incense was holy and was never to be used outside of the tabernacle (or later the temple) worship.

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THE HOLY OF HOLIES

The Holy of Holies was only entered one time a year on the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur by only the High Priest. His white garment represented purity from sin and he entered with the bowl of sacrifice in a cloud of incense.

This room contained the Ark which contained the pot of manna (God’s provision), the rod of Aaron (representing the priesthood), and the tablets of the Law (the Word of God).

The Mercy Seat that covered the Ark was made of solid gold and above were the two cherubim focusing their gaze on the Mercy Seat. They were symbols of God’s power in creation and in providence.

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It must have been an amazing and awe-inspiring view from inside the Holy Place and in particular the Holy of Holies. And from the outside was seen the pillar of fire by night and the column of cloud in the daytime.

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As we study the Old Testament and especially the books of the Law, we can be so thankful as New Testament believers that, because of Jesus sacrifice which we are preparing to recognize in the coming weeks, we no longer have to endure the rigid system of the temple sacrifice and law. But all of these things have been given to us, “for our learning.” (Romans 15:4)

After Jesus rose from the grave and met with His disciples, Luke 24:27 says, “From Moses and all the prophets He interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself.” It is so important to study and understand all the scriptures that have been given to us!

We’ve only scratched the surface of what can be explored in studying the Tabernacle of Moses, but I pray that you will be inspired as you see the beautiful plan of God to redeem us and have relationship with us!

May you pursue God by putting your roots down deeper and deeper into His Word!

Blessings to you, Readers!

Georgiann

Source: The Tabernacle of God in the Wilderness of Sinai by Kiene.

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When Friendship Bites the Dust and Other Life Lessons from the Book of Job

I usually open a blog post with, “Hello Friends!”  I guess I assume people are reading because they have some level of relationship with me – even if it is just a connection regarding the topic we are addressing.  But true “friendship” means so much more than a passing connection through the internet as I’m sure you would agree.

We have just concluded reading through the Book of Job in our reading through the Bible 2017 study.  Always a challenging read to be sure!  I appreciate the help of my favorite commentary when studying Job – Pastor Jack Hayford in the Sprit Filled Life Bible study is VERY helpful.

Job is a very unique book – an ancient writing, author and date uncertain.  What is certain is that Job was a real man who lived the experiences recorded in the Book of Job because he is referred to in several other scriptures including Ez. 14:14 and James 5:11.

The greatest lesson to be learned from Job is that the Godly will suffer.  Does that conflict with what you have been taught about God?  To be sure, God “allowed”  Satan to bring seemingly unbearable affliction upon Job – loss of his prized possessions, loss of his beloved children, and finally, the loss of his health.  Could life get any worse for Job?

Yes, and it did.  His “friends” came to comfort Job.  The Bible tells us they were so shocked at Job’s condition they couldn’t speak for seven days.  That was a good thing for someone to do for a suffering friend.  (Don’t preach at them, just be there!)

When they started preaching at Job, however, giving him each their version of what was wrong with him and how he MUST have sinned for his life to get so bad, Job’s problems went from feeling pretty doggone bad down there in the dust to complete despair.  That’s how it feels when friends misunderstand you, criticize you, and turn your confidence and trust in them against you.  Have you been there?

I recently read a blog by a pastor who was explaining how difficult it can be to maintain friendships in ministry.  He was talking about something that every pastor and pastor’s wife can relate to because it happens to all of us.  You can have years and years and dozens of wonderful as well as trying experiences with “friends,” and continue to be friends – UNTIL – until a situation arises that someone in the relationship thinks is a “deal breaker.”  Those times do happen in our lives over issues that cannot be resolved but most of the time I have seen the “break up” comes as a result of a lack of commitment to working through difficulties by honest communication followed by mutual understanding.  Whatever the noble cause, bottom line – it hurts.

We are so good at focusing on the “flaws,” or even worse yet, believing a “bad report” that we fail to investigate fairly or – imagine this – overlook because we know our friend so well and have made a commitment to “think the best” even when we might be seeing the worst.  I’ve done it and I realize it is the plan of the enemy to separate friends.  We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but so many times – we do!  (Ephesians 6:12)

Job’s friends drove him further into the dust and despair through their lack of compassion and understanding.  If we have ever experienced abandonment of friends, we must remember Job – he was deserted.  He had to stand alone.  But Job erred in that he failed to recognize the sovereignty of God goes way beyond our circumstances.  If we are being tried by fire, it can only be for our good.  God had a whole new level of relationship with Job waiting on the other side of that time of testing!

There will be times we will be misunderstood, even perhaps accused and misjudged by those who we thought we could always depend on.

Our faith, as was Job’s,  will be tried and tested.  Friends may disappoint.  Remember that ALL of Jesus’ closest friends deserted Him the night He was arrested. It’s interesting what Hebrews 5:8 says of Jesus, “Even though Jesus was God’s son, He learned obedience through the things He suffered.”

In this life we are all on the Potter’s wheel being molded and shaped into the image of Christ for as long as we live.  (Jeremiah 18)  And ultimately we are learning there is only One who will never leave us or forsake us.  (Hebrews 13:5)

As Job laid in the dust of his suffering and feelings of abandonment,  there came a “suddenly” experience.  God steps onto the scene and everything changes!  Our hero, Job, especially experienced God working in a way he never could have seen coming.

With the presence of God Almighty on the scene, restoration happened PDQ.  Job’s friends brought the offering required by God for their restoration, Job repented of his wrong attitude towards God, prayed for his friends, received healing and complete restoration that went double over and beyond what he had possessed before including ten wonderful children.  AND he lived another 140 years to enjoy his prosperity!

What does God expect from me in relationship to my friends?  Proverbs 17:17 makes it pretty clear, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”  Oh, if that could only work all the time – especially when a friendship is tried by fire.  Will we remember our commitment to love at ALL TIMES?

In our lifetimes, we will in some way be connected to hundreds if not thousands of different people.  If you are blessed with friends, hold them close and do not let them go.  Think the best even if you see the worst.

Don’t believe an evil report about a friend!  Investigate if you must – to their face.  (Matthew 18)  Confront, when confrontation is necessary.  After all, any friendship worth its weight must include accountability.  But it must also include commitment.

What if your faithful friendship is what sustains a brother or sister in Christ to overcome adversity so great they might think they can’t make it.  Remember our friendships mean the most, not in the good times, but in the most difficult times.

We can learn so many wonderful lessons from the Book of Job.  In 2017, I am learning being tried by fire may mean losing some friends.  It will be ok.  What has been lost, God will cause to be restored double – IF I turn my heart to trust Him above all.  He is THE FRIEND that sticks closer than a brother.

Thanks so much for reading!

Blessings,

Georgiann

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

paths to connect in Him. – without which no relationship can survive.

 

 

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Do You Know Saint Valentine?

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Who was this man who inspires the holiday of love? Was he a myth or a legend?  Oh, he was real alright – history tells us that.

But Saint Valentine’s life has little to do with “romance” – especially as it is celebrated in western culture today.  But it does have to do with “love” – but it’s a love that few human beings have known or expressed as Valentine did.  Certainly not a human love but the God-kind of love that would cause someone to, even under the threat of death, to be willing to lay down their life for their faith.

St. Valentine was a Roman priest during the reign of the emperor Claudias who was a persecutor of the church in the late 3rd century.  Claudias also had an edict that prohibited the marriage of young people (not a value in Roman society). This was based on the hypothesis that unmarried soldiers fought better than married soldiers because married soldiers might be afraid of what might happen to them or their wives or families if they died and Romans were always at war with someone.

Rome at this time was evidently a very permissive society where polygamy was common; but the church was encouraging marriage between one man and one woman for life. So this priest, Valentine, was secretly marrying couples who wanted to honor God in their relationship through a Christian marriage ceremony.

For this, Valentine was imprisoned and martyred because he would not deny his faith and suffered a three part execution through beating, stoning, and finally, after refusing to recant his faith in Christ, was decapitated.

Martyrdom such as Valentine experienced was not uncommon during this time.  During the 300 years after Jesus resurrection and the formation of the Christian faith, estimates range from 100,000 to 2,000,000 Christians were martyred for their faith.  Christianity just did not fit into the Roman culture where it was expected for citizens to worship the emperor, celebrate Roman pagan holidays, and fit in with the Roman lifestyle of immorality.

Severe persecution of Christians began under the reign of Nero in 64 A.D and continued until the Edict of Milan by Constantine in 313 A.D.  What is very interesting when studying Church History, during the years of persecution Christianity flourished in numbers and in devotion.  You would think people would be fleeing from the group being persecuted!  Instead they were attracted to the faith that offered a new life in Christ and eternal life to come.

What happened when persecution stopped and Christianity became the “state religion” in 313?  Very sadly, the church became complacent and in many arenas, corrupt.  Very interesting indeed!

In Rome today many people make the pilgrimage to a church built to honor the courage and memory of this Christian saint, Valentine. Funny (or maybe not) we don’t hear much about the real life of St. Valentine!

It’s a sobering thought to consider the sacrifice of many martyrs who, for the cause of Christ, have willingly laid down their lives.

Remember what we recently read in Matthew 22:37, 39 – that we are to LOVE God with all our heart, soul, and mind – the greatest commandment; and the second – LOVE our neighbor as ourself.

John 15:13 says, “Greater LOVE has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”

Where we are reading in Matthew at this time is a demonstration of the ultimate LOVE – Jesus laying down his life for us. I certainly do not consider myself to have been worthy of this kind of LOVE –to be considered a friend of Jesus. I was one who was rebellious towards God and did not deserve His LOVE. But in His mercy, He gave it anyway – the God-kind of LOVE in action offering the ultimate sacrifice for those who were so undeserving.

So, knowing the example of St. Valentine and thousands of other martyrs, it seems some time during this holiday to reflect on how the LOVE of Christ that has been poured out on us would be appropriate; and in addition to showing extra affection and attention to our family and friends, let’s show some love to the unlovely as Jesus did.  His love changed people’s lives.

Am I even brave enough to ask the Lord to show me who HE would have me “love” during this holiday season?  What if that someone is someone I don’t feel comfortable around?  It would be easier to love a stranger than some people I know.  (True confession here!)  Would St. Valentine do that?  Most likely, yes.  And it will do me good!

Let me be the first to wish you, Happy SAINT Valentines Day!  Spread the word, he was a saint worth remembering.

Thanks for reading!

Georgiann

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Abraham – A Man of Faith and Friendship

abraham-stars

Hello Friends –

It’s Missouri in January – oh boy!  Since there’s not a whole lot going on to distract me, I’m very glad to be spending time focusing on God’s Word and knowing He’s working in my life. Christmas craziness has come and gone, my husband is recovering from cervical decompression surgery, I’m not too concerned about how fixed up my house is and my yard and garden where I love to spend time – well, it doesn’t look so good but it’s too cold and I’m not going out there!  Yes, seeking the Lord is a great thing to have on the agenda!

When I think of winter from a physical, emotional, or spiritual aspect, I think of life being bleak and forbidding, barren, dull,  – lifeless; and for the Manz household, it seems it’s been a very long winter season for us – really a year of winter – no doubt the most challenging year we have ever experienced.    But our faith says God or His plan for us is never barren or lifeless.

Abraham’s Journey of Faith

The story of Abraham and Sarah is one of learning how faith works (Hebrews 11:8-12) and as we will later see, the benefits of living a life of faith.  In the natural, life for them was an uncertain future and the pain of being barren – but having a great promise from God that would only come to pass – by faith.  While our circumstances may differ, we all face these same challenges and choices learning to trust God and live by faith.

So Abraham received a promise from God, but did it come to pass the next day?  NO!  God had much bigger plans for Abraham and Sarah than just giving birth to a son in their old age.  He was teaching them to trust in their Heavenly Father’s ability when all hope seemed lost – and, as Hebrews 11 tells us, to be an example to us of how faith works.

The faith journey –

Genesis 12 – God calls Abram to leave his homeland and family and he’ll become the father of a great nation.  (Something not possible in the natural as they were clearly a couple who were barren).

Genesis 15 – Approximately 1870 B.C. God makes a “covenant” with Abram.  God is reiterating Abram will be the father of a great nation – his descendants as many as the stars –  although he still has not had a son.

Genesis 16 – It’s now been 10 years since God first promised Abram and Sarai a son – they impatiently arrange for Hagar to have a son to help God out.  Sarai is now 75 and Abram 86 and God says, “You’re not ready yet!”

Genesis 17 – Abram is now 99 – 13 years after Ishmael is born and God says, “you shall be a father of many nations (with Sarai)…….exceedingly fruitful and kings shall come from you.”  (Really, God?  It’s been 24 years since You first told him that and still no natural born son!)

Genesis 18 – Two angels and “the Lord” (likely a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ) visit Abraham and said this time next year you and Sarah will have a son.  A wonderful and key scripture is found in Genesis 18:14 that we can all take to heart – “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”

On this note, Pastor Tom adds a thought to kind of blow your mind – so “Christ” appears to Abram to remind him that he is going to be the father of the nation through whom Jesus (the Man talking to Abram) will be born 2000 years later!!  That’s deep but really cool!

Genesis 20 – I really don’t get this but Abraham for the SECOND TIME lies about Sarah being his sister to protect his own neck (The bottom line for all lying).  I’m glad at this point Sarah didn’t give up on her husband – she probably wanted to!  But God protected her when her husband didn’t and a few months later (and 25 years after God first spoke to Abram) she gives birth to Isaac – just as the Lord had said would happen in Chapter 18.

We can read this and think, so what?  Twenty-five years they waited for a promise from God to be realized.  But think about it – do we do well with waiting – when there’s something we really, really, really want God to do for us?  Abraham and Sarah did not easily navigate this walk of faith but they obeyed God – by faith and received their reward.

Our journey of faith, as we see in Abraham and Sarah, is about so much more than what we think we need to see God do.  He is working in us so much more than we know.

The Friend of God

Abraham has another quite unique recognition in scripture and something I have not previously given much thought to or have had insight.  In spite of his flaws, he was called not only the father of faith (Romans 4:16), but “the friend of God!” (Isaiah 41:8, 2 Chronicles 20:7, James 2:23)  What an amazing designation of which none other is mentioned in the Bible.  How did this man of whom we have seen failures and flaws become the friend of God?

Talk about having a friend in high places?  We would think this would be an almost impossible thing to accomplish.  How did it happen?  By Abraham’s simple pursuit of God by faith.  Abraham learned to live his life by faith.  He learned to trust God through the challenges of faith his Heavenly Father led him through – even to the point he could trust God’s directive to offer his beloved son, Isaac, as a sacrifice.  We wonder how Abraham walked through that day.  But he had learned this was a God who would only do what is good in Abraham’s life.

This is the outcome of a life lived by faith – you become the friend of God.  You are completely convinced that God is sovereign and God is only good.  God is not just an infinite being but One through whom we can know a sense of closeness, trust, and sharing everything in our lives – even in the long, drawn out days of a winter season.

Here is a quote from an interesting article I read today about Abraham’s friendship with God:

The relationship Abraham enjoyed with God was a remarkable one by human standards – but tremendously encouraging for us. God is not a partial God. He is not a respecter of persons. God doesn’t involve Himself in cliques or narrow, exclusive groups of people that only a few can enter. Rather, He extends the hand of friendship to all of those in His family. If we follow the example of our spiritual forefather Abraham by being in agreement with God, displaying loyalty and dependability towards God, and freely confiding in Him in all matters, then we too will be called the friends of God.

(Copyright ã 1994 (Ed. 1997), 2000 Christian Churches of God)http://www.logon.org and http://www.ccg.org

Trusting God through all of life’s circumstances is all that God requires of us.  “I will never leave you, nor forsake you,” (Hebrews 13:5) is just one of the promises we have a choice to receive or not.  To believe, as Abraham did, is to not only see answers to prayer and God working mightily in our lives, but to know the closeness and trust that comes being the friend of God!

This has been an encouraging study for me -a new page in my experience in the book of Genesis.  I see Abraham in a new light and a fresh example of God’s call for each of us in not only living the life of faith but also the call to be a friend of God.  I hope that you, readers, will experience a freshness in your faith as we continue to study through Genesis.  More treasures await!

Feel welcome to share any thoughts you may have.

Blessings to each of you and thanks for reading!

Georgiann

 

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