A New Experience

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PHOTO PROMPT © Roger Bultot

My family and I drive past it every day on our way to drop our son to school. It’s a beautiful old building in a quiet neighborhood. I’ve often wondered what it looks like inside.

I recently learned that the word synagogue comes from the Greek word for gathering together. It can be a house of prayer, of learning or a meeting place.  It’s a place where people of shared faith feel at home.

I have a Jewish friend. I wonder if she wouldn’t mind me tagging along one Saturday. I want to experience what their worship service is like.

100 Words

This was written for the Friday Fictioneers challenge hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields For more details, visit Here.  To read other stories based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.

Source:  BBC

Redeemed

And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” – Mark 15:34

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When Jesus was on the cross, He was mocked.  Those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself, and come down from the cross!”  The religious leaders joined in the ridicule as well, saying, He saved others; Himself He cannot save. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe.”  It must have been painful for Jesus to hear them say those things.  These were the same people of whom Jesus asked of God, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34).

They had no idea of what was really at stake.  They were mocking Jesus about not saving Himself not realizing that wasn’t His purpose at all.  As He pointed out at the time of His arrest, if He wanted to spare Himself the agony of the Cross, “…do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?  How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?” (Matthew 26:53, 54). 

Had Jesus come down from the cross to save Himself, we would all be lost and eternally separated from God.  Love for the Father and us kept Jesus on that cross.  He was the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world.  He was the Savior of the world.  God sent Him to die in our stead so that we could have everlasting life.  John 3:16 puts it so beautifully, For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” When God sent Jesus into the world, it wasn’t to condemn the world but to save it through Him (Verse 17, NKJV).  The cross is our salvation and evidence of God’s incredible love for us. 

As much as it pains me to see Jesus hanging from the cross whenever I watch a biblical movie about His life, it reminds me of what Jesus said to Nicodemus.  And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up,that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (Verses 14 & 15). 

Sin separates us from God.  When Jesus was on the cross, bearing our sins, He was separated from the Father.  That was why He cried out, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34).  Jesus became the Sin-bearer and it was that sin that the Father condemned.  Jesus was forsaken for our sake so that we would be forgiven for our sins once we accept His atoning work on the cross.

How terrible it is to be separated from our heavenly Father.  This sobering thought should motivate us not to live any longer like other people in the world do but to live as Jesus did–in loving obedience to the Father.  He was obedient even on to death.

Jesus laid down His life for us to show His love.  How can we return this love?  We do so by obeying Him and having faith in Him.  Today and everyday, let us live our lives for the One who willingly went to and stayed on that cross so that He could redeem us to God by His blood (Revelation 5:9).  Our redemption came a great cost (1 peter 1:18-19).

Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb;
Redeemed thro’ His infinite mercy,
His child, and forever, I am – Hymn #338

Clemency

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Photo Credit: Fandango

I stood there, gazing at the city across the bay.  Somewhere in that concrete jungle was the prison where I spent fifteen years before I was granted clemency and released on parole.  It felt good to be standing there in the open, the sun hitting my face and listening to the lapping water.   It felt good not being behind bars.

When I turned sixteen, I never thought I’d wind up in prison.  My life changed when I killed Mick, the man who forced me to prostitute myself.  I was a victim of sex trafficking but I was treated like a criminal and sentenced to life, a sentence which the governor now considers to be too harsh.  Thanks to the celebrities who came to my defense, I’m standing here now.

I didn’t want to kill Mick but I feared for my life.  He would have killed me that night if I hadn’t defended myself.  I don’t hate him.  It wouldn’t do me any good.  I want to focus on rebuilding my life.  While in prison, I earned my Associate’s Degree.  I know that opportunity came from God.  I thought my life was over but, it’s not.

195 Words

This story was inspired by the true story of Cyntoia Brown who was arrested and charged with homicide of Johnny Allen who offered to have paid sex with her.  She was accused of murder and robbery and sentenced to life.  

This was written for Sunday Photo Fiction hosted by Susan Spaulding. For more details visit Here.  To read more of the stories based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.

The Worst News

The worst news for a woman to hear is that she will never be able to have children.

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Before I watched the episode of Greenleaf where Sophia had a medical emergency which turned out to be Ovarian Torsion, I had no idea that condition even existed.  What is it?  It is a condition which occurs when an ovary twists around the ligaments that hold it in place. This twisting can cut off blood flow to the ovary and Fallopian tube. Ovarian Torsion can cause severe pain and other symptoms because the ovary is not receiving enough blood.

The symptoms are:

  • an adnexal or pelvic mass
  • nausea
  • severe pelvic pain
  • vomiting
  • fever
  • abnormal bleeding

For Sophia, it was a sharp pain in her side.  She first experienced it when she was out jogging then twice on another occasion.  The third time was very severe and she was rushed to the hospital where she was prepped with surgery because she was diagnosed with Ovarian torsion.  While on an anesthetic drug, she was talked about how her boyfriend, Roberto wanted to marry because at lunch he told her that he respected her boundaries and could see a future with her. Before going under, Sophia was dreaming about weddings, houses with mailboxes, puppies, and babies.

In Sophia’s case, the cause of the torsion were two large ovarian cysts interfering with Sophia’s organs. The doctors fixed the problem but couldn’t preserve the ovaries. Sophia will never be able to have kids of her own.  Her mother, Grace had to give her the terrible news which she did.  The scene was heart-wrenching when Sophia broke down and cried.  Grace tried to comfort her telling her that she could have children another way-meaning adoption and said something to the effect that God’s got her back.  Sophia’s response was to wonder why God would let that happen to her.

As with any unexpected and painful life changes, a person’s faith will be tested and Sophia is no different.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out.  Will she turn away from God or will she cling to Him?  And how would her condition affect her relationship with Roberto?  Hopefully, he will stand by her.

My heart ached for Sophia, a young, lovely girl whose dreams of becoming a wife and mother one day were crushed.  How many Sophias are out there living with the painful reality that they will never be able to have kids of their own?  What do you say to someone who found out that she can never have children?  You don’t tell that this was God’s will.  Let God tell her that Himself.  Just tell her that you’re sorry and be there for her.  If she gets angry with God, let her.  He can handle it.  Don’t quote scriptures to her, don’t try to explain why this has happened to her.  Don’t be like Job’s friends.  They were more comforting to him when they were silent.  Just be there for her.

Sometimes, the best way to help someone is just to be near them – Veronica Roth, Divergent

Sources:  Medical News Today; We are the 94 Percent

Dating

You may wonder if the Bible says anything about dating.  It doesn’t directly, but there are guidelines that can apply to your situation.

The first thing you do is pray about it.  God knows best and He knows people.  He will know right off the bat who would be a good match for you and whom you should avoid like the plague.

If you are a Christian, you should date one.  The Bible tells us not to team up with those who are unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14, TLB).  It is important to know that it is not enough that the person is a Christian.  Not everyone who says he or she is a Christian is one.  They may be in name only but not in practice.  Paul warns us about this, “you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a Christian yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or a drunkard, or a swindler. Don’t even eat with such people” (1 Corinthians 5:11).  And that is why when you pray about a potential mate ask God for one who loves Him.  You want a godly mate.   Believe it or not, you want someone who would put God before you.  You want someone who loves God more than you.

Don’t let anyone pressure you into doing what you don’t want to do.  The Bible tells us to “run from anything that stimulates youthful lust.  Follow anything that makes you want to do right. Pursue faith and love and peace, and enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts” (2 Timothy 2:22).

Dating should not include a sexual relationship.  “But our bodies were not made for sexual immorality. They were made for the Lord, and the Lord cares about our bodies.  Run away from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body.  Or don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honour God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:13, 18-20).  Don’t do something you will later regret.

Date someone who has a positive attitude, encourages you and is supportive.  Make sure you both want the same things.  I have heard of horror stories about couples who get married and never discussed having children.  The woman learns too late that her new husband does not want to be a father.  If your relationship is serious and you know that this is the person you want to marry, put everything out on the table.  You definitely don’t want any surprises after you are married.

Take things slowly—let the relationship progress slowly.  Get to know one another.  Take your time.  There is no rush.  Successful relationships take time and effort.  They need to be cultivated.  Don’t allow your relationship to consume so much of your time that you exclude others.  Don’t think only about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and what they are doing (Philippians 2:4).

Dating is fun if it is done responsibly and with God’s blessing.  God wants us to enjoy healthy and loving relationships.  God has someone for you.  Just as He matched Adam up with Eve who was suitable for him, He will do the same for you.  Just be patient and wait on Him.

Gifts From the East

“Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him” – Matthew 2:2

Wise Men from the East traveled all the way to Jerusalem to see the King of the Jews.  They didn’t know where exactly to find Him.  They had see His star and followed it.  It led them there in Jerusalem.  They visited King Herod, believing that he would know where the Christ was but the king didn’t.  He was greatly troubled by this and called the chief priests and scribes together to inquire where the Christ was to be born.  They told him what the prophecy said, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:  ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.’

King Herod met alone with the Wise Men and told them that the Child was in Bethlehem, tell them to, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”  The visitors left and the star which they had seen in the East went before them and led them to where the Child was.  Seeing the star filled them with great joy and they rejoiced.

They went into the house and saw the young Child with His mother, Mary.  They fell down and worshipped Him.  They presented gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. What was the significance of each of these gifts?  Were they simply customary gifts from the regions or were they chosen specifically?  Gold is a precious and valuable metal.   It is rare and it doesn’t tarnish.  Precious things and ornaments are made of gold.  In this instance, gold represents Jesus’ kingship.  Frankincense is a perfume or incense.  It was used in religious and spiritual rituals all over the world..  It represents Jesus’ priesthood.  Myrrh is a bitter gum and costly perfume which comes from a certain tree or shrub in Arabia and Ethiopia.  It is also an antiseptic used for embalming.  The myrrh prefigures Jesus’ death and embalming.

These gifts were not arbitrary.  They were carefully chosen for the One whom they traveled far to behold and worship.  They brought their gifts to Him because they believed that He was the Messiah, the King of the Jews.  What a beautiful story of faith and the love of God who sent His Son to die for everyone.  It is a testimony that Jesus is Savior of Jews and Gentiles.  He came to save the world.

This Christmas season, reflect on the roles of Jesus–King, Priest and Savior.  Think of someone who needs to know that God loves them and offer them His most precious Gift to mankind–His Son.

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Source: Natural Living Family

Not One of the Crowd

Then I said, “I will not make mention of Him, Nor speak anymore in His name.”
But His word was in my heart like a burning fire Shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, And I could not – Jeremiah 20:9

Do you sometimes feel like the prophet Jeremiah? He was called to be a prophet. Life for him was not at all easy. He couldn’t marry and have a family. His community hated him and they didn’t want to hear what he had to say because his messages were of doom and gloom. They were probably thinking, “who does he think he? These were people he grew up with. They were his neighbors. It got so bad that Jeremiah didn’t want to speak any more. He tried to keep silent but he couldn’t. He couldn’t keep silent when he had a message to share with the people that could result in their salvation.

Do you pass up opportunities to witness to others because you don’t want to be criticized, ridiculed, ignored or shunned? Are you tired of your friends making fun of you because you talk to them about God? Do you feel like you are an outsider because the people you once hung out with want nothing more to do with you? You cramp their style. You are a drag because you don’t want to go to nightclubs or the bars or hang out at the mall anymore. Your boyfriend dumped you because he’s not into that Bible stuff.

What do you do? You do what Jeremiah did. Realize and accept your new life as a Christian and that you have work to do. Accept that life at times will be difficult because you serve God. Jesus had to deal with family, neighbors and friends who rejected and questioned His ministry. He faced persecution and opposition from the religious leaders. In spite of all of these things, He finished the work God had sent Him to do. Follow His example. Continue to share your faith. Those who want to hear it will listen. Sooner or later, the seed will fall on good soil.

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