This study was originally written and published on GracefullyTruthful.com. For further studies like this, check out their website!
Read His Words Before Ours!
I curled up in my chair with my coffee steaming beside me and opened my book.
The title beckoned, calling to my weary soul . . .
The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry.
My breathing slows and deepens; I need this.
“Just before sunset on Friday, we finish up all our to-do lists and homework and grocery shopping and responsibilities, power down all our devices (we literally put them all in a box and stow it in a closet), and gather around the table as a family. We open a bottle of wine, light some candles, read a psalm, pray. Then we feast, and we basically don’t stop feasting for the next twenty-four hours. It’s the Comer way! And, I might add, the Jesus way. We sleep in Saturday morning. Drink coffee. Read our Bibles. Pray more. Spend time together. Talk. Laugh. In summer, we walk to the park. In winter, make a fire. Get lost in good novels on the couch. Cuddle. Nap.”
As I read this paragraph in John Mark Comer’s book, I recalled some of the sweetest moments in my life …
A quiet afternoon reading and drinking hot cocoa in a ski lodge …
Napping on my couch as I listen to rain falling outside …
Slow, meandering walks with my girls …
Card games and family dinners around my uncle’s kitchen table …
Sunday drives in the middle of nowhere …
But for me, these times typically only happen during vacation or holidays; John Mark Comer’s family shares peace-filled days weekly!
I wanted that.
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” (Exodus 20:8)
But that’s ancient history, isn’t it?
Or maybe it kinda-sorta applies to us, but we keep it holy by going to church… right?
To find our answer, let’s look back to Scripture. There’s a second component to this commandment:
“You are to labor six days and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. You must not do any work—you, your son or daughter, your male or female servant, your livestock, or the resident alien who is within your city gates. For the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and everything in them in six days; then he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and declared it holy.”
(Exodus 20:9-11, emphasis mine)
First part: Keep the day holy. Remember God.
Second part: Don’t work. Rest.
The Pharisees of Jesus’ human-days took the second part of this commandment to the extreme. In fact, even today, Orthodox Jews strictly prohibit 39 categories of activities on the Sabbath (or Shabbat); these include the size food can be cut into, the texture of dough that can be made, and much more.
In Mark 2, Jesus abolished this legalistic mindset, reminding them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27), meaning the Sabbath was created to help people, not burden them.
Contrastingly, we have the majority of the Church today, gathering on Sunday (our Sabbath) to worship, then catching up or getting a head start on the busyness coming at us in the week ahead: last minute projects and homework, cleaning the house, meal prepping, laundry. We don’t actually rest.
The Sabbath was never meant to be a catching-up day.
John Mark Comer, and other pivotal leaders in the evangelical church are on a quest to practice the Sabbath in all its intended goodness and beauty. When planning an activity on their Sabbath (sidenote: often not a Sunday, as many are involved in full-time ministry), they ask:
I’ve been delving into the world of practicing Sabbath because the calm and stillness and remembrance of this gift are so inviting. While I could write heaps, I want to share a few points to consider, then encourage you to read, research, and practice on your own …
God knew we couldn’t do it.
But God loves us more than we can understand, so He gives us these commandments to lead us to His best for us. Yet we, in our rebellious sin, fight against His words, treating them as a burden, rather than a gift . . . and He knew we would.
Into this tension stepped Jesus and His death and resurrection. Even THIS commandment to honor the Sabbath points to Jesus, our sinful nature, and our great need for a Redeemer.
“Girls! It’s almost Sabbath! Help me get the dishes put away!” I call, and my three little loves rush into the kitchen to sort silverware and stack their bowls and plates. It is 5pm and almost time for our Sabbath. I’ve already deleted the social media apps from my phone, and spent the day preparing by wrapping up work.
As we settle onto my bed with our nontraditional, but weekly, Shabbat meal of chicken nuggets, french fries, and broccoli, I remind the girls why we take the time to remember God and what He has done.
“How have you seen God this week?” I ask my girls.
One of my twins says she saw Him in the beautiful flowers she smelled.
The other shares how she saw Him when she jumped in the pool and her entire head went under water.
My three-year old tells me she saw Him “everywhere.”
We’re still learning. We’re still practicing. But we’re taking time to breathe in deeply and worship the Lord while completely resting our weary souls.
For further Sabbath study, check out these resources:
“The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry” by John Mark Comer
“The Sabbath” by Abraham Joshua Heschel
Annie F Downs’ highlight on Sabbath
This study was written for and published by Gracefully Truthful. For more studies like this one, visit their website!
1 Corinthians 12:12-27
My Papa was a letter-writer.
In his lifetime, he wrote thousands of letters to people around the world, including many to his own family members. Papa claimed a corner of their kitchen counter as his letter-writing and Bible-studying station. His worn Bible sat on top of the yellow, lined notebook paper Gamma bought in bulk for him, and his highlighters and favorite pens were within reach at all times. I was scolded many-a-time for taking his pen from his station and not bringing it back.
When I left the home our family shared and headed to college, the letters started and they didn’t stop. Papa went Home to Heaven almost four years ago, yet the letters keep coming, because every once in a while, I happen across an unopened letter.
Recently, as I was going through keepsake boxes at my parents’ house, I found such a letter. With a jump in my heart, I clutched it and imagined Papa writing it, his sprawling cursive shaky from Parkinson's and with the occasional German word mix-up.
But I didn’t open it.
Instead, I tucked it away for another day.
I couldn’t bring myself to open what could be my last message from Papa, despite the words of love and wisdom most likely filling the inside.
I imagine that same joy and excitement circulated when an early church received a letter from Paul. Paul did a lot of writing while imprisoned; this Journey Theme focuses on his letter to the church in Ephesus.
I also imagine, unlike me, they didn’t save their letter for another time. They delved right in, unaware this personal letter was inspired by the Holy Spirit and would become part of the Bible we read today.
Let’s dissect this prison prayer; for such a short prayer, it’s crammed with goodness!
Paul begins by explaining how thankful he is for the Ephesians’ faith in Jesus and love for all of the saints (ie, Christians), because it evidences their participation in God’s great work in the world. He shares how he has been praying for them with thankfulness both for them and their growth.
Paul prays with four main points:
Furthermore, Paul is praying for the whole, global Church (including us!) to know Him in all of the facets of His character. For example, we may know Him as Savior, but not as Father, Friend, Guide, and Sustainer. Since we are made in His image, the more intimately we know Him, the more we will understand ourselves in light of Him.
How do we know God better?
Through enlightenment and revelation from the Holy Spirit as He opens the eyes of our “hearts” (again, meaning spirits or souls).
Second, Paul prays we’ll know the hope of God’s calling.
In Greek, “church” is a combination of two words: “ek,” meaning out of, and “kaleo,” meaning to call.
Church literally meant “called out.”
We. Are. Called.
We’ve been called out of darkness and into His marvelous light! (1 Peter 2:9)
Paul is reminding the church in Ephesus, and the global Church,
we have great hope
because of by Whom we are called,
what we are called to do,
and because this world is not our final resting place.
Third, Paul fervently prays we’ll know God’s riches, but get this, he’s talking about US! WE are God’s riches! Just as man’s wealth lies with his treasure, God’s wealth is found in us, His treasures.
God deals with us on the basis of our future. We see throughout Scripture how He calls people what they will become, not what they are at the time (as when he called Gideon a valiant warrior while he was still cowering in fear). God’s riches lie in who we will be when we are glorified with God.
Paul is reminding the Church
we have great value in God’s eyes and much to bring to the Kingdom!
Lastly, Paul prays we will know the great power found in God; this power was fully displayed when Jesus was resurrected from the grave. With that same power, God saved us from the grave and has breathed new life into us.
Toward us who believe, according to the
Those are some big, descriptive words right there!
God is mighty! He has all power! And we have access to that power because we know Him!
Paul ends this prayer by reminding us Jesus Christ, KING Jesus, has ALL power and all authority. He is the head; we are His body.
So, Church (that’s us, sisters), grab onto our love-letter from God (the Bible), and flip to the letter Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus (and ultimately, the Church as a whole).
Allow his prayer to wash over you,
understanding Paul was praying
we would know the Almighty intimately,
we would be filled with the hope of our calling,
we would remember our value in the Kingdom,
and we would grasp His great power, which we also possess through Jesus Christ!
The following study was written for and published by GracefullyTruthful.com - an online Bible study for women. For more studies like this one check out the website!
Read His Words Before Ours!
Last fall, I began reading a biography on Martin Luther (and friends, by “read” I mean “listen to” because I’m a single mama to three little girls and … multitasking). I read about Luther proclaiming “Sola” truths, contradicting the Roman Catholic Church, and igniting a movement that would change history.
ation was monumental in church history, shaping even our churches today. Likewise, we each have the opportunity to undergo our own “mini-reformation” as we study Scripture and build our lives on the Solas of biblical faith.
How do we approach our “reformations”?
We ask vital questions about each Sola and see where we stand.
We examine whether we reject or accept the teachings of Scripture.
Let’s check-in with one another.
I will be honest as I answer, and I ask you to give yourself permission for complete honesty as well. No condemnation. Let’s just recognize where our hearts still need reformation.
Sola Scriptura: By Scripture Alone
The Bible is the sole infallible source of authority and the Word of God, and shall not be added to or taken from. It was written by men, but inspired by the Holy Spirit, and all truths we need for our spiritual lives are found in the Bible alone.
Are we allowing the Bible to be our main source of wisdom and authority?
Do we seek wisdom elsewhere, first and most?
Whose words dictate what is right or wise?
Many books are written by Christians, but many who claim that title believe their own version of “God” rather than the God of the Bible, or they may twist truth just a bit so it makes us feel happier. Only by deeply knowing God’s Word are we able to discern genuine Scriptural truth.
So I ask, do we place more weight on Christian books or the Bible?
I’m in the middle of a wonderful book called “The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry.”
It’s phenomenal and I can’t recommend it enough!
But if I’m honest, some days, I’ve prioritized this book above the Bible.
How about you?
What’s your honest answer?
Sola Fide: By Faith Alone
We are saved through faith alone. We are neither covered by another’s faith, nor can we bargain our way to salvation. God will accept no bribe, because all we can offer are appearances of righteousness. The only acceptable offering to God is humble, honest faith, which is itself a gift from God.
If grace is God freely extending salvation by His hand, faith alone is our hand reaching out to touch His, accepting His gift.
Sola Fida enraged the Catholic church as it condemned their common practice of requiring penance and purchasing indulgences to reduce their punishment for sin.
Instead, Luther dared assert that even our very best efforts are sin-stained worthlessness before our utterly holy God. Only Jesus’ propitiatory death could pay the life-debt of our sins, and only our faith in Him connects us to the power of His resurrection to bring forgiveness for our sins.
So let’s do a little faith check-in, sisters.
Do you find yourself bargaining with God?
I’ve seen incredible growth in my faith over the last few years, but I’ve also been praying some big, hard, monumental prayers, and when it comes to these prayers? That faith waivers. I want to be sure my trust is in God alone, not in something feeble I try to offer Him as an exchange for what I want.
Have you ever attempted to manipulate God?
Sola Gratia: By Grace Alone
We are saved through God’s grace alone. There is nothing we could ever do to save ourselves.
Grace is God, who paid everything for our redemption, offering salvation to us for free. We cannot earn it.
Sometimes, we do “good things” because we are trying to earn God’s favor. We believe by praying a certain way, or giving a certain amount, we somehow earn the smile of God.
I most often get caught in this trap with people; I equate the number of people who like me to the amount of grace God extends. It sounds silly as I type, but I said I’d be honest.
How about you?
Solus Christus: Through Christ Alone
Salvation is through Jesus Christ alone. There is no one else who can save. Jesus is fully God and fully man.
Do you believe this?
The temptation is to give some authority to our own opinion or others in the Church? What if we modify the Jesus of the Bible to make Him more appealing or more tolerant? My temptation is to make Jesus less jealous for my heart than He actually is. I will choose to turn to books, music, or mind-numbing activities before turning to Christ.
How are you tempted to water down the Jesus of the Bible?
Soli Deo Gloria: For the Glory of God Alone
The work of salvation was done by God alone, therefore He alone receives glory. Any good fruit my life bears is due entirely to Christ’s lifeblood flowing within my veins.
But is it?
Or are we focused on our own glory?
When I lead worship, write Journey studies, or prepare a meal for friends, is it for my own glory, or for Him? Sometime last year, I did a heart-check on this topic and realized just how off I was. As I shared with a friend how part of me was engaging in these activities for self-glorifying reasons, she encouraged me to keep ministering, serving, and loving while asking God to transform my heart. Let’s ask for a heart like Jesus, who was focused completely on His Father receiving all glory.
How about you?
Sisters, it’s been a challenging three weeks on this study!
Let’s be encouraged by the growth we’ve experienced, but let’s also leave here challenged to live out the truths we’ve unpacked, allowing them to continue to reform our hearts just like they did Martin Luther and the Church of old.
The following writing was first published on GracefullyTruthful.com - a website full of online Bible studies for women. For further studies like this one, check out the website!
Read His Words Before Ours!
“Friend, I just read your blog. I’m praying for you and I’m behind you, and I’m also reminded of Moses. When the Israelites fought against Amalek, Moses, Aaron, and Hur climbed a hill. When Moses’ hand was raised, Israel was winning, but when his hand lowered, they began losing. When he grew too weary, Aaron and Hur stood on either side of him holding up his hands. We will be here, holding up your hands as you grow weary and tired from battle. You won’t have to keep your hands raised on your own.”
I sent this text to a friend, as I thought of all she walked through in the last year. I’ve watched the Church gather around her family, holding up their hands.
Beautiful, God-crafted, community.
We see this theme throughout Scripture, beginning with God Himself. He exists in the community of the God-head: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Community . . . when God told Adam it wasn’t good for Adam to be alone.
Community . . . when Noah and his family boarded the ark.
Time and time again, community arises in the most unlikely circumstances. David’s closest community was the son of the man trying to murder him. Jesus’ earthly community included the man He knew would betray Him to death.
And the famous matriarch, Naomi?
Her community came from her Gentile daughter-in-law, Ruth.
Ruth, who was new to calling Yahweh her God.
Ruth, who was from a different culture, yet returned to Naomi’s homeland alongside her.
Ruth, who was so much younger than her grieving mother-in-law.
Yet, the unlikely Ruth, exemplifies Biblical community by holding up Naomi’s arms when she was overcome with weakness and her feelings that God had forsaken her.
You see, when Naomi and her family left Bethlehem for Moab, it was only supposed to last until the famine eased.
But Moab brought Naomi nothing but turmoil as she watched each member of her family die.
I’ve walked through grief, like so many of us have already, and all of us will someday. While God’s original plan for this earth did not include physical death, it’s now an inescapable part of our fallen world. But death never has the final word, and despite Naomi’s heartbroken belief she’d been forsaken, God wasn’t finished with her story.
After the death of her two sons, Naomi and her daughters-in-law began their return to Bethlehem. Eventually, Naomi convinced one of them to return to her Moabite family, but Ruth? She would not leave Naomi.
Naomi pleaded. She pushed Ruth away.
She tried to convince Ruth to abandon a hopeless life with a forsaken woman.
Her pleadings fell on deaf ears; Ruth was staying. She embraced Yahweh as her God and the Ephrathites from Bethlehem as her people, just as they were Naomi’s.
When Naomi was weak and weary, Ruth would not abandon her, and believed, in Naomi’s stead, that God’s favor would fall on them.
When they arrived in Bethlehem, Naomi announced the Almighty had made her bitter, replacing her once-full heart with overwhelming, all-encompassing, and inescapable grief Naomi was empty. Forsaken.
Ruth wouldn’t hear of it. Ruth believed favor would come, and she continued to serve Naomi, encouraging her, caring for her, and loving her. Naomi, in her heartache and sorrow, couldn’t see that Ruth was proof she wasn’t forsaken.
God had given her a daughter-in-law who was faithful, and their stories weren’t over.
Death wouldn’t have the final word!
The remainder of Ruth’s story overflows with the Lord’s kindly orchestrated favor and faithfulness to Naomi through Ruth.
As Ruth “just so happened” to gather fallen grain from the field of a man named Boaz . . .
As Boaz “just so happened” to notice Ruth and show her extravagant kindness . . .
As Boaz “just so happened” to have heard how Ruth left everything she knew to stay with Naomi . . .
And as Boaz “just so happened” to be a family redeemer: one who, we’ll learn in the next few studies, could provide Ruth and Noami with a hope and future.
When Naomi felt nothing but forsaken and empty from the deep sorrow consuming her,
Ruth’s faith and faithfulness carried Naomi through.
Ruth held up Naomi’s arms, refusing to allow her to crumble, refusing to allow her to believe she was alone and death would have the final word.
That’s community, friends!
We hold each other up, speaking life and favor over one another. We walk alongside one another during the darkest of days and the hardest of times. We point one another to Jesus over and over and over. We hold up one another’s arms during battle, like Aaron and Hur and Ruth.
I’ve seen true, deep community lived out in the Church. I’ve experienced it during my own battles. It is beautiful. It’s how God designed community to be lived out; as a reminder to each other we are favored, not forsaken!
The following was written for and published by GracefullyTruthful.com - an online Bible study for women. For more studies like this one, check out the website!
Read His Words Before Ours!
I recently created a little playlist called “JOY,” full of songs that make my heart bubble over when I hear them. The songs are often classics and quite simple, a mix of hymns and Elvis, JJ Heller and Ingrid Michaelson, and, believe it or not … Mr. Rogers.
One of my fondest memories is sitting in the den at my grandparents’ house, watching Mr. Rogers while my Papa (who was quite like Mr. Rogers himself, but with a thick German accent and a beard) sat next to me. Hearing Mr. Rogers sing his simple yet deeply profound songs still fills me with joy. So, I added some of my favorites to my “JOY” playlist. “Peace and Quiet” is especially meaningful:
“Peace and Quiet,
Peace, peace, peace [ . . . ]
We all want peace,
We all want peace.
Do you know what peace means? Peace is wonderful.
It sounds like a piece of bread or a piece of paper. But it’s so much more than a piece of anything.
This kind of peace is something very comfortable. When you have it, you feel inside yourself that the people you live with care about you, and you care about them, too. And what’s more, you care about yourself.
Peace means you can talk with people and tell them you’re happy or sad or angry or anything, and they’ll understand, and they’ll tell you how they feel, too.”
I love Mr. Roger’s simple explanation of peace, because we can all understand the feeling he describes, even though our lives aren’t always peaceful… that is, not everyone around us has cared about us.
It’s amazing how significantly the presence of peace can be affected by our companions. My daughters and I recently spent the morning with friends and, as we sat in their backyard, I found myself breathing deeply as I recognized the peaceful atmosphere surrounding me. Kids were laughing, our conversation ebbed and flowed, but because I was with people of peace, I felt peace. Like Mr. Rogers said, I could feel the care of my friends embracing me, and felt my own care for them in return.
In John 14, Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you.”
He’s given us His peace.
In fact, Isaiah prophesied about Jesus, the Prince of Peace, hundreds of years before His birth.
And even further back in history, humans recognized special peace from the Almighty.
Travel back with me to our war hero, Gideon (remember, the young guy empowered by God, who conquered the Midianites against all odds?) Before Gideon conquered the Midianites, he was called into battle by none other than Yahweh Shalom.
Gideon was beating wheat while hiding from the Midianites, who’d been oppressing Israel for seven years. Israel had nothing, certainly not peace.
As Gideon was laboring in the hot sun, a stranger approached him and proclaimed,
“The Lord is with you, valiant warrior.” (Judges 6:12)
The Lord is with you.
He’s with you.
Now I could talk at length about the words of affirmation and prophecy delivered when he called Gideon “valiant warrior,” but I want to focus on the first words spoken.
The Lord, Yahweh, is with you.
You aren’t alone.
But Gideon is confused, asking the angel, “Please, my lord, if Yahweh is with us, why has all of this happened?” (Judges 6:13)
Gideon recognized the utter absence of peace in his community; if there was no peace, how could the Lord of peace be with them?
The angel commands Gideon to prepare for battle, because the Lord was going to use him to bring justice and ultimately, peace throughout Israel. Gideon knows he’s the youngest member of an already weak family, and therefore, by any human calculation, the least likely to conquer the mighty Midianites. He’s confused and he’s scared . . . and then he realizes he’s talking with an angel of the Lord.
But the Lord reassures him, “Peace to you. Do not be afraid, for you will not die.” (Judges 6:23)
The Lord knew Gideon’s heart, understood his deepest fear, and addressed it directly.
“Peace to you. Do not be afraid, for you will not die.”
While “peace to you” was a common phrase used when coming or going, on this day, Gideon perceived it differently. Perhaps, like a puzzle finally completed, Gideon realized Yahweh Shalom was with him, and His presence was peace.
Gideon commemorated this sacred moment by building an altar, calling it: “The Lord is Peace.”
Not just, “He brings peace” or “He gives peace.” No.
The Lord is peace.
The Lord is our peace.
Because He is with us.
Remember how Isaiah declared the coming Messiah would be called the Prince of Peace?
Jesus came. He was with us. He walked this earth, breathed this air, lived life within the fleshly limits of the mankind His Father created.
The Prince of Peace.
We know Jesus isn’t physically with us today, and, in John 14, when Jesus told us about the peace He’d give, He knew He’d be returning to His Father in Heaven. Therefore, He spoke to us of the Holy Spirit, who would come and dwell in every believing heart, teaching us and guiding us.
God with us.
We all long for peace, as Mr. Rogers reminded us, and peace will never be found apart from God, because...
He is peace.
The Prince of peace.
The Giver of peace.
This study was written for a first published by GracefullyTruthful.com - an online Bible study for women. Check out the website for more studies like this one!
Read His Words Before Ours!
“Through your love and through the ram,
You saved the son of Abraham;
Through the power of your hand,
Turned the sea into dry land.
To the outcast on her knees,
You were the God who really sees,
And by your might,
You set your children free.”
Just her name triggers an avalanche of childhood memories - from concerts, to cozy Christmases at home, to road trips with my mom, and, oddly enough, my alone time playing with Barbies, because yes, I totally named one after my favorite singer. Her voice, along with Rich Mullins’ and Michael W. Smith’s, filled the quiet and stillness of my childhood home, and has worked its way into all of my memory’s cracks and crevices. One song I remember singing along to was, “El Shaddai”.
As I’ve studied Adonai, and pondered this Journey Study, the song has been echoing in my mind constantly …
“El shaddai, el shaddai,
El-elyon na Adonai,
Age to age you’re still the same,
By the power of the name.”
This song was my first, and until recently, only interaction with the term Adonai. I’ve heard this name of God over the years, but never understood its meaning. As I looked up the lyrics to refresh my memory, I had the “Aha!” moment I get every time I write a Journey Study. I need the topic to be real for me, to hit home, only then am I able to share what God is revealing to me.
Adonai is used throughout Scripture, not only in reference to God, but to anyone with authority as “lord” or “master.” Jews have been careful not to take the Lord’s name in vain, and often believed YHWH (Yahweh) to be so holy, they couldn’t even utter His Name aloud. In fact, Jews will still say Adonai, even if YHWH is written.
Additionally, Adonai was often the name Gentiles used for God, instead of YHWH. As we read Scripture, when LORD is spelled in all caps, then the translated word is YHWH. However, if it is spelled Lord, whether referring to God or anyone else, the translated word is Adonai. And when we see “Lord of lords” in the Bible, the phrase is actually “Adonai of adonais.”
Finally, in Scripture, YHWH is often used in God’s dealing with the Jews, while Adonai is used in His dealings with Gentiles. This subtle change paints a beautiful picture of God’s heart and character; as my friend, Rebecca, explains, “He wasn’t the one who changed; neither was His message of hope and redemption. Rather, simply by being called a different name, He flung wide the door for all to see He is for ALL peoples and ALL cultures.”
The idea of a God for all peoples of all cultures is seen throughout the Bible. Immediately, I am reminded of the Ninevites and their story of salvation in the book of Jonah. The inhabitants of the infamous city of Nineveh were Gentiles, yet God used His prophet to declare the freedom and peace found in repenting from sin and living for the Lord.
I’m reminded, again, of when Philip shared the Gospel with the Ethiopian traveler. The Holy Spirit directed Philip to a chariot on the road, where Philip had the opportunity to present the Gospel to a man who was so excited about the Good News of Jesus, he insisted on being baptized that very moment!
Now back to my “Aha” moment …
“To the outcast on her knees…
You were the God that really sees.”
These lines struck a chord in my heart as I imagined a myriad of encounters between God and an outcast woman in which He proved He saw her, both for who she was and who He created her to be . . .
Rahab. The prostitute.
Hannah. The wife who struggled with infertility.
Esther. The Jewish orphan-turned-Gentile-queen.
The Samaritan woman who was living in shame from failed marriages and relationships.
Maria Skobtsova. The single mom who was divorced twice and eventually became a nun.
Jackie Hill Perry. The woman who was a lesbian.
Kendra LeeAnne. The woman who struggled with sexual sin in high school, shame throughout college, and eventually became a single mama to three girls.
You. All of your story.
And we’re just the very tip of the iceberg.
God is the Master. He is the Lord. He is the God who is for all people and the God who really sees.
We get yet another beautiful glimpse of who He is when we read Deuteronomy 10:12-22.
This whole section of Scripture gets my heart beating faster and my eyes welling with tears, but for me, the most meaningful part is in verses 17-19:
“For the LORD your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords [read: Adonai of adonais], the great, mighty, and awe-inspiring God, showing no partiality and taking no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the resident alien, giving him food and clothing.”
We serve a God who is for ALL PEOPLE, from orphans and widows to immigrants. He is YHWH and He is Adonai.
He is MY Adonai.
He is my Lord.
And He is Lord for all people.
The following was written for and published by GracefullyTruthful.com - an online Bible study for women. For more studies like this one, check out the website.
Read His Words Before Ours!
“The one who showed mercy…”
I read “wounded” and my heart reels.
I know wounded.
I know slowly retreating to care for the deep cuts and sharp blows I’ve endured.
I know sprinting away from the lashes against me.
I know wounds so deep they begin to look healed on the outside, but still throb and gape.
I know wounded, friend.
I bet you do, too.
But no one knows wounded quite like our Jesus.
In Luke 10, Jesus tells a fictional story about a Jewish traveler attacked by robbers and left for dead.
Two men passed by the nearly lifeless body, a priest and a Levite, both religious and both the same race as the wounded man, but they didn’t stop.
They saw him, and they chose to look away.
Then a Samaritan man enters the scene.
The original audience of the story possessed the context to understand this Samaritan man was wounded, too. But, like so many of us, his wounds weren’t visible.
At the time Jesus told this parable, Samaritans and Jews had a long-standing rivalry, spanning hundreds of years. Due to the mixed Assyrian and Jewish genealogy of Samaritans, Jews resented Samaritans’ “impure blood line” and often treated them like trash.
We know from a true story in Scripture that Jews and Samaritans never interacted with one another (John 4:9), and even Jesus wasn’t received by Samaritans when He was heading into Jerusalem. (Luke 9:51-53)
We don’t know the kind of ridicule this Samaritan endured from Jews, but undoubtedly, the hatred seething from the Jewish community cut him deeply.
Yet, we see the Samaritan man, wounded by the Jews, breaking barriers of racism by caring for the physically wounded Jewish man.
We’ve all been wounded.
Maybe, like the Jewish man, we’ve been physically and emotionally wounded from abuse.
Maybe, like the Jewish man, we’ve been spiritually wounded by “religion” and people in leadership positions who’ve told us we’re too dirty and too damaged to be worth helping.
Maybe, like the Samaritan, we’ve been wounded by society, or racial and economic barriers.
Or maybe we’ve been wounded by something else….
friends, family, business deals, jobs, the government.
He was wounded by it all.
He took on the sins of the world when He suffered on the cross,
eventually dying from the extreme torture He endured.
He was wounded physically and emotionally.
He was wounded by the religion bearing the same name as His nationality,
and He – who IS God – was killed by the religious people who claimed to worship God.
Jesus knows wounded, friend.
He knows the sharp pains piercing our hearts by betrayal. (Luke 22:3-6)
He knows the hurt embedded in us when grief becomes part of our story. (John 11:32-36)
He knows the rejection of people who have loved us and known us for our entire lives. (Luke 4:14-30)
Jesus knows wounded.
Because Jesus knew wounded so well, because He allowed Himself to be wounded beyond recognition, so badly He eventually died …
We don’t have to live a wounded life.
We have hope.
So, what do we do about the people who hurt us?
What do we do with this story about a wounded man loving another wounded man?
How do we love those who have wounded us?
Compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.
The Samaritan had every excuse to ignore the beaten man on the side of the road. This Jewish man had spent his entire life scoffing and scorning Samaritans, believing they were a lesser people, unwanted by God. And even if he didn’t believe it, his people did.
No one would’ve been surprised if the Samaritan kept walking.
Mercy isn’t just the Samaritan’s compassion, but the forgiveness he displayed toward a man he could’ve left for dead.
Mercy is the forgiveness God offers to us, even though we deserve death.
Mercy is hard, isn’t it?
I get a knot in my stomach just thinking about loving the people who inflicted my deepest wounds.
Friends, I cannot go on without emphasizing that forgiveness and even love are completely possible while still maintaining strong boundaries.
Sometimes, you can love someone best by enforcing boundaries, and forgiveness does not mean boundaries must be removed or even lowered. Abusive and toxic relationships can cause some of our deepest wounds, and we can forgive abusers while still protecting ourselves.
I want to be “the one who showed mercy”. (Luke 10:37)
I want to live ready to show compassion and offer forgiveness to people who have wounded me. I want to love my neighbors, even the ones who have wounded me.
Merciful love is going to take all of me, and all of you.
It’s going to take all of our strength.
But it’s worth the struggle because of Jesus, the One who showed us mercy.
If He can be merciful to us, surely, with His strength, we can extend mercy to others.
We, too, can be . . . the ones who show mercy.
This study was written for and published by GracefullyTruthful.com - an online Bible study for women. Check out the website for more studies like this one!
Read His Words Before Ours!
When Israel came out of Egypt
The house of Jacob from a people
Who spoke a foreign language
Peter: I could feel the gruffness in my voice, as the chilled air lodged in my vocal chords, but still I sang … I sang with my brothers, and with Jesus as we sat together in the Upper Room, the smells from dinner still wrapped around us.
“When Israel came out of Egypt,” I thought, “freedom. Freedom for my ancient fathers who were slaves for four hundred years. Freedom, only from Yahweh.” It’s what we’d been celebrating with our Passover meal, remembering the night our ancestors were freed from bondage.
“Judah became his sanctuary,
Israel, his dominion”…
I thought of the ancient tabernacle, and the temple here in Jerusalem where Jesus taught. I remembered witnessing Jesus cleanse the temple shortly after I began following Him. The temple had become a place of business instead of worship, and Jesus drove out the money changers and animals from the dwelling place of God. (John 2:13-17)
Jesus: His Sanctuary, His dominion. Our will from the beginning, Abba, has been to dwell among Our beloved children, so they would not walk alone.
In the Scriptures, specific building instructions were given to Our people for the tabernacle so We could dwell with them.
Then the Father sent Me to live and dwell among Our people, and to fulfill the great rescue plan in motion since sin first entered this world.
Soon, the Spirit will be living and dwelling among and within Our people (John 14:26)…
“The sea looked and fled;
The Jordan turned back.
The mountains skipped like rams,
The hills, like lambs”…
Jesus: I’ve often heard my earthly father, Joseph, tell of the days when my Father freed them from slavery in Egypt before they came face to face with the Red Sea, an obstacle they could not cross on their own. They couldn’t be freed from slavery on their own. They couldn’t cross the Red Sea on their own. And now, our people cannot have access to the Father alone. They need a Savior in order to cross over Jordan into the Promised Land of life eternal.
The commandments given on Mount Sinai were but an example
of rules impossible to follow,
laws impossible to keep,
a Red Sea impossible to cross,
a Jordan impossible to reach …
Old laws for an old covenant, but a new covenant is coming.
Peter: My eyes were fixed on Jesus, who sat with us; His eyes deep and reflective, but lost somewhere else. He was with us, yet He wasn’t. I could almost see the words we were singing penetrating His soul and I wondered what He was thinking.
I thought of the Red Sea my forefathers crossed only because Yahweh parted the waters and made the earth completely dry. As the former slaves walked through the parted sea, they looked back and saw their Egyptian pursuers stopped first by fire, then by water. (Exodus 15:4)
Then I thought of the Jordan River, crossed many years later by the next generation of Israelites as they finally stepped into the land promised to them by Yahweh. They already possessed the Ten Commandments, which they had not kept, and yet the Lord allowed them to cross the Jordan just as they crossed the Red Sea, with water parted before them (Joshua 3:13-17).
Imagining His thoughts matched my own, I continued singing along …
“Why was it, sea, that you fled?
Jordan, that you turned back?
Mountains, that you skipped like rams?
Hills, like lambs?”
Peter: I’ve sung this song my entire life, but I never fully believed these words could be true. But now, I’ve seen Jesus perform miracles upon miracles. I’ve seen creation obey His voice. (Mark 4:35-41)
“The seas must have fled, the Jordan must have turned back, the mountains must have skipped because creation obeys its Creator,” my scattered thoughts come together as I sing a little more loudly, a declaration mixed into the questions asked in this psalm.
“Why? Because all of creation must bow to the Creator. To Yahweh. To Jesus.” I look back at Him, with a deep stirring in my heart. This man whom I’ve called friend, who has been patient in my bluntness, gentle in my lack of faith, and who changed my name and told me to follow Him.
Even still, He tells me I will deny Him, but how could I? This man to whom creation bows? My Lord?
Jesus: Why? Why did the sea flea? The Jordan turn back? The mountains skip?
Because nothing, nothing will stop My Father from delivering His people. Nothing will stop Him from loving His people, and certainly nothing created will stand in the way of His love. His very creations will declare His goodness and His power and His glory.
“Tremble, earth, at the presence of the Lord,
At the presence of the God of Jacob,
Who turned the rock into a pool,
The flint into a spring.”
Peter: As the melodies swirl around me, I began to tremble. I could feel myself joining with the rest of creation, who cannot help but tremble when in the presence of the Lord, and I, I was in the presence of the Lord.
Here, before me.
Whose voice I can hear rising above my own. My voice fades as I grasp the full enormity of the words I’m singing.
Tremble at the presence of God. He’s here. Before me. With me. Right here, right now.
Jesus: As Abraham struck the rock and water poured out, I can feel the Father speak to me.
I will be struck, and I, the Living Water, will be poured out.
Out of the Rock, the Living Water flows. (Isaiah 28:16, John 4:14)
We will dwell among Our people.
Peter: “Jesus is here. He’s here and He is with us.” As the song ends, we allow a few moments of quiet to lapse before we begin singing the next Hallel . . .
The following was a "Sketched" study written for and published by GracefullyTruthful.com. It is written by Kendra LeeAnne in the voice of Adam Kuntz - a student pastor in the Kansas City, MO area as part of a "Sketched" series on how the local Church is impacting the community.
Read His Words Before Ours!
1 Timothy 1:12-20
1 Corinthians 15:35-49
I can feel my coffee cooling as time passes between us. I fix my gaze on Billy, hunched across the table from me, head hanging low and shame creeping up his neck. He has every right to be upset: his home life is a mess and his girlfriend just broke up with him.
This. This moment is everything to me as a youth pastor. And yet, during my training, I never saw it coming.
In high school, I developed a deep, lasting friendship with my youth pastor. He called out the best in me, challenged me, and saw something in me I’d never seen in myself.
Following an abrupt change in pastoral leadership during my senior year, I volunteered to help lead a mission trip. Thus, I became the first unofficial youth ministry intern. As I served under the discipleship of my youth pastor, my faith became real. I began to long for others to experience the magnitude of God, as I had. I am most alive when I see others take steps forward in their faith, steps from death to everlasting life. It is my life’s devotion.
I’m brought back to the present by Billy’s shaky sigh. He’s on the verge of speaking. I wait, allowing the silence to penetrate his soul. I’m in no rush. This moment in time is just for Billy.
These moments, teetering on the cusp of breakthrough, are pivotal. My best days in student ministry have never been behind a desk, prepping for a catchy Wednesday night message. No, my best days have always been at a table shared with a kindred or hurting spirit.
It took me a while to learn this. I landed a job at Living Stones Community Church before my college graduation. On my first day of work, I rolled up in my car with a backseat full of textbooks and the latest and greatest resources.
With my pride-puffed chest and irremovable smile, I approached the lead pastor as he watered flowers and we began chatting. “Adam,” he remarked a few minutes later, “you’re going to find out ministry is more than just sermon prep.”
My face remained attentive while I silently scoffed, “That’s what you think. People are going to be changed because of MY convicting sermons. Just you wait. Living Stones isn’t going to know what hit it.”
I began spending my days preparing my sermons. I would sit and dream, praying about what God wanted me to teach my students.
And yet, I was working completely alone. It was lonely, isolating, and depressing.
Then, a mentor told me, “If you want to shepherd but hate sheep, you need to go home.”
It was the punch-in-the-gut conviction I needed.
I couldn’t just sit behind a desk preparing sermons,
or change the name of the youth group to make it sound catchier,
or buy the latest youth packages available,
and call my efforts "discipleship" or even "pastoring".
I needed to love the students where they were, in hospitals, schools, at basketball games, and school performances. God began giving me a Gospel-ache to help other student pastors love their sheep well.
Eventually, I began a Student Pastor Network in our area. Once a month, we pray for one another and share ideas.
I also began getting a little dirtier with my students.
I sat in their mess with them.
I stopped preaching at my sheep and began loving them.
I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for the transformation He’s worked in my heart. If I’d remained unchanged, I wouldn’t be sitting with Billy, helping him navigate hard questions and confusing times.
“But, Adam?” Billy says. “All of this mess, all of the hard times and sad nights and even loneliness, it’s all worth it for one life, isn’t it? If I get to see my dad come to know Jesus because of everything I’ve been through, it’ll be worth it, right?”
I understand his question; we ask our youth group, “Who is the ONE LIFE you’re praying will come to know and trust Jesus? What is your role in the process?”
I wonder if Billy is also asking if he’s worth it to me. Billy joined our youth group in the midst of my chaotic personal life, and came to know Jesus when I shared the messy truth even pastors are faced with tremendous losses and life-altering, hard decisions.
“Billy,” I say, “it is completely worth it. You are the one life who’s made my struggles worth the pain. My trials aren’t easier, and my messes aren’t cleaner. But God used you to remind me I have hope and purpose.” Billy’s eyes soften as truth settles over him and soothes his heart.
As Billy and I wrap up our time together, I pray over him and ask if I’ll see him at FCA the next morning. I’ve learned connecting with teenagers doesn’t just look like chatting with them when they’re at church, or sharing memes during my sermons, or even trying to use their slang when interacting.
The truth is, I’m going to grow more “out of touch” as I grow older, and it’s ok! I don’t need to be one of them, I need to be with them. I work hard to become a student of my students.
Teenagers are charting new waters, ones many of us have never faced. They are learning to navigate the world not only in person, but digitally. These days, students are bolder with their thumbs than with their mouths, and they need help ensuring what pours from their mouths and their devices reflects what’s inside their hearts. That’s just one of my jobs as their pastor.
I strive to unite all of the roles I fill behind my ultimate calling to preserve the bride of Christ. The Church is certainly not perfect, but she is beautiful, and I want to live and pastor as He leads.
I pull into the church parking lot and give our lead pastor a little wave as I head back inside; he’s watering the flowers again.
It’s been eight years since I began working at this church, and I’m a different man. Our pastor knows I’m heading inside to prep my message. But he also knows I came from meeting with Billy.
It turns out, he was right. There is so much more to ministry than sermon prep.
Read His Words Before Ours!
The room was dim as the sun began setting, and the smell of smoke lingered in the air from the simple meal. Anna began preparing the children for bed and their giggles filled the home. Joshua listened carefully to each squeal, able to pair the sound with the mouth it came from. His eyes were weakened from years of working in the glaring sun, but his ears were sharp. Listening to his grandchildren giggle filled his heart to overflowing.
“Lydia, come along,” Anna spoke gently to her littlest, but Lydia’s chubby feet toddled towards Joshua instead. He heard her voice, “Up!”, and knew tiny arms reached towards him. He wrapped his hands around her squishy little belly, hoisting her onto his knee. “Story!”, Lydia pipped into his ear as she snuggled into his chest, feeling his beard on her head.
Joshua chuckled and pulled her close, “You and your stories, Lydie. Just one before bed.”
The words were invitation to the other four children, as they flew to the floor around Grandfather. Each pair of eyes transfixed on his, ready to watch the story dance in his eyes as it filled their ears.
Well, children, you all know I was a shepherd for decades, just as my father and his father was. You know, King David was a shepherd, and before him, Father Abraham. Shepherding is an honor, but many forget that noble men once began as poor shepherds like me.
Then one night, everything changed.
The day was warmer than usual, and our stench revealed the work we’d done in the heat of the day. There were three other shepherds, Jacob – your great uncle, and Levi and Micah, our cousins. We ate and laughed our way through our late supper, and settled in for the night by the fire. The cool evening descended quickly, and soon an endless array of shining stars filled the dark sky as far as we could see.
Just as our eyes grew heavy, a brilliant light flooded the sky. Micah and Jacob shouted with fear. Levi and I shielded our eyes in stunned, blinding silence as we fell to the ground. What was happening!? My heart raced as I saw the form of a man take shape in the midst of dazzling white. Mighty wings unfurled on either side of him. The light effervesced around him, filling the space between us making our firelight appear as dim shadows compared to the light swirling around us. It was as if the light itself was alive.
Children, there is nothing as terrifying as seeing something huge and magnificent while being entirely unsure of it. My mind raced, “Am I dying? Is this Heaven? Is it an enemy’s attack? Is it Abraham’s ghost? Do we run? Do we shout? Defend ourselves?”
Suddenly, like the blast of a trumpet mingled with gentle swirls of frolicking kindness, the powerful being spoke, “Don’t be afraid! I am heralding good news to you!”
Stunned, the words flew around us like a rushing wind while our hearts were tenderly warmed and flooded with excitement.
“Today, in the city of David, a Savior was born for you, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be the sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped tightly in cloth and lying in a manger.”
In the space of a blink, the single angelic herald was joined by hundreds, no, thousands! The entirety of the sky’s expanse was filled with brilliant light. They were as far as we could see, yet near enough we felt the wind from beating wings.
And Oh! The music!
Joshua paused for a moment, closing his eyes while the children sat enraptured with anticipation. “Go! Go! Singing!” shouted Lydia, bouncing on his lap and clapping her dimpled hands together. Joshua shook his head to clear the enchantment that had taken over his mind. He smiled and looked upward, as if still seeing angels, but proceeded with deep emotion…
The music was magnificent.
I’ve never heard music like that before or since, but I’ll never forget their words,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven! And peace on earth to people He favors!”
My goose pimples had goose pimples and the tears streamed down my face, but I felt nothing but awesome glory. We were captivated in worship.
As quickly as they appeared, they left, and darkness dropped heavily on our eyes as we could only hear our own quickened breathing in the astounding quiet.
Only a moment passed before we realized with astonishment that we were still alone. No one from Bethlehem had run down to listen and watch… it was just us.
That entire proclamation was just for us.
Us. Small, poor, and humble shepherds.
God had sent those angels to proclaim the birth of the Messiah to us.
“Let’s go!” whispered Micah, but I was already moving to chase Levi as the sheep followed. Before we knew it, we were running as fast as we possibly could. As quickly as we moved, the questions pecked inside, “A Savior born for us? The Messiah? Was this the promised rescuer of Israel? But a Savior lying in a manger? What Lord was this humble?!”
We entered Bethlehem, and kept running, the cobblestone roads cold under our bare, weathered feet, but we didn’t stop. It didn’t seem to matter that none of us knew exactly where to go, but our feet flew nonetheless in a single direction as if intentionally led.
A small light cast a warm glow off of hollowed-out walls of a cave, tucked into the side of a hill. Here. Messiah was here.
We called out before entering, and as we did, that same all-consuming feeling we experienced as the angels sang, powerfully surrounded us again. Our breath caught with awe as we slowly stumbled further into the stable, smelling the hay warmed by animals.
Time itself seemed to stand still as our eyes paused on an image I’ll never forget.
There He was, the tiny babe, just as the angel said, wrapped tightly in strips of rags and lying in a manger.
We all quickly fell to our knees, the tears falling afresh.
The Savior. Our Savior.
Here. With Us.
Children, that was nearly fifty years ago. That baby grew into a powerful man. He performed many miracles and taught His followers what it actually means to love your neighbor. Thirty- three years after that spectacular night, came another night.
The darkest night.
The Messiah hung lifeless on a cross innocently murdered.
I wept when I heard the news… that precious baby we had worshiped… dead.
But, my children, you know that’s not the end of the story!!
The children shouted, “No!” all at once, the excitement and glee filling their faces and bodies as victory screamed within them.
No! Because three days later, our Messiah rose from the dead! He didn’t stay dead, He conquered Death for us!
My little ones, I have lived every day of my life telling of that wondrous first night, my job may have been humble shepherd, but my real job was proclaiming the Messiah’s arrival, our deliverance from sin, and our call to worship Him. I’m sharing my story with you, because one day, I won’t be alive to share it anymore. And oh! What a day that will be! On that day, I will fall on my knees and worship our Messiah again, this time forever!
This Study is property of Gracefully Truthful. For more studies like this one, visit the GT website.
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