TLM Blog |

17
Jul

Do Good Christian Girls Ever Get Envious?

Envy. This little four-letter word could possibly be one of the most destructive words in the English language. Are you thinking, Rhonda, that’s quite an exaggeration isn’t it? After all, we have all heard of someone being green with envy, we’ve probably even experienced it ourselves. No harm done really in most cases, right?

Humor me for a moment, please. This thought has been resonating around in my head this week as I started really contemplating the question of: Do good Christian girls ever get envious?

Let’s roll the calendar back to the beginning of time when everything was created by God. Everything belonged to him. EVERYTHING! The Bible tells us that God created Adam and Eve and placed them in the Garden of Eden. There He gave them free reign to eat from every tree in the garden except for one – the tree of knowledge of good and evil. This is the only fruit God said they could not have (Genesis 2).

And right there, at the beginning of everything, envy raised its snake-like head. Being convinced by the devil that she was missing out on something, Eve, then Adam, made a costly mistake. Genesis 3:6-7 states:

The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful, and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So, she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too. At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So, they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves. NLT

It’s pretty easy for us to sit in our favorite chair and think how foolish Eve was to trade all the peace and perfection that surrounded her in Eden for a piece of fruit. But I believe we should make no mistake about this; it was NOT about the fruit! It was the fact that God had something Eve wanted, something she felt should be hers. So, while the serpent came along and tempted her, it was Eve’s own envious desires that led to that fateful bite. Sure, the fruit was beautiful and looked delicious, but most of all she wanted to be like God (Genesis 3:4-6). She would know everything, and she deserved to know everything, right?

Do you see it?  She wanted something that was not hers!

Wow, we women have a very long history of looking outside of our own lives and thinking that the thing someone else possesses, whether it is their husband, their home, their hair or even their intelligence, is what we need to complete our own story. We get twisted up so easily thinking that somehow we have not been given what should be rightly ours. We fail to see the blessings and protections God has already given us.

Maybe it’s not every woman. Maybe it’s just Eve and I, but something tells me you’ve been envious of someone or something during your lifetime as well. What is it that allows the serpent to so easily convince us to want what everyone else has?

At the beginning, I stated that envy could well be one of the most destructive words in our vocabulary. Let me correct that. It is not the word, but the emotion that is lethal. According to Proverbs 14:30:

A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones. NIV

Let’s look at our own day-to-day and see where envy pops up. I’ll start with a recent example of my own and assume you have a similar instance that you could point to as well.

Over the last year or so, I have gotten serious about my health. I hired a behavioral modification specialist/nutritionist/fitness instructor to help me understand why I was making poor food choices and why it seemed that my health was not improving no matter how hard I tried to make better choices. Trust me when I say, I have tried an endless number of ways to be a swimsuit model.

As a result of obedience to the instruction I have been given, I have lost forty plus pounds. Huge accomplishment, right? However, as I have inched closer to attaining my fitness goals, it has become more difficult to lose an ounce, much less a pound. Enter envy just on cue!

I had really buckled down. I ate exactly according to plan, drank the recommended water amount required, and walked the 10,000 plus steps every day that week. On Monday, it was time to step on the scale. I was up 1.5 lbs. Immediately I was envious of my friends that just the night before had wolfed down pizza and ice cream while I drank water. I wanted their metabolism, their figures, their life. I was envious.

Yes, I am a Christian and was envious! There, I said it. I allowed envy to blind me from the success I have had thus far. If I had allowed the emotion of envy to stay, I would have thrown in the towel, welcomed feelings of despair, and as my own history proves, comforted myself with brownies, candy, or some other vice, possibly destroying my journey to health and wellness.

I’m not saying that I easily dismissed the feelings of envy. I didn’t! I spent more time crying and complaining about my reflection in the mirror than I would care to admit to you. But, as I grow closer in my walk with God, I am better equipped to see the lies that envy tells. This time, instead of heading off to the pantry, I headed to my prayer closet. I poured out my disappointment and frustrations to God. I asked Him to release me from always comparing myself to others and I repented for being discontent with what He has blessed me with. I needed to give it to Him and allow Him to work in my spirit. As much as I want to vent, I also need to have an open heart to hear the Lord. God wants to be the center of my life; He wants to fill the empty spaces. God wants me to be jealous for Him alone.

1Timothy 6:6-9 speaks about those who long to be rich, putting their desires before everything else, and how true godliness with contentment is, in itself, a great wealth. In other words, contentment is the key. These verses are discussing money, but we can insert anything that we are envious of in its place. For me, it is body image. What is it for you?

I don’t know why God chose to create me to be a towering 5’2” tall with a rather solid build. But He did and that needs to be enough. He also created me to have a sense of humor, to be fiercely loyal to friends and family, and to be smart, honest, and hardworking. He gifted me with a husband that goes to crazy lengths to ensure I’m happy, sons that love me, and several beautiful grandchildren. Lastly, God has blessed me with a heart that wants to, above all else, honor Him.

Envy continues to try and rise up in me every so often, but through the relationship I now have with my Lord, it usually isn’t successful in the long term at getting me to take that bite. I pray that you too will press into God when envy comes slithering about.

So, to answer the question we started with: Do good Christian girls ever get envious? I would have to say, yes, of course we do. We are human and part of our human condition is struggling with the brokenness of this world. However, as Christians, we have a weapon that is above all things. When envy strikes, we have the Lord who helps us to stand back up. Press in sisters! Don’t trade the paradise you’ve been given for the shiny lie envy is holding.

Written by Rhonda Carlsen

Please note all scripture was taken from the NLT and the NIV

Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

10
Jul

The Many Faces of Jealousy

jeal·ous·y (ˈjeləsē): 

Envious feeling of discontent and ill will because of an other’s advantages, possessions, etc.; resentful dislike of another who has something that one desires.

What is jealousy? Jealousy commonly refers to thoughts or feelings of insecurity or uncertainty, fear or anxiety, and/or concern for a relative lack of possessions. Jealousy can consist of one or more emotions, such as anger, resentment, inadequacy, helplessness, or disgust. People can be dangerously consumed with jealousy. Jealousy is up close and personal.

From scripture, there are many faces of jealousy we could name. Last week, Elaine spoke of Leah and Rachel, two sisters jealous over a man who became rivals. Next week, Rhonda is discussing Eve, whose desire and overpowering longing for something that she couldn’t have ultimately caused the eviction of mankind from the Garden of Eden.

Then there’s Lot’s wife who longed so deeply for the material life that she had in Sodom, that even after being warned, DO NOT LOOK BACK (which, by the way, she totally ignored), was turned into a pillar of salt.

Look at Delilah. She accepted money to betray Samson. Overcome by her greed, she was deceitful, disloyal, and selfish causing Samson to fall into the hands of the Philistines.

And let’s not get started on Jezebel! Unscrupulous, immoral, unrestrained, and corrupt, she resorted to lies and murder to satisfy her jealousy and selfish whims.

That’s at least six faces of jealousy in Scripture I’ve noted. Each one of these women experienced some form of jealousy, and their lives concluded with serious consequences. But I have one more woman that I want to focus on. Let’s take a look at someone rarely mentioned today and what her jealous nature cost her.

Let’s examine Miriam, the sister of Moses, and what history tells us about her from both the Bible and some of the ancient Jewish writings.

Before the birth of Miriam or Moses, the Pharaoh of Egypt ordered the Hebrew midwives, who helped Israelite women give birth, to watch and see if these women had boys or girls. If a boy was born, they were to kill him. If it was a girl, they were to let her live. However, the midwives feared God more than Pharaoh, so they refused to carry out this order (Exodus 1:15-17). In response, Pharaoh’s next order, given to all his people, was:

“Throw every newborn Hebrew boy into the Nile River. But you may let the girls live.” Exodus 1:22 NLT

With this piece of the story in mind, the Bible then tells us of a couple who had at least three children – Miriam, Aaron, and Moses. Scripture tells us that Miriam was the older sister of Aaron and Moses. She is one of the few women in the Bible called a prophetess.

When Moses was three months old, his mother placed him in a basket among the reeds on the banks of the Nile. Miriam then situated herself off in the distance to see what would happen to him. Pharaoh’s daughter would then find him and take him in as her own. Quick to seize the opportunity, a young Miriam approaches the princess and offers her assistance by volunteering to go get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby she had found. With the princess’ acceptance of her offer, Miriam comes back to her with Moses’ own mother, who is hired on the spot (Exodus 2:3-9).

In the Torah*, Miriam also anonymously appears as the sister of Moses who stands on the riverbank. In the Midrash*, a collection of highly-respected Jewish writings, the Rabbis associate Miriam’s being by the riverbank with her earlier prophesy. According to these writings, she prophesied that her mother would birth a son who would deliver Israel. When Moses was born, her father was said to have celebrated and praised Miriam because her prophesy had come true.

Sometime later, Miriam appears again in the Bible assisting her brothers in leading the Israelite people to freedom from under Pharaoh’s rule. After many miracles and plagues, the three are found leading the people of Israel safely through the Red Sea, while Pharaoh’s army is swallowed up by the waters (Exodus 7-15).

Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine and led all the women as they played their tambourines and danced. Exodus 15:20 NLT

The Torah also mentions Miriam by name in relation to this Song at the Sea.

Interestingly, the Midrash credits her as having contributed greatly to the redemption of Israel from Egypt. Though the writings give Miriam no formal position as a leader, she was considered to be a part of a family triumvirate with her brothers, and therefore, influential. Under the Midrash’s representative rendition of the cup-bearer’s dream from Genesis 40, it is stated that Miriam, Aaron, and Moses are considered to be the three branches of the vine that appear in that dream, representing an emerging and blossoming Israelite people.

According to the Aggadah*, another collection of Jewish writings, Miriam is a central source of vitality, a foremost leader, who cares for Israel’s needs in the wilderness. Miriam is again represented as a very intrinsic member of the Moses-Aaron-Miriam leadership triad.

Are you getting a sense of Miriam’s importance among the Jewish people? So, where did she go wrong?

Maybe a seed of jealousy was planted in Miriam’s heart as she watched the Lord speak to Moses and use Aaron more than her. Maybe Miriam thought she deserved to be placed higher in status than Moses and Aaron because she was the oldest sibling and had the gift of prophecy.

What we do know is her self-righteous tendencies and her jealousy over Moses became apparent when his marriage to a Cushite woman came to light. (It should be noted that the identity of this wife is not explained in scripture and that there are many theories of who she was). Moses, the Bible says, was the humblest of all people and didn’t react to his siblings’ disapproval. What we do know is the conversation was not so much about the woman as it was about Moses breaking Jewish tradition and yet, being used by God.

While they were at Hazeroth, Miriam and Aaron criticized Moses because he had married a Cushite woman. They said, “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses? Hasn’t he spoken through us, too?” But the Lord heard them. Numbers 12:1-2 NLT

When the Lord heard them, (as we all know, He HEARS EVERYTHING) He was angry and called them all to the Tabernacle! Here is the first consequence of Miriam’s jealousy. She is being questioned about her actions and reprimanded in person by the Lord!

Interestingly, it is Miriam that is punished further, which implicates her as the ringleader of this jealous fit. The second consequence of her jealousy was that the Lord struck her with leprosy on His way back to heaven. Moses, as we recall, who wasn’t offended nor reacted to his sister’s angst, continues to show tremendous love for her. In spite of her jealousy towards him, Moses pleads her case to God, asking for her healing. And God complies with a condition. She would be punished with leprosy and put outside of the camp for seven days before being allowed back among the people. Therefore, Moses and the people waited for her before they traveled again (Num. 12:1-15).

Lesson learned! God is paying attention to what His worshipers say to or about one another. To please God, we must avoid undue pride and jealousy. These toxic traits may cause us to smear the good reputation of others and/or our own in the process.

Time for a quick, honest, self-check: Are you harboring any venomous feelings of jealousy toward someone else? Is there anything that you envy having so much that you are obsessed with getting it? Are you feeling resentful, insecure, possessive, bitter, or angry towards anyone? Most importantly, is jealousy coming between you and God?

Precious Father in Heaven, we humbly come to You seeking Your love to fill us to overflowing. We seek You more each day, so that there is no room for jealousy or any other negative emotion. We trust that You will guide us and weed out anything that is not of You. We thank You for Your tender mercies, love, and grace. We thank You for Your hedge of protection from the enemy. In Your precious name, Jesus, we pray. AMEN.

Written by Melony Henderson

Please note all scripture was taken from the NLT – New Living Translation

Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Additional Resources:

Meir, Tamar. “Miriam: Midrash and Aggadah.” Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 20 March 2009. Jewish Women’s Archive. (Viewed on July 7, 2019) <https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/miriam-midrash-and-aggadah>.

*Jewish writings defined:

  • Jewish Torah – the law of God as revealed to Moses and recorded in the first five books of the Hebrew scriptures (the Pentateuch).
  • Midrash – a type of non-halakhic literary activity of the Rabbis for interpreting non-legal material according to special principles of interpretation (hermeneutical rules).
  • Aggadah – statements that are not scripturally dependent and that pertain to ethics, traditions, and actions of the Rabbis; the non-legal (non-halakhic) material of the Talmud.

 

3
Jul

Jealousy – The Bond Breaker

I have seen it happen over and over again in life. The sincerest of female friendships broken up over a guy. These females may have grown up together, gone through a traumatic period together, or just simply bonded because they had so much in common. But then a male enters the picture and suddenly that dear, sweet, enduring friendship goes south – FAST. And at the root of it all is jealousy.

And we all know it doesn’t just happen in friendships either. Jealousy happens between siblings as well. Two sisters can become bitter rivals in the throws of a jealous fit. It starts with something like comparing clothes to comparing hair color to comparing height until it turns into a full-grown competition over careers, husbands, and kids.

Jealousy brings out the worst in us. We know it, but it doesn’t stop us from entertaining it nonetheless.

The Bible states in James 3:14-16:

But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind. NLT

In other words – nothing good comes of it! Nothing!

When I think of jealousy, I often think of two sisters in the Bible who demonstrate how quickly this emotion can destroy what should have been a beautiful bond between siblings.

Leah and Rachel were the two daughters of Laban, a kinsman to Isaac’s wife Rebekah. Enter Jacob, Isaac and Rebekah’s youngest son. You remember Jacob, right? He cheated his oldest brother, Esau, out of his birthright for a mere bowl of soup. And then, he tricked his father into giving him the blessing that was traditionally held for the firstborn. That’s Jacob!

When we come to Leah and Rachel’s story, Jacob has been sent off to find a wife from among his mother’s people and directed specifically to go to Laban. As he neared the land owned by Laban, he is first met by some townsmen waiting by a well to water their sheep. Then down comes Rachel, Laban’s youngest daughter. Instantly, Jacob is in love. And what’s not to love about Rachel. The Bible states she was beautiful and that she was a shepherdess. Beauty and brains!

In Jacob’s pursuit to make Rachel his wife, he promises to work seven years for Laban in return for the right to marry Rachel. However, when the seven years are over, Laban tricks Jacob into marrying Leah first (you can read that part of the story in Genesis 29:20-26). Now Leah was stated to have weak eyes (Genesis 29:17) and the insinuation by most commentaries is that she was not attractive. She was definitely not Jacob’s first pick.

But what about Rachel? Oh, Jacob would be given Rachel to marry, but after he promised to work another seven years for Laban. See his determination to have Rachel? Imagine Leah’s disappointment and feelings of rejection. Think she was a little jealous? Probably. But who the Bible calls envious might surprise you!

As this story progresses, we see that even though Jacob loves Rachel the best, he doesn’t turn completely away from Leah either. In fact, Leah would be the first to give him children.

When the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. Genesis 29:31 ESV

Leah gave birth not to just one child, but to four! Obviously, she and Jacob had contact.

And then the Bible states this about Rachel:

When Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she envied her sister. She said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I shall die!” Genesis 30:1 ESV

Ah! The shoe is on the other foot now!

So jealous was Rachel, that in her desperation, she gives her servant to Jacob to bear him children on her behalf. From this union comes two sons. But Leah, who had not become pregnant again, is determined to reign supreme in the heir department and also gives Jacob her servant to bear him children. From this union comes two more sons.

Jealousy is winning.

Then in a strange, but almost familiar exchange some time later, we find the two sisters discussing the use of a common herb found in the land, which Leah’s son has brought to her. These mandrake plants were assumed to have fertility producing powers. With that in mind, you can understand why Rachel would want them. Still childless, she asks Leah for a portion of them, but Leah’s rejection is showing. Clearly, without the bearing of further children, Jacob’s interest in Leah has started to wane. And Rachel – her desperation continues to heighten, so she bargains with Leah (…remember the bowl of soup between two brothers?).

But she said to her, “Is it a small matter that you have taken away my husband? Would you take away my son’s mandrakes also?” Rachel said, “Then he may lie with you tonight in exchange for your son’s mandrakes.” Genesis 30:15 ESV

But Rachel’s scheme would produce more heartache for her, as Leah would go on to bare two more children for Jacob after their exchange.

Can you imagine Rachel’s reaction? Ten children later, having shared her husband with three different women, still barren, and losing hope, I think it is sincerely possible that Rachel isn’t as much jealous anymore as she is completely humbled. Why do I say this? I think Genesis 30:22-23 gives us a clue.

Then God remembered Rachel’s plight and answered her prayers by enabling her to have children. She became pregnant and gave birth to a son. “God has removed my disgrace,” she said. NLT

This passage tells me that Rachel isn’t looking to Jacob anymore to fulfill her want of a child, but that she is finally looking to God. Jealousy has turned her life into a long string of unsuccessful grabs at wholeness. Her relationship with her sister is broken, her marriage has no doubt been strained through the years, and her incredible outward beauty has not served her in the manner she may have thought it once would. Now she is able to be used by God for His purposes. Not only would Rachel bear Joseph, but also Benjamin. And with the births of her two biological sons, the lineage of the twelve tribes of Israel would finally be complete.

What is jealousy keeping you from today? Is there a friend or family bond that is suffering due to jealousy? Or is your relationship with Jesus at stake? We can all learn from Leah and Rachel’s story. Don’t allow jealousy to steal another moment of your life! It’s simply not worth it.

 

 

 

Founder, Transforming Love Ministries

Creator, She Steps Forward Women’s Conference


Please note all scripture was taken from the ESV and NLT.

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

 

26
Jun

Freedom from Condemnation

As I was invited to challenge myself to explore the emotion of freedom, instantly freedom from condemnation came to me. I know in my own walk and within my community of sisters, we struggle to walk in God’s worth because of our past or present sin. We entertain the lies that culture, Satan, and we ourselves whisper to us about our mess. Mess that maybe we created, mess that maybe we had absolutely no control over, or just mess that leaves us feeling dirty and condemned.

When we remain in our mess, or hold on to it, we aren’t allowing God to take that mess and turn it into a message. But when we decide to stop allowing the deception that tries to keep us in bondage from holding us back, we can walk in true freedom.

John 8:36 (NIV) says:

 “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

Galatians 5:1 (NIV) says:

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

These are just a couple of God’s promises of the freedom we own as daughters of the true and living God.

As I started searching the Bible for a woman that truly embodied freedom from condemnation, Rahab was placed on my heart. If God can do it for her, we know He can do it for us. This story unfolds in the Old Testament before the fulfillment of God’s awaited promise, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Today, we are on the receiving end of the promise with our helper, the Holy Spirit. Now more than ever we have the choice to break free from bondage!

Without further ado, let’s meet our free from condemnation sister Rahab. Formerly a prostitute, she was predominantly immoral for a period of her lifetime, but it would not be endless. Queen of the Night may have once been her temporary label, but it wouldn’t be her permanent legacy. Through her faith in God the Father, this sister would find freedom and choose to live a life fully alive.

Rahab is first mentioned in the Bible as Rahab the Harlot. Harlot, meaning prostitute, was not the only label Rahab contended with. She was also a Canaanite, which made her a hated enemy of Israel. Faced with a real time, life changing decision, she tells a lie. Let’s think about that ladies. Rahab – a prostitute, a despised Canaanite, and a liar. You wouldn’t think that this woman would one day be a part of the lineage of Jesus Christ, but she was.

As her story unfolds, we will learn that once she chose the freedom that only God can offer us, she never looked back.

According to the account in Joshua 2, before the defeat of Canaan, Joshua sent two men as spies to see the land. They came to Rahab’s house for lodging. After all, it wouldn’t seem odd that two strange men were staying at her home. Or would it? Somehow, the King of Jericho gets word of this visit and sends a messenger to Rahab, demanding she give them up. She quickly conjures up a story, telling the king’s men they had left. She insists that the king’s messengers should chase the foreigners down. All the while, the spies are hidden under the flax drying on Rahab’s roof (Joshua 2:4). This exchange sets up the turning point in Rahab’s life!

When she goes up to the roof and uncovers the two men, and before she allows them to sleep for the night, she explains to them that she knows that their God will give Israel the land (Joshua 2:8-9). Rahab then makes the most astonishing statement of all:

For the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below. Joshua 2:11 NIV

In an instance, Rahab’s freedom is secured. She freely admits the Israelites’ God is the one, true living God.

Rahab would let the men go freely, but not without first making an awe-inspiring request. In return for her act of kindness, she boldly asked that she and her family be spared once the Israelites attacked Jericho. In agreement, the spies give her a scarlet cord to hang from her window. With the cord in place as a signal, when the Israelites destroyed Jericho, Rahab and her whole family would be spared.

Rahab had defied a ruler and saved the Israelites. Then, her uncommon faith and confession led to her salvation.

For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. Romans 10:10 NIV

And the Israelite spies would keep their promise, saving Rahab and her entire family at the taking of Jericho. Rahab did not waiver in her newfound faith. She repented and turned to God. Rahab accepted who God said she was despite what she used to be. This heroine of the faith was convicted not condemned. She was free!

From call girl to woman of God to wife of an Israelite, this was Rahab’s reward (Joshua 6:25). She would later become the mother of Boaz and the great-great-grandmother of King David, an ancestor of Jesus Christ. How profound that God not only used her to assist the Israelites as well as to save her own family, but He transformed her into such a woman of faith that He honors her still today. Matthew 1:5 reveals Rahab for all time as a direct descendent in the genealogy of our Lord and Savior.

Walking in God’s freedom will redirect the trajectory of your life! Whatever has happened, happened. We can’t remake our past, but with God there is hope for the future. No matter what has happened in your background, Rahab’s story shows us with God there is grace, peace, and freedom!

Lord God, we thank You for Your word that assures us that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Through Christ Jesus, the law of the Spirit of life sets us free from the law of sin and death (Roman 8:1-2). If You do not condemn me, I have no right or place to condemn myself. Help me to be like Rahab and to not get caught in the defeating cycle of self-condemnation. Instead, help me to walk in Your worth, believing what You say of me, and being everything You say I am! Amen!

Written by Stacha Ashburn


Please note all scripture was taken from the NIV – New International Version

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

19
Jun

How Am I Supposed to Walk in Freedom?

Be free! Live free! Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? It’s a catchy phrase, but how do I as a mother, wife, employee, boss, or friend actually walk that out in my life. Or for that matter, how do you in yours? None of the roles I play have listed living free as a requirement for me to consider them a job well done.

None, except one! Being a Christian woman says for me to walk in freedom with Jesus Christ.

Alright, that sounds fantastic! But I’ve heard it said, and I bet you have too, about how restricting Christianity is to women. That, as a Christian woman, I am not allowed to do this thing, associate with those people, go to certain places, wear this outfit, or say whatever I wish. Those may be the world’s thoughts on what Christianity means, but it’s incorrect.

Christianity is rooted in the belief of Jesus Christ and His teachings. A Christian is simply a follower of Jesus. Please hear me on this, Jesus came to set the captives free!

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed and commissioned me to bring good news to the humble and afflicted; He has sent me to bind up [the wounds of] the brokenhearted, to proclaim release [from confinement and condemnation] to the [physical and spiritual] captives and freedom to prisoners. Isaiah 61:1 AMP

Prior to Jesus, everyone was captured by sin and death was the price to be paid. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, He paved the road to my freedom (Romans 6:23). All I need to do to start walking out the rest of my life in that very freedom is to believe in Him, ask to be in relationship with Him, and profess Him Lord.

Throughout His life and through His death on the cross, Jesus displayed freedom for all. With that spirit of freedom came hope, healing, comfort, and above all else, love.

Mark 5:25-34 tells the story of a woman who was captive to an illness for over 12 years that kept her bleeding continuously. Because of this, by law, she was to isolate herself from the general public. Imagine that for a minute. Had she followed what society said a woman was supposed to do in that situation, she would have spent the rest of her life captive to this illness. She would have remained in line with what those around her thought she should do and remained ill. She would not have reached out to touch the hem of Jesus’ robe the day He was passing by her town. But this desperate woman recognized freedom was on the road passing her by, so she bravely stepped out of the crowd and grabbed on to the hem of His robe. She recognized through faith that Jesus Christ held freedom for her and she took the leap. And immediately, she was made whole!

John 4:4-42 takes us to a well on the outskirts of Samaria, a town despised by the Jewish people. Yet, Jesus spent time in places, like Samaria, that Jewish society said was no good and deemed unworthy. But there at the well, someone that we know as the Samaritan woman found freedom through Jesus. He spoke to and mentored this woman that even the good citizens of Samaria felt didn’t even deserve to gather water with the town. Had she followed what society said a woman was supposed to do in that situation, remain quiet, she would have spent the rest of her life captive to her past. If she had not answered when He spoke to her, how do you think she would have found freedom? Sure, the townspeople knew everything she had done, but they were only offering her condemnation. However, Jesus offered her living water, water that would satisfy her thirst for eternal freedom. Jesus, once again, was the key to freedom.

How about the woman accused of adultery! Read her story in John 8:1-11. Do you think she would have found freedom without Christ? Of course not! Left to the townspeople, she would have been stoned to death. It was Jesus that stepped in, spoke up, and secured her freedom.

I could go on and on with examples from the Bible that show Jesus wasn’t about rule following. He was and is about love and His love brings freedom. He has sent the Holy Spirit to walk with me and to help guide me in how-to walk-in freedom.

I’m a Christian and I am free indeed.

Does this mean I can be coarse in my language, eat whatever I choose, wear whatever I want, hangout in places that don’t seem very churchy? Sure, I can do all those things. I’m free to choose! But there are consequences to every decision good or bad, Christian or not. I cannot lose my salvation by doing something that goes against what Jesus is about, but internally, I’m not going to feel good about it. I know this, and so, I try very hard to remember the price He paid. To honor Jesus’ sacrifice, I strive to do the things I know will glorify God.

For example, Jesus has taught me that along the path of freedom is kind speech, using words to lift others up not tear them down. I have also learned, as a Christian, my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, so I need to take care of it. Not because Jesus demands it, but because I want to honor the sacrifice made on my behalf. Because I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, I want people to feel the love of Jesus through me regardless of how my outfit looks today or where I happen to be hanging out. The Holy Spirit living in me helps me accomplish these goals.

The freedom Jesus has given me makes me want everyone I meet to know that very freedom.

So, you see, Christianity isn’t about what I can or cannot do. Jesus does not care about my race, gender, or my past sins. He has a plan for me and you that is fully abundant and free of condemnation and societal restrictions. I say it’s time for us as women to arise, step out regardless of the crowd that surrounds us, drink of the only water that will quench our spiritual thirst, brush off the dust from the rocks thrown at us, and walk on the path of freedom Christ has purchased for us.

Are you ready to walk?

Written by Rhonda Carlsen

Please note all scripture was taken from the AMP – Amplified Bible

Amplified Bible (AMP) Copyright © 2015 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, CA 90631. All rights reserved.

 

12
Jun

What Is Freedom?

freedom (ˈfrēdəm) :

the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint; the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved; the power of will or self-determination attributed to the will; the quality of being independent of fate or necessity

Many things can make us feel oppressed. At times, we feel so restrained that it can appear as if any level of freedom is impossible. Freedom can manifest as either physical or non-physical freedom. An obvious example of lacking physical freedom is being jailed or in prison. A societal stigma, such as not having children or a station in life, may be perceived as lacking a non-physical freedom. Regardless of which kind of freedom we feel has been lost, we can feel powerless or as if we have nowhere to turn as a result. Some may describe it as feeling like there is a straitjacket preventing us from embracing the independence and freedom we desire. When we get like this, we as human beings want to take control. We want to intercede on our own behalf, forgetting that God is in control.

However, Galatians 5:13 states:

For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. NLT

In Scripture, God provides many clear illustrations of how we can stumble in our freedom by taking on His role versus ours, and therefore sin in our independence and self-determination.

Let’s take a look at two women in Scripture who represent God’s two covenants with man – the old covenant based on the Law and the new covenant based on grace. Maybe we can get a better handle on this freedom we speak of through the lens of this story’s narrative. Today, we’re going to talk about Sarah and Hagar.

Sarah, originally known as Sarai, was the wife of Abraham, originally known as Abram. Because of Abraham’s faith in God, the Lord would birth the nation of Israel through their union, but not before the freedom of both Sarah and Hagar, Sarah’s slave, had been trampled upon.

When you dive deep into Sarah’s life, you cannot miss the fact that she, who was not a slave, was deeply enslaved by societal standards.

At age 75, Abraham took his wife Sarah, his nephew Lot, and all his wealth from Haran to Canaan at the Lord’s command. The Lord’s promise to Abraham was that He would give the land to his many descendants (Genesis 12:1-6). Side note – Sarah was barren.

Later, during a severe famine in Canaan, Abraham was forced to go to Egypt. In fear, he had Sarah, who apparently was quite beautiful, pretend to be his sister so that if she was desired by someone there, he would not be killed for it. Indeed, when they arrived everyone noticed her beauty and as was common in the day, when word reached the Pharaoh, he took her and provided many gifts to Abraham because of Sarah. What just happened?

However, because Abraham allowed her to be taken as Pharaoh’s wife, the Lord brought terrible plagues upon Pharaoh and his household. Once Pharaoh realized Sarah wasn’t Abraham’s sister but his wife, they were graciously escorted out of Egypt with all their possessions (Genesis 12:10-20). To add to Sarah’s sorrow, this pattern of behavior repeated years later when Abraham came into the kingdom of Abimelech, but the Lord once again redeemed Sarah (Genesis 20). Childless and tossed around like a transaction, can you see Sarah’s chains?

In the midst of Sarah’s torn life was Hagar, her Egyptian servant. Hagar, a true slave, was caught between the pages of Abraham and Sarah’s life. Years after the Lord’s original promise to Abraham, Sarah who was still barren decided it was a good idea to give her servant, Hagar, to her husband as a wife in the hopes that through her she would have children. And Hagar? Choiceless in the matter.

Abraham takes Hagar and has sex with her at his wife’s bidding. But as in most cases, when we attempt to solve our own problems without consulting God, the situation only intensifies. Once Hagar knew she was pregnant, she became hostile and disrespectful to Sarah. Sarah, consumed by emotions, first blames her husband for her servant’s behavior. Abraham, not taking responsibility for his wife’s freely given gift, attempts to smooth over things with her by giving her free reign over Hagar. An angry, bitter Sarah was told to do what she saw fit. And she did. Sarah was so cruel that Hagar ran away.

But the angel of the Lord found Hagar along the road to Shur and told her to return to her mistress and submit to her authority. Broken, distressed Hagar is promised that she would be given more descendants than she could count. Overjoyed by the fact that God saw her, Hagar for the first time in her life is free (Genesis 16:1-13).

Yet, God’s plan was untouched by any of these events. At age 99, Abraham was told his 90-year-old wife, Sarah, would give him a son the following year. And at last, Sarah is freed, birthing her own son in old age. A new, everlasting covenant was formed at the birth of Isaac. Sarah would go on to be proclaimed the mother of many nations, with kings among her many descendants (Genesis 17:15-21).  

And Hagar, due to Sarah’s continued resentment toward her, would eventually be sent away with her son, Ishmael. On that day, however, Hagar would walk away a free woman forever!

The Scripture says that Abraham has two sons, one from his slave wife and one from his freeborn wife. The son of the slave wife was born in a human attempt to bring about the fulfillment of God’s promise. But the son of the freeborn wife was born as God’s own fulfillment of his promise. Galatians 4:22-23 NLT

Two women, enslaved in different ways by a society that devalued them based solely on gender, still possessed a level of self-determination and independence. In their struggle to gain their own personal freedom, they show us two different approaches we as humans take.

I can only imagine Sarah’s initial emotional distress as she was unable to have children, and then sense the growth of her desperation to give Abraham descendants. I am wrecked at her loss of freedom in having to become Pharaoh’s wife and then suffer a near similar fate with King Abimelech. Hopeless in her physical condition and desiring the admiration of her husband, she turns to a surrogate, but it leaves her feeling even more rejected.

And Hagar, having no freedom, not even in possession of her own body, grabs for any sense of status she can find. She knew even pregnant she was a slave, but now she had the one thing Sarah didn’t have at the time – Abraham’s son. Imagine the sense of freedom she must have felt in spite of her position as a slave. Her behavior would soon show it. The lack of restraint that she showed towards Sarah once she was pregnant must have been liberating for her, even if it was fleeting.

Both their stories could have ended horribly, but GOD! In their misery, He redeemed them, freed them, and elevated them both far above the common chattel they were. They are both illustrations of God’s mercy and grace! He fulfilled His promise to make them both mothers of many descendants, including princes and kings, but He did not waiver from His ultimate plan.

These two women serve as an illustration of God’s two covenants. The first woman, Hagar, represents Mount Sinai where people received the law that enslaved them. And now Jerusalem is just like Mount Sinai in Arabia, because she and her children live in slavery to the law. But the other woman, Sarah, represents the heavenly Jerusalem. She is the free woman, and she is our mother. Galatians 4:24-26 NLT

Despite our limited perspective and actions, our limitless God will continue to work everything out in this world to accomplish His will and His promises for our good. May we find freedom in that! 

Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we come to you humbly, seeking freedom from all anxiety. We thank you that you give us the unrestrained freedom to follow Your Will and Purpose for our lives. We ask that you give us the power to go out boldly in Your Name and that You temper our independence and determination so that we can run the race You have place before us for Your glory. Remove the emotional hindrances and restraints that prevent us from freely serving You Precious Lord. Allow us to accept Your freely given Grace. We release the chains holding us back from true spiritual freedom. We bind the enemy’s stronghold on our emotional and physical freedoms both on Earth and in Heaven. In the Precious Name of Jesus we pray, AMEN.

Written by Melony Henderson

Please note all scripture was taken from the NLT – New Living Translation

Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

 

5
Jun

Remembering How Christ Won Our Freedom

Just last week we celebrated Memorial Day here in America. Each year we take time to remember those men and women who during a military conflict gave their life for our country. All over the United States, thousands of American flags or decorated wreaths are laid at the tombstones of these fallen heroes. We acknowledge that their service and death has allowed us to live as a free nation for hundreds of years.

However, over two thousand years ago, there was a man who also made the ultimate sacrifice. He wasn’t in the military, but He was fighting a war that no human could ever imagine. This man did not die for just one country, but for the world. In doing so, Jesus broke the chains of sin over our life, purchased our freedom, and made us co-heirs to an eternal kingdom.

Yet, we struggle with this concept of true freedom in Christ. Perhaps at the center of it is the battle we have with a range of emotions that hint to us that our freedom may be just an illusion. If our emotions continue to well up and douse our confidence time after time, we feel less and less certain that freedom is truly ours.

Something in our psyche just cannot keep this principle in the forefront of our thoughts – that who the Son sets free, is free indeed (John 8:36). What is it about our spiritual man that struggles to believe that Christ’s work on the Cross is complete and forever?

Whether it is the ups and downs of everyday life or a major challenge that hits us from behind, sooner or later we once again come face to face with our humanity. In those moments, we struggle with whether we are spiritually free. Therefore, whether you have been a Christian for a few days or even several years, remembering how Christ won our freedom and the fullness of that freedom must be an intentional act on our part.

For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross. Colossians 1:19-20 NLT

There it is in black and white. It couldn’t be any plainer, could it? Paul tells us in Colossians that He made peace with everything. Perhaps the problem really comes down to the everything part. Does God really mean everything as in everyone.

There are so many days that I totally mess up. How about you? Can God truly be at peace with us and us with Him? Aren’t there rules we still need to follow in order to be made right with Him? Isn’t the shame, guilt, insecurity, and sadness we feel still an issue between God and us? Can our past really stay our past?

Ever had any of these thoughts and questions run through your mind? – I have!

Perhaps, I just don’t understand the depth of freedom I have available to me. Seriously, I’m just an everyday girl trying to make good on this life God has blessed me with while I keep all the plates spinning in the air! Yet, I believe in Christ. I know that He lived, died, and rose again. And there are days I feel bold and confident enough to walk in that freedom, but those days seem so few and far between. Why am I scared to show all that I am in Him?

This was me, my thought pattern, my feelings as recently as a year ago, but today, I am starting to truly understand my freedom in Christ, and I want EVERY woman to experience it!!!

Let’s go a little further in Colossians. Here is what the next two verses state:

This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault. Colossians 1:21-22 NLT

I AM HOLY and BLAMELESS! In other words, I’m free! And, guess what? So are you! If you have placed your faith in Jesus, you are free my friend. He has purchased us with His blood and reconciled us completely and fully with God. Why do we let the weight of that escape us at times? Why do we feel the need to continue to work toward freedom instead of just walking in it?

I think part of the problem is our confusion between what culture says about us and what God has proclaims about us. Culture says we are free only if ……. Only if we don’t mess up again or only if we keep it all together are we free. God says we are free by His grace. Period.

I challenge you to take these verses and make them more personable to yourself and then REPEAT them over and over until you get them deep down in your soul. Let’s practice!

This includes you (insert your name) who were once far away from God. You (insert your name) were his enemy, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. Yet now he has reconciled you (insert your name) to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you (insert your name) into his own presence, and you (insert your name) are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.

How does that feel? Pretty freeing, I hope.

Lord, forgive us when we forget the price you paid for our freedom. Forgive us for not walking in that freedom daily. Give us the wisdom to discern how our freedom can be used in Your perfect plan to bring others to You. Help us not to abuse that freedom, but to always use it for the greater good. There are people in the world who are dying to know the true feeling of freedom. May our lives shine Your grace and draw them to the only One who can truly set them free. Amen.

 

 

Founder, Transforming Love Ministries

Creator, She Steps Forward Women’s Conference


Please note all scripture was taken from the NLT – New Living Translation

Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

 

29
May

Lois and Eunice – Leaving a Godly Legacy

Here we are just two short months after the She Steps Forward conference and the word legacy continues to swirl in my head. As we built up to conference, we introduced you to some awesome women of the Bible and the roles they played in moving the Gospel message along. Some were front and center. Others seemed to blend into the fabric of Jewish life. All were important!

Today, I have two women to introduce you to and the substantial role they played in one man’s life. Indeed, their story is one of legacy.

Before I introduce you to them, let me introduce you to Timothy. Timothy was a young, faithful disciple in the Christian faith. His character and reputation were so outstanding that when Paul came through Lystra on his second missionary journey, he immediately engaged Timothy (Acts 16:1-3). Paul’s choice to have Timothy travel with him gives us a sense of how valuable Paul thought Timothy’s presence would be during the next round of encouraging established churches and planting new ones. Paul would exhort him repeatedly during their relationship, calling him “my true son in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2 NLT) and telling Timothy not to let people look down on him due to his youth (1 Timothy 4:12). Paul’s love for this spiritual son is obvious in his writings. It is also very evident how much Paul trusted Timothy when you read through the instructions he gave Timothy for the church in Ephesus – a church Paul left Timothy in charge of overseeing.

Timothy was undoubtedly the recipient of a strong and consistent upbringing. His faith emerged at an early age. He stuck to his convictions despite being surrounded by a pagan culture and some new, unruly believers. In fact, Paul describes Timothy as possessing a “genuine faith” (2 Timothy 1:5 NLT).

If we revisit Acts 16:1, we discover that Timothy’s father was Greek, and therefore was most likely a nonbeliever. As this is the only mention of Timothy’s father in scripture, we can conclude that he most likely was not a part of Timothy’s life at the point Paul enters the picture. It would also explain Paul’s adoption of Timothy as a son and the way Paul affectionately mentors Timothy as they work together in person and from afar.

So where did Timothy get his knowledge of Christianity from? Included in that simple scripture in Acts is the first clue. Timothy’s mother was a Jewish believer (Acts 16:1). Now, we are starting to get the picture, aren’t we? Then in 2 Timothy, Paul clearly tells us who provided a rock solid foundation for Timothy’s faith. Enter Lois and Eunice!

I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you. 2 Timothy 1:5 NLT

Not only was Timothy raised by a faith-filled mother, but he was also privileged to have a faith-filled grandmother watching over him!

Now we don’t know much more about these ladies except that their raising of Timothy was intentional in nature. In 2 Timothy 3, we find one last glimpse into the life of this family.

But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. (verses 14-15 NLT)

And there we have it! The women in Timothy’s life made all the difference in the world. Without the faithfulness of his grandmother and his mother in teaching him God’s word, Timothy may have become a statistic in his time. Half Greek, half Jew and fatherless, Timothy may have taken up with the wrong crowd. His youthful energy could have led him into a life of darkness and misfortune. But Lois and Eunice would have none of it.

While raising Timothy, I wonder how often they both thought back to Proverbs 22:6. Even as women, the stories of King Solomon and all his adventures would have been told to Lois and Eunice somewhere in their upbringing. And yet, Solomon’s powerful teachings would have also been passed on from generation to generation. No, I imagine Lois and Eunice had a great vision for Timothy and spoke words of affirmation over him from the time he was born. Even his name was most likely carefully chosen – Timothy in Greek means “honoring God.” Coincidence? I think not.

Lois and Eunice may have thought they were only raising a child, but what they did was create a legacy. Because they instilled in Timothy a love for God that was pure and true, he earned the love, respect, and admiration of Paul. He would go on to be one of the most notable and recognizable workers in the Church.

In John Maxwell’s book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, he talks about the Law of Legacy. Simply put, he summarizes “A leader’s lasting value is measured by succession.” Now, I’m not sure if either Lois or Eunice ever considered themselves as leaders, but I would say that Timothy’s life (their succession) was a great indication of how well they led Timothy in his. And the Church was all the better for it.

I hope as women we are all striving to leave a legacy as positive and powerful as the one left by Lois and Eunice. You could be raising up an amazing son or daughter right now who will go on to do great things for the Kingdom in a variety of ways. Or, like Paul, you could be playing a pivotal role in someone’s else life by being a spiritual paternal figure to them. Either way, life will go on without you someday. Wouldn’t it be nice to know that when you stand before God in Heaven, He can smile at the legacy you left?

My dear sister, it is never too late to start shaping a brighter future!

 

 

Founder, Transforming Love Ministries

Creator, She Steps Forward Women’s Conference


Please note all scripture was taken from the NLT – New Living Translation

Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Other references:

Maxwell, John C. (2007). The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You, Revised & Updated 10th Anniversary Edition. Nashville: Thomas Nelson (pg. 257)

 

24
Apr

Samaritan Woman at the Well – When You Feel Invisible

in·vis·i·ble (/inˈvizəb(ə)l/)  – an adjective – meaning unable to be seen; not visible to the eye.

To understand the full ramifications of the story behind the Samaritan woman at the well, let me start with a little framework to help us understand the divisive culture in which she lived. Specifically, we’ll look at the conflict between the Jewish and Samaritan people as well as issues surrounding gender.

According to the Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible, feelings of ill will between Jews and Samaritans probably went back to before the separation of Israel into northern and southern kingdoms. Even then, there was a lack of unity between the tribes of Jacob. Part of the issue was the inclusion of Joseph’s two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, as full tribe members. Though they were actually born to Joseph in Egypt, Jacob adopted them into the Israelite family as Jewish descendants. This arrangement did not sit well with most full-blooded Jews, and thus, underlying conflict brewed between the two segments of people.

After the separation of Judah and Israel in the ninth century, King Omri of the Northern Kingdom bought the hill of Samaria from Shemer. There he built the city of Samaria, which became his capital.

Then Omri bought the hill now known as Samaria from its owner, Shemer, for 150 pounds of silver. He built a city on it and called the city Samaria in honor of Shemer. 1 Kings 16:24 NLT

To help us understand and give us a rough idea of the feelings that existed between the Jews and Samaritans, we need simply look at the turf wars between street gangs in Los Angeles or New York, the hostility experienced between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland, the war between Serbs and Muslims in modern Bosnia, and the pure hatred of white supremacist groups towards any non-white person. In other words, even in Biblical times, there were severe racial, religious, and cultural separations. Politics and religion may have been underlying factors, but sadly, there was actual abhorrence between the Jewish people and the Samaritans, so much so that Jewish people would not acknowledge Samaritans in any fashion. They simply treated them as if they were invisible.

So where did that leave a Samaritan woman? Basically, all women in Biblical times were treated as second-class citizens. If it wasn’t bad enough that cultural and religious divisions existed, women dealt with a severe gender division. As a result, they were virtually invisible in relation to men. For example, men were not to address women in public. Therefore, to be a Samaritan woman was difficult indeed.

Enter Jesus.

During one of His many travels, Jesus leaves Judea to return to Galilee and goes through Samaria on the way. Tired from the long walk, Jesus stops at Jacob’s well about noontime while his disciples were off to buy food. As a Samaritan woman comes to draw water from the well, Jesus politely asks her for a drink of water. Imagine her surprise that He was speaking to her directly as well as respectfully. Taken aback, questioning why He is asking her for a drink of water, she points out that He is Jewish, and she is Samaritan.

Unphased by this exchange, Jesus proceeds to offer her the wonderful gift God has for her, the gift of living water. Quite confused now, she questions Him about His offer seeing as He has no rope or bucket for water. She also challenged how He could offer her better water than that which came from Jacob’s well. This leads Jesus to explain:

“Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” John 4:13-14 NLT

In utter amazement, she now wants the water Jesus is offering! After all, who wouldn’t want that kind of water?!?     

The beauty of this story is Jesus’ open, countercultural view and treatment of females. Jesus regularly and directly addressed women, especially while in public. His regard for the full, indispensable worth of women is clearly seen in scripture. However, Jesus did not sugar coat the sin in the life of any woman or man He met. Just like men, He held women personally responsible for their own sin.

Watch how He deals with the Samaritan woman at the well:

 “Go and get your husband,” Jesus told her. “I don’t have a husband,” the woman replied. Jesus said, “You’re right! You don’t have a husband— for you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now. You certainly spoke the truth!” John 4:16-18 NLT

The Samaritan woman, completely engaged now and having been outed by Jesus, bravely continues the conversation. And Jesus in His kindness reveals to her that He is the long-awaited Messiah (John 4:26).

At this juncture, the disciples return and are mortified to find Jesus speaking not just to a woman, but to a Samaritan woman. Yet, they are too fearful to question Him.

In contrast, the Samaritan woman hurries off to her village full of excitement. In her haste to share what she has learned; she leaves her jar at the well. Through her testimony, many Samaritans believed in Jesus as well as many others who encountered Him during His brief stay in Samaria. 

Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not just because of what you told us, but because we have heard him ourselves. Now we know that he is indeed the Savior of the world.” John 4:42 NLT

Just like the Samaritan woman, though our circumstances or others may make us feel invisible, we are not. Jesus sees us and everything we do. Regardless of our situation, He loves us dearly and stands ready to use us if only we believe it. 

Precious Father, even when we feel like no one sees us, we acknowledge you have eyes only for us and we bask in your love. We pray that you will reach a multitude through us despite our invisibility to some. Continue to cover us against the enemy, guide us through the dark times, and by your love shine a light on us making us visible to those who need it most. In the sweet name of Jesus, amen

Written by Melony Henderson

Please note all scripture was taken from the NLT – New Living Translation

Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Other references:

The Rift Between Jews and Samaritans by Pat McCloskey, OFM at Franciscan Media

Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible, translated and adapted by Louis F. Hartman, C.SS.R (McGraw Hill) 

6
Mar

Priscilla – Uncommon but Qualified Teacher

With everything we compete against today, it is so easy to disqualify ourselves or to allow others to disqualify us from our calling. As I studied the life of Priscilla, I could not help but ask myself: “What right do I have to disqualify what only God can qualify?” As Priscilla was revealed to me, I found several biblical intellectuals who name her as the first woman pastor in the early Church. Just think about how easily it would have been, in that day and time, for Priscilla to count herself out of this monumental assignment. Or how she could have, based on her gender and marital status alone, allowed others to disqualify her God-given qualifications.

It is interesting that we are not told where Priscilla is from. Her ethnicity, although presumed Jewish, or her religious heritage is not given in scripture. Even her name is a common Roman name. It is in the book of Acts that the apostle Paul makes Priscilla known to us. Here the scriptures describe how Paul first meets Priscilla and Aquila in Corinth.

“There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife, Priscilla, because [the Roman Emperor] Claudius had issued an edict that all the Jews were to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, and because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them; and they worked together for they were tent-makers.” Acts 18:2-3 AMP

Passages such as Romans 16:3, which start as “Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus,” tell us Paul considered them to be his equals. His designation of Priscilla and Aquila as “fellow workers in Christ Jesus,” was terminology often used to describe other respected leaders in ministry. In verse 4 of chapter 16, Paul indicates that he and the Gentile churches were indebted to the couple for their work. High praise indeed.

Now let’s refocus a little more closely on Priscilla.

At the very first mention of Priscilla in the Bible, we are given immediate information that she is the wife of Aquila. I believe this makes her story even more powerful than most. As the mandate of ministry leadership manifests in her life, she isn’t single or widowed, she’s married. Priscilla is this unique woman who walked in the confidence of her calling while married.

Scripture provides a clear picture of this couple’s relationship. Priscilla is found walking in true unity with Aquila, placing herself under the covering of her husband, while still fulfilling God’s calling over her own life. Priscilla labors alongside her husband at the gospel work. Together, they were consistently busy for the Lord wherever they were. A rare gem. Even with so little accolades to who she was or where she came from, many believe, she was the first woman in the Church to preach the truth of Jesus Christ openly.

And then the Bible gives us this stunning picture of Priscilla’s gifting. In Acts 18:26, the Bible gives us this encounter in Ephesus between Priscilla and Aquila and a disciple named Apollos.

 “And he began to speak boldly and fearlessly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained more accurately to him the way of God [and the full story of the life of Christ].” AMP

Note Priscilla’s name is listed first in the passage. This is significant since the cultural pattern was, in such listings, to name the husband first. But there is something even more significant at play. Priscilla is found gracefully co-teaching a man, completely unheard of in that day. This further supports why we are led to believe she was considered to have held a pastoral role in the Church.

Throughout the remainder of the Bible, Priscilla continues to be mentioned equally with her husband, if not mentioned first. This reveals they were a true team and that barriers in leading the Church were being broken.

Proverbs 31:30 says:

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. NIV

When Priscilla spoke, she spoke with reverence for the Lord, with authority and confidence, and she was considered to be an expert on the teachings of Jesus. She bloomed wherever she was planted and faithfully served the Lord. Priscilla became a light God moved around to spiritually dark areas in order to illuminate the darkness with the truth of Jesus Christ.

“Paul stayed for a while longer, and then told the brothers and sisters goodbye and sailed for Syria; and he was accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila.” Acts 18:18 AMP

 

The churches of Asia send you their greetings. Aquila and Priscilla, together with the church [that meets] in their house, send you their warm greetings in the Lord. 1 Corinthians 16:19 AMP

 

Give my greetings to Priscilla and Aquila, and to the household of Onesiphorus. 2 Timothy 4:19 AMP

Without question, Priscilla proclaimed the Good News. She spoke of God’s love from her mouth and then demonstrated it with her actions. Just like Priscilla, many women throughout church history have paved the way to teaching the Gospel. Yet, their part in this area has not been free from debate. Priscilla submitted to God’s calling and crossed traditional boundaries broadening women’s roles in ministry. Will you follow in her footsteps and dare to submit your giftings and talents to the mandate of God’s calling on your life?

Acts 2:17-18 says:

”In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.” NIV

Regardless of gender, no person, called and gifted by God, should deny themselves or be denied by others any role in ministry, including Church leadership.

Don’t overestimate your inadequacies and underestimate your God-given spiritual gifts! Perhaps the expectations you have self-imposed, or allowed others to appoint in your life, really aren’t deal breakers! Nothing in our life happens by chance! God promises in His Word He can and will do something outside of your natural abilities if you allow Him. You may feel unsettled about yourself because you perceive yourself as lacking any real qualifications to teach the Gospel, or by the potential limits you see in front of you, but God is never unsettled about those He chooses. Step out BOLD woman of God and conquer!

Written by Stacha Ashburn, founder of “I AM” Code Sisterhood.

Please note all scripture was taken from the AMP – Amplified Bible or NIV – New International Version

Amplified Bible (AMP) Copyright © 2015 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, CA 90631. All rights reserved.

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide