Thursday, November 30, 2017

Timeless Truths. Road Ways. 1st Sunday of Advent.



Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.

As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.

In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”

“Yes, Lord,” he answered.

The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”

“Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”

But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength. Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus.

At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?”

Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.
Acts 9:1-22
“‘What shall I do, Lord?’ I asked.
“‘Get up,’ the Lord said, ‘and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do.’”
Acts 22:10

Early followers of Christ were called “People of The Way.”
The Way is still the same today.
God is more interested in our relationship to Him than He is in our religion.

Two of Life’s Most Important Questions
Who are you, Lord?” (19: 5) – Establishing a relationship.
“What shall I do, Lord?” (22:10) – Helping by giving back out of love and gratitude.

Five Keys on a Life-Givers Journey
God’s Timing. Never late … sometimes scary. (9:1-2)

  • We must believe that God has the power to change lives.
  • We trust His timing.
  • God’s intervention at the right time leads to spiritual harvest.
Live-givers trust God’s schedule.

God’s Vision. Sees the potential … not the predicted.

  • When you are persecuted for Christ, it is Christ being persecuted, not you.
  • We need to imagine impossible people as effective witnesses and believe they will become that, praying for it to happen.
God’s Grace. Available to all … regardless of reputation.
God’s Call. Requires obedience … with our without understanding.

  • God called Ananias to go, and he went.
  • This story isn’t only Paul’s call. It’s Ananias’ call, too.
  • Whatever God wants you to do  … DO IT!
God’s Love. Breaks down barriers … builds bridges.

  • The bridge building word in this passage is brother.
  • Roads may lead nowhere, but bridges are built with intentional destinations in mind.
Life-givers intentionally build bridges of friendship.

Special thanks to Dr. Keith Newman for the primary teachings used in this post. I invite you to his blog, which he's titled, Curious Sojourner.

Next Timeless Truths: The Stop Sign: Mighty God

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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Thoughts on Hebrews Study Questions from 11/27


THOUGHTS ON HEBREWS STUDY QUESTIONS

My Sunday School Life Group is studying Hebrews. Every Monday, I post questions that were discussed the day before in Sunday School. I invite you to ponder/think about them and jot down your thoughts.

On Wednesdays, I post some of the ideas that came up in the Life Group's discussion for you to consider and compare with your thoughts.  


These questions were discussed in my Life Group Sunday. This post presents thoughts from the class discussion.

Chapter 9
Vv 11-15



A. What does Christ’s blood cleanse? B. Why is that essential?
A. Sins. Our conscience. It transforms lives and hearts. 
Conscience: 1) provides us with a choice of right or wrong; 2) keeps us in tune with God; 3) measures the consequences between doing good or bad; 4) removes guilt when we accept completely.
B. Guilt is a heavy load to bear because it prohibits freedom.

Comment on the last part of v14.

How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! (NIV)
Other translations replace "acts that lead to death" with:
  • Dead works.
  • Deadness of the former self.

"Serve the living God" --> Free from observing the old rules and useless rituals in order to serve the living God."




Called? See Romans 8:28

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose
Called means invited
Jesus called His disciples --> They accepted the call. 
Your salvation depends on what you do with the call.
Who is called?
This letter was written to the Jews who were the called people of God, but the Law only cleansed from sin--there was no forgiveness. 

This call to the Jews is to LIFE. Sin was not the issue for Jews. GUILT was the issue. Without forgiveness, the conscience is not cleansed. A clean conscience is needed to remove guilt. THAT'S AMAZING!

Guilt is not exclusive to Jews. Satan heaps guilt on believers to drag them down, away from Christ. Believers must let go of their guilt!

Who/What is benefitting by what’s described at the end of v15?
For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.
Those who are called are the beneficiaries. Christians. Those who accept Christ.
"set free" means to be rescued.
"set free" was a new concept to the Jews.

What is eternally inherited? (Jeremiah 31:31-34)
 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people." (31:33) 
The New Covenant is inherited where the Law is in the mind and heart.
What is inherited by accepting Jesus is FORGIVENESS! 


We Got This Far This Week

If you'd like a PDF of the pages of questions in table form with room for you to write answers, email me at 

Follow me on Twitter: @CRDowningAuthor and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CRDowningAuthor
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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Authors (and Readers!). REPRISE Reading to live... longer!

THIS IS THE SECOND OF MY HOLIDAY REPRISE POSTS ON WRITING AND TANGENTIAL TOPICS. THESE WILL CONTINUE THROUGH DECEMBER.
This is the cover of my most recent book. It has outstanding reviews. It's appropriate for readers from age 11-111. You can purchase it on Amazon. It's a great Christmas gift.
Keep reading, you'll see why!

I didn't change anything in this post. It "naturally" follows the previous Almanac from 11/14

The September 2017 issue of Reader’s Digest is titled “Genius Issue – Secrets to a Sharper Mind.”

The article “Why It Pays to Increase Your Word Power” on pages 66-73 begins with a question.

“How many hours did you spend reading books last week?”

In 2016, researchers at Yale School of Public Health began analyzing data collected from 20,000 people every other year since 1992. They narrowed the focus to the 3600 respondents over 50 years of age. Included in that data was an answer to the above question over almost one-quarter century.

“People who read books—fiction or nonfiction, poetry or prose—for as little as 30 minutes a day over several years were living an average of two years longer than people who didn’t read anything at all [emphasis mine].”

Other research included suggests that
“[C]hildren as young as six months who read books with their parents several times a week show stronger literacy skills four years later, score higher on intelligence tests, and land better jobs than nonreaders.”

The article goes on to discuss the benefits of reading in adults.
Summary
Reading books is more beneficial for adults [maybe everyone] than reading newspapers and magazines.

Why?

First. Brains build many connections and pathways when keeping track of chapters and storylines. This doesn't happen when skimming headlines, as is common with newspapers and magazines.
Second. Empathy and emotional intelligence scores increase after reading even only a part of a chapter in a story.

Another concept discussed is “cognitive reserve”—your brain’s ability to damage. More reading, more ability over a wider range of damage types. Shocking to me was

“This [cognitive reserve built up by reading] could explain why, after death, many seemingly healthy elders turn out to harbor signs of advanced Alzheimer’s disease in their brains despites showing few signs in life.”

The article takes a turn in its story arc for the last part. Benefits of bilingualism are presented. That's another blog, someone else's blog.

Chances, if you are reading this post, you are you are a reader. There’s a different level of probability involved with you being an author—but you might be one of those, too.
  1. If you’re a reader, you should be fired up by the above content—especially if you read books.
  2. If you’re an author, I hope you’re inspired by how you are contributing to more than just the list of books in print.
  3. I suspect that writer’s brains have good-sized cognitive reserves.


I taught high school and college biology for 39 years. From what I know about brain function
  • An author’s brain must build at least connections while determining the plot, fleshing out characters, and developing a plausible setting—while writing.
  • The number of those connections must be at least as many as a reader builds while following those plots and characters in that setting—while reading.


Writing and editing are disciplines.
  1. Accept that discipline is required to write a good story.
  2. Don’t rush to finish a story.
  3. Do all that you need to do to produce a story that sucks readers in.
  4. Disciplined writing helps readers develop healthier brains.


Write on!

Next Author’s Blog: 

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Monday, November 27, 2017

Hebrews Study Questions from 11/26

HEBREWS STUDY QUESTIONS

My Sunday School Life Group is studying Hebrews. Every Monday, I post questions that were discussed the day before in Sunday School. I invite you to ponder/think about them and jot down your thoughts.

On Wednesdays, I post some of the ideas that came up in the Life Group's discussion for you to consider and compare with your thoughts.  


These questions were discussed in my Life Group yesterday. Take time to reflect on them. I'll post thoughts from the class discussion on Wednesday.


Chapter 9
Vv 11-15

What does Christ’s blood cleanse? Why is that essential?

Comment on the last part of v14.

Called? See Romans 8:28

Who/What is benefitting by what’s described at the end of v15?


What is eternally inherited? (Jer 31:31-34)


We Got This Far This Week

If you'd like a PDF of the pages of questions in table form with room for you to write answers, email me at 
Follow me on Twitter: @CRDowningAuthor and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CRDowningAuthor
My website is: www.crdowning.com

I'd appreciate your feedback as a comment on Blogger!

Friday, November 24, 2017

Expressions of Faith. Hebrews Ch 8. An Undivided Heart

This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel
after that time, declares the Lord.
I will put my laws in their minds
and write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
 Hebrews 8:10
I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God.
 Ezekiel 11:19-20

An Undivided Heart

Hebrews 8:10 is a liberal paraphrase of Ezekiel’s words. Verse 10 is a reminder of God’s promise of a new covenant between Him and His people.

It’s part of series of “quotes” in verses 8-12 that provide an overview to help make a point.

These types of paraphrased quotes of the Old Testament are common in New Testament letters.

I like the full text of Ezekiel.
Israel’s history is a cyclical pattern that describes the problem with a heart that is not fully committed to God.
  1. A period of following God and His commands
  2. A period of drifting away
  3. A period of oppression by outsiders
  4. A period of repentance.

<Repeat #1-#4 indefinitely.>

Ezekiel’s prophesy of the new covenant promises an end to that cycle.
How?
It takes an undivided heart
a heart that is committed to following God.


People in Ezekiel’s’ time struggled with their divided hearts.
(Old Covenant)
Too many Christians do that today
(New Covenant)


Ezekiel did have access to the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit descended on an individual to empower him/her for a specific task.
(Old Covenant)
We have unlimited access to the Holy Spirit
(New Covenant)


Ask the Holy Spirit to remove all dividers from your heart.
Accept and believe that has been done.

Then, and only then, can you follow God faithfully . . .
with an undivided heart.
Just like God promised Ezekiel!

Next Expression of Faith: The New Covenant

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