Elul: repent and rejoice! the King is in the field

Elul 3, B”H 5783

The Hebrew month of Elul

You may recall my post from July about Tisha b’Av. In that post, I introduced the Hebrew months of the year to help ubicate us in understanding the significance of certain dates on the Biblical calendar.

One of those months is called “Elul.”

Elul (Heb. אלול) comes from the root word “to search.”

This is the time of year when we are reminded that the LORD searches our hearts and knows us and we repent for those things which we continue to struggle with in our ongoing journey in holiness.

We are to search inside of ourselves and turn away from that which harms our relationship with the LORD Most High as we enter a new Biblical year.

Psalm 139:23-24

“Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my anxieties;
And see if there is any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24

Medieval Jewish sages realized that each letter of the word “Elul” in Hebrew can serve as an acronym for the well-known phrase from Song of Solomon 6:3 “Ani l’dodi, v’dodi li” (Hebrew for “I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine”).

Song of Solomon 6:3

When we reflect on this time of preparation, we see that Elul is a time of preparation for the Bride, for truly the Bridegroom is coming. This is a time of self-examination as we prepare to meet our Coming King. He accepts us with the deepest of love when we come before Him with a pure and contrite heart, made beautiful by our relationship with Him.

Elul, the High Holy Days, and the Coming of the Bridegroom

The month of Elul precedes what are known as the High Holy Days. These days include Yom Teruah (also known as Rosh Hashanah) and Yom Kippur. Yom Teruah occurs on the first day of the next month which is known as Tishrei. The High Holy Days are customarily a time of introspection as Yom Kippur serves as the yearly day of atonement. Israel pleads to be written in the Book of Life, and sealed for another year.

Now that our Messiah and Almighty Savior Yeshua (Jesus Christ) has come, those who have confessed Him as LORD and King have the assurance that the names of the saved are written in the Book of Life, never to be blotted out.

Elul is like the month before the wedding. Preparation is made because soon the Bridegroom will come. The Bride may prepare for the Coming Bridegroom with grace, dignity, and confidence because she has been set apart, consecrated, made ready for the moment when her King comes.

Repentance and Holiness

As saved and sanctified children of God, we continue to pursue holiness and the path of righteousness.

Hebrews 12:14 exhorts us to “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.”

Though we may not experience all that which tremendously occurred at Mount Sinai, we now spiritually experience the glory of Mount Zion.

The writer of Hebrews continues: For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore.  (For they could not endure what was commanded: “And if so much as a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned or shot with an arrow.” 

And so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I am exceedingly afraid and trembling.”)

But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.”

See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven . . . ” Hebrew 12:18-25, emphases added.

We are to live our lives with quiet and holy fear (reverence).

To do this fully, a true believer and follower of the LORD will very obviously seek to live in humility, all too aware of our faults and failings, but awesomely and intimately aware that He is perfecting us each and every day. We live with an attitude of repentance, thankful that His mercy blots out a multitude of sins. We do the work of ministry, always seeking to share the Word with those who do not yet know Him – not to gain a place in heaven, but to demonstrate our heavenly citizenship! The world glorifies sin. We glorify only Jesus (Yeshua), the One who died to take away our sins and the One who will return for us!

James 5:20

“. . . let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.” James 5:20

On the Day of Shavu’ot (Pentecost), Peter urged his listeners to repent:

“Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.  

For Moses truly said to the fathers, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you. And it shall be that every soul who will not hear that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’

Yes, and all the prophets, from Samuel and those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold these days.  You are sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ To you first, God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities.” Acts 3:19-26.

Teshuvah: Biblical Repentance

The Jewish understanding of the concept of “teshuvah” is slightly different than the traditional Christian interpretation of repentance.

Standard Christian repentance is about simply turning away from sin. There is nothing wrong with that. But teshuvah, true Biblical repentance, goes deeper than that.

Teshuvah is a “return.” More specifically, a return to our first love after being astray.

Inherent in teshuvah is the acknowledgement that we have sinned, but this is more about returning to the Way of the LORD than about guilt: it requires an action on our part to strive to right the wrong.

“Teshuvah” is seen as an action. It is often said one is “doing teshuvah.”

Teshuvah means the individual identifies the wrongs they have committed and actively works toward a behavioral change “to right the wrong.” The sinner confesses to God, but also goes back to the one he or she has wronged to ask for forgiveness and attempt to right the wrong.

Christians know that we cannot earn our salvation, so the concept of “teshuvah” gets a bit difficult for many Christians to understand. I have even found that some Christians simply do not want to understand because they would rather remain complacent. Some use texts about grace to shirk any semblance of responsibility, which is a truly irresponsible way to view YHVH’s immense and perfect grace. I believe in grace. I also believe in doing what is right.

Teshuvah is something the Christian can do in gratitude for salvation. Any decent person of faith ought strive to right their wrongs, right? The difference is, we know that we will never be able to erase the evil we have done to another so we cannot completely right our wrongs and we know that. We trust in our Merciful LORD, the Righter of Wrongs to bring healing, restoration, and ultimately wholeness.

Elul is the time of year when teshuvah is emphasized. Hosea uses the term “teshuvah” in admonishing the people of Israel to return to the LORD.

Hosea 14:2

“Take words with you,
And return to the LORD.
Say to Him,
“Take away all iniquity;
Receive us graciously,
For we will offer the sacrifices of our lips.” Hosea 14:2
, emphasis added

Biblical repentance is about returning to the LORD with nothing hindering our relationship. We are cleansed and made new by the blood of the Lamb and we are victorious by the word of our testimony.

We are ready to meet our Beloved.

“Hatred stirs up strife,
But love covers all sins.” Proverbs 10:12

Proverbs 10:12

40 Days of Repentance: Elul or Lent?

The time of repentance observed in the month of Elul is set by Biblical precedent.

It sounds very much like a Hebrew “Lent” for those familiar with Lenten practices.

I will be controversial here, but I’m not one to shy from that . . .

Lent is a manmade invention championed by the liturgical world. It is not Biblical.

Historically, significant efforts were made to distance the “church” from its Jewish (and Biblical, mind you) history. It is no secret that Catholic and Lutheran churches alike were plagued with antiSemitism for many many years.

Those who invented Lent took the concept of Elul (a 40 day time of prayer and fasting lasting from 1 Elul to 10 Tishrei) and “Christianized” it, citing a time to prepare to honor the death and resurrection of Christ. Sadly, the Western inventions of things like Advent and Lent have served to confuse the body of Christ and isolate us from the true Biblical feast days and their significance.

Elul is about returning. Let us return to the basic (Hebraic!) tenets of our faith – to seek to walk on the path of righteousness, guided by the LORD Himself as written in His Holy Word.

From Genesis to Revelation, the Word of God is available to us and if we are not spending time in the Word, that is another reason for repentance.

Collectively, we should repent that the church has strayed so far and has actually contributed to the unbelief of the Jewish people as they observe the glaring discrepancies of many unBiblical “Christian” practices.

May we return to the essence of Elul.

Cheshbon haNefesh: The accounting for the soul

Cheshbon haNefesh is a Hebrew term used frequently throughout the month of Elul. “Cheshbon” is used in modern Hebrew to describe an invoice or bill, such as at a café. Cheshbon: what is owed, what must be paid, the account. Nefesh refers to the soul or what makes you you – it is a word that is also translated as “life” or “being.” Nefesh is the life force within you.

During Elul, we are reminded of His gracious gift. We fall on our knees in the humblest of gratitude, thankful that Yeshua (Jesus) shed His precious blood in payment to redeem our souls.

We owe everything to our Savior yet we know our account has been paid in full.

Elul is a time to reflect on how we are using our nefesh – how are we using the life that is within us to advance the Kingdom of God? It is a time to take ourselves to account.

This is a time to realize where we truly fall short in our relationship with our Creator. In what ways do we fail to love? Do we truly love Him with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind?

HaMelech ba’sadeh: The King is in the field

It is often said during Elul that “the King is in the field.”

The King of all kings, who may seem unapproachable, who is far in His heavenly palace seated on His throne is the same King who reaches out His scepter even when we are unworthy of His mercy. The King of all kings is the same King who comes to our level – He humbled Himself and walked in those fields ripe for harvest.

The Chassidic interpretation is that the King comes when the laborers are in the field – meeting His workers where they are. Surprising them with His presence. Demonstrating kindness.

The King is coming.

The King is in the field.

The King of all kings is approachable and He loves you.

You can go to Him and He will receive you with open arms.

And you will be raptured away in love together.

Personal Prayer and Devotional Time during the month of Elul

It is traditional to read Psalm 27 daily during the month of Elul.

The LORD is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the strength of my life;
Of whom shall I be afraid?
When the wicked came against me
To eat up my flesh,
My enemies and foes,
They stumbled and fell.
Though an army may encamp against me,
My heart shall not fear;
Though war may rise against me,
In this I will be confident.

One thing I have desired of the LORD,
That will I seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the LORD
All the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the LORD,
And to inquire in His temple.
For in the time of trouble
He shall hide me in His pavilion;
In the secret place of His tabernacle
He shall hide me;
He shall set me high upon a rock.

And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me;
Therefore I will offer sacrifices of joy in His tabernacle;
I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the 

Psalm 27:8

Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice!
Have mercy also upon me, and answer me.
When You said, “Seek My face,”
My heart said to You, “Your face, LORD, I will seek.”
Do not hide Your face from me;
Do not turn Your servant away in anger;
You have been my help;
Do not leave me nor forsake me,
O God of my salvation.
When my father and my mother forsake me,
Then the LORD will take care of me.

Teach me Your way, O LORD,
And lead me in a smooth path, because of my enemies.
Do not deliver me to the will of my adversaries;
For false witnesses have risen against me,
And such as breathe out violence.
I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
That I would see the goodness of the LORD
In the land of the living.

Wait on the LORD;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord!

Perhaps you would like to reflect on this passage during this time, as well. This Psalm truly speaks to the relationship aspect of our faith: that we call upon Him and He answers and we are to seek His face.

The King is in the field and the harvest is ready but the workers are few.

Will you meet Him in the field?

Will you share the Good News that the King is coming back again!?

Repent and Rejoice!

Our King is coming for us!

Please comment below! I’d love to hear your thoughts about the month of Elul and the coming of our Almighty King!

7 Biblical responses for when your child experiences racism for the first time

Our family bubble

I like my faith-filled bubble.

Our family prays together and we read the LORD’s Word together and we worship together.

We love to share our faith with those who do not know the LORD and all of us are pretty resilient in the face of argumentation and those who refuse to accept the Truth.

My children are homeschooled and sometimes I forget that we live in this joyful little bubble!

The enemy wants to burst your bubble

And I was taken off guard yesterday.

My son had gone outside to walk our German Shepherd, Canelo, on a small dead-end road that borders one edge of our corner lot house. Our family has walked that way many times because there is rarely a car and we often see beautiful wildlife including deer and sandhill cranes. I often try to get a close-up picture, but the creatures prove elusive.


An evening walk has become a new summertime routine for my son. He started taking the dog all by himself about a week or two ago and I believe it is a quiet time for him. I have noticed an improvement in his snarky-young-teenager remarks and so I was very happy that he had learned to get some fresh air and exercise.

The road seems like a peaceful one, with just four houses on the short northwoods street.

The end of the road

Last year, the houses on that road held a little community rummage sale, so we stopped by and met the neighbors. They were all fairly friendly, but the couple living at one of the houses seemed less so . . . and overly interested in detailing the alcohol flask collection they were trying to sell.

We assumed from their demeanor and manner of conversation that they perhaps struggle with drinking.

I hadn’t seen or heard from them since.

Until last night.

My son came home and he had a look of disbelief on his face.

I asked him what had happened.

When loving thy neighbor is put to the test

“The neighbor lady yelled at me.”

I couldn’t imagine this, so I asked for details.

He recounted: “She came out on her porch and yelled out, ‘. . . You need to go use a different path. Can’t you see you’re making my dog bark? Go on.’ Then she just stood there and stared at me until I left.”

I asked him if he replied to her spitefully (which would not have necessarily surprised me).

He said, “No, I just said ‘Ok, I’m sorry’ and came home. I had a million bad things I wanted to say to her, but I didn’t because I know I’m supposed to be Christian.”

Well, there’s a proud mom moment. My child is trying to act like a follower of our Messiah ought to act.

Trying to give the neighbor lady the benefit of the doubt, I asked if she perhaps was kidding? Maybe she had a twinge of humor, “look, kid, you make my dog bark and it drives me crazy…”

“No. She was not joking one bit.”

So the mama bear in me was incensed that our very neighbor could be so mean to a child! Especially my child! My son’s mere presence in the road in front of her house caused her an issue? Our dog wasn’t barking at her dog. I have heard her dog on other occasions. I believe he looks out their front window and barks every time a dog passes. But that is her issue, not mine. And most certainly not my son’s issue.

I want to tell her that the road is public land and my child has the right to walk his doggie wherever he so pleases. And I want to shout right back at her. How dare she hurt my son’s feelings! But alas. I am a Christian. I am a pastor! I have to be “Midwest nice” at the least, right? I have to love my neighbor!?

Ugh. No one said following Yeshua (Jesus) would be easy.

Perceived Racism

But there was something else that my son said that really hurt my mama heart. He said that the woman had muttered something before yelling and he thought it sounded like “you ill . . . ”

I said maybe she meant, “you ill-mannered….”

I asked if he did anything that seemed disrespectful, such as allowing the dog onto her grass.

He said, “no, more like ‘you illegal’ . . . “

I paused and took a deep breath.

My husband is a legal U.S. citizen. But that doesn’t mean everyone knows or believes that about him. Quite honestly, I wish it didn’t matter. My husband is caramel-skinned and was born in Mexico. My son is handsomely half Hispanic with beautiful tan skin, mocha eyes, and dark curly hair.

Whether or not my neighbor said something that horrible or not, my son perceived it that way.

My son felt like a target of racism.

This sweet boy who has grown up fairly sheltered from the ugliness of the world’s ways says he no longer feels safe walking down this small countryish road right next to our own house.

Addressing Fear

He told me not to worry, that he would use the other roads in front of the house instead.

But you see, that requires crossing a much busier road. And it is not fair that my son would have to change where he enjoys walking in nature just to please an angry (and possibly inebriated) lady who isn’t interested in dealing with her own dog.

I have never felt unwelcome or unsafe in this community. But then again, I am white and I grew up just over an hour from where we currently live.

My son said he observed that the woman’s garage was open with two rifles on display.

Now, my son is known to have an active imagination, so I do not know if this is true or not, though it would not surprise me. It doesn’t help that we just watched the movie “Till” the night before.

What saddens me is that my son is now scared.

He said he’s seen the videos where angry people shoot kids who just ring a doorbell or just because of the shade of their suntan.

I told him that he cannot live in fear. We will still walk on that road with our heads held high. I am blessed because my son knows much of the Word of God, so I reminded him of 2 Timothy 1:7:

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

I guess I knew we would confront issues of race eventually, but it was so unexpected, right here just a few houses up the road.

That said, I do want to be clear. My neighbor may not have said anything racially charged at all. I am focused on what my child perceived. Racially-motivated or not, the outburst was still unprovoked and unsettling.

So how do you help a child who has encountered real racism OR perceived racism for the first time?

I’m not sure I have all the answers to that one, but I do know that we should turn to the Word of God.

He comforts us because our identity is found in Him alone, not in what the world has to say. I am writing this because it is therapeutic to me today.

I am searching the Scriptures, too, to be able to minister to my son’s little heart and I am hopeful this can help someone else somewhere, too, because our world is full of division and unkindness.

1. Remind your child that all of us were created in the image of God. Race is a social construct and racism is sin.

“So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Genesis 1:27

“And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings.” Acts 17:26

Acts 17:26

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28

There is no place for racism when living in holiness.

2. If your child has accepted the free gift of salvation that is given to us by putting our faith and trust in Messiah Yeshua (Jesus Christ), he or she is part of a holy, set apart and chosen generation and God calls us “special.” We don’t need to rely on anyone else to validate our existence or our skin color.

“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9

3. Encourage your child to turn to the LORD when feeling scared, discriminated against, alone, or unsafe. He is our Stronghold, our Fortress, and our Deliverer.

“I will love You, O LORD, my strength.
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;
My God, my strength, in whom I will trust;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised;
So shall I be saved from my enemies.” Psalm 18:1-3

4. Emphasize the Biblical mandate to remain peaceful. Always seek shalom: wholeness and peace.

Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they shall be called sons of God.” Matthew 5:9

Matthew 5:9

5. Hear out your child. Allow him or her to express their emotions about racism.

I sat down with my son and I commended his recent progress on working hard and improving his early teenage years attitude. (We had some rough moments a few months ago with this too-big-for-his-britches young fellow!) He acknowledged his improvements, but also admitted having some pretty ugly thoughts about the neighbor. I believe it is so important to allow my son to have space to talk about how he was feeling and even explore this early introduction to racism. He knew that he could trust me to support him and love him through this. I’m grateful he has time to work through this as he matures and potentially encounters something far more direct or offensive.

I told him: you are acting like a child of God.

You have a tender heart and you are seeking to do what is right.

But whether that woman knows it or not, she is serving the devil. As harsh as this sounds, that makes her a child of the devil.

And the devil uses people like that to try to unnerve the children of God.

I told him, clearly, son, you’re doing something right if the devil has to take the time to come out and bother you like that using a daughter of the devil.

The best thing we can do is pray for her to come to understanding and repent and that she would, by God’s grace and abundant mercy, become a daughter of God one day.

“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:11-12

Our Savior told us to rejoice and not just be glad: “be exceedingly glad!”

We can confront anything with exceeding gladness because we know our journey doesn’t end here. One day we will rejoice in heaven, rewarded for remaining faithful to our LORD.

6. Exhort your child to be an overcomer despite any circumstance.

I told my son that while you pray for those who persecute you or revile you, your duty is to guard your heart and your mind with the Word of God.

“Keep your heart with all diligence,
For out of it spring the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:23

He is your Protector and Defender, and you shall not fear walking down the road.

“The LORD will give strength to His people;
The LORD will bless His people with peace.” Psalm 29:11

Realize that the Scriptures serve for exhortation: we know who God is and we know that He cares for us, therefore we make a conscious choice. We will.not.fear.

This coming from someone who battles anxiety! But I know deep in my heart the Truth that whenever I, with faith and conviction, truly hold onto the hem of His garment, my fear is lost and He makes me brave. I seek to instill this understanding in my children so they, too, will always rely on our Father’s goodness, provision, and security.

Whether confronting racism, sexism, religious discrimination, anti-Semitism, classism, or any other -ism, if we remember that the LORD is on our side, we can and will walk in victory.

7. Pray together in the Spirit.

There is no substitute for prayer.

Pray with your child.

Model a life of faith for your child.

And pray for your neighbors and anyone else who would cause you distress.

Trust that the LORD will work everything out.

Remind your child to wear the armor that God has provided and pray together with your child in the Spirit.

“And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.” Ephesians 6:17-18

Walk in Faith, no matter what and refuse to be intimidated

This afternoon, my husband and I told our son we were all going to take a family walk.

He looked panicked.

“Can I stay home?”

My husband gently told him in Spanish: “no, m’ijo, pero estaremos contigo.”

“No, my son, but we will be with you.”

Just like the LORD is always with us.

We had our son grab a hold of Canelo’s leash and walk him just like he had the night before. On the very same path.

He learned one step at a time not to be afraid.

Because children of the Most High God shall refuse to be intimidated.

Ethan the Ezrahite: Praise strongly “breaking forth!”

In leading worship this weekend, I thought about the text in Psalm 89 because we were singing “Stand up and Give Him the Praise,” a song you may know! This song incorprates some of Psalm 89.

Did you know that a man named Ethan wrote Psalm 89?

Today, we will take a look at Ethan the Ezrahite.

Who is like You, LORD God Almighty: Mi chamocha Adonai Elohei Tzva’ot

Ethan the Ezrahite wrote:

“O LORD God of hosts,
Who is mighty like You, O LORD?
Your faithfulness also surrounds You.
You rule the raging of the sea;
When its waves rise, You still them.” Psalm 89:8-9

Psalm 89 8 9 Ethan

Stand up and Give Him the Praise

Do you know this praise song?

Who is like the LORD?

There is no one!

Who is like the LORD, He is strong and mighty!

Who is like the LORD?

He is worthy!

Stand up and give Him the praise!

Praise the LORD, Praise the LORD, our God is worthy of glory! From the rising of the sun, to its going down, the Name of the LORD is to be praised!

Here is a recording of it by Paul Wilbur from his Shalom Jerusalem album:

“Stand up and Give Him the Praise” by Paul Wilbur

Ethan the Ezrahite

Many Psalms are attributed to King David, but this particular Psalm was written by a much lesser known Levite, a man named Ethan the Ezrahite.

Ever heard of him?

Ethan as an Ezrahite comes from a Hebrew root word “zerah” meaning “arising” or “breaking out.” It has the connotation of strength: “strongly breaking forth.” It is thought the Psalmist Ethan is of the lineage of Zerah, dating back to the second son of Judah and Tamar as recorded in Parashat Vayeshev: Genesis (Bereshit) 38:27-30. His name is also mentioned in the Chronicles:

“The sons of Zerah were Zimri, Ethan, Heman, Calcol, and Dara—five of them in all.” 1 Chronicles 2:6, emphasis added

Ethan: A Wise Man

The Bible does not give us very many clues about Ethan’s life, but there are just enough to give us a picture of a wise man. King Solomon was granted wisdom, but King Solomon was compared to Ethan the Ezrahite in wisdom. This paints the picture that Ethan was certainly ranked among the wisest in the land, just a little beneath Solomon.

“And God gave Solomon wisdom and exceedingly great understanding, and largeness of heart like the sand on the seashore. Thus Solomon’s wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the men of the East and all the wisdom of Egypt. For he was wiser than all men—than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, Chalcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol; and his fame was in all the surrounding nations.” 1 Kings 4:29-31, emphasis added

Ethan had a reputation. He was known as a wise man, and as a psalmist, he would have been poetic and quite possibly a musician. He was passionate about the God of Israel and his Psalm resounds with exalting praise for the Creator of the heavens and the earth. Ethan emphasizes YHVH’s matchless strength and the enormity of His reign. Intriguingly, Ethan was inspired to write prophetically as Psalm 89 also has messianic tones. The psalmist is not afraid to addresses life’s difficulties: Ethan is secure knowing that the LORD is Almighty and unrivaled, but he is not afraid to ask those questions:

“How long, LORD?
Will You hide Yourself forever?” Psalm 89:46

The power of language

Ethan the Ezrahite used language to bring glory to God.

Do you write for His glory?

Do you use your speech and your language to find ways to exalt His name and testify of His goodness?

Words are so incredibly powerful: so much so, that by the Word spoken, the world came into existence.

We must allow the Holy Spirit to influence our speech and writing and all levels of communication so that we, like Ethan, can bring enduring glory to our King.

May praise break forth!

Ethan called upon the Name of the LORD to praise Him for all He has done! The very meaning of Ethan’s name invites us to allow praise to break forth from our lips! May we be inspired today to praise the Most High God, the King of all kings, the LORD God Almighty – ADONAI ELOHEI TZVA’OT without reservations, without anything coming between our worship.

Be set free from your apprehensions.

Don’t worry about what others will say.

Your job, follower of Messiah, is to worship in Spirit and in Truth, with all you have in your being. As other psalmists once wrote:

“My heart is overflowing with a good theme;
I recite my composition concerning the King;
My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.” Psalm 45:1

Maybe God has called you to be a sanctified songwriter.

May He wants you to engage in demonstrative praise – to help others also experience freedom in worship.

Whatever ministry is bubbling up inside of you, whatever the Holy Spirit (Ruach haKodesh) is bringing out to your attention, pursue God passionately!

Let praises ring!

Review: Evangelical Study Bible

I am a member of the Bible Gateway Blogger Grid (BG2). As a #BibleGatewayPartner, I have received a copy of the New King James Version Evangelical Study Bible published by Zondervan Bibles at no cost to me in exchange for an honest review here on the Adonai Shalom USA blog. #BG2

Evangelical Study Bible (NKJV) Book Review & Description

The new Evangelical Study Bible published by Thomas Nelson is immediately appealing! The design on the hardcover edition is very inviting: it features a lovely tree branch design with modern coloration and reminds us that the Bible is truly life-giving:

New King James Version Evangelical Study Bible

Evangelical: Reaching the world around us

I particularly liked what is printed on the front inside of the book jacket: a short admonition to be bearers of Truth: to use this Bible to become firmly “grounded in the truth” in order to reach the world around us. The book jacket challenges the societal norms of today which falsely posit that “truth is just a perspective . . . . always changing, shifting, and transforming to conform to the standards of the world around us.”

Given that the book jacket is indeed the first impression most of us would get from a hardcover book, I believe this was tastefully and wisely done.

We are blessed to have so many different study editions of the Scriptures available to us in the English language. This particular study Bible emphasizes the importance of living out an evangelical faith. I would not be surprised if the Evangelical Study Bible becomes a very popular edition for Bible study groups throughout the English-speaking evangelical world. The articles and in-text resources are very accessible for new as well as more mature Christians, making this an excellent choice for anyone looking for a general evangelical study resource.

Use of color in the Evangelical Study Bible

The Evangelical Study Bible contains what the editors call “special helps” which are “unique to this Bible.” These include doctrinal footnotes, personality profiles, information of archaeological sites with full-color photos, apologetics articles, and in-text full-color maps. There is an introductory page for each book of the Bible complete with a full color image.

The use of color throughout makes this Bible particularly eye-catching. Today’s social media savvy youngsters use photos and images constantly. Likewise, this Bible grabs one’s attention through the use of full color images, a wise choice to meet the goal of making this an evangelical-friendly Bible. There are additional full-color maps in the back that offer additional eye-catching material and useful tools for personal study and even apologetics.

This Evangelical Study Bible follows the custom of using red lettering for the words of Jesus. I am such a fan of red letter Bibles. I love to clearly see what Jesus said!

This Bible also features verse-by-verse commentary, short articles and background notes on Christian teachings and doctrine, cultural and archeological notes, word studies, and other helpful indices. The text is a very readable 10.5 point font, slightly larger than the 9.5 point font in the Thompson Chain-Reference Bible that I also recently reviewed.

The NKJV Evangelical Study Bible lives up to the slogan printed on the cover: “Christ-centered, Faith-Building, Mission-Focused.”

Contributing Editors

An impressive list of contributing editors can be found in the early pages of the Evangelical Study Bible. These Biblical scholars have received degrees from reputable universities and theological schools including Dallas Theological Seminary, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Regent University, Liberty University, Hebrew Union College, and Westminster Theological Seminary. The commentary throughout the Evangelical Study Bible appears to be dependable and fairly interdenominational. The editors profess faith in our LORD:

“We believe that the Bible is God’s message to men and women of all time – that it presents His plan for salvation and daily Christian living. We pray that this new edition of the Evangelical Study Bible will increase your understanding of that message and will richly bless your spiritual life and growth for years to come.”

“Dear Reader,” Evangelical Study Bible, viii.

My recommendation:


Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Evangelical Study Bible deserves a 5 out of 5.

This is an excellent evangelical resource for anyone who takes their faith seriously and wants to enhance their personal study and devotional time with in-text study resources and verse-by-verse commentary.

Pastora Jennifer Mieliulis Fuentes, M.Div., Duke University

Book details

Title: Evangelical Study Bible
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Release Date: 
Genre: BIBLES/New King James Version/Study

ISBN-13: 978-0-7852-2771-7

PURCHASE LINKS:  Amazon | FaithGateway Store


Evangelical Study Bible

Review: NKJV Thompson Chain-Reference Bible

I am a member of the Bible Gateway Blogger Grid (BG2). As a #BibleGatewayPartner, I have received a copy of the NKJV Thompson Chain-Reference Bible published by Zondervan Bibles at no cost to me in exchange for an honest review here on the Adonai Shalom USA blog. #BG2

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to review the KJV (King James Version) Thompson Chain-Reference Bible that had been newly published. Now, I will review the NKJV (New King James Version) Thompson Chain-Reference Bible that is part of the same collection.

NKJV Thompson Chain-Reference Bible Book Review & Description

The Thompson Chain-Reference Bible is available in several translations including the King James Version (KJV) [as mentioned above], New King James Version (NKJV), New International Version (NIV), New American Standard Bible (NASB), and English Standard Version (ESV). Additionally, if you are involved with a Spanish-speaking ministry or are looking for a Spanish translation, Zondervan has made the Thompson Chain-Reference Bible available in the Reina Valera (RV60) and Reina Valera Revisada (RVR).

This publication of the Thompson Chain-Reference Bible has been done with utmost quality. The King James Version (KJV) and New King James Version (NKJV) hardcover editions feature a glossy book jacket with metallic embossed lettering. The hardcover NKJV Thompson Chain-Reference Bible features a beautiful crimson red cover and comes integrated with red and golden-yellow satin bookmarks as well as full-color maps at the end of the book. The font print size is very readable at 9.5.

The NKJV Thompson Chain-Reference Bible

The Chain-Reference System

FaithGateway provides an explanatory video on their website that helps familiarize anyone who may not be accustomed to the Thompson chain-reference system used in this Bible. This helpful video is also available on YouTube:

The triangles indicate the beginning of a “chain” of references which is assigned to a “topic number.” Following that number, there is a Scriptural reference that points the reader to the next occurrence of that topic in Scripture. Continuing the chain will lead the reader to an end point, indicated by a square.

The NKJV Thompson Chain-Reference Bible

This system was developed by Dr.Frank Charles Thompson who began working on the chain-references in 1890. Some of them were incomplete, so Bible scholars have put in much time and effort to ensure the completeness of this work; the fruit of their labor now published as this newer edition NKJV Thompson Chain-Reference Bible.

Of note on page 1635, “Principles of Bible Study” are provided in Thompson’s own words. It really provides a wonderful context to understand his personal reasoning and conviction in compiling such detailed references.

This Bible is intended to help serious students of the Scriptures engage in topical Bible study and even sermon preparation. Besides full color maps, the final section of this Bible provides an alphabetical index, numerical index, character studies, illustrated outlines, evangelical resources, memorization suggestions, concordance, and map index.

Back cover of the NKJV Thompson Chain-Reference Bible

My recommendation:


Rating: 5 out of 5.

The NKJV Thompson Chain-Reference Bible definitely earns a 5 out of 5.

This is a high-quality study resource that will benefit anyone who loves the Word of God. It would make an excellent gift for anyone, whether a teenager, mother, father, seminarian, seasoned pastor, or even a retired professor!

As Dr.Thompson wrote: “Study the Word as a miner digs for gold or as a diver plunges into the depths of the sea for pearls. Most great truths do not lie on the surface; they must be brought up into the light by patient toil.” (NKJV Thompson Chain-Reference Bible, p. 1635).

This is a Bible edition worth treasuring.

Pastora Jennifer Mieliulis Fuentes, M.Div., Duke University

Book details

Title: NKJV Thompson Chain-Reference Bible
Author: Dr. Frank Charles Thompson
Publisher: Zondervan
Release Date: 
Genre: BIBLES/New King James Version/Reference

ISBN-13: 978-0-310-45940-8

PURCHASE LINKS:  Amazon FaithGateway Store


What does it truly mean to be “Pentecostal”?

(Acts 2) 5783 B”H

Infilling. Indwelling. Whatever you’d like to call it, you need it! We all do.

The infilling of the Holy Spirit.

Often called the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, the infilling, indwelling presence of the Third Person of the Trinity is the Promise from the Father, a gift that all believers may receive!

“Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.” Luke 24:49

Pentecostal Christianity

Despite the fact that the largest organized evangelical Christian fellowship in the world (the Assemblies of God) just so happens to be Pentecostal in belief and practice, most Americans do not know very much about Pentecostal Christianity.

Globally, here are the number of adherents in some of the largest and most well-known classical Pentecostal movements or denominations:

Assemblies of God: 85 million

Pentecostal Holiness: 4 million

Church of God (Cleveland): 7 million

Church of God in Christ: 3 million

These particular denominations are Trinitarian with sound doctrine. Pentecostal fellowships in general, but particularly the Assemblies of God, have always emphasized global missions.

The fruit of that determined investment are these combined 99 million+ members around the world. This is proof that Spirit-filled, Spirit-empowered evangelism is effective!

“Send it on down, LORD, let the Holy Ghost come on down.” Hosanna Music

The Erroneous Jesus-only doctrine

The United Pentecostal (UPCI) Oneness denomination is growing, currently with 5 million members, but this group denies the Triune nature of God. In most cities, UPCI churches are known as “The Pentecostals of . . . ” leading many to believe all Pentecostals share this type of erroneous doctrine. The UPCI teaches what is termed, “apostolic doctrine.” This is a doctrinal problem that new leaders need to be able to confront and correct with love because it is more than just a semantic issue. These churches are often known as “Jesus-only” churches because they do not baptize in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but rather in the Name of Jesus, only.

The UPCI teaches that women must have uncut hair, may not wear makeup, and that men should not wear shorts. I applaud their efforts to emphasize modesty, but I do believe they have gone a bit too far.

Because of outward appearance (particularly of UPCI women), many people in the United States have equated all Pentecostals with this type of legalism.

But the reality is, being Pentecostal is about what the Holy Spirit has done on the inside, and yes, our outward appearance should reflect holiness, but in a balanced way, not infringing on personal freedom. I personally choose to wear skirts and dresses, but I am not required to do so by the organization with which I am affiliated.

What makes a person “Pentecostal?”

We need to reclaim the term “Pentecostal” for all who are genuinely filled with the Holy Spirit.

Clothing or hairstyle does not make a person “Pentecostal.”

Nor does emotionalism. Sometimes Pentecostals have a reputation for being expressive or “too” emotional. God has given us emotions and there are appropriate moments even in the context of a worship service when emotion can and should be expressed and even encouraged! But emotion for the sake of a show or drawing attention to oneself…. that is not what makes a person a “Pentecostal.” A true Pentecostal person has a healthy understanding of how God ministers to our emotions.

The Spirit of the LORD makes a person “Pentecostal.”

Power from on high makes a person “Pentecostal.”

Being filled with the Holy Spirit (with evidence) (more on that later), makes a person truly “Pentecostal.”

“When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” Acts 2:1-4, NKJV

The Full Gospel

Notice that Acts 2:1 says “When the Day of Pentecost had fully come . . . “ (emphasis added)

The Day of Pentecost was actually the Feast of Shavu’ot, that had been celebrated for years. It’s just that this time, in Acts, God was going to do something so much greater. If you are interested in learning about the Feast of Shavu’ot and the Biblical Spring Feasts, click here for my post that goes more in-depth on that particular subject.

When I usually read this, I focus on the fact that the Jewish Feast day had come, but let’s look at the important adverb there: fully.

The Feast day had fully come. It was the precise day . . . but also: this was a day of fulfillment. The Day prophesied by the Prophet Joel had fully come – the LORD was going to even more fully work in the lives of His people.

“And it shall come to pass afterward
That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your old men shall dream dreams,
Your young men shall see visions.
And also on My menservants and on My maidservants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days.”

Joel 2:28-30, NKJV

There is a fullness to the Gospel. Never again shall you hunger or thirst for Living Water because that Living Water will come to you and indwell you.

The Full Gospel is that which the Pentecostal communities proclaim: that the Gospel didn’t end at the Resurrection! There was more yet to come! The LORD would unite His people through the power of the Holy Spirit and dwell inside of them.

Prior to the Pentecostal outpouring of Acts 2, the Spirit of the LORD came upon God’s servants, but only for a certain moment or occasion, for a certain purpose. After Acts 2, the Spirit of the LORD would dwell within those who are called by His Name. Hallelujah!

Pentecostalism is about receiving all that the LORD has for you

I love how God does things holistically.

We find this to be true throughout the Bible. For example, a Biblical term, “shalom,” meaning “peace,” is more than a simple “peace” that we understand in our English language today. The Hebrew “shalom” that the Bible talks about is holistic – an all-encompassing wholeness that only the Prince of Shalom could bring.

So God doesn’t just deal with one part of us – its not just “accept Jesus in your heart” and that’s it. Our heart is vitally important and so is our soul and spirit, but also this physical body we are living in right now.

The LORD of All wants you to have a relationship with Him that includes aspects that are very experiential. Being baptized in water is a physical symbol of your dying to your sin and rising with Him to new life. Being baptized in the Holy Spirit is also physical! Your physical body will feel the glorious spiritual effects – you will be filled with a uncontainable joy and your tongue will speak praises to God with amazing fluidity.

Yes, God can use people who have not (yet!) received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. But He can use you for so much more greatness if you receive the awesome gift He has for you. He wants so much for you – don’t limit your experience with the LORD because of your preconceived notions of what it might mean to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Don’t fear! The LORD designed all of this so beautifully. Receive what He offers you!

What is the Biblical Evidence of the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit?

The Biblical Evidence of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is often called the “Initial Physical Evidence of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.”

“And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” Acts 2:4, NKJV, emphasis added

The people were ALL filled with the Holy Spirit (all of them – there were no exceptions or exemptions. No one was left out. The LORD blessed those who had gathered in the Upper Room to wait for the Promise of the Father by pouring out His Spirit upon every.single.one.

The Biblical pattern is this: when people are filled with the Holy Spirit then they begin to speak with other tongues as given by the Holy Spirit.

Speaking in tongues is the initial physical evidence of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.

But some churches don’t “believe” in speaking in tongues.

Some even preach against the practice, saying that this occurred only on that particular Pentecost Day.

But read your Bible carefully!

No where does the Word of God suggest that people stopped receiving the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit, so certainly He continues to fill His people!

Most people who claim not to believe in the Holy Spirit baptism are people who have actually prayed and asked God for it, but did not (yet!) receive it. They conclude that because they have not received it, then it must not exist. A very poor conclusion indeed.

Some people are quite nervous or frightened about the whole idea of speaking in tongues. I know I wasn’t raised around that and I didn’t quite understand what it was all about until I received the blessed outpouring. The Bible tells us to not be afraid! Seek Him with your whole heart and He will fill you!

Speaking in tongues will give you a holy boldness to share the Good News with others and will help your prayer life tremendously! If you want to be able to pray effectively and with power, you need the baptism of the Holy Ghost!

“Pentecostal” or “Spirit-filled?”

Being “Pentecostal” is fairly synonymous with being “Spirit-filled.”

It has become more widely accepted and more popular to be “Spirit-filled,” perhaps because this term carries less baggage as I explained with the Trinitarian vs. Oneness doctrinal controversies.

“Spirit-filled” carries its own set of issues at times because some of the new age movements (I may be harsh, but I call it “charismatic witchcraft”) are also comfortable calling themselves Spirit-filled and this causes confusion and division within the Pentecostal movement.

Both terms are appropriate. It is just important to know to what exactly you are referring!

Pentecostal and Spirit-filled worship services are vibrant and full of life! If you’ve never visited a Pentecostal church, I encourage you to find one to visit in your area! Expect to see people raising their hands in praise and worship and plenty of music and prayer!

Pentecost Sunday (The Feast of Weeks/The Feast of Shavu’ot)

This Sunday, followers of our Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) from around the world will celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday (Shavu’ot). I encourage you to go beyond a once-a-year celebration.

Know this: the Holy Spirit can endue you with Pentecostal power, a gift you may enjoy every single day of the year. If you don’t receive the initial physical evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit right away, do not get discouraged. It will happen in God’s perfect timing.

Pray today that the Holy Spirit will baptize you in His Holy Fire!

Are you seeking the Holy Spirit baptism? I’d love to pray for you. Leave a comment below!

Biblical Mothers of the Faith: Phoebe, Priscilla, and Junia

Today, let’s analyze Romans 16. This is a chapter in the Bible that highlights women serving in ministry. These women are mothers of the faith. This Mother’s Day weekend, let us rejoice and praise the LORD for all the believing mothers who pray and teach and lead with a godly example.

The Apostle Paul’s Letter to the Romans is filled with instruction and exhortation. Paul does not hesitate to credit those around him (including wives and mothers!)who have worked hard alongside him for the sake of the Gospel. In Romans 16, Paul names names – and most of the people named in this chapter just so happen to be women.

Phoebe: A “servant” or a “deacon”?

The New International Version (NIV) rightly describes Sister Phoebe as a “deacon”:

Phoebe: Deaconess

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae.  I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me.” Romans 16:1-2, NIV, (emphases added)

She is described as a person of means – a “benefactor,” well able to minister to God’s people. She gave to others both materially and spiritually. Phoebe was a spiritual mother in the faith!

But sadly, the New King James Version demotes our dear sister. She is relegated to the status of a “servant” and “helper.”

I typically prefer the NKJV translation over the New International Version (NIV) because the NKJV is a literal translation truer to the original languages, but as with any human translation, bias can be found, and this really is a stark example:

“I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea, that you may receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and assist her in whatever business she has need of you; for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also.” Romans 16:1-2, NKJV

Let me address my sisters in the LORD for a moment: has this ever happened to you?

Did God ever inspire you to lead or to teach – to be a spiritual mother – but someone brushed you off as “just a servant?” Oh mothers, please know you are valued in the Kingdom and there is a place for you.

Our Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) wants us to have the heart of a servant, but it is one thing to submit and surrender ourselves joyfully to Him and a totally different thing to have your spirit crushed by those who think women aren’t intended to minister. It is so very important to look to the Bible to see what God says about women in ministry leadership positions.

Sister Phoebe was a leader in the church!

While “servant” and “deacon” can be used interchangeably, it is notable that had the name listed been male, it is most likely “deacon” would be the preferred translation. The modern American mindset limits the meaning because it has become commonplace to teach that women are prohibited by the Bible to serve in an official capacity such as a “deacon.” This teaching is biased and errant and must be corrected. There are many instances in Scripture in which we see women held what we would consider positions of authority – Prophetess Miriam, Judge Deborah, Deaconess Phoebe . . . The LORD has chosen to use many women throughout history to reach the nations and to serve as spiritual mothers!

Priscilla: A “CoWorker” of the Apostle Paul

Notice that when Paul extends greetings to Priscilla and her husband, Aquila, he names Priscilla first. This was quite uncommon in both the Jewish and the Roman cultures, as it is even in our own today. Generally, we name the husband first. This serves to highlight Priscilla’s strong role as a “fellow worker” alongside Paul in the mission to reach the nations with the Good News. To make it easier for us to understand in our modern context, the NIV aptly uses the term “coworker” to describe this ministry relationship. Both Priscilla and Aquila were recognized as critical parts of the ongoing ministry, but in most instances of Scripture, Priscilla is named before Aquila. She was very much a leader:

“Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their own necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.” Romans 16:3, NKJV

In 2 Timothy, the ministry couple is again addressed, and again Priscilla is named first:

“Greet Priscilla and Aquila and the household of Onesiphorus.” 2 Timothy 4:19, NIV

Both Priscilla and Aquila sailed as missionaries with Paul.

“Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time. Then he left the brothers and sisters and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila.” Acts 18:18ab, NIV

In Ephesus, Priscilla and Aquila helped mentor Apollos as he began preaching. Here, they are both most certainly operating in the role of pastors and spiritual parents:

“[Apollos] began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.” Acts 18:26, NIV

The church even met at their house:

“Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house.” 1 Corinthians 16:19b, NIV

Priscilla and Aquila were a model pastoral couple. They worked as a team and Paul recognized both of them as ministry leaders. A spiritual mother and father working together to bless the people of Ephesus.

Truly, Pricilla and Aquila’s ministry is an ideal pattern for us to follow. Here was a married couple who loved the LORD and could minister together. I am blessed to be married to a man of God who also happens to be a pastor, and this model has worked so wonderfully for us.

Junia: Female Apostle

Junia is a female name.

Some translations have opted to translate this name as “Junias” to masculinize it!

This is due to some translators’ personal discomfort with the idea that a woman could be an apostle!

But the Scriptures are clear and for generations “Junia” was translated as “Junia.” It is a female name!

Paul is very consistent in his positive descriptions of women in ministry. Not only does Paul refer to Junia as an apostle, he calls her a person “of note” – noteworthy, outstanding! There is no place in Scripture that prohibits wives or mothers or single women from serving in the ministry.

“Greet Andronicus and Junia, my countrymen and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.” Romans 16:7, NKJV (emphasis added)

Mothers of the Faith

If anyone has told you that women are not to serve as deacons, pastors, or apostles, you might want to share these passages from Scripture with them.

Women, just as men, must demonstrate godly qualities in order to serve as leaders in ministry, but in our day, it seems there are often extra hoops for women to jump through in order to be considered equally qualified. Believe me, I am no feminist, but I do know that I have had to truly stand up for myself on many occasions as a female pastor. If you are a young woman who has been called to the Gospel ministry, reach out! I’d love to hear from you and encourage you.

Our LORD is the One who saves, who calls, and who equips. We should rejoice that God uses both godly men and women to minister!

Phoebe, Priscilla, and Junia are our spiritual foremothers who demonstrated persistence, passion, boldness, and commitment to the work of the ministry for the sake of the Gospel.

So this Mother’s Day, think of who the spiritual mothers are in your life.

Are there any women who have journeyed alongside you on the path of faith?

Who are the women who have prayed you through tough circumstances?

Be thankful for their witness and show them your appreciation!

If you are a woman who is mature in her faith, be that spiritual mother for someone else. If you are a mother, you know what it is to care for your children and pray for their well-being and exhort them to live well for the LORD!

Look for ways to allow the Holy Spirit to work through you so that you may bless others.

Be one of those mothers who prays consistently and fervently.

And have a wonderful Mother’s Day!

Review: the new NIV Student Bible (New International Version)

I am a member of the Bible Gateway Blogger Grid (BG2). As a #BibleGatewayPartner, I have received a copy of the NIV Student Bible published by Zondervan Bibles at no cost to me in exchange for an honest review here on the Adonai Shalom USA blog. #BG2

NIV Student Bible Book Review & Description

The NIV Student Bible, published by Zondervan Bibles

The NIV Student Bible is intended to help guide young people in deepening their familiarity with and understanding of the Bible. It was just recently published this month by Zondervan Bibles so if you are looking for a new Bible edition to gift to a student, this may fit your needs.

The hardcover edition of the NIV Student Bible features an attractive book jacket. The colors are appealing and the design continues throughout the overall Bible. The use of blues and neutral patterns makes this appropriate for both young men or young women. This Bible includes a yellow satin ribbon for use as a bookmark.

The NIV (New International Version) of the Bible is an accessible translation so it is appropriate that it was the translation chosen for a new student Bible. The New International Version is not my personal favorite, but when used comparatively, it holds its own and is valuable. The NIV translators sought to bring a modern English cadence to the wording which is particularly helpful for younger readers who may be unfamiliar or unready for a more complex cadence.

“Introduction to Habakkuk,” NIV Student Bible

The NIV Student Bible contains short explanations of key verses and book introductions that will capture the attention of a young person. For example, in the introduction to Hosea, a caption reads, “Tearing God’s Heart” and posits the question: “Why would He love such a woman?”

In the introduction to Habakkuk, the issue of theodicy is introduced (but not mentioned by its technical name). (“Theodicy” refers to the question of why God who is so good permits evil). I wonder whether it may be a disservice to the young student to not at least mention the term, but then again, this is aimed at teenagers who probably don’t need all the technicality yet. The introductions to each book appear to be intentionally kept short and simplistic so as not to overwhelm a young person.

Philip Yancey and Tim Stafford contributed to the notes found throughout this edition of the Bible. While the NIV Student Bible does contain some devotional-like study commentary, it would not be considered a “Study Bible” for most academic purposes. Yancey and Stafford’s writing style is easily understandable and the textual insertions are tastefully done.

The Bible text of the NIV Student Bible is printed using a “Comfort Print” font so it is readable and attractive.

“Habakkuk,” NIV Student Bible

This NIV Student Bible contains very useful information in the back of the book: a “Where to find it” section that includes “100 People You Should Know,” “Glossary of People and Places,” “Well-known Events,” a “LineUp of Rulers,” a “Subject Guide,” and beautiful glossy color maps.

Color map of Paul’s Missionary Journey in the NIV Student Bible

The LineUp of Rulers is so well done I wish I had it in my own personal study Bible! It is an excellent resource that will benefit anyone interested in the history of the kings and chronicles of Scriptures. It is exceedingly helpful for keeping straight the kings of Israel vs. the kings of Judah!

“A Lineup of Rulers,” NIV Student Bible

My recommendation:


Rating: 5 out of 5.

I would recommend the NIV Student Bible for high school aged students and possibly young college students. Some of the topics in the glossary may be too mature for middle schoolers.

This is a useful and valuable resource for students today who are wrestling with tough questions and are seeking guidance from the Word of God.

Book details

Title: NIV Student Bible
Publisher: Zondervan Bibles
Release Date: 
April 4, 2023
Genre: BIBLES/New International Version/Reference

ISBN-13: 978-0-310-46163-0

PURCHASE LINKS:  Amazon FaithGateway Store


Rev. Jennifer N. Mieliulis Fuentes, MDiv, Duke University

Review: KJV Thompson Chain-Reference Bible

I am a member of the Bible Gateway Blogger Grid (BG2). As a #BibleGatewayPartner, I have received a copy of the KJV Thompson Chain-Reference Bible published by Zondervan Bibles at no cost to me in exchange for an honest review here on the Adonai Shalom USA blog. #BG2

Thompson Study Bible

KJV Thompson Chain-Reference Bible Book Review & Description

The KJV Thompson Chain-Reference Bible is an updated version of an original with the same name.

According to the introduction to this Bible, Dr. Frank Charles Thompson conducted in-depth Bible study beginning back in 1890 and wanted to make his findings accessible and available to the ordinary person studying the Scriptures. He highlighted what he felt to be the most important themes and topics and used a study system now known as “chain-reference.” As with any monumental task, Thompson’s original work contained some chain-references that were ultimately incomplete and needed revision. The editors of this new edition aimed to make appropriate corrections and reformat the margins to make it easier to use.

KJV Thompson Chain-Reference Bible

My first impression upon viewing this Bible was that it is bright and modern-looking.

The yellow coloring coupled with gray ribbon bookmarks will appeal to anyone and makes it stand out from other Bibles.

I also love the metallic lettering on the cover. I could immediately tell that the publishers wanted this Bible to be something the reader would treasure. After all, there is no greater treasure than to know the LORD through His Word!

I personally prefer the New King James Version of the Biblical text as I find it easier to read, but the New King James Version of the Bible was not published until 1982. Thus, Dr.Thompson would have utilized the 1611 King James Version that remains popular today.

Zondervan does have this Bible also available in other translations for those who would prefer.

A Very Practical Study Tool

The cross-references and numerical indices alone make this Bible well-worth the investment. Beyond that, Dr. Thompson included Bible character study outlines which include full Scripture references, map details, Messianic prophecies, an alphabetical index, and other charts including the harmony of the Gospels and topical studies.

KJV Thompson Chain-Reference Bible

Notice in this excerpt from the book of Ezra, there are many options for subsequent study found in the margins. The entire Bible is filled with these prompts and corresponding Biblical texts.

I really like how ample white space is given for short personal notes if desired and I also appreciate that the actual Biblical text isn’t broken up by commentary or other notes.

Moreso than a devotional Bible, the KJV Thompson Chain-Reference Bible is a study Bible in the truest sense of that word: rather than relying upon the comments of others, the formatting of this Bible encourages readers to search deeply into the Scriptures for themselves.

Each suggested reference topic is relevant and can inspire significant study. Seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit (Ruach haKodesh) as you read the Word of God using the references in the margins and I am certain you will make profound discoveries!

The KJV Thompson Chain-Reference Bible is available in many formats including red letter, large print, hardcover, and bonded leather. It is available in the KJV, NKJV, ESV, NIV, and NASB translations. It seems apparent to me that the publisher genuinely wants the study of Scripture to be accessible to as many people as possible. What a blessing!

My recommendation:


Rating: 5 out of 5.

The KJV Thompson Chain-Reference Bible is definitely worth a 5 out of 5.

This is a Bible that will be beneficial to anyone who genuinely enjoys studying the riches of Scripture. It will be particularly helpful to those who prepare weekly sermons or messages as well as to those who lead Bible studies or other ministries.

The KJV Thompson Chain-Reference Bible would also serve well in an evangelistic encounter as cross-references can quickly and easily be located to help persuade an unbeliever to trust in the glorious Word of God.

Pastora Jennifer Mieliulis Fuentes, M.Div., Duke University

Book details

Title: “KJV Thompson Chain-Reference Bible
Author: Dr. Frank Charles Thompson
Publisher: Zondervan
Release Date: 
Genre: BIBLES/King James Version/Reference

ISBN-13: 978-0-310-45921-7

PURCHASE LINKS:  Amazon FaithGateway Store


Review: Matthew Henry Daily Devotional Bible

I am a member of the Bible Gateway Blogger Grid (BG2). As a #BibleGatewayPartner, I have received a copy of the “Matthew Henry Daily Devotional Bible – NKJV Translation”  published by Thomas Nelson Publishers at no cost to me in exchange for an honest review here on the Adonai Shalom USA blog. #BG2

“Matthew Henry Daily Devotional Bible” (NKJV Translation)

Book Review and Description

The Matthew Henry Daily Devotional Bible – NKJV contains the entirety of the Scriptural text in the New King James Version Bible translation along with devotional passages drawn from Matthew Henry’s commentaries, which are interspersed throughout the text.

Matthew Henry Daily Devotional Bible cover
Matthew Henry Daily Devotional Bible: 366 Daily Devotions by Matthew Henry

The introduction to this devotional Bible gives detail about Matthew Henry’s life. According to the introduction written by Philip Nation, Henry was a 17th century Presbyterian pastor in England. Nation shares background about some of Henry’s struggles, such as frequent childhood illness, loss of his wife and four of his infant children. Henry consistently turned to God’s Word as a source of comfort, making this devotional appropriate to any who likewise seek to draw encouragement and comfort from the Holy Scriptures.

Matthew Henry is well known to many for his numerous and thoughtful commentaries on Scripture. Many of us have relied on his thoughtful analysis of Scripture whether as students or as pastors. Because of my familiarity with Matthew Henry’s commentaries, I assumed this Bible would contain commentary, rather than devotional material – more of a “study Bible.”

The devotions in the Matthew Henry Daily Devotional Bible relate to the passage on the corresponding page, and they are dated for anyone who would enjoy following a devotional reading plan.

Matthew Henry Daily Devotional Bible

You will find the next day’s devotion listed at the bottom of the page, so you can place one of the two satin bookmarks there, ready for the next day, if you would like.

The Mathew Henry Daily Devotional Bible (NKJV) comes with two satin ribbons, one red and one blue as pictured, here placed at Isaiah 69.

With this format, one could easily find another interesting passage to read along with the day’s devotional, so I actually like the fact the devotions are spread throughout the Bible rather than arranged in a more traditional format. This allows the reader to spend time prayerfully in the Word and invite the Ruach haKodesh (the Holy Spirit) to truly guide one’s reading and devotional time.

A Devotional Bible

Matthew Henry Daily Devotional Bible (NKJV)

Given the exhaustive nature of Matthew Henry’s verse-by-verse six volume commentary on the whole Bible, I did expect to see more Matthew Henry devotionals in this particular Bible edition.

For anyone interested in a “devotional” introduction to Matthew Henry, this Bible will be very appropriate. It is less scholarly than jumping straight into his Bible commentaries. I could see this being an excellent gift for a young person going off to college or someone considering vocational ministry.

It is important to note that the Matthew Henry Daily Devotional Bible is aptly named and is not a Bible commentary nor a Study Bible. It is strictly intended as a devotional Bible.

The Matthew Henry Daily Devotional Bible can encourage any of us to put away the study Bibles for a moment and just focus our attention in a devotional format. With all the apps and electronic means of accessing the Scripture, having an actual book to hold and look through can help us slow down and focus on our personal devotional life with our Heavenly Father rather than studying all the time! The devotions in this Bible are Scripturally-based and free of distraction.

My recommendation:


Rating: 5 out of 5.

My initial reaction was to give the Matthew Henry Daily Devotional Bible 4 out of 5 stars, but the more I thought about the purpose of this non-study Bible, I decided it is worth 5 out of 5.

This Bible does not purport to give commentary nor to serve as a study Bible. It is intended as a devotional Bible, and it serves that purpose very well. I highly recommend this Devotional Bible to anyone seeking a devotional that can be used all year, and reused every year if desired.

Pastora Jennifer Mieliulis Fuentes, M.Div., Duke University

Book details

Title: “Matthew Henry Daily Devotional Bible – NKJV”
Author: Compilation
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Release Date: 
Genre: Bibles/New King James Version/Devotional

ISBN-13: 978-0-7852-4655-8

PURCHASE LINKS:  Amazon | FaithGateway Store


Matthew Henry Daily Devotional Bible (NKJV) back cover

If you are looking for other wonderful Scripture resources, check out my reviews of “Spurgeon and the Psalms: The Book of Psalms with Devotions from Charles Spurgeon” and “Eternity Now: The New Testament Series” (NET) also published by Thomas Nelson.

Interested in more book reviews? Subscribe to our monthly newsletter for updates!