“A Cry From Egypt” has been awarded “Christian Small Publisher 2014 Book of the Year”!!!

Yes!! You read that correctly! My book, “A Cry From Egypt,” received the “Christian Small Publisher 2014 Book of the Year” award!! Ahhh!!!! :-)

Thank you, thank you, thank you, THANK you so much to everyone who voted and who passed on the word about my book! I couldn’t have done it without all of you faithful fans and friends! :-) This is such a huge blessing to me, and to the Great Waters Press family, who now has two award-winning books in their catalogue! :-)

The crazy thing was that I really didn’t think I was going to win. I barely had any hope of receiving the award. I promoted it a ton on my blog and Facebook and other places when it was first announced, but I hate having to ask people to vote for things and didn’t push it too much. I meant to do another wave of posts on April 1st, when I suddenly realized (on April 1st!!) that the voting was closed!! No!!!!! Terrible planning on my part. 😛 So I just assumed that I hadn’t received the award and blamed myself for it.

On Saturday night, my dad got a phone call from my publishers saying that they wanted to come by our house. Now, my publishers live over an hour away. They don’t just come by. I had no clue why there were coming. My first thought was, “This is either really, really bad, or really good.” Since we’re still working through the editing/publishing process with book 2, I prepared myself that this would be pretty bad. Either that, or they just wanted to bring me a contract or let me know that I’d been accepted by a big distributor or something. So I prepared myself for the worse and was really nervous. They didn’t get to my house until over one-and-a-half hours after they had originally called. At this point, my nerves were fried!!

Then all of a sudden the doorbell rang. I immediately jumped up to answer it. My publishers and their son came in, and Mr. Young had a purple folder in his hand. Mrs. Young was holding something behind her back, and told me to scoot away from the door so that I couldn’t see what it was. My mind was kind of in a whirl at this point, and I didn’t know what to expect or what to do. Mr. Young simply said, “We received this email today about your first book and we really thought that you needed to read it.” He said it with such a straight face!! I don’t think I even said anything. I just took the folder that he offered me and flipped it open. My heart was racing! And then I read this:

Congratulations!

A Cry From Egypt, Hope Auer, Great Waters Press,

has won the 2014 Christian Small Publisher Book of the Year Award in the Young Adult category!”

I still can’t remember how I responded. I think I gasped and screamed and said something along the lines of, “I got the award??” And my mom screamed. And my dad and brothers cheered. And my heart started racing in a completely different way and I had a hard time breathing. And I couldn’t stop smiling. :-) And my grandparents and aunt and uncle and cousin who were visiting for the night all ran up to congratulate me! And Mrs. Young presented me with flowers that she had been hiding behind her back. And I was laughing. Oh my goodness. Sometimes my heart still pounds thinking about it! To go from expecting the worse – or at least something not NEARLY as good! – to getting the best surprise of my LIFE!!

I want to again thank all of you for your votes and for spreading the word about my book! You all are so amazing! And I want to give a HUGE shout-out to my publishers, Hal and Melanie Young at Great Waters Press! They have worked SO HARD to get my book into the hands of so many people, and they worked hard to get it nominated for this award and get enough votes for us to win! Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU everyone!! :-)

And finally, all glory and praise to God! This book is completely based off of His story, and as I’ve said before there were so many times that I know that He wrote through me. It was nothing I did of my own accord. It was all Him. Thank you, Jesus, for this wonderful gift to me! :-)

Click on the link below for the official announcement!

http://christianbookaward.com

Yep. That smile says it all! :-)

My publishers and I!

My publishers and my incredibly supportive and amazing parents. :-)

 

Encouraging Parents – Post #3

“My Story Doesn’t Bring Glory to God”

Earlier in this series of posts, I mentioned that I spoke at a homeschool conference in May and shared some scripture verses about doing everything – including writing – for the glory of God. After my session, I was down at the Great Waters Press booth selling my book and talking to some amazing young writers. One young lady came up to me. She said her name was Sarah, and she was really shy. I could tell she was almost scared to talk to me, but yet she wanted to talk to me so desperately. She told me that she didn’t have a network of people who helped her with her writing, and she really wanted to tell me about some of her ideas for books. I tried to be as warm and welcoming as I could and help put this young lady at ease. Sarah started telling me about her idea, and I felt my heart sink. Sarah obviously had talent, but she was writing a ghost story. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t want to crush her hopes and dreams, but I knew that I couldn’t remain silent in this area. Sarah finished telling me her idea, but before I could say anything, she told me this:

“But, as I was listening to your talk and those Bible verses, I realized that my story doesn’t bring glory to God. So, I decided that I wasn’t going to work on that story any more, and instead, I have an idea for a girl who’s going to public school who has a really hard time, but in the end learns about God and ministers to kids in her school. What do you think?”

What did I think? I was ecstatic! The Word of God had pierced this young homeschooler’s heart. One day I hope this book will be on shelves in bookstores everywhere because it would have such a big appeal to Christians and non-Christians alike. While I could tell that it was hard for Sarah to lay down her ghost story, she was still excited for the future and what God has in store for her. In the end, I know that she will feel more fulfilled and joyful and be more in love with Christ than ever before because of her decision.

Encouraging Parents – Post #2

Encouraging Your Children In Their Writing

While I am not a homeschooling parent, my parents have homeschooled me from the beginning. My dad taught me that the only way to improve in my writing was by writing a lot, getting edits, and then writing again. For my book, “A Cry From Egypt,” I did over ten drafts of the book to get it to where it is today. My dad told me that when he was in school, his writing teachers didn’t tell him how to write. They didn’t explain to him how to make an outline, make his papers have a point and a consistent flow, or how important revision was. Instead, they simply corrected grammar and gave him low grades. He didn’t get any constructive criticism until college when he had a professor who taught him the importance of editing and re-writing. Constructive criticism, focusing on the main goals and ideas over the perfect grammar or spelling, is what will help your children succeed in their writing.

While your children need support and constructive criticism, you also need to encourage them to write for a purpose that brings glory to God. As parents, give them support. Be genuinely interested in their writing and in their stories. If they veer off of their theme and towards another direction, help them get back on track. Encourage good morals and strong, scripturally-based truths.

The last, but probably the most important point, is to help them to take every thought captive in obedience to Christ. My parents helped fuel my relationship with Christ and kept me sheltered from worldly or sinful atmospheres and thoughts. They encouraged me to be in the Bible every single day and to do my personal quiet time in the mornings. They did family devotions with my little brothers and me every night. They gave me books to read with a Biblical worldview. Books from Vision Forum, Mantle Ministries, Grace and Truth books, and biographies showed me what living for Christ really meant. My mom read the entire Elsie Dinsmore series aloud to me when I was younger. But we didn’t just read books. We discussed them. My dad read the entire Chronicles of Narnia series aloud to us. We talked about the allegories that were found in the books and the spiritual truths. We also talked about C.S. Lewis’s theology and searched the scriptures to see where he was accurate and where the scriptures had other things to say.

When our parents gave us opportunities to watch movies or read books that had less-than-Biblical morals or lessons in them, we saw the negative lessons and steered away from them. We held those books and movies up to Scripture instead of the world’s standards and reviewed them critically and with discernment. Now granted, it takes a long time to cultivate wisdom and discernment in your kids. But the younger you start, the easier it becomes. When my dad and I were talking about my blog post this week, he was talking about all the ways he and my mom encouraged me to develop a Biblical worldview. I’ve been surrounded by it for so long that I didn’t even realize how deliberately my parents were discipling me and pointing me towards Christ.

This may seem like quite the uphill battle. But I promise you this – your children are hungry for the Word of God. They want to live upright and pleasing lives. They have the capability to take back the medium of writing for God’s glory!

Check back Monday for the last installment with an inspiring story on how God’s word changes the lives of our homeschooled children!

Meet “Lemuel”!!

Hello All!

I would like to introduce you to one of my favorite fifteen-year-olds in the world, Brandon Hall. Brandon is playing the role of “Lemuel” in the radio drama. There is a very interesting story for how he got cast as that role.

Brandon is in my acting group, and I soon found out that he lived very close to Tori, who’s playing our “Jarah.” I was already bringing  Tori back and forth to CYT, and so I eagerly offered to bring Brandon along for the ride, as well. I had noticed his love for the Lord and how he was a true servant-leader in the class and really cared about people. He was also fun to be around, and liked writing. It would also make two boys and two girls in our carpool (Brandon and my brother, Caleb, Tori, and myself). We love our awesome carpool, and it’s never complete without all four of us there. We have so much fun! :-)

Brandon Hall as “Lemuel”

But anyways, back to the casting story. I was impressed with Brandon’s audition and saw that he was really diligent and dedicated to his work. As I was thinking through which guys I knew could play which roles, Brandon came to mind as Lemuel. For the very first cold-read I did for the radio drama, I asked Tori and Brandon to read one of the scenes together (chapter 2, as a matter of fact). While I didn’t show this to Brandon and Tori at the time, I was literally jumping up and down inside. As I heard them both speak, I could hear my characters. It was one of the coolest feelings I’ve ever experienced!

Several guys tried out for the role of Lemuel. And while they all did a great job, I kept coming back to Brandon because of how his voice sounded in the role. We talked it over, and while Brandon was worried that he wouldn’t do a good job for me, everyone was impressed by how well he pulled off the part. There are some intense, and some very serious things that he has to act out! And he nailed it! :-)

Brandon is a also fellow writer. He’s got a great story idea going right now. Hopefully he’ll get it published in just a few years! :-) But instead of doing the traditional “introducing you to the character,” I actually interviewed Brandon and had him write up almost everything himself. Here’s what Brandon says about himself and his portrayal of “Lemuel”:

Brandon: “I am a 15 year old sophomore attending my homeschool, Royal Oaks Academy. My favorite subject is English. My favorite hobbies include running, video games, and creative writing. Ideas for college and beyond are hopefully to write novels, or to use the talents God has given me that are related to English; be it teaching, publishing, editing, or writing, I’m planning on spending my life around words a lot. They can be very powerful.

“Probably the coolest thing about Lemuel is that he was around my age. However, he had the mindset of an adult and wisdom beyond his years. It was very cool to explore and portray a character who had been forced into adulthood so early, due to his slavery. Experiencing a sliver of his life led me to wonder how a modern 15-year-old would cope nowadays under that kind of pressure. Lemuel’s life has been an encouragement to me to stay strong and trust God in the hardest of times.

“The entire recording process was incredible. Being surrounded by friends and siblings in Christ, while making a novel come to life, was an experience I won’t forget. It may have included many crazy late nights, and copious amounts of whipping and screaming, but it was a very positive and amazing experience.

“I for one have always struggled with the Old Testament. Some chapters and books have always been tedious for me. Growing up, I heard the story of Moses over and over. I had the “John 3:16 syndrome”; while I could rattle off a verse or story from memory, some things had become stale and bland in my eyes. The process of reenacting the lives of Hebrew slaves really made Exodus come alive for me. In turn, it’s helped me appreciate and better understand the lives of many more Old Testament characters.

“A recurring theme that I noticed throughout this process was how well History and Fiction were blended. For example, when all of the plagues struck Egypt, it was interesting to see the Hebrew point of view and how they reacted. I especially liked the character of Mariel, Jarah’s mother. Viewing the plagues from the lens of a Hebrew who believed in the Egyptian Gods was something I had never considered. I suppose the diversity of beliefs in general was what stuck out in the story; it would have been easy to simply make everyone a devout follower of Yahweh, or a rebellious Hebrew.

“One of my favorite experiences was when Hope was recording the beating scene. The script said that I was supposed to be thrown into a wall, and then beaten. So, we started recording, and I threw myself against the mattress and fell to the floor. Patrick, the overseer, started whipping the pillow next to me, and I began to scream bloody murder. Apparently I was very convincing, because everyone outside of the recording closet was freaking out, thinking that Patrick was actually beating me up!” (Note from Hope: That was probably the scariest moment of the whole recording process! When Brandon hit the wall and cried out, I almost screamed. It sounded so convincing! I really thought he was hurt!)

“I sincerely believe that God brought this specific group of people together, under Hope’s direction, to do something awesome for his Kingdom. The Bible says that “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” He has brought us this far, and I am looking forward to how he will use it in the future.”

Meet Shayna!!

Hello All!

Naomi Koch as “Shayna”

I would like to introduce you to Naomi Koch who is playing the role of “Shayna” in our radio drama! Naomi is one of my very best friends and accountability partners. I met her just over a year ago in our local Christian acting group. She’s incredibly talented! And really, she’s not bossy at all. Well…. Let’s rephrase that. She’s only bossy if she’s got a camera in her hand and is working on a photoshoot, or teaching one of her art classes. But in both cases, she’s entitled to be bossy because she knows her stuff! :-) Her artwork and photography skills are incredible! But even more so is her devotion to God, her family, her friends, and her work. She is so diligent, and loves to study the things of God and point others to Him. When I first met Naomi, she asked if we could go out for lunch. As we ate, she questioned me on exactly where I stood in my faith with Christ. I was shocked and pleasantly surprised that she was so bold and so passionate for the Lord. Many of my close friends at the time wouldn’t come out and ask me deep questions like that! She’s truly one of the best young ladies I know. This is what Naomi says about herself and her portrayal of “Shayna”:

“I like to think of myself as a passionate artist and follower of Christ! That pretty sums up who I am. I try to live and surrender my life and walk to Him every day. Apart from my Savior I have no purpose or true meaning in life. He is my All and All. He paid the price for my sinful nature and I live continually in awe of His overwhelming mercy to save me from eternal death!

“I am secondly an artist and art teacher. I have many students who I have the blessed opportunity of being able to inspire and be inspired by. I am growing as I watch them grow. It is so amazing to see the many talents God has given them being put to good use!

“Acting and singing are also hobbies of mine! I got started in drama about two years back when I joined a theater group called Spiritual Twist Productions/Christian Youth Theatre. It has been one of the greatest experiences of my entire life and stretched me in so many ways! God has really used it to teach me a lot about dedication, hard work, patience, and acceptance of His will.

“Being a part of the radio drama was such a great experience on so many levels! There were so many great moments that created lasting memories I will never forget! For starters, portraying my character Shayna was a real adventure to say the least! I am not sassy or flirty, and I’d like to think I’m not very bossy either. (My family might say differently.) Rather than learning a good lesson of what to do from my character, as many of my fellow actors did, I learned many lessons of what not to do. I am very happy to be able to say that I don’t think I really relate to her in any way. She was fun to act though. I mean, where else can you get away with bossing your friends around?

“I certainly will never forget the many retakes and attempts made at Shayna’s “flirty giggle.” That had to be the most awkward and embarrassing moment of my life. But I think one of my fondest memories was getting to ad lib in the background with all the “siblings” in one scene where “the mom” was shouting around the house. What was simply supposed to be chatter in the background between the kids turned into hilarious banter and bursts of laughter!
“I am so excited to see how God will work in the lives of young ones through this book and audio drama. I am blessed to be a part of it, and I cannot wait for book two!”

Meet “Eitan”!!

Hello All!

Let me introduce you to Jonathan Walton, who is playing our “Eitan” in the radio drama. I’ve known Jonathan for nine years now. He’s been a great friend and role model to me in so many ways. I’ve enjoyed our conversations about music, school, life, acting, and the spiritual discussions we’ve had during plays and Bible studies. It’s very obvious that Jonathan puts God first in his life, and that has been a huge blessing to many. Jonathan is also a phenomenal actor. I’ve had the privilege of acting with him in a few plays. I was his gun-loader in the spiritual twist version of “Les Mis,” and when he was “Jesus” in the Christian Youth Theatre production of “JESUS!”, I was the woman who anointed his feet with perfume. He always worked so hard in his roles and I enjoyed acting with him.

When we started with this process and I knew I needed to find a talented guy to play “Eitan,” Jonathan immediately came to mind for two reasons. First, he’s a great actor, a good friend, and had many similarities to Eitan. The second reason is actually rather comical… When Mike, my illustrator, was trying to finish up the cover for “A Cry From Egypt,” I couldn’t stand the way he kept drawing Eitan. He made him look like Moses from “Prince of Egypt.” I kept trying to get Mike to change the way Eitan looked on the cover, but Mike was having the hardest time finding a picture in his mind to help him make the switch. I was trying to think of people we both knew that could possibly look like Eitan. Nothing was clicking for either of us. I finally said, in exasperation, “Ok! Think Jonathan Walton with longer hair!” When Mike brought the revised cover back to me, I was like, “NO WAY!! That’s it!!” So, Jonathan ended up on the cover as Eitan, and it made perfect sense that I should try him out as the part. :-)

Jonathan Walton as “Eitan”

The day of the cold read, I was camping out in the Campbell University library working on the radio drama. It was finals week, and I had somehow managed to grab a group study room. When Jonathan got out of classes, he met up with me in the library. I knew that I didn’t have a ton of time to decide who was which role, so I immediately threw Jonathan into the middle of everything and asked him to do a cold-read of the proposal scene to see how he did. I read for Ada, and he read for Eitan. He nailed it!! I remember listening to his voice and getting so excited that I forgot to try and act, myself! He even sounded like he was really, truly crying! It was amazing. Just wait until you hear it! That and the whipping scene. Oh goodness! Chills! :-)

Jonathan Walton was home-schooled all through grade school and is currently studying Criminal Justice at Campbell University. He has a passion for music and acting, and has been involved in musical theater for eight years. During that time he performed in more than sixteen productions, and was a stagehand for over twenty productions! Jonathan plays a variety of instruments including the acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass guitar, banjo, piano, mandolin, and harmonica. Jonathan currently leads worship for the youth group at Sovereign Grace Church in Apex, North Carolina, and also helps play music for his small group and, occasionally, for the worship time at the Sunday morning service. Here’s what Jonathan said about playing his role:

“I really enjoyed playing the part of ‘Eitan’ because of his strength of character. I can relate to the struggles that Eitan deals with, and it made the role easier for me to portray. ‘A Cry From Egypt’ is a book that people of all ages can relate to and learn from. I was encouraged by reading the book, and even more when I actually working on the audio book. The rest of the cast are Godly examples to me, even though many of them are younger than I am. I’ve known all of them for many years, and I have grown to love them even more through the time spent recording. I hope you enjoy the story, and more than that, I hope you learn by listening to it.”

 

Meet “The Queen”!!

Hello Everyone!

I would like to introduce you to “Her Majesty.” :-) Julia Johnson has been in our church for over eight years now and is one of my very good friends. We were practically neighbors for several years, and we’ve had so much fun growing up together and doing ministry work and acting together. Julia is an amazing actress. From the roles she’s played in Christian Youth Theatre plays with me, some evangelism skits that we did, and her roles in short movies such as “California Johnson and the Second to Last Crusade,” I knew that I would have so much fun trying her out for a part in my radio drama. She nailed her cold-reading as The Queen, and did such an amazing job in the recording room. Her crying and screaming scenes were amazing! I was shocked by how well she did and how realistic it sounded.

Julia is a 2012 home school graduate. She is a professional actress whose work so far includes background acting in film and TV. Her favorite subject in high school was science. Julia loves traveling and linguistics. She has a passion for acting, dancing, singing, playing piano, and all things musical. If she were stuck on a desert island with one food of choice, it would be “Curried Beef a la Tim.”  Julia hopes to one day go wingsuit flying. This is what Julia says about the whole recording experience:

“When I first read ‘A Cry From Egypt,’ I was able to see the story of Exodus in a light I never had before. Hope’s writing style is so engaging and vivid that it was easy to imagine the characters and places in the book. When she asked if I would be interested in being a part of the Radio Drama, I was ecstatic. At first, I was a little unsure about how I would portray the screaming scenes. One night I told God that I knew I was nothing on my own, but that with His strength I could do anything. After giving it over to Him, He gave me such a wonderful peace about the process. As Isaiah 40:31 says, “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up on wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”   I pray that those who listen to ‘A Cry From Egypt’ will be as blessed by hearing it as I was by being a part of it.”

All That I Need

It seems as though my most thoughtful blog posts come out on Mondays…. Not quite sure why that is….. But oh well. Here’s a rambling author’s thoughts for the day. :-)

These past couple of months have been incredibly hectic and crazy around here. What with having three birthdays in our family, the Christmas season, my parents going on a 2-week long mission trip to Africa, the recording of audio for my book, my grandparents needing some extra care…. Ahh! Not to mention that I’m trying to get my speaking schedule lined up for next year and somehow make head-way on all of this audio editing and working on ideas for the study guide and my second book. Oh, and teach piano to fourteen amazing students and enter a few in a competition. Whew! Life is never boring!

But as I’m trying to make all the decisions and sort through things, today I kind of realized that I wanted a normal life. Just for a little while. It just doesn’t seem like there’s enough of me and there’s always so many things for me to do. But this phrase kept coming to me…

God is all that I need.

He is everything that I will ever need.

We say that all the time. I say that all the time. I say it when I write, when I speak, when I teach piano. I know you home schooled moms say it many times each day as you teach your children and take care of the home. But today I realized…. I don’t believe it. I know it, but I don’t believe it. Deep down in my heart, I can’t seem to accept it. And now I know why.

I rely too much on myself and on my family and my friends. Today, I had to think about what my life would be like if I didn’t have my family or my friends. I realized that I might not be able to handle it.

This year, I’ve made it my commitment to learn to trust completely in God, to make Him my best friend first. Jarah’s journey is so similar to mine in all of these books. She’s learning the same thing – making God her best friend first. And obviously, both of us need some more work in that area. :-) Thankfully we still have three books to go and we can learn together! :-)

Here’s some verses to meditate on if you’re still struggling with trust and Jarah and I seem to be. :-) And just keep saying “God is all that I will ever need” to yourself. And then maybe, we’ll all be able to believe it together. :-)

Psalm 9:10, “And those who know Your name will but their trust in You; for You, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.”

Psalm 37:5, “Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He will bring it to pass.”

 

Psalm 56:3-4, “When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, in God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me?”

Psalm 62:8, “Trust in Him at all times, you people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Selah”

Psalm 73:28, “But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, That I may declare all Your works.”

My Book is Coming to Life! :-)

Hello All!

It is with great pleasure that I announce to you that we have decided to start recording my book and turning it into an audio drama! Trailers and promos are first on the list of production, but maybe one day it will actually be completely finished and you can listen to my book as dramatized and acted by my friends and family members!

We’ve had several recording days and have made many wonderful and amazing memories. I’ve pulled people from my family, church, and local Christian acting group to play the parts in my book. We are very far away from having anything listenable, but over the next months you will be seeing sneak-peaks of behind the scenes footage, get some previews of the recorded audio, see lots of pictures, and get to meet the cast and crew! :-)

Please be in prayer for us. A lot of this is super intense. Though I’ve done some acting coaching in my time, I was not completely prepared for this task. It’s a completely new medium of acting to me! And the editing and recording process is a very long one. It will take a lot of work, perseverance, and prayers from you all in order to have some finished products.

Thank you for your prayers and support! I can’t wait to share what we’ve been working on with you all!

Here’s the first picture for you all! This is part of our recording set-up. I’m working with our “Jarah,” played by one of my dear friends Tori MacDonald. Can’t wait to show you all the rest! :-)

 

Why Leviticus?

For the past several years, a good portion of my personal Bible study has revolved around Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, and Joshua. After all, if you’re writing an account of Biblical historical fiction, the more you know about the Bible the better! :-) However, I won’t lie to you and say that there have been many days where the last thing I wanted to do was read through all the laws about sacrifices and what was clean and unclean and what was moral and immoral. And then Numbers! Goodness! I’m not a numbers person. I’m a words person. So to be reading and trying to process all of those numbers in the book of Numbers…. Let’s just say that’s one of the last things on my priority list. :-)

There are many days where I’ve wondered, “Why in the world did God have to put in all this stuff? I mean, He could’ve summarized most of this. It’s not really relevant, is it?” Well, of course it is INCREDIBLY relevant! All of God’s Word is relevant and sufficient for us even today. But sometimes it does take a little longer to dig out.

Here’s some what I’ve learned over the past few years of my study of Leviticus:

First of all, I always wondered what was up with the whole “unclean animals.” Almost all of those animals we eat today, and there’s nothing wrong with them. But then, in my senior year of high school, I took an outside biology class. And guess what I discovered? All of the animals on the “unclean animals” list carry many parasites and diseases that could easily kill humans!! Today, we have ways to cook everything to the point where we can kill off those dangerous parasites. But for the Israelites who were traveling around the wilderness and didn’t have ovens or refrigerators or freezers, it was for their health and well-being, not just because God was a cruel tyrant. He was actually looking out for them. It may seem kind of blunt and mean the way all His instructions came across. But think if you were the Israelites who didn’t know what a microscope was. How would this sound to you?

“You may not eat from the pig, because inside of the pig are little tiny creatures so small that you can’t even see them. These little tiny creatures will make you so sick that you can die.” That sounds kind of ridiculous, doesn’t it?

So in the end, God was protecting and preserving the Israelites, and not just trying to make their lives miserable.

Second, reading all these instructions about the sacrifices. In my new Bible I have a nice little chart describing all of the different sacrifices and what they were used for and when it was required that you bring that certain sacrifice to the tabernacle. We know that the sacrifices were to make atonement for the sins of the Israelites and the Israelite leaders. But my friend, Patrick, had a really, really good observation about why Leviticus goes into so much detail. Read this passage below:

Leviticus 4:13-18, “Now if the whole congregation of Israel commits error and the matter escapes the notice of the assembly, and they commit any of the things which the LORD has commanded not to be done, and they become guilty; when the sin which they have committed becomes know, then the assembly shall offer a bull of the herd for a sin offering and bring it before the tent of meeting. Then the elders of the congregation shall lay their hands on the head of the bull before the LORD, and the bull shall be slain before the LORD. Then the anointed priest is to bring some of the blood of the bull to the tent of meeting; and the priest shall dip his finger in the blood and sprinkle it seven times before the LORD, in front of the veil. He shall put some of the blood on the horns of the altar which is before the LORD in the tent of meetings; and all the blood he shall pour out at the base of the altar of burnt offering which is at the doorway of the tent of meeting.”

Here’s what stood out to Patrick and I as we were reading this passage… No one, besides a specially appointed priest, was allowed to approach God’s presence, or even talk to Him! You couldn’t have the personal relationship we have with God today where we can pray to Him all the time, confess freely of our sins, and have His Holy Spirit dwelling inside of us. If it wasn’t for Christ’s sacrifice and death, we would be like this Israelites – separated from God by a thick veil, constantly having to kill animals to cleanse themselves of sin, and only watching Him and following Him, not being in Him. Yes, they were His chosen people. But today, we get to experience what the Israelites then never knew – God is with us. He is in us. We are forgiven because of His Son. We are truly free.

As we approach Christmas day, let’s remember Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice so that we could have a personal relationship with Him. Remember that we are bought with a price, and that the little baby in the manager was also your personal Savior.