Flowers of the Holy Night

How often do you drive down a road and notice the plants and weeds growing along its edge? You might see them if they are shockingly beautiful, but otherwise – not so much. Would you ever think a Mexican roadside weed could become a symbol of Christmas, or be linked to Christianity?

Poinsettia, a name meaning “very beautiful,” grows as a weed in Mexico and Central America. They grow wild in a tall, stringy form, and the red flowers are actually not flowers. Similar to our Bougainvillea in the United States, its upper leaves turn red, and the tiny flowers grow in the middle of the bracts. Cultivated in a variety of colors now, an Aztec king once prized it. So, how did it become a favorite Christmas plant?

The Aztecs used to pull these weeds to make purple dye for clothes and cosmetics. They made the white sap in the stem into medicine to treat fevers. In 1825, Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first ambassador from the USA to Mexico, owned greenhouses on plantations in South Carolina. He began growing these plants and sent them to friends and botanical gardens.

Image of Joel Roberts Poinsett courtesy of scencyclopedia.org

Joel’s friend, Robert Buist of Philadelphia, fell in love with the plants when he received one. He began selling them as cut flowers, using the name of Poinsettias. By the early 1900s in America, they sold whole plants for landscaping and pot plants nationwide.

Albert Ecke, a German immigrant, increased the availability of poinsettias in America when he sent cuttings by air instead of fully grown plants by rail. By this time, the Ecke family had a profuse inventory of single-stem plants. His grandson, Paul Ecke, Jr., was strong in marketing, and he developed a brilliant idea for the poinsettias. Why not send them to early television shows so they can be a backdrop during the holidays?

So, they shipped thousands of plants to the Dinah Shore, Bob Hope, and The Tonight Show programs. The public went crazy over the burst of color on the Christmas shows, and their popularity was born. Throughout most of the 20th century, the Ecke family crop accounted for over ninety percent of all poinsettias sold in the United States. The US Congress even deemed December 12 as National Poinsettia Day to commemorate the date of Poinsett’s death.

As Christianity quickly spread across the Americas, Mexicans became the first people to celebrate the holiday flower’s Christian meaning. They saw its red leaves as a symbol of deep love and the blood of Jesus at His crucifixion. Today, the poinsettia, with its star-shaped foliage pattern, is used consistently in churches at Christmastime, for it is thought it resembles the Star of Bethlehem.

I’m ending today’s blog with the Legend of the Poinsettia for your reading enjoyment. Be sure to join us again on Sunday, November 24, for the next “Everything Christmas Blog.” God bless!

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The Legend of the Poinsettia

Pepita, a poor Mexican girl, had no gift to present the Christ Child at Christmas Eve Services. As Pepita walked slowly to the chapel with her cousin Pedro, her heart was filled with sadness rather than joy.

“I am sure, Pepita, that even the most humble gift, if given in love, will be acceptable in His eye,” said Pedro.

Not knowing what else to do, Pepita knelt by the roadside and gathered a handful of common weeds, fashioning them into a small bouquet. Looking at the scraggly bunch of weeds, she felt more saddened and embarrassed than ever by the humbleness of her offering. She fought back a tear as she entered the small village chapel.

As she approached the alter, she remembered Pedro’s kind words: “Even the most humble gift, if given in love, will be acceptable in His eyes.” She felt her spirit lift as she knelt to lay the bouquet at the foot of the nativity scene.

Suddenly, the bouquet of weeds burst into blooms of brilliant red, and all who saw them were certain they witnessed a Christmas miracle right before their eyes.

From that day on, the bright red flowers were known as the Flores de Noche Buena, or Flowers of the Holy Night, for they bloomed each year during the Christmas season.


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Have a Holly Jolly Espionage

What is Christmas without a gift, games, and fa la la la? How about some espionage to deepen the mystery of the holiday? It was a forlorn and homesick time of the year for the POWs in Europe in 1944, during World War II. The easiest way to make another day go quickly in a war zone was to play games.

The Geneva Conference conceived a brilliant idea. They concentrated their efforts on relieving the tensions between the countries. Still, meanwhile, the U.S. Army designed a way to reveal escape routes for the prisoners. Together, with the US Playing Card Company, Bicycle, they invented a deck of cards called a “map deck.” Maps of top-secret escape routes were placed between two layers of playing cards. When soaked in water, they peeled apart to show the POWs the best way to safety. How ingenious was this idea!

The next problem was how they could get these cards into the prisoner’s hands. Allied POWs were given the right to receive mail and packages from the Red Cross, especially at Christmas. What a perfect opportunity to smuggle these playing cards with maps!

The Red Cross delivered their Christmas gifts, and it didn’t take long before the prisoners figured out their presents. Bicycle cards and Monopoly games all contained hidden maps, escape routes, directions, and tips to reach friendly borders.

Image permission granted by US Playing Card Company

The Monopoly games had authentic German currency hidden within the game’s paper money, a metal file placed inside the board itself, and maps of the prison and its locality inside the hotel pieces. Section Nine of the British Directorate of Military Intelligence in the War Office printed the documents in the game.

Because of these espionage tactics, the “map deck” cards helped 35,000 POWs escape from Colditz Castle in Germany, and 316 attempts were made to scramble away from the prison. The Monopoly game was responsible for a third of the 35,000 prisoners fleeing their location.

It is unknown how many of the original decks exist today, but two of them serve as an exhibit in the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. The US Playing Card Company was kind and granted us permission to use the image of these cards shown above. This top-secret plan was not made known to the public for many years. In commemoration of the legendary deck, a reproduction of the cards is now available for purchase in stores, today, by the US Playing Card Company. Though the cards do not need soaked, you will find the map printed on the outside of the deck. What a holly jolly Christmas surprise for our POWs!! God bless Bicycle!

Please join us Wednesday for another “Everything Christmas Blog!”


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The Schwan Christmas Tree

The year was 1843, and Heinrich Christian Schwan was a newly ordained minister. Six years later, Heinrich and his new wife, Emma Blum, moved to the United States from Horneburg, Germany (a province of Hanover). The Puritan practices were all but gone in the U.S., so he was free to preach Christianity and practice his childhood traditions from Europe. Zion Lutheran Church, in Cleveland, Ohio, was the perfect start.

On Christmas Eve 1851, the first winter storm of the season hit, and Rev. Schwan decided it was time to put a tree up in his church. He wasn’t sure how well it would be received by parishioners, but he took the risk. Most of his congregation were from Germany, so he was pretty sure they had seen a Christmas tree. (The U.S. did not formally celebrate the holiday until 1870).

Rev. Schwan and his wife made the garland of colored paper and used cookies, nuts, and candles to decorate the beautiful large tree. It was important to share his happiness of the birth of the Christ Child. The next morning, as the congregation arrived for the Christmas service, mixed reactions filtered throughout the church. Some were delighted to see the tree, yet others were offended and angry.

Within a couple of days, the Schwan Christmas tree was headline news, but it wasn’t positive. A prominent newspaper called it “nonsensical, moronic absurdity, and silly.” The media even suggested the church be shunned for idolatry practices. Rev. Schwan was devastated, for he thought it expressed joy. He couldn’t believe many people considered it to be sacrilegious, so he began making inquiries to fellow clergymen about Christmas trees.

A letter arrived one day from the Imgaard family in Wooster, Ohio. Lighting a Christmas tree was part of their family tradition since 1847! So, the following year, Rev. Schwinn met with the community leaders and his congregation to share this news. He convinced them it was not pagan or wicked.

On the eve of Christmas, 1852, another tree blazed in the Zion Lutheran Church. As fate would have it, decorated trees began popping up all over town, and within five years, they appeared all over the country.

It was believed for a very long time, the Schwan Christmas tree was the first to appear in a church in America. However, we found facts that show Rev. John Muehlhaeuser of Rochester, New York, used a tree in his church as early as 1840. However, it was placed there to charge admission and raise money for his building. Today we read that they used Christmas trees in churches in Philadelphia, in 1834, and Fort Dearborn in 1804. Pastor Schwan is fully responsible, though, for gaining the widespread acceptance of Christmas trees in the church. His pastorate later continued by serving many years as the president of the Evangelical Lutheran School of Missouri.

Image courtesy of readtheplaque.com, Bryan Arnold

I would like to touch on the pagan roots of Christmas trees. Using Jeremiah 10:2-4, some Christians believe the following verse maintains their position that Christmas trees are pagan…

“Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen… For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.”

May I say the Christian belief is the Christmas tree is merely a symbol. To be considered idolatry, it has to be worshiped like God. We do not place our trust in a piece of wood – this is ridicules! Christians need to follow their conscience, though, when deciding if they want to use a Christmas tree. For sure, it should not be a debate that divides us.


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A Christmas Celestial Event

A perfect scene… a star like none other, sitting above a stable in the peaceful night, and it’s announcing the birth of a holy Messiah. The Gospel of Matthew was the only book in the Bible that described “The Star of Bethlehem” occurrence.

Matthew 2:2

“…and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

What did the wise men witness in the sky that night? Was it real? Was it a star, a comet, or something else? The magi were skilled astrologers and scholars, so their fixation was not in the stars, but on large astronomical events which they believed would predict something happening. But why were they the only men to witness and describe a star guiding them? If they were well trained then why didn’t they understand what they saw in the sky?

Many astrologers of 2,000 years ago, the Chinese, Korean, and Babylonians, documented the heavens because they placed predictions based on events. The writings recorded then, are in a constant review by our astronomers today, and theories abound. But, one thing is for sure, no answer or explanation for this divine incident is clear. Here are the details I discovered, and you may come to your own conclusion.

I know little of astronomy, but for certain, stars do not move relative to themselves. Planets continuously shift through the solar system. Based on this, how did the sacred star move, leading the magi to Bethlehem? One theory suggests a heliacal rising. The planets Jupiter and Venus lapped each other while moving through the background stars. If the sun caught up to one of the planets, the planet would disappear until the sun moved far enough away from it. Then it would reappear shockingly bright in the sky, just before sunrise. Historical records show this exact occurrence on April 17 of 6 BC to December 19 of 6 BC. But, this natural alignment of planets, sun, and earth would not create a long, extended tail to the ground such as the one described by the magi.

A second theory suggests a comet. This seems to be the most logical explanation because it can hang over a city or land mass as did Halley’s Comet on March 8, 1986. Historical astronomy records revealed a tailed comet in the timeframe of the magi’s travels, and it lasted for seventy days. However, from Jerusalem’s vantage point, the comet would have been in the southern sky with the head close to the horizon and the tail pointing upward. The magi described the “Star of Bethlehem” as one they never seen before and comets were frequent visitors in their galaxy. So, as scholarly astrologers, why couldn’t the magi tell the difference between a comet and a star? Apparently, something confused their decision.

A final theory suggests the birth of a star, known as a nova. It certainly matched the biblical description. Once again, Chinese historical records reveal a new star was born in the northern constellation of Aquila in 4 BC. During the time the three wise men traveled from Jerusalem, the star would have lit their sky south into Bethlehem and not in the west. This explains why no one else witnessed this bright star. However, the star did not move, and it certainly didn’t stand over the city of Bethlehem; nor would it have stayed bright for the one to two years they took to find Jesus.

Revealing all the facts described in this blog, I will stand on my own theory. The Star of Bethlehem was an incredible act of God and one created for a unique purpose. God can use natural law to carry out His will because He is not bound by the laws He created for this world. When you think of the whole miraculous event of Jesus’s birth, a special star is not beyond His scope.

What do you think?


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Autumn in October

A silence resonates from heaven as Christ fills the voids deep inside my soul. I see the troubled storm clouds approaching, and they make not a sound. A busy world persists, running in circles, but I keep an eye on the sky, for only my God do I wait.

Standing at the edge of a great canyon where extinction begins, and life ever after looks like a desert floor, I harbor the love Christ sends me. Within His peace, windows open with new opportunities. The canyon is far and wide, and in times of adventure, it seems an impossible crossing. For some, it’s a quest, but for others, it’s a stepping stone to enter eternity and be with Him.

I bundle my love and faith and wear it as a code of honor. It’s autumn in October… seasons change, and life emerges with new horizons. The sun salutes the night watchman, and I bid farewell to another night. God, in his miraculous way, restrains the spiritually encountering distance. His quiet voice calls, and I must be patient. It’s autumn in October, and the hour grows nearer.

Seeking my own passage, I step lightly on the ledge of fate. The rocks are jagged and sharp, and death is just a slip away. But God watches over me with a promissory note I pledged to Him. The canyons divulge how minute I am as I step out where courage calls.

In the autumn of life, the Lord’s love is upon me. He gathers His herd of humanity for a voyage to explore the canyon walls of life. The fiery nights beacon October, and it quenches our thirst and hearts. Please, Father, turn the desert floor into meandering waters. The quests are over – some I failed, but some I conquered by Your blessings.

It’s autumn in October, and a new child is born. Goodbyes of another life are hard. Still, a new life is always on the horizon, for as one door closes, another is born again.

Another adventure, another voyage as the pride of time, sets my course upon another mission. Only God will bridge the heavens as I wait at the ledge of the canyon walls. I built my caves… now it’s time to surrender. The slope is deep, but it is in God’s hands to bestow the faith as He calls me home.

Love is filled with memories, in yet another autumn in October. The mystical canyon mourns, and the life which once prospered refrains in the setting sun. The shadows long for God’s calling… come home with Me when you’re ready.


Our blogs will resume next Sunday, November 10, when we celebrate Christmas with the “Everything Christmas Blogs.” Please be sure to join us!

The Fact Remains

This world still evolves in the past tense. I quoted a proverb in Ecclesiastes 1:9 which reads, “there’s nothing new under the sun,” and I’ll be darned if it isn’t true. Solomon wrote this statement, 500 years before Jesus’ birth, to emphasize the cyclic nature of human life on earth and the emptiness of living only for the “rat race.” It’s a life separated from God. But, our gracious God continues to rain down His love on us… even amidst the turmoil.

I’m not a great biblical scholar, but it’s obvious we, as God’s children have not learned a thing. It’s clear the hardships of Jesus are repeating themselves in the modern-day. How odd to read the trials of Jesus and then observe Christianity today.

The Pharisees and Jews took it upon themselves to discredit the Son of man. Jesus came to save the world and to give us salvation, but we’ve still not learned our lesson. He was a man so brutally beat, chastised and ridiculed because no one believed him. It was easier to side with the laws of the land, then to be uprooted to another religion.

But, a few knew the truth about Him in biblical days. They did not fear the religious upheaval, but embraced the faith, which led them to Him. In all His splendor and integrity, Jesus ultimately proved His identity when He died for our sins.

Today, our system finds it easier to ruin and destroy His direction than to believe in our Savior, who came to deliver us, two thousand years ago. The evil brews to the point of boiling, for unbelievers are monumentally winning over the world. The fact remains, if not for the faith of believers who held on to their principles, the rampant corruption would go wild. This is a prophecy in the Bible that our world is quickly fulfilling today.

My Dad, God love him, always said it’s easy to find fault in a person. I believe goodness lies beneath hatred when the truth slowly emerges from the layers. I can’t help but think back when Jesus walked on this earth. His ministry was short, for evildoers who had little faith and didn’t believe in His integrity blemished it. Doesn’t this sound familiar today as many allow the media’s march to undermine the truth of God’s word? I cannot imagine the inner turmoil of those who do not have faith in anything for they relish in hatred.

I energize my faith in the name of God’s glory, for the great master and overseer of all evil, brings to light the doers of animosity. Just as in biblical times, the proof takes a while to expose, but eventually, the truth will be revealed for it is God’s will!

Pray for those who live in doubt and fear faith because they find it easier to condemn than to compliment. The fact remains, God’s love will intervene in their destructive behavior.

My dad’s words ring out once more!

Proverbs 26:24-26

“A hateful person disguises himself with his speech and harbors deceit within. When he speaks graciously, don’t believe him, for there are seven abominations in his heart. Though his hatred is concealed by deception, his evil will be revealed in the assembly.”


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Low Octane

Certain formulas just make sense, as in the Hi-Performance engines of my younger days. We raced muscle cars every Friday or Saturday night if the weather cooperated on those days. Low octane fuel was for little less-powered engines. But, if we wanted great strength and power, high octane gave us a much better performance. Our health and well-being run on the same performance factors, and it’s equated to the relationship we have with God.

I’m sure some of us have observed people who sat in the back of a church and appeared as though they slept in their clothes. Some believers come to take up space and really don’t take part in the songs of praise. But in the front pews of God’s church, sat the brilliant Christians, praising the Lord, and magnified by God’s glow. Those beautifully dressed believers in the front rows, with their hands held high to receive God’s word… need I say more? They are full of high octane. Then, I examined those of ill-faded color, dull complexions, blemished, and disheveled, and it was apparent their spirituality may be (or was) filled with low octane. Their engine’s performance could be directly related to the quality of octane they put into their bodies.

“If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” 1 Corinthians 3:17

Though a remarkable difference in the congregation is clear, there appears to be a more profound correlation not so noticeable. My theory is purely hypothetical, so I did some research to discover the accuracy of my prognosis.

“You shall serve the Lord your God, and he will bless your bread and your water, and I will take sickness away from among you.” Exodus 23:25

Jesus proved in His healing work that it is God’s will we have good health. Many examples in scriptures reveal the miracles of Jesus healing those with ailments. Our health is the inevitable result of knowing God and living a life filled with His love and direction. Let’s look at a few of these examples.

My wife’s mother was a devout, God-fearing Christian who lived her life by God’s commandments. When she passed away at ninety-five years old, she barely had a wrinkle on her face. She glowed in God’s spirit, and He took her from us peacefully, without pain and struggle. I have a high school friend who has not had a natural heartbeat since 1995. Pacemakers have been the source of her existence, but she praises the Lord for her health and life. Looking at her today, she is the epitome of health – glowing skin, smiling ear-to-ear, and shiny, beautiful hair. She runs on high octane and lives every day to the fullest. God bless her heart!

On a more notable scale, the evangelist, Billy Graham, was ninety-nine years old when he quietly passed away. He struggled with cancer and eventually died of pneumonia, but until the day he died, he looked healthy. He had God’s glow of high octane. The late Bishop Eddie Long, head of one of the largest mega-churches in the U.S., is another example of one who passed away from cancer. He maintained his youthful appearance and high octane looks until the day he left us.

Our health is a gift to all of God’s children. We can overcome disease and sickness, in some sense, by living a faithful life to Christ. Now do not misinterpret my words to mean we will never get sick or recover from terminal conditions if we live on high octane. God doesn’t promise us life with no pain or sickness. But one has to wonder… why are those with spiritually low octane, appear not so healthy, yet those who run on high octane rarely show any illnesses? Pay close attention to those around you who are suffering ailments and tell me if my observation isn’t correct.

The principles of well-being are not only our mental health but the condition of our physical health too. It’s simple – God is the highest octane you can receive for your body. Where can you get it? We obtain it through prayer and living a godly life. The more the Lord resonates in your life, the better you will look and feel. Let the love of God be Your octane bust!


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The 8 Most Powerful Women in the Bible: Part Three

What makes a woman powerful? Is it money, fame, a political position, or is it an Oscar-winning actress? Any of these attributes may be true in today’s society, but not in biblical days. Many excellent examples of strong, influential women grace the pages of the Bible. Now two thousand years later, everyone may find much wisdom in the biblical females. Use them as a guiding tool in your personal lives and to develop a relationship with God.


Did you miss the first two parts of this series? Click HERE for Part One. Click HERE for Part Two.


Joanna the Apostle (also known as Junia)

Joanna does not have a specific story as some other women in this series. In fact, her life is pieced together by many scriptures throughout the Bible, but what an influential person! She was an upper-class Jewish woman in 1st century Palestine. Her grandfather was Theophilus, the High Priest in the Second Temple, in Jerusalem.

The earliest mention of Joanna was in Luke 8:3, where she is referred to as the wife of Chuza, a steward to Herod Antipas. They were married when she was very young, and they both maintained jobs in Herod’s royal household. I’m sure this placed Joanna in a very unpopular category with ordinary Jews. One of her husband’s duties was to make sure everyone paid their taxes to Herod.

Like Mary Magdalene, Joanna, too, had demons in her body. She was often curious about Jesus and His miracles. Would He cleanse her as well? On the days she traveled away from the royal household, she would sit as a bystander and listen to His sermons of parables. One day, Jesus directed his attention to her and spoke with conviction. As the healing miracles of Jesus’ power tell, He knew she was possessed, too, with infirmities…and so He healed her.

Joanna gave a lot of money to Jesus and His disciples. She was wealthy, well-connected, and influential, so she was able to protect Him in subtle ways. She became instrumental in the success of His mission. In this biblical age, it was scandalous for a woman to be financially supportive of a man, much less a female who came from King Herod’s house. But, she took the risk, even though she witnessed her employer, King Herod, behead John the Baptist.

Ruins of King Herod’s palace

At some point in Joanna’s marriage, she becomes single again. One can only imagine the reasons why this happened – perhaps Chuza divorced her, or was he murdered for his position in the royal home? The Bible does not state a specific cause. But, Joanna was in the ranks of the Galilean poor with no social standing or financial security, but she held her head high, turning her life to serve Jesus.

She memorized the Lord’s parables and joined Jesus in storytelling among the poor villages along with a few other women. Many of their listeners were rejected for their conversion to Christianity, so Joanna could sympathize with their feelings. Indeed she was inspired by Jesus’ teachings. She traveled as far as Rome, being a witness to the Lord. She was eventually named an Apostle.

It is spoken in scripture Joanna and Mary Magdalene prepared the cloths to wrap Jesus’ body after His crucifixion. She was also a witness to the empty tomb after His resurrection. Her love for Jesus was deep, and she served Him faithfully until the end of His life.


What made Joanna a powerful woman?

Joanna was brave and proud. She faced public condemnation by becoming single and leaving a royal household, but she held her head high amidst the turmoil and confusion. I’m sure her conversion to Christianity was a radical change too.

When she lived among the elite and wealthy, she gave her money to Jesus and the disciples. She was generous to a fault. Her high values didn’t place wealth on personal belongings, but rather to God.

Joanna was inspiring because she transitioned from an aristocratic woman to a humble servant during her life. She didn’t mourn the loss of possessions but became a witness to the strength of the Lord. Money was a means-to-an-end to serve others.

Jesus healed her ailments because he recognized the self-power she had inside her to change.

Her stewardship to Jesus and the Gospel was uncompromising, and in return, He blessed her with grace.

After Jesus’ death, Joanna became a traveling missionary. It is implied that if she died outside the Holy Land, they brought her body back to Jerusalem. In the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches, they adorned Joanna a saint.


EVE

Imagine if suddenly your body just appeared as an adult. You are facing another human who looks different, and his name is Man. Everything around is magically beautiful. Objects called trees stand taller than yourself, and the ground is green with grass and shrubs.

God spoke to them saying they could eat from any fruit of the trees except for the tree of good and evil in the middle of the garden. God warned them if they ate from the tree, they would die. This scenario is precisely the one Eve faced on her creation day. I wonder what her thoughts were at this exact moment?

As she walked through the shrubbery, she saw a slithering serpent who spoke to her. (Genesis 3:1-6, NIV)

“Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

Eve responded, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.”

“You will not certainly die, for God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil,” the serpent retorted.

The fruit on the tree looked delicious, so she picked it off the stem and took a nibble. Then she handed it to the Man who also took a bite of the irresistible fruit. Their eyes opened wide when they realized they were naked. Ashamed and embarrassed, Adam and Eve pulled fig leaves off of the trees, sewed them together, and covered the most intimate parts of their body.

Suddenly, they heard footsteps walking in the garden, so they hid, in fear, among the trees. The Lord God approached them and asked why they were hiding. Adam spoke first… “I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

God said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” Adam and Eve hung their heads down.

Adam answered, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Then Eve responded to God, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:11-13 NIV)

God sternly faced Eve and said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16 NIV)

Then the Lord God said to Adam, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:17-19 NIV)

The Lord made garments of skin for them to wear and moved Adam to the east side of the Garden of Eden, where he would work the land for food. Adam and Eve procreated, and a son, named Cain, was born. Later, another son, Abel, was born. As they grew older, their children learned to struggle, working in the fields.

Eve realized the curse God placed upon them, for life was a battle. Childbirth was unbearable, and then she endured the death of her son, Abel. The Lord punished Cain for killing Abel and placed him in the land of Nod, east of Eden, to become a wanderer. We must do what is right before God or reap the consequences.


Many misunderstandings about Eve swirl throughout the generations and since the beginning of mankind. She is held responsible for the sin of humanity by eating the forbidden fruit. Some believe she ‘enticed’ Adam to eat it, too. However, there isn’t biblical truth to this statement. The fact is, Adam did not have to take the fruit and eat it, but he did, knowingly aware of the consequences.

Eve is mislabeled with names such as “the devil’s gateway,” “temptress,“ and “wicked persuasion.” My response to any of those unwarranted titles come from this standpoint – Eve did not know of evil, nor Satan and his lies. How can she be singly be held accountable for the fall of mankind?


What made Eve a powerful woman?

Eve was the first woman, no other before her.

She is “the mother of all living,” for she is the beginning of humanity. Eve represents the maternal potential of adult women. She proclaimed the sons she gave childbirth to were created by man and God.

Eve was created with a pure heart, and her only knowledge of life came from Adam and God.

Created in God’s image, Eve carries the feminine qualities of the character of God. Her power of being a woman teaches us mankind cannot exist without ‘womankind.’


Eve’s powerful story wasn’t so much about her good qualities, but what she taught us about life and a relationship with God:

Disobedience to God leads us to follow our own will, thus unfortunate consequences. She believed Satan rather than God. How many of us, today, act on impulse versus praying to God for the correct answer to problems?

When we compromise God’s Word by blocking out or changing the parts we refuse to hear, it becomes a means to continue sinning.

If we do not resist sin when it presents itself, we will eventually give in to the temptation.


Next Sunday will be the final two women in this series. Be sure to join us!


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“The History of Hope”

Today, I acknowledged a miracle of words when I picked up my sacred golden pages known as the Bible. I was seeking special words of encouragement to share with my readers when a light shone on a preface. Among the Scriptures and descriptions of my Bible were four simple words clear as the morning sky – The history of hope. Wow! This Christian compilation of sixty-six books and letters, written by over forty authors, says more about the complexity of God’s holy words than anything else. What better way can you describe the Bible than hope!

If I ever find time to pen, ‘A Bible for Dummies,’ I’ll use these encouraging words to show the love God shares with humanity. I often mention the voids we have in our souls. We look for something to fill the emptiness deep inside us. Its HOPE, of course, hopes our faith will withstand the depression of the world we live in today.

This divine and extraordinary book is God’s plan for our salvation. The Bible gives us deliverance from sin, repentance, a roadmap for faith, and a refuge in times of trouble. It’s a sourcebook for everyday living, regardless of your religion. Even though its stories took place in Asia, Africa, and Europe, the message is still the same for all believers – everyone needs hope.

Everyone dreams of a better future, but what do we use as guidelines to make it happen? We can rely on our wisdom and knowledge, or we can refer to biblical scriptures for the exact answers. I know someone right now is saying, “I can’t understand or comprehend the Bible.” Guess what? Neither can I, but I take one passage at a time, and I ask for God’s help…and it works! Another resource for better comprehension is to do a careful search on the internet. Only use resources written by the church and their ministry.

The word “hope” in the Bible means “a strong and confident expectation.” It deals with things, yet unseen, and the testimony of God’s promises. In other words, the Bible is HOPE. Hope – based on heavenly realities, which gives us the power to live courageously, and to be all we can be through Christ Jesus.

The words “The history of hope” alone alludes to peace and sovereignty. Hope gives us strength and courage. Never give it up nor the hope in the power of our Lord!


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The 8 Most Powerful Women in the Bible: Part Two

What makes a woman powerful? Is it money, fame, a political position, or is it an Oscar-winning actress? Any of these attributes may be true in today’s society, but not in biblical days. Many excellent examples of strong, influential women grace the pages of the Bible. Everyone today, now two thousand years later, may find much wisdom in the biblical females. Use them as a guiding tool in your personal lives and to develop a relationship with God.

The last point I want to express is “behind every successful man is a strong and wise woman.” So true of these most powerful women in the Bible! I hope you enjoy my review of this week’s next two women.


Did you miss Part One? Click HERE.


ESTHER

This biblical story begins in the time of King Xerexes, who ruled from India to Ethiopia in 486 BC to 465 BC. In the third year of his reign, he gave a luxurious banquet for all his officials and ministers in the garden courtyard. His wife, Queen Vashti, threw a separate party for women in the royal palace. As he became drunk, he ordered his personal servants to bring his wife to him. She was gorgeous, and he wanted to show her off to his proteges. Queen Vashti refused to show off her beauty, and the king lost his temper at her disrespect of his orders. He wanted to avoid his embarrassment, so he ruled her to leave his premises. “Every man is master of his own house; whatever he says, goes.”

King Xerexes’ young royal attendants suggested he search the kingdom for beautiful young virgins to replace Vashti. Soon, a woman named Hadassah, otherwise known as Esther, was brought to the palace and given over to the overseer of the women in the harem. She stayed twelve months for beauty treatments and for visits with the king in the evenings. Esther soon won the admiration of everyone, including the king. He placed a crown on her head and proclaimed a holiday for all the provinces. But she had a dark secret…

Her older cousin, Mordecai, raised Esther after her parent’s death. He was a member of the Jewish community who had an ancestor captured and taken away from Jerusalem. Her rearing was in exile, and Mordecai begged her never to tell a soul.

Mordecai often walked in front of the palace, hoping to glimpse Esther. He still felt responsible for her welfare. One afternoon, he made his usual trek to the palace gates. He overheard two guards plotting the death of King Xerexes, so he quickly sent word to Esther, who told her husband. In the king’s investigation of the incident, she told her husband that Mordecai, “her cousin,” heard the conversation, but this was all the details she gave him.

Sometime later, King Xerexes promoted a man named Haman to the highest-ranking official in the government. He required everyone at the palace gates to kneel before Haman, but Mordecai refused repeatedly. Haman learned Esther’s cousin was a Jew, so he devised a plan to kill all Jews throughout the kingdom.

Esther’s maids told her of Haman’s plan, and she was shocked and scared for her relatives. So she sent a servant to find Mordecai and find out the whole story. She also handed the servant clothes for her cousin to wear, which would hide his Jewish roots. But, Mordecai refused to wear it and relayed a message to her, “Do not imagine that because you are in the king’s palace you alone will escape the fate of all the Jews.…” He encouraged her to talk to her husband.

Esther sent a strong message back to Mordecai.

“Go and get all the Jews living in Susa together. Fast for me. Don’t eat or drink for three days, either day or night. I and my maids will fast with you. If you will do this, I’ll go to the king, even though it’s forbidden. If I die, I die.” Mordecai followed her instructions.

Three days later, Esther dressed in her royal robe, visited the king on his throne. She asked him to arrange a dinner with Haman, of which he obliged her request. Meanwhile, Haman was building seventy-five foot high gallows. He would soon hang Mordecai.

The day of the dinner party arrived, and King Xerexes, Esther, and Haman gathered for the feast. The king asked Esther, “What would you like? Half of my kingdom? Just ask and it’s yours.” Her charm beguiled him. She broke into tears and revealed the horror of her people’s fate at the hands of their dinner guest. Haman was now terror-stricken. The king raged with fury and stalked out into the palace garden. He saw the gallows structure and came storming back into the banquet room when he noticed Haman on the floor in front of his wife. Haman was pleading for his life at Esther’s feet, and the king exploded with anger. King Xerexes ordered him hanged at the very gallows meant for Mordecai… and so it was done.

Later in the day, the king presented Queen Esther the estate of Haman, archenemy of the Jews. She admitted her background to him and the story of her cousin. Mordecai came before the king who took off his signet ring and handed it to him in a loving gesture. Esther appointed Mordecai over Haman’s estate. Then, she pleaded with her husband to please revoke the plan plotted against the Jews. “How can I stand to see this catastrophe wipe out my people? How can I bear to stand by and watch the massacre of my relatives?”

King Xerexes allowed Esther and Mordecai to write whatever she deemed necessary to stop the massacre on an order, and he signed it. Their city exploded with joy for Esther saved their lives. Celebration, cheering, and feasting took to the streets. Many non-Jews became Jews on this day. Mordecai also became a mighty name in the palace. The king, with love on his face, turned to Esther and said, “What else would you like? Name it and it’s yours. Your wish is my command.”

Mordecai soon released a notice calling for an annual celebration of the Jew’s freedom, and it became a tradition. He soon ranked second in command to King Xerexes for the peace and prosperity he brought to his race.


I found it interesting God is not mentioned in the Book of Esther, however, the protection of His chosen people is implied. The Jewish religion was an ethnic choice rather than a religious practice in the era of Esther. When the Bible was interpreted, many rabbis were troubled by Esther’s failure to live as a Jew, so her story suffered in its religious connotation.

Why was Esther a powerful woman?

Esther was a female hero, for women in Persia were a low species in society. Whatever power she did have was earned through manipulation of higher forces (such as her husband). Esther used her beauty, charm, and political intelligence to save the Jews. She fought for her objectives.

Queen Esther was a positive role model for Jewish women during her lifetime. She was courageous to approach the king about the death plot of her race. Her life was on the line and it was risky but Esther stood up for what she believed in, even though it was dangerous.

Though God was not mentioned in the Book of Esther, Esther used fasting and prayer for clarity. It placed her in the path of humility.

Esther is a powerful example that our background does not determine God’s plan for us, only faith. She was an orphan and lived in exile, but God brought her to redemption and freedom.

Not many details are known about Esther after the story written in the Bible. However, Jewish scholars claim she had a son named Darius who became a king. He lifted the ban against the rebuilding of the Holy Temple, which led to the building of the Second Temple.

According to Wikipedia, Esther is commemorated as a matriarch in the Calendar of Saints of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. She is also recognized as a saint in the Eastern Orthodox and Coptic Orthodox Churches. It is believed Esther’s son buried her, with Mordecai, in a mausoleum in Hamadan, Iran. In 2009, Iran added it as a Jewish holy site on their National Heritage List.


ABIGAIL

Image of Abigail courtesy of Pinterest

Abigail’s short, but compelling story, is in 1 Samuel 25, and written about 960 BC. It occurs in the town of Maon, a Jewish settlement in the West Bank.

Nabal was a very wealthy, yet obstinate and harsh man, who owned three thousand sheep and one thousand goats. His wife, Abigail, was an intelligent and beautiful woman. One afternoon, Nabal was shearing his sheep in the wilderness. A young warrior named David was hiding in a nearby town, and he heard of Nabal’s huge undertaking. He sent ten of his men to visit Nabal; after all, he guarded Nabal’s sheep on more than one occasion.

“Go and approach Nabal. Greet him in my name, ‘Peace! Life and peace to you! When your shepherds were camped near us we didn’t take advantage of them. I’m asking you to be generous with my men – share the feast! Give whatever your heart tells you to your servants and to David, your son.”

Nabal was furious and began insulting the men while demanding to know the identity of David. He yelled, “Who is this David? The country is full of runaway servants these days. Do you think I’m going to take good bread and wine and meat freshly butchered for my sheepshearers and give it to men I’ve never laid eyes on? Who knows where they’ve come from?”

David’s men ran back to tell him of Napal’s arrogance. “Strap on your swords!” he called out to four hundred of his men. “What a slap in the face! May God do his worst to me if Nabal and every cur in his misbegotten brood isn’t dead by morning!”

Meanwhile, a young shepherd ran back to Abigail and told her of the confrontation in the fields. He begged Abigail to do something before they killed everyone. She immediately took action by gathering two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five sheep ready for cooking, a bushel of roasted grain, a hundred raisin cakes, and two hundred fig cakes. She loaded all the food on the donkeys and had her servants lead the way to David. No one could say a word to her husband.

Image courtesy of timothylutheranbiblestudy.com

As Abigail was riding her donkey into a large ravine, David and his men were descending from the other end. They all met in the middle where Abigail quickly climbed off the donkey and fell on her knees before David. With humility, honor, and respect, she humbly spoke to him of her husband’s faults.

“My lord should not pay attention to this wicked man Nabal. He simply lives up to his name! His name means ‘fool,’ and he is indeed foolish!” David immediately recognized Abigail was sent by God. He apologized and thanked her for stopping him from murdering all of them. He accepted the food she brought him and said, “Return home in peace.”

Abigail arrived home, and Nabal was eating a huge spread of food and was very drunk. She left him be… until the next morning when she told him what she gave David. Nabal’s raging face turned red, and he grabbed his heart and fell onto the ground. For ten days, he laid in a coma until God took his life.

When David heard Nabal was dead, he said, “Blessed be God who has stood up for me against Nabal’s insults, kept me from an evil act, and let his evil boomerang back on him.” He sent for Abigail to propose marriage to her, and she didn’t linger. She climbed onto her donkey and rode to David.

Abigail was David’s second wife, as he was also married to Ahinoam of Jezreel. Both women accompanied him while they sought refuge in a Philistine territory, and their life wasn’t easy. But, soon after settling in Hebron, Abigail gave birth to their only child, who was named Chileab (also called Daniel).


In case you did not make the connection in Abigail’s story, the man who she married was none other than a young King David, one of the most well-known figures in Jewish history. He was promised by God that his children would rule Israel forever. If we delve into Bible scriptures, Abigail was one of eight wives to David.

She suffered the consequences of an arranged marriage to Nabal. She could not blame or fight their choice. But, her story reveals why women should follow God’s guidelines for a partner. Though he was an abusive husband, she remained dedicated to him until God’s perfect timing played out.


Why was Abigail a powerful woman?

Abigail was a very humble woman. Though she was wealthy, she did not let her riches interfere with the welfare of her family. Not only did she save her family, but she saved David from committing murders.

She was fearless as she rode to find David and give him her offerings. It was perilous for her to face a man with an army of four hundred men.

Abigail had an attitude of humility, honor, and respect as she approached the man who would one day rule Israel. I think David knew Abigail was the kind of comrade he needed to be a successful king.

She always acted in wisdom, for God was building character in her heart. Living with an abusive man, she still grew into a respectful woman, even amid adversity.

Please join us again next Sunday for two more powerful women in the Bible. God bless!



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