Messy WorkRead Now
Written By: Angie Reese
Lineage of Jesus.
Have you ever played “one of these things is not like the other”? That list makes it pretty obvious which one doesn’t belong. They all belong to one person though. If you immediately thought of Rahab when you saw those words, you are right on the money. If you aren’t sure who Rahab is or what she is about, take a quick look in the book of Joshua chapter 2. It will be worth your time to go read this short chapter and her short, but important story.
I remember being asked to teach the story of Rahab to a group of elementary students at a VBS we were having. As an adult, I was horrified. How was I going to explain this woman and her shortcomings to an innocent group of first graders? In my mind it became almost comical: “Now children, do any of you know what the word harlot means?” Big no there. But that was me focusing on her just like the people of Jericho did. However, praise God, there is more to her than just that.
In Rahab’s story she encounters two spies sent to the city by Joshua. These men were sent in to check things out before the Israelites were going to do their famous march around the city to destroy the wall. For whatever reason, they were found out and Rahab saved their lives by hiding them on the roof and then lowering them out her window (which was built into the wall of Jericho). This story has all the makings of a good movie - spies, a search, secrets, and a dangerous escape.
This woman, who had an ungodly profession, was known very well in the city. Enough so that the king sent to her and asked about the men who came into the city. She was one of those women that everyone knew and that knew about everything. I would imagine that this came naturally with the life she led. But that is not the most important part of her story. Let’s look again.
“...for the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.”
Rahab had heard all the things that God was doing for the nation of Israel and she had a healthy fear and respect for what was going on. This caused her to recognize God as God. This in turn made it so she put her life on the line to save these two spies - that might not have been that good at spying (just noticing that they were found out pretty easily.)
When we recognize the power and might of our Lord God, life changes. Rahab and her family were the only ones we know of that were saved from the battle at Jericho. Her life had to have changed from that time forward. We read in her story that she asked the spies to save her in return for keeping their plan a secret. She knew destruction was coming to the city. She tied a red chord on her window and as the wall fell, she and her family stayed safe because of her faith.
Later, in Matthew 1, as we are taken through the lineage of Jesus, we see Rahab’s name again. She is one of two women mentioned (usually it didn’t matter who your mother was in a lineage - your father was the important one) as part of this. Rahab and Ruth - two very different women, but both mentioned.
I believe this story is a great example of how our faith can turn things around. We always say God can use anything for his good, and Rahab is proof! A woman who was worldly and far away from God at the time has an encounter with God and changes her life and the life of her family. And we think God isn’t using us? Think again! Can you imagine her testimony? How powerful would that story be?
Sisters, sometimes we are a mess - a hot, hot mess. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I am downright lazy. I can’t seem to keep the house clean, laundry done, and myself together. I miss deadlines, say things I shouldn’t, participate in gossip, and just go through the motions of worship instead of really entering into God’s presence. However, time and time again, just like Rahab, I am used for HIS glory. When I am paying attention sometimes the Holy Spirit will put words of life and love into my mouth that help others. Sometimes I get it right and I actually teach my sweet little girls about God in a moment instead of losing my mind. And I give God all the credit for that.
God uses whatever he wants - the messy and broken - because He can! He knows we are a mess and he uses us anyway. I personally find hope in the story of Rahab. If he can use her, I know that I can allow him to move in my life and use me. Will you allow him to use your mess?
Lord, thank you for using us and all our mess for your glory. Thank you for stories like that of Rahab where your work and change is evident. I pray for each woman that reads this. Let her light for you shine through the difficult moments of this earthly life. Let her heart and her voice be used for you. Amen.
Woman at the WellRead Now
Written By: Alexandria Brown
Most of us have heard about the woman at the well. There is so very much to unpack in that small section of the Bible and there are mountains worth of truth in every verse.
The Lord has place those scriptures on my heart for what seems like a very long time. Diving deeper every time I read it. Every time I meditate on it. Even waking me up from my sleep with new revelation from those scriptures.
That’s where I want to start.
I was speaking with a group of people on a zoom recently, let’s start there. Let me explain the scene.
While we were in this zoom meeting my family and I had been living and working from our trailer while we had an extended stay at a local lake. We like to work with the crashing waves in the background and my husband is nice enough to commute straight from the lake.
Our trailer isn’t big and fancy like some. In fact it is an older trailer that my husband and I have remodeled over the last few years. We have one big open space that is the living room, dining room, kitchen and where our kiddos sleep on portable bunkbeds.
This particular morning was rather windy at the lake so I took shelter during our computer meet up at the table in our trailer. Half of my background was our where couch is situated, it was previously cleaned and fluffed with our “Beyond Blessed” pillow perfectly in place had our cute pictures hanging on the wall, and a cuddle blanket neatly thrown over the side of the couch. creating a nice backdrop from my table temporarily turned desk.
On the other half of the screen was our children’s disheveled portable bunkbeds. With pillows and blankets piled up and stuffed animals hanging over the sides of the bed ready to fall to the floor at a moment's notice. Not organized nicely. Not picture perfect. Messy.
During my zoom meeting I found myself constantly consciously and unconsciously leaning toward the right side of my computer screen trying to cover up the mess of the disheveled bunkbeds while displaying the left side background of the cute couch and photos. I was so busy trying to hide the mess, worried what others might think, that I never could get to far away from it for fear it would then be seen on the screen.
It was then that Holy Spirit began speaking to me. He reminded me of something He spoke to my spirit many years ago.
“When we water down our testimony, we water down our God.”
When we are focused on hiding our past, our mess, we can never move very far forward. We become so focused on obstructing the view of our past, trying to hide it, that we get stuck never able to take more than a few steps ahead. Sometimes we even take a few steps forward away from it and then step back. Because if we are not standing in front of it hiding it from people, who knows what people with think?
All the while the words "If they only knew what we did, said, were…" floating in our head.
Back when I received that word above my bubble burst.
It was almost as if Holy Spirit was saying to me "Sis, you ain’t special."
Don’t miss understand me. I am unique and divinely loved by a perfect Father. He calls me His Treasure. He was beaten, died, and rose again for me. I know that, I trust it and I live from it. AND… my situation is not unique. I am not the only person who has gone through hard times. I am not the only person who has had to deal with difficult situations, circumstances, consequences, and hurts. I am not the only person who has made terrible, damaging decisions.
I did not just magically appear in the position that I am in my life spiritually, physically, and emotionally. It is a result of a constant surrender and trust in what the Lord is doing in my life and the life of those that have gone before me that I learn from each and every day.
I am where I am at because I was willing to look at my mess and say, "I want something more. Lord will you help me?"
I am at where I am because those who have gone before me performing and receiving signs and miracles in their health, in their families, in their marriages. I am where I am at because of the testimonies of people that I know, people that I have seen, people that I have read about. I am at where I am at because if He could do it for them, He can do it for me.
That’s what I mean when I say if we water down our testimony, we water down our God. It does not mean that we control God. Far from it! It means when we try to hide our past, when we try to put those stained glass windows up around our life and make everything pretty and neat, we may be leaving those around us feeling hopeless and alone, not seeing a way out.
In John 4 we see that there is a Samaritan woman coming to Jacob’s well in the middle of the afternoon and it was there that she met Jesus. The scriptures go on to give us insight as to why the woman was going to draw water, a strenuous task, during the hottest part of the day. This woman had a past to hide from.
Jesus, of course, didn’t shy away. He met her right where she was. He didn’t tell her to "get her act together and then come talk to me." He didn’t say "you are too dirty" or "you're not good enough." He didn’t even define her by her past, but instead He told her who He was and invited her to worship Him!
All at once, the woman left her water jar and ran off to her village and told everyone, “Come and meet a man at the well who told me everything I’ve ever done! He could be the One we’ve been waiting for.” Hearing this, the people came streaming out of the village to go see Jesus.
Sis, let’s be woman who use our testimony to bring hope to the hopeless. Let’s step away from our past and into the healing future and Kingdom that God is calling us into. Let’s break that fear that has held us in captivity for so long, if they only knew…
Let’s extend that statement while we do that.
If they only knew…what God can do.
God is too big and too good for us to keep that to ourselves! There is a deeper healing in the openness. Step out. Step in. Trust.
Love you sis, really!
Photo by Call Me Fred on Unsplash
Who is Huldah?Read Now
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
Photo by Pro Church Media on Unsplash
The Good PortionRead Now
Written By: Lyndsay Terry
Names are powerful. Names are so often prophetic of our callings, destinies, and identities. We see this over and over again in scripture. Even times the Lord renames people to assign their new identities or destinies.
Simon - Heard - changed by Jesus to Peter - Rock.
Simon went from hearing the truth to his new name - Peter - his belief in Christ as Truth being the whole foundation the Church was built upon.
Jacob - supplanter - was changed by God to Israel - to wrestle with God. His fathered the entire nation of God’s chosen people.
Abram - high father - who, at this point, only had a child with his mistress because he had become impatient waiting for God to fulfill his promise of children with Sarai - to Abraham - father of multitudes. God gave him the destiny of generations of God’s chosen people. And he cemented this destiny in his very name - his identity.
Sarai - princess - was renamed by God to Sarah - noblewoman. God renamed she and her husband when they had lost faith in God’s promise and went their own way to create their own destiny. God promised her children, but it had been so long and she was so old. She began to believe she needed to make a way for herself. After she failed and fell flat on her face, the Lord showed up to remind her of his promise and gave her a new name to cement her identity and destiny. When I read her transition from Princess to Noblewoman, it gives me a picture of a woman straightening her shoulders, standing a little taller, and having greater influence.
These are just a couple examples of the importance of names to our God. Names have power.
I want to touch on the story of a woman who often gets a bad rap. She is seen as “less than” so often when we share her story because she is compared to her sister. If you have a sibling, you understand how frustrating and devastating it can be to be compared to your sibling…and super annoying. This woman has two other prominent siblings in scripture and she’s often only remembered for one bad moment. I want to look at her story…her name…today.
Martha - lady of the house.
You probably already know the story I want to focus on…Mary and Martha when Jesus came to visit their home. You can read it in Luke 10:38-42. It isn’t long, but it is powerful.
“Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
Martha’s NAME, her identity, her calling, her destiny, means “Lady of the House”. It is her role to tend to the Lord’s needs and the guests in her home. To serve them, feed them, and care for them. Her role is beautiful and important. Jesus didn’t diminish her. We so often read this passage with that tone. That Mary had it right and Martha was just a busybody. But Jesus didn't diminish her...and He doesn't diminish you.
Listen…Martha was serving the Lord. Serving the Lord is necessary, a command even, and she was taking that very seriously. She was fulfilling her calling and living true to her identity.
So then how do those two things add up? If she was doing a good thing and even the right thing, why was Jesus saying Mary was in the right place and she wasn’t?
Martha had become overwhelmed with all the serving. She was anxious (have you felt that way in your ministry to the Church?), she was troubled (have you felt that way in your ministry to your family?), she was so busy (have you run yourself ragged?).
So often we read this as though Martha’s problem was that she was doing too much. I don’t believe that was Martha’s problem. You see, it’s not was you DO that burns you out. It’s what you DON’T do.
Martha was so busy serving the Lord, she forgot to spend time with the Lord.
Sis, when your work FOR the Lord replaces your intimacy WITH the Lord, you will burn out, become anxious and troubled about many things, and, like Martha, miss out on the good portion…sitting at the feet of Jesus and hearing his voice.
Yes, you’ve been called to this ministry and that ministry. Yes, you need to do the laundry and make dinner and bathe the kids and love your spouse. Yes, you need to do your job and care for your friends and connect with family and build your life. Yes to all of the above. But…
If those vital things become a replacement for your time sitting at Jesus’ feet and hearing his voice, then you’re missing out on the good portion and you’ll burn yourself out.
Martha just needed a moment of realignment. She just needed to be called back into His presence. She just needed the Lord’s voice. She just needed to lift her head.
Sweet friend, this is your moment of realignment. This is the Lord calling you back into His presence. It’s time for you to hear his voice again. It’s time to lift your head.
Lord Jesus, speak to your daughters here in this moment. We need your presence. We need your voice and your teaching. We are so busy, so tired, so dry. We need those rivers of living water that come only from you and only through time spent with you. So here we are, ready to listen, ready to be still, ready to rest at your feet. Renew us, refresh us, and revitalize us with your Spirit so that we can fulfill our calling, destinies, and live out our identities in you with passion and purpose. But we don’t want to forget WHY we do this and WHO we do this for. It’s because of you, Jesus. It’s all for you, Jesus. We don’t want to miss the good portion. We don’t want to miss you.
Photo by Robert Bye on Unsplash
Waiting on a PromiseRead Now
Written By: Olivia Caldwell
Beloved, are you waiting?
Does it seem as if the promise of the Lord tarries?
This theme of waiting on the Lord, and even waiting on the promise of God, has seemed to be ever before me, always what my mind goes to at the end of the day, in the stillness of the night.
I say to my husband and friends- often, it feels- that this waiting is nothing compared to the saints who have come before us.
In my small-scale waiting, I find myself at times lamenting, “How long, O Lord?”
It’s a fun season of waiting expectantly, crying out, humbling myself, surrendering to the Lord and trusting in GOD- and all of the messiness and warfare and mundane in between.
It’s so weird. And wonder-full.
Truth be told, I know that this season of waiting is beautiful- glorious, even. Do you believe that, right where you are, that this uncomfortable place is one that is full of glory, one that you will look back on and be filled with joy and gratitude for? One that you will testify of- testifying to the goodness and faithfulness of God??
Hey, how about right here, you go ahead and leave your device for a moment? Remember the faithfulness of God through the ages and His kindness and goodness to you. Go ahead and worship Him for as long as it takes for you to have even an iota of faith that that last paragraph there will come to pass.
Okay, so how can we wait well?
What if I answered that question with an example of what not to do? Bear with me..
The story of Sarah, found in Genesis, has been one I have not been able to move past.
Sarai and Abram have been promised a son, an heir. And not only that, but offspring as many as the stars of the sky, many and uncountable, even.
In Genesis 12-15, so much has happened. I mean- God gave Abram a promise and kept it as he set out and entered Egypt. Abram did as the Lord said and walked the length and breadth of the land the Lord promised him and his offspring. He went off and rescued his nephew Lot from an actual war featuring all these kings with only 318 of his trained men, defeating Chedorlaomer and the kings with him. Like- okay, wow. And then, the Lord again promised him, outright, “...your very own son shall be your heir.”
And then there’s this ceremony in the dark, dreadful and great darkness, where Abram falls into a deep sleep and God walks between the divided parts of an animal sacrifice. This is an oath-taking ceremony. God Himself takes the oath.
“If I do not keep the oath that I swear, may I be divided as this animal has been” is what this means.
“The threat of the presence of the holy God fills the darkness and burns in the fire. God will not break His word.” (The Unfolding Mystery: Discovering Christ in the Old Testament by Edmund P. Clowney)
And naturally, right after all of these miraculous wonders, it says in Genesis 16 that Sarai had born Abram no children. And she has bore witness to all of these wonders, no doubt, with and through her husband, but still these words cross her lips, “Behold now, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children.” And she directs Abram to go in to her female Egyptian servant, Hagar, because she speculates, “..it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” (Gen. 16:1-2)
Here again, Clowney notes in his book, The Unfolding Mystery, “According to the custom of the time, the child of a woman’s servant might be reckoned as her own.”
So, logically, Sarai is thinking of the promise the Lord has made and then looking at reality, which is that some time has passed and they didn’t even have time to begin with. The divide between the promise and reality seems too great to be breached.
And so, as she looks at her old, well-past-child-rearing body and cannot see how God’s promise could possibly come to pass, she begins to think of alternate, more realistic and certainly less miraculous and obviously God-ordained ways in which the promise may come forth.
It’s impossible, isn’t it? The Lord can’t possibly mean that.
But He did. And He does.
As we wait on the Lord, how we can wait well is to take Him at His word and to raise our hands up off of our circumstances and spread them out into surrender.
Do not look with your natural eyes at all that is happening around you. That barren land or that barren womb are ripe for the work the Lord intends to do.
It is not up to you, dear one, to figure it out with your (pardon me but) limited and human brain. You are not God.
When we even try to imagine how things will go and how the promise will come about, we place human expectations on a situation that is not bound by human limitations and is anything but natural. It is supernatural and only could be accomplished by God.
That’s the point. That’s glory to the Lord Jesus!
So what do we do in the waiting?
When the promise tarries, we tarry.
Yeah, so tarry also means to remain; to linger; to stay longer than expected, to not have an agenda, or to encounter God’s presence for an extended period of time.
In order to combat the doubt and discouragement that begins to creep in and in order to prevent our human hands from attempting to do that which the mighty hand of the Lord will do, we must tarry. We must sit at His feet and we must take as long as we need to remember that He is God and we are not.
He is faithful. He alone is able.
Tarry as often and as long as you need, beloved. Ask Him to give you eyes to see and ears to hear in the waiting. Let Him grow you and let Him teach you how to stay in step with His Spirit.
There is so much happening here that you cannot yet see.
For Abraham and Sarah, their son of the promise, Isaac, pointed to the promised Son. Isaac was heir of the promise and we are co-heirs with the Promised One.
“God’s promises are always too much, and there are many who would propose that God settle for Ishmael.”
We are not those who settle for anything less than what Jesus has made a way for. We are not those who try to build with our hands and our reason that which He has purposed to do from the beginning.
We are those who take the Lord at His Word and who wait expectantly.
Glory to the King!
(Hey, PS- you’ll notice in Genesis 16 & 17 that Ishmael, too, would head a nation. Abraham would be father of many nations. So, if you think you’ve ruined God’s plan with an Ishmael of your own, if you will, think again. Nothing can thwart His purposes. Keep on waiting, beloved. Redemption is nigh.)
Photo by Levi Meir Clancy on Unsplash
Written by: Angie Reese
Many of us have experiences that can relate to the story of Naomi found in the book of Ruth. We might be married, have lost a spouse, have daughters or daughters-in-law, lost children, or had to move to a new place. The book of Ruth is named after Naomi’s daughter-in-law, but so much of this story is about Naomi herself and how she responded to all of the hardships of a Jewish widow at that time.
Naomi’s name means “pleasant” and I get from the story of her life that she was aptly named. She is married and has two sons and they end up having to move from their homeland in Bethlehem to the country of Moab because of a famine. During the ten years she and her family live there her sons marry local women, but have no children. Then her husband and sons all die (we aren’t told how). This leaves her to make some hard choices. Being a foreign woman with no man to take care or protect her, Naomi makes the hard choice to go back home and wants her daughters-in-law to return to their own homes so they can remarry and move on with life. With much convincing, Orpha agrees, but Ruth insists upon remaining with Naomi and going back to Judah.
This is the first and biggest clue to me that Naomi was a special woman. She is so loved by her daughters-in-law that they don’t want to leave her side and return to their own families - especially Ruth! Mothers-in-law get a bad rap. They are depicted by the world as almost evil. This is usually where we stop thinking about Naomi in this book. Our attention goes to Ruth and we use her words to Naomi in wedding ceremonies to display our togetherness and commitment to one another. But let’s allow our gaze to move past that today.
When Naomi and Ruth return home, it doesn’t give us a lot of details as to what happened, but it seems like they were accepted back into society and had a place to live. This is where we see the bitterness of the situation come into play. As she is welcomed back, Naomi tells her friends to call her by a new name - Mara - which means bitter. She states that the Lord has dealt bitterly with her. She is angry about all that has happened and is blaming God. This really struck me and took me back to a place of loss.
When I was in college I got a phone call in the middle of the night. It scared me, of course. My mother was on the other end of the line telling me that my uncle had an accident and was in the hospital. We didn’t know if he would make it. I hit my knees. I prayed harder than I ever had in my life for God to keep him alive. A little later I got the second phone call telling me he didn’t make it. He was so young and had a family - three kids - that he was leaving. It wasn’t fair! Why? Why him and not the other guy in the car with him? I was so mad at God. I thought - He didn’t listen to my prayer because if he had my uncle would be alive. Bitter. Angry. Furious at my loss and the loss of my family.
Just like in the story of Naomi, it didn’t take me long to see that God was going to make good from a bad situation. In my story, the family was brought together like they never had been before. My aunt fell in love with a wonderful man who took in those three babies and raised them like his own. In Naomi’s story we see that the redeemer was Boaz.
Boaz allows Ruth to gather in his field and Naomi guides Ruth through the process of gaining Boaz as a husband. Fast forward a little and Ruth and Boaz have a son. Naomi’s bitterness melts away and her friends help her to name the child and she becomes his nurse. She again has the family that she lost. I can just see her smile as she holds that sweet baby boy and sees in him her own two sons.
For me, Naomi is a wonderful example of how to move through a situation that seems hopeless. She was angry at God, but was able to move through it and remain faithful. She had a spirit that allowed her to be a pleasant and lovable person, but had flaws. She had Ruth and the friends that are mentioned in the story to help her through a hard time. As with many women of the Bible, I see Naomi as one that I would enjoy getting to know as a friend!
Naomi went from pleasant to bitter, but was able to step back from that bitterness. Let’s allow that lesson to sink into our hearts. It’s ok to become upset, but don’t let your name be changed permanently to Mara. Naomi’s friends didn’t listen to her when she asked them to call her that because they knew that her character was one of pleasantness. I hope the same can be said about us when we face struggles!
Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash
Phoebe: God's ShammashRead Now
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.
Photo by BBC Creative on Unsplash
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.
Persistent Like RHodaRead Now
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!
Photo by Edgar Moran on Unsplash
By Alexandria Brown
Lois & Eunice. Their one and only mention in the Bible is in 2 Timothy and it is a side note to impact the world for generations.
Paul to Timothy;
I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.
2 Timothy 1:5
One sentence. One reference. One statement and inside it reveals so much. As I sit here meditating on this scripture, I can’t help but wonder at it’s significance. You see Timothy was not simply another Christian. He was not simply a fan of Jesus, he was a follower of Jesus. Timothy was active in His surrender to God’s will and plan. He pursued God’s kingdom and loved those around him well.
In that one statement Paul reveals to us that the belief, the trust, the passion that Timothy had was passed on and fanned to brighter by Timothy's grandmother and mother. They were the ones to reflect God’s love to Timothy. To reveal the nature of God and nurture the understanding of who God is, not just in words, but in actions. Lois and Eunice regularly reflected the character and nature of a loving God. A God who loves us unconditionally. A God who surrounds us when we are weak and gives us strength. A God who walks with us and guides us.
As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
We see that statement of scripture everywhere. It’s on decorative pictures, coffee mugs, and t-shirts. I am not saying that there is anything wrong with any of those things. By all means have them, wear them, and, most importantly, I pray that we live them. In one sentence we are told that Lois and Eunice brought this scripture to life in their family. Lois and Eunice lived this scripture out in their own homes. This single reference of Lois and Eunice should be an encouragement to do just that in our own families, in our own households.
Ladies, it does not matter if you are a mother in the natural or not. Please do not get hung up on that. I do not believe that there is a stipulation to that role in this single sentence. I believe that we, as women, are called to this role. We are called to nurture and reflect the character of a loving God. One who picks us up when we fall (Hosea 11:3-4). One who knows the most intimate parts of us (Psalm 139:13-16). We were never meant to do this walk alone. We have always been intended to use each other to be with each other. We are not all a foot, we are not all the fingers, we are the BODY of Christ. We were made to surround, nurture, and reflect God’s perfect unconditional love to those we surround ourselves with and those we encounter. We were made to, with the guidance of Holy Spirit, help shape and support each other in our faith walk.
I did not come from a family that has lived generation after generation believing Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Actually, I can remember when those in my family got saved when I was young. I can remember our lives before Christ. I can remember a switch in the lives of my family once we accepted Jesus. And, more than anything, I can remember the love that drew us to God shown from those around us. They did not hit us over the head with scripture or try to scare us into believing God. They simply reflected God’s love for us. They lived it out. They walked the talk. It is not enough for us to talk and speak of God’s unconditional love, we must live it out. That is what draws those around us deeper into Christ.
As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
Father, I ask that You reveal to every woman that reads this today who You have placed in our lives for us to surround with Your unconditional love, to build up, to uplift, and to support. Father, give us wisdom and love to release to those that we encounter both in our own house and outside of our roof. Help us to reflect Your grace and lead them into a deeper more personal understanding of Your character. Help us to draw nearer and nearer to You Lord, that we may pass Your love on from generation to generation just as Lois and Eunice did. Start with us Lord. We thank You for all this and more. In Jesus name.
Photo by Paige Cody on Unsplash
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