Thursday, April 28, 2011

Friday Featured Writer: Author Donna Perugini

With so much information to share, where do I begin? I met Ms. Donna Perugini over at the SITS community. (A button for it is in the right sidebar of this blog.) And, she has been so faithful to me here leaving wonderful, encouraging comments. Not to mention, she can also be found at Twitter.

I did not realize this until I asked her to be a "Featured Writer", but her books were first published from 1983 to 1987 (by Harrison House, Tulsa, OK). A blessing for which she gives God the glory! When she received emails and letters from parents (who had grown up with her books) requesting them for their children, she decided to re-issue them. She said, "I really believe in the message (from the Word of God) of each book." As God would have it, on the day of her book launch (the second time around), surprisingly she was also the "Blog of Note" and had an unbelievable turn out...over 10,000 people. She blogged about it in parts One and Two. But enough from me. It is my pleasure to present to you author Donna Perugini:

Dream Big! Step Forward!

I Taught Children’s Church for 30 Years

During the early years I would search for stories, skits, puppets plays; anything that would help to get the teaching across to the children. Often I would be making bite-sized meals for hungry little minds so they could understand the simple truths of the gospel.

A Story is Birthed

One such time turned into a story that I could see impacted them. I went a little further with the story and shared it with friends. Upon encouragement the story was sent as a query to a publisher. It was a daring step that did not reap any results for a year. During that year I wrestled with thoughts of inadequacy due to no response from the publisher and the fact that I had no writing background. At the end of that year, I forced myself to call the publisher.

When they heard who I was, the excitement at the other end was astonishing to me. “We lost your contact number and couldn’t find you! We’ve just had a meeting and decided to start a children’s division and your book was brought up by a secretary who has kept it on her desk because she loved it so much. Let me put you through to the editor immediately.”

My Heart was in My Throat!

Someone had believed in me and even promoted me! I had one year to prepare for the best and all I could focus on was the worst….until that day I called. I had pushed forward in spite of how I really felt. The book was published and produced a series totaling three books. They had taken the story, worked on the wording, illustrated it beautifully with adorable characters.

(The fourth book, Don’t Hug a Grudge, was separate from the series.)

Like a Deer Caught in the Headlights

It was my first query, my first published book and I was stunned…a deer caught in the headlights. When something like this happens to such an unlikely person, you can’t help but see God all over it. I have to go back to the message in each book. It was always about teachings that would bring children into a closer relationship with the Father. I loved the children and wanted to equip them with every word on each page.

The Books Went Out of Print

The books went out of print and I waited for God to do something for years. It finally came through to me that I needed to do something, to step forward once again. In the first book, The Flight of Orville Wright Caterpillar, he dreamed big about flying one day with actions to back it up. He bought books on flying, maps, and goggles. Well, I dreamed big too and needed to put some action to my dream. The books are being re-issued the first part of 2010 for the next generation that will dream big in Jesus. The idea of ’stepping forward’ isn’t new, just risky. Like Orville Wright Caterpillar, I have a Voice deep inside me that ‘plays umpire and gives me peace’ even in the unknown. I’m stepping forward into 2010 and excited about continuing my dream…. ’publish the Word to all generations!’
   
 
Features That Can be Found in the Tabs at the Top of Her Blog:

-> The books have a ‘New Birth Day’ page where children can be born again and share the good news with their friends.

-> Don’t Hug a Grudge has the same plus a Sin Blaster page where a child can be taken through forgiving others and receiving forgiveness for their ‘missteps’. 
 
-> Songs for Each Book:

The Flight of Orville Wright Caterpillar
 
The Adventure of Amelia Airheart Butterfly in bye! bye! Dragonfly  
 
Do Angels Go Camping? (The last song is like a lullaby if it’s slowed down)

-> Book trailers (that have the story being read)
-> Sneak-a-Peek (where the story is able to be read while you flip the pages)
-> Coloring pages that go with each book
-> Curriculum for The Flight of Orville Wright Caterpillar (curriculum is being made for the other books too)
-> Reader’s Reviews (where letters, emails and reviews are posted for people to see how others feel about the books.)

For more about Ms. Donna and her books, please visit her at her site or on Twitter. You can also reach her at her author site (for purchases). Currently, she is working on putting the books into e-book format (with the songs embedded at the end of the e-book).

Thank you, Ms. Donna, for this opportunity!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Though Judged in the Flesh, They Might Live in the Spirit

For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.  (1 Peter 4:6. ESV.)

Christ Has Died

While on the cross Christ looked at His mother, Mary.  Beside her was her sister, Mary (wife of Clopas), Mary Magdalene, and a disciple (John 19:25).  I cannot help but wonder, (had I been alive in those days) would I have been there, too?...standing close by...mourning the loss of my teacher and Lord...holding the hand of Mary Magdalene and with my arm around Jesus' mother?

At that time they only had the Old Testament scriptures to reference.  And, they had Jesus in the flesh but were (obviously) without the Holy Spirit.  Now we have the Spirit to guide us but are (of course) lacking Christ Jesus.  But the Lord said His leaving was good for us because we would receive a helper.  And since the trinity works perfectly together isn't having the Spirit similar to being with Christ Jesus Himself?  Sure they could see Him in the flesh but we can feel Him in our heart. 

Christ Has Risen

We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.  For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.  So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.  (Romans 6:9-11. ESV.)

"Dead to sin".  I like the sound of that.  I abhor sin and the Holy Spirit within me gets offended at times.  But how do I explain that to those who are not "dead to sin"?  Shouldn't it cause me grief instead of anger?  Ought I not mourn (1Corinthians 5:2)?

Christ Will Come Again...Thanks be to God!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tweeting the Bible in One Year

Beginning next week or week after, I would like to start (and attempt to finish) Tweeting the bible in one year. Since I have failed at READING the bible in 365 days (or even all the way through for that matter), this task might prove challenging however it keeps rolling around in my mind so guess I have to at least try it.

Please feel free (and welcomed) to join me on Twitter and "follow" my tweets of God's word. If you already "follow" me, and my tweets begin to drive you bonkers, please "unfollow" me...(though I hope that will not be the case)! You can also see my Tweets here on the sidebar to the left.

12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12. ESV)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Friday Featured Writer: Christie Weatherby

This is truly a lady who needs no introduction...(but I still want to do one). I met Christie (and her hubs) on Twitter (through my high school youth pastor) and was drawn to her personality. Her wit and fun loving humor keeps me coming back to find out what she will say next! And, the icing on the cake was when she mentioned "Cowboy Church"!

Please tell me you have heard of cowboy church! I first learned about this super cool ministry the summer of 2010 (and have been intrigued ever since). Further, when I asked Ms. Weatherby if she would write about it, to my absolute delight she said she would! Thank you so much, Ms. Weatherby!

Cowboy Church

I first went to cowboy church in 2008. You can imagine my surprise when not one, but THREE people brought their dogs into the church with them. I very nearly fell off my chair.

Now, you must know that I was raised in a very strict traditional church. Every Sunday, everyone wore their very best clothes and fancy, shiny shoes. Children were not allowed to move or make a sound during the service. Bathroom breaks were not allowed during the service and no one dared even to dream of bringing their DOG into the church building!

My husband and children were ecstatic on our first day of cowboy church. Everyone looked, acted, talked, and dressed like my husband, and for once in his church life he did not feel out of place. My children immediately began concocting a plan to bring one or all of our four dogs to church the next Sunday. I, on the other hand, was busy looking for the nearest exit and preparing to stop, drop, and roll because I just knew we were all about to be struck by lightning!

Not only were there three dogs in the church, but no one had on anything that looked like "church clothes" and they certainly did not have on fancy, shiny shoes. In fact, most had on cowboy boots and some of those boots had cow manookie on them.

On my first Sunday at cowboy church I managed to NOT fall off my chair, the three dogs ended up having better manners than some people I have met, and no one was struck by lightning. My children were amazingly still and quiet, intrigued with the rope illustration the preacher used during his sermon.

We have been attending cowboy church for three years now. For the most part, I have not had to pull my children's or my husband's ear to get them to church since and we all feel like we are among family.

Three years later, I have learned many things that make cowboy church great. You see, most cowboys would never set foot in a traditional church. They can be rough and tough kind of guys. Well, cowboy church tries to remove all the things that might be a barrier to that rough and tough guy that would keep him out of church. For example, there is no plush carpet in cowboy churches. Probably just a cement floor. Some of those cowboys might have just come in from the pasture and wouldn't go to a traditional church because their boots are dirty. (Remember the cow manookie I mentioned earlier.) There is so much more that I don't have room to put in this one article, but let me just tell you, it is a very wonderful sight to see a room full of rough, tough guys worshiping God together and being the spiritual leaders of their families.
 
Cowboy churches are the fastest growing churches in America and guess what! I am now the wife of one really amazing cowboy preacher! I attend cowboy church every Sunday and sometimes I even take my dog.

For more from Ms. Christie Weatherby, you can find her on Facebook and Twitter!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

In God We Trust

"Life is not a place for proving to God or anybody your strength. Life is a place for proving whose strength you trust—man's or God's. Life is not a place for proving the power of your intelligence to know truth. It's a place for proving the power of God's grace to show truth (Matthew 16:17). Life is not a field for demonstrating the force of our will to make good choices. It's a field for showing how the beauty of Christ takes us captive and constrains us to choose and run for his glory." ~ John Piper

Oh how I love that opening line!  Likewise, Psalm 118:8 is one of my favorites I preach to myself.

8It is better to take refuge in the LORD
   than to trust in man.

Why do I get so wrapped up in what people think?  Experience (and the bible) has taught me man will hear and believe anything whether it is truth or not!  Look at Christ for example.  He was perfect and upright.  If anyone knew how to be pleasing to God it was Him, right?  Yet, He was still falsely accused, rejected, and despised!  Man looked at Him and said, "I don't believe you!"  So, why should I get so indignant when/if something similar happens to me?

God and Nutrition

Have you ever thought you were eating something healthy only to read the label (or report) and find you were mistaken...maybe even mislead!  Other times there is a difference of opinion and unbelief or doubt stirs up strife.  With diabetes running rampant, for example,  the cause makes for debate.  Also, is it better to go vegan, vegetarian, or organic?  Without all and/or accurate information, how can a determination be made?  How can one get to know good nutrition?

I feel the same can be said for becoming acquainted with God.  There are so many variations out there...false messages, false profits, false teachers.

God's Word and Counterfeit Money

I was told, once, about a man who had to identify counterfeit money.  When he was asked how he did it with so many fakes floating around and ways to create them he said he had to know the real one really well (inside, outside, upside down) so he could spot any deviance a mile away.

With the Holy Spirit, we are capable of doing that with the Word of God.

17And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.  (Matthew 16:17. ESV.)




(Photo Information.)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

San Francisco Sabbath: Run For His Glory


I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.  (1 Corinth. 9:22. ESV.)

Athletics: Training in the Lord

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1 Corinth. 9:24-27. ESV.)

Growing up, my sports were dance, gymnastics, and volleyball (preferably beach volleyball).  Though volleyball was recreational, the other two were not.  I went to school, did homework, and went to dance or gymnastics classes...eat, sleep, school, dance/gymnastics.  Rarely did I socialize outside of my education and athletic training.

Paul compares living for the Lord in the Holy Spirit to preparing in a sport.


Run to Win

58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.  (1 Corinthians 15:58. ESV.)

Each day I ask myself if I am being productive (or wasting my time) and if I am taking every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5).  I am glad to know "in the Lord labor is not in vain".  I once had someone say to me, "Everything you read and write is religious."  (I don't feel it is quite accurate to say "everything" but I would say "most things".)  Is that so bad?  Not according to 1 Corinthians 15:58.

I really like Paul's analogy. I have heard it before but never really let it sink in I guess. As a former athlete I can relate to what he is saying.


A dear friend (and sister in Christ) and I are talking about studying through a book together. When she asked which one I preferred I said RESPECTABLE SINS by Jerry Bridges. I have read through it before but would love to refresh my memory of what Bridges writes...and hear someone else's input on it as well.

In closing I will leave off with a quote from John Piper. He states,
"Life is not a place for proving to God or anybody your strength. Life is a place for proving whose strength you trust—man's or God's. Life is not a place for proving the power of your intelligence to know truth. It's a place for proving the power of God's grace to show truth (Matthew 16:17). Life is not a field for demonstrating the force of our will to make good choices. It's a field for showing how the beauty of Christ takes us captive and constrains us to choose and run for his glory."

Friday, April 15, 2011

Friday Featured Writer: Sue Dent

Today my "Featured Writer" is... (drum roll please!)... author SUE DENT! Yep! She is indeed the very writer whose debut novel NEVER CEESE was on the 2007 preliminary ballot for a Bram Stoker Award (and if I am not mistaken Sue "signed a one-book contract with Nicholas Grabowsky of Black Bed Sheet Books" in April 2010)! Thank you so much, Sue, for being my "Featured Writer" today!!! I am so excited to present the following interview:

Sue: First of all let me THANK bloggers like Brook who give authors like myself the opportunity to promote my work. It’s all about getting out there and small published authors often feel like a Who in Whoville. So on with the interview. ;)

Me: Your blog posts address being published and dealing with large bookstores. I joined CEESE's journey a few years back (gosh what year was that? 2006 maybe?). And how did things progress from there?

Sue: I completed my professional edit with Arlene W. Robinson of Never Ceese in 2005. I followed all the “customary” routes of seeking ANY kind of publisher straight away and actually got a nibble after a little trial and error. But the publisher wasn’t interested until the end of the year. Eager to start making some of the money I put out on my edit back, I self-published. I bought a block of ISBN numbers from Bowker and became S D Enterprises. There was no fancy hoopla. No nothing. Wow. Who’d a thought becoming a publisher would be so easy.

Later in the year I went back to the publisher who nibbled and asked if they were ready yet. They said yes, gave me a $500 advance against royalties (that never came because as we should all know by now, small publishers can’t survive using the rules in place. Those rules only work for large publishers.) About a year later they buckled under the weight of returns etc . . . and liquidated over 4000 hard copies of Never Ceese. Since I’d self-published initially, I still had my paperback version to sell. Of course with no way to really get distribution because that costs way more than a small publisher can afford EVER, I still had no real revenue.

Wonderful things did happen with Never Ceese during that time. It was short-listed for a Bram Stoker award in 2007 for Superior Achievement in a First Novel. That alone really helped get Never Ceese noticed. It also garnished wonderful reviews and unprecedented attention from readers of a market that won’t touch work like mine.

Me: What inspired you to write NEVER CEESE?

Sue: The same thing that inspires doctors to help patients, painters to paint, engineers to well, engineer. I’m a writer. I write. I don’t have to have inspiration so it seems. LOL I enjoy these stories in my head all day long and I’m inspired to share them. If someone else enjoys them then that’s wonderful! The more the merrier.

Me: The genre for which you write is Christian "Horror"?

Sue: Nay, nay! ;) There is no genre called Christian “Horror” officially and to say that I write for it would be to mislead. Never Ceese is a story that has horror elements so I do market it as horror. It also has fantasy elements and suspense and even a little romance. I initially and on my own used the word “spiritual” as in Spiritual fantasy but never, ever, ever called it Christian. The reason is because Christian is a broad label and doesn’t really tell a reader much about the story. Secondly, in the publishing industry a group of very targeted and discriminating publishers have taken this label and attached it to all of their fiction. Now the broad label is being used to define specific work. NOT GOOD but there’s little I can do about that.

Me: Though it is technically horror I love NEVER CEESE because it is not gore. I am not a fan of vampires but I have a real soft spot for RICHARD (as he is not the average vampire, in my opinion). What lead you to write a faith based vampire/ werewolf story?

Sue: There are MANY sub genres of horror. I’m not a gore-horror-hound myself but have many author friends who write those kind of stories. As far as what led me to write a faith based vampire/werewolf story—nothing in particular. It’s simply the story I had on my mind. To me all stories are faith based as we all more or less write from our faith whatever that might be.

Me: What is your target audience?

Sue: Folks who want to read a good story. It’s fast paced and a quick read for most. Or so I’ve heard. It seems to appeal to a very wide group so that’s good. I initially targeted young adult because my editor felt it read a lot like J. K. Rowling’s books. But I quickly learned it doesn’t matter who a small-pubbed author markets their books to, no one is going to see it for a long time. When the book finally does get out there and folks are paying attention, THEY pretty much determine the target audience.

Me: Do you feel CEESE is geared more toward baby believers, mature believers, or "unbelievers"?

Sue: Never Ceese is geared toward anyone who wants to read a good story. ;) It isn’t written for a specific or targeted audience though readers from very targeted audiences read and enjoy it and it isn’t written to offend. I certainly know that there are folks who might read Never Ceese and not enjoy it but that’s as far as that goes. Most readers of the horror genre enjoy it, readers of fantasy, and yes even readers who generally only read stories put out by targeted Christian publishers. I feel lucky to have written something that appeals to so many. I always wondered if it were a fluke but Forever Richard, the second book in my Thirsting for Blood Series made the 2009 long-list for Best Novel at the British Fantasy Society after earning a resounding review from them. That was nice!

Me
: Have you seen God at work during this whole process? If so, how?

Sue: Aw, I see God at work every day in my life. He is my life. Egads! Couldn’t do it without Him. Wouldn’t even try. I thank Him everyday as well for giving me the gift to share my stories with others. ALL kinds of others! ;)

Again, Sue, thank you so much for this opportunity! I think you are wonderful and if you are ever in the San Francisco area, please let me know! Personally, I am thankful there is a vampire/werewolf story out there for enthusiasts (though admittedly I am not one of them :(---so sorry) that can be used as a preference to the ones that have a strong (how should I put it) sexual undertone. And, God's word is mentioned in your book---like the Bible story CEESE remembers at the pond---(which is important to me as a reader).

For more information about author Sue Dent and her books NEVER CEESE and FOREVER RICHARD, please check out Sue Dent's Official Blog Spot! You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter @SDent1.

(Photo and all other (c) Sue Dent material is posted here with permission.)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Hosting Orphans

I was thinking about doing a series about missions and ministries but I'm not quite sure yet how I am going execute it. However, I just could not resist posting about this one I heard about yesterday from a good friend and sister in Christ. (Thanks, Tania!)

New Horizons for Children
An International Hosting Program for Orphaned Children

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Beutiful Photos of the Culture of Ethiopia

Click here to view some awe inspiring pictures of some incredible people!

I suppose I feel drawn to Ethiopia ever since a family (who is dear to my heart) adopted two very precious boys from an orphanage there.

Gipsy Palace
http://gipsypalace.com/

Saturday, April 09, 2011

The Devil Made Me Do It!

Nice try, but, um...not quite!  I get the whole good verses evil thing, satan and demons against God and His angels in spiritual warfare:

12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.  (Eph 6:12. ESV.)

But, if satan was bound and imprisoned tomorrow (no longer able to wreak havoc on earth), would man still struggle with sin?  With satan as the originator of sin...would it stop if he was not around?  Wayne Grudem does not sound as though he believes so.  He states,
"[T]he New Testament wants us to understand that there is some degree of demonic influence in nearly all wrongdoing and sin that occurs today.  Not all sin is caused by satan or demons, nor is the major influence or cause of sin demonic activity, but demonic activity is probably a factor in almost all sin and almost all destructive activity that opposes the work of God in the world today."  (SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY. 1994. Grand Rapids, MI. pg. 422)

Though God is all powerful and everywhere, satan is not! (This is not to say spiritual warfare does not take place. I believe it does. I am simply stating satan most likely picks and chooses his battles carefully...spending majority of his time (of course) on people or things that will cause the most damage.)

1 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. 2 And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, 3 and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while. (Rev. 20:1-3. ESV.)

Regarding this scripture, Grudem states,
"Here satan is described as completely deprived of any ability to influence the earth.  During the millennium, however, there will still be sin in the hearts of the unbelievers, which will grow until the end of the thousand years when there will be a large-scale rebellion against Christ, led by satan who, having been 'loosened from his prison' (Rev. 20:7), will come to lead that rebellion (Rev. 20:8-9).  The fact that sin and rebelliousness persist in people's hearts apart from the activity of satan, even during the thousand year reign of Christ, shows we cannot blame all sin in the world on satan and his demons.  Even when satan is without influence in the world, sin will remain and be a problem in people's hearts."  (SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY. 1994. Grand Rapids, MI. pg. 419)

The Punishment of Sin

I have been asked why a loving God would sentence people to an eternity in hell where there will be gnashing of teeth. I feel my own words are so inadequate on this matter but it is my opinion Grudem explains it well. He says,
"Although God's punishment of sin does serve as a deterrent against further sinning and as a warning to those who observe it, this is not the primary reason why God punishes sin.  The primary reason is that God's righteousness demands it, so that he might be glorified in the universe that he has created.  He is the Lord who practices 'steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth; for in these things I delight, says the Lord' (Jer. 9:24)."  (SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY. 1994. Grand Rapids, MI. pg. 509)

Why not sin? Why no misbehave and do things on my terms, my way?! Who does it hurt if I tell a little lie or "borrow" something that does not belong to me? It's not like I'm committing murder or adultery! Besides, no one would even know!

One of my favorite pieces of scripture regarding sin is Numbers 32:23. It kind of has a "What goes around, comes around" ring to it and reminds me to stay in line.

23 But if you will not do so, behold, you have sinned against the LORD, and be sure your sin will find you out.  (Numbers 32:23. ESV.)

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Friday Featured Writer: Mari-Anna Stålnacke

I "met" Ms. Mari-Anna on Twitter and then when I dropped by her blog one day I just knew I had to ask if I could feature some of her writing, here. There is something about it that fills a person (like a breath of fresh air) or quenches like cool, crisp water. I cannot quite put my finger on it but I am hopeful you will see what I mean.

Thank you, Ms. Mari-Anna, for permitting me to showcase your work and share your inspiring, thought provoking words.

Don’t Accept Substitutes for Grace!
(by Mari-Anna Stålnacke)

Are you a friend of grace or a stranger to grace? I don’t know anything more liberating, more exhilarating and more exuberant than God’s abundant grace. In grace the whole salvation story comes together and starts to bloom. Grace is so wonderful, amazing, powerful, wild but gentle that it tames me over and over again. It embraces me and woes me for God time after time. It surprises me, it encourages me, it corrects me, it renews me, it treats me according to my needs. I am in constant need of God’s wild grace. I am in constant awe of God’s amazing grace. I am in love with God and his abundant grace.

God’s grace is what sustains me and anyone else who wants to be a friend of grace. But we need to be careful not to accept any substitutes for God’s amazing grace. That’s why once in awhile we need to make reality-checks on our faith to make sure we are living in grace -not in works or in cheap grace- but in the wild, real, amazing grace of God Almighty. And Lent is just a perfect season to make these reality-checks on faith. It’s time to get rid of anything and everything that keeps us from God’s amazing grace! Christianity is not about being good and doing good. Don’t accept any substitutes for Grace! Your life depends on that!

However, God is rich in mercy. He brought us to life with Christ while we were dead as a result of those things that we did wrong. He did this because of the great love that he has for us. You are saved by God’s grace! And God raised us up and seated us in the heavens with Christ Jesus. God did this to show future generations the greatness of his grace by the goodness that God has shown us in Christ Jesus. (Eph 2: 4-7, CEB)

God did to us what he had previously done to Christ: he brought us from death to life with Christ. God did this not because how lovable we were. As sinners we were dead men walking. God did it because he is Love. As recipients of grace we are walking with Christ. We are saved by grace only! The passive voice here underscores the fact that we are totally passive when it comes to being saved. There’s nothing we can do to earn it. Because it is a gift from God! Grace manifests God’s endless love, grace and mercy to us. It also emphasizes the huge difference what it is to be alive in grace and what it is to be dead in sin. We can’t save ourselves. We can’t make ourselves to come alive. But God can! And he has prepared the path in Christ Jesus!

You are saved by God’s grace because of your faith. This salvation is God’s gift. It’s not something you possessed. It’s not something you did that you can be proud of. Instead, we are God’s accomplishment, created in Christ Jesus to do good things. God planned for these good things to be the way that we live our lives. (Eph. 2: 8-10, CEB)

The radical change from death to life is a pure gift of God’s grace. This amazing transformation is no way the result of our activity. Even the faith as the means by which God’s grace has saved us is a gift from God! But while the text underlines that our salvation is not from works, it also emphasizes works to be an intertwined component of God’s grace. Our works have not and will not save us but they are part of the plan God had in mind in bringing us from death to alive. Good works are not just accidental by-products as we go about our lives.These good works are so vitally important that God has preplanned and pre-prepared them for us to do. It’s not about us. It’s all about God. Thanks be to God!

We really don’t play any major role in our salvation. We are just recipients of God’s enormous grace. Everything has been done. We can only receive it with faith and rejoice! But we need to make sure that we are not accepting any substitutes of God’s grace. The minute we start thinking we have something to do with our salvation, we start focusing on our works. The minute we start thinking we can use God’s grace for our own purposes, we start focusing on cheap grace. Then we are ignoring the gift of God’s grace and soon we are living outside of grace with some poor substitutes of grace like religious acts or cheap grace.

We can’t produce fruit if we don’t remain in the tree of Life. We can’t be God’s instruments of good works if we don’t abide in Christ. We can’t do the preplanned and pre-prepared works if we don’t focus on God. But when we live in grace and leave the self-centered acts for strangers of grace we can truly enjoy the world of grace. Being best friends with grace of God has abundant benefits: Life and more life. Love and more love. Grace and more grace!

Gracious God,
We are beggars of grace: forgive us!
Embrace us fully with your grace so
we’d never substitute your grace.
We are recipients of grace: thank you!
Guide us to do the good works you have especially
preplanned and pre-prepared for us to do.
We are friends of grace: be praised forever and ever!
In Jesus’ name,
Amen

Be blessed, my fellow pilgrim, as you live in grace, dance with angels and celebrate life and the Giver of Life!

Q4U: How has God’s grace surprised you?

This post is part of the Lenten Blog Tour.

(Scripture in this post was taken from the new Common English Bible.)

If you would like to read more from Ms. Mari-Anna please visit "A VIP In God's Eyes", "Following Jesus, Putting God First", "Come As You Are!", "Receiving the Grace of Christ: an Amazing Race of Amazing Grace?", "Looking for Joy, Peace & Harmony in Your life?", "Spiritual Strength-Training", "But God!", "An Ability to Marshall & Direct Our Energies Wisely". You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter @flowingfaith.

("Don’t Accept Substitutes for Grace!" and photo (c) Mari-Anna Stålnacke. Reposted with permission.)

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

The Lord Has Returned the Evil on the Man's Own Head: Part Two

(This is a continuation of Part One.)

Without her husband's knowledge, Abigail packed food and drink and went to meet up with David and his men.

21 Now David had said, “Surely in vain have I guarded all that this fellow has in the wilderness, so that nothing was missed of all that belonged to him, and he has returned me evil for good. 22 God do so to the enemies of David and more also, if by morning I leave so much as one male of all who belong to him.” (1 Samuel 25: 21-22. ESV.)

Upon seeing him, Abigail quickly greeted David with respect and begged his forgiveness.

25 Let not my lord regard this worthless fellow, Nabal, for as his name is, so is he. Nabal is his name, and folly is with him. But I your servant did not see the young men of my lord, whom you sent. 26 Now then, my lord, as the LORD lives, and as your soul lives, because the LORD has restrained you from bloodguilt and from saving with your own hand, now then let your enemies and those who seek to do evil to my lord be as Nabal....(1 Samuel 25:25-26. ESV.)

"Worthless"! Abigail called her spouse "worthless"! Some would judge her for such a thing...maybe even accuse her of being disrespectful, unbecoming of a Proverbs 31 woman, and (dare I say) a bad wife! But "they" do not walk in her shoes, do they? So really, where would "they" get off and have the right to say anything at all about it?

32 And David said to Abigail, “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me! 33 Blessed be your discretion, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodguilt and from avenging myself with my own hand! 34 For as surely as the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, who has restrained me from hurting you, unless you had hurried and come to meet me, truly by morning there had not been left to Nabal so much as one male.” 35 Then David received from her hand what she had brought him. And he said to her, “Go up in peace to your house. See, I have obeyed your voice, and I have granted your petition.” (1 Samuel 25:32-35. ESV.)

How fortunate for Nabal (and everyone else involved for that matter) that Abigail used "discretion"! Countless lives would have been destroyed because of one man's "folly"! I wonder what happened to Abigail when her hubs found out what she had done?

36 And Abigail came to Nabal, and behold, he was holding a feast in his house, like the feast of a king. And Nabal's heart was merry within him, for he was very drunk. So she told him nothing at all until the morning light. 37 In the morning, when the wine had gone out of Nabal, his wife told him these things, and his heart died within him, and he became as a stone. 38 And about ten days later the LORD struck Nabal, and he died. (1 Samuel 25:36-38. ESV.)

I am curious what it means that Nabal's "heart died within him, and he became as a stone"? It sounds as though he hadp a stroke, I guess?

"The LORD has returned the evil of Nabal on his own head." (1 Samuel 25:39. ESV.)

But,

20 a bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not quench,
until he brings justice to victory;
(Matthew 12:20. ESV.)

Monday, April 04, 2011

The Lord Has Returned the Evil on the Man's Own Head: Part One

"The woman was discerning and beautiful, but the man was harsh and badly behaved;"  (1 Samuel 25:3. ESV.)

It never ceases to amaze me how God's word covers just about everything (if not all things).  Whether it is marriage; parenting (Proverbs 22:6); peer pressure (Psalm 118:8); dealing with a contentions woman (Proverbs 21:9, 21:19), angry man (Proverbs 19:19), or "badly behaved" man (1 Samuel 25:3); someone who means to do you harm (1 Samuel19-26); wrestling with pride (Judges 16); lying (Proverbs 19:9); fighting your own sin; listening to others (Proverbs 18:13 & 18:15), etc. the Word of God has the answers!  Praise God!

I have seen a few times in scriptures (OT & NT) where God had enough of a person's wickedness or disobedience and ended his/her life.  Such as it was for Lot's wife (Genesis 19:26), King Harrod (Acts 12:23), and this Nabal fellow (1 Samuel 25:38).  I cannot help but wonder what it must have been like for "discerning and beautiful" Abigail to be married to and live with "harsh and badly behaved" Nabal.  Was their marriage more like a master/slave relationship?  Was Nabal self centered and self serving?  Was he "harsh" with his words, actions, or both?  How long did Abigail have to endure him before "the Lord struck Nabal, and he died"?  Was Abigail wrong in the sight of the Lord for going against her husband and serving David and his men?  Or was it a sin for Nabal to refuse David's men?  At first I wondered if God only "struck" down persons under the old covenant but then I noticed Herod met his end in the book of Acts (new covenant, right?).

Abigail and Nabal

Then David rose and went down to the wilderness of Paran. 2 And there was a man in Maon whose business was in Carmel. The man was very rich; he had three thousand sheep and a thousand goats. He was shearing his sheep in Carmel. 3 Now the name of the man was Nabal, and the name of his wife Abigail. The woman was discerning and beautiful, but the man was harsh and badly behaved; he was a Calebite.  (1 Samuel 25:1-3. ESV.)

David sent some men to meet with Nabal, greet him, and ask for food and drink but Nabal refused.  They retuned to David and told him what had happened.  Upon hearing this he grabbed 400 of his men and told them to strap on their swords.

14 But one of the young men told Abigail, Nabal's wife, “Behold, David sent messengers out of the wilderness to greet our master, and he railed at them. 15 Yet the men were very good to us, and we suffered no harm, and we did not miss anything when we were in the fields, as long as we went with them. 16 They were a wall to us both by night and by day, all the while we were with them keeping the sheep. 17 Now therefore know this and consider what you should do, for harm is determined against our master and against all his house, and he is such a worthless man that one cannot speak to him.”  (1 Samuel 25:14-17. ESV.)

(To be continued...)

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