Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Neshama

NESHAMA
Matthew 16:26:  “What good will it be for a man who gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?  Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”

            Neshama means soul.  This Hebrew term of endearment is used instead of “man” or “woman”, “boy” or “girl”.  Whether a stranger or close friend, neshama is a gracious description for anyone.  (The words soul and spirit are the same thing).  See the lesson linked below for a soul/spirit Scripture tutorial. 

            Levi hid from his friends at Forrest’s 8th birthday party.  Kids looked but couldn’t find him, so Forrest hid.  Colleen screeched, “I see Forrest under the bush!”  Forrest came out grinning. 

            “You hide next, Colleen!” Forrest instructed, shielding his eyes.

            Paula glimpsed Colleen’s red shorts.  “I see Colleen under the bench!” she announced.

            Colleen laughed and came out challenging, “Let’s find Forrest!”

            Soon, parents arrived to bring partygoers home.  Levi’s mom called, “Levi!  It’s time to come home.”

            Low tree branches separated and Levi walked out from hiding inside an evergreen tree.  His face was streaked with fresh tears.  “Mama!  Everyone forgot me!”

            Levi’s mom’s eyes brimmed with tears as she crouched down to comfort her son.  Hugging him tightly, she whispered, “Not everyone forgot you, Levi.  I will NEVER forget you.”    
            On their way home, mom said, “Levi, you remind me a lot of Jesus!  You hid sooo well that your friends probably did forget to search for you.  People react to what we see.  We cannot see Jesus…and He is sad when we don’t seek Him, too.   
             
            People are multi-dimensional [di-MEN-shon-al].  There are many layers to human beings.  We are so much more than our bodies!  Since people are created in our heavenly Father’s image, we’re also spirit beings (Genesis 1:27, and John 4:24). 

            Seeing everything all around us, we forget to live by faith.  
  
            Apostle Paul teaches in 2 Corinthians 5:6-8: “Therefore, we are always confident [because the Holy Spirit lives inside whoever believes in Jesus as Lord] and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord.  We live by faith, not by sight.  We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”   

Take Home Nugget   

            Our heavenly Father must feel a lot like Levi.  His Spirit longs for our attention and comes near to us every day.  He is not hiding.  But like the birthday party kids, we get busy seeking many other things.  Demands on our time distract us from seeking God first every day.
            Let’s remember that we are souls.  Let’s forget distractions so that we never forget God! 
Thank You Father, for giving me a body AND a soul!  Amen. 

Adapted from “Remove the Distractions“ by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein.  October 2, 2014. www.HolyLandMoments.com.
J.D. Griffith


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Friday, June 16, 2017

Focus on Blessings

FOCUS ON BLESSINGS

Numbers 11

Numbers 11:5-6:  “We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic.  But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!”
           
            Twelve-year-old Cassie loves summer days swimming with her friends at the public pool.  Cassie appreciates carefree, happy fun.  One day she mentioned, “I’m thrilled that my hardest problem is to meet you here every day.”

            Missy giggled, nodding her head in agreement.

            Brenda added, “We are lucky!  Let’s have the most fun we can before we turn sixteen.”

            “What happens at sixteen?” Missy asked.

            “Jobs, silly!”

            Let’s focus on blessings today.  Tomorrow is not guaranteed!  “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things [clothes, food, drink] will be given to you as well.”  Jesus promises that our Father in heaven knows what we need, and will supply them.  (Matthew 6:32-33).  Jesus also provides righteousness when we confess, “I am the righteousness, wisdom, and holiness of God in Christ!”  (1 Corinthians 1:30).  Just by saying this, we are seeking God’s kingdom first! 

            With God meeting all our needs, we can focus on blessings every day.

            When Israelites travelled to the Promised Land, the opening Scripture finds them complaining about the miraculous food that God provided.  Manna tasted exactly what the person eating it craved--except leeks, onions, and garlic.  (These foods are not good for pregnant or nursing women to pass onto their babies). 

            The problem with manna is that it looked the same every day.  So, while no one died from thirst or starvation on the 40-year journey, the Israelites grew bored with manna.

            Focusing on blessings cures boredom.  There is enough grumbling in this world!  Whoever focuses on lack, poisons life’s adventure.  Whoever complains about what they don’t have is addicted to worry.  Jesus warns about worry in Matthew 6:34: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
            Actually, worrywarts are blessed!  They just hesitate to name their blessings—because when they think hard, their list of blessings goes on and on. 
  
            So, life is filled with blessings—obvious and hidden.  Let’s focus on God’s goodness.  Let’s focus on blessings! 

Take Home Nugget

            God’s kids’ mission is to live as He intended and enjoy happiness every day.  We can focus on thanking God when we awake—and end each day recounting His miracles and provisions. 

            Missy thought about getting a job all day.  Finally she announced her decision: “I’d like a job lifeguarding at this pool!”  That would never get boring!” 
 
Thank You Lord Jesus, for providing the righteousness of God in me—and everything else I need!  Amen.

Adapted from “Seeing Our Blessings” by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein.  www.HolyLandMoments.com.  June 7, 2017.

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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Shadow Proction

SHADOW PROTECTION

Psalm 121

Psalm 121:5-6:  “The LORD watches over you—the LORD is your shade at your right   hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.”
           
            The right hand is a symbol of strength.  This extraordinary passage guarantees God’s kids protection—from everything!  (Check out the lesson linked below for more about God’s protection). 

            Let’s break the opening Scripture down.  What is shade?  Shade is shadows cast from whatever is blocking light.  Shade mirrors, or copies the image of what is blocking light.
              People create shade.  Watch the shadow your body casts when in sunlight.  Lifting arms causes our shadow to lift arms.  Wave and watch your shadow wave.  How can the opening Scripture say God is our shade, or shadow?

            Wherever we go, God goes.  We cannot shake off our shadow.  No one can shake off God.  He is the ultimate bodyguard.  God never sleeps; His strength always guards us. God purposely created humans in His image for this very reason: David felt God’s presence everywhere, 24/7.  (Check out Genesis 1:27 and Psalm 139).  In response, David sang songs and journaled his feelings and praises to God, published as Psalms in the middle of the Bible.
            God also copies the way we live.  He follows our lead.  If we are kind toward others, God is kind to us.  But if we are judgmental and cruel to others, God will judge us harshly, too.  Jesus warned against judging others in Matthew 7:1.

            Jesus understands people.  No one fools Jesus because, as God, our hearts are transparent to Him.  The Pharisees and Sadducees thought they were so smart, but Jesus saw their hearts’ intent when they wanted to outsmart Him—this teacher/prophet/Rabbi/…ultimate irritant! 

            His answers ALWAYS confused, baffled, and mystified the learned leaders of the Jewish faith.  Jesus’ presence annoyed them.  He wouldn’t go away.  We know now that Jesus was their shadow!   
                                                                 
Take Home Nugget
            God as our supreme bodyguard is empowering, isn’t it?  Believers never need to worry about our safety because God is protecting not only us—but also our lives.

            God as our shadow is serious business.  God deals with us identically to how we treat others.  Are we as kind as we’d like God to treat us?  Are we as forgiving of others as we pray for God to forgive us?  We’d better live c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y!

            Humans don’t respond well to what seems counter-intuitive.  We get exactly what we give—no less and no more.  Right-hand strength comes from this knowledge.

            The greatest kindness that we can do for ourselves is to be profoundly generous, caring, sympathetic, thoughtful, compassionate, and considerate to everyone else!

Holy Father, empower me to shadow You to others!  I pray this in Jesus’ Name, Amen. 

Adapted from “The Lord is Your Shadow” by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein.  www.HolyLandMoments.com.  May 28, 2017. 
J.D. Griffith


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Friday, June 9, 2017

Copycats

COPYCATS

Numbers 6:24-26:  “The LORD bless and keep you;  the LORD make His face shine on you and be gracious to you;  the LORD turn His face toward you and give you peace.”

            This blessing dismisses people from various places of worship around the world.  God first gave this blessing to Aaron to say over the children of Israel thousands of years ago. 
            We’re supposed to copycat our Father in heaven just as we copy our earthly parents.  Kids learn by watching and copying what they see their parents do…and obeying their parents’ instruction.  Jesus shows us obedience in John 14:31: “but the world must learn that I love the Father and I do exactly what My father has commanded Me.” 

            Jesus even teaches us how to obey even when we don’t want to.  Matthew 26:39b writes Jesus begging His Father, “My father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.  Yet not as I will, but as You will.”  2 Corinthians 5:21 says that Jesus is the righteousness of God in His Believers.  So, we copy Jesus’ holiness too, obeying our Father’s command. 
  
            Beginning with God instructing which insects are good to eat, Leviticus 11 ends with commanding His kids to be holy…because God is holy!  (See the lesson, linked below).  Many people refuse to eat insects.

            But in all other ways, we are to copy our Creator. 

            Twelve year old Cassie asked her friends one day, “What facial expression do you think Jesus typically wore?”

            “I saw Jesus’ picture in the book, “Heaven is For Real,” Brenda said.  “Colton chose this picture among all the others, and I believe him.”
                                            
Artwork by Akiane Kramarik
Todd Burpo wrote the book, Heaven is For real describing his son Colton’s experience in heaven after he died for a short time during surgery in 2014.   

            Cassie smiled and admitted, “I think Jesus looks how Colton said too, Brenda.  I imagine Jesus as always smiling!”

            Cassie is correct.  The very blessing that God wants His kids to hear and share shows His face smiling at us.  Let’s copycat Dad in heaven and Jesus on earth.  Let’s smile at everyone we meet, greeting one another cheerfully.
    
Take Home Nugget

            There was once a man who’d greet everyone with a smile and a cheerful “Good morning!”
            People would automatically respond, “Good morning!”

            Then, World War 11 broke out.  He was taken to wait in a long line.  When his turn came, he recognized the man deciding whether to send people to his right or left. 
            He immediately smiled and said, “Good morning!”

            The decider looked up and recognized who was greeting him so warmly.  Automatically, he responded, “Good morning!”  He sent him to his right.
            The decider was sending Jews left to a camp where they were to die.  Against all odds, this man lived! 

            May we copycat Your smiling face and greet each other cheerfully, Lord!  Amen
  
Adapted from “A Priestly Blessing” by Rabbi Yechiel Ecksteinwww.Holylandmoments.comMay 30, 2017.
J.D. Griffith



   


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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Spirit Wings

SPIRIT WINGS
Exodus 19:1:  “In the third month after the Israelites left Egypt—on the very day—they came to the Desert of Sinai.”

Exodus 23:19:  “Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the LORD your God.”

Deuteronomy 26:9-10:  “He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey; and now I bring the firstfruits of the soil that You, O LORD, have given me.  Place the basket before the LORD your God and bow down before Him.” 


            In Old Testament Temple times, the highlight of Pentecost was bringing the “Firstfruits” as an offering to God—a thrilling celebration (second Scripture reference).  Jews celebrate Pentecost by wearing green on this spring festival, also called Shavuot.  Shavuot marks when God gave Moses the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai (first Scripture reference).  God spread His Word to the world through them—and the Torah—Genesis-Deuteronomy in the Christian Bible. 

            The story of Cain and Abel illustrates that God was pleased to accept Abel’s offering the firstfruits of fat portions from his flock (Genesis 4:4).  We’re commanded to bring God firstfruits as offerings today.  He wants us to set aside His offering first, before all our bills are paid, before life gobbles up the best. 

            God detests leftovers.  
    
            Christian Believers wear red celebrating Pentecost.  Red indicates God’s gift of the Holy Spirit whooshing over the apostles.  That gift in Acts 1:4 is what Jesus promised, and is why He instructed His disciples to remain in Jerusalem after His ascension.   See the lesson, linked below. 

            Once a small creature was unhappy with how he was created…and complained to his Creator.  “Lord, you are so wise to have created all things!  My question is why you created me so small?  My tiny legs can’t run very fast.  The two humps you made on my back weigh me down and slow me up.”

            God cooed tenderly, explaining:  “Tiny one, those humps are not to slow you down.  You are a bird.  They unfold as wings.  I created you to fly!”

Take Home Nugget

            Obeying God’s Will is never easy.  Like the tiny bird, Believers have two ways to live.  Either our conscience weighs us down trying to obey (serving, sacrificing, tithing), or we choose to operate in His Spirit who empowers us to soar happily. 

            The firstfruits command teaches us thanksgiving.  God gives everyone a land where to live, a family, work, and a path back to Him.  Giving back to Him first is how we show our sincere appreciation for His every blessing, every provision for life (3rd Scripture reference).   
Holy Father, accept my sincere gratitude for every provision, blessing, and gift You give—including faith, Jesus, and Your Spirit!  Amen.
J.D. Griffith
Adapted from “Wings That Fly” by Rabbi Yechiel Ecksteinwww.Holylandmoments.comMay 31, 2017.
And “Gratitude For It All”.  Ibid.  June 2, 2017




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Friday, June 2, 2017

Contrasting Pentecosts

CONTRASTING PENTECOSTS
Joel 2:28-32

“And afterward [Blessings spoken over both the northern and southern kingdoms of Israel], I will pour out My Spirit on all people.  Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.

“Even on My servants, both men and women, I will pour out My Spirit in those days.  I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke.

“The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.

“But everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the LORD has said, among the survivors whom the LORD calls.”

            Fifty days after the first Passover, 3,000 people died in the first Pentecost (Exodus 32:28).  God wrote His Law (Ten Commandments) on stone tablets for Moses on Mount Sinai.  Meanwhile, the Israelites got impatient waiting for Moses to return.  They were worshipping a golden calf! 

            Moses lost his cool upon returning.  He threw down the two stone tablets that broke into pieces (Exodus 32:19).  Moses tossed that calf into the fire.  He ground up the burned gold into powder, scattered it on the water, and made the people drink it (Exodus 32:20).

            Fast forward about 1500 years to the Bible’s New Testament.  God gave His Spirit and 3000 people got saved on Mount Zion.  (Acts 2:41).  God taught that the Law kills but His Spirit gives life.  God’s Holy Spirit came as a rushing wind that perched tongues of fire on the apostles (Acts 2:3).

            Jews flocked to Jerusalem from every nation.  They heard the whooshing wind, but had no idea what it meant.  When they spoke, the apostles understood their speech and shared the wonders of God with them in their own native language!  (Acts 2:5-12).

            “They had too much wine,” some said, poking fun at the apostles.  Mingling amongst the people, Apostle Peter stood up, eager to address the crowd: 
            “These men are not drunk, as you suppose.  It’s only nine in the morning!”  Peter used the opening Scripture to preach God’s kingdom, the same gospel that Jesus preached. 

Take Home Nugget

            When people try to keep God’s commandments, they operate from Mt. Sinai and death reigns: health, friendships, every choice fails.  However, those who grasp the Spirit of grace operate from Mt. Zion.  They find breakthroughs and miracles (See lesson linked below).

            Operating from Mt Zion brings salvation through faith from grace. 
  
“Does God give you His Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?” Galatians 3:5

Adapted from “Continue in God’s Grace” by Rev. Joseph Prince.  www.josephprince.org.  May 30, 2017.  South Carolina. 
And “The Spirit Among Us” by Mrs. Alena S. Guagenti.  Portals of Prayer Family Devotions. June 4, 2017. Missouri.
J.D. Grifith

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