Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Wouldn’t sin be much easier to avoid if its consequences were immediate? Not that I’m telling God how to run his world, or anything – but I guess I am. If Eve had dropped dead the moment she ate the fruit, wouldn’t Adam have had greater incentive not to eat it? If only my face would bloat the moment I ate that third piece of chocolate cake. If only an eye would fall out, when I willfully watched pornographic material that the world deemed appropriate for those over seventeen years of age (I’m talking “R” rated movies, not “Honey Goes to Vegas”). If only the consequences of sin immediately followed my sin – I would be far less likely to sin. Think about it. When a two-year-old touches Grandma’s antique crystal vase, don’t we immediately smack his chubby little hand (or put his hand in time-out)? THAT’s immediate consequence for sin. But guess what? We’re not two-year-olds, are we? God expects us to obey without an immediate hand smack. He expects us to trust, when He says the consequences are real and imminent and eternal. We can only sin so long before God eventually intervenes to stop it; however, the full consequences of that sin may not be fully realized for years to come…

Gen. 6:1-3 – “When men began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. Then the LORD said, ‘My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years’” (emphasis added).
  • “Sons of God” is believed to indicate angels who came to earth and procreated with mortal women. I used to fume over these verses because God judged the mortals, who appeared to be the victims in this whole mess. However, consider the broader picture. Angels “marrying” mortals will have mortal children, who will consequently die in God’s judgment of 120 years. Immortal angels will watch their offspring die – now, that’s judgment. And what is 120 years to an immortal angel? A blink of an eye. Now, who do you think received the more severe judgment – mortals or immortals?

Gen. 6:4 – “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days--and also afterward--when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.”

  • This verse shows the level of depravity; it’s the litmus test of a society’s sin. The Nephilim, the shameful offspring of angels and women, prompted men’s pride rather than their repentance. Granted, the Nephilim were awesome specimens. Sometimes sin births an outwardly beautiful result – instant gratification – while inwardly and eventually, it delivers judgment, destruction and death. Humankind celebrated and esteemed the very sin that caused their judgment.

Gen. 6:5-8 – “The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. So the LORD said, ‘I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth--men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air--for I am grieved that I have made them.’ But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD” (emphasis added).

  • I always thought God destroyed the earth with a flood because He was angry. Nope. Wrong emotion. God was grieved, His heart filled with pain. Why was I so quick to accuse God of being angry, when Scripture plainly tells me that His response to sin was grief and pain? Granted, Scripture has many other instances in which God’s anger is stirred by people’s sin. But doesn’t anger often spring from grief? As a parent, I often try not to discipline in the heat of anger, in the midst of my hurt. Consider this – is that why the consequences of my sin don’t immediately follow the offense? Now, I realize God is perfect and can never sin. He does not have the human failings of a fallen parent. But perhaps, just perhaps, forestalling the consequences of our sin keeps Him from judging in wrath or in the midst of deep hurt. Something to ponder – that will at the very least make us better parents, teachers, leaders.

Lord, somehow knowing that my sin grieves You makes me want to be more obedient. There’s a little bit of ornery in me that seeks to challenge an angry God, but I don’t ever want to cause my Heavenly Father pain. Disappointing You seems unbearable. Hurting You feels miserable. Betraying You is unthinkable. Let the conviction be real and unquenchable.

Friday, April 17, 2009


Do you have good genes? In my day, Calvin Klein, Jordache, and Levi were always the standard – oh, wait. Genes. Like the genes passed down from my mom's mom (we called her Mom-Mom), who lived to be 101 years-old. That's her above, at her 100th birthday party, with my mom and dad, sister, brother and me. Genes - you don't get to shop for them, try them on for size. Genetics Home Reference Handbook says that genes are the basic physical and functional unit of heredity. They are made up of DNA and act as instructions to make molecules called proteins. Yawn. No quiz at the end, I promise. You know what I want to know about genes? Do my genes determine my lifespan? Are they at least an indicator of how long I should live? What external factors override our internal, hereditary trends? Stupidity could count as one external, overriding factor, I suppose. How many of us have at one point or another made an idiotic decision that will no doubt shorten our lifespan? Supernatural intervention is an external factor that overrides our hereditary trends – sometimes Satan destroys, sometimes God intervenes. Still, it’s fun to look at a family tree from beginning to, well – beginning – and notice some interesting facts…

Gen. 5:1-3 – “This is the written account of Adam’s line. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female and blessed them. And when they were created, he called them ‘man.’ When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth.”
  • In our written account, our Bible, Adam’s line begins with Cain. In the ancient writings, “man” begins with Seth – the “do-over” kid, whose name meant “granted” – and he looked like his dad. What grace.

Gen. 5:4-8 – “After Seth was born, Adam lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Adam lived 930 years, and then he died. When Seth had lived 105 years, he became the father of Enosh. And after he became the father of Enosh, Seth lived 807 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Seth lived 912 years, and then he died” (emphasis added).

  • Notice the long lifespan and the mention of not only multiple sons but also daughters in Seth’s lineage, emphasizing people and relationship. In Cain’s genealogy only one son was mentioned until Lamech’s dual marriage (4:19-22), and things and accomplishment were emphasized. (Unfortunately, we know that all humanity – except Noah – eventually became completely corrupt and violent. Even Seth’s line chose to turn away from the Name of the Lord.)

Gen. 5:9-24 – “When Enosh had lived 90 years, he became the father of Kenan…and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enosh lived 905 years, and then he died. When Kenan had lived 70 years, he became the father of Mahalalel…and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Kenan lived 910 years, and then he died. When Mahalalel had lived 65 years, he became the father of Jared…and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Mahalalel lived 895 years, and then he died. When Jared had lived 162 years, he became the father of Enoch…and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Jared lived 962 years, and then he died. When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah…and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enoch lived 365 years. Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away” (emphasis added).

  • Please read the last sentence again. It’s easy to miss it. Enoch lived about 1/3 as long as his ancestors – but he walked with God for those years. Did he feel cheated by such a comparably short life? Did his family feel cheated? Notice, Scripture does not say Enoch died. A dear friend, who is a retired seminary professor, once said, “Perhaps Enoch and God were walking in the cool of the evening and God said, ‘Hey, Enoch, why don’t you just come home with me tonight?’” I love that. I want that kind of walk with God – the kind when I close my eyes in this world, God simply invites me to His house for eternity.

Gen. 5:25-32 – “When Methuselah had lived 187 years, he became the father of Lamech…and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Methuselah lived 969 years, and then he died. When Lamech had lived 182 years, he had a son. He named him Noah and said, ‘He will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the LORD has cursed.’…Lamech…had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Lamech lived 777 years, and then he died. After Noah was 500 years old, he became the father of Shem, Ham and Japheth” (emphasis added).

  • Lamech fell prey to a common snare – looking to a human savior. Lamech looked to his son, Noah, for comfort. Others look to spouses, friends, co-workers, etc. to fill emotional, physical and spiritual needs. Let’s examine the other side of the proverbial coin. What did that kind of pressure do to Noah? He was 500 years-old before he had children, for heaven’s sake! But it was for heaven’s sake that he was ultimately refined and made righteous. Did he bring the comfort his father hoped for? See the “Sheep Going Deep” section to ponder the possibilities.

Lord, when someone disappoints me, help me to examine my heart – to determine if I have placed unholy hope on their shoulders. Teach me to treasure all the blessings You give in this lifetime, but at the same time, remembering there is only one Savior, one ultimate Hope.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Interview with Author, Jill Eileen Smith

As many of you know, I have a passion for God's Word. That passion finds its expression in many forms. These devotional posts are one form; however, several months ago, the Lord opened the door for another exciting opportunity to explore God's Word in a new way. I'm currently writing two novels - one, retelling the story of Job's life (release date 1/2011); and a second, depicting Solomon's early reign as seen in the Song of Songs (release date 1/2012). During my writing journey, I've met other friends with a similar passion to paint the pictures of Scripture with broad strokes of living color. Jill Eileen Smith is one of those friends. I asked her to share a little bit about the writing journey of her first biblical novel, Michal. I hope you enjoy getting to know her and will stop by her website or blog to find out more about this compelling retelling of David's first wife.

Mesu: How long have you been writing?

Jill: All totaled, not counting high school days, about 24 years.

Mesu: Why/how did you choose to write about Michal?

Jill: Initially, I didn’t. My first attempt at writing was a two-volume epic on King David. I tried to sell the epic 28 times but to no avail. One rejection letter, however, came from an editor at Harper & Row suggesting that I change the focus from David to Michal. At the time, I turned her down. Many years later, however, I could no longer ignore the prompting and wrote the book. Michal’s story became the first book in The Wives of King David series, and that same editor, Lonnie Hull Dupont, now with Revell, bought the series 16 years after that initial suggestion. So though I chose to write about David, I did not initially choose to write about Michal. Now, of course, I’m very glad I did.

Mesu: What new information did you discover about Scripture or your characters that surprised you, disappointed you; anything that made you angry or awed?

Jill: Hmm…this is an interesting question. I’m not sure I have a definitive answer. I had studied David’s life for at least seven years, so I knew his story fairly well. Michal’s story intertwines with his, but in some places when she is separated from David, the details of her life are left to the imagination. There really wasn’t much new information in Scripture to discover about her that awed or angered me. When I wrote this book I understood the Scriptural aspects in such a way that they were not new to me. Now in the current writing of Bathsheba’s story, I’ve discovered some interesting things, but I can’t share those yet because the book isn’t finished. J

Mesu: How did you research your book?

Jill: I studied the biblical passage a lot. I read commentaries on the passages, read it in other versions, studied Bible dictionaries, history, geography, customs and manners – anything I could get my hands on to help illuminate what might have been. In my current writing, I spent a day researching Hebrew word meanings in 2 Samuel 11 to better understand the scene and the characters’ motivations. The best research was a trip to Israel in 2008 – a wonderful addition to years of study.

Mesu: How is writing biblical fiction different than writing other types of novels?

Jill: I think the biggest challenge to authors of this genre is accuracy. Some will work hard only to set the stage of historical accuracy, not minding if they have to tweak the biblical account, as long as the story’s historical setting is correct. (All historical authors should research the period to stay true to the time and place.) But Christian authors have the added challenge of keeping the biblical account accurate, of not deviating from what is written in Scripture or changing the meaning. I personally think a Christian author of biblical fiction needs to study the Word, to know the whole counsel of God, not just the small portion where their story is set. There are times a person is spoken of later in the Bible and it’s important to read what is said about them outside of their specific story. It is also important to understand the Bible as a whole in order to stay true to its message.

Mesu: Does biblical fiction’s unique framework make it more challenging for the author or easier?

Jill: Short answer: It depends. Harder for the Christian author because of the need to weave the fine details of the Bible’s story in with their own fictional tale. Easier in that the plot is at least in part laid out for the author.

Long answers: I read a story about Esther recently written many years ago and now out of print. A wonderfully retold tale – though the craft – the telling and head hopping – would not bode well in today’s market. Still, the story is skillfully done. My one nit-pickiness was in recognizing that the author left part of the Bible tale out to fit her story. For instance, instead of showing Esther hold her banquet over two days before telling the king her plea, she tells him her request on the first night, the first time he asks. In Michal a similar situation arose when David evaded King Saul’s spear twice. The novelist must decide – leave one out for the sake of story or try to understand why and how it might have happened twice as stated in the Bible. The framework of Scripture is placed there by God and while these details might not matter whether they are included in our fictional stories or not, a biblical novelist is challenged with trying to understand how they might have happened and why they are included. Writing a redundant scene is not necessary, but perhaps the repetition makes logical sense and could add to the tension and conflict of the story.

Mesu: What other projects are you currently working on? Release dates?

Jill: Abigail: A Novel, Book 2 in The Wives of King David,
Turmoil marked her life—what price must she pay for love?
release date: February 1, 2010.

Bathsheba is in first draft stage – should release Spring 2011.

The Wives of the Patriarchs – titles and release dates to be announced. Books will focus on the wives of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.


Monday, April 06, 2009


Boys are notorious for being rowdy, daring, active. Believe me, girls can be just as rambunctious! When children grow up, those qualities sometimes manifest in words like: Ambitious. Driven. Obsessed. These are negative terms used to describe someone consumed with activity. Passionate. Committed. Resolute. These are nice, Christian terms used to describe someone consumed with activity. The only difference is terminology. The calendars – and dare I say, the results – often look the same. When our daughters were younger, and Roy was in his first ministry position, I felt “led” to get involved at our church. Though I was not the typical pastor’s wife – no horn-rimmed glasses, didn’t play the piano, and barely tolerated other people’s children – I waited approximately 3.2 seconds before jumping into ministry with both feet. At one point, I was singing in choir, hosting a small group in our home, teaching ladies’ Bible study and an adult Sunday school class, attending women’s missionary meetings/events and co-directing the K-2nd grade children’s program (80 children). I was also trying to start a personal speaking ministry and attend our daughters’ school and sporting events, while supporting my husband in his first pastoral position. Can you say SuperPastorsWife? Neither could I. Though I was ministering, I was restless. I was fulfilled, but I knew I should slow down. But how do you say no? Well, my body said NO for me. It didn’t appreciate my passionate, committed, resolute life, and four years into ministry, it rebelled – slowing me from my all-out sprint to a restless jog called, fibromyalgia. The second body rebellion happened five years later and removed my running shoes completely. I spent six months in bed asking questions, relying on the Lord for answers; and slowly, my restless spirit began to still. “Why am I driven?” “For Whom am I passionate?” “Am I ambitious or committed?” Ambition vs. commitment isn’t about which word we choose to describe the condition. The key is Cain’s curse: restless wandering. Recognizing our restlessness, speaks to the motive for our activity. If we’re restless in the activity, it’s not of God; but it doesn’t mean we will fail. Cain excelled in his restlessness.

Gen. 4:17-18 – “Cain lay with his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch. Cain was then building a city, and he named it after his son Enoch. To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad was the father of Mehujael, and Mehujael was the father of Methushael, and Methushael was the father of Lamech.”

  • Before you ask – I have no idea who Cain’s wife was…she could’ve been his sister, his cousin or a new lump of dirt. If God thought it was important, He would have told us. Perhaps the fact that she’s not defined and never mentioned again gives her significance. The poor woman is a shadow. She gives birth to the first child outside God’s presence, and it seems her violent, selfish, restless husband’s only concern is building a dynasty of his own. Cain’s ambition gains him the first city, named after his first child, but why is there only one child named of each son? Is it selective genealogy or the jealousy and ambition of Cain coursing through his descendant’s veins, causing them to repeat his bloody sin perpetually? Enoch, Irad, Mehujael, Methushael and Lamech all grew up in the restless, godless Land of Nod, under the angry influence of their ancestor Cain.

Gen. 4:19-24 – “Lamech married two women, one named Adah and the other Zillah. Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock. His brother's name was Jubal; he was the father of all who play the harp and flute. Zillah also had a son, Tubal-Cain, who forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron. Tubal-Cain's sister was Naamah. Lamech said to his wives, ‘Adah and Zillah, listen to me; wives of Lamech, hear my words. I have killed (I will kill) a man for wounding me, a young man for injuring me. If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times.’”

  • Alright, Lamech! The first to mess up God’s perfect institution of one-man-one-woman marriage! Great job! Let’s all send him an anniversary card. Actually, no need to rub it in. Lamech discovered his own set of troubles with two wives. One wife had two sons – shepherds and musicians. The other wife had a son, maker of “tools” (i.e. weapons), and a daughter (and we know how a girl can set her brothers against each other). We know Lamech felt threatened by his wives because he had to remind them that harming a hair on his head would bring down trouble on theirs. I’m guessing the blood-shedding Cain began was rampant by the time Lamech’s family roamed the earth with their shepherds’ rods and iron tools. First isn’t always best, and more (especially wives) doesn’t necessarily bring contentment – in fact, just the opposite sometimes.

Gen. 4:25-26 – “Adam lay with his wife again, and she gave birth to a son and named him Seth, saying, ‘God has granted me another child in place of Abel, since Cain killed him.’ Seth also had a son, and he named him Enosh. At that time men began to call on (to proclaim) the name of the LORD.”

  • This time Eve remembered God as she gave birth, and Seth’s lifetime marked a time when “men” began to call on or proclaim the name of YHWH – the Covenant God.

Lord, Seth wasn’t first. In fact, a lot of people don’t even know his name. But You did. You chose him to be the faithful “begin again” guy. He didn’t build the first city in the Bible, but he was the first evangelist – proclaiming, calling on the Name of YHWH. His foundations still remain, Father, because they were built on the Eternal Rock. Oh, that my efforts would rest on the same Foundation. No more restless wandering from ambition to passion to obsession for this Type-A girl, Lord!