God created us to Flourish!

God created us to flourish!

How would you describe a flourishing faith? If I asked you to describe the term flourish using an object of comparison, what would you choose? A vine, or a garden? How about a tree?  A tree- that would be my choice. Allow me to point out this illustration in the scriptures.

In Genesis we see Adam and Eve flourishing until they ran into a major decision regarding a tree.  As we know they could have chosen any tree including the Tree of Life, but instead, they chose The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil which resulted ultimately in death.  Before meeting their end, however, they experienced what it was like to wither.  I have to wonder, was there any symbolic connection in the choices they made and the tree? I tend to believe there was. We are about to dig in some deep dirt here to uncover some important roots; follow closely.

Dr. Caroline Leaf points out in her book Who Switched Off My Brain that the cells in our brains (neurons) are shaped like trees with branches, a trunk and all. She goes on to share with her readers that brain scans of those who have continued in a path of “toxic” thoughts and actions reveal neurons that look like trees with broken and gnarled branches.  When viewing several neurons from a toxic thinker, the scan resembled a forest with black blotches of space, on the other hand, the scans of those practicing healthy thoughts showed images that resembled flourishing trees.  Interesting!

Take a few moments to read Psalm 1:1-3

“1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. 2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. 3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. “

Did you see that simile in verse three? The righteous thinker will be like a tree.  If you are a little fuzzy on recalling a simile from grammar class, a simile uses like or as when comparing two or more things.  Wow! Here we have proof in scripture that righteous and unrighteous thinking are illustrated by way of trees.  Is there any wonder why God made the cells of our brain to look like a tree?

Need more? Go with me to observe a story of an ancient Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, who had a major pride problem.  What dream did God give to illustrate his punishment? A once mighty tree sadly reduced to a stump.  In Daniel 4 we can read about this king. Sadly, we see a great king who once stood strong changed to the state of an animal where he ate grass in a field with the oxen. If you read on, you will find that this lasted for seven years.  I would call that stumped thinking!

Just like the tree, the neurons in our brains are made to flourish.  Once a thought is introduced and accepted into our minds, a new network of branches spring forth.  This thought strengthens and spreads every time we revisit that path of thinking. You see friend, we were created to flourish-to continue with a thought and allow it to take deep root, branch out, and finally to bring forth fruit.  This is great for the godly thought life, but devastating for the corrupt thought life which continues on its addictive path to destruction.

Consider it….A Flourishing Faith is like the tree planted by the water. Ps. 1:1-3

References:

Who Switched Off My Brain?  Dr. Caroline Leaf Copyright 2009 Caroline Leaf, Improv, Ltd.

Scripture references from King James Version of the Bible, Copyright Thomas Nelson, Inc. 2004

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The Power Of A Question

How is it that a question has so much power over our thinking?

Throughout scripture we see profound effects of cutting inquiries. In Genesis 3:1, God asks Adam “Where are you?”, then to Eve He asks, “What have you done?”. Of course God knew the answers to the questions that He asked the first man and woman, but still yet He came to confront their sin not with a lecture, but with an interrogative. The first sins that would lead to every murder, every crime, and every death was confronted first with a question. Why was this???

Unlike a lecture or a statement, a question is less likely to be brushed away. It takes seed in the heart of man. It follows him home and revisits time and again pleading for an answer. It provokes the mind of man to search. Adam and Eve could have met God’s questions with simple honest answers, such as, “I am lost”, and “I have sinned”, yet they were not willing to let the conviction do its rightful work.

In order to properly understand the scriptures, we should see the significance of a well formed question. God’s men of old daily debated in the temples and sharpened their minds through much debating and questioning.  As you read through your Bible, be sure to note the questions of scripture.  Take time to see where they were asked , who asked them, and when they were asked. Also mark what the outcome was.

Questions are tools in the hand of the soul winner. Many present Jews are skilled interrogators. Asking well means first listening well. The art of asking a question at the right time and in the right way is priceless.  God ordained this method for His people, and we should not shy away from the practice of asking a good question.  Our enemy is well at work with this tactic as from the beginning he has tried to have man question every act of God.  Let’s take time this week to pray over our communication with others and allow God to teach us how to ask a good question.

The flourishing faith knows how and when to ask a good question.

 

 

 

 

 

God Appoints Times And Seasons

 

“The evening and the morning were the first day…” Genesis 1:5

Does it surprise you that the first Biblical day began at evening? In much of Israel today the same measure of time still holds – Six o’clock in the evening begins a new day. I’m sure there is something beautifully significant about the setting of sunset as the start of a new day. ( I would love to hear your comments on this.) While we don’t know exactly why the day began with the setting of the sun, what we do know is that this frame work of a day was set by God and that it has amazing connections to the Jews and to us as we study God’s Word. Jesus had to be removed from the cross and placed in the tomb before the Sabbath began at 6:00 that Friday. Jewish feast such as Passover begin in the evening (6:00). The weekly Sabbath is ushered in at this time as well.  Needless to say if we are going to study our Bible with the appropriate time frame, we must keep in mind the difference in the beginning and ending of a day according to scripture.

Our day begins and ends at a time when most of us are sleeping (just after midnight). It appears and retires in the darkness. The Biblical day both saw the former day go and welcomed the new.

When my mother was a young girl, sunsets frightened her. The bright colors seemed to her as a frightening storm. With comforting words her mother would assure her that the bright sunset was only the Master’s Bouquet.  My Grandmother Lois passed away in her sleep. When my uncle found her the next morning, she had her hands sweetly tucked under one side of her face (as she normally did). She had seen the former sunset of this life go and had welcomed the new day with Jesus. Amazingly, as my mother and her sister went to view the burial plot for my grandmother, my mother looked up to see a sunset against a bright red and orange sky.  Amidst the strong colors were puffs of clouds that resembled flowers. I was blessed to hear how God had brought this memory back to the surface in the time of her need.

Weeks after my grandmother’s funeral, I woke up early one morning thinking of her. As tears rolled down my face, God gave me a poem of comfort in which to remember her.  As you read this poem think of our sweet Jesus, crucified and buried just before sunset. Think of your own trials and sorrows and know, in the times when your life looks like a fierce and frightening storm, it is only the Master and His bouquet.

“The Master’s Bouquet”

Many times as a child,

My mother would fear,

The colors of sunset

As nighttime drew near.

The deep gray

The bright orange

The bold red would form

And seem to her young eyes

A frightening storm.

Then the words of her mother

Would speak and say

All is well my child…

It just the Master

and His bouquet.

-Patty Howell

In Memory of my grandmother, Lois Parker

Not only is each day designed by God, all times and seasons are appointed by Him as well.

“And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days, and years:”  Genesis 1:14

Our days, weeks and months work on cycles.  We often look at our days and weeks through the eyes of our schedules (our appointments), but to the children of Israel, they looked at their schedule according to God’s appointments. For example, the weekly day of worship, the set feast, and the holy days were set by God to help his people to remember Him and His appointed times. If you study the feasts of Israel, you discover the exciting truth that God has His own calendar. Every move of the sun, moon, and stars are orchestrated by His plan and are connected with His feasts. The Biblical days He set forth in ways of the feasts of Israel are there to help us understand His calendar of events.  Jesus came to fulfill the times, and He Himself is the appointed one to fulfill the appointed times. To help you understand God’s appointed times, I would encourage you to draw a circle with seven divisions (like a pie with seven slices). Beginning at the top and moving clockwise, write in the following on each slice: Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, Pentecost, Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and Tabernacles. Now let’s look to see where the hands of time are resting on God’s time clock.

*Passover: At His death on the cross, Jesus was crucified at the time the Passover lambs were slaughtered thus fulfilling the time of Passover.

Unleavened Bread: As the Jews placed their unleavened bread in their ovens, The Bread of Life was placed in the grave.

First fruits: While God’s people waved the first fruits before The Lord, Jesus rose again as the fulfillment of the First fruit.

Pentecost: During this feast the Jews celebrate the Old Testament giving of the law. In the New Testament Pentecost was fulfilled by the giving of the Spirit.

So, What time is it according to God’s appointed times? It’s time for the fall feast to begin… It is sunset. The first four strokes of time have sounded and the next is soon to sound. What is the next “sign and season” to be fulfilled? – The Feasts of Trumpets – which will be fulfilled by the rapture (With the sound of the trumpet).

The Day of Atonement will be fulfilled by Jesus as He carries out the Final day of Judgment.

Finally, The Feast of Tabernacles will be fulfilled when all we believers and tribulation saints begin our dwelling in Heaven and forevermore tabernacle with Jesus.  At that time God’s appointed times will be fulfilled.

We end this week with a prayer –

Lord help us to redeem the time by investing it in eternal endeavors.  Help us also to be more concerned with your calendar of events than ours. May we not fear these final strokes of time but see them instead as a beautiful sunset that is leading us to a new day with you. May we attend your house on your day and take time to honor your name.  In the sweet name of Jesus, Amen.

The Flourishing Faith believes God to be complete control over all times and seasons.

Sources:

Zola Levitt TV- “The Feast of Israel”

The Last Jubilee by Dan Godwin

God’s Appointed Times  by Barney Kasdan

 

 

 

 

Bible Study with Patty

Welcome readers!

Today we begin our journey through the Bible.  I pray that these weekly blogs will challenge you to dig deeper in your Bible study as we take time not only to read the Old and New Testaments, but also to get involved in what we are reading.  In other words, we don’t want to read the Bible like any other book, we want to experience God’s word. For example, when we come to a wedding, we will pause to look at a Jewish wedding, if the text leads us to a funeral, we will walk along with the mourners. At the occasion of a birth we will join in to observe the naming of the baby, and on the occasion of  a teen’s Birthday we will join the Jewish mothers sing Hallelujahs. It is my belief that for too long many have tried to read their Bibles without stopping to ask the Lord for the deep meanings behind the words.  When we read the Bible we should learn the context in which it was written.  The culture of Biblical times is very important to understanding the truths of God’s word.  “There are many truths in the word of God that we seem to miss because we do not understand the Jewish customs of Israel.”- Dan Goodwin, author of The Last Jubilee.  Understanding these things, let’s go now to Genesis for a lesson or two in ancient Jewish culture.

This week we will look at one of two foundational beliefs present in the culture of Old Testament believers. The first is foundational to spiritual faith, and the second is foundational to the Jewish calendar for times and seasons. You will need to know these truths to understand Israel’s relationship with their God. Keeping these two basic concepts in your mind will help you better comprehend the Biblical text.  Both will be introduced in this first study, but we will focus on only the first today.  1. There is one God who created all things.  2. God established times and seasons.

1.  There is one true God who created all things.

  “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” Genesis 1:1

Look at that one verse. Within it is a multitude of truth. First of all the heartbeat of the Jewish faith rest in the concept of one God and only one God.

The first four commandments deal with honoring the One True God. Exodus 20:1-11

Israel’s theme, the Shema, begins with “”Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord”  Deuteronomy 6:4-9

You may say, ” Yes, that is simple. We all believe that.” Yet truly, just as the first people groups of the world looked to many false gods, people of our day do as well.  Many children are learning something opposite of Genesis 1:1 in schools every day.  They are not being taught of one God who is the Creator of all. Satan is aiming at the foundational layer of our faith.  Sadly, like Israel if we look away from the one true God, the next step is idolatry. When God is put aside, we look to many other vain gods.

In Deuteronomy 6, after the Shema declares the foundational belief in one God, it goes on to emphasize the importance of implementing the foundational teachings of one  God every day, throughout each day.  In Deuteronomy 6:7-9, God’s people are told to constantly teach their children of one God – when they sit in their home, when they travel, when they get up and when they lie down. The truth of one true God was also to be written on their doorposts and their gates. (We will learn about the doorposts and gates in a different lesson, and I dare say you will never see them as ordinary again.)

One God. It is a simple concept, yet daily we are bombarded with false gods who wish to steal His worship. Take a moment to think of the messages that enter a young child’s mind each day.  Cartoons that are void of any concept of God busy their minds.  Science museums have written displays of how something came out of nothing.  Schools teach that we descended from a monkey.  As Christian parents we need to instill the truth of one God in creative ways each day-throughout the day.

For the young child it can be simple truths such as pointing out that God made the flowers, the birds, the trees…etc. It also helps to involve their senses in creative ways while learning these truths.  One thing I like to do with young children is a “Bible story in a box”.  For instance, I have a small plastic tote with “Genesis” written on it. Within the box are contents such as: small plastic trees, toy animals, and a bouncing ball that lights up. When going over the story of Creation these visuals help capture the child’s full attention.  Another box has the fragrances of frankincense and myrrh so that the lesson of Luke 2 becomes more interesting by adding the sense of smell to the Christmas story.   Then I can’t leave out the Noah’s ark tote- a large art caddy (which I thought resembled an ark) holds a dove made of paper, a couple of plastic leaves, a blue plastic tablecloth (for the water) and of course several pairs of toy animals.

For older children, take time with them to delve into amazing facts about how God is the wondrous designer. For example, you could study the geometry of a spider’s web or the symmetry of a snowflake. Take time to ask them challenging questions that help shed light on worldly theories.  One I like is “Would you suppose that a cell phone could have suddenly evolved into being without a designer?” “How then could we, more complicated than any man-made material  have been created without a designer?”

As adults, the reality of God as Creator needs to incorporate every area of our life. We need to live with an eternal outlook over a temporary one.  Are our days busy with things that will vanish away or are we taking time to invest in the eternal things- Bible study, Witnessing, and attending the house of God.

 

 

The flourishing faith believes the foundational truth that there is one God and that He created all.

 

 

 

Introductions

Isn’t it amazing that the Bible is the best selling book of all time yet the least read and studied book?  I have seen the personal struggle in the hearts of sincere readers.  Some have a curiosity with the Bible and begin to read it only to get lost in the search.  Has that ever been you friend?  Have you started the journey through the Bible only to get lost in the genealogies or strange cultural readings of another time or another dialect?  My prayer is that through this blog you can join me in a journey through the Bible with a better idea of the ancient culture and customs.  It is going to be exciting, so commit now to join our journey of study and questions as we learn to flourish in our study of God’s words.