Written by: Alexandria Brown
Every single one of us has reached some point in our lives when we were fearful. Whether it was something new or old, we have all been there. Living in a fallen world, none of us are able to escape the reality of fear alone. But let me tell you a truth...
God does not expect any of us to live in fear! In fact, He commands us not to live in fear at all!
Joshua 1:9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.
John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.
So if God commands us to live without fear then there must be a way to do that...
After all God is not waiting for us to fail, He is waiting for us to succeed. So how do we do that?
Well in my experience, the devil attacks areas of strength in our lives.
And the best way to mask something is by hiding it with the complete opposite. The exact counter-part. Camouflaging our strengths as weakness.
I think about the movies where the mom has a bag of deliciousness hidden inside an empty bag of broccoli. Broccoli is also known as the opposite of deliciousness! LOL!
How many times has the enemy used that bag of broccoli (fear) to hide our deliciousness (that power, love and self-discipline)?
God tells us, “Do not be afraid,” over and over again. He doesn’t tell us that we are supposed to just deal with it. No, on the contrary, He says that He has given us power and love and self-control and peace, His gift of peace. The kind of peace that doesn’t make sense. The devil has just stuck all of those gifts from God in a broccoli bag!
So I hope we can agree at this point that the spirit of fear is not of God... but like we said earlier that is still something that every one of us deals with. So if God tells us not to fear and that God is a loving God who is not waiting for us to fail, but rather He is waiting for us to succeed, then how? What are some practical steps to get rid of fear?
How do we get to that strong and courageous part…when our spirits are at peace and we trust Him better, more fully?
1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, (Throw/cast out with force)
I think so many times we are so worried about getting rid of the bad we forget to fill ourselves up with the good first! We throw the nasty broccoli out without recognizing the deliciousness we have access too!
I don’t think we need to get rid of fear for us to live fearless lives. I believe that we need to fill ourselves with love and let love do the work of throwing fear out of our lives with force.
When we quit focusing on the fear and bring our focus on the perfect Love of God, the courage, strength, peace, and power that we already have becomes fruitful in our lives. In Romans 8:38-39 God’s love, perfect love, is the biggest baddest weapon we have at our disposal, let’s use it!
So when we go through those tough moments when we feel fear creeping in, it is then we need to remind ourselves to draw near, call on and stand in the Perfect Love of a Perfect Father.
Written by: Gay Idle
Phoebe. The only mention of this woman in the Bible is found in these verses:
“I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church at Cenchreae, so that you may welcome her in the Lord as is fitting for the saints, and help her in whatever she may require from you, for she has been a benefactor of many and of myself as well.” Romans 16:1-2 NRSV
That’s it. Nowhere else in the entire Bible do we read about Phoebe. And yet, here she is … within a mere 52 words written in the personal greetings section of Paul’s letter to the saints (believers) in Rome. How many times have I just skipped right over these words? Yet, they are there for a reason. If God’s Word is a light for our path (Psalm 119:105), what light does Phoebe’s story shed for us?
So who was this woman?
*An interesting side note. The Complete Jewish Bible refers to Phoebe as “the shammash of the congregation at Cenchreae.” A shammash (a Hebrew word meaning servant) one reference said that this person directs and leads public worship. In any case, the shammash as a servant leader held a more prominent role in the synagogue.
It is speculated in several commentaries that as a benefactor, she was a patron of the saints. As the word prostatis also means, patron. This would indicate that she was a woman of wealth and position. Patron’s in the culture of that time were respected and influential. She could possibly have been a single businesswoman, as there is no indication in this passage that she is married. But we really don’t know for sure. In any case, it seems that she was known for her unselfish works of charity and service to her brothers and sisters in Christ (including Paul himself).
So you might ask, but why Phoebe…why does he call her out by name? Why is he asking the church in Rome to “welcome her in the Lord…” and to “help her in whatever way she may require from you,”? Because she was most likely the carrier of this letter to the Romans. In those days it was customary for the sender of the letter to include a commendation at the end for the person who was carrying/delivering the letter. Therefore Phoebe would have been considered as one who bore the authority of Paul, his emissary, as she was responsible to deliver the letter and quite possibly recite it to the recipients. Yes, you read that right. She most likely had memorized the entire letter. It was also the custom of the time for the letter carrier to be able to explain the contents of the letter. So Paul must undoubtedly have had a great amount of trust in Phoebe’s ability to properly execute her functions as his emissary as she delivered the letter to the Roman believers.
In describing her as a sister in Christ, a deacon in her home church, a benefactor (patron, helper, trainer, protector, champion) to many, as well as to himself, Paul is saying that he has put his full confidence in her and he expects them to welcome her with honor, as he says, “...welcome her in the Lord as is fitting for the saints.”
This kind of blows me away. Why have I never realized before that Phoebe was so significant? Can you imagine if she had failed on her journey to deliver this most important letter? Can you even imagine not having the book of Romans? I know…I know…God would have made sure His Word would remain. Still…she was faithful. She was willing to do what God required of her. I believe she was more than willing. She was eager to take Paul’s letter, which we now know to be inspired by the Holy Spirit to the church in Rome.
The major theme in this letter is the basic gospel of Jesus Christ. God’s plan of salvation and righteousness from God through Jesus Christ His Son.
Earlier in this article, I asked this question: If God’s Word is a light for our path (Psalm 119:105), what light does Phoebe’s story shed for us? I find it ironic that the name Phoebe means “bright, radiant as the moon, or pure.”
Or, maybe more prophetic than ironic.
I believe that Phoebe’s story tells us that we, as women, are so very important in the spreading of the gospel of Jesus Christ to expand the kingdom of God on this earth. We are His emissaries. We are the light of Christ to the world.
“You are the light of [Christ to] the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden;” Matthew 5:14 (Amplified Bible).
Just as the moon gets its radiance in reflecting the light of the sun, so we become radiant as we reflect the light of Christ’s love to others.
I want to revisit this word shammash here. In Jewish tradition, the shammash is also the designated ninth candle of the Menorah. A special candle. It is the first to be lit and used to light all of the other candles. It remains lit and is either placed above or below the other lit candles…ready to be used again should any of the candles go out. It is considered the servant candle that gives light to all of the other candles.
Jesus was God’s shammash. He left His place at the right hand of God to be emptied of Himself, to become one of us. To humble himself even to the point of death on a cross that we should be lifted up. And God exalted Him because of His obedience to the highest place and gave him the name above all names. (Philippians 2:7`9).
When Jesus told His disciples, “You are the light of the world.” He was saying you are God’s shammash. Be the light that lights others. Let the light of God in your hearts kindle so brightly that others cannot help but be drawn to it.
Phoebe was God’s shammash. She was a faithful servant of the LORD. In only 52 words of two verses of the bible, we find a pretty amazing woman of God. And yet other than these two verses, she gets no recognition on this earth. No accolades. But I’m wondering how many are her rewards in heaven? What celebration there must have been when she arrived at heaven’s gates!
We are called to be God’s shammash… To serve in ways that bring Glory to His name. To humble ourselves in obedience to whatever God has called us. So that we bring His light to the people He has brought into our lives.
We have to have the light within us to be the light to others. So I ask myself…and you. Am I abiding in Christ? Am I allowing the light of His Word to root out the things that are blocking my fellowship with Him? Am I letting go of my own need to control and letting Him lead the way?
Oh LORD, I want to be so grounded in You that Your light shines through every ounce of my being. Help me to be your shammash that I may lead others by the light of your Son Jesus, who is logos, who is Your very Word to Your heart.
WRITTEN BY: LYNDSAY TERRY
Have you ever read all the characteristics of the Proverbs 31 Woman and all she does and accomplishes? Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the to-do list that seems to emanate from her description? Can you even live up to this standard of woman?
Proverbs 31:10-31 (TPT)
10 - Who could ever find a wife like this one --
she is a woman of strength and mighty valor!
She’s full of wealth and wisdom.
The price paid for her was greater than many jewels.
11 - Her husband has entrusted his heart to her,
for she brings him the rich spoils of victory.
12 - All throughout her life she brings him what is good and not evil.
13 - She searches out continually to possess
that which is pure and righteous.
She delights in the work of her hands.
14 - She gives out revelation-truth to feed others.
She is like a trading ship bringing divine supplies
from the merchant.
15 - Even in the night season she arises and sets food on the table
for hungry ones in her house and for others.
16 - She sets her heart upon a field and takes it as her own.
She labors there to plant the living vines.
17 - She wraps herself in strength, might, and power in all her works.
18 - She tastes and experiences a better substance,
and her shining light will not be extinguished,
no matter how dark the night.
19 - She stretches out her hands to help the needy
and she lays hold of the wheels of government.
20 - She is known by her extravagant generosity to the poor,
for she always reaches out her hands to those in need.
21 - She is not afraid of tribulation,
for all her household is covered in the dual garments
of righteousness and grace.
22 - Her clothing is beautifully knit together --
a purple gown of exquisite linen.
23 - Her husband is famous and admired by all,
sitting as the venerable judge of his people.
24 - Even her works of righteousness
she does for the benefit of her enemies.
25 - Bold power and glorious majesty are wrapped around her
as she laughs with joy over the latter days.
26 - Her teachings are filled with wisdom and kindness
as loving instruction pours from her lips.
27 - She watches over the ways of her household
and meets every need they have.
28 - Her sons and daughters arise in one accord to extol her virtues,
and her husband arises to speak of her in glowing terms.
29 - “There are many valiant and noble ones,
but you have ascended above them all!”
30 - Charm can be misleading,
and beauty is vain and so quickly fades,
but this virtuous woman lives in the wonder, awe,
and fear of the Lord.
She will be praised throughout eternity.
31 - So go ahead and give her the credit that is due,
for she has become a radiant woman,
and all her loving works of righteousness deserve to be admired
at the gateways of every city!
I don’t know about you, but I only tick off some of these boxes and not consistently. It can be easy for me to read about this woman and feel inadequate or even ashamed. I long to be her. To love getting up early and staying up late until the work is done, to have children call me blessed because of the way I raise them and a husband who can only speak about me in glowing terms. I want to be someone who is virtuous and puts the needs of others always above my own. To be a woman who can laugh at the days ahead instead of being filled with dread. To bring truth to those living in lies, to be righteous for the sake of my enemies, to be filled with more than enough strength to conquer any obstacle, and to delight in the work laid before me.
I want to be her, but most days…I’m just not.
I don’t think the Lord inspired this passage to shame its readers or set an impossible standard in front of them to live in frustration. That’s just not his way…not without providing a way!
What if I told you this passage may relate more to the CHURCH than to an individual woman? What if I told you that, together, WE are all this woman?
The Church is referred to as the Bride of Christ. This passage says a few key things that point us to a heavenly husband rather than an earthly one…a heavenly marriage rather than one between just two people.
The price paid for her was greater than many jewels…
Her husband has entrusted his heart to her…
All her household is covered in dual garments of righteousness and grace…
Her husband is famous and admired by all, sitting as the venerable judge of his people…
Her husband arises to speak of her in glowing terms…
She will be praised throughout eternity…
These parts of the passage seem to point to something bigger than just a woman and her husband. Something eternal. Something all-encompassing. Something so much bigger than us…
When we read this passage in the light of the Church, we can be filled with hope and inspiration to live in step with this kind of Church. We are called into an eternal family to help fulfill the role of the Proverbs 31 woman. It’s something to strive toward, but is not solely on our shoulders to bear. We cover one another’s weaknesses as we build up one another to be strong…stronger in those places of weakness.
It’s not all on you, sis. You have an eternal family of brothers and sisters in Christ to help you walk in strength toward these things as we fulfill the role of the Proverbs 31 woman TOGETHER. As a Church. The Lord’s Holy Bride.
I want to challenge you to go re-read this passage with new eyes. Read it as a description of the Bride of Christ. You’ll fall more in love with the Church. Read it while asking the Lord how he wants you to help fulfill the Proverbs 31 woman. Where is your weakness and who can help make you strong? Collectively, we have the mind of Christ. Collectively, we are clothed in strength and dignity. Collectively, we are the Bride of Christ.
Collectively, we ALL are the Proverbs 31 woman. Together.
by olivia Caldwell
Hey, when you pray, do you believe that God hears?
Do you believe that He answers?
There was a time several months ago that I was sitting in a conference and before it began, our Pastor prayed over us, and over the weekend. He asked that the Lord would remove anything that would distract or hinder us during our time together and, up until that moment, I had been dealing with a pounding headache. It had been a crazy day and it was like the stress of everything had just compounded in my head.
So, I'm sitting in my seat at that highly-anticipated conference and I'm a little worried that I won't be able to concentrate through the throbbing of my head. And then my Pastor prayed. And my headache immediately subsided.
And look, that was amazing and wonderful and so kind of the Lord. Honestly, it blessed me, and then our time in the Word that weekend blessed me even more. But that moment really changed the way that I think about prayer.
I thought about my pastor, who wouldn't know that the Lord answered his prayer unless I told him, and I thought about times that I have prayed and wondered, 'What do I think happens when I pray? Do I actually believe that when I pray, the Lord answers me?'
I mean...I do. I do believe! A lot of the time, God actually reminds me of past prayers or illuminates when He has worked in my life and in my heart and in the lives of others and answered my earnest prayers. But I began to be concerned about my heart and my posture regarding prayer and regarding God Himself.
What is my posture in prayer? What do I believe happens when I humbly and yet boldly bow before the throne of God? And when I open my eyes and stand to go about my day, are my eyes really open to looking for how God may already be moving and working? Is it His promises I am standing on? Do I truly believe that He has heard me and will work things out for my good, according to His will and purpose?
There is a story in Acts 12 that increases my conviction when it comes to prayer.
Herod has killed James, brother of John, and arrested Peter. Peter is in prison, guarded by four squads of soldiers, and Herod's intention is to bring him out before the people after the Passover.
"So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church." Acts 12:5
So, at Mary's place, there were many gathered together, praying. No doubt these followers were praying fervently for Peter, especially after the devastating loss of James by the sword.
I think it's safe to say they did not anticipate what happened next.
"Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him. When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.” Acts 12:6-11
Peter heads to the house of Mary, where everyone is praying and knocks at the door. A servant named Rhoda came to answer and she recognized Peter's voice! And "...in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate." (v14)
As many were praying, their meeting was interrupted by a servant girl who was so overwhelmed with joy over the miraculous answer to their prayer that homegirl didn't even let Peter in!
And their response?
"You are out of your mind."
I kind of wish you could see my face right now. I'm envisioning this scene and thinking, "I'm sorry, what? Out of her mind? What exactly were you praying for?"
Really, what were they praying for? What were they expecting? Probably not for Peter to show up at their door right then and there, to be fair, but was it so hard to believe a breathless and exhilarated servant girl carrying news that their prayers had been answered? Was what she said too outrageous and good to believe?!
Instead of going to see for themselves, they kept saying, "It is his angel!" when Rhoda insisted and insisted. I wonder if it would have been more believable for them to hear news of Peter's demise instead of his rescue and deliverance from the violent hands of Herod.
Why pray, then?
Rhoda kept insisting and Peter kept knocking. They finally opened the door and were amazed when they saw him standing before them!
"Christians are often overwhelmed and astonished when even their own petitions are granted, and when God manifests his own power in his own way and time. Prayer should be persevered in, and we should place ourselves in a waiting posture to catch the first indications that God has heard us." (Barnes' Notes on the Bible)
Oh, sisters, may we be found in a waiting posture to catch the first indications that God has heard us! May that be our posture! May we be like Rhoda, not swayed by unbelief, but instead persistent in the face of it!
I'm a bit tempted to insert some sort of caveat here, but honestly? I think we have enough of those. I think we should keep this story fresh in our minds and do our best to enter into prayer with a posture that honors the Lord and says, 'I believe You. I believe You are mighty and that you can do mighty deeds by Your mighty arm. I believe You are God Almighty. I believe in You!'
And then, we need to wait expectantly.
God, make us like Rhodas rising up in the midst of an unbelieving generation. Make us persistent and insistent upon Your Word and Your character and Your might and Your works! Make us women who beckon those around us to come and see what You have done. Give us a posture of prayer that honors You. And God, give us eyes to see how You are answering our earnest prayer unto You.
In Jesus' name we pray! Amen!
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