Read His Words Before Ours!
2 Kings 4:8-17
Twelve years ago, I met a woman we’ll call “Marcy”.
Marcy’s children and I went to the same school and attended the same church. I knew Marcy’s children better than I knew Marcy, but over the years, we served together in different ministries at church and grew closer.
Marcy and her family live in a beautiful home, her husband has a solid job, and from the outside looking in, it appears that Marcy has everything she needs and even wants. That’s all pretty surface-y, but I’m guessing we can all imagine someone with Marcy’s lifestyle.
However, I know something else about Marcy….
I know she and her husband live out selfless generosity.
All without saying anything to anyone.
The only way I could possibly know this is if I were a benefactor of their open-handed generosity… which I am.
Marcy has opened her home over and over as a welcome place for discipleship, worship, blessing, celebrating, and feeding others. Including me.
I’ve watched Marcy open her arms to people of all walks of life… sometimes she doesn’t remember their names, but she never forgets a face! That Marcy would literally give the shoes off of her feet to someone… and she has.
My mom once told Marcy the shoes she was wearing were adorable and that I would love them. Finding out we wore the same size, she literally took her shoes off of her feet, handed them to my mom, and told her to give them to me.
Marcy’s husband has used his profession to assist my parents on the mission field at no cost to them. Together they bought my entire cart full of Christmas gifts when we ran into one another at Target, where they were purchasing food to serve to parents with sick kiddos. This couple has poured themselves out to love others in countless ways as they have discipled, mentored, and given away what they had for others. Marcy told me once that nothing they own is actually theirs, it all belongs to God.
The reason we’re even calling her “Marcy”, is because many of the times she has given to me, she has sworn me to secrecy. She and her husband live out Matthew 6:1-4 with extravagance! While I could go on about this couple and their generosity, they would humbly remind me that living with open hands and hearts is simply the means by which they are called to further the Kingdom.
Marcy reminds me of a woman in the Bible whose name also isn’t mentioned… perhaps because her heart was so similar to Marcy’s. She wasn’t concerned about being remembered only about living generously.
This nameless woman is known as the “Shunammite Woman”.
Like our friend, Gaius, she isn’t well known, but from Scripture, we do know she was wealthy, married, and perhaps most importantly:
she used hospitality to love others well.
The benefactor of her gifts was a prophet named Elisha.
Elisha and this woman somehow met when he visited her town. She insisted on feeding him. (Which I can only laugh at because I literally try to force-feed my brother every time he visits. “Are you hungry? No? Are you sure? Here, I made spaghetti last night, let me just reheat some for you. I also have salad and brownies and coffee and the lesser-known sparkling water, Bubly!”)
The Shunammite Woman must’ve been a pretty decent cook, because after their first encounter, Elisha stopped by her house to eat every single time he visited. I can’t imagine the conversations that occurred, but there is no doubt that Elisha shared about the One True God, Yahweh, with this woman and her husband. Before long, the Shunammite Woman referred to Elisha as a ‘holy man of God’ and had a room built just for him on the roof of their house. They fully furnished the room and welcomed Elisha and his servant readily.
Many of us have guest rooms and happily welcome visitors throughout the year, but to actually construct an entire room specifically for a guest-turned friend is radical.
Elisha wasn’t family.
This wasn’t a neat Airbnb designed for income off of Elisha.
This was love and hospitality and generosity.
After becoming aware of the work the One True God was doing through Elisha, they used what they had – a rooftop – to support God’s Kingdom work in their community,
expecting nothing in return.
I’ve been writing this Journey study while sitting in my church’s building watching the hustle and bustle of daily church activities occur. Just a moment ago, friends of mine who are empty-nesters, came over to chat and I asked why they were here on a Thursday morning. “Oh, we have four camp counselors staying at our house and we told them we’d come see them at camp today!”
Open handed generosity.
This same couple has opened up their home again and again for Kingdom work.
After becoming aware of the work the One True God is doing, this couple used what they had – a home with empty rooms – to support God’s work in our community.
Sisters, it doesn’t take much for us to demonstrate incredible hospitality like Marcy, the Shunammite woman, or my empty-nester friends.
Each are using what they have – their homes, their love for people, and their love for the Father – to further the work God is doing.
We don’t need a secure job with a steady income, just an open heart.
Maybe all we have is a pull-out couch, bottomless coffee, or cold water on a hot day.
God takes our willingness,
our open hands,
and open hearts,
and He builds His Kingdom!
This study first appeared on GracefullyTruthful.com and is property of Gracefully Truthful. For more studies like this one, visit the website!
Read His Words Before Ours!
When we moved into our house, autumn was upon us, and many of the plants had started to fade away. The entire year following, I was delighted and surprised by multiple green sprouts appearing in my little bed at the front of our house. Fortunately, my Gamma had come to visit for several months and was able to teach me about the daisies, hostas, and roses blooming before my eyes. The roses thrilled me the most, and while they weren’t the large yellow roses my Papa and Gamma had always had in their garden, they were still a beautiful, bright pink. My Gamma gently warned me that when I cut flowers, I needed to cut them at an angle right above the growth bud, so the stem would continue to grow and produce more flowers. I hadn’t been as cautious about that before, resulting in an awkwardly shaped rose bush on the side of my house.
I was reminded of this pruning process, but the necessity of pruning when I read this post on Instagram:
“You will go through seasons of pruning,
when God removes you from good things –
friendships, privilege, ministry platforms, money, sustenance, hope, even your reputation. Pruning is always very painful and very difficult,
although you may have a clear conscience and know that it comes from God,
and that there are promises of a better and more fruitful future.
It usually results in being very much alone.
Most people will shy away from you when you experience pain.
David in scripture was blessed to have one friend who stood solidly with him through God’s pruning and he eventually walked into a season of abundance.”
My roses needed to be pruned – correctly – in order to continue growing and produce more roses than they otherwise would.
Another word for pruning: sanctification.
And ooftah does sanctification hurt sometimes.
But is it worth it?
Oh yes, dear Sisters, it totally is.
Because sanctification means that I look more like Jesus and am being used for my intended purpose of bringing glory to Him.
Sanctification means I’m growing.
Paul talks about both the pain that comes with sanctification, as well as its inestimable value. He actually rejoices because of his suffering (and let me tell you, sanctification happens most during suffering).
Paul understands that through this growing, pruning, and maturing process He is being prepared to take new ground for the Kingdom!
Paul speaks of proclaiming Jesus’ name and building strong disciples so we may all be fully mature in Christ.
This kind of maturity isn’t about physical age, rather it’s characterized by the natural growth that comes from intentional willingness to be consistently discipled by the Holy Spirit. By regularly dwelling with the Lord through Scripture intake, prayer, and living authentically in biblical community, the Spirit strengthens our “inner being” to love Christ and be shaped to mirror Him more and more.
Speaking of this maturing, Paul says, “So then, just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, being rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with gratitude.” (Colossians 2:6-7)
Saying yes to Jesus is only the beginning.
Surrendering your heart and receiving “Christ Jesus as Lord” will save you for eternity, but if you stop here, you’ve chosen to live far below your birthright in Jesus.
Paul urges, “continue to live in Him..”
Become rooted, built up, and established in the faith.
Don’t Stop Now!
Say yes to Jesus, and keep saying yes as He prunes your heart and life!
The “steadying” growth Jesus cultivates in a heart committed to Him,
makes you keenly aware of truth verses a lie.
And, Sister, the world is full of deception and ‘empty deceit’. (Colossians 2:8)
Paul ached for the Church.
He ached for believers to not be stuck drinking milk, but eating solid food.
He ached for believers to grow deep and become rooted that they would be able to distinguish between truth and heresy.
Heresy ran rampant in the Colossian church, and it does in our culture today, too.
The only way we will know the difference between what is solid and a deceptive mirage is by renewing our mind through Scripture. We must be….
Mature in Christ.
As you encounter suffering, hold fast to the faith because Jesus is worth it.
Give yourself fully to spiritual disciplines, watch the Spirit grow you deeply.
Stand firm for truth, and lead others well as you love with grace.
The second half of this beautiful post continues:
“I bless you with the pruning of the Lord.
As painful as they are, they are for the best.
They come from a wise Father.
I bless you with pruning that brings redemption.
I bless you with deep, solid, life-giving friendships when you are going through a season of God’s pruning you.
I bless you with friendships that are designed, crafted, nurtured, and given to you by your Father, even at the same time that He is taking away other friendships that you have deemed important and necessary to your life.
Although you may be severely pruned, I bless you with at least one friend who maintains covenant relationship with you in your darkest hour and is able to encourage you, strengthen you, and focus your attention on God’s promises.”
This Bible Study is property of Gracefully Truthful, where it was first published. Visit GracefullyTruthful.com for more studies like this one!
Read His Words Before Ours!
“Simon, do you love me with a love that is selfless, pure, and passionate?
Do you love Me most?”
My eyes lifted from my hands, meeting Jesus’ gaze. His question lingered, as the juice from the fish dripped down my forearms, my heart pounding.
I couldn’t stop the scene playing out in my mind’s eye as I recalled the darkest moment in my life…
“Aren’t you one of His disciples?” she asked as I walked into courtyard where Jesus was. I quickly shook my head, “I’m not!” But guilt consumed me.
I am. I am His disciple.
But I didn’t want to die.
“Aren’t you one of His disciples?” I was asked again. “No!” I insisted.
“But I saw you in the garden with Jesus,” another said.
“No, you didn’t! I do not know this Man!”
The rooster crowed. Just as He’d said it would.
I had denied my Lord three times.
“Lord, You know I love you as a friend and brother,” I respond quickly, my focus returning.
Yet, my heart would not be stilled.
How could I say I love Him selflessly?
How could I say I love Him most?
I denied Him when He needed me most.
But Jesus continued,
“Feed my lambs, Simon.”
His words brought a new scene to mind. It was winter, and we were listening to Jesus as we walked the grand colonnade of Solomon’s temple. His words, as always, had arrested my wandering attention.
“The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers… The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd.” (John 10:1-10)
Feed His lambs? But He is the Good Shepherd.
Besides, I’m a fisherman. What does this mean?
I still can’t look Him in the eyes.
He knows me, He knows I denied Him three times, He knows I turned my back on Him.
How could He even ask if I love Him?
Jesus was speaking again, insistently, “Simon, Son of John, do you love me with a love so strong you will put Myself before you?
Do you love me with a love so passionate, you would protect My truth and build others up with it?"
My heart flew to another impossible invitation by the Lord as we’d stood by the Sea of Galilee.
It was my fishing boat, my empty nets, and His winsome offer…
“Hello, Peter. Would you do me a favor and let me get in your boat?”, Jesus asked.
I noticed the crowd of people behind him, moving closer and closer to Him.
His only other option would have been to stand in the sea.
“Yes! Of course. I haven’t caught any fish anyways; my boat is empty.”
He asked me to row out, then He stood and began speaking to the people. I tried to listen as He talked, but I’d been awake all night fishing, exhaustion was setting in.
Suddenly, He had my full attention as He’d turned His gaze on me,
“Put your net out to catch some fish.”
I was embarrassed; I’d caught nothing after an entire night’s worth of work, but who was I to say no?
“I’ve been fishing all night and caught nothing, but I’ll try it again for you,” I shrugged and tossed the nets overboard. After a moment, my nets began to tug and tear! Fish flooded my nets! I whistled to our boating partners, and with all of our might, we pulled loads of fish into our boats.
There were so many we began sinking!
I’d been wondering how I would make money today and this Miracle Worker brought in enough fish to cover my wages for days!
It was then I knew, I knew He was Lord!
I fell to my knees, fully aware of my unworthiness and utter sinfulness; I’d begged Him to leave. How could He even associate with me?
“Do not be afraid! From now on, you will be catching men.”
I caught those fish that day, but I gave them to another local fisherman.
Instead, I chose to follow Jesus… this man who was Lord.
The same one I later denied…
“Jesus, You know I love you as my friend.” I dug deep for a response to His incessant questioning, my sorrow continuing to burn hot in my belly.
I loved Him with everything in me. But how could I convey it?
Before I could attempt a better response, He instructed.
“Tend my sheep.”
Or was it an invitation?
Either way, He knew exactly the story His words would bring to mind.
“Which of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost? And on finding it, he lays it on his shoulder, rejoicing.”
Jesus would leave ninety-nine sheep just to go after one.
He would do that for me, for anyone.
He loved the wealthy and the poor, the Jews and the Gentiles, the adulteress and the leper.
He was more than Jesus Christ to me, He was my Lord, and my friend.
Jesus saw my eyes return to His, my fish breakfast long since forgotten.
“Simon,” He questioned slowly for the third time.
“Do you love me as your friend and as your brother?”
This time it was different.
This time, He knew the answer, and my heart was shattered.
What’s more, I knew the answer.
I knew I just simply loved Him, and that was enough.
Wherever He took me, whatever it cost, whatever the task, I loved Him.
“Lord, You know me; You know everything. You know I love You.”
Again, He invited and commanded, “Feed My sheep.”
“Simon, the cost of following Me is your full surrender. You may lose physical freedom, but you will truly be free. FOLLOW ME.”
Our eyes locked and I knew the depth of this invitation.
I was forgiven.
He trusted me with His sheep.
I was to make fishers of men, continuing to extend the invitation I’d been given.
Why would I say yes?
I loved Him.
He loved me.
Simon Peter’s life is one of transformation and sanctification that we get to watch transform through the pages of Scripture. From the quick and wordy fisherman who was called by Jesus, to the wise and heroic martyr and was an essential piece of the founding of the Church, Peter shows us that even when we fall, even when we deny Jesus, He isn’t finished with us. God’s plan for us is deep and wide. We can accomplish His purposes because of His unconditional love.
This Bible Study is property of Gracefully Truthful, where it was first published. For studies like this one, visit GracefullyTruthful.com!
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