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!
Oh God, please, please, please just give me a baby sister. Please.
This was the pleading of a five-year-old little girl, who continued praying this for 2 years.
This was my prayer.
As much as my five-year-old brain could understand, I knew my mom couldn’t physically have more children, but I also knew God was a God of miracles, which meant I could still have a little sister. So I prayed with everything in me.
Oh the joy when my prayers were answered one evening two years later! My parents gathered my grandparents, brother, and I into our tiny living room, telling us we would be adopting a baby in a few months. They didn’t know whether that baby was a boy or a girl… but I knew. This baby was my answered prayer. This baby was my sister.
As hot tears streamed down my tanned cheeks, I knew, at just eight-years-old, that the Lord hears. He does the impossible, far beyond what we can imagine or dream.
I knew God loved me.
This began my deep passion for adoption, and a softened heart towards women surprised with pregnancy.
Unexpected pregnancies have been a rhythm in my family, including my precious Gamma and her beloved Harald. My Papa passed away right after they celebrated 59 years of marriage, but their marriage began unconventionally. When Gamma was 15 and smitten with a handsome, blonde, German boy, they found out they would become parents much sooner than planned. At 16, they made vows they took seriously and carried out all 59 years of their marriage. However, being pregnant in the 50s at only 15, forever marked my Gamma. So, when other family members found themselves in similar circumstances, her heart ached for the pain they endured from scoffers and judgers; which marked me.
I learned at a very young age the Bible is clear: sex outside of marriage is wrong. Pregnancy is not.
It is not a sin to be pregnant.
Life is never a sin.
Life, because of God’s great redemption, can be the result of sin, but it is not sin.
So, sisters, how do we go about loving the fellow mamas around us who are expecting a life they weren’t planning to receive? How do we approach the mamas who were planning their pregnancy, but became pregnant outside of marriage?
Well… we love them,
just like the Father loves them.
Jesus was the result of an unplanned pregnancy occurring outside of marriage. Mary was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit as a young teenage girl. (Matthew 1:18) Motivated by redemption, the Father brought forth LIFE. The Spirit impressed on the hearts of wise-men to search for the King and shower Him with gifts.
We love our fellow sisters, women, image-bearers, by welcoming their miracles with gifts and showering those mamas with love.
The Woman at the Well was a woman living in repeated sexual sin. She’d been married five times, and while we don’t know the reason for each of those marriages, we do know she was with a man who wasn’t her husband at the time she met Jesus. While she didn’t physically bear the evidence of her sin, Jesus saw her and He knew it all. Even still, He loved, accepted, and conversed with her as He offered redemption.
Through her powerful story, many came to know Him.
We love our fellow hurting women by accepting them, conversing with them, and showing them grace and Jesus through our actions. God has not abandoned her or her child. If He will not cast her off, neither can we. He offers redemption and hope to her just as He has for us.
Sisters, Jesus is for life.
He is for all life, which includes the life of the mama with the unplanned pregnancy.
He isn’t just longing for her physical life, but her spiritual life. Despite painful circumstances, shame, and brokenness, He will use all of it to draw her to Him.
How incredible to be a part of that redemption!
I am so thankful my sister’s birth mama chose life.
The Lord used her unplanned pregnancy to answer to my prayers and show me His Love.
God is the creator of life, and all life has a purpose.
Let us, the Church, join together to celebrate life, celebrate redemption, and celebrate motherhood.
Let’s join together to love the mamas who desperately need to experience Jesus’ loving redemption.
Ready for some practical tools to love these mamas?
Below is a list of ministries both international and local to Kansas City (GT headquarters) that do exactly that!
All of these ministries focus on loving women with Jesus’ love while helping prepare them for their future as a birth mama, for a baby being adopted, or a single mama raising her child.
If you are an expecting single mama or already a single mama, these are some awesome resources for you.
Know you are Loved.
You are Valued.
You are Treasured.
You are not the sum of your mistakes,
and we would love to pray for you and love on you – so please reach out to us!
Embrace Grace – A support group for women with an unplanned pregnancy where mamas are showered with love by throwing baby showers for expecting moms. There are groups all around the country and you can find a group near you! There are also support groups for those same mamas after their babes are born.
Rachel’s House – This amazing organization has four locations across the Kansas City metro and is focused on educating parents on all options for their unexpected pregnancies as well as supporting families through pregnancy and adoption or parenting.
The Single Mom KC – A group for soon-to-be single moms and current single moms of all ages, stages, and circumstances. They have a free boutique for moms to “shop” at as well as hosting monthly workshops to help equip mamas and give them a night out (Free childcare! Woohoo!)
Bahamas Godparent Center – This community ministry offers biblical guidance, pregnancy testing, counseling, ultrasound imagery, and, most importantly, HOPE!
The Life of a Single Mom – This ministry works to educate church and community leaders as well as the general public with the challenges faced by single moms. They believe no single mom should walk alone.
Heartbeat International – An international ministry that helps 1,500,000 clients every year by offering resources, helping with adoptions, and overall, aiming to help women recognize life and choose life.
Read His Words Before Ours!
My mama turned to me and asked me if it would all be worth it,
if my story touched just one soul?
I grew up praying for missionaries in my extended family and my church. These missionaries spread around the globe from South America to Africa to Russia, and we prayed for them daily.
I wonder now as an adult….
would they still choose to leave their country,
leave their family and material possessions,
and face trials and persecution if it meant that just one soul was reconciled with God?
I believe all of them would answer “Yes”.
I imagine their “yes” is sometimes said through gritted teeth,
eyes heavy with exhaustion,
and determination tightening their body from head to foot,
regardless of how they might emotionally feel
And sometimes their yes flowed from a heart that danced victoriously.
Their “yes” didn’t come without heartbreak, heartache, or sorrow.
Neither did it come without blessings, laughter, and joy.
But their yes was worth it when
someone said their own “yes” to Jesus.
Following the example of believers like Paul, Silas, the other twelve apostles, and the many men and women who gave up their lives for the sake of the gospel, three men said yes to Jesus, giving up everything to follow wherever He led. Adoniram Judson and Samuel J Mills were two of the first missionaries sent out from the United States, while Hudson Taylor, a contemporary, was one of the most influential missionaries to China.
Adoniram Judson and Samuel J Mills were among the very first class at the very first evangelical seminary in the United States, Andover Theological Seminary in 1810. Together, they helped create the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.
Adoniram, and his young, new wife, Ann, headed to Burma. Shortly before they left, Ann wrote this to a friend:
“I feel willing and expect, if nothing in providence prevents, to spend my days in this world in heathen lands. Yes… I have about come to the determination to give up all my comforts and enjoyments here, sacrifice my affection to relatives and friends, and go where God, in His providence, shall see fit to place me. My determinations are not hasty, or formed without viewing the dangers, trials, and hardships attendant on a missionary life. (…) Now my mind is settled and composed, and is willing to leave the event with God."
While the Judsons were in Burma, Samuel Mills was forming several missionary and benevolent organizations in the United States while also carrying the gospel to Mississippi and New York City. In 1818, Samuel spent time in West Africa, locating a site for the repatriation of freed African-American slaves.
On his return, Samuel died on the ship.
His life seems short by our standards, but it was rich, and the fire in his spirit for spreading the Gospel ignited the flames of countless hearts. The Lord does not count our success by years or tasks completed, but only by our willing obedience to His heart of love!
Like Paul in the Bible and countless other Christ-followers through the ages, Adoniram also spent time in prison, but persecution and suffering did not deter him from obediently pressing into the Lord’s calling on his life. He opened a girls’ school, translated the Bible and other Christian books into Burmese, and faithfully kept following Jesus in His everyday life. Ann passionately worked beside him, using her love for Jesus and writing to encourage American women to pray fervently. She specifically asked women to pray for the rescue of child brides, the end of female infanticide, and other struggles for Burmese women. The Lord used Ann’s gift of writing in one final act before He called her home: helping to release her husband from his 21 months prison sentence by writing about the horrid condition of the prison in which he was contained.
Ann & Adoniram were normal, everyday people who chose, again and again and again, to love Jesus more than the comforts of life for the sake of even just one.
After Ann’s death, Adoniram also buried his second wife and three of their precious, tiny children before marrying his third wife. Like Ann, his second wife, Sarah, willingly held open her hands and life to the Lord. She used her skills as a linguist to continue spreading the Gospel to the Burmese by translating books, hymns, and tracts as well as the New Testament. Sarah fervently worked alongside her missionary-husband, while enduring the pain of losing her children. Her heart was not withheld from sorrow, she knew suffering well, but she knew Jesus was worth it, even for the sake of just one.
Adoniram’s met his third wife, Emily, when he enlisted her writing abilities to write about the life of Sarah. Unbeknownst to him, Emily had read many stories about Ann. As a result, she too felt the call to live missionally in Burma. After they married, she joined him in what would be Adoniram’s final job before entering Heaven: completing an enlarged edition of the Burmese dictionary to ease translation of the Bible.
Just three years after Adoniram’s death, another well-known Christ-follower made his way to a foreign land with one goal: spreading the Gospel.
As a baby, Hudson’s mother, on urgings from the Holy Spirit, had prayed he would be used in China.
Her prayer was answered when he encountered the Holy Spirit one evening, and spent the next several years studying medicine, learning Mandarin, and growing his relationship with the Lord in preparation to move to China in 1853.
After marrying Maria Dryer, the daughter of Chinese missionaries, Hudson Taylor became incredibly ill and returned to England in 1961.
His return did not dampen his fervor, no!
He spent his time translating the Bible into Chinese,
studying to become a midwife,
and recruiting more missionaries!
Samuel J Mills
Seven individuals who chose the “just one” over their own comfort.
Seven individuals who counted the cost of following Jesus, and said yes.
Seven individuals who changed the world for countless souls.
Will you say yes for the sake of just one?!
This Bible Study is property of Gracefully Truthful, where it was first published. For more studies like this one, check out GracefullyTruthful.com!
Read His Words Before Ours!
“I have a gift for your girls! Are you home?”
“Yes! Come over any time.”
“Wonderful. I’ll be there soon. And Kendra? Do not clean a thing!”
I sighed with relief as I looked around at my lived-in home. There was always laundry to be done, diapers I forgot to throw away lying around, and toys scattered about. It used to bother me much more, but when company comes over my stomach still turns a bit when they see…
This is what my “real life” actually looks like.
That sweet friend came, armed with presents for my girls, and conversation about her days of young motherhood. With her son in college, her days of picking up toys are long gone.
As I showed her my twin toddlers’ infamously messy room, with books and dolls strewn about, she laughed and told me something I will remember for the rest of my life.
My friend is known for her immaculate house.
Her Christmas presents are wrapped in October with large, gold bows tied with precision.
So, I was stunned to hear her tell me this:
“Kendra, if I had it to do over again,
I would spend less time worrying about how clean my house was,
and more time with the people who came to visit.
I can see now that I may have made family members and friends uncomfortable with my constant running around and picking up.
I wish I hadn’t cared so much about how clean my son’s room was.
I wish I would have just spent more time playing with him.”
I smiled as I let her words run over me, knowing I would return later to process what she’d shared.
I began to think of Martha and Mary, the sister duo who welcomed Jesus into their home when He came to visit.
Imagine Jesus literally knocking on your door.
What would you do?!
I would probably pass out, which is totally biblical so that reaction would be justified.
Then, I would honestly welcome Him in,
while apologizing for my house being such a mess.
I would excuse the clothes in the foyer, still needing to go into storage.
I would laugh off the toys on the stairs.
I would explain how I still needed to paint the top of the wainscoting we added.
Then I would invite Him to sit on my couch, while laughing about the fact that I was actually going to clean the cover tonight, so that’s why it was dirty.
How do I know how I would respond?
Because that is literally what I say any time anyone comes over.
But sisters… Jesus doesn’t even care!
How do I know?
Martha’s story. She began serving Jesus as soon as He stepped in the door.
Which sounds totally acceptable!
Except… she spent so much time serving Him, she wasn’t actually being with Him.
She offered Him coffee (Or chai or whatever they drank… Wine?)
She asked Him if He was hungry.
She swept up after Him, hurriedly cleaning,
and getting herself in a tizzy.
Soon, as it usually does, that tizzy turned into frustration.
“Jesus! Don’t you care that I’m working so hard to make You comfortable?
I’m working hard and Mary just sits there!”
Jesus turned compassionate eyes on her, telling her she was getting herself in a tizzy.
He said she was anxious and worried and frantic and none of it even mattered.
He just wanted her to sit and to be.
THAT was her best service.
There’s an age-old saying (which, incidentally, is not in the Bible!), that became popular thanks to Martin Luther:
“Cleanliness is next to Godliness.”
But is it?
A pure heart, washed in forgiveness by the God of all righteousness?
Absolutely; that IS godliness!
Having a clean home? Being a clean person?
Not. A. Chance.
Honestly? Jesus was probably a pretty filthy man, physically speaking.
Barely bathing and walking everywhere, mixing sweat with dust will do that to a person.
(And you can’t get more Godly than Jesus because He IS God…so…)
Having a clean home says nothing about your godliness.
Only the status of your soul determines that.
We will NOT get to Heaven and be drilled for those seven loads of laundry we didn’t do.
God will not ask why we didn’t put away that bin of clothes before our guest arrived.
Instead, His Spirit is ready to prompt us now, just as He did with Martha….
Why are we spending so much time cleaning, serving, running, and doing
that we have a hard time slowing enough to listen to our guest?
Why not take the time to pray with them or show them HOPE?
Why work ourselves into an anxious tizzy (I’m clearly loving that word today)
by expecting perfection in our own appearance,
when the Lord has always cared only about the contents of our heart.
God cares about our hospitality, NOT our house.
Whether brick and mortar or skin and bones.
I am so guilty of this, guys!
If Jesus came today, I would be Martha.
Trying to prove my worth by the appearance of my home and my ability to serve Him.
I would completely miss the opportunity to actually be enthralled with Him.
Cleanliness is NOT next to Godliness.
Cleanliness can get in the way of Godliness.
The need to clean, the urge to perform, it can fill our minds, consuming our actions,
even becoming our idol.
And that isn’t godly at all.
Don’t let pressure and performance hinder you
from investing in people and being at peace with Jesus.
*In my struggle to spend more time with people rather than focus on performance, I’ve found the app “The Fly Lady” to be a helpful reset. Give it a try!
This Bible study first appeared on Gracefully Truthful and is property to Gracefully Truthful, as well. For further studies similar to this one, check out Gracefully Truthful.
Read His Words Before Ours!
She doesn’t even know how loved she is.
She doesn’t know her value.
She doesn’t know her worth.
Hosea was alone, once again. His emotions a mix of anger, hurt, jealousy, and sorrow.
She gave herself and her love to every man except him.
They had joyful and sweet moments, but then, she was gone,
chasing other fantasies….other men.
And Hosea was alone.
Heartsick, worried; He missed his wife.
And this, he knew, was how God felt over His unfaithful people.
The Lord had saved Israel time and time again, He had loved her, pursued her, provided for her, yet Israel gave herself and her love to everything but Him.
There were times of joy, sweet worship, and surrender, but then,
just as it had happened before, they were gone…
Chasing other nations and bowing before other idols,
brazenly loving another.
In Hosea’s emotion he saw the Lord’s heart for Israel.
A burning jealousy for his bride.
A steady flame in his belly, slowly growing until it became a lion within that had to roar.
“Hosea, have mercy on your wife.”
The Lord beckoned to Hosea.
Yahweh, have I not done that before? She had already been loved by many men when I married her, and yet, I gave her all of me, and that wasn’t enough. I am not enough to satisfy her.
Hosea, allure her. Bring her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her.
Give her beautiful things. She will know you again.
Let her come home, shelter her from the wars raging inside of her soul.
Give her rest.
How do You do this, Yahweh? How do You endure this?
I see your people, I see their sin! I feel your agony! How can you pursue us still?!
Because I love my people. They have forgotten my ways, ignored the blessing I set before them, broken our covenant. The more they grow arrogant in their independence, the more they sin against me, and I will punish them for their ways because I want them back!
They have forsaken me.
They have left me… just as Gomer has left you.
I am enough for them, but my Bride would rather believe lies.
She forgets that I AM the One who has saved her and lavished gifts on her.
All Israel has is because of Me.
I give her value.
I give her worth.
I’ve fought for her.
Yet, she still forgets me.
Together, their hearts broke.
The Lord’s broke for His children.
Hosea’s broke for his wife, and with fresh eyes, he saw Israel’s faithlessness and he was broken for their sin as a people against the Lord.
As Hosea spoke the Lord’s prophetic words to Israel, his voice broke and the tears poured.
God was speaking to the Israelites, but Hosea was speaking to his wife.
I led her with cords of kindness, with bands of love.
I worked to ease her burdens. I’ve provided for her and given everything to her.
How can I give you up, my dear one?
How can I hand you over to another man?
How can I let you destroy yourself?
How can I let you feel like you are not worthy?
How can I treat you like a whore?
My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender.
I’m angry, but I will come after you.
I will fight for you.
I will take up my job as your husband and you will come back to me.
Hosea found his wife, who had, once again, been loved by another man.
The love that went far beyond emotion began to billow out as he ROARED:
Return to me, your husband!
No one else can love you the way I do!
I will love you freely, I’m not angry at you anymore!
Come back and live with me, let me protect you, and you will flourish,
you will see your true value and worth.
COME HOME WITH ME. I WANT YOU. I LOVE YOU.
AND I WILL NEVER STOP LOVING YOU.
He paid a price for her and brought her home.
He stared into her downcast eyes and prayed,
Yahweh, let her see her worth. Let her know her value. Let her know how loved she is.
Gomer’s eyes slowly raised and met his, and there she saw love.
There, she saw redemption.
Sisters, the Lord’s heart breaks when we give ourselves to anything and anyone besides Him, just as Hosea’s broke when Gomer gave herself away to other men.
Gomer willingly abandoned her family and husband to pursue something
she thought was better.
She didn’t know her true worth to Hosea.
She couldn’t fully grasp the kind of love Hosea had lavished on her.
The Lord chose Hosea to deliver His messages of coming destruction to Israel,
but the Lord knew that Hosea would be able to deliver these messages in a way no other prophet could… because Hosea lived out heartbroken love in his marriage.
God used Hosea’s heart, his marriage, and his life to showcase His own love for His people.
Sisters, never doubt the trials God is asking you to endure,
because He may just be softening your heart to reach people.
And never doubt the great love God has lavished on you,
because, just as Hosea deeply loved his wife, the Lord deeply loves you.
This Bible Study first appeared on GracefullyTruthful.com and is also property of Gracefully Truthful. For more studies like this one, check out the website!
Read His Words Before Ours!
“Being a mama is your most important job right now. It is your great calling and it is a wonderful calling with amazing rewards. It is alright to let other things go and focus on your little girls, it really is.”
With everything in me, I wanted to protest that I knew that and I was able to do that while serving at the same time. But I couldn’t even protest, because I knew it was true. I am walking in a season of saying “no” and of letting go. This is a hard season.
I’ve let go of potential job opportunities, I’ve said no to other opportunities. I’ve let go of ministries I’ve served in, and said no to serving in other capacities. For a woman who loves to say “yes” and loves to go, go, go, this season is a hard one.
So, when an older, wiser mama spoke those words to me, I allowed them to wash over me and settle on my soul, and I cleared another day on my schedule.
As I reread the parable of the Good Samaritan for what felt like the umpteenth time, I was stricken with a resemblance between my life and the lives of two of the characters… and not the ones I would want to resemble either.
Have I been like the Priest and the Levite who were so busy traveling that they couldn’t even stop to help the beaten, dying man on the side of the road? They saw that he was physically broken, and yet they completely avoided him because they were too busy.
They missed out.
And so did the man.
My entire life has been filled with event after appointment after assignment.
I can’t help but wonder how many opportunities I’ve missed because of that full calendar.
Was I too busy rushing from place to place that I missed a chance to love someone?
In that same story, we read of one man, who may have been in a hurry himself, but wasn’t too busy to actually stop. This man, a Samaritan, an outcast from the elite “chosen people of God”, stopped in the middle of his travels, completely halted his plans, and loved a total stranger.
Right after that parable, we read about Martha and Mary, two women who loved the Lord but showed their love in different ways. Martha welcomed Jesus into her home, scampering to and fro, preparing food for Jesus, making sure His water cup was full, attending to all of His needs and serving Him. Her sister, Mary, however, sat near to Jesus, listening intently to everything He had to say. She was so enthralled with Him, that she wouldn’t miss a moment.
Unsurprisingly, Martha got rather annoyed with her sister, who wasn’t helping at all. It was almost as if Mary just expected Martha to serve her!Martha was working hard for Jesus! She was busy and tired from that busyness. So she asked Him if He cared that Mary left her to serve alone. I imagine Jesus answering her in the way men often answer women- we ask a man to fix our problem and he looks at us with amusement and gives us the obvious solution to our problem. Jesus’ answer seems so obvious we almost can’t accept it. Jesus looked at Martha, His eyes slightly bewildered, but full of compassion because He knew her so well. Then He said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary…” going on to tell her it was more important for Mary to sit and spend time with Him, learning and listening, than it was for Martha to serve Him.
Let’s stop there for just a moment.
Jesus said it was more important for Mary to spend time with Him than it was for Martha to serve Him.
So many times I allow myself to believe that I need a schedule jam-packed and full of serving in order to prove my love for the Lord.
That isn’t what He asks.
He asks for a schedule with space enough to love.
Space enough to not miss out.
Space enough for sitting with Him.
This Bible Study is property of Gracefully Truthful, where it was first published. For more studies like this one, check out GracefullyTruthful.com!
Read His Words Before Ours!
1 Samuel 16:1-12
These are the real-life stories of four shepherds.
The first was a man named Moses. He cared for his sheep while his wife cared for their children. The days of his own childhood would sometimes dance in his mind. Some days he would allow the memories to linger, and others he would quickly shoo away. He had been a prince of Egypt as a boy, after being adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter, but now he was a shepherd, caring for sheep through pouring rain and sweltering days.
The second was a boy named David. He was the youngest in his family, and quite a darling young man. He was fearless and strong and was learning to love the God of his people. David had defeated lions and bears, and he knew that if he relied on Yahweh, he could defeat anything.
This third shepherd doesn’t have a name. While shepherding was often a lonely job, he had other shepherds for friends and companions. They didn’t notice each other’s stench or filth, and enjoyed the company after long hard days of herding sheep. They often risked their lives to save their livestock, and endured harsh weather to ensure no sheep would wander away from their herd.
The fourth shepherd? We’ll talk about him more in just a moment.
One day, Moses was caring for his father-in-law’s sheep. He led them to a mountain to graze, taking care to ensure each sheep was accounted for. There he saw a bush engulfed in flames, but it wasn’t actually burning. Moses moved nearer to the bush, his curiosity peaked at how such a phenomenon could occur.
“Moses, Moses!” A deep, steady voice came from the bush.
Moses responded, “Here I am”, while stopping in his tracks to see who was calling him by name.
“Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place which are standing is holy ground.”
David was tending his father’s sheep, oblivious to anything else that was occurring. His people had begged the Lord for a king to lead them, and He had given them Saul, but Saul had become wicked and a new king needed to take his place. As Samuel grieved Saul’s hardened heart, God said, “How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel?” He then commanded Samuel to visit Jesse because one of his sons was to become the next king. Jesse was David’s father, but he had many sons who were grown, strong, and capable young men. David was just a boy. Samuel paused before each of these grown men, asking the Lord if which one was to become the next king. But the Lord instructed him to pass up each of them, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature…For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
Our nameless shepherd was exhausted from a long day of herding his sheep, but his job was never done. Even in the still darkness of the night, he must still guard the sheep from thieving predators. He and the other shepherds occasionally talked for a moment before letting the quietness overtake their voices, listening for any sounds that might be out of place among the common bleating of sheep. Suddenly, a great light appeared and enveloped them! It was an angel! And the glory of the Lord shone around them. They were speechless and terrified! The angel began, “Fear not, for behold I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people! For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” They were told to look for a baby lying in a manger and then, in an instant, the sky was filled with thousands of angels singing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
Now for that fourth Shepherd…
This man wasn’t a traditional shepherd.
It wasn’t His first career and He didn’t herd sheep.
He shepherded people.
Like Moses, He was adopted into a family different than His own and would fulfill His calling by saving millions of people from slavery.
Like David, He seemed like the most unlikely of people; He was the son of a carpenter and born in a stable, surrounded by animals. He was not born into a royal family, but He was a great King, existing before time began!
And like our Nameless Shepherd, He would protect and care for His sheep, guiding them away from death and rescuing them from the thief who comes to steal, kill, and destroy.
That fourth Shepherd… He is THE Shepherd.
He is MY Shepherd.
He gives me rest.
He restores my soul.
He lets me drink the Living Water.
He walks with me when I go through deep valleys and in dark shadows.
He disciplines me.
He guides me.
He is Jesus.
Like shepherds of old, Jesus laid down His life for His sheep (that’s us, guys!).
He knows us. He cares for us.
The motif of a shepherd is incorporated throughout the entire Bible. It is another thread woven together that proves the Bible, and every truthful story in it, has a purpose, pointing to King Jesus.
The GOOD Shepherd!
This Bible Study first appeared on GracefullyTruthful.com and is property of Gracefully Truthful. Check out their website for more studies like this one!
Read His Words Before Ours!
1 John 2:16-18
“For God so loved the world…”
God loves the world.
Not just the saints.
Not just the Jews.
Not just the believers.
Not just the Christians.
Not just the rule followers and law obey-ers.
Not just the mamas who seem to have it all together.
Not just the families that go to church every Sunday.
Not just the women who can balance their whole lives perfectly.
Not just the thankful.
Not just the healthy.
Not just the clean.
God loves the WORLD.
He loves the people overtaken with pride.
He loves the Muslims.
He loves the agnostics.
He loves the rule breakers.
He loves the mamas who get a little too angry a little too quickly.
He loves the broken families.
He loves the women who put on their lipstick while trying to drive a stick shift in traffic.
He loves the dissatisfied.
He loves the sick.
He loves the dirty.
God loves everyone.
It doesn’t always seem fair that He has the same amount of love for the person who doesn’t even try to live a godly life as He does for those who are working daily to grow their relationship with Him.
And as embarrassing as it is to admit, these thoughts cross my mind sometimes:
“I’m such a better mom than her.”
“I’m so much nicer than her.”
“I give so much more than them.”
“I present myself better than her.”
“My house is so much cleaner than hers.”
“My walk with God is a little shinier than hers.”
I bet I’m not the only one that thinks these things… (Read: Please tell me I’m not the only one that thinks these things!)
And even if I am today… I know I’m not the only one in history who has had similar thoughts.
The Prodigal Son’s brother.
The Rich Young Man in Mark and Luke.
I mean, just to name a few.
But one that stands out to me the most is this man we’re going to be talking about for a little while… Jonah.
Jonah. The prophet infamously known for being swallowed by a giant fish because he refused to go where God called him to go. But, why did he refuse to go to Nineveh? He was a prophet of the Lord! Shouldn’t he WANT to go where God’s love was greatly needed?
He thought the Ninevites didn’t deserve grace.
They were too far gone. Too dirty. Too lost.
Way too sinful.
And this is where my breath catches and my eyes start to tingle with tears of guilt suddenly threatening to spill over.
How many times have I been Jonah?
How many times have I looked at someone and refused to show them love because I thought they were too far gone? They were too dirty, too lost, and way too sinful for me to even consider offering them the grace that God gives freely to ALL? Sisters, if my answer is even “just one time”, that’s one time too many. And, unfortunately, my answer is way more than one.
My prejudice-ness, pride, judgment, and self-entitlement clouds my perception of others and their need for grace, while also radically fogging other’s viewpoint of God’s character of pursuit of His children.
We all have our own ideas of what “too far gone” looks like.
For Jonah, it was the Ninevites.
For some, it might be murderers, child abusers, prostitutes, politicians, dictators.
For me, sometimes it looks like another woman who is struggling to find her place in this world. And realizing that ugliness in me, breaks my heart.
I can’t believe that I could ever limit the love that I show someone based on my perception of them. Until I remember how dirty and lost and sinful I am too.
Jesus saved me, despite all of it, and in the sight of the Lord,
I am absolutely no better than anyone else.
Love can be so messy.
It can be so dirty.
But if Jesus can love the entire world… the abuser and the victim, the prostitute and the pimp, the dictator and the citizens, you and me…
then surely I can love the people that can seem the hardest to love.
Let us learn from the sad life of a man who would rather die than watch the Lord extend grace to people he deemed unworthy.
Because we are all unworthy.
This Bible Study is property of Gracefully Truthful where it was first published. For more studies like this one, visit GracefullyTruthful.com!
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