Written by: Gay Idle
“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the LORD…” Acts 3:19
The setting of these words spoken by Peter in Acts comes just after the healing of a lame man who had been that way from birth…over 40 years. A man who was now walking, leaping, and praising God! A crowd had gathered at Soloman’s Colonnade in awe of what had happened. Peter addressed the crowd, saying in effect, “Why are you so amazed? Why are you looking at us as if we were the ones who made this man walk by our own power or godliness? NO. This man was healed by the power of Jesus” the very one they had rejected as their Messiah. Peter calls for them to repent of their sins, even and especially their corporate sin of Jesus’ crucifixion.
Peter was talking to Jews, God's chosen people who had strayed so far from God's heart that they did not recognize Him when He came in the flesh as Jesus Christ, God incarnate. It was time to return to the Father's heart. Because if they had, oh, what joy! But so many missed it.
In a way, they were like prodigals, living a life they had crafted—a life of strict rule-keeping, judgment, and looking down on those who were not like them. They burdened God's people with a heavy yoke, one that no one could bear, not even themselves. And it grieved the Father's heart.
Repent—turn to God. 'Repent' comes from the Greek word 'metanoeō.' It's more than just saying you're sorry; it involves a profound change. It means acknowledging that your way is wrong, and God's way is right. Thayer's lexicon defines 'metanoeō' as 'to change one's mind, i.e., to repent... to change one's mind for the better, heartily to amend with abhorrence of one's past sins.' Peter was calling them to repentance, an inside-out change of heart and mind, so that their sins could be wiped out, blotted out, and no longer inscribed on God's ledger.
In Luke Chapter 15, we witness a scene where "all the tax collectors and sinners were drawing near to listen" to Jesus. However, the Pharisees and scribes complained that Jesus "welcomes sinners and eats with them." They were so intent on keeping their own rules and traditional prejudices that they missed their heavenly Father’s heart, even as He spoke directly to them.
In response, Jesus tells them three parables…one right after the other. In the first two parables (verses 1-10), the owner goes out to look for something that was lost. He goes looking for that which was lost. And when it is found there is great rejoicing. Jesus underscores the idea that there is great rejoicing when that which was lost is found.
In the case of the lost sheep, Jesus explains that “...there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who don’t need repentance.” Whoa! I’m pretty sure that was a direct hit on the conscience of the Pharisees and scribes…they got the hint.
In the case of the lost coin, Jesus adds that “there is joy in the presence of God’s angels over one sinner who repents.” You see…the Father went after them and they turned to Him and received Jesus as their savior. Again, one sinner who repents. This seems to me to imply an intimate connection between the repentant sinner and the heart of the Father.
Moving on to the third parable, known as The Parable of the Lost Son or the Prodigal Son. We discover that the Father is not going out to search for His lost son; the son isn’t lost.
The son decided to take his inheritance early, skipped town, and squandered it on a life of extravagance and reckless living. He pursued his own path to live life on his own terms, but it didn’t work out as he expected. He found himself destitute, out in a field with pigs, even contemplating eating the pig’s scraps. For a Jewish man, living with pigs and finding their food appetizing was the lowest point. Humiliating. He was broken and ready to go back, willing to grovel like a servant at his father’s feet, understanding that he didn’t even deserve a seat at his father’s table.
I find it interesting that the father does not actively go after the son who chose to walk his own path, but he is watching and waiting. We know this because the text tells us that while the son was still a long way from home, his father saw him and was overwhelmed with compassion. He ran to his son and welcomed him with open arms and joyful kisses. He put his own best robe on his son, placed a ring on his finger, and sandals on his feet. It was time to kill the fatted calf and celebrate!
There’s another son in this parable, the older son, who understandably feels upset that his younger brother, the one who took off, shows back up and is now treated like he is all that and a bag of chips. He, in contrast, had faithfully adhered to his father's rules, never straying and wasting his inheritance. Where was his reward? His sense of entitlement to recognition and reward is palpable. Sounds a bit like the Pharisees, don’t you think?
Before we pass too harsh a judgment on the Pharisees, let’s revisit another scene from scripture. Let’s go back to the beginning, to the Garden of Eden. Why? Perhaps to make the case that, at some point, we all become prodigals.
You see Adam and Eve had it pretty good in the beginning. They had a beautiful garden and walked with God in the cool of the evening. There was no sin, nothing like weeds to make their job of cultivating the garden more difficult. Their labor was pure joy. No predators lurked, ready to devour them. They had named the animals and held dominion over the entire earth. Created in God’s image, they were fellow regents with their heavenly Father, living and reigning over His Kingdom. And it was all good!
But then, Satan enters the scene, and Adam and Eve, swayed by his lies, decide to follow their own path. I don't believe this was necessarily a deliberate act of defiance against God's wishes, but rather an attempt to become more like God. After all, God had ordained them as His image bearers, but they wanted to do it their way. So, instead of choosing to listen to God and do it His way, they listened to the enemy of their souls. Perhaps they thought this was a better way? Well, it wasn’t God’s way. But isn’t that often how it goes? Sometimes we doubt God’s way and trust that little voice in our heads, and it changes everything.
Ever since that fateful day, God has been calling His beloved children back to his arms and back into His good favor. Not so that we can straighten ourselves out and earn that favor. No, it’s so that He can drape us in His own robe of righteousness, covering the sin of our rebellion. When we kneel humbly at His feet He places that Robe on us and raises us up. He returns to us the ring of His authority, the authority we have in Christ Jesus, as well as the promise that restores our identity as His beloved. He brings us shoes, signifying that we are no longer slaves but children of God, reaping all the benefits bestowed upon us by our good good Father.
There is a profound change that takes place in us when we choose His ways over our ways and turn from our sins to embrace His love. Our sins are blotted out, and refreshing moments flow from the LORD. He takes delight in His sons and daughters when we turn to Him and return to His loving presence.
I crave more of those times of refreshing! How about you?
Written by: Gay Idle
We all long to have a relationship with the one person with whom we will feel safe, secure, accepted, respected, cherished, wanted, and encouraged to be all we can be...shall I go on? Most seem to be either looking to find that ideal relationship or longing for it while feeling stuck in one that doesn't seem to live up to any of those expectations.
So many people I know see more faults than strengths in the person they have chosen to spend the rest of their life with. It's amazing to me that we can think positively in so many other areas of our lives…even giving most friends the courtesy of trying to think the best of them in the most trying of circumstances...yet when it comes to our spouse...we turn into "negative Nellie's". As a result, so many women, and men jump ship before really trying to figure out what is going on in their relationship.
If you want to have a good relationship, a ten...then don't be a five...what are you bringing to your relationship? Maybe we should put into practice the verse that is referred to as the golden rule..."Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Luke 6:31. As clinical psychologist, Dr. Henry Cloud says, " If we want the great things that relationships offer-like love, security, and growth-then we have to be capable of building love, providing security, and fostering growth. When we are, we can have the relationships we want. Until we are, great relationships will elude us.". That’ll preach! Imagine if we all took those words to heart and acted on them. All men and women...wow...can you imagine the results?
If you are single and looking for "the one", don't allow all of your energy to be focused on the pursuit. Your energy needs to be focused on "being" the one. Pay attention to the person you are becoming. Do you have healthy relationship skills, healthy coping skills? Work on developing skills that will give you the kind of relationship you want. Yes, it is important to find the right person, but if you are not the right person you will just bring the other one down to your level. "Relationships fail when the skills to make them work are not present in one or both of the people involved."~ Dr. Henry Cloud,
If you are married please know that I am not saying that if you work on yourself and practice treating your spouse the way you would want to be treated then all your marital problems will be solved. I know that it takes more than one to make marriage work. But you do have to start with you. In your relationship with your spouse, the only one you have control over is you.
I have said this many times as I have taught and counseled women throughout the years...we cannot be our husband’s Holy Spirit! Last time I checked that job has already been filled by One who is so much more capable and powerful in His influence than we could ever hope to be.
So what do we do?
Go humbly before God and ask for His wisdom and His knowledge in how best to grow in your relationship with God and in your relationship with your spouse. This is not a once-and-done deal. I’ve been praying for the entire 40 years of my marriage. I have learned that I can better love my spouse, and be more loveable when my relationship with God is my #1 priority.
Make sure you are taking the time to connect with each other. Communicate your thoughts, feelings, and needs honestly and take the time to listen to his needs. You don’t have to be in complete agreement on every issue. Pick your battles wisely and learn to agree to disagree when necessary.
Stop expecting your spouse to think the way you do. God created each of you to be unique in so many ways. Learn how those differences can complement one another instead of competing against one another. Side note: No one can read your mind…not even your spouse. You need to let them know how and what you are thinking. Assumptions can be the cause of many an argument.
Want to feel more connected to your spouse? Make a habit of expressing thankfulness to your spouse for those things they do that you appreciate. Focus on those positive aspects of your relationship. Gratefulness breeds contentment. It’s so easy to see the things in your spouse that drive you crazy…all the quirks and irritating habits, traits, etc…but if you don’t have the power to change those things (and you don’t), then quit pointing them out to them and to yourself. Practice gratitude. Sometimes we have to dig to find the gold, but unless you are married to a narcissistic psychopath…it’s there. Just keep digging.
Life happens…there will be lots of ups and downs. Just when you feel settled, you move. Just when you get used to having kids around all.the.time. They move out…and then you miss having them around.
Don’t stay stuck in past memories. Yes, revisit those memories from time to time. The good memories are nostalgic and the bad memories taught us lessons that were needed…but either way…don’t stay stuck in your memories. Move forward. Marriage is meant to be lived. All living things change. Adapting to change builds resilience in your marriage. Change brings adventure!
Not one of us operates in perfection. Mistakes happen. Sins are committed against one another. Slights occur. Grievances can be seared into our souls. I for one am so thankful that not only can I forgive, but I can be forgiven. We need to learn to let go of our grudges and work together to move forward. Forgiveness can be a hard issue. I’ve written an entire article about this…here’s an excerpt from the article entitled, Forgiveness…Why So Hard?
When you refuse to forgive you are giving the person who hurt you permission to hurt you all over again...in your mind, your memory. Every. single. time. you dredge up the offense you are allowing yourself to be hurt all over again. Bitterness becomes embedded into your heart and soul and becomes a heavy burden.
You see...when we forgive we are not letting the person get away with anything. We are not setting the offender free! It's okay to hold someone accountable that you have already forgiven. It is even okay, to set boundaries so that you cannot be wounded by that person in the same way again. However, it is NOT okay to hang onto the anger, bitterness, and hurt for the rest of your life.
Practice forgiveness with your spouse. Forgiveness restores marriages. Forgiveness restores your soul and gives you hope for a better future and opens the way for a deep and abiding love.
But…you may say, what if my spouse is not cooperating in all this?
Sometimes it’s necessary to take more extreme measures. So, with the help of godly counsel, we create the crisis that may be needed to nudge our spouse to wake up to the fact that they have married a daughter of the KING OF KINGS, who is worthy of his adoration, respect, love, protection...need I go on?
What are you looking for in order to be happy and content in your marriage? Where do you place all your expectations? On you, or your spouse? Should we be expecting our significant other to complete us?
My husband is fond of pointing out my very own words on this matter. Words I once blurted out to him earlier in our marriage in frustration, "I can't be your everything...I will never be the one to completely fulfill you, nor should I try to be...only God can do that."
Are you allowing God to fill in the empty spaces? Those spaces are God-shaped holes and no human being on this earth will ever be able to completely fill them up. So let your spouse off the hook and let God, in His perfect love and compassion, complete you.
"I have loved you with an everlasting love" ~ GOD (Jeremiah 31:3)
Written by: Gay Idle
Legacy. What we leave behind. When I think of legacy I don't think of material possessions. I think about the influence I have had on my friends and family, but most importantly on my own children and grandchildren.
As parents, we want our children to be happy, healthy, and emotionally whole. We want to see them grow into strong responsible adults who are able to stand on their own in this world. Everyone around us wants to tell us how to raise and educate our kids, and how to let them develop their own sense of self. But we cannot leave the training and the nurturing of our children to others.
In Psalm 127:3-5a we read that,
"Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from Him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one's youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them."
Your kids are your heritage...which is just another word for legacy. They are a blessing from God and their upbringing is an awesome responsibility.
You brought them into the world, so now it is your task(as parents) to take care of them, nurture them, train them, and teach them.
They are, after all, your children. Not your parents, or relatives, not the government's, the church, the daycare, or the school teacher’s.
It's an awesome task...and a little more than scary when you realize you have those precious lives in your hands. You, and your spouse, together, have the sole responsibility to show them how to work towards reaching adulthood as mature, responsible, God-fearing, and God-loving adults.
Contrary to what the world wants us to believe, it does not 'take a village to raise a child.' Sure, there will be many others along the way that will have some influence over your kids. And let's face it...we all need help now and then. But you are, you can be, and should be your child's primary influencer.
Deuteronomy says it this way...
"The Lord your God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." (Deut. 6:4-9).
The MOST IMPORTANT thing that we as parents can do for our children is to love the Lord...with all our heart, soul, and strength. Jesus says this again in the New Testament...in Matthew 22 beginning in verse 37 He says this,
" 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment."
This is where we are to lead from...the love that we have for our spouse and our children should be a reflection of our love for God and His love for us.
It takes intentional parenting to do that. You can't just take each day as it comes and hope for the best.
In fact, it is difficult, if not impossible, to succeed in a task without having a goal clearly in mind. As the saying goes, "If you aim at nothing, you'll hit it every time."
Psalm 127 not only tells us that our children are our legacy, it tells us that they are like arrows in the hands of a warrior. So that arrow is a weapon. They are not meant to be kept safe in the quiver...eventually, we have to release the arrow and hope that it makes an impact on the world with the love of Christ.
This really got me thinking and I did some research on Archery and I was a bit amazed at how the analogy flows from this discipline of raising our children to love the Lord.
Children as Arrows
So, what do we do with an arrow?
We hit the mark! But what is the mark for our children? To love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength.
So how do we get there?
Instinct in archery is not just a pull-and-let-her-rip technique...rather it is something mastered through repetition and time. The sole focus is on the spot you want to hit, all the while being conscious of the arrow's tip in relation to that spot. In this way, you use the arrow's tip as a sighting aid. However, you don't look at the arrow itself...the arrow is in your peripheral vision.
The basics are all there...a solid anchor point and the right amount of back tension, and proper form that creates a steady and stable platform to draw, hold, and release that arrow. “Form” is the foundation that your shot is built on ...if your foundation is shaky the rest of your shot will be unstable. Having a repeatable shot in the foundations of archery is the same no matter what method you use. Learning to shoot with a traditional bow represents a tremendous time investment.
So what does that have to do with our kids being arrows in our quivers?
If we are the archer then in order to draw, hold, and release we have to look at our form.
So if “form” is the foundation that your shot is built on then what does that look like for us as parents?
The basics of form:
The anchor point in archery is a specific place to create consistency in your shot. It's the spot where you pull the arrow back to the face and maybe even touch the cheek with your index finger to know you're in the right spot.
As parents, our anchor point has to be our own relationship with God. That place where we touch the face of God. Where we consistently read and study His word and apply it to our own lives until we become hungry for His word...where we make it a habit to include God in every part of our lives and talk with Him throughout our day.
We have to hold fast to that anchor in order to be consistent in our parenting. So as we stand firm in His Word we are able to remain consistent in what we are teaching our kids.
This consistency helps us teach our children:
What are we aiming for? What are our goals as parents? Other than the general goals of caring for, feeding, cleaning, and keeping them alive. We have to think long-term. What kind of adult will they turn out to be...even more importantly...where will they spend eternity? That's why Form is so important...it sets us up to hit that target.
In Instinctual Archery, as you look at your target you can see everything else in your peripheral vision. That Site Picture is what you use to line up your shot. In other words, you are not looking at the arrow. You focus on the target while catching the arrow's alignment with your peripheral vision. (It's a little like throwing a ball...you look at where you want the ball to go...you don't look at the ball).
Darryl Quiddort, a bow hunter who was an Instinct shooter, thought he could shoot in the dark. So, to prove this, he set up a scenario in his basement where he literally could not see his hand in front of his face and attempted to shoot at a laser pointer. He shot wide of his mark. As he set up to shoot another arrow he realized that he was consciously looking for something to line up with. He finally admitted, "I need enough light for my subconscious mind to line up that shot...I can't shoot in the dark."
Our focus should be where our child will put his or her trust. As we focus on Christ and the wisdom of His word we are putting our trust in Him. We have to be intentional in this...we can't just wing it. And we can't just trust that our own relationship with Christ will magically transfer itself to our children. We can't just shoot in the dark. It is imperative that we intentionally point our children to the light of Christ and His Word.
Arrows aren't meant to remain in the quiver forever...to be coddled and protected. Eventually, they are to be launched into the world. Your children are God's gift to you. You have been entrusted to prepare them for the launch. To be God's gift to someone else. To impact the world for Christ. Your legacy will become someone else's legacy. Someone's salvation...their eternity...is depending on it.
Written by: Gay Idle
From the very beginning of time, boundaries have been set.
In creation, God set everything in place… The waters of the seas had boundaries so that the boundary of land could be set. He separated the light from the darkness to set the boundaries of day and night…the sun, the moon, and the stars were set in place as signs to mark seasons, days, and years. Boundaries helped define each part of creation. And it was all good (Genesis 1:18b).
Adam and Eve were created and placed in the Garden of Eden and given responsibilities. Basically, God showed them what they were responsible for…they were given boundaries.
Now we all know what choice they made. But did you ever wonder why God set these boundaries in place? Was it just to arbitrarily give them a test to see if they would be obedient? Was it to test their love for their creator God?
I’m just speculating here, but maybe it was to define them as set apart from the rest of creation. Created in the image of God, yet not in place of God.
Maybe God was saying, “This is who you are. This is what defines you. What makes you…you. And what sets Me apart…what makes Me…God. I can handle the knowledge of good and evil and remain who I AM. But if you eat it, it will bring about change that will redefine your spirit and soul.”
So how do we look at boundaries in our world today? Boundaries in the physical world are easy to see. They are marked by lines, signs, fences, hedges, and more. They tell us where someone’s property begins and ends. We are not responsible for that property, but the owner is responsible. It can be easy to see boundaries such as physical property lines. But the boundaries that define our soul, the spiritual boundaries can be harder to discern.
Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend talk about this in their book titled, yep, you guessed it…Boundaries: When To Say Yes How To Say No To Take Control Of Your Life. Here are a few gems from the second chapter:
“... boundaries define your soul, and they help you guard it and maintain it (Prov. 4:23).”
“Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership.”
So in relationships, our boundaries tell us what we are responsible for and what we are not responsible for. For instance, the Bible tells us we are to have self-control. Townsend and Cloud make the argument that “We are not…responsible for other people. Nowhere are we commanded to have “other-control,” although we spend a lot of time and energy trying to get it!” He goes on to make the point that, “we are responsible to others and for ourselves.” This responsibility to one another is commanded of us in Galatians 6:2.
“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
Sometimes our burdens are just too heavy to carry and we need help and support from others. Christ, in dying on the cross for our sins, carried the burden of our sins to the cross in an amazing demonstration of sacrificial love. Doing for us, what we cannot do for ourselves. The light of his sacrificial love shines from within us when we give of ourselves to help someone who does not have the strength or resources to carry the load of their own personal burden.
So where am I going with all of this? This is such a huge topic we could write an entire book about it…or maybe a series of books. But wait…that’s been done.
I guess, in my mind, the bottom line is that boundaries give us the freedom to be who we were created to be. If you want to understand how to attain that freedom, go to God’s Word. Dig in deep and uncover the truths of Who He is and who you are. Know the boundaries that God has set for you in His Word. They will help you in setting your own boundaries in your relationships, in knowing who you are and who you are not.
When we know the truth of God’s Word, we know the truth of who we truly are in relation to who He truly is. Instead of feeling limited by His Word, you will find true freedom and peace in a world filled with the confusion of so many souls striving to live without boundaries.
Who are you allowing to fill your cup? Who is setting your boundaries? Who is redefining your spirit and soul?
“Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;
you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.
I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”
~ Psalm 16:5-8.
I pray for you that your boundary lines will fall in pleasant places!
Written By: Gay Idle
We are living in times that demand that we all be extraordinary.
Just look at social media.
So many are striving to make a name for themselves…or build a platform for their business. Saying, in essence, “look at me…I’m special…watch my reels…do what I do…buy what I buy, or buy what I’ve created…it’s extraordinary…I’m extraordinary…you too, can be extraordinary!”
This leaves us feeling anything but extraordinary as we compare ourselves to all the others on social media who seem to be living idyllic lives, with their seemingly angelic children, spotlessly organized homes, amazing pets, and beautiful smiles. We watch as people claim, either to have never experienced any hardships because they have it all figured out, or say that their hardships are well behind them and now they are prepared to sail off into a perfectly, peacefully settled sunset…and help you do the same. Uggghhh! Do you ever feel like it is all just TOO MUCH?!
Unless we realize that comparison indeed can be the thief of joy, we are at risk of joining the vast numbers of people finding themselves dealing with depression as a result of all this excessive social media mania.
Yes, there are many truly good resources to be found on social media platforms. Some resources are sources of encouragement and are there to spur us on to not just be our “best selves”, but to press into who God has created us to be. We at Pretty & Wise strive to help women live bravely and boldly into their calling. And most of us have lived long enough lives to realize this truism …
“Hardships often prepare ordinary people for extraordinary destiny.” ~ Reepicheep, the film version of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
Yes. It is true that God calls us to proclaim his goodness through hardships and trials. But, that is not the only way He shows Himself in the process of our journey through this life.
Most often, God calls us in the midst of our ordinary so that He might accomplish His extraordinary purposes.
How do I know this? We see so many individuals throughout scripture just living their ordinary lives when God calls them out to accomplish His extraordinary purposes. People like Joseph, Moses, David, Esther, and so many more. They weren’t called because they were extraordinary, but because our amazing God called them to accomplish extraordinary things to accomplish His will. He did not call them because they were already equipped with all they needed to carry out His will. It is God, Himself, who accomplishes the work through those who are willing to place themselves into His miracle-working hands.
James reiterates this point when he tells us that
“Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth” (James 5:17).
Did you get that? He was a man ‘with a nature like ours’. He surely doubted his own abilities, but He trusted God was true to His Word and because of that, God did a mighty miracle on his behalf.
So let’s look back at what influences we are allowing into our lives and the messages they bring. Is it the prevalent message that life is to be lived as an over-the-top adventure that will bring amazing rewards? The ‘go for the gusto’, ‘be all you can be’, and ‘be your best self’? We think that aspiring to these great heights will help us to build the beautifully fulfilled life that we all crave. But when we fail or when we fall, we are left wondering…what the heck?! We have set ourselves up for a deep discontent that digs itself deep into our souls.
So what are we to do? As Christians, we should aspire to live a life that is worthy of the calling we have received (Ephesians 4:1). Our aim is to please God, not because we want His favor but because of our love for Him. God does not shine His favor on us because of our own accomplishments, but because of His great love for us. That’s such a relief to me when I feel that I’m failing on so many levels.
I believe that God calls us as we are going about our daily life…in the midst of our ordinary…when we are actively seeking His presence in the midst of meetings at work, doing the dishes, changing diapers, or folding laundry. We need to get in the habit of acknowledging His presence in every moment.
God is not just there for us in the trials and hard moments of life. He is with us in the dailies, in every moment of our ordinary lives. Living into our simple and ordinary life provides the springboard to discovering innumerable opportunities for extraordinary faithfulness, obedience, and devotion to God.
In his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul is instructing believers to live their life in a way that will please God. He is in fact commending them for obediently living out God’s commands and urging them to stay strong (Thess. 4:1-8). He goes on to commend them for their love for one another and urges them to do more so in verse 9. And finally, in verse 11 we read this,
“Aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, ”
Lead a quiet life
Mind your own affairs
Work with your hands
Our aspiration…our ambition…the drive within us…should be to lead a quiet life. Not be a busybody. Do simple work. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like heaven to me. So excuse me while I go live in a cottage on the beach, do some vocal coaching, and work on my book! Well…maybe not. We’re not called to live this way in order to turn away from the world. The very next verse tells us why this is important.
“...so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.” vs. 12
To walk properly before outsiders. It’s all about our witness in this world. We are to live lives of integrity so that our witness for Christ is credible. This is what living this one ordinary life is all about.
1 Timothy 2:1-2 bears this out:
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”
In the midst of our ordinary moments, He calls us deeper still to something beyond what we are able to accomplish on our own. It’s hard to imagine that God calls us out of the daily tasks of everyday life…and yet He does.
Zechariah, in talking about God’s pleasure in the construction of the temple states this, “Who [with reason] despises the day of small things (beginnings)?” (Zechariah 4:10a, AMP).
Who indeed? The temple of God is the place where the Holy Spirit resides. Today the Holy Spirit resides in believers. “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”
Please, let’s not despise this one ordinary life we have been given. We all begin somewhere. No matter how small and insignificant our daily routines may seem to be…this one ordinary life will be the vessel through which God accomplishes HIS extraordinary purpose.
written By: Gay Idle
Have you ever found yourself shifting between adapting to the subtle (or not so subtle) lies of the culture in which we live and the truth found in the Bible? It can be easy to condition our thinking to the path of least resistance because we can become weary of truth-splaining. When this becomes our default way of thinking it becomes easier to just do what we’re told…even when what we are told is a lie from the enemy of our souls.
But God calls us to do so much more than live in the misery of Satan’s lies. He calls us into His truth. Jesus said that when we abide in His Word, we will know the truth and it is that truth that sets us free (John 8:31-32). And sometimes that truth calls us to step out and take a bold risk.
We find two such audacious women stepping out in the first chapter of Exodus.
Exodus begins with Jacob’s descendants multiplying rapidly in Egypt and a new ruler in place who has no respect for the Israelites and no memory of Joseph and what he had done. As a matter of fact, he seemed to be so fearful of the sheer numbers of the Israelites that he put them in forced labor.
“So the Egyptians made the Israelites their slaves and put brutal slave drivers over them, hoping to wear them down under heavy burdens. They forced them to build the cities of Pithom and Rameses as supply centers for the king” (Exodus 1:11).
But the more the Egyptians oppressed them, the more they multiplied! This was alarming to the Egyptians so they made their work even harder. They were cruel taskmasters.
“Then Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, gave this order to the Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah and Puah: ‘When you help the Hebrew women give birth, kill all the boys as soon as they are born. Allow only the baby girls to live.’ But because the midwives feared God, they refused to obey the king and allowed the boys to live, too.” (Exodus 1:15-17).
Did you catch that? At the risk of their own safety, Shiphrah and Puah defied Pharoah’s evil edict to kill the baby boys. They feared God more than they feared Pharoah. Because these women revered God more than the current ruler and his wicked law they had the courage to step out and do the righteous thing. They took the high road and saved the lives of many Hebrew infants. And so we read in verse 20: “So God blessed the midwives, and the Israelites continued to multiply, growing more and more powerful. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own.”
God honored these women for their bravery. They were given the dignity of being named in God’s word. Notice the Pharoah is not honored in this way as he is not identified by name. In the big picture of God’s story, these women are more important than the King of Egypt.
And why? By defying the king’s order, these gutsy women set in motion the story of the Exodus, the story of how God was going to free the Israelites from slavery. We read in the second chapter of Exodus that it was during this time that Moses was born. And it was very likely the actions of these two midwives saved the life of baby Moses. It is also very likely that the bravery of Shiphra and Puah inspired Jochebed, Moses’ mother, to be courageous enough to further protect him by hiding him for three months, and then setting him off to his destiny in a basket along the edge of the Nile River. Moses grows up and goes on to deliver the Hebrew people from slavery.
So what does that mean for us?
As I write this I keep thinking of Fred Roger’s mother telling him that when he saw really scary news on television to “Look for the helpers”. Shiphrah and Puah were the helpers…the ‘ezers’ (Hebrew word for ‘helper’). Women are called to be ezers. There are many nuances in the word ‘ezer’, but in one sense it means “rescuer”. We, God’s women, are called as image bearers of God to be ezers. To be ready when God calls us to do the right and righteous thing.
We need to look for the ezers. Those women who are walking out the call that God has placed on their lives…as Shiprah and Puah did. When we read the stories of these brave women…when we see other women stepping out boldly for truth, we too can be inspired to courageously step out.
When those around us are suffering because they have believed the lies of the enemy…we need to be ready. And sometimes we need to love God enough to break the rules.
Written by: Gay Idle
So much has been wrapped up in her story in the garden.
We have placed so much emphasis on the fall of man, i.e. Eve, that we have lost who she was created to be. We tend to find our identity within the fallen Eve. So much so that we attach that identity, (the fallen Eve), to the way God created woman to function, and in turn to ourselves.
For the sake of brevity and getting a true grounding in who we as women were created to be, I want to look at Eve before the fall. Before sin entered the world. Eve…as God’s Image Bearer and as man’s strong Ezer.
A side note about sin entering the world: Scriptures indicate that sometime between the creation week and the fall of man in the garden Satan and ⅓ of the angels rebelled against God and were thrown down to earth. This rebellion had to take place after the creation week because God pronounced on each day that what He had created was good, including man(i.e. Humankind: man and woman). If rebellion had entered before creation, through Satan, I hardly think God would have pronounced it good. Satan was a created being, as were the angels who followed him in his rebellion. Satan, as a created being, was pronounced good. Ezekiel 28:15 says of Satan, “you were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you.” So that gives us a little background to consider what happened. Satan as well as humans had the ability to choose to obey God, or turn from Him. It was his own prideful desire that led him to his rebellion. So sin was not a created thing, but rather a choice to follow our own desire over God’s desire for us. When we choose our own desire over and against God’s desire for us then we can blame no one but ourselves, not God and not even Satan.
Now let’s get back to Eve before the fall. If we want to know who God created the very first woman in all of creation to be, we have to get back to Genesis…in the beginning…before the fall, before that serpent slithered onto the scene.
“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. ” Genesis 1:26-28 (emphasis mine).
Did you get that? The designation, ‘man’ in the first part of these verses is referring to mankind…both man and woman. And man, as male and female were created to be the image bearers of God.
Eve… as Image Bearer
The fallen view of a woman says that she is a temptress, or at the very least that she is morally weak and unable to withstand Satan’s scheme. After just one bite of the forbidden fruit, we forget that the female was originally created equal to her male counterpart as an image bearer of our creator almighty God. Yet the blueprint for the woman is found before that fatal bite. She was created to be God’s image bearer…in His image and likeness.
Let’s dive into that scripture a bit more. It begins with the words, “Then God said, Let us …”, so here we see God basically in discussion with Himself. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit…the triune God were all present and active in creation. That’s one God in three. It’s where we get the concept of the Trinity. I don’t have the space or bandwidth to dive into that concept in this article, but we see in this that God, who is in relationship with Himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, created us for relationship as well. There is no hierarchy within the Godhead. Therefore there is no hierarchy in the relationship between man and woman. God created man, male and female, as one flesh and they were given one name. Man.
“This is the written account of Adam’s line. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female and blessed them. And when they were created, he called them ‘man.’" Genesis 5:1-2 (added emphasis).
In referring to the one name ‘man’, Herbert Lockyer, in his book All the Women of the Bible, says it this way, “This inclusive name implies that the divine ideal for man and wife is not merely that of association but an indissoluble unity. God made them ‘one flesh’ and gave them one name.”
So in unity, they share in the role of being God’s image bearer. And as such, God blessed them and then gave them the mandate to be fruitful and multiply, to rule and subdue the earth. As His own image bearers, God gave them the same name (Adam=man), the same blessing, and the same function.
We are given the invitation as God’s image bearers to learn all we can about Him. To fully know Him and be fully known by Him. To know and be fully known is the desire of every man and woman’s heart isn’t it? Only God can fill this seemingly insatiable need. Insatiable, because we seem to look to everyone and everything but God to fulfill that role in our lives. As God’s image bearers…we were created to intimately know and walk with God and to be a reflection of His character. Our great high calling is to make Him known.
Eve… As ezer
As God’s image bearers we are to be in strong and healthy relationships with one another. The second chapter of Genesis gives us further understanding of man in relation to woman. We see in this account how Eve, as an image bearer of God reflects the ‘ezer’ facet of God’s character.
Here we read again (the same story as Chapter 1, but in greater detail), the story of the creation of man. God created man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and take care of it (Genesis 2:15). And then God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18). And so God brought all creatures he had created to Adam to see what he would name them (Genesis 2:19). Still no suitable helper was found. The created animals were not suitable for only man was the image bearer of God.
“So the LORD caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, for she was taken out of man.’ For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked and they felt no shame.” Genesis 2:21-25.
Note that ‘woman’ was not her name. She was called ‘woman’ because she was taken out of man (literally part of man), this was more of a general designation than an actual name. Remember further on in Genesis 5:2 we read, “male and female he created them…and called them Adam.” So the first woman came out of man. She is the female part of man, God’s image bearer…and at this point man (who was two in one), becomes two separate physical beings. This, I believe, is part of the mystery of God’s creation that is so hard to wrap our heads around. So I am just trying to lay it out as I have found it written in His Word.
Also, note that we don’t even know her as Eve at this point in the creation story. Adam renames her Eve after the fall. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
In Genesis verse 20, we read, “no suitable helper was found” for Adam. What exactly does that mean? In this passage, the word helper in the original language is Ezer (pronounced ay-zer). The word helper in our English language does not adequately render the true meaning of this word. On its surface, we might think it just means that woman was created as a lowly servant. And so we might then derive that woman is subservient to man. Some people think that the first woman, and therefore all women in general, were created to be nothing more than sidekicks to men…basically subordinate assistants. But this could not be further from the truth. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible gives us this definition for helper:
5826 - ‘azer - aw’ - to surround i.e.) protect or aid. Help, succour.
Biblical scholars have pointed out that the word ezer is used on 16 separate occasions in the Old Testament in reference to God. These are times of powerful acts of God as man’s rescuer, protector, helper/ezer in times of trouble and need.
Moses named one of his sons Eliezer. In Hebrew, this means “My God is my helper”, (Eli = my God” Ezer = “my helper”). In Exodus 18:4 we learn that Moses named his son Eliezer because God had powerfully delivered Moses from Pharoah’s sword.
Ezer has also been found to be a powerful Hebrew military word. So, instead of seeing the first woman as a weaker counterpart to man, we see her as a warrior, created to be man’s strong helper. Wow…just wow!
Adam was in need of an ezer. One who would come alongside him in this spiritual war zone. They were about to face their adversary. And while it didn’t quite turn out the way we would have hoped, nevertheless this team was God’s choice. And it still is…we are still in a war zone.
And so what does all this mean? It is clear that the intention of God in creating humankind was for men and women to be working together as equal partners in God’s created world. God created them and blessed them.
Just as the first woman was, we too are God’s image bearers and ezers. And so, we are to love God with our whole hearts. When we do that it leads us to love our neighbors (beginning with the men in our lives) as ourselves. While sin entered the world and wrecked creation as it was meant to be, God made a way through the seed of woman…Jesus Christ… to redeem and restore all of creation to its original purpose. Because of His great sacrifice, we are not bound to the effects of sin. We are not bound to the strife and struggle of man against woman/woman against man … that began all the way back in the garden when that serpent slithered onto the scene. We need only to take Him as our Lord and Savior, to turn from our own sin, and turn back to God to begin to reclaim this world once again as the Kingdom of God. Let’s do it! Let’s advance the Kingdom of God on earth!!
Thank you, Jesus!
Written By: Gay Idle
So, I have a confession to make. When we, the Pretty & Wise team, began talking about the idea of writing about women of the Bible I was not feeling super enthusiastic about the assignment. I mean…writing about women of the Bible…
All. Year. Long.
Hasn’t this been done? Entire books have been dedicated to this. Don’t we know enough already?
The answer to that last question is a resounding NO! Let me tell you. I’ve been participating in and teaching women’s bible studies for many many years now…I’m 64…do the math. The problem is I think I thought I knew more than I actually know. Imagine that. And while I think I did know a lot, maybe a tad bit more than the average Christian woman, I didn’t know what I didn’t know and what I did know was not all there was to know. Someone has said that studying the Bible is like peeling an onion. As you remove each layer another layer is revealed. Its aroma becomes more pronounced and you may even tear up a bit.
After writing about Esther, Ruth, the woman with the alabaster jar, and Phoebe, I’m finding that each time I revisit these familiar stories God is opening my eyes to new insights and challenges. I’m learning to peel back the layers. Now, with each woman of the Bible that I set out to discover anew, God is showing me things no one has ever taught me. And I have a bible college degree for crying out loud. But because of this God is lighting a fire in my bones to bring to light what He is showing me in His Word about these women. I believe somehow, through the years, so many of us have missed the boat in not realizing the importance of women and their calling to advance God’s kingdom here on earth.
One such woman, a prophet, is written about in one of my favorite accounts in the Old Testament. You can read the full account in two passages, as they both recount the story of Josiah the King and Huldah, the prophetess: 2 Kings 22: 1-20 and 2 Chronicles 34. Go ahead and read it now.
Josiah is one of my favorite Kings. Why? Because he had such a heart for God from an early age. He became king at age 8, he was 16 when he began seeking the Lord, and when he was 20 he began purging the land of all the forms of idol worship…tearing down the altars of Baal (false gods), destroying the images, the Asherah poles, and all other forms of Idol worship.
So where did this passion come from? Certainly not his father or even his grandfather. 2 Kings 21:6 tells us that his grandfather Manasseh, “sacrificed his own son in the fire, practiced sorcery and divination, and consulted mediums and spirits. He did much evil in the eyes of the LORD, provoking Him to anger.” Furthermore, we read this of his Josiah’s own father in verses 21-22: “He walked in all the ways of his father; he worshipped the idols his father had worshipped, and bowed down to them. He forsook the LORD, the God of his fathers, and did not walk in the way of the LORD.”
We’re not really told in these passages where Josiah got his passion for the LORD. I wonder if perhaps it was his mother? It can be speculated from a cross reference to Zephaniah 1:1 that he heard and was moved by Zephaniah’s prophecies of judgement against Judah and Jerusalem. In this reference we read that… ”the Word of the LORD came to Zephaniah…in the days of Josiah, son of Amon, king of Judah.” Zephaniah 2:1-3 tells us that he is calling the people to seek the LORD before the day of the LORD comes upon them.
In any case, Josiah was a man who sought after the heart of God. So, when Josiah was 26 years old he began implementing repairs to the temple of Jerusalem because it had obviously been neglected for many years.
As they were repairing the temple, the workers discovered a scroll and brought it to Hilkiah who was the high priest serving in the temple. Hilkiah told Shaphan, the king’s secretary: “I have found the book of the law in the house of the LORD” (2 Kings 22:8). Shaphan read the book and then took it back to the King and read the scroll to him.
When Josiah heard the words from the book of the Law he tore his robes in despair and remorse because he realized that his nation had fallen far from God’s laws. He then sends a delegation of 5 of his most trusted men …Hilkiah, the high priest, Ahikam, son of Shaphan, Achbor, son of Micaiah(a prophet), Shaphan, the secretary of state, and Asaiah(the king’s officer) with this charge: “...inquire of the LORD for me and for the people and for all Judah what is written in this book that has been found.” He needed to determine whether or not the scroll was authentic.
Inspite of the fact that Jeremiah and Zephaniah were well known prophets at the time, the delegation went directly to Huldah, the prophetess who lived in Jerusalem near the temple. She must have been highly respected because she was not sent for, as was customarily done with people who were subordinate to the king. It also seems that these men had no problem seeking the counsel of a woman prophet.
Huldah boldy proclaimed the Word of the LORD to these men…and probably whoever else was with them. Three times she pronounced, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel says…” This proclamation shows that she knew that she was called to speak for God. She proclaimed that God was going to bring His judgement on the people of Judah because of their failure to obey his Word and because they worshipped false gods. But because Josiah had humbled himself before God she proclaimed that he, personally, would not see the disaster come upon the nation. (You can read her full prophecy here: 2 Chronicles 34:23-28).
Everything that Huldah prophecied aligns with the character of God, the nature of sin, and the extent to which the people of Judah had sinned against God. And her message confirmed that this document that had been found in the temple was indeed the Word of the LORD.
**Side note: Many believe this document to have been the book of Deuteronomy. Think about that. They had fallen so far from God that they had lost the book of Deuteronomy. The very book that carried the commands of God to His people.
The men delivered Huldah’s answer to the king. And Josiah accepted the message. He called all the people of Judah together to the temple of Jerusalam and he read to them the “Book of the Covenant” which had been found in the temple of the Lord. He renewed the covenant and had everyone in Jerusalem and Benjamin pledge themselves to it. And as the passage concludes, “As long as he lived, they did not fail to follow the Lord, the God of their ancestors.”
This is a remarkable story in the Old Testament that I would venture to guess many have never been taught. Have you ever heard the name of Huldah taught in Sunday School? Did you know that there was a time in history when God’s Word had been lost?
Deuteronomy 17:18, one of the many verses Josiah would have heard Shaphan read, tells us that when the king is established on his throne he is to write for himself a copy of the law on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests (insures accuracy). The next two verses are key:
“It shall be with him and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, by carefully observing all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted up above his countrymen and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, to the right or the left, so that he and his sons may continue long in his kingdom in the midst of Israel.”
It is obvious that this was news to Josiah. His father and grandfather before him both failed to follow God’s Word on this. It had been ignored for so long that it had gotten lost. LOST in the house of the LORD. How does this even happen?
But it did…and I fear it is happening today. Do we truly know who we are talking to when we call on the name of the LORD God almighty? Do we have a passion for His Word…enough passion to make us walk in obedience to it? To do away with the idols of this present world…to humbly step away from the siren call to self worship? Do you know others who proclaim Christ, but seem to be walking away from His path as fast as their feet can carry them?
If God is tugging at your heart to bring His message to this lost and dying world then it’s time to step up. Speak up. We have a privilege that those kings of the Old Testament did not have. They consulted the prophets in order to understand the Word of the LORD. We who are in Christ Jesus have the indwelling of God’s Spirit. We have a responsibility to come to God’s Word seeking wisdom from His Spirit as we read, study and apply it to ourselves and speak it to everyone within our sphere of influence. We have the very Word of God, Jesus Christ, dwelling within us. We are the temple. Has the Word been lost in the temple?
Huldah allowed herself to be used of God…to be a conduit for His very words. That is, after all, the role of the prophet. God used her to bring back His Word to the temple. Although it had been there the whole time and no one knew.
One of the mantles that God has placed on my life is to call people back to the heart of God…back into a right relationship with God. What about you? What is the calling God has placed on your life? How are you using what God has given you to effectively advance His kingdom?
My prayer is that God will continue to open our eyes to the treasures that can be found in His Word. That we peel back the layers to discover the great and unsearchable things that can only be revealed through God’s Word.
“Call to me, and I will answer and show you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” Jeremiah 33:3
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.
By gay Idle
There is a passage in Luke that highlights the actions of an unnamed woman. Actions that point to a heart of true repentance and faith. This short story is found in Luke 7:36-50.
If you are not familiar with the story, it begins with Jesus being invited to the house of Simon the Pharisee. A God follower, a rule follower, a man very aware of the necessity of the need for repentance, but whose heart, perhaps, was more focused on never needing repentance in the first place. After all, he was not a ‘sinner’. As a Pharisee, he was known for following the letter of the law. And because of that he “rejected the plan of God” (verse 30) for himself. Some think that Simon was truly interested in what Jesus had to say. Maybe. We are not told why he invited Jesus to dine at his house. Jesus accepted the invitation. He went into Simon's house and reclined at the table. (In that time it was customary to recline, or sort of half-lay, at the table when eating and conversing). Here was another opportunity to teach the blind.
And then it happened.
“... a woman in the town who was a sinner found out that Jesus was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house. She brought an alabaster jar of fragrant oil and stood behind Him at His feet, weeping, and began to wash His feet with her tears. She wiped His feet with the hair of her head, kissing them and anointing them with the fragrant oil.”
Simon thought to himself, “This man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what kind of woman this is who is touching Him—she’s a sinner!”
But Jesus, knowing Simon’s thoughts, began to address his heart issue with a story.
“Simon, I have something to say to you.”
I wonder if Simon had a fleeting thought at that moment…wondering if Jesus had just heard his very thoughts? But he replied, “Teacher,” he said, “say it.”
Jesus told this story:
“A creditor had two debtors. One owed 500 denari and the other 50. Since they could not pay it back, he graciously forgave them both. So, which of them will love him more?”
Simon answered, “I suppose the one he forgave more.” Jesus replied, “You have judged correctly.”
Then Simon basically got the dressing down of his life from Jesus. When I read this passage I hear Holy authority and a tone of righteous indignation in Jesus’ words. Can you hear it?
Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she, with her tears has washed my feet and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but she hasn’t stopped kissing my feet from the time since I came in. You didn’t anoint my head with olive oil, but she has anointed my feet with fragrant oil. Therefore I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; that’s why she loved much. But the one who is forgiven little, loves little. Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven…Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”
If you are not familiar with the customs of this time, you might not get the whole picture. Most people wore sandals in Palestine or even went barefoot. So when a guest entered your house it was customary for them to leave their sandals at the door. You would greet your guest with a kiss, and offer water to your guests to wash their dusty feet when they entered your house. A towel to dry them. And oil to anoint his/her head. This was often a service provided by the lowliest servant in the house. This service to the guest was not so dirt wouldn’t get tracked. There were no white carpets in the homes then. This was a refreshing way to begin your visit.
Simon neglected to provide these basic common courtesies to Jesus as a guest in his home. Maybe this shows that Simon was questioning whether this Jesus was who He claimed to be. Maybe he didn’t want to be seen accepting Jesus as a truly welcomed guest in his home? Perhaps covering his butt…Ummm…I mean bases. After all, there was a growing antagonism toward Jesus from many of the Pharisees of the time. Can’t be too careful.
It is interesting to note that we don’t know if or how Simon finally responded to this dressing down he received from Jesus. Yet Jesus gives us a glimpse of both hearts, through their response and their interactions with Him.
Simon did not provide…
But the woman who was a sinner? She knew it, she knew they knew it, and she knew she was in the presence of the One who had the power to forgive her sins…though they were many.
I imagine that at some point previously she had heard Jesus teach. Watched His miracles. She knew at her very core that this was the One her soul desired. She watched Him as He graciously welcomed sinners into His fold. And she was a sinner in need of forgiveness.
Her response was a broken and contrite spirit. In his book How To Pray When You don’t Know What to Say, Elmer Towns writes, “... we must have a weeping heart before God. If our eyes are always dry, it means that our soul is also probably dry. And a dry heart eventually becomes a hardened heart.” Her tears were the very avenue to a softened heart before God. Those tears were not the result of a repentant heart…no, they were the sign of a repentant heart. These were the actions of a woman who fully realized her forgiveness. She loved Jesus so much because she had been forgiven much!
How do I know this? Because Jesus’ response to her was this, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” Go in peace. In the original greek this actually says, “Go into peace.” This would be her new existence.
And God’s peace [shall be yours, that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace] which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-8, AMPC
Her heart and mind remained focused on the feet of Jesus. Seven times His feet are mentioned in this passage in Luke. Seven. This number signifies completion, or divine fulfillment. Wow! I’m not even sure of all the implications of this little nugget of information. But I know that when we fall at His feet in worship, we have positioned ourselves to receive forgiveness. We have positioned ourselves before Almighty God, the lifter of our head…the One who restores us. There is no room for pride at the feet of Jesus. We are at His feet to learn from Him…about Him…and about ourselves in relation to Him. And we have positioned ourselves to participate in the celebration of eternal life received through the good news of Jesus Christ.
We are most complete when we have positioned ourselves at the feet of Jesus.
So where are you friend? Who do you relate to in this story? One who has sinned much? Or one who has spent the majority of life striving for sinlessness, yet missing the mark?
Repent then, and turn back, so that your sins may be wiped away, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord…
Lord, make us women who are not afraid to fall at your feet. May our tears break down the wall of pride in our hearts so that we can clearly see the sins that are present in our life. Soften our hearts so that You can use us to reach out to others with open arms and open hearts. May they see the love of Christ in our words, and in our actions. Lord help us to weep tears of repentance...to accept your forgiveness...so that times of refreshing may come. ~ Amen
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