The Key, Part 2 of “Why So Many”

Key Verse

“Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” – John 6:27 

The key in our “Key Verse” is that Father God has set his seal upon Jesus. Here’s what Barnes’ Notes on the Bible says about this seal:

To seal is to confirm or approve as ours. This is done when we set our seal to a compact, or deed, or testament, by which we ratify it as our act. So God the Father, by the miracles which had been performed by Jesus, had shown that he had sent him, that he approved his doctrines, and ratified his works. The miracles were to his doctrine what a seal is to a written instrument. Barnes’ Notes on the Bible 

The Key is Jesus

The key in this new series, “Why So Many,” will always be Jesus. What we are searching for is how Jesus expressed Himself through individual Christians and, collectively, through His Church during the early days of Christianity that was so transformative.

For the sake of clarity, let me clearly state that our work as laborers for Christ (1 Corinthians 15:58) is far from over. The title of this series, Why So Many,” is not meant to imply that there are a sufficient number of Christians!

For “Why So Many”, we are again using the idea that we are on an expedition to learn what individual Christians as well as the Church did during the first few hundred years after Christ’s ascension that set Christianity on its course to change the whole world. However, instead of archaeologists, this time we will be anthropologists. BTW – archaeology is a subset of anthropology.

Anthropology: the study of human beings and their ancestors through time and space and in relation to physical character, environmental and social relations, and culture – Merriam Webster Dictionary 

Learning from our Ancient Brothers and Sisters

For our study, we will consider why Christianity has changed the entire world. There are some fascinating discoveries that we will make on our journey as we learn why so many people abandoned their ancestral religions as well as wealth, families, property, and familiar culture to be reborn and live for Jesus.

The impetus of this series is for us to learn from our ancient Christian brothers and sisters. How did they live? What did they value? What can they teach us? Why would a hedonist reject their life, receive Jesus, and refuse to deny his Savior even when commanded to deny Jesus upon pain of death? Yet, in our modern world, Christians often refrain from sharing Jesus at work because it is against company policy. Our modern justification appears lacking when compared to execution.

What is the difference between then and now? It appears reasonable that there may be much that we can learn from the first Christians. As the Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 2:15-16 (NLT):

Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this?

This fragrance does not discriminate between friends or family. Do you remember when Christ’s half-brothers didn’t believe in Him? We find this in John 7:5, “For not even his brothers believed in him.” God had prophesied this in Psalms 69:8 (ESV), “I have become a stranger to my brothers.” We shall see this derision and doubt repeated against Christ’s regenerated followers from the first century all the way to today, and most certainly tomorrow.


So now we know our mission. In the next installment of this series we will investigate something that Coptic Christians did from their conviction that life is valuable. It is shocking.

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You may like: No animals were harmed during the writing of this devotional

Moral Impact

A New Adventure 

In this second installment of An Expedition Adventure in the Bible, we are investigatinwhy there are so many Christians in the world today. Our purported role is that of an anthropologist researching the early Church to understand why Christians were so disliked by so many leaders, yet through Christians God began a transformation of the whole world, upending the Roman empire and creating a cohesive, moral standard that launched universities, the scienceshospitals, and so much more.

The First Christians and the Birth of the Church 

As you may remember, the first Christians were the 11 apostles. We know exactly when they became born-again believers in Jesus. The event was recorded by the apostle John:

And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit…”  

John 20:22 (ESV)

The Holy Spirit had descended upon Jesus and remained. (John 1:32) But when Jesus breathed upon His apostles this was the first time that God lived in a child of “Adam,” other than Jesus (Colossians 2:9). Then, in the 2nd chapter of Acts, the Holy Spirit came upon everyone that was gathered together (Acts 2:1-4) in obedience to Christ’s command (Acts 1:4).

The Ministry of John the Baptist

Please allow me to take a moment to address the ministry of John the Baptist. Sometimes people think that the Jews baptized by John the Baptist were “saved.”

John the Baptist was the last of the Old Testament prophets. Jesus said of him, “Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:11a) Still, the baptism that John the Baptist performed was under the Old Testament. Jesus had not yet died, buried, and risen from the grave. There wasn’t any “born-again salvation” available for the people baptized by John.

The Birth of the Church

The event recorded in the 2nd chapter of Acts is the birth of the Church. Now they were Christians and they were the first church community. However, they had no “statement of faith”, no catechism, no Church ordinances, no lay ministry. Still, they were disciples of Jesus and they had the Holy Spirit within them, so they were “equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:17)

The Jewishness of Christianity 

What we see after the birth of the Church is what I call God’s baby bubble for the Church. God gave His children some time to jell. Let’s remember that Christianity is undeniably Jewish. Jesus was born a Jew, raised a Jew, and fulfilled the prophecy of Moses and other Jewish prophets regarding the “Seed” of Abraham and the Messiah. As the apostle Paul wrote:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 

Romans 1:16 (ESV)

Gentiles are grafted into the True Vine. Therefore, the early Church was not without the Scriptures (Old Testament) or a large body of work that provided cultural norms that helped them begin the process of becoming the Bride of Christ “without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.” (Ephesians 5:25) However, when Stephen was martyred then the “baby bubble” was popped and the 1st century Christians were dispersed by rapid persecution from the Jewish leadership (Acts 8:1) because the Jewish Leaders saw the Gospel of Jesus as a Jewish heresy.  

The Dispersion 

This dispersion was God’s will for Christians to carry the good news of Jesus with them wherever they went. One of the very first locations that received the Good News was Egypt and North Africa. We will come back to North Africa on a future blog.

As Christianity began to take root, their (our) morality that came from the Truth that abided within them (and us) often collided with the reprobate Roman empire. We need to remember that we are not just looking at the clash of cultures. We are viewing the collision of a moving object (the Roman society) with an immovable force (Christ’s Truth).

The 1st Century Church’s Moral Impact 

We may think that the first century Christians were so distracted by persecution that they did not have a public message about social ills within society. In fact, it is just the opposite. It was morality built from the substance of Christ’s commands that caused a moral impact which put a spotlight on Christians. As an example, let’s consider the 1st century Church’s stand against abortion. Yep, the Church has been wrestling with the world over this issue for 2,000 years.

The following are a few excerpts from “ABC Religion & Ethics“:  

Exposure should be understood as “the rejection of a neonate (new born baby) in the first week of life, before it was accepted into the family and undergone rituals of purification and naming.” 

While the New Testament is silent on the issues of infanticide and exposure, the writings of the early church are replete with condemnations of Graeco-Roman practices that they felt ran counter to the commitments of the early Christians. These included gladiatorial battles, public executions and abortion, as well as infanticide and exposure. Indeed, their opposition was so vehement that they labeled not only infanticide but also exposure and even abortion as “parricide.”

Parricide was a term that was known and used in the Graeco-Roman world to refer to the killing of a close relative, but it was not a term usually used in connection with the death of an infant. The early Christians, however, considered “conception, gestation, birth, and nurture as a continuous process” and therefore considered the termination of life at any point through this process as an act of murder. As a result, many of the early Christian texts openly condemned infanticide, exposure and abortion. The Didache, for example, which is a Christian treatise dated from the late first to the early second century, states:

There are two ways — the way of life and the way of death, and the difference between these two ways is great. Therefore, do not murder a child by abortion or kill a newborn infant. 

In a chilling and astonishingly callous statement, some modern bioethicists suggest, “Merely being human is not in itself a reason for ascribing someone a right to life.” So, just as it was for the 1st century Church, so it is today; we are at moral loggerheads with the society within which we live.

With this moral chasm being the case, how did the early Church, by 340 AD, persuade the Roman Emperor  Valentinian I, to enact the first law requiring parents to rear their children? Valentinian I also decreed that the killing of an infant was a capital offense.


We will begin to dig into the details of the early Church next time!

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The Church in Genesis

tropical garden

Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. 

Luke 24:27

Last time we were in Genesis, chapter 1. As we continue on our quest we don’t have far to go. But before we dive into Genesis, chapter 2, we first need to understand that Jesus is the second Adam. Jesus came to recover what Adam lost by his sin. Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. (1 Corinthians 15:45) Okay, now we’re ready to take a look at Genesis, chapter 2:

So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man [Adam], and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman [Eve] and brought her to the man. – Genesis 2:21-22

Not From Dust

Now Eve was not created from dust, as Adam was, but she was created from the open side of Adam. Likewise, the Church was not born from dust (i.e., Adam’s descendants) but from the open side of Jesus.

But one of the soldiers pierced his [Jesus’] side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. (John 19:34)

And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. (Revelation 21:2)

Eve was a real person but she was also a type or foreshadow of the Church, the Bride of Christ. Eve was the bride of Adam and the Church is the Bride of Christ Jesus. How cool is that! We’ve barely scratched the surface of the Bible and we are already finding Jesus.

R.C. Sproul wrote: Augustine [an early Church father] is often quoted as saying: “The New Testament is in the Old concealed; the Old is in the New revealed.” This phrase encapsulates the New Testament’s view that without the teachings of Jesus and His apostles, we cannot grasp the true significance of the old covenant (Luke 24:25–272 Cor. 3:15–16).

The Old Testament Is Vital

There are many in Christianity that find no use of the Old Testament. Others grudgingly recognize the Old Testament but never teach it. But we’ve seen that the Old Testament is not just important, it’s vital to Christianity, for Jesus is there, in the Old Testament, from the very first verse. If we were to throw out the Old Testament, we would be throwing out Jesus!

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Ornaments Aren't Just for Trees

a Christmas ornament

I enjoy many of the things we in America associate with the Christmas season. I certainly have hung my share of lights on houses, lights on trees, and lights on stairway banisters. These Christmas traditions are fun.

We each have our traditions. So, as you do your Christmas season observance this year, keep in mind that ornaments aren’t just for trees. You are an ornament. Really! Just read Isaiah 49:18:

Isaiah 49:18
Lift up your eyes around and see;
they all gather, they come to you.
As I live, declares the Lord,
you shall put them all on as an ornament;
you shall bind them on as a bride does.

As one commentary wrote, “As Zion is often compared to a bride (Is 54:5), so the accession of converts is like bridal ornaments (“jewels,” Is 62:3Mal 3:17). ” With the salvation accomplished by Jesus, His Church is the bride, and His followers are ornaments for His bride! *

If you have received Jesus as your Savior, then rejoice that you, too, are a beautiful ornament in the eyes of God.

*Christ’s bride is the children of God, and we also are seen by God as ornaments on Christ’s bride.

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A Message for the Church

A couple reading the Bible

It is not the will of God that we “Christianize” the things of the world so that we can bring them into the Church and call them good. God does not want or need worldly things in His kingdom.

Go Out

2 Corinthians 6:14 -18 (ESV)
Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,

“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them,
    and I will be their God,
    and they shall be my people.
Therefore go out from their midst,
    and be separate from them, says the Lord,
and touch no unclean thing;
    then I will welcome you,
and I will be a father to you,
    and you shall be sons and daughters to me,
says the Lord Almighty.”

Lead Them Out

What God wants is for us to lead people out of this world by bringing them to Jesus that they might be saved from the judgment that already rests upon them and this world.

Do not call worldly things that you’ve attached the name of Jesus to as clean for they are not clean.

God has set a High Standard for Christians

Just look at the accounting by God of the churches in the book of Revelation (chpt 1-3). God has not lowered the bar that He set for Israel, His chosen people. They were called into account when they failed to be obedient so why should the wild branches that He has chosen to graft into the true vine be measured by a different standard. No! All His fruit is measured the same.

When we pray God looks at the righteousness of Jesus. When we petition He looks at the blood of His only begotten. When we sin He looks at the scars of Jesus. But our standard is our obedience to the commands of Jesus for that is how we show our love. And in our love for God’s only begotten we find the same mercy that He has continually extended to His chosen people and His royal priesthood.

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Local Churches

local church

As Christians, when we talk with unbelievers, we guard our conversations because “church” words are easily misunderstood.

Unless we have plenty of time when we talk with Christians from different backgrounds, we generally, but not always, keep our conversations within the core beliefs of Christianity. Straying too far afield can rapidly become quicksand. 

However, there is a place where we can go and be free. Read with me 2 Corinthians 6:16:

For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,
“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.

Local Churches are Safe Harbors

Notice the word “among” in the verse, above. This verse applies to all Christians. Still, I see a special love from God, for when we gather in our local churches, God walks among us. Our local churches are our safe harbors and are a gift from God to us. When we arrive at our church, we arrive at our actual community.

Within our local churches, we can love (AgápePhilia) freely. We can bless others and be blessed; we know and are known in a more intimate depth than any place other than marriage or deep friendship. This depth of relationship makes perfect sense because the Church is the Bride of Jesus. Marriage is a Biblical “type” for the Church. (Ephesians 5:22-33)

We get Married and we get Buried

Within our local churches, we learn together; we practice the commands of Christ together, we pray together, we share burdens, we add faith to faith, we teach and invest in all members, from our youngest children to our oldest members, we celebrate God, we worship together and so much more.

We hurt when one hurts. We rejoice when one rejoices. We get married and we get buried. We exercise compassion and invest time into our local churches, and from there, we reach into our local communities and, hopefully, around the world for Jesus Christ, our soon coming King! I thank God for our local churches.

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No animals were harmed during the writing of this devotional

Holy Priesthood

1 Peter 2:4-5, As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

This “holy priesthood” to which God called us is not in name only nor is it a formal position within the clergy. This role is for all Christians. If we, as Christians, are called to a holy priesthood, then we have work that we must do that aligns with our position.

We don’t sacrifice bulls or goats or lambs

God does not view us as holy priests after the lineage of Aaron; ours is a spiritual priesthood. We don’t sacrifice bulls or goats or lambs in this new priesthood. Since we operate within the Spirit, our sacrifices are spiritual. A good question to ask here is, “What does Peter mean by “spiritual sacrifices?”

We read that Jesus is a living stone (singular), and we are living stones (plural). Therefore our holy priesthood is modeled on that of Jesus, the Great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14). As such, our spiritual sacrifices are foremost that of self and will. Here is a verse to verify this statement: 1 John. 3:16 (ESV), “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.”

One Mediator Between God and Man

As we know, the ministry of Aaron and his sons was to mediate between people and God. However, as the Bible says in 1 Timothy 2:5 (ESV), “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus…” So, in addition to self-sacrifice, what is it that Christians do in this holy priesthood? Every Christian everywhere is called to be mediators and intercessors between each other and God through Christ Jesus.

We have confidence in our call to be mediators and intercessors because “...we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us…” (see the full context in Hebrews 10:19-25) 

Mediating and Interceding

Our spiritual duty in this holy priesthood is to mediate and intercede for other Christians. This duty means that we counsel and pray with other Christians, using the wisdom, guidance, and other gifts the Holy Spirit gives us, so all Christians come into alignment with the will of God.

As intercessors for other Christians, we add our standings with God to other Christians’ standings. We say “amen” to the prayers our brothers and sisters pray as they lay their petitions before God with assurance, through mediation, that their requests can be asked in the name of Jesus.

These roles help keep the Body of Christ healthy, protected, and in alignment with God’s will.

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Do You Remember?

The Holy Spirit is so gentle and yet so intense. I had this devotional written and just about ready to go when I knew I needed to change a sentence. So, I opened my editor, but as I searched for that sentence, I could tell that I needed to make some other changes. Finally, I got the message, literally. A cut and paste job wasn’t enough. I had to change the intent of this devotional. I’m thankful that God cares enough about us that He has a purpose for this site.

Do you remember when whole local churches used to visit other churches? It was usually on a Sunday night. The host church would be overflowing, every pew filled and even some folding chairs in the back.

I remember one time when the elders became worried and started counting heads for fear that we might exceed the Fire Marshall’s posted maximum occupancy. I’m not making this up. That’s what church services were. And, when the church was packed, we had church. My spirit stirs within me just from those memories.

One of the things that we had back then was a face-to-face presence within the community. The shop owners knew church members. Some of the shop owners were church members. Unchurched people in our town knew of us and would get a message to us if they needed prayer. It always seemed odd that local citizens were afraid to cross the threshold of our church, but if they ran out of all options, then they’d contact a church member and get their message to us. Again, this seems unrealistic. You may think that, perhaps, my memories are inaccurate. But they are true.

I think the reason most churches no longer believe they can support missionaries, or visiting evangelists, or choirs from Christian universities is because our culture has changed so quickly. When this happened, we closed ranks instead of running headlong into the cultural battle. Here I am speaking as an actual casualty. I was raised in the church and was truly saved and baptized at a young age, but when I needed the church the most, I was pushed away because I had long hair. I remember the day when I decided there wasn’t a place for me in church. Thankfully, several years later, God sent someone to me to remind me of the Gospel and to guide me back to Jesus.

To save their churches, many Christians believed the lie that “religion” is a private matter that should stay at home. That is the antithesis of the Gospel of Jesus. Now, sadly, many local churches back then listened to the whispers of culture instead of the whispers of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, God’s will is for every Christian and local assembly to be actively engaged with their communities. Let us remember Hebrews 10:24: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,” Good deeds are the expression of our love. Love is dead without action.

Okay, Gary, we got it. Church used to be great and now most struggle to keep going. Where’s the devotional? Here’s the good news for you to embrace and carry to your local church and to everyone you meet: We, as Christians, have a compelling message that rises above every message in the world; Jesus is back from the dead, He is in heaven, and He’s ready to do the same for us. And right now, He’s prepared to fill churches with overflowing attendance. However, there’s one thing. It is a straightforward thing standing in the way of an outpouring of the Holy Spirit beyond anything we can imagine. God requires us to be holy. “Get real,” I can hear some say.  No, this is the only thing we need to do. Here’s what God’s Word says in 1 Peter 1:13-16 (ESV):
Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

As I close this out, I feel like I need to make a comment related to holiness. Don’t love money. It’s excellent if God provides you with wealth. Still, people should know by your actions that your love is for God and his righteousness. Even simple things like being stingy when you tip at a restaurant speaks of who you trust. And, perhaps worst of all, Christians file lawsuits for money. What does it matter? As God said in Job 1:21 (ESV), And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.

Anyway, I pray that the Holy Spirit would breathe overflowing life into each of you. As Jesus said in Luke 6:38 (Aramaic Bible in Plain English), “Give and it will be given to you in good measure, pressed down and overflowing, they shall cast into your lap. For with what measure you measure it will be measured to you.

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Our First Response

First Response

Our nation has become acutely aware of first responders. When international troubles arise, our first response, as a nation is to  create a coalition. We want a coalition because military actions by the world’s most powerful nations are typically carried out as a coalition. The coalition is meant to show a shared agreement among the nations regarding the coalition’s actions. 

We can read a first-hand account about a coalition formed against Jesus and then extended against the Church. We find that the Church’s first corporate prayer comes from the Church’s first collision with the very coalition that crucified Jesus.

Today’s passage of Scripture:

Acts 4:27-31 (NIV), Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

Now this coalition, in essence, represented the whole world. The coalition is Herod who represented the rules of the Jews. Pilate who represented Rome. The Gentiles were from many nations that were in Jerusalem because of Rome. No doubt, some of the solders from the Gentiles were the ones that mocked and beat Jesus and thrust a crown of thorns on Christ’s head. Last in this coalition were the people of Israel. 

So, what action did the Church take when challenged by the whole world? They prayed. Their first response was to pray, asking God to help them speak the gospel with greater boldness, and with signs and wonders through the name of Jesus.

Obviously, they prayed the will of God. We know this for God shook their meeting place. And, God filled them with the Holy Spirit and God gave them what they asked for.

This pattern has been the will of God both on a personal level for Christians and on a corporate level for Christ’s Church. Prayer should always be our first response, not our last hope. Be a first responder. Pray!

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Babies, toddlers, teenager, millennials, Gen X’ers, Baby Boomers, and the Greatest Generation. People from all of these categories, and more, inundate my in-laws home at least once a year for a family get-together.

I enjoy these family get-togethers but I especially enjoy quiet times with my in-laws. Just recently, my wife and I were visiting her parents. Their authentic Christian lives have been an encouragement to me for many years. I almost always learn something from my father-in-law each time we visit.

Someday, my father-in-law will take up his residence in heaven. That will be a glorious day for him, but a sad day for so many of us. Thankfully, I will always have my Heavenly Father for the Bible says in Romans 8:15: The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”

Now, this world is full of religions, with some claiming to be Christian. To be sure, there are aspects of Christianity that are pure religion. In James 1:27 it says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” And, yes, there are “do’s” and “don’t” in the Bible (1 Co 11:24 …this do in remembrance of me. 1 Jn 2:15 Love not the world…) but those are not religious rhetoric. They are about teaching an adopted child how to live in God’s Family. For, you can see from Romans 8:15 that I am an adopted child of God.

Yes, my parents’ histories are full of wild characters, yet even more so is my Father’s Family. I’ve read about an old prophet in my Father’s Family history that was thrown into a den of lions (Daniel), a young, insecure man that stood up and fought an army (Gideon) and, of course, One Man that died and rose again to secure salvation for all who accept Him (Jesus). I’ve got kings and princesses, farmers and tent makers in my Father’s Family.

When I am reading the Bible, I’m learning about my Family; often they are things about which only families care. I’ve read about Ruth sleeping at the feet of Boaz, Princess Esther daring to enter the king’s inner court without an invitation, the prophet Jeremiah being thrown into a well and living to tell about it, and so many more tidbits of Family history.

As I study my Bible, I am learning about my everlasting Family. And, as I read, these Family members seem to gather around me (Hebrews 12:1), rejoicing in God as the Holy Spirit helps me discover how Jesus is woven within it all. I’m slowly learning to live as an adopted son of my Father.

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