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!
1 Timothy 2:1-8
Our miniature matatu (think African style of a city bus…kind of) bumped up and down and our bodies bounced with it without the constraint of seat belts. Red dust flew up behind us while some billowed through the windows, filling our nostrils with the ever-present African-dust smell. The chatter of my seven teammates filled the matatu, but I wasn’t hearing them. My senses were in the slums of Kenya, seeing, hearing, smelling, breathing my surroundings, but my heart and my head were somewhere else.
I saw children playing in the streets made of dust, I saw women walking to and fro, and I heard men shouting to one another, but in my mind, the red dust of this town was replaced by red dirt of Southern Utah. Children’s laughter was replaced with the memory of the foster children’s laughter from the camp I’d worked at earlier that year.
Never in my life had I experienced the pull and the weightiness of the world… and I broke.
As we drove through Kenyan slums, I could literally feel my heart being torn in two, slowly ripping right down the middle. When we arrived at the preschool ministry site for the day, everything came pouring out with deep sorrow. I turned to my leader, Allison, and said, “I don’t know what’s wrong. I’m here, I know I’m here and I’m supposed to be, but I’m so broken for the people in Utah who need Jesus, and I’m aching for the foster children in Kansas City who need redemption. What is wrong with me?”
“Kendra,” she told me gently, “have you ever prayed that God would break your heart for what breaks His?” I slowly nodded my head and squinted my eyes.
“He’s doing that right now.”
If I was weeping before (which I was), I was weeping harder now.
I didn’t know God’s heart hurt so much for us, and I only had a glimpse.
If we know anything, it’s that our world is shattered and broken.
Spreading the healing hope of the gospel and praying for nations to know the Lord is our urgent mission until Jesus returns. Paul presses the Church to pray for God’s creation in each of his epistles by asking them to pray for other churches, for people in leadership, and for those who are still lost without hope… but, why?
Why do we pour out our hearts in prayer for the hurting, hungry, desperate, lost, broken people who make up God’s creation?
Because, God… “wants everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4). The Father’s heart is for His Creation.
He longs for us to know His love and be rescued from our sin.
Let us learn from Ezekiel 22:30, where God says He is looking for someone to stand in the gap for their nation, but found no one. We are called to stand in the gap for the nations with the hope of the gospel! Let us, who have the authority to approach the Father’s throne because of Jesus in us, pray for the nations!
Can I be real for a minute? (Ok, ok, I’m always real.)
Sometimes, I feel so overwhelmed with how many people I need to pray for, and how many things I need to pray for, and all the brokenness and lostness and heaviness
that I just don’t pray at all.
I know I need to pray for the nations, for my daughters, for my friends and family, for the people in leadership positions in the Church and in my country, but I don’t always know where to start or what to pray.
I’ve found the best place to begin is rooted in Scripture, following the leading of the Holy Spirit. Read His Word, and be ready to pray whenever and however the Spirit is pressing in.
Pray for the nations’ leaders to be filled with wisdom and be surrounded by wise and godly advisors. Pray for their hearts and ears to listen to wise counsel. (Proverbs 11:14)
Pray for leaders who don’t know Christ to have divine encounters with believers who would point them to salvation. Pray for leaders who are Christians to have steady discipleship pouring into them and that they would have strength to fight the arrows shot at them from the enemy. (Proverbs 2:1-8 and Ephesians 6:12-18)
Pray for unity in the Church in each nation. As each nation writes their own laws and citizens live in ways they feel just, the Church has different struggles in each country. How the Church is being pulled in the United States is entirely different than the struggles for the Church in New Zealand or India. Pray for unity within the Church in each country, and that followers of Christ would base their standards on biblical truth and not what society dictates. (1 Corinthians 1:10)
Sisters, sometimes I feel small.
Sometimes I feel like my prayers and voice won’t matter.
Will the Lord really hear my pleading for the underground church in North Korea?
My prayers are pleasing in the sight of the Lord, as are yours.
Ask the Lord to break your heart for what breaks His.
Ask Him to burden your heart for the lost.
You might be surprised who you feel burdened for, but don’t be surprised when He answers your prayer. When He does, take action and pray for the lost, the hurting, the persecuted, the Christians and the non-Christians, then take steps to bring hope to them!
This Bible study is property of Gracefully Truthful, where it first appeared. For more studies like this one, visit GracefullyTruthful.com!
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!
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!
From Bible studies to blogs, articles to musings of the heart, Kendra's writings are unbarred and raw - exactly how she speaks.