Info

Christian Natural Health

Christian Natural Health is the podcast that teaches you about natural health from a biblical perspective. I'm Dr. Lauren Deville, a practicing naturopathic physician in Tucson, AZ. In this podcast, my guests and I will cover topics ranging from nutrition, sleep, hormone balancing and exercise, to specific health concerns like hair loss, anxiety, and hypothyroidism. Once a week, I'll include a bonus episode, meditating on a Bible verse or passage. I'll also interweave biblical principles as they apply throughout the podcast--because true health is body, mind, and spirit. Learn more about me at http://www.drlaurendeville.com/
RSS Feed Subscribe in Apple Podcasts
2021
May
April
March
February
January


2020
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January


2019
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January


2018
December
November
October
September
August
July
June


2017
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January


2016
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February


Categories

All Episodes
Archives
Categories
Now displaying: Page 1
May 14, 2021

Today's podcast is a meditation on 1 John 5:14-15: "And this is the confidence we have in Him: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, in whatever we ask, we know that we already possess what we asked of Him."

May 7, 2021

Teresa Shields Parker has lost more than 250 pounds, more important she is keeping it off. Sweet Surrender: Breaking Strongholds is her sixth and most powerful book. She leads Overcomers Academy, a Christian weight loss group, that has numerous courses available to members. She also loves doing one-on-one freedom coaching. With more than 40 years of experience as a journalist and publisher, Teresa lives in Columbia, MO with her husband, Roy, where they are active in their local church. They have two grown children and have also been foster parents to 10 behaviorally and developmentally challenged young adults.

Learn more at teresashieldsparker.com, get her free ebook What Is a Stronghold? here, or get her book Sweet Surrender: Breaking Strongholds here. Her podcast is called Sweet Grace for Your Journey.

Our sponsor today is trylgc.com/cnhthyroid, and enter the coupon code CNH20 for 20% off your order. 

Apr 30, 2021

As mentioned, Messiah: Biblical Retellings is here. Daughters of Zion: Biblical Retellings is here. Covenants: Biblical Retellings is coming soon.

Introduction: 

I put the story of Job in a book about covenants, even though God never makes a covenant with Job, because I believe the only way to properly interpret the events in the story is within the context of the covenants that did (and did not) exist at the time. Most scholars place the story of Job after the flood and before Abraham’s covenant with God in Genesis 12. This means that the only covenant Job had with God are those of Adam and Noah. When Adam sinned and obeyed Satan, God was left on the outside of the world He had made, looking in—like a landlord whose tenants had turned Him out. Satan was now the god (little g) of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4). While God had promised to bring the promised Seed of Eve (Genesis 3:15), He would need a people willing to more or less play by His rules in order to do so, and then the cooperation of generations of prophets to speak Him into existence. He hadn’t gotten that far yet.
Job is a righteous man, and so clearly favored by God that Satan takes notice. It’s actually God’s blessings that paint a target on Job’s back. While Satan of course comes to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10), in this story he does so not for the sheer pleasure of it, but to prove his point to God, almost as if in a courtroom drama. He aims to establish that our love for God is contingent upon God’s blessings. If Satan can establish this for the most righteous man on earth at the time, it would follow that the same is true for all the rest of us. 
In Job 1, God brings up Job to Satan before Satan mentions him, which seems to indicate that it was God who placed Job in Satan’s crosshairs. But God is omniscient, and Satan’s immediate rejoinder showed that Satan was already thinking about Job. I suspect God just knew what Satan was thinking and cut to the chase. Many translations of Job have it that God “allowed” Satan’s attack against Job, which would seem to make God complicit in Job’s misery. But the context of the covenants in place at the time indicates that God allowed it only in the loosest sense of the word. Job lived at a time when God had not yet established a reciprocal covenantal protection for His people. God had to allow Satan’s request, even though He hated it. Did He have the power to refuse Satan? Technically yes, but He did not have the authority to do so—because He had given that authority to man in the garden. Man, in turn, had given it to Satan. At that point, Satan became the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4) and the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2). By nature, all of Adam’s descendants were slaves of Satan (Ephesians 2:3). So legally, Satan had the authority to do what he asked to do to Job. Had God refused, He would have violated the integrity of His word. The writer of Hebrews tells us that it is the integrity of God’s word that holds the very universe together (Hebrews 1:3). While in Job 2:3, God said to Satan, “You moved Me against him,” God only moved against Job in the sense that He withdrew the “hedge of protection” (Job 1:10) that He had placed around Job when Satan complained about it. Ecclesiastes 10:8 says, “whoso breaks a hedge, a serpent will bite him.” Without the hedge, the serpent had access to bite. 
Satan’s challenge put God in a very difficult position. Satan (meaning adversary in Hebrew) is only mentioned by name 18 times in the Old Testament, 14 of which are in the book of Job. He isn’t even mentioned as Satan in Genesis (maybe because he wasn’t the adversary yet—this was the story of how he became the adversary), or in Isaiah 14, where the story of his fall appears (there he is called Lucifer, meaning “Light Bringer”—his angelic name). As mentioned in the story, I suspect God did not warn mankind about Satan and his angels because there was nothing they could have done about them at this point in history anyway. Why tell someone they have a terrible, bloodthirsty enemy if they are powerless to avoid him? Would that not produce only terrible fear and paranoia, with no benefit? Yet because Job had no doctrine of Satan, that meant he had no context to explain his tragedy. He, and his three friends, believed calamity was a punishment for evil (which sometimes it is, according to the writers of Proverbs and Psalms). Since Job knew he had done nothing specifically wrong to warrant all of this, the only logical alternative in his paradigm was that God did this to him unjustly. Satan was counting on this, and counting on Job to curse God because of it, even though God was innocent. In Genesis, Satan essentially told Adam and Eve that God was holding out on them—that He didn’t truly love them. Job was the story of Satan doing the same thing to God: telling God that Job didn’t truly love Him. The adversary was busily trying to convince each side that they were not loved.
It isn’t until the fourth friend Elihu finally speaks in Job 32 that Job (and the reader) learns there is a third option. Andrew Wommack argues that Elihu was the writer of the book of Job, because the rest of the book is written in the third person until Elihu begins to speak in Job 32:15, when he transitions to the first person. This is important for context, because it tells us which chapters we can rely upon as divinely inspired, and which are mere opinions of the speaker. God later rebukes most of what Job and his three friends say, so that leaves only Job 1, 2, and 32-42 as accurate theological representations, at least of what was happening at the time. 
Elihu informs Job in 33:12 that Job is not righteous. From the perspective of the New Covenant, we understand that “there is none righteous; no, not one” (Romans 3:10). While Job’s specific sin may not have occasioned this attack, the general sin of Adam, the covenant head of mankind, had rendered all of mankind unrighteous. But then comes the bombshell verse: Elihu prophesies that God is working to provide the savior! “If there is a messenger for him, a mediator, one among a thousand, to show man His uprightness, then He is gracious to him, and says, ‘Deliver him from going down to the Pit; I have found a ransom’… He will redeem his soul from going down to the Pit, and his life shall see the light” (33:23-28). 
Today, with the benefit of hindsight and the entire Bible, we have some ability to conceptualize what Job went through, but Job himself did not. He couldn’t read the first two chapters of Job, to learn that he had an enemy who was using him as a pawn to prove a cosmic point. He had no context to understand what God was doing behind the scenes. I think this is why God responded to Job the way He did. Explaining to a man in Job’s day about sin and the need for a savior to be born a man and die as a substitutionary sacrifice for all mankind would have been like trying to explain calculus to an ant. So instead, God’s approach was to remind Job of how much bigger He was than Job, and how little Job truly understood. Even though we can comprehend God’s predicament better than Job could have done, there is still much we don’t and cannot know. The message God gave Job—to magnify His glory and to trust His greater wisdom when He cannot give us a direct explanation—still applies to us today. 
Job’s initial responses to his tragedy in chapters 1 and 2 are often quoted by believers today as a godly response. He says, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21), and then the writer of the book says, “In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong” (Job 1:22). A popular worship song actually quotes this verse, holding it up as an example of how believers should respond to tragedy. But while Job did not sin in what he said, he was still incorrect. God was not the one who had taken from Job; that was Satan. God did remove the hedge of protection from Job, but only because He had no choice: Job had no covenant which would have given God a legal excuse to protect him. We do. The Law of Moses made provision for blessings and protection from the enemy for God’s people, so long as they followed His law. God warned them that He could not protect them if they ceased to follow His law and uphold their half of the covenant, though. Disobedience would allow Satan access to them in order to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). These blessings and curses are all laid out in Deuteronomy 28. In most of the Old Testament, there is no distinction between the curses God inflicts and those inflicted by Satan due to God removing the protection of the covenant from His people—but again, I suspect this was because in the Old Testament, there was essentially no doctrine of Satan at all. That’s part of why Job is so fascinating: it gives us insight into the real chain of causality in Heaven. God was “responsible” only insofar as He withdrew His protection and blessing, and He did that much only when His hand was forced. It was never what He wanted to do. He is a good God! 
Even the curses of the law of Moses no longer apply to us today. Jesus followed the law perfectly, fulfilling it on our behalf (Matthew 5:17). He became a curse for us, redeeming us from the curse of the law (Galatians 3:13). Now all that is left are the blessings for those who are in Christ Jesus. Accordingly, Satan’s name changed from the Old Testament to the New. Satan meant accuser, but in the New Testament Greek, he is referred to as diabolos, meaning false accuser. He could legally accuse us to God before Jesus came, but no more! There are no modern day Jobs. God can now protect and bless those of us who have accepted His New Covenant, ratified by the blood of Jesus. Praise the Lord!
Even in this time before covenantal protection, it’s helpful to place in Job’s tragedy in context. Job 3-42 takes place all in one day. The whole book covers a little over a week in Job’s life. He still lost his children and his servants, a lasting tragedy—but after this trial, God restored everything to Job so that he was twice as great as he had been to begin with (Job 42:10-17). He had the same number of children (seven sons and three daughters) restored, his daughters were known as beauties throughout the land (Job 42:15), and he lived another 140 years afterwards. God restored the years the locusts had eaten (Joel 2:25).
(Side note: what are the behemoth and the leviathan mentioned by God in Job 40 and 41? To me, the former sounds like an herbivorous dinosaur, such as a brontosaurus (Job 40:15-24) while the latter sounds like a mythical dragon. It even apparently breathed fire (Job 41:18-21). This is why I had Noah take some of the dinosaurs onto the ark with him in my retelling: it appears they did survive the flood, at least. Also, particularly in Revelation, Satan is referred to as a dragon. I decided to give him the idea of taking that form as he listened to God wax poetic about how magnificent a creature it was.)
 
Fictionalized Retelling, from Satan's POV
This was Round Three: me against God. 
My first strategy was a raging success. Adam simply handed me his authority on the earth—it was almost too easy. God cursed the serpent for it, but what was that to me? I wasn’t the serpent; I’d just borrowed its body for awhile. 
The only part that bothered me was that Seed of Eve business. I didn’t understand what that meant, but I felt like it was important somehow. Presumably it required a human descendant of the line of Eve, though, whatever else it meant. So in Round Two, using the proverbial carrot of Adam’s authority, I enticed a third of God’s angel army to follow me to earth. My once glorious beauty had become shriveled and warped since my expulsion from the garden, but they crossed over into earth in all their godlike majesty. The daughters of men were helpless before them. So the earth swelled with their demigod progeny, perpetuating down through the generations until contamination of God’s original bloodline was almost complete.
Until that damn flood. I never saw that coming.
Since the flood waters had receded and repopulation of the earth had commenced, I’d prowled the earth, gnashing my teeth and looking for another opportunity to strike. I corrupted Ham’s progeny with my fallen angels once again, but it was halfhearted this time. I already knew God would not allow me to pollute the entire human race with defiled blood, so what was the point? There was some inherent value in corrupting, maiming, and killing those He loved, though, because it hurt Him. That was always the real goal; they didn’t matter to me one way or the other. I’d have completely ignored them, except for the fact that He loved them. 
But what I needed now was another master stroke that would enable me to win the whole human race; not just pick them off one at a time. 
As I prowled the earth in my own dimension, a curious flaming hedge drew my attention. It would have been strange enough to see a self-perpetuating wall of flame in the earthly dimension, but what in the world could it be doing in mine? I crept up close, and tested it with my finger, crying out as it singed my withered flesh. Instinctively I shoved my fingers in my mouth to tend the burn. Then I peered through the wall as best I could, ignoring the heat and trying to understand its purpose. It reminded me of the two angels God had placed on every side of the Tree of Life, with their flaming swords. They, too, were in the spiritual dimension. God clearly sent this wall—but why? 
Inside the hedge, I saw a man, his household, and the houses of presumably his progeny. The man, whom the servants called Job, seemed middle-aged by the standards of the day, around sixty years old. He also appeared to be fabulously wealthy: I crept around the perimeter of the wall of flame and counted seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred oxen, five hundred female donkeys, and a large retinue of servants. He also had seven grown sons and three grown daughters—who, I noted, took turns holding feasts in their homes daily for all their other siblings. They indulged themselves, and worked very little, as children of wealthy men are wont to do. Their behavior seemed to bother Job, who daily offered ten burnt sacrifices, one for each of his children, after each feast. 
Huh, I thought to myself, tapping my fingers against my chin and narrowing my eyes as I peered through the hedge. Then a slow smile curled my lips as I understood several things at once. 
Job was a righteous man. God loved him. God loved all his ridiculous creatures, of course, but He prized Job, because Job loved Him back, unlike most of them. Because of this, God had blessed Job hand over fist, on every side. The hedge of fire was in my dimension because God was protecting Job—from me
But that was illegal. By God’s own decree, He gave the earth to Adam, and all of Adam’s progeny after him. Adam obeyed me, and therefore, it was mine. I had the authority to afflict any man I chose, yet God saw fit to use His power to prevent me from doing so! 
I saw my strategy. 
God’s angels, those who still served Him, presented themselves before His throne in Heaven daily to receive their assignments. That day, I joined the queue. I went there as little as possible, as the sight of Heaven’s bounty, God’s glory, and the beauty of those who still served Him made me writhe inwardly. 
At last I got to the front of the line. Since I had received my new form after my expulsion from the garden, I could no longer look directly at God—He was too radiant. Instead I was forced to slink forward, bent double, with my head down. It was humiliating. 
“From where do you come?” boomed the voice of the one on the throne. 
“From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it,” I answered. Even my voice, once so resonant and lovely, now came out like a snivel—particularly in the massive and spectacular halls of the throne room.
I could feel God’s penetrating gaze piercing through my thoughts, though I could not look directly into His face. He already knew exactly why I was here. 
“Have you set your heart against My servant Job?” He demanded. Then His voice softened, like a lover waxing poetic about His beloved. “There is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man. One who fears Me and shuns evil.” 
I sneered, “Does Job fear You for nothing? Have you not made a hedge around him, around his household and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. Stretch out Your hand and remove the wall of fire, that I might touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!” 
God was silent for a long moment. I risked a glance up at Him, and immediately regretted it, as the sight of Him seared. Then He heaved a great sigh, and said, “Behold, all that Job has is already in your power. Only do not lay a hand on his person.” 
“Ha!” I gloated, clapping my hands together and vanishing at once. I was eager to get out of Heaven anyway. 
I went straight to Job’s estate, and laughed and danced when I saw that indeed, the hedge of protection was gone. I had free reign! I prowled closer, to the home of one of Job’s children. It was the middle of the day, and all ten of them were in there eating and drinking like lazy gluttons. I tapped my chin with my fingers, musing how I might go about this. I could personally appear and wipe out everything Job owned… but if Job knew that I was responsible for his misfortune, that would defeat my whole purpose. He would be miserable, yes, but what did I care about that? I wanted Job to blame God for his tragedies, and to curse Him to His face. I wanted to prove to God that Job only loved Him for His gifts, not for Himself. So I needed to be crafty. Fortunately, that was my specialty. 
I roamed a short distance away and found a band of Sabean warriors. I could always use them to my advantage with little prompting. They were greedy, vicious, and bored, and I had trained them well to consider plunder and murder as the only antidote to boredom. So I whispered in the ears of the leaders, and led them straight to Job’s property, where the oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them. I watched with glee as they stole the animals, and relished the screams of Job’s servants as the Sabeans put them to the sword. This wasn’t even necessary—the servants feared the Sabeans and would not have fought them. The Sabeans slaughtered for the rush of it. It was utterly delicious. I caused the Sabean’s eyes to pass over one of the servants in the group, and whispered into that servant’s ear, “Go and tell your master what you have seen.” It was all the incentive he needed; he ran off in wild terror, as if I myself ran after him. 
But would a human raid cause Job to blame God? I mused. No. I needed something more supernatural. Humans called natural disasters ‘acts of God,’ which I thought was just fantastic—they didn’t know who was actually in charge here. 
Maybe more than one type of disaster, I decided, just in case he might otherwise think it was a coincidence
Even though Job had sheep and camels and more servants, I whispered in the Sabean chief’s ear that they were satisfied, and they rode off with their spoils. 
Next, I observed the hills where the sheep roamed. I sauntered over to them, and spooked them so that they all ran in the direction of the barn where the servants were. I needed them all in one place. Then I snapped my fingers. A bolt of lightning fell from the sky, setting the barn ablaze. The sheep and servants who had not been hit or already consumed began to flee, so I summoned another bolt and another, until only one servant ran helter-skelter down the hill to tell Job what he had witnessed. 
Perfect, I thought, rubbing my hands together. Job would have to blame God for that… but quite frankly, lightning wasn’t as fun as watching humans murder each other. What was it about murder? Was it the betrayal? That moment of utter hatred in the victim before the slaughter? Hmm… 
The Sabeans had already taken off, but the Chaldeans weren’t far away. I whispered in their ears that there was a cache of camels nearby, if they would only follow me. The leader separated his men into three bands, to sneak up on the remaining servants. Then with a war cry, swords drawn, they descended en masse, capturing the beasts and spilling every drop of human blood, save one. Once more, I protected a single servant, who set out at a run for his master, to share yet more awful news. 
“So,” I mused aloud once all was silent again, “Job is a pauper now, and it’s not even mid-afternoon. Now for the last and best blow…” I roamed back to the house where I had seen his gluttonous children. They had conveniently all gathered in the same place. One more ‘act of God,’ I thought—though not lightning again. I wanted to make very sure Job knew this was intentional. I prowled around the structure, observing its foundations. They weren’t particularly strong. A normal storm wouldn’t take them out, but if I sent a wind against each wall from all four directions, that should do it. Also, it had the added benefit of peculiarity. Normal wind blew in one direction or another, or at most, in a cyclone. A perfect hit on all four sides, though—that could only be God. In Job’s mind, at least. 
I called upon three of my demonic allies, and stationed one on each side of the house. With the gust of our mouths, the four walls collapsed, killing the revelers within—all except one servant from inside. He crept terrified but unharmed from the rubble, and ran to his master to tell him of the tragedy. 
My three demons were too busy cackling with enjoyment at their destruction to notice my disappearance. I enjoyed the death of Job’s children—but I wanted to be there when all four messengers reached Job. I wanted to hear and relish that moment when he cursed God. 
I appeared, brimful of delighted anticipation, beside the unsuspecting Job right at the moment that the first messenger reached him. Breathless, he burst out, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, when the Sabean raided them and took them away—indeed they have killed the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you!” 
I watched Job eagerly, my grin stretching wide at the look of horror on his face. He barely had time to process this before the second servant arrived.  “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants, and consumed them; and I alone have escaped to tell you!” 
I hooted at his choice of words. The fire of God! Job let out a cry of anguish and clamped his hand over his mouth. But it wasn’t over yet… the third messenger right right on his heels. 
“The Chaldeans formed three bands, raided the camels and took them away, yes, and killed the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you!”
Job groaned and fell to his knees. I danced in place, so eager was I for the master stroke—here was the fourth messenger! He looked bedraggled, covered with soot from the rubble, and he gasped out, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, and suddenly a great wind came from across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people, and they are dead; and I alone have escaped to tell you!” 
Job gave an indiscernible wail, and tore his robe in his grief. He lay there in a heap, weeping for some time. My anticipation waned, and I grew irritated. 
“Curse God, you fool!” I whispered in his ear. “Come on!” 
My whisper did seem to rouse him, and he staggered to his feet, finding a knife. I raised my eyebrows. This might be interesting… but no, he just used it to shave his head, wailing all the more as he did so. Where his hair fell to the ground, he then knelt—and worshipped God
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,” he whispered, “and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” 
My jaw hung open. I could hardly process this. I’d succeeded in making Job think God had done this to him… yet he worshipped Him anyway
I let out a shriek of fury, and ran at Job, prepared to tear him limb from limb. But as I got close, I saw the wall of fire spring forth all around him—the same one I had seen around his property in the beginning. 
Lay not a hand on his person, God had said. 
I shrieked again. “That’s not fair!” I raged at the sky, “he’s mine by right!” 
 
For the next human day, I rampaged, inflicting wanton destruction on any creatures that came in my path, since I could not afflict the one I truly wished to harm. I could have demanded God remove the hedge around Job’s person, but even in my fury, I recognized that killing him would be pointless. Satisfying for a moment, but I’d have ultimately lost the challenge.  
But then in a sudden stroke of insight, I realized what I’d missed. 
“A-ha!” I cried aloud, and vanished. 
I reappeared in Heaven, doing my best to ignore the envy gnawing at me as I beheld all the beauty I had lost. I was here on a mission. I merged in the queue to enter God’s throne room, annoyed that I was forced to wait my turn. 
“From where do you come?” God asked when I reached the front of the line. 
Bent double, not looking at him, I slunk forward, my voice coming out in the whine I hated, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.” 
God’s next words practically radiated with pride. “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears Me and shuns evil? And still he holds fast to his integrity, although you incited Me against him, to destroy him without cause.” 
I snarled, “Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out Your hand now, and remove the hedge from around him. Let me touch his bone and his flesh, and he will surely curse You to Your face!” 
The One on the throne heaved a heavy sigh. “Behold, he is in your hand—” 
“I know he is, Your hedge is illegal! He’s mine!”
“—but, spare his life,” God added. 
I was just about to tell God that He had no right to withhold even Job’s life from me—he was of the line of Adam and therefore he was mine if I wanted him, and we both knew it. But I bit my tongue. I reminded myself that taking Job’s life would not win me the contest. In fact, it would rather be an admission of defeat. I needed him to live, and fester in his misery, until he railed against God for his misfortune. 
“Very well,” I sniveled, and vanished. 
Job was right where I found him: robe torn, head shaved, mourning on the ground. I crept up as close to him as I had been before when the hedge of fire popped up around him—but there was none. 
“Ha!” I gloated, and poked Job in the cheek. Where I touched him, a deep, angry red boil appeared. Job gasped with the pain of it, and his hand flew to his cheek. 
“Yes!” I cried, and planted my hands all over his body, from head to toe. Job cried out in agony. But I afflicted him everywhere, across the backs of his legs and buttocks, to the soles of his feet. He could not sit, stand, kneel, sit, or lie down without pain. He would have no relief. 
“Curse Him!” I taunted Job. “Curse God!” 
Job rose to his feet, crying out with each step. His hands too were afflicted, but he managed to grab a piece of pottery. It was filled with ashes. He poured them on the ground, and then dashed the pot against the ground where it shattered. He took one of the shards, scraping the boils on his hands and arms to lance the pus and relieve the pressure. This, I knew, would create a new kind of burning pain, particularly as he was now sitting in a heap of ashes. Job scraped and wept—but no curse did he utter! 
I let out another howl of frustration. But then I turned around and saw Job’s wife approaching. I’d forgotten all about her. Her face was tear-stained, but I saw that her expression was hardened. I grinned, and slunk up behind her. 
“Tell Job to curse God,” I whispered. 
As if it had been her own idea, the shrew put her hands on her hips and demanded with scorn, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity?” Job said nothing, scraping and sniffling in the ash heap.
“He ignores you, how dare he!” I whispered in her ear.
“Job!” she snapped, now shrill. “Give it up! Curse God and die!” 
“Yes!” I crowed, pumping my fists in the air, as I watched Job, holding my breath. 
At last, as if in a dream, Job turned his disfigured face to her, and managed through infected lips, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” 
I stared at Job, dumbfounded. 
“NoooOOO!” I shrieked, grabbing fistfuls of my hair. I fell to the ground and began beating it with my fists. 
 
When I’d spent my rage, I regrouped. I needed to step up my game. 
Job had been the greatest of the men of the East, so word of his sudden misfortune spread fast. I made sure word got to three of his friends whom I knew well: Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. Job respected them and would therefore be likely to listen to them. Yet while they considered themselves religious, they didn’t truly know God at all. Moreover, they were were haughty, judgmental, and could not bear contradiction.
This made them perfect for my purposes. 
Within a day of Job’s affliction, the three of them connected with one another, and together made the rest of the journey to his estate. But unfortunately I could not stop a fourth from joining them from a neighboring city: a much younger man named Elihu. I frowned. I did not like Elihu. I couldn’t use him at all; in fact, he might be a problem. But, perhaps I could use his humility to get him to keep his mouth shut, and let his elders do all the talking. 
When the four friends saw Job from a distance, with his head shaved, robe torn, disfigured with boils and sitting in a pile of ashes, they all cried out. 
“Is that him?” asked Bildad.
“It can’t be,” gasped Eliphaz. “I hadn’t heard he was diseased too, had you?” 
But when they got close enough to realize it was their friend after all, they tore their robes also. Each of them took of the dust at his feet and sprinkled it upon his own head as they came.
Tentatively they approached Job, kneeling in the ashes beside him. 
“Tell him this is God’s punishment,” I whispered to Bildad, Eliphaz, and Zophar in turn. “Tell him he must have committed some great sin to have deserved all this. Tell him!” 
But they said nothing at all. All four of them sat with Job in silence. For an entire week! Seven days and seven nights! Nothing I could do could entice them to speak. I paced. I whispered. I screamed. I ranted.
On the seventh day, I shook Job by the shoulders and cried out, “Don’t you have anything to say? How do you feel about everything that has happened to you? Speak it out, damn you!” 
At long last, the fool opened his mouth. ““Obliterate the day I was born. Blank out the night I was conceived! Let it be a black hole in space. May God above forget it ever happened. Erase it from the books! May the day of my birth be buried in deep darkness, shrouded by the fog, swallowed by the night.” He waxed poetic about his misery, which was gratifying at first, but I quickly grew impatient. I made a reeling motion at him with my withered hands as he went on and on about the stars and the grave and the light and all such nonsense.
“Curse God, come on!” I snarled. 
But he didn’t. He finished as he had begun, bemoaning his terrible lot in life, but casting no blame. I looked at the friends, and demanded, “Are you going to stand for this? He’s making it out like he’s a victim here! He must be guilty; tell him so!”
Eliphaz obliged. “Think! Has a truly innocent person ever ended up on the scrap heap? Do genuinely upright people ever lose out in the end? It’s my observation that those who plow evil and sow trouble reap evil and trouble.”
“Yes, yes!” I clapped my hands, turning to Job eagerly. 
Eliphaz went on, “So, what a blessing when God steps in and corrects you! Mind you, don’t despise the discipline of Almighty God! True, he wounds, but he also dresses the wound; the same hand that hurts you, heals you.” 
I got up in Job’s face. “Are you going to stand for this? Defend yourself! Who’s the real villain here? It’s not you, so Who’s left? There’s only one possibility!” 
Job replied with yet another long soliloquy of his sorrow, but at long last he began to get to the point. “Confront me with the truth and I’ll shut up, show me where I’ve gone off the track!” he demanded of his friend. “You pretend to tell me what’s wrong with my life, but treat my words of anguish as so much hot air!” 
“God is to blame!” I shouted at him, shaking my fists. 
At long, long last, he got there, and started to shout up at Heaven. “What are mortals anyway, that You bother with them, that You even give them the time of day?” he demanded. “Let up on me, will you? Can’t you even let me spit in peace? Even suppose I’d sinned—how would that hurt You? You’re responsible for every human being. Don’t You have better things to do than pick on me? The way things are going, I’ll soon be dead!” 
“Finally!” I roared, triumphant for a moment—until I realized that he had not actually cursed God, though he had blamed Him. That was a start. 
“Goad him,” I whispered to Bildad next. I was sure that if the others doubled down on blaming Job for his troubles, that Job would eventually do what I wanted in order to clear his own name. But I jabbed a finger in Elihu’s face. “You stay quiet in the presence of your elders, boy!”
What followed was a long, exasperating afternoon of high tempers, and no actual progress. I succeeded in getting Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar to accuse and even yell in Job’s face. Job persisted in swearing to his own innocence, and in blaming God—even demanding that God explain Himself. Elihu, meanwhile, grew angrier by the minute, and I suspected I wouldn’t be able to shut him up forever. But if I could just get Job to curse God before Elihu opened his mouth… 
Suddenly Job declared, “I know that God lives—the One who gives me back my life—and eventually He’ll take His stand on earth. And I’ll see Him—even though I get skinned alive!—see God myself, with my very own eyes. Oh, how I long for that day!” 
“Whaaaat is wrong with you?” I shrieked at him, yanking on the tufts of my hair, “why do you want to see the God responsible for all your misery?” 
The sun rose higher in the sky, peaked, and then began its descent. Just before sunset, Job declared, “Oh, if only someone would give me a hearing! I’ve signed my name to my defense—let the Almighty One answer! I want to see my indictment in writing. I’m prepared to account for every move I’ve ever made!” 
At last, Elihu could stand it no more. “I’m a young man, and you are all old and experienced. That’s why I kept quiet and held back from joining the discussion. I kept thinking, ‘Experience will tell. The longer you live, the wiser you become.’ But I see I was wrong—it’s God’s Spirit in a person, the breath of the Almighty One, that makes wise human insight possible. The experts have no corner on wisdom; getting old doesn’t guarantee good sense. So I’ve decided to speak up. Listen well! I’m going to tell you exactly what I think.” 
I swore and hissed, “Shut up, shut up, shut up—” though I knew it was useless. I had no influence over this kid at all. 
Elihu declared, “It’s impossible for God to do anything evil; no way can the Mighty One do wrong.” He held the floor as sunset streaked across the sky, declaring God’s power and majesty, and rebuking Job for asserting his own righteousness at God’s expense. I cringed away from him as he finally declared, “Mighty God! Far beyond our reach! Unsurpassable in power and justice! It’s unthinkable that he’d treat anyone unfairly. So bow to him in deep reverence, one and all! If you’re wise, you’ll most certainly worship him.”
All at once, the progressing sunset grew dark, like a snuffed candle. With it, a sound of blowing wind intensified, and condensed into a mighty whirlwind.
“Uh oh,” I muttered, knowing what the whirlwind portended. I dashed behind a corner of Job’s barn. Not that it mattered; I just didn’t like standing before God if I could possibly avoid it. 
All five of the men stared in awe as the whirlwind descended from heaven, and then fell on their faces. A burnished orange glow emanated from the inside, and I cringed away as the booming voice sounded from within. 
“Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” God demanded. “Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me.” 
Job managed a tiny squeak, understanding that God addressed him.
“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” God continued, His tone actually sarcastic. I raised my eyebrows at this—I’d never heard God be sarcastic before. I thought I’d invented that technique. “Tell Me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? To what were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together, and all the angels shouted for joy?” 
I growled under my breath at the reference. All those ‘morning stars’ he referred to were the angelic chorus—who had been under my direction. I had been their leader, the most talented, most glorious, and most respected of them all. The memory of what I had been still made me gnash my teeth.
God continued with this same line of questioning, expounding upon the wonder and majesty of creation, while all five men trembled in their pile of ashes. He really drove the point home, starting with the planet, then the animals, particularly the dragon—already the stuff of human legends. I secretly liked that beast, actually. I liked to imagine myself the way God described it to Job: “any hope of overcoming him is false. No one is so fierce that he would dare stir him up. With his terrible teeth all around… his sneezings flash forth light, out of his mouth go burning lights; sparks of fire shoot out. Smoke goes out of his nostrils and a flame goes out of his mouth.” 
A dragon, I mused, stroking my pointed chin with my shriveled hands. I might adopt that image, encourage the humans to think of me as a dragon… what a beast to strike terror into the hearts of all who envision it! 
Distracted with my own thoughts, I had not noticed that Job was speaking now. I had to creep out from my hiding place to hear his voice. 
“I’m convinced: You can do anything and everything. Nothing and no one can upset your plans. You asked, ‘Who is this muddying the water, ignorantly confusing the issue, second-guessing my purposes?’ I admit it. I was the one. I babbled on about things far beyond me, made small talk about wonders way over my head. You told me, ‘Listen, and let me do the talking. Let me ask the questions. You give the answers.’ I admit I once lived by rumors of You; now I have it all firsthand—from my own eyes and ears! I’m sorry—forgive me. I’ll never do that again, I promise! I’ll never again live on crusts of hearsay, crumbs of rumor.” 
I gave a snort of disgust, but then remembered myself and darted back into my hiding place before God could address me directly. God upbraided Job’s three pompous friends next, and demanded they repent and offer sacrifices for their sins, but I paid little attention to this. I knew what was coming next, and didn’t care to see it: God would forgive them all, and restore to Job all I had stolen from him and probably then some. I vanished into the wilderness, and there regrouped with a few of my demons. They watched me with baleful eyes. 
“Well, it wasn’t a complete failure!” I snapped before they could say anything. “He didn’t renounce God, but he did accuse Him of being unjust.” 
“That’s only because Job doesn’t know we exist,” Abaddon pointed out. “I don’t know why God didn’t just tell him…” 
I shook my head. “He can’t tell him. He knows if humans understood that nothing restrains us from stealing, killing, and destroying from them, and they have no power to stop us, they’ll be consumed with fear and thus, useless to Him. It’ll be just as if we’d already won the war.” 
“We could just steal whatever God restores to Job again?” Abaddon suggested. 
“I don’t care about Job! Job’s not the point!” I roared. 
No one spoke for a long moment, and I paced. We were all thinking the same thing, but no one wanted to say it. God made these wretched creatures with free will because He wanted them to love Him. To choose Him freely—for Himself, and not just what He could give them. I wanted to prove to Him that the whole exercise was pointless. They would never love Him the way He wanted them to. So I chose the best, holiest, most righteous human on earth, the one specimen He and I both agreed upon as fulfilling that role, as a type of all the rest. If Job would renounce God, it would prove there was no hope for the rest of humanity. God might as well give up now. 
But he didn’t. In Job’s logic, the only possible cause for suffering was the sin of the individual, or the wanton cruelty of God, and he knew he hadn’t sinned. He had no understanding of the spiritual world, no reason to think that a third option even existed. Even so, even as he railed against God, he did not ultimately renounce his love for Him. 
I had lost. 
“All right boys,” I muttered, looking at each of my demonic generals. “That was just a battle, not the war. On to Round Four.”
Apr 23, 2021

Nate Palmer is highly passionate about helping humans perform at a higher level. He also happens to be a dad, husband, and the #1 bestselling author of Passport Fitness and The Million Dollar Body Method. Nate helps business owners and entrepreneurs improve their physique, finances, and family time using fitness and nutrition as force multipliers.

Nate is a coach, speaker, and writer, whose work has been popularized in media outlets such as The Huffington Post, Testosterone Nation, Ask Men, Breaking Muscle, STACK Media, and Thrive Global.

For more about Nate, go to https://n8trainingsystems.com/groups or pick up a copy of his book, The Million Dollar Body Method here

Apr 16, 2021

Today we're meditating on the relationship between forgiveness and justice. 

Verses: 

  • Matthew 6:14-15
  • Genesis 37-50
  • Colossians 3:13
  • Psalm 37, 103:6, 59:10
  • 2 Thess 1:6-7
  • Heb 10:30-31
  • Isaiah 30:18, 35:4, 49:25, 54:15-17
  • Luke 18:7-8
  • Prov 20:22
  • Romans 12:19-21
Apr 9, 2021

W. Lee Cowden, MD, MD(H), is internationally known for practicing and teaching integrative medicine. He is skilled in evaluative kinesiology, homeopathy, orthomolecular and herbal therapies, reflexology, neural-therapy, and electro-acupressure, as well as fixed-magnetic, electromagnetic, and detoxification techniques. A U.S. board-certified cardiologist, internist, and clinical nutritionist, Dr. Cowden now teaches full time. He has contributed to many health books and is a co-author of:

  • “Foods that Fit a Unique You”
  • “Create a Toxin-Free Body & Home Starting Today”
  • “BioEnergetic Tools for Wellness: How to Heal from Fatigue, Pain, Insomnia, Depression, and Anxiety”
  • “An Alternative Medicine Definitive Guide to Cancer”
  • “Cancer Diagnosis: What to Do Next”

He has traveled to Peru numerous times over the last two decades to help identify plants for use in supplements.

For more about Dr Cowden, see acimconnect.com 

Apr 2, 2021
Today's podcast is a meditation on and retelling of Genesis 22:1-19. 
 
Intro: 
This always seemed like a very strange story to me. God said in Jeremiah that child sacrifices never even entered His mind (Jeremiah 19:5), and it’s certainly inconsistent with His character as depicted everywhere else in scripture. True, God did not intend Abraham to actually go through with it, but Abraham didn’t know that. Why test Abraham in such a seemingly cruel way? I don’t fully understand the answer, but I do suspect it involves two things: the Old Testament concept of covenant involving a reciprocal exchange, and the type and shadow of God’s future sacrifice of His own son. 
The parallels between Jesus’ sacrifice and this one are many. God told Abraham to perform this sacrifice on the mountain of Moriah. David later offered sacrifice there too (2 Samuel 24:17-19) and then Solomon built the Temple on that very spot, making the rock at the top the Holy of Holies (2 Chronicles 3:1). Today, this is the hotly contested spot sacred to both the Arabs and the Israelites, currently the site of the Dome of the Rock. Isaac was therefore a type of the sacrifice for sin which would later be offered in that very place for the sins of Israel, ultimately fulfilled for all time in Jesus. 
We know that Isaac was less than thirty-seven years old at this time, since Sarah died when she was one hundred and twenty-seven years old, making Isaac thirty-seven at the time (Genesis 23:1). Because of the parallels with Jesus, some scholars believe he was thirty-three when this occurred, as Jesus was at the time of His death. 
Just as God willingly sacrificed His beloved, long-awaited, only Son, born of a miracle, destined to bless the whole world, so Abraham willingly offered Isaac: beloved, long-awaited “only son” of the promise (22:2), born of a miracle, through whom all the nations of the world were to be blessed (22:18). 
Just as Jesus carried the cross he was to die on, so Isaac carried the wood he was to die on (Genesis 22:6).
When Isaac (by now surely beginning to suspect) asked Abraham where the sacrifice was,  Abraham’s answer was prophetic, whether Abraham realized it or not. He didn’t say, “God will provide the lamb;” he said, “God will provide Himself a lamb” (22:8). Did he understand that this was a prophetic pre-enactment? We know that Abraham did not believe that Isaac would die and stay dead; he either expected God to provide an alternative sacrifice all along, as this statement suggests, or he believed that God would raise Isaac from the dead if need be (Hebrews 11:17-19). Either way, he told the servants, “we will come back to you” (22:5). Not I will come back. Like Jesus was able to endure the cross because He looked past it, to the joy set before Him (Hebrews 12:2), so Abraham saw past the moment of sacrifice to the moment of God’s redemption, though he did not know in advance what form it would take. 
Considering Abraham was one hundred years older than Isaac, there is no way he could have overpowered Isaac in order to sacrifice him. Isaac must have been a willing participant, laying down his life as Jesus did (Titus 2:14). Like Jesus, there is no record that Isaac said anything at all when he was led to slaughter (Genesis 22:9, Isaiah 53:7, Matthew 27:14).
So this sacrifice was clearly a type and shadow, one of many in the Old Testament. God also told Hosea to marry a prostitute as a type of His own marriage to unfaithful Israel (Hosea 1), and told Ezekiel to lay on his side for a year as a symbol of Jerusalem’s upcoming siege (Ezekiel 4). Isaiah walked around naked and barefoot for three years to symbolize the coming judgment against Egypt and Cush (Isaiah 20:3). I’m sure these things got people’s attention, but still—why? 
The best answer I’ve heard comes from Charles Capps, though I still feel it's incomplete. Old Testament covenants always symbolized an exchange: the two parties shared both assets and liabilities in common, and the terms of the covenant were like a legal agreement today, outlining what each party must do in order to fulfill his end. The exchange of blood and of names served as symbols for the seriousness of the agreement, and of two identities merging into one. But Abraham (then Abram) was asleep when God cut the covenant with him (Genesis 15)—he thus did not participate as one of the two parties. God later gave Abraham the sign of the covenant, circumcision—but still, Abraham had not really done anything to validate his side of the agreement. Given the heavenly courtroom drama we saw from the book of Job, is it possible that God needed Abraham, our covenant head, to demonstrate his willingness to offer up his only son, so that God could “legally” offer His son on our behalf? If Abraham had not been willing, would he have failed to ratify the covenant of faith, giving Satan a legal loophole to contest the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf? 
 
Retelling
Years passed, and Isaac grew into manhood. He was our pride and joy, and everything Sarah and I could possibly have wished for in a son: obedient, dutiful, handsome, and so very patient. I often marveled at how mild he was, particularly given his mother’s fiery temper. He was the best of both of us, with his mother’s good looks and common sense, and my quiet trust and confidence in the Lord. 
Yet while Isaac seemed content to live his life moment by moment, never fretting about what was to come, Sarah agonized over where to find him a wife. 
“He’s already over thirty years old!” she insisted one evening when we were alone. “We should send a servant now!” 
“The Lord has not told me to do that,” I reminded her, “and yes, I’ve asked Him about it, and I’ve continued to ask Him. He will tell me when the time is right. Isaac is the promised child, Sarah. Obviously he will have to marry.” 
When?” Sarah demanded. “I’m over one hundred and twenty years old, Abraham, Father of Nations! I’d like to live to see my grandchildren!” 
What she did not say was that Hagar, her longtime rival, already enjoyed five grandsons through Ishmael, and three granddaughters as well. Sarah’s animosity for her former maid had simmered after Isaac’s birth, but had reignited once Ishmael had married and his wife began to bear children. 
“Patience, my love,” I murmured, kissing the top of her head. She huffed and crossed her arms over her chest. “He will marry. He will have children. Our descendants will be as the grains of sand and the stars in the sky, remember? Surely you cannot doubt that now.”  
She sniffled. At long last she grumbled, “I don’t doubt it, I’m just sick of waiting. I don’t see why you can’t just send a servant back to Ur. Why do you have to wait for the Lord to tell you to do it? Isn’t it obvious that’s what has to be done?”
I raised my eyebrows at her. “Really?” I let my question hang in the air between us. She knew exactly what I meant: the last time she had tried to help God out, Hagar had borne Ishmael, and Sarah herself had gained a lifelong enemy.  
She sighed. “All right fine, but—will you please at least ask Him again?” 
I nodded, squeezed her shoulder, and went out of the tent. I spotted Isaac sitting off by himself and gazing up at the stars, as he often did. He gave me a cheerful little wave. I smiled back.
Abraham.” 
I froze, and instinctively glanced back in Isaac’s direction, even though I knew the voice had not come from him. He had not turned to look at me, though—apparently the voice was only in my head this time. 
“Here I am,” I answered the Lord, taking another tentative step away from my tents and flocks, toward the wilderness.
He went on, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” 
I stopped walking. I had heard the words, but I had to repeat them in my mind several times before I understood their meaning. 
“Do what, Lord?” 
He repeated the words, but did not elaborate. For a brief flash, my imagination conjured the image of my only son’s bloody lifeless body, the trail of smoke ascending to heaven. 
“No,” I said aloud, but not to the Lord—to my imagination. Instead, I did as Isaac was doing: I looked up at the stars of the sky. That was the promise. He was the promised child. I’d been through this already. The Lord had made it very clear that He would bless Ishmael for my sake, but Isaac was the one through whom all the nations of the world would be blessed, and the one through whom I would be the father of nations. Yet Isaac was not married and had no children yet. 
That meant he had to live. The Lord just told me to kill him, but he had to live. 
I either wouldn’t have to go through with it, or else—God would raise him from the dead. From the ashes, if necessary. 
I didn’t want to think about what my relationship with my son would be like after I’d slain him, not to mention my relationship with Sarah. But I couldn’t think about that. My imagination tried all night long to return to the moment of slaughter. Every time, I redirected it to afterwards: the moment when Isaac and I would climb down the mountain, together. 
I did not sleep at all.
The next morning I rose before sunrise, eager to get this whole ordeal behind me. I split the wood for the sacrifice, saddled my donkey, and when Isaac rose, I told him to do the same, as well as two servants I intended to take with us. I told the servants to prepare food and water for our journey, and I told Isaac to bid his mother goodbye. I could not do so; my heart was like stone in my chest, and I knew Sarah would take one look at me and demand to know what I was hiding. Isaac surely knew something was wrong, too, but he did not pry. 
We rode for three days in the direction of the land of Moriah, and spoke as little as possible. I caught Isaac glancing at me with concern on more than one occasion, but it was all I could do to grit my teeth and picture the two of us coming down that mountain together. 
He promised, I reminded myself fiercely. God promised. God never lies. God cannot lie. I might have asked myself why God would ask something of me that seemed so far out of character for Him, if I had had the capacity to do so—but it was as if I had tunnel vision. All my attention was focused entirely upon what I had to do, and all my energy upon clinging to God’s promise that somehow, against all hope and against all reason, it would turn out the way God said it would. I had no mental space left over for questions. 
By the third day, I felt like all of my muscles were made of solid rock. Whenever one of the servants tried to speak to me I either did not answer at all, or I snapped my reply. At last, I looked up and saw the mountain of Moriah in the distance. I knew that was it. 
“Stay here with the donkey,” I told the servants. “The lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.” 
I saw Isaac watching me with a troubled expression as I took the wood I had split from the donkey’s back, and placed it between Isaac’s shoulders instead. My hands trembled so badly that I could barely get the saddlebag open to retrieve the knife and the flint. Then I turned my back on Isaac, heading for the mountain with fierce determination. 
When we had left the servants far enough behind us, Isaac ventured at last, “Father?”
“Yes, my son.” 
“We have flint and wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
I swallowed before I answered. My mouth was so dry. At last I managed, “Son, God will provide Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” I stopped walking, as I listened to my own words. I had not meant to phase it that way; the words simply slipped out. 
God will provide Himself the lamb
God will provide Himself, the Lamb
Over and over the words rattled around in my mind as the mountain grew nearer. I did not understand their significance, but I had a feeling that the words meant more than what I had consciously intended: that we would find a lamb at the right moment for the sacrifice. 
Isaac asked no more, and we walked on, then climbed, in silence. 
At the pinnacle of the mountain, Isaac dropped the wood upon the ground. An inner tremor seized my body, but I breathed through it, assembling the stones for an altar. Isaac helped me, though I could not look at him anymore, and he did not dare address me. 
When the altar was built, I painstakingly arranged the wood. I had been in such a hurry to get here and get this over with, yet now that the moment was here, I wanted to delay it as long as possible. But at last, there was nothing more to do. The time had come. 
I had a length of rope in my pocket. I took it out and turned to my son. He watched me with wide, solemn eyes. We looked at each other for a very long moment, and I knew he knew. I further knew that if he resisted me, this would be impossible. He was thirty-three years old; I was one hundred and thirty-three. He could overpower me with hardly any effort at all.
At last, he stretched out his wrists toward me. I swallowed the lump in my throat, and took a step toward him, then another. I bound his wrists together. Tears ran freely down my cheeks and his as he climbed upon the altar, allowing me then to bind his ankles as well. When this was done, there was nothing to do but retrieve the knife. When I had clasped its hilt and approached my son, I could hardly see for weeping. I raised the knife over his chest.
“Abraham, Abraham!” called a voice from Heaven. 
The knife clattered to the ground, and I fell to my knees. 
“Here I am,” I gasped. 
“Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” 
I cried out and buried my face in my hands, weeping violently with relief and pent-up anguish. 
“Father, look!” Isaac managed to break through my sobs. 
When at last I looked up, I first heard the rustling behind me and then turned around to see a ram with its horns caught in a thicket. I staggered to my feet, unbound Isaac’s ankles and wrists, and he climbed off of the altar. Then he gently took the knife from my hand, crossed to the ram, and slit its throat. Once it was dead, we untangled its horns and dragged its body to the altar. I took the flint and set fire to the offering. 
“The Lord did provide,” Isaac whispered to me over the blaze. “Just as you said.” 
The clouds above parted, and we both looked up. Then the voice declared, “By Myself I have sworn, because you have done this this, and have not withheld your son, your only son—blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gates of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.” 
When the Lord finished speaking, I looked at Isaac, breathless. 
“Did you hear it too?” 
Isaac nodded at me, eyes wide. He reached out and clasped me by the forearm, and I leaned into his shoulder. We sat like that until the ram was consumed and turned to ash, and the smoke began to trail away. 
At long last, Isaac murmured, “You told me before that the Lord had already promised those things to you. I was not aware that the covenant was conditional.”
I shook my head. “Neither was I, until four days ago.” 
I had recovered enough now that I could stand. We had brought nothing with us but the knife and the flint, as the wood had all been consumed. Isaac retrieved these for me, and together we made our way back down the mountain. 
“Why, do you think?” Isaac asked at last, when we were about halfway down. “Why was the covenant dependent upon your willingness to sacrifice me, even if He didn’t mean for you to actually do it?” 
I shook my head. I had been mulling over this same point, but I knew that if the Lord had intended to tell me, He would have done so already. Covenants between humans were always conditional; there were always terms for each party, and each side must fulfill his terms, or the covenant was null and void. I had been asleep when the Lord had made His first covenant with me, though. In my vision, the two parties who walked between the pieces of the sacrifices were a smoking firepot and a flaming torch. I had an inkling then that God Himself represented both parties: He was cutting the covenant with Himself, though I didn’t know what that meant. I was unconscious, and thus, a mere passive recipient. Years later, when God had told me to circumcise every man of my household, I had actually been relieved: here at last was something I could do to participate. And yet, in retrospect, this was not truly participation in the covenant, so much as a sign of the covenant. A covenant meant the two parties shared everything in common: what’s mine is yours, and what’s yours is mine. We hold all of our assets and our liabilities in common. Yet God had all the assets; I had none that He had not first given me. I therefore had never ratified my side of the covenant. 
Not until today. Today, it became binding. 
God will provide Himself, the Lamb. Yes, God had given me Isaac, and in that sense He had provided the lamb. He had then provided the ram as a substitute. But there was more to it than that…
“Father?” Isaac prodded me. 
I shook my head. “I don’t know,” I said slowly. “I have a vague idea that you and I are re-enactors on a stage. But… what were we reenacting?” 
Isaac looked at me. “Or foreshadowing?” 
His words gave me chills. 
 
Mar 26, 2021

Dr. Ian Hollaman’s primary focus is to help his patients achieve their health goals through natural methods, including functional medicine, with ease of care and empowerment. He too has experienced the “machine” of traditional healthcare, and strives to provide a different type of experience for his own patients. During his graduate studies, Ian became chronically sick and after 8 providers found a functional medicine doctor that guided him back to health and inspired his journey to master the art of natural medicine! He holds a Master’s in Nutrition and Functional Medicine, certification in functional medicine through the Institute of Functional Medicine, and functional neurology/neurofeedback certification through the American Functional Neurology Institute. Dr. Ian loves to do custom woodworking (yes, he built the furniture in the office), falconry and spends time with his amazing kids enjoying the great outdoors.

Learn more about Dr Ian at drautoimmune.com

Mar 19, 2021

Royce King has served in ministry for nearly 30 years. She’s held leadership roles within the church, including youth group leader, Bible study leader, retreat speaker, and others. Her heart for at-risk populations has always spurred her to serve and mentor women and young girls.

Royce King, published author, speaker, and coach, has served startups and nonprofit organizations who desire to grow in revenue and develop leadership skills since 2012.

In this new season of life, Royce is serving missionaries around the world, and is committed to helping others develop a relationship with Jesus. She and her husband reside in Colorado, and have two grown children and a precious granddaughter. She enjoys hiking, traveling, good food, and reading.

Get a copy of her book, Unwrapping Your Worth In Christ here or on her website at roycekingauthor.com.

Mar 12, 2021

Adam J. Weber is the “no BS, common-sense” speaker, author, product creation specialist, and owner of the highly successful companies Weber Real Estate Advisors and Weber Advisory Group. He helps people reduce stress through his highly celebrated meditation technique: “Easy to Meditate.”

When he first tried meditating, Adam was frustrated with the “flowery woo-woo fluff” of meditation books. He wrote Meditation Not Medicine to share his simple, practical approach to meditating, helping others reduce their stress without medication. He lives in New York with his wife, Haley; his two sons, Andrew and Daniel; and his best bud, Churchill, a Golden-Retriever-English-Setter mix.

Find his book here, or find out more about him at www.meditationnotmedicine.com

Our sponsor link is trylgc.com/CNHomega, and enter the coupon code CNH20 for 20% off your order. 

Mar 5, 2021

Ken Fish is a native of the Los Angeles area and an honors graduate of Princeton University with a degree in History and Philosophy of Religion. He subsequently earned his Master of Divinity degree from Fuller Theological Seminary with emphases in theology and intercultural communications. Ken had a 25-year career as a Fortune 500 executive after earning an MBA in finance and strategy from UCLA’s Anderson Graduate School of Management. Throughout his life, Ken has worked with parachurch ministries and in the church. In the 1980s he worked full-time for John Wimber for several years at Vineyard Ministries International (VMI). Since 2010, his ministry has taken him to over 40 countries on all six inhabited continents, working alongside churches of varying denominations and great diversity. Ken’s work includes vision-casting, teaching on leadership, equipping the saints in healing, prophecy and deliverance to further the advance of the Kingdom of God, and releasing fresh anointing in the midst of visitation. He has worked alongside national leaders in many countries, led training events for the International Association of Healing Rooms in different parts of the US, and been interviewed on nationally-syndicated radio and television shows such as The Eric Metaxas Show and Premier Christianity. He also hosts his own podcast,“God is Not a Theory”.  His meetings are often accompanied by manifest signs and wonders that include prophetic ministry and healing of many types.

For more about Ken, visit orbisministries.org

Feb 26, 2021

Tim & Bertha Eaton are the co-founders of NutraMedix.  Established in 1993, the company manufactures natural medicines that are sold to health care professionals and consumers in over 100 countries.  Each year NutraMedix donates a minimum of 50% of profits to multiple charities around the globe.    

Tim & Bertha actively serve at King’s Wings, a non-profit that provides air transportation to the Bahamas for humanitarian relief, missionaries and mission teams. Tim joined King’s Wings in 2003 and is a commercial pilot with multi-engine, instrument, seaplane and glider ratings. Bertha was born into a family of pilots in Lima, Peru.  Her father, retired General Victor Rubio, is noted for recording the highest flight time of anyone in the Peruvian Air Force.    

The Eatons have been married for 28 years.  They met in Peru in 1990 while Tim was serving in the Amazon as a missionary pilot.  Tim & Bertha have two children, Clark, 25, and Jessica, 23, who both are employed at NutraMedix.

Learn more about them at nutramedix.com

Feb 19, 2021

Meditation on Judges 5-6

Introduction
Deborah was the only female judge recorded in Israel’s history. We don’t know why that is, or how she got into that position, though we do know that she was a wife and a mother (unless the mention that she is a “mother in Israel,” Judges 5:7, is symbolic of her role over her people). When God instituted judges to help Moses, he was specifically instructed to appoint men to that position. Perhaps, as in the days of Gideon, the men of Israel were all so cowed by their oppressors that God could not find a man of faith, so he found a woman instead. (Gideon eventually did as God asked, but it sure took a lot of convincing on God’s part.) We can see that faith is scarce by Barak’s response when Deborah told him to go up against Sisera—he was so fearful that he insisted that she be the one to lead the armies into battle! Presumably had he done what the Lord commanded through Deborah without shrinking back in fear, the glory for finishing off Sisera would have gone to him, rather than to Jael.
It’s easy to understand why the men were so fearful, if you only look at the situation in the natural. They had been oppressed by King Jabin for at least twenty years. The Israelite armies had not one shield or spear among forty thousand (Judges 5:8), compared to Sisera, who had nine hundred chariots of iron. Most of the tribes of Israel refused to heed Barak’s call (Judges 5:13-18), so even their numbers were pitiful compared to what they might have been. But it didn’t matter: the Lord caused the river Kishon to sweep the chariots away (Judges 5:21). This might have been due to rain overflowing the banks, and the water from the mountains rushing down to the banks as well (Judges 5:4-5)—perhaps due to marshy conditions, the chariots got stuck and were rendered useless. Regardless, when the Israelites came against Sisera’s far more powerful army, they killed every last one of them (Judges 4:16) by the sword—swords they didn’t even have to begin with! Sisera alone fled on foot. Since the Israelites had no swords, presumably they took their enemies’ own swords and used those against them.
Heber, meanwhile, was mentioned just before the verse that someone told Sisera of the assembly of Barak’s armies, so presumably he was the one who tattled. Sisera would have felt safe in Jael’s tent, as she was Heber’s wife. He just assumed that she shared her husband’s political views. Oops.
Jael’s action can be considered as an act of war, rather than murder. She was not permitted to fight openly on the battlefield, so she did what she could. Any of the soldiers on the battlefield would have been delighted to do the same, had they been given the chance.

Fictionalized Retelling

Deborah:
The two disputing Israelite women, now reconciled, made their way down through the mountains of Ephraim. I sat alone under my palm tree now, awaiting the next case the Israelites would bring before me for judgment.
This was my favorite part, though: the moments in between. The moments of peace, where I could just listen to the wind whipping through the palm branches above my head. I closed my eyes, letting the breeze caress my face.
It is time.
My eyes flew open. The sound came to my spirit like a whisper, and yet I knew it as the voice of the Lord. My heart beat faster, because I knew what He meant, too: I had been pleading since my early adulthood, for the past twenty years, to deliver us from the oppressive hand of King Jabin of Canaan. We were the Lord’s people, and He had given the land of Canaan to us—and yet, due to our disobedience, He had allowed us to be oppressed by our enemies. We had not one spear or shield among forty thousand Israelites: not even the means to defend ourselves. We had no money to pay the men who risked their lives on our behalf. I had expected the Lord to provide both of those things before a military approach would be feasible.
And yet, with neither weapons nor money, and most of Israel still trembling in fear, God still told me, It is time.
“What should I do, Lord?” I asked aloud.
What came next was an impression, rather than words. I saw Barak, son of Abinoam from Kedesh, of the tribe of Naphtali. He was on Mount Tabor, with a sea of Israelite men, though I knew without counting that there were ten thousand of them. They were sons of Naphtali and of Zebulun. I saw Sisera, commander of Jabin’s armies, coming against him, his nine hundred chariots of iron all around him. The battle took place at the River Kishon. Despite the inequality of weapons and the fact that Sisera was not taken unawares, in my vision, Sisera’s entire army fell before Barak’s.
“You have shown this to Barak as well?” I asked the Lord out loud. I sensed that the answer was yes.
The next person I saw cresting the hill to where I sat was my husband Lapidoth, and our three children. They skipped like little lambs, and I stood up, grinning, to welcome them. Lapidoth had a basket slung over his arm, which I knew contained whatever food he was able to scrounge up for our midday meal. It was never much, but we never went hungry either. The Lord always provided.
“Busy today?” he asked me, as we all settled down to eat.
My eyes shone as I told him what the Lord had shown me. “Would you summon Barak when you return to the valley?” I asked. “I must speak with him today.”
Lapidoth did as I asked, and several hours later, just at the golden hour before sunset, I saw Barak cresting the hill, alone. He was a large, thickly built man, with a heavy brow and an expression etched in stone. He looked every bit the military commander.
“Has not the Lord God of Israel already told you what you are to do?” I asked him, and described what I saw. “Thus says the Lord: ‘I will deliver Sisera into your hand at the River Kishon.’”
Barak shuffled his feet, cleared his throat, and did not answer me immediately. At last he said, “If you will go with me, then I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go!”
I stared at him, not sure I heard him right. This man weighed as much as three of me. I was a wife and a mother! True, God had placed me as judge over Israel, though I had always wondered why He had chosen a woman for the position, when Moses had originally indicated that the job should be held by “able men, such as fear God, men of truth …to be rulers of thousands and rulers of hundreds… and let them judge the people at all seasons.” Men, he had specified. Yet, here I was. Was that because God could not find a man worthy to fill the role? Of course I never intimated these thoughts to my husband, who chafed enough that I held a position of leadership in Israel when he did not. But now I saw before me the man God had chosen to lead his armies, and yet he had so little faith that he would demand a wife and mother lead his troops into battle for him!
When I recovered my tongue, I said sternly, “I will surely go with you. Nevertheless, there will be no glory for you in the journey you are taking, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.”
Barak looked less chagrined at this than I thought he should have. Truth to tell, he looked more relieved than anything else. I arose and went with him to his home of Kedesh, and he sent messengers to the tribes of Israel to recruit soldiers willing to obey the word of the Lord. I was appalled but not surprised when entire tribes refused: Reuben, Gilead, Asher, and Dan sent not a single man. We had a few from Ephraim and from Benjamin, but the bulk of the army, as I had seen in my vision, were from Naphtali and Zebulun. They arrived at Mount Tabor in the coming days bearing what weapons they could find: pitchforks and other instruments of harvesting, stones and homemade slingshots. My heart swelled with the pride of these men who did Israel proud, unlike their brothers.
Oh Lord, there are still some who believe in You!
Yes Daughter, I heard in my spirit. There are always a few.
Down below, Sisera had somehow gotten word that Israel had assembled troops against him—but that was all right. I had expected from my vision that he would. I felt the men grow apprehensive around me as they watched the chariots of iron assembling from Harosheth Hagoyim to the River Kishon. They looked from the chariots down below to their makeshift weapons of farming equipment, their expressions ranging from apprehension to terror. I suppressed a sigh of exasperation.
“Up!” I declared to Barak. “For this is the day in which the Lord has delivered Sisera into your hand. Has not the Lord gone out before you?”
I led the charge down the mountain toward the army below, though I had no weapon in my hand at all. As soon as Barak saw me move, he kept pace with me and soon outstripped me—his legs were much longer than mine. The ten thousand troops kept pace with him, and I soon found myself lost in the thick of the fighting men.
When we reached the River Kishon where Sisera’s armies awaited us, I was confused at first why he did not direct his chariots to surge forward to meet us. Then I saw that their chariots had been rendered useless to them, the wheels stuck in the marshy ground left over from the rain. Sisera’s army had alighted from their chariots to try to dislodge them when Israel descended upon them with a mighty war cry. In short order, the men of Israel had slain their first victims and stolen their swords, at which point they tore through the rest of the army. But I fixed my gaze upon one man, whose chariot looked more impressive than all the others. When it became apparent that he could not dislodge it from the marshy ground, and the first wave of Israelites defeated the front lines of his army, he alighted from his chariot and fled on foot. He ran in the direction of the terebinth tree at Zaanaim, where I suspected his allies were. Behind him, the Israelites slew every last man of his army. He alone escaped.
My eyes narrowed at the man. That, I knew, was Sisera.

Jael:
My husband Heber was a traitor.
We Kenites had historically been allied with the children of Israel, as descendants of Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law. But Heber was an opportunist, and decided to ally himself with Jabin, the King of Canaan, instead. He would never fail to side with whoever would benefit him the most.
So we had moved away from the rest of the Kenites, away from everyone we had ever known, and pitched our tent at Zaanaim, where Heber could spy on Israel and report what he had learned to Sisera, Jabin’s military leader. Since Zaanaim was right next to Kedesh, Heber saw when Barak assembled his armies at Mount Tabor. It was he who had alerted Sisera to gather his chariots so that Barak’s army would not take him unawares.
Heber had gone early that morning, to watch what he expected to be the massacre of the Israelites from a safe distance.
Hours went by. I was grateful to have the day to myself at least, but I spent most of it fuming.
I hated King Jabin. I hated Sisera. I hated Heber.
I wanted to be an Israelite again. Or at least an ally to the Israelites. I wanted to belong to their God.
But I was no soldier. I was left out of all machinations, as I was only a woman. What could I do?
Suddenly I froze, hearing a noise I couldn’t quite make out at first. The sound slowly sharpened into the pounding of feet on the ground, and when it got close enough, I heard that it was accompanied by panting as well. Frowning, I approached the flap of my tent and pulled it aside.
Sisera stood before me, alone and on foot, streaming with perspiration.
“Please, my lady,” he gasped, dropping his hands to his knees as he caught his breath. “May I—trouble you for your hospitality?”
I blinked quickly, my mind whirring. Fortunately my mouth worked faster than my brain, and I at once affected womanly concern. “Oh, turn aside, my lord! Turn aside to me; do not fear.” I stepped aside to let the grateful commander pass into my tent. I knew already what I planned to do; I just did not yet know how.
“All of my men have been slaughtered,” Sisera confessed to me, eyes wild with fear. “I alone escaped on foot as you see, and I am sure that the Israelites are pursuing me too now!”
“Never fear, I will keep your secret,” I soothed, and gestured to our own bedding on the ground. “Rest from all your worries. You will need to sleep for a while to have your wits about you, for whatever comes next.” Whatever, indeed.
With no further prompting, Sisera collapsed onto the bed. I clucked my tongue as I pulled a blanket over him, and watched him close his eyes.
“Please give me a little water to drink,” he croaked, “for I am thirsty.”
“I will do better than that,” I cooed, “I have a jug of milk.” I went and retrieved it, and as if he were an invalid or a child, I lifted it to his lips. He drank greedily, the cream running down his chin. He wiped it away with his forearm and lay back down again with a sigh of contentment and relief.
“Stand at the door of the tent,” he begged, “and if any man comes and inquires of you, and says ‘Is there any man here?’ you shall say ‘No.’”
“I will, my lord,” I murmured. “Now close your eyes and rest awhile.”
He needed no further encouragement. Within a few moments, I heard the soft sounds of his rhythmic breathing, followed by occasional snores. I smiled, and went outside the tent, pulling up one of the tent pegs. I wiped off its dirt upon my skirts, and then went back inside, rummaging around for the hammer my husband had used to place it in the first place. Then, grasping the peg in one hand and the hammer in the other, I approached the sleeping commander. He still snored peacefully. Ever so gently, I placed the peg at his temple so as not to wake him. Then, heart pounding, I hammered it in. Straight through to the ground.
Only a woman, I thought, and smiled.
I wiped the blood on my skirts, right next to the dirt, and calmly walked to the tent entrance to wait for the Israelites whom Sisera had said would be hot on his trail.
I recognized Barak as the commander of the Israelite army by the way he was dressed, and flagged him down.
“Come,” I said “I will show you the man whom you seek.”
He followed me inside, and gasped. Then he let out an incredulous chuckle.
“‘The Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman,’” he murmured, but to himself, as if quoting something. Then he looked at me. “I thought He meant Deborah!”
“Your judge?” I asked, confused.
Barak nodded. “I certainly never thought he meant the wife of our enemy!”
I stiffened. “Do not judge me with my husband. We do not see eye to eye, to say the least.”
“No, I can see that,” Barak agreed, with a glance at the dead man in my bed.
After Barak, waves of other Israelites followed, including the famous prophetess herself. Together, Barak and Deborah composed a song of worship to the Lord on the spot, singing about the great victory to the Lord had given them, both at the river, and here in my tent. I choked back tears when they sang about me. The rest of the Israelite soldiers learned the song as they composed it, singing along. I found myself singing along too.
What will Heber say, I wondered with fierce pride, to come home and find that his wife is now the blessed of Israel?

Feb 12, 2021

Today's podcast comes from this blog post on zeolite

Feb 5, 2021

Today's meditation and retelling are from Joshua 2 and 6.

Introduction: 

Rahab is mentioned three times in the New Testament: twice commended for her faith in Hebrews and in James, and once in Matthew 1:5, in the genealogy of Jesus. We know from the latter that she eventually married Salmon, of the tribe of Judah. Joshua never mentions the name of the two spies, but some tradition holds that Salmon was one of them (and it makes a for better story if he was, I think!) Despite her profession, she was commended for the same reason Abraham was: by faith (Romans 4:20-22). She heard the stories of God’s mighty works, and she believed them so completely that she put her life on the line as a potential traitor to her country in order to side with God’s people. Faith has always been what pleased God. Not only did the Israelites spare her life and those of her family, but she even went from harlot to being so highly esteemed in the eyes of the Lord that she became an ancestress of Christ. Interesting, since her act of faith is clearly self-interested, and she also had to lie to accomplish it. But (as James points out in James 2:25), the act, regardless of what it was, demonstrates the depth of her faith that God would do what He promised. It was her faith that motivated her to make sure she and hers were protected. Like the passover when the Israelites painted blood upon their doorposts so that the avenging angel would pass over their houses (Exodus 11-12), the scarlet cord Rahab tied in her window as a signal to the Israelites is likewise symbolic of the redemptive blood of Jesus.
Presumably even in Canaan, harlotry was frowned upon.  Rahab’s family might have disowned her or otherwise shunned her. If they had, her offer to bring them into her house and keep them safe probably made for an awkward week or two, depending upon how long they were there. Rahab knew she had at least three days from the time she let the spies go. Then it probably took them at least a day or two to return with the whole army. When they did return, they marched around Jericho for seven days before the walls finally fell. So Rahab and her family were holed up in her home for at least that long. I wonder if she had enough food for everyone!
The mention of flax that she was spinning into linen and the scarlet cord on her roof suggests that she was manufacturing and dying linen, and presumably selling it, to try to support herself in some other way. Perhaps this is an indication that she didn’t want the life of prostitution and was looking for a way out.
Rahab’s house was built upon the walls of Jericho (Joshua 2:15). If the walls were thick enough for all that, it makes it even more miraculous that they fell down with nothing but shouts and trumpets. Also if the walls fell down, but Rahab and her household were not crushed in the rubble, God either must have held up just the section of the wall that served as the foundation for Rahab’s house, or else he must have supernaturally protected the structure as it fell to the ground. I assume the latter, since Joshua sent the spies back to her house to lead them out (Joshua 6:22). That meant there still was a house.
In her initial encounter with the spies, Rahab told them how the people of Canaan’s hearts  had melted within them ever since they heard the stories of God parting the Red Sea. This must have been such a confirmation to Joshua and Caleb when they heard it: they were the only two spies from the first generation who had believed God (Numbers 13-14), and the only two of that company still alive now. Had they gone in and taken the land forty years earlier like God had told them to, Rahab’s words confirmed that they would have succeeded easily. God had already fought the battle for them in their enemies’ minds. For forty years, the people had continued to tremble at the stories of the Israelites’ exploits, until God’s promises could come to pass.

Fictionalized Retelling
    There weren’t very many occupations for a single Canaanite woman. And despite my beauty, I would always be single, thanks to a smooth-talking scoundrel who deflowered me in my youth. No respectable man would now have me as his wife.
But plenty of them would be happy to have me on other terms.
I was a practical woman, and saw no point in spending time weeping over what was. Most men visited harlots only in secret, in the dead of night, and if they spoke of it at all, it was in hushed tones. Houses of ill repute were known only by word of mouth, and they did not advertise.
I scorned this idea. If I was to be a harlot, I intended to be a prosperous one.
As a consequence, my family disowned me. This hurt, but I saw no point in weeping over that either. They would do what they would do, and I would have to get on with it.
I purchased a house on credit right on top of the enormous walls of Jericho, by the city gates, so that every traveler would have a good view and would know at a glance exactly what we were. I then recruited other girls to work for me, in exchange for a safe place to live and do their business. Prostitution was often a dangerous occupation, as our customers were always unscrupulous to varying degrees. I would provide for my girls’ basic needs, and even some of their luxuries.
In time, this proved so lucrative that I soon could afford to promote myself to business manager, no longer needing to offer my own services at all. I paid off my creditor, and even had enough seed money to let myself dream of one day supporting myself in a respectable trade. I purchased flax and scarlet worms, teaching myself to turn flax into linen, and dye it scarlet. The roof of my home was flat, so I left the linen there to dry overnight before taking it into the marketplace for sale. Then during the day, while my girls slept, I disguised myself and took my scarlet linen into the Jericho marketplace. This was where I first heard people talk about the Israelites, and their God.
I heard only snippets at first. I had the impression that the stories were old ones, from before my time. Apparently the Israelites were a nomadic people, having spent decades living in the desert after their God had delivered them from slavery in Egypt miraculously.
“He parted the Red Sea and they walked across on dry land! Yes!” one customer told me when I asked him how they had escaped from Pharaoh. I blinked, and felt the corners of my mouth turn up, skeptical.
“Surely you exaggerate,” I said, but the man shook his head emphatically.
“I do no such thing! After they crossed over, the waters consumed the Egyptians, chariots and all!”
I asked around, but all the other customers told me that they had heard the same story. Most of them said it with awe.
“Then they completely destroyed the kings of the Amorites, Sihon and Og!” another customer told me. “These aren’t soldiers, mind you. They were slaves, and now they are nomads. But it doesn’t matter; their God fights their battles for them.” Then he lowered his voice and whispered, “Rumor has it they have their sights set on Jericho next!”
I was taken aback by this, catching the fear from my customer like a contagion. I gave him his linen and closed up shop for the day in the late afternoon. When I returned, Pigat, one of my girls, was awake and readying herself for her work that evening. She saw my expression and frowned.
“You look like you’ve heard bad news,” she observed. “What’s wrong?”
I turned to look at her. “Have you heard of the nomadic people called the Israelites, who used to be slaves in Egypt?”
“Oh! My father and uncles were terrified of them when I was little,” she nodded, and told me the same story I had heard in the marketplace: of millions of people crossing the Red Sea on dry ground, and the Egyptians consumed in the waters. If it had been exaggerated, surely the story would change from person to person, wouldn’t it?
“Why was your family afraid, though?” I pressed. “What have we to do with them?”
Pigat’s eyes widened. “They say their God led them out of slavery to give them a land of their own. Our land.”
I shivered involuntarily as she said this. “But didn’t the Red Sea story happen decades ago?” I asked. “If their God intended to give them our land, why hasn’t it happened already?”
Pigat shook her head. “I don’t know, but my family was sure they would come against us eventually.”
Each time I went to the marketplace and had the opportunity after that, I asked about the Israelites. I heard more stories, too: of the ground opening up and swallowing those among the Israelites who were disobedient to the leaders. Of bread falling from heaven and miraculously feeding the people. Some said the people did not come in to take our land nearly forty years ago because they had done something to anger their God, but it was still foretold that Jericho would fall to them. And not Jericho only, but all of Canaan.
The Israelites began to infiltrate my dreams. My mind conjured images of great warriors suffused with a supernatural glow of power, storming Jericho with flaming swords, and slashing down everyone in their path, before turning their swords upon me.
I woke in a cold sweat, gasping, and placed a hand upon my pounding heart. At first I thought the sound I heard was my heart slamming against my ribcage. But as I reoriented myself to the present, I recognized that the pounding was coming from the door downstairs. I peered out my window and frowned when I saw the moon high in the sky. We sometimes got late customers, but this was ridiculous. All my girls were surely fast asleep—or they were, before all this racket.
I pulled on my shawl, the one I preferred for warmth rather than for enticement, and padded down to the door, prepared to tell the visitors to return tomorrow at a more reasonable hour. But when I opened the door, something about the two men’s appearance stilled my tongue.
Both of them wore simple garments of unadorned cloth, though they looked new enough. The men were both perhaps in their early thirties, like me—tall, well built, and imposing. Both had long dark hair and long black beards that looked as though they had not been trimmed in many years. I noticed one in particular more than the other. His black eyes glittered at me in the moonlight, and he had a powerful chest, straight nose, and high, clear forehead. I had not offered my own personal services to a customer in over a year now, but I found myself thinking, this time, I might not mind
“It is very late,” I said instead, “and my girls are in bed. If you return tomorrow, you may have your pick—”
“Please,” the man I had admired stopped me, holding up a hand. “We are not here for that, we simply wish to beg a room for the night.”
I blinked at them suspiciously. “This is no inn.”
“We know that,” said the other man, “and we know the nature of your business. But the Lord God told us to come here, so we have come.”
It was like a password, somehow, though I could not have said why. I stepped back from the doorway to let them pass inside. The handsome one, I noticed, averted his eyes from me and gave me a wider berth than necessary. I might have felt ashamed, but I could sense that his behavior was motivated by suppressed attraction rather than disgust. I found this far more intriguing than if he had openly ogled me.
“I do have a room available, though just the one, I’m afraid. One of my girls has recently moved on.” I looked at the other man, and gestured to the open doorway. “You may sleep here.” Then I looked at the man who refused to meet my gaze, and considered inviting him to share my chamber. I almost wanted to do it just to see if could make him blush, but in the end I held my tongue. Of course he could never respect me, given what I was. But for some strange reason I could not explain, I found that I wanted to try to earn his respect all the same.
“You both may sleep here if you wish, though one will have to take the floor,” I said at last.
The handsome one raised his eyes to me now. “Thank you,” he said, genuine gratitude in his voice. I realized he had feared the offer I had almost made, and was suddenly very glad I had not made it.
“May we know the name of our hostess?” asked the friend.
I bowed my head, trying to remember the manners of a lady I had learned and then forgotten so long ago. “I am called Rahab,” I told them. “And, may I know yours?”
“I am Berel,” said the friend, “and this is Salmon.”
Salmon, I repeated the name in my mind. “Those are peculiar names in Canaan,” I observed, “you must be visitors to these parts?”
“We are,” said Berel, guarded.
I watched them, wondering if I should say aloud what I suspected from the moment they referenced the Lord.
“You are Hebrews,” I guessed, watching their faces. “The Lord sent you to spy out our land and see where we are vulnerable.”
The two men exchanged wide-eyed a look, which was as good as confirmation.
“Do not worry,” I said at once. “I will not betray your secret.”
Berel frowned, suspicious. “Why not?”
I didn’t know the answer myself yet. But just as I opened my mouth to answer, I heard another pounding at the door, sharp and insistent. It was accompanied by a shout though the door: “Rahab! Open up!”
“It’s one of the kings’ soldiers!” I hissed, “quick! Follow me!”
I scampered up to the rooftop, open to the air, and pointed at the stalks of flax I had collected and not yet spun into linen. “Hide in there, go!”
I did not wait to see that they obeyed; I hurried back downstairs, seeing lanterns flicker on in my girls’ bedrooms as I went, and a few of them poked their heads out at me to see what all the fuss was about. They could hardly avoid being awakened by all the commotion.
“Shh, go back to bed!” I hissed at all and sundry, smoothing my wrap and taking a deep breath before I pulled open the rattling door.
I had seen the soldier who glared down at me before, making his rounds in the city. There were three other soldiers behind him.
“I come by order of the king,” the first soldier barked. “We were told that men have come here tonight from the children of Israel to search out the country, and that they have entered your house. Bring them out now.”
In a moment, I decided how to play this: the soldier in front was all business, and I knew he at least would not soften in response to coquetry. So instead I affected an expression of wide-eyed innocence, and told them just enough of the truth. “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. And it happened as the gate was being shut, when it was dark, that the men went out.” The words were already out of my mouth before the fear struck me that someone might have told the soldiers when the men had come to my home. If they had, this lie would immediately mark me as a traitor. But I’d said it now; nothing to do but double down. “Where the men went I do not know; pursue them quickly, for you may overtake them!”
It worked. The soldier in front was clearly in charge; he turned on his heel without another word and rushed away from my door and toward the front gates. The other two followed behind him. I watched until I saw them disappear by the road to the Jordan, to the fords.
Breathing a sigh of relief when they had gone, I closed the front door behind me. All the girls except Pigat had gone back to bed. But she continued to gaze at me with her torch in one hand, frowning. I made a shooing motion with my hand.
“All is well, not to worry,” I told her. “Go back to sleep.”
“The Israelites were here?” she echoed what she had heard, her voice trembling.
“Yes, apparently, but they are gone now. It’s all right.”
“Then it’s happening!” she declared with a shudder, tears pricking her eyes, “we are about to die! They will kill every last one of us!”
“Shh, go back to bed,” I insisted. “They won’t kill us if I have anything to say about it. We’ll talk about this in the morning, now go on.”
She gave a hesitant nod, sniffled, and blew out her torch, closing her door again.
I heaved a sigh, trying to calm my pounding heart as I climbed back to the roof.
“Psst!” I hissed, “it’s just me!”
The two heads poked out from among the flax.
“You can come out for now, but I’m afraid I cannot offer you lodging inside after all, lest my girls see you in the morning.”
“What did you tell the soldiers?” Berel asked as they got to their feet, apprehension knitting his brow.
“That you did come to me, but I had already sent you away. They are pursuing you on the road to the Jordan in the direction of the fords as we speak.”
Salmon gazed at me in wonder. “You realize that if your king discovers what you have done, he will have you executed as a traitor?”
I took a deep breath, fidgeting with my wrap. “Yes. I know this.”
“Then—why?” Salmon pressed. “Why are you helping us?”
I met his gaze. “I know that the Lord has given you the land, that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. And as soon as we heard these things. our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath.” As I said this, I saw Salmon’s expression clear from suspicion to surprise, to something else—something softer. I dropped my gaze. “Now therefore, I beg you, swear to me by the Lord, since I have shown you kindness, that you also will show kindness to my father’s house, and give me a true token, and spare my father, my mother, my brothers, my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death.”
Salmon opened his mouth to speak, eyes wide. He hesitated, and what he said was, “But—you are a Canaanite woman. You are a Canaanite harlot!” I winced at his blunt statement, but he did not seem to notice, adding, “And do you believe in the Lord God? In our Lord?”
Trying to recover myself, I said at last, “There is no other God in heaven or on earth who can do what your God can do. If I must choose sides, I choose to side with the winner. This is entirely self-interested on my part, I assure you.”
Berel shot a look at his open-mouthed friend. “You are correct that the Lord has given Jericho and all of Canaan into our hands,” he told me. “But many of our own number, who have seen daily miracles in the wilderness, struggle to believe in the Lord as fully as you have just now expressed. That is what Salmon is trying to say: he is impressed.” He nudged his companion with a slight, almost teasing smirk, before turning back to me. “And yes: our lives for yours, if none of you tell this business of ours. And it shall be, when the Lord has given us the land, that we will deal kindly and truly with you.”
I swallowed, casting an involuntary glance at Salmon, and then gave Berel a quick, business-like nod. “All right. Follow me. I can lower you down on the other side of the city wall through the window of the empty room we were just in.” I grabbed a thick flaxen cord from the roof as well, already dyed scarlet.
Behind me, the men’s footsteps were almost silent. When we entered the dark room and I led them to the window, I started to see Salmon closer behind me than I had expected. Both of us drew back very quickly, and, for what might have been the first time since my girlhood, I felt myself actually blush. Berel bit his lip, as if trying not to laugh. I cleared my throat, even though I kept my voice to a whisper as I tied the scarlet rope against the bedpost to secure it.
“Here, let me,” said Salmon in a husky whisper, accidentally brushing his fingers against mine as he took over the job of tying the knot. I self-consciously tucked a lock of hair behind my ear, confused by the unfamiliar flutter I felt. When he had finished, together we hoisted the cord out the window, watching it fall almost down to the path outside the city. They would have to jump the last distance, but it was small. Or at least it looked small from up here. I hoped it really was.
I turned to Salmon. “Get to the mountain, lest the pursuers meet you. Hide there three days, until the pursuers have returned. Afterward you may go your way.”
Berel nodded, and said, a warning note in his tone, “We will be blameless of this oath of yours which you have made us swear, unless, when we come into the land, you bind this line of scarlet cord you have used in the window through which you let us down, and unless you bring your father, your mother, your brothers, and all your father’s household to your own home. So it shall be that whoever goes outside the doors of your house onto the street, his blood shall be on his own head, and we will be guiltless. And whoever is with you in the house, his blood shall be on our head if a hand is laid on him. And if you tell this business of ours, then we will be free from your oath which you made us swear.”
I bowed my head to him. “According to your words, so be it.” Even though I wondered how I would explain to my family, who had all but disowned me from the time they discovered my profession, that they needed to lodge in my house of ill repute for an unspecified amount of time. At least I had three days to figure it out.
Berel stepped between Salmon and me, taking the scarlet cord from my hands.
“I’ll go first,” he volunteered. “That’ll give the two of you a moment to, ah—say goodbye.”
I caught the sharp glare Salmon shot his friend. Berel laughed quietly, swinging himself to the outer edge of the window before he vanished.
The air immediately felt thick with tension as soon as he had gone. But Salmon was a stranger to me; I knew nothing of him, or of his culture. I hadn’t the slightest idea what to say.
He cleared his throat unnecessarily, before he said, sounding rather awkward, “Thank you. For helping us.”
I shrugged. “As I said, it’s pure self-interest.”
“It’s faith,” he corrected me. As he said this, I saw his arm move toward me, hesitate, and then freeze in midair before dropping back to his side.
“I know that my profession makes me abhorrent to you,” I whispered, dropping my eyes.
“No! You misunderstand…” Salmon ran a hand through his hair, sighed, and looked away. “Well, yes, sort of,” he admitted, “but—”
“It’s okay,” I cut him off with a wave of my hand, gesturing at the window and taking a step back from him. “I need no approval from you. I’ve learned to live without it everywhere else. Go on, your friend is waiting.” I was hurt. I recognized this much, though it was absurd that this man I had barely spoken to should be capable of hurting me.
Salmon seemed upset, but did not know how to make it right. He hesitated, and then did as I had commanded, moving toward the window and taking hold of the rope. He glanced at me, swallowed, and at last managed, “I hope we will meet again someday. Goodbye, Rahab.” Then he vanished.
I let out a breath I had not realized I had been holding, and then leaned out my window to watch Salmon’s descent next to Berel. When he had leapt the last distance to the ground, both of them looked up at me, waved, and ran off in the direction of the mountain.
I hauled up the cord after them so that a visitor to the city might not look up at the window and discern what might have happened. Then I went back to the rooftop, retrieved a knife, and sawed off the bulk of it, leaving just enough of a scarlet cord tied on the outside of the window to serve as our signal.
I had three days.
I barely slept that night, turning over in my mind what I should do next. I had a sense that Salmon and Berel were men of action; they would not tarry. The Israelites would probably descend upon Jericho within the week. I decided that I could not trust most of my girls not to betray me to the king—but neither could I abandon them to slaughter, at least not without giving them a choice. I determined to wait until the last minute, when the Israelites were already upon us, and then I would tell them they could stay with me and join the Israelites, or leave. Then they would not have enough time to betray me.
My family posed a bigger problem. I could not convince them to lodge with me, given the infamy of my profession, without giving them a good reason. And I could not give them a good reason without putting my life in their hands. I knew they disapproved of me, but surely they would not give me up to execution as a traitor, not when my intention was to save their lives along with my own?
I didn’t know, but I would have to risk it.

The next morning, I arrayed myself in my drab linen clothing so as not to draw attention to myself, just as if I were going to the marketplace. But instead, I went to my father’s house for the first time in over a decade. I gritted my teeth, steeling myself against whatever might come.
The door swung open, and I gasped. “Mother!”
The woman in the doorframe looked like a shadow of her former buxom, laughing self. Her skin was papery and white. It had been ten years, but she looked like she had aged at least twenty. Her hooded eyes briefly searched my face and widened.
“Rahab?” She took a step away rather than towards me, which stung. “You shouldn’t be here. Your father—”
“Disowned me, yes, I remember,” I said with a fixed smile, “and I came anyway, because your lives are in danger. All of ours are. I alone can save you.”

Twenty-four hours later, my entire estranged family crammed into my house of ill repute. My father, after first ordering me out of his home, finally changed his tune and instead went to my brothers and sisters, bearing my message. While my parents recruited my siblings, I went to the marketplace to buy enough food for all the sudden guests, to last through the siege. I did this in multiple trips, hoping not to raise eyebrows at why I felt the sudden need to stockpile supplies.
I hoped the Israelites would return soon, if only to curtail my awkward family reunion. Then I felt guilty for thinking this, as the Israelites’ return would mean the slaughter of every citizen of Jericho save those in my own home. They had no idea, I thought, as I passed mothers with children in the streets. As always, they crossed to the other side of the street when they saw me coming, wanting to avoid contamination. This used to hurt, long ago. Then I became calloused to it, ignoring those who shunned me. Now, I felt compassion… but not enough to risk my own life to warn them. I had risked enough in warning my own family, and I had no more room in my home for anyone else anyway. Most of my girls left in a huff after my sisters insulted them. Only Pigat remained, having guessed why they were there after seeing the Israelites. With each passing day, I wrung my hands, fearful that the girls who had left would turn me in to the authorities as a traitor, though I had officially confessed nothing.
On the second day after Berel and Salmon had left my house, I watched over the wall and saw the soldiers of Jericho return empty-handed. I held my breath as they passed by, fearful they might knock on my door again and wonder why I suddenly played host to so many. Fortunately they had no other reason to approach me, and they passed on by.
On the third day, nothing happened at all. I knew that was the day the two spies would leave the mountain and return to their camp. My father began to sneer at me, accusing me of lying to all of them, and ruining their reputations by their sudden association with me. My mother snapped at him to leave me alone, which brought tears to my eyes. But when she turned away from him, she did not look at me either.
On the fourth day, I thought I heard the distant rumble of marching in the desert. I ran to the rooftops, and peered out into the distance. Pigat crept up behind me.
“Is that them?” she whispered.
“I don’t know,” I whispered back.
She wrapped her little hands around my forearm, and I leaned into her, grateful for her companionship.
“I’m scared,” she confessed. “Everything is about to change, isn’t it?”
I kissed the top of her head, and smoothed back her hair. “Yes, little one,” I whispered back. “But I believe it will be a change for the better.”
“How do you know?”
I considered this, and a thousand images flashed across my mind: of losing my virginity and my virtue. Of the awful things I had to do since then to support myself. Of all the respectable people who had turned against me. Of the moment my father had disowned me, many years ago. Of the nights I had cried myself to sleep with loneliness and regret, before rising in the morning with determination to make my own way. Of grieving as I finally understood what had happened to my own soul, by watching it play out in the broken girls who worked for me.
Then I thought of how I had felt when I started to hear the stories of the God of Israel. The Canaanites had gods, but honestly, I had never thought much of them. They had no power. They certainly had no goodness. Yet the Israelites’ God used His power to deliver His people from their oppressors, to grant them victory over their enemies. That did not necessarily make Him good, but it certainly made Him great. I wanted to ally myself with that God, if only because I did not wish to suffer the fate of His enemies. 
Then I’d met Berel and Salmon. It was so very brief, that to draw any major conclusions about Israelites in general based upon that one encounter seemed foolish. Yet they had been kind. It had been so long since a man had been truly kind to me that I hardly remembered what it felt like. They said their God had directed them to come to me, even knowing what I was. They spoke to me with respect, even gratitude.
I realized I had never answered Pigat. She had asked how I knew that this would be a change for the better.
“All my adult life, it’s been me against the world,” I told her at last. “A father is supposed to protect and defend his daughter, a brother his sister, a husband his wife. I had none of these. No one to rely upon but myself.”
“You did a great job, even so,” Pigat said with a tentative smile.
I returned her smile affectionately, and said, “But I would never have chosen this life, had I had any other choice. None of us would. It was a matter of survival, that’s all. Then I heard of a God who protects and defends His people, and…” I looked at her and confessed earnestly, “I want that. More than I’ve ever wanted anything in my life. I wasn’t born one of them, but if it’s possible to become one of them anyway, then whatever it takes, I want to do it. I want to belong to the God of Israel.” Tears pricked at my eyes as I said this. I didn’t realize how deep that ran: my desire to belong to someone who valued me. I would give my life for it.
Pigat blinked up at me, and gave me a tiny nod of agreement, answering tears swimming in her own eyes. I knew she felt the same way.
I turned back to peer out into the desert, and gasped. “Look!”
It was them at last, and more than I possibly could have imagined. From this distance, the Israelites looked like a swarm of locusts.
“It’s starting,” I murmured.
“Should we go inside?” Pigat whispered.
Down below, I heard the gates of the city closing. The watchmen had spotted the approaching army too.
“You can if you want to,” I told her. “I think I want to watch.”

It took a week, all told. I grew impatient as day after day, the men of Israel marched around the walls of Jericho once, blowing trumpets but otherwise holding their peace. They did not storm the city gates, or make any attempt to enter.
“What are they doing?” my sister Hurriya murmured beside me on the third day: the first time she had voluntarily spoken to me since she had come
I shook my head and shivered. “I have no idea, but it’s unnerving. I wish they would get on with it already.”
Inside our walls, the city of Jericho uneasily tried to continue life as usual, which I knew only by looking out the windows and seeing the usual traffic in the streets. A few men even came to my house at nightfall, seeking the services of my girls. I turned them away, of course. Two of them, already drunk, became violent, until my brothers Keret and Paebel came to my defense. The men scampered off in a hurry. Once they were gone, the moments afterwards were awkward.
“Thank you,” I mumbled, not daring to meet my brothers’ eyes.
Paebel gave me a curt nod and walked off. Keret snapped, “Just tell me you’re not going back to harlotry when this is all over.”
I slapped him. I did it without thinking, surprised by the violence of my own emotions. His cheek reddened in where my hand had stung him.
“I will never be a harlot again!” I hissed. “I never would have been one in the first place, had I any other choice! Do you think I wanted this life?”
I stalked off before he could reply, leaving him gaping behind me.
Over the next three days, my family began to offer me awkward and overly polite acknowledgements for the food and lodging. They even stopped treating Pigat like a ghost, though it was clear they were uncomfortable with her. And all the time, the Israelites marched around Jericho’s walls, in silence save for the trumpets. Sometimes I went up to the room where the scarlet cord was tied, where my brothers slept, and peered down below to see if I could identify the faces of any of the Israelite soldiers. I was looking for Salmon, though I never would have admitted it.
On the seventh day at last, something changed: instead of just once, the Israelites marched around the city walls seven times. They were still silent save for the trumpets, but they had picked up their pace considerably. My heart thrummed in my chest. I knew something was on the verge of happening, though I had no idea what it would be.
Then, on their seventh pass, when the trumpets blew, as one all the Israelites raised their voices in a mighty shout. I wondered that their voices could have made such noise, until I realized that the sound was now coming from the very foundations of my house. I felt it in the stones below me. I looked and saw, to my horror and amazement, that the city walls—thick enough for houses and businesses like mine to be built atop them—fell down flat in a ripple effect. And then—
I screamed, grasping wildly for something to hold on to, but it was no use. I was airborne, as the ground below me collapsed.
I collided with the ground again, gasping and trying to orient myself as I groped to my feet. I looked up and saw that the roof held, as did the floor. I ran to the window with the scarlet cord, which moments ago had been far above the ground outside the city walls. Now, suddenly, it was only one story above ground level… and there were no more city walls. Outside my window I saw the invading army rushing by with swords drawn, still shouting their battle cry. I trembled in terror, praying that they would see the scarlet cord and remember their promise to me.
The next thing I knew, Pigat and my entire family all crowded in that little room with me, huddled together in fear. Then I heard the ominous sound of pounding on my door down below, above the din of the battle.
“Ignore them,” Pigat whispered to me in a tremulous voice. “Maybe they’ll go away!”
The pounding started again, three times, insistent.
“Maybe not,” Keret said gravely, and rose to his feet, trying to be brave. “I will see to it—”
“No,” I stopped him, reaching out an arm as I rose instead, trying to be brave. “They do not know you. I, at least, have met two of them. If they will spare anyone, they will spare me.” My voice was remarkably steady, though I trembled as I descended the stairs—marveling vaguely that as the foundation of my home beneath us fell down flat, its structure was somehow still intact.
The pounding began again, this time accompanied by a voice.
“Rahab?”
I caught my breath and rushed to the door, throwing it open.
Salmon and Berel looked glorious now, no longer like spies, but like warriors. Their swords were sheathed, but their hair was backlit by the sun and their eyes glowed with the heat of battle. I felt my face split into an involuntary grin.
“You came back for me!”
Salmon looked almost affronted. “Of course we came back for you. We are men of our word.” He reached out an arm to me and beckoned, “Come, you and your household. Our leader Joshua has sent us to escort you outside the city where you will be safe. Take with you any possessions you wish to keep, as well, as we plan to burn the city to the ground.”
My eyes widened. I turned to spread this message to the others, but they were all halfway down the stairs before I could get to them. My parents, siblings, and Pigat already had gathered up what they could carry.
“My flax!” I said, rushing up to the roof to gather what I had already spun into linen and had planned to sell at the marketplace. It was not yet dyed, but I figured that the Israelite camps would still have plenty of use for linen. I scooped as much as I could carry into my arms, and turned to find Salmon standing very close behind me. I was so jittery and startled that I dropped it all on the ground again.
“Oh!” I gasped, a hand flying to my chest. “You—scared me.”
He did not answer for a moment; he gazed at me, a look of curiosity and wonder on his face. All around us raged the shouts of battle, and yet here we were, alone, mere stories above it all. Salmon seemed to recall himself before I did, and murmured, “Here, let me get that.” He scooped up what I had dropped, and gestured for me to return inside. “Grab any other valuables you have.”
I did as he instructed, rushing back downstairs and collecting my few precious belongings: candlesticks and bowls, one golden ring, and a head scarf I had treasured as a young girl, before my life became what it had been. Berel was already carrying a load of Pigat’s valuables.
“Let’s get out of here!” my mother begged. Berel nodded swiftly, being the closest to the door.
“This way,” he said, and hurried out first. Pigat, my mother and sisters were right on his heels, followed by my brothers, my father, and then Salmon and me. Salmon brought up the rear, and I realized that he and Berel served as protection for my family between them. The army would recognize them, and would not touch us.
The hike to the Israelite camp was not as far as I had expected, but it still took us several miles. As each of us fell into our relative paces, I found myself striding alone beside Salmon. I wasn’t sure if that was his doing or mine.
“Thank you for coming back for us,” I said at last.
Salmon nodded. “As I said, Joshua sent us back for you.” I didn’t know what to say to this, so I said nothing. Seeming to realize his mistake, he amended, “Not that—I wouldn’t have volunteered to do so. If he hadn’t.”
I glanced at him with a small smile, and then lapsed back into silence. I was worried about what was to come next. I had left behind me everything I had ever known—and while I certainly did not regret the loss of that life, surely the Israelites did not view prostitution any more favorably than did my family. Would I become an outcast among the Israelites as I had in Jericho, and have to resort to the same profession after all in order to support myself? Would the God of Israel want nothing to do with me?
“You need not fear,” Salmon said gently.
I glanced at him, startled, and saw that he was watching me. “What?”
“I suspect I can guess your apprehensions. I won’t pretend the cultural adjustments won’t be significant. But our leader Joshua is disposed to deal kindly with you, for how you aided Berel and myself, and by extension, all of Israel. I told him how you risked yourself for our sakes, because you heard of the great works of the Lord and believed in Him.”
I was surprised at the lump which sprang to my throat at this, and the ache in my chest.
“But what if your Lord wants nothing to do with a woman like me?” I whispered. I had not meant to say it; the words just slipped out.
To my surprise, Salmon shifted his load to one arm so that he could reach out and touch my hand with the other. I stopped walking, startled, and jerked my hand away from him like I had been burned.
“You should want nothing to do with me, either! You know what I am!”
But Salmon reached out for me again, taking my hand in his firmly this time. “Yes,” he said, “I do know. You are a woman who merely heard of God’s works, and without ever seeing them for yourself, you believed—even to the point of staking your own life upon your allegiance to Him. How many Israelites do not believe, even when they have seen? You are a woman who so loved her family, even when they shunned her, that you risked your life to save theirs. You are a woman who clearly loves and protects one of your girls like your own little sister, who I’m guessing has no one else to care for her either. You are an enterprising woman who obviously wants to find any other means of support for herself and those under her protection, hence the linen.” He indicated the burden he was carrying, and shook his head. “I do not know what blows life has dealt you to lead to you to the place you have been. But Israel can be a second chance for you, if you want it to be.”
Tears ran down my cheeks as he spoke. I couldn’t even wipe them away, since one arm grasped all my remaining worldly belongings, while Salmon firmly held my other. I sniffled, and confessed, “I want that more than anything in the world!”
He gave me a swift nod. “Then that’s settled.” Then with a sly smile, he said, “I will introduce you to the women of Israel as a merchant of scarlet linen, and leave it at that, shall I? And Pigat is… your apprentice.”
A grateful laugh and sob together escaped my lips, and I nodded, unable to speak.

Salmon was as good as his word. When we reached the tents where the women, children, and elderly waited for the return of their soldiers, he introduced Pigat and me as linen merchants. He also told them that we had hidden him and Berel, and told them how to escape. My family easily could have contradicted the story, but they did not. For the first time in as long as I could remember, I was surrounded by respectable women who did not mind if their children played in my presence. I learned that Israel was comprised of twelve tribes, and I also gathered that Salmon was a prominent and well-respected member of the tribe called Judah. Israel had no princes, but if they had, it seemed, he would have been one of them. This made me shy in his presence, though he treated me just as attentively after I learned this as before.
“And as a proselyte, you can choose which tribe you join!” one of my new friends told me cheerfully. Then she dropped her voice and added, “Unless you marry into one, in which case, the tribe chooses you.” She cast a significant glance in Salmon’s direction at this, not bothering to hide her implication from anyone. He grinned, and I blushed furiously and dropped my eyes—a reflex I had not known I still possessed.
It was a strange contradiction, to feel so happy while the city that had been my home burned in the distance. Death and tragedy was all around us, and yet I had never felt so hopeful or at peace.
Suddenly, anything seemed possible.
Jan 29, 2021

Dr. Josh Axe, founder of Ancient Nutrition and DrAxe.com, is a certified doctor of natural medicine (DNM), doctor of chiropractic (DC) and clinical nutritionist (CNS) with a passion to help people get healthy by empowering them to use nutrition to fuel their health. He is the bestselling author of KETO DIET, Eat Dirt, and COLLAGEN DIET, and author of the upcoming book Ancient Remedies (releasing Feb 2). Dr. Axe founded the natural health website DrAxe.com, one of the top natural health websites in the world today. Its main topics include nutrition, natural remedies, fitness, healthy recipes, home DIY solutions and trending health news. Dr. Axe is also the co-founder of Ancient Nutrition, which provides protein powders, holistic supplements, vitamins, essential oils and more to the modern world. Most recently, he launched his podcast, The Dr. Axe Show which features interviews with top health influencers such as Dr. Oz, The Skinny Confidential, Dr. Perlmutter, Dr. Will Cole & many more! He has an incredible fanbase on Facebook (2.7m) & Instagram (656k) and shares his many health tips on these platforms with the goal of transforming lives using food as medicine.

Jan 15, 2021

Today's meditation and retelling comes from Mark 8:22-26. 

Preorder "Messiah: Biblical Retellings" here. (Published under my pen name, C.A. Gray)

Afterword

This story gets only four verses, so of course I embellished a lot—we know nothing of this man’s name, family situation, or the circumstances surrounding his blindness. But we do know a little more about Bethsaida: in Matthew 11:21, Jesus rebukes it for the fact that they did not repent, despite the mighty works that had been done in the city. When Jesus fed the 5000, the wilderness was just outside of Bethsaida, so presumably many of those 5000 men, plus women and children, lived there.

While there are plenty of other examples of Jesus getting a person alone or putting away the crowds in order to perform a miracle, this story is unique in that it is the only time recorded where complete healing did not manifest on Jesus’ first attempt. In the case of the woman with the issue of blood, all she had to do was touch the hem of Jesus’ garment, and she was instantly healed. The Centurian’s servant was healed by a word at a distance. And yet Jesus had to take this man by the hand, lead him out of town, and then intentionally lay hands on him twice in order for his healing to fully manifest. The deficiency could not have been on Jesus’ side, so presumably the blind man himself was the problem. Since Jesus had rebuked the town of Bethsaida, and then told the newly healed man not to go back there, I assume that the town itself contributed to this man’s unbelief. We know from Jesus’ reception in his hometown that unbelief hinders mighty works (Mark 6:4-5), so this was probably why Jesus didn’t want this man to return there. Those who receive healing have to know how to stand when the devil tries to devour them again (1 Peter 5:8).

Bethsaida could not have been all bad, though: it was the home of Philip, Andrew, and Peter (John 1:44). And at least two people did have faith that Jesus could help this man, since it said “they” brought him to Jesus—but there is no indication that the blind man himself sought his healing. This was surely part of the hindrance as well. But he allowed himself to be led out of town by the hand by a complete stranger—that took faith. There were a few other people around besides him and Jesus, since he saw “men as trees walking.” Still, he probably felt vulnerable. What if Jesus left him out there? Could he find his way home again, stone blind as he was?

Why did Jesus spit on and touch the man’s eyes? He spit on the eyes of the man born blind also (John 9:41), but when Jesus had been holding his hand all the way out of town, why would he then need to do anything else? It might have been because the man’s faith had been primed to expect a healing touch (Mark 8:22). Jesus had intended to go to the Centurian’s house when the Centurian sent a delegation to say he believed that Jesus’ word at a distance was enough. The Syro-Phoenician woman likewise believed her daughter was healed when Jesus spoke the word only. The woman with the issue of blood put her faith in touching the hem of his garment. Jesus had said, “According to your faith be it done to you” (Matthew 9:29). So perhaps this man’s faith was that he would be healed when Jesus specifically touched him for that purpose.

In Mark 8:24, Jesus told the man to “look up” (anablepo in Greek). This was the same word used when Jesus “looked up” and broke bread before feeding the 5000, and it means not just looking up physically, but looking into the unseen realm, where there is “every spiritual blessing in heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3). This was the moment when the man could see clearly—in fact, the word “clearly” is telaugos, meaning shining, radiant, or in full light. Perhaps bolstered by the initial improvement in his vision the first time Jesus laid hands on the man’s eyes, he then had hope—and “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Now, he could truly see—in every sense of the word.

Healing of the Blind Man at Bethsaida

Before the accident, I had been a carpenter, with a specialty in fine furniture.

That was an understatement, actually. My name was synonymous with elegant wood carvings in Bethsaida, and even in the surrounding cities. I attracted only the wealthiest clientele. Young hopeful apprentices sought me out, hoping to learn from the master. I’d gruffly rebuffed them for years, even though I was pleased by their interest and flattery; I considered them to be more trouble than they were worth. As time went on, though, I had more clients than I had time, and I realized that it made good business sense to bring on an apprentice. I interviewed several, and chose Ugo, the most eager of the bunch.

That was the biggest mistake of my life.

Ugo worked hard, but he was always in a hurry when he wasn’t actually carving, and so he was accident-prone. I could not make him slow down, no matter how hard I tried. One day in his haste, he collided with a precarious pile of unfinished wood, sending a beam hurtling directly toward his head. On instinct, I knocked him out of the way.

I should have let it crush him.

When I came to, I thought at first that I was in a pitch dark room. Yet there were people all around me, commenting fretfully on my appearance. That was when I comprehended the awful truth.

“I can’t see,” I blurted. “Why can’t I see?”

Shh, lie still, don’t overexert yourself,” the doctor soothed.

“Why can’t I see?” I bellowed, straining against his hands. “Will my vision come back? It’s only temporary, right?”

There was an awful silence. Finally the doctor murmured, “I really can’t say. But I’ve seen injuries like this before, and… usually not.” There was a long pause. I felt like he’d knocked the wind out of me. Then he murmured, “I’m so sorry.”

I lay back against the soft pillow under my head in shock. People moved about somewhere nearby, speaking to one another in low whispers.

“I’ll kill him,” I snarled at last. Then I shouted, struggling to my feet, “I’ll kill that foolish bumbling idiot! Where is he? Where’s Ugo? Put his neck in my hands, right here—!”

A collection of louder voices and large hands forced me back onto my bed, though I bucked and strained against them until I’d spent the last of my meager strength. I at last lay panting and sobbing until I cried myself to sleep.

 

In subsequent years, I grew used to my condition, at least. I had a new routine. I had done well enough while I worked that I was not yet beggared, though I knew the time would come when I would be, if not for the charity of my brothers’ families, who cared for me. From time to time, I wondered if I was already living off their charity, but I spared little thought for that or for anything else. My life was darkness, both literally and figuratively. I slept, ate, and sat, waiting for the days to end. I had neither joy nor hope. When I thought at all, I brooded over what I had lost. I gnashed my teeth when reports reached me of how prosperous Ugo had become. All my clients were now his. He had utterly ruined my life.

Oh, how I wished I could kill him.

 

One day I overheard my brothers talking about a young rabbi, whom they heard was a new prophet in Israel. I snorted.

“There are no more prophets in Israel. Not for hundreds of years. God has abandoned us.”

“What about John the Baptist?” my brother Jacob insisted. “People said he was Elijah.”

I scoffed. “Elijah did miracles. John never did. He wasn’t a prophet.”

“Well, Jesus does miracles, from what I hear. Lots of them!”

“I doubt it,” I muttered.

I knew what the reaction to this would be. Jacob got very stubborn when he was contradicted, and I contradicted him daily. He’d called me a curmudgeon even before my accident, and accused me of becoming ten times worse afterwards.

“You can doubt it if you want, but if he comes to Bethsaida, we’re taking you to him, whether you like it or not!” Jacob informed me.

I uttered under my breath, “I’d like to see you make me.”

But I thought about it later. A lot.

I started to casually ask Jacob, always in a mocking tone of voice, if he’d heard of any new miracles this Jesus had “supposedly performed.” Jacob always had an enthusiastic response for me, often of entire crowds receiving their healing at his hands. He particularly highlighted the stories of eyesight restored. I realized that I started looking forward to these stories as the highlight of my days. Then one night, I dreamt that I could see again. I hadn’t had a dream like this in many years.

I dropped the mocking tone after that when I asked for stories of Jesus. Then I started asking Jacob, as casually as I could, if he’d heard anything about Jesus coming to Bethsaida.

“Nothing yet,” Jacob told me, with a tone of sympathy I hated. “I’ll tell you as soon as I hear—”

“Doesn’t matter,” I said savagely, “It’s all nonsense anyway.”

Abigail, my sister-in-law, scolded me. “You don’t mean that. You’re just trying not to get your hopes up. But maybe you should! Maybe that’s exactly what you need!”

“What do you know about it?” I lashed out at her. “When have you ever been disappointed? When did you lose your entire life in the literal blink of an eye? Don’t you dare lecture me about hope!”

“That’s enough!” Jacob roared as I heard Abigail’s quick, light footsteps leave the room, “never speak to my wife like that again!”

I huffed, crossing my arms over my chest, turning away from the sounds of his voice.

“Sorry,” I muttered about five minutes later. I knew he was still there, as I hadn’t heard him leave. “I know she was just trying to help. But—really! No one understands!”

“If you’d take half a second to get out of your rut of bitterness, there might be a chance for you yet,” Jacob said quietly. “I didn’t tell you this, but before I knew anything about Jesus, he was already here in Bethsaida. And you know what he said about us? He said woe to us, that he did all these miracles and we didn’t repent of our sins and turn back to God. He said—this is what I heard, anyway—‘it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgement than for you!’”

I absorbed this, and then felt my whole body deflate. “Then he’s never coming back,” I croaked.

“There you go again, seeing the worst in everything!” Jacob snapped, “that’s not what I said, and that’s not what he said! My point is, he wants repentance! And your whole life now is a big ball of ‘woe is me,’ because something bad happened to you, and hatred for Ugo because you think it’s all his fault. Yes, something bad happened to you, and yes, it was Ugo’s fault,” he cut me off as I was about to protest, “but it was an accident, and you need to forgive him and let it go instead of letting it consume the rest of your life! Even if you never get your sight back! Then, maybe, if you ever do meet Jesus, you’ll be in a position where you can receive from him!”

I recoiled like he’d struck me. It was, possibly, the first time he had ever successfully rendered me speechless.

Jacob took advantage of the opportunity and stalked out after Abigail, leaving me to absorb his words.

We barely spoke for the next few days. Abigail brought me food, and left. I thought Jacob also came to check on me, but he never spoke to me. On the third day, when I heard footsteps, I called out irritably, “All right, fine! You were right! I’m sorry! …Are you happy?”

The steps came back. “What was that?” Jacob trilled, his tone all exaggerated sweetness.

I huffed. “You heard me.”

“Yes, but I’d like to hear it again. I want to savor this moment for ever and ever…”

“Shut up,” I muttered, but felt a smile tugging at the corners of my mouth. “I’m not saying I forgive Ugo, though. I will never forgive him. Not for as long as I live.”

I could hear the shrug in Jacob’s voice. “Suit yourself. It’s not doing him any harm.”

I heard another set of footsteps behind him. I recognized them as belonging to my other brother, Caleb. He sounded like he was in a hurry.

“Jacob, Jesus is in Bethsaida! Right now!”

“What?” Jacob gasped, as I caught my breath. “I haven’t heard that!”

“Because he just arrived! Come on, I know where he is!”

I had already leapt to my feet. Jacob and Caleb took me each by an arm, and hurried me forward a bit too quickly. I stumbled, and Caleb had to catch me.

“Slow down so I don’t fall over,” I muttered, hiding my almost painful excitement beneath my usual gruffness.

I hadn’t been truly out in a crowd in years. The sound of chatter, laughter, shouts, children, and animals assaulted my ears when we got outside. When I had first lost my vision, it had been very strange to know it was daytime, and yet still not perceive even light, as I once did through closed eyelids when the sun streamed down upon me. I was used to it now, though—the world was universal blackness. Now that there were obstacles everywhere, though, I felt terribly vulnerable. My brothers shielded me from the crowds on either side, and I heard them pressing through, apologizing, and from time to time murmuring to me, “Watch your step, down here,” or “careful, big rock next to your left foot, there you go.” Finally when we must have been close enough, Jacob cried out, “Jesus! Rabbi—let my brother touch you, please!”

My heart hammered, though I felt completely overwhelmed by all the sensory input I had lacked for so long. Jacob let go of my hand, and I felt a sudden wave of terror, even though Caleb still had me firmly by the other hand.

“This is your brother?” said a new voice. It was calm, steady, authoritative. Inexplicably, it set me at ease.

“Yes, Rabbi,” said Jacob, “and as you can see, he is stone blind. But if he can just—”

“Let me take him from here.” A new hand took my free one, and I felt Caleb let go too. The stranger began to pull me away, slowly enough that I did not stumble, but inexorably.

“Where… are you taking me?” I managed.

“Outside of Bethsaida,” he answered.

“Are my brothers with us?”

“No, I left them behind with most of my disciples to restrain the crowd,”  the man answered. “There are a few still with us.”

I should have felt frightened by this, but somehow, I wasn’t. The murmur of the crowds behind us began to die away.

“Are you Jesus?” I asked at last.

I thought I could hear slight amusement in his reply. “Yes, of course. Did your brothers not tell you they were taking you to me? Did you think they would leave you with just anyone?”

I relaxed a little. “They did tell me. I was… just making sure.” Then I added, “Why are we leaving town?”

“Because you have enough of your own unbelief to overcome, without the influence of that town on top of it,” he said, a hint of a growl in his tone. “They are not a healthy influence at present. This is far enough,” he added to the other disciples. “Now.” I heard a sound I recognized as spitting, and then felt the unexpected sensation of wet fingertips on my eyelids. I almost recoiled, but then understood what must be happening.  “Do you see anything?” he asked me.

I opened my eyes through the caked mud and gasped, blinking very fast. “Light! I see light!” I started to laugh. “I haven’t seen anything but darkness in five years—”

“What else?” Jesus asked patiently.

I turned my head this way and that, squinting from the sudden brightness. I saw one short form in front of me, probably crouching. Behind him, I saw three tall dark shapes moving.

“I see men like trees, walking,” I said at last.

The one in front of me—Jesus, I was sure—reached forward and touched my eyes again. “Look up,” he told me. “Not physically. I mean, look up.”

I looked up literally, because I didn’t really understand what he meant otherwise. But as I did, I thought back—not just to before my accident, but long before I was a master craftsman. I thought back to when I used to play with Jacob and Caleb in the fields when we were children, bathed in golden sunlight, laughing so hard my sides hurt. Not a care in the world.

I looked back, and saw the man before me. He was young, dressed as a rabbi, with dark hair and beard, and kind brown eyes. My own eyes filled with tears.

“I can see you!”

Jesus smiled, and one of his disciples behind him let out a low whistle. “Phew, I was starting to get worried!” the disciple said, in a joking tone. Another disciple smacked him on the arm. “Just kidding,” the first disciple protested. “You have to admit, that was a lot harder than usual…”

“Don’t go back to Bethsaida,” Jesus told me, ignoring the antics of his disciples. “Go your way, back to your home.”

“Are you kidding me?” I laughed, “I want to tell everyone!”

“You can tell your family, but not the people of Bethsaida,” Jesus warned. “They will make you doubt your healing. I want you to keep it.”

I blinked, sobered. “I want that too,” I murmured, a little confused. “I… guess I could start my business again in another town. Let Ugo—keep my clients here?” I choked on this last sentence, but it somehow felt right, as if a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. Jesus smiled and gave me a tiny nod of approval.

Now, you can see indeed,” he affirmed.

Jan 8, 2021

This week's podcast comes from this blog post, 2021: Hitting a Reset Button. 

Jan 1, 2021

Today's podcast used this blog post as a jumping off point (loosely): Fitness Benefits of cutting down on sugar

Dec 25, 2020
Today's podcast is a meditation on Luke 2:36-38, just after Jesus' birth. 
 
You can get a copy of "Messiah: Biblical Retellings" here: my collection of retellings of the miracles of Jesus, published under my pen name, C.A. Gray
 
Intro
    We know very little about Anna: just three verses encompass her entire life. She was married seven years, and then widowed for eighty-four; probably the youngest she could have been married would have been fourteen, which would make her at least one hundred and five by the time she sees Jesus.
    The Old Testament makes provisions for widows. If they are widowed young, as Anna would have been, a kinsman redeemer is to marry her and provide for her. Perhaps she had none, or perhaps he refused.
    Anna may have had children who had grown by now; maybe she chose to live at the temple only after they had grown. But the verses seem to imply that she had lived at the temple from the time of her widowhood, for eighty-four years. This to me suggests that in seven years of marriage, she never had any children. So either she or her husband were likely barren (and in those days, the woman was usually blamed). Would that be why she never remarried, because she was assumed to be barren? There are promises for the faithful of Israel that none shall be barren or miscarry, though the Word must always be mixed with faith to receive it (Hebrews 4:2). It’s pure speculation to imagine what might have happened in Anna’s case.
    In my retelling, though, I imagine that her decision to remain a widow and live at the temple all her life started out as what she thought was her only choice. As a widow with presumably no family to care for her, she was dependent upon offerings to sustain her anyway (Deut 26:12-13), so it makes sense that she would live at the temple. But as she grew closer to the Lord and invested all her attention on pleasing Him rather than on pleasing a husband, she realized that this was actually better, as did the later Apostle Paul (1 Cor 7:32-40). The Lord is the husband to the widow (Isaiah 54:4-5) just as the Church is the Bride of Christ.
    What did she do during those long years, though? How do you fast and pray for eighty-four years?
    Paul writes that we are to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17). This does not mean constantly petitioning the Lord for the same things like a broken record, though. Most prayer is not petition at all. Like Adam and Eve strolling with God in the cool of the day, it is simply being aware of Him, spending time with Him. Like David in the Psalms, it is praising Him for who He is, for His goodness, for what He has done. For us today (though not yet for Anna), it is the Holy Spirit showing us things to come and leading us into all truth (John 16), and praying the hidden mysteries of God in tongues (1 Cor 14) to build us up in our faith (Jude 1:20). It’s meditating on and renewing our minds with the Word (Romans 12:2). I imagine that Anna also had plenty of time to pour over the prophecies of the Messiah. She did not yet have the Holy Spirit upon the HS was probably upon her but not w/in her her (or maybe she did, since Simeon did, Luke 2:26, and He came upon Old Testament heroes from time to time!). Regardless, like God’s friends of old such as Abraham and Daniel, He must have revealed to Anna what he was about to do on the earth. That’s why she knew to come in to the temple “that instant,” when Mary and Joseph were presenting the sacrifices for Jesus according to the law. God probably wanted to share with those attuned to Him enough to listen, just like we want to share good news with the people closest to us. He wanted his friends to celebrate with Him!
 
Fictionalized Retelling
    I could have attempted to remarry when I was widowed at the young age of twenty-one. But it would not have been easy, for several reasons.
    First, my husband had no unmarried brothers. There were distant cousins to whom I could turn as kinsman-redeemers, but I knew they would not want me. In the seven years of our marriage, I had not produced a child, so it was to be assumed that I was barren.
    I had a brother and a kindly sister-in-law who would have taken me in, but this would have been a great burden upon them. They were poor, and had three children at the time to provide for already. Also, given my barrenness, it was unlikely that I would ever be taken off their hands.
    So it was clear that I should choose a life of pure devotion to the Lord. I was already predisposed to do so anyway, as I had learned to read at a young age, and during my husband’s long illness, I had poured over the scriptures for comfort.
    At first the stories of old were just stories to me. But in time I began to see the broken heart of God as the theme interwoven through them all: His deep love for His people who time and time again betrayed Him. His love for Israel was like the jealous love of a husband for his unfaithful bride, Israel. The first time I read through Hosea, I wept and wept for the Lord. I was only one woman, but I longed to make it up to Him on behalf of my people, to the best of my poor abilities. He would be my husband, and I would be his bride, spending every moment and every year and every last bit of my strength in loving and worshiping Him. In return, He filled me up with His love so completely that I often felt I could burst with the joy of it. No earthly wife was ever so satisfied as I was with my groom.
    I dwelt in the temple night and day, fasting and praying before the Lord. I slept in the Chamber of the Hearth. I joined in as those who came to the temple presented their little ones for dedication and sacrifice, thanking God for them with as much fervor as if they had been my own. Many times the Lord would give me a specific word for their lives, and I would lay hands on them and prophesy to their parents what they would become. He often led me to join with those who wept and mourned, and lend them the strength and comfort He had given me. I didn’t resent it or feel like I was just being used as an instrument to bless others—it was more like I was partnering with my Husband in His work. It made me feel closer to Him.
    I had been there for almost fifteen years, the first time the Lord let me see Him. Whether it was in the body or in the spirit, I do not know, the Lord knows. But for the first time, I understood what the prophet Ezekiel had described. His language of the Throne Room had been so fantastical that I could not grasp it until I saw it myself. Then I realized that our language falls pitifully short, and Ezekiel had done the best he could! The throne shone a vibrant, clear, shining blue—like a sapphire, though it was not a sapphire. The One who sat on the throne—oh! I have never before beheld anything so beautiful! He burned like fire, except he was not fire itself. It was his glory that shone, radiating an amber color from the waist up, like the vibrant orange of a flame; from the waist down, beholding Him was like looking at the sun, or a star. But the light He produced split into all its component colors, a shimmering rainbow so bright I could scarcely look at it. I, too, fell on my face before Him.
    “Stand, Daughter,” said the voice of the One on the throne, and though it sounded like many waters, in it was also infinite tenderness. “And approach. She who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.”
    I recognized the passage as the first verse of Psalm 91. I had spent many years now meditating upon the meaning of the secret place. Here it was! The Lord granted me the desire of my heart—to behold it. To dwell in it! The only way to get into the shadow of the throne was to do as He bid me, to approach very close indeed. It was the one thing I wanted so badly I could hardly stand it, and yet I was so terrified that I dared not move without invitation.
    But He Himself had invited me! I rose, quivering. Somehow my legs obeyed me, and the next thing I knew, I was running to Him. He laughed, and the sound of His laughter filled the throne room with almost palpable joy. Then He stood up, opening His arms to receive me. I had intended to dive behind the throne and hide in its shadow, but to run past His waiting arms would be to reject Him—and that was the one thing in the world I could never, never do. Though I hardly knew how I dared, both terrified and yet bursting with His joy, I ran straight into them. And oh, the bliss of that moment—it is almost indecent to describe it!
    I have not left that embrace these almost seventy years since. Not once.
    As the years went on, the Lord took me more and more to the scriptures that prophesied the coming Messiah, from the prophecy of Eve’s Seed who would bruise the head of the serpent to the Rod of the stem of Jesse prophesied in Isaiah. This meant we would know His lineage, I realized. He would have to come as a baby, not as a conquerer from the ends of the earth! As I realized this, I had a vision of a child, ordinary looking in every way.
    Oh, how I longed for that Child, far more than I had ever desired a child of my own!
    Then one day, the priest named Zacharias emerged from his duties at the temple. There was a commotion around him. Curious, I joined the small crowd of onlookers as he emerged into the outer courts.
    “What took you so long, Zacharias?” the other priests pressed him. “You were in there for ages! We thought we would have to pull you out by the rope!” There was a smattering of laughter at this, but it died away quickly as Zacharias gestured at the Holy of Holies, then up at the ceiling and down, then with his fingers splayed out again and again.
    “What’s he saying?” a few murmured.
    Another said to him, “Can’t you speak?”
    “I think he’s seen a vision! Did you see a vision, Zacharias?” When the priest nodded vigorously, there was a ripple of shock. The questions came faster and all at once after that, but the priest pushed past them, apparently done trying to communicate. It was clear he was eager to leave. 
    He saw an angel, I realized. I swallowed, and asked the Lord, Does this have to do with the coming of the Christ?
    He did not answer me, but I felt that it did somehow. Yet why couldn’t the old priest speak about what he had seen? Why would the Lord reveal something to him in a vision if he could not communicate it to us? That must mean that the vision was just for him…
    Nine months later, I had my answer. I was not there when the elderly priest’s newborn son was circumcised, but the temple was abuzz with the stories.
    “His tongue was loosed as soon as he proclaimed the child’s name was John, and then he prophesied that he would be the forerunner of the Christ, the one Malachi spoke of!”
    My pulse quickened, and again, I had a flash of the baby: the Lord’s anointed. This John was not Him, but He would come soon, I realized. He would come to this very temple for His dedication and sacrifice. I would see Him!
    Will I see Him, Lord? I begged silently. Will I live that long? I was an old woman, over one hundred years old—but surely the Lord could let me live just a little longer. As I had remained in the Father’s embrace all these years, might I also hold Him with my natural arms, before I fell asleep for the last time?
    I petitioned the Lord for this honor daily for the next six months.
    Then one day, I saw devout old Simeon hurrying through the outer courts of the temple. He did not live in the temple as I did, but he was there very often. Usually he was friendly to me—but today, he was on a mission. I followed close behind him, my heart burning with anticipation. Then suddenly, he froze.
    A young couple stood before him. The girl mother held a small bundle, and her husband stood beside her. Both were simply dressed. My eyes fell to the babe in her arms even as I saw Simeon approach them, and my heart leapt to my throat. Simeon reached out for the babe, and the surprised mother yielded him to the old man’s arms.
    “Lord,” Simeon said, his voice loud and clear, yet trembling with emotion, “now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.”
    The man and his wife exchanged a look of wonder. Still cradling the child, Simeon looked up at the girl and proclaimed, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against—yes, and a sword will pierce through your own soul also—that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
    He then relinquished the child into the mother’s arms again, and turned to look at me with a smile and a twinkle in his eye. Trembling, I walked forward for my turn, and beseeched the girl with a question in my eyes. I hoped—oh, so desperately!—that she would offer to let me hold him too. I reached out my withered old hands, and then retracted them again, suddenly fearing that I might be too frail. What if I could not support Him? But just as I pulled away again, the girl gave me an encouraging nod and reached out, placing the bundle in my arms.
    My eyes swam with tears as I held my Lord, as He had held me my whole life long. I looked into the innocent little face. He looked back up at me with His wide dark eyes that seemed just like those of any other infant, and yet—did He know me? I fancied He did. Then He smiled, giggled and cooed. I giggled back like a schoolgirl, the tears running freely down my face. I dared not spare a hand to wipe them away while I held such precious cargo.  
    I thought my heart would burst. But if it did so now, if I died right here, that would be all right.
    “Thank you, Lord,” I managed, “for granting my petition, for granting that I might see and hold the redemption of Your people, here in the land of the living! This is the Child who was foretold in the beginning, the Seed of Eve, the root of Jesse, the Lion of Judah, and the Lamb of God!”
    I lifted up my eyes in thanksgiving, as the mother whispered, looking from me to where Simeon had been, “How do you both know this?”
    “The same way the shepherds knew,” her husband murmured to her. “Everyone close to the Lord seems to know…”
    “It’s an open secret,” I agreed, grinning at the man. “He’s only been talking about it since the dawn of time.”   
 
Dec 18, 2020

Michael Rubino, an innovative expert in mold contamination and remediation. Rubino and his company All American Restoration have been featured in USA Today, NJBiz, Reader’s Digest, New Jersey Monthly and Digital Trends. He was also selected as a speaker for the Spring 2020 Indoor Air Quality Association Meeting and Expo.

Rubino received a Bachelor of Science degree in 2008 and is a council-certified microbial remediator from the American Council for Accredited Certification, and a New York State Department of Labor Remediation Contractor. He has spent the past seven years involved in construction and remediating mold contamination.

Rubino’s focus is not just on removing cosmetic damage resulting from mold. It’s on removing all traces of mold, the spores they leave behind and the toxins produced by the mold. He’s discovered that a person suffering from hypersensitivity to mold needs all three types of decontamination to regain their health.

To educate those who are suffering, Rubino wrote the book Mold Medic. In detail, Rubino advises readers how to choose a mold remediation company and the exact processes that company should be using.

Get the book here: https://www.allamericanrestoration.com/

Email him at: michael@allamericanrestoration.com

Dec 11, 2020

Dr. Hal Bradley is a veteran and pastor with a PhD in pastoral counseling and a passion for helping the homeless and those in distress.  Before becoming a pastor, he was a drug lord, and at one time the largest cocaine trafficker in the Pacific Northwest. He served four years at the Springfield medical center for federal prisoners and one year in Leavenworth federal prison. He then worked as a contractor for the Department of Justice, where he helped to capture the drug kingpins.  He now lives a quiet life focused on working with the homeless, the afflicted, and people with broken souls with the hospice ministry over the past 17 years.

He is currently recovering from an attack, allegedly ordered by a drug cartel. But he faces life with joy in his heart, without hate or anger, and feels blessed that God has chosen a purpose for him and that he survived such horrible things. He carries love wherever he goes, and this extends to his work with the homeless and others whom many people choose to ignore.

To get a copy of Crisis Victory, go to crisisvictory.com

Dec 4, 2020

Joani Schultz is Group Publishing's Chief Creative Officer. She oversees the creation of Group's resources, training, and services for children’s ministry, youth ministry, adult ministry, and church leadership. She's the author of numerous books including "Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore," and "The 1 Thing." She leads the teams that create Group's Bible curriculum, vacation Bible school, books, magazines, conferences, music, and training.

Today I’m specifically interviewing her about Eyewitness: The Visual Experience Bible, by Jeff White.

Learn more at experienceeyewitness.com

Nov 27, 2020

Today's podcast comes from this blog post, How Nature Supports Mental Health.

The link for our sponsor is trylgc.com/cnh, and enter the coupon code CNH20 for 20% off your order.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Next » 13