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Oh! How I do try to live up to Prov. 4:20 - 27. As for the giving and receiving of blessings, 'tis certainly important to me. I have rarely consciously 'set goals'. But have always strived to complete that which I started.

You know, at my wedding, there were toasts given at the toasting time. But because of the people toasting us, they were very little to do with wise and pithy comments before slugging back champage, and more to do with the prophetic blessings we just read about.

One person wished us trouble so that we could grow. And we've certainly not lacked for trouble, but we have grown much more than I ever thought possible. One person bequeathed us one to another and all ofthe idiosyncracies involved there. One person blessed us with romance. I think we can imagine the blessings of those moments and how very seldom we actually get to bless a marriage and hold our hands over them.

Israel blesses Ephraim over Manasseh (the firstborn).

Jacob stole the blessing of the firstborn from his brother, Esau. Later told that "God loved Jacob but Esau he hated."

"Moreover I have given to you one portion above your brothers, which I took from the hand of the Amorite with my sword and my bow.”

Is this in reference to Shechem, when Dinah's brothers took revenge? Shechem is modern day Palestinian Nablus.

Psalm 20

Psalm 20 is mostly ceremony before a battle in Israel. The psalm is addressed to the king, but the psalm is REALLY all about God.

- it is God's protection that is sought for the king
- God's support that will determine the success of the king,
- and God's receiving of the king's prayers that will bring the victory.

God is sovereign. God is in charge. God's Will will be done. When people trust in, rely on, and depend on God much happens:

- blessings in Israel in O.T.
- salvation
- an enhanced Christian walk.

7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.

8 They are brought to their knees and fall,
but we rise up and stand firm.

You can trust in the things of the world or you can trust in the Lord's name. Our Lord is Jesus Christ. Jesus, "Yeshua" in Hebrew, means : Jehova is salvation.

No living human or dead human is salvation, no rituals, no offerings, nor suffering is salvation. Salvation is of God.

If you do not trust in and believe that, but believe in things of the world - you are lost, defeated, and will be brought to your knees.

If you trust in and believe in Jesus, then one can rise up and stand firm in the imputed righteousness given by God at salvation. You are then a child of God and a co-heir to heaven.

[Note: How firm you stand is a topic that will be mentioned throughout the year. Hint: Trusting in, relying on, and depending on God does not stop at Salvation.]

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First goals, then blessings..

Goals: I do write down goals following Luke 2:52. "Jesus grew in wisdom, in stature, and in favor with God, and man." This was originally the 4-H scripture until the International 4-H program has decided to take any reference of God out of their clubwork.

Anyway, as a former 4Her...we talked about improving our head, heart, hands, and health.

This year, my goal to improve my "Head" or wisdom is to read 50 books. I have done this for several years. I think it is growing one of God's gift to me, my mind. To grow my "Heart" I am reading through the Bible for a fourth time. I try to read through different versions. I grew up in a legalistic background that emphasized the King James so, it is nice to get different perpectives. To grow my "Hands" or service to man kind..my husband and I are trying to open our home once a month and share fellowship. Our home is small, but it is a blessing to be used for God's glory. God, can even use small space to bless us and others. Finally, to grow in health, I'm trying to fit exercise into my busy schedule of keeping up with 3 kids under 3..just some simple stretching to keep my aging body lose and limber until my children grow up enough and I can get back into running again.

Some other goals, or projects on the horizon: leading a teenage girls Bible study and leading a Bible study at the pregnancy center.

A blessing: At our wedding, we had Numbers 6 "May the Lord bless you and keep you"...sung to the Irish blessing. I pray that we will pass that tradition down to our children. Later, I noticed in my husband's grandmother had those verses in Numbers 6 underlined in her Bible

My husband's father also read Esp. 3:15-19 at our wedding. " I pray that you may know how wide and how long and how high and how deep the love of God is."

I had a wonderful experience last year. A friend's daughter was going off to college, so we had a luncheon for her (surprise) where everyone gave her a blessing as she left home. It was very moving and set her on her way as she started this new chapter in her life.

Also, I am "reading" the Bible this year by listening to The Bible Experience. It opens up the words with a new life that I find very uplifting. Thank you, Mike, for bringing this to my attention last year - I immediately went out and got the complete Bible and have enjoyed every minute of it.

Proverbs 4:20-27

As an exercise one might go back or in the future replace the word "wisdom" with "Jesus". Do not be distressed about the feminine pronouns associated with wisdom. Wisdom is an attribute and by necessity is feminine in the Hebrew.
23 Above all else, guard your heart,
for it is the wellspring of life. (NIV)

The heart is important in Scripture. God loved David (despite his flaws and sins) because David had a heart for God. The prophets mention turning back to God and circumcising one's heart - that is getting rid of the worldly, stony part and having the heart for God. When you come to salvation, you must have the right heart. God will know your heart - you cannot con him with a surface prayer or a half-hearted plea. God wants ALL of you.

When we are saved we are given a regenerated heart. A heart for God. What does Satan do when he loses someone to God. Does he just say - "Ahh, oh well God wins and leaves us alone"? No, it is a war between Satan and God, and Satan administers "damage control".

His damage control? Distraction, temptation, and lies whispered in our ear about the body of Christ are some that come to mind. Ever wonder why it is so hard as an early Christian to stay in God's word on a daily basis? How so often the temptations you get are perfectly tailored to hit your hot spots and trigger a sinful reaction? Ever wonder why so many Christians attending churches often seem to come up with complaints, griping, or gossip about the way things are done, how they are not included, how ungodly other Christians can sometimes be in life? I assure you it is no accident.

What can we do? (softer) What can we do?

Come back to this verse in proverbs. Guard your heart. Develop a submissive heart for God, and let God handle it, for you cannot do it on your own. Pray for God to give you the grace and strength to stay in his Word. Pray for God to provide the escape (from temptation) that he promised us in the bible. Have a heart for God and love God with all your heart, soul and mind. Love your fellow man - especially the body of Christ (other Christians). Let God handle the other Christians in your church and the world. You just go and worship God, joyfully give, and love the other members.

Guard your heart and give it to God always in every way and every day. Guard your heart for it is the wellspring (source) of life. for those saved that is not just life here, but eternal life - for that is what we are given at our acceptance of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. God is sovereign, and we will do the things he has planned for us in this life on earth. But will we do them with a heart for God? If we do, then one will hear the words in heaven - 'Well done good and faithful servant."

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Jesus Feeds the Four Thousand

This year I am going to concentrate on psalms and proverbs. Perhaps Mike would be kind enough to post any past New or Old Testament postings that he thinks are appropriate.
Why repeat a story or miracle??????

The critics of the Bible may say - Oh that bible, just a mishmash of writings, nice platitudes, doesn't seem to be written very logically, etc.

Here a story of the feeding of a multitude is repeated. Big deal - seen it before. Been there and done that. So why include it in the writings of the Bible? What does the Holy Spirit and God have in mind? What is God saying to us?

Well, there are differences.

The first feeding was in Israel, and the audience was Jewish. The twelve baskets of leftover food may very well symbolize the twelve tribes of Israel.

This feeding in Matt15 was not in Israel. The audience was Gentile (anyone not Jewish). The seven baskets? Maybe they symbolize the seven continents (something only God would know about at this time), or maybe it was seven tribes that were driven by canaan to this part of the world?????

More importantly - what is God saying to us? I believe that the message is that Jesus came to provide salvation for both the Jew and Gentile. (This would run counter to what the Jewish faith of the time believed about God's plan.) Jesus came to show that God would provide (if a person believes) the sustenance one needs to live an eternal life. God would not only provide this, but he would provide it in abundance - in an overflowing way (hence the leftovers). God has compassion for not just the Jews but also the Gentiles, and He is providing a solution for all so that none may perish.

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#1 Christian myth: Reading the Bible is the same as good works.

Biblical knowledge is only a tool that helps us grow, but growth is not enough. For example, what was the sin of the tree that Jesus destroyed? The tree took from the earth and heaven but gave nothing back. Growth for growth’s sake was not enough – the fruit was the problem. The tree was growing but was not producing any fruit. Prayer can be a sin when worshiped as Gideon did in Judges (and becomes the only Old Testament Judge that failed to save his people) just as Biblical knowledge can only puff one up. And, reading the Bible and getting it right has helped slowly break up the church through reformational churches, Great Awakening denominations and non-denominational churches, and now home churches as people said, "I know the Bible better than my pastor/priest, why should I go there?". Reading the Bible is only a reasonable goal when used for the greater purpose of being fruitful. What fruit? Well, Paul referred to the first converts in Achaia as the “first fruit” (1 Cor. 16:15), identifying numerical growth of the church as being of foremost importance for being fruitful. Sincerity is NEVER enough.

An important real-life example is how most all political scientists agree the greatest reason why there is such great hunger and violence in Africa is specifically the support efforts by Christian relief funds trying to help (so great as to equal 10% of the continent’s GNP). When food shipments stop and doctors fighting disease go home even more children die as it is just like removing morphine injections from the body of an addict. African governments (less than three decades old) are far more violent and poorly organized specifically to the corrupting influence of removing the moral obligations for social services. Just as a parent must let a child fail and perform poorly to improve rather than doing a job themselves, we must support the existing social service systems no matter how corrupt they may seem if we really want the world to get better instead of just feeling special about ourselves. It’s always better to teach someone to fish than to give them a fish, but missionaries are just beginning to practice such wisdom. When asked what help we can give, most experienced foreigners plead, “Just don’t send money.” Sadly, the world would be a better place if rapture had only long ago wiped out Christians whose sincere, but ungodly, efforts have been plainly less than nothing. Moreover, marketing surveys show that people donate, in fact, generally not for a concern for those being helped but for the need to feeling good about doing the "right" thing.

Don't read the Bible because it fulfills some goal that will make you feel better about yourself after you're done. Knowledge is not power, application is power. When I ask people why they haven't converted and baptized, they most often respond with needing more Bible knowledge. Well, I know of 4,000 people with 3 weeks of additional Bible knowledge. How about some stories how people are putting this knowledge to godly purposes? Thanks.

Too often we build our self-worth only on the number of our goals we have succeeded rather than how closely we have stayed true to God's vision for our lives. Goals are important, but we don't want to be goal-driven but purpose-driven (thank you Rick W). Goals only tell us that we're moving, not whether it's in the right direction. This is the difference between a Mission statement (how to move) and a strong and legitimate vision (the only thing that gives us the path). A true vision is something we can never reach (when are we, for example, finished working for God?). Rick Warren states in the Purpose Driven Church that Jesus’ five New Testament life purposes (not goals) are to “Love the Lord with all your heart,” “Love your neighbor as I have loved you (which is infinitely greater than as you love yourself),” “Go and make disciples,” “Baptize them,” and “Teach them to obey.”

Quote from the commentary (http://bible.org/page.php?page_id=126), the 4th paragraph from below

"Isn’t it interesting that God chose Jacob to be Israel, the patriarch. Joseph, who by far, is the most pious of the group is passed over in that no tribe is named after him. He is not the forefather of Messiah, but Judah, who had failed with his sons and who was intending to have an illicit relationship with a Canaanite prostitute, is. Neither was Joseph to be the one through whom the priesthood would be named, but Levi, the brother who had deceived the men of Shechem and slaughtered the men of that city. That, my friend, is election. And that is precisely why we should be encouraged. For God may take material as unlikely and unpromising as you and I and do great and wonderful things through us."

Ruben: firstborn but stripped of his birthright because of the adultery

Simeon: secondborn but also stripped of his birthright because of the massacre

Levi: thirdborn but also stripped of his birthright because of the massacre, but he became the head of the priesthood line, with no inheritance (given to one of Joseph's son)

Judah: fourthborn, commited adultery, begot King David and Jesus Christ.

Joseph: the loved son, didn't receive inheritance, instead his two sons each get one (one is taken from his fater, one from Levi).

That is one complex blessing...

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