Monday, January 25, 2016

Catching up

UPDATE: Thank you, everyone, for your prayers and thoughts. I finally don't have a fever anymore! I hope to be stronger and be back here soon!

I don't know if it's the same where you live, but here in the southern United States, there are a lot of colds and flus and germs going around . . .

Our family has been hit, too, and I need a bit of time to do some catching up!

I hope you will understand -- I'm praising God that He has protected me from the viruses! I just need to make sure everyone is handed a Kleenex, medicated, covered up, fed chicken soup, and, and, well you know the drill!

I'll be back just as soon as possible!!

UPDATE: I didn't run quite fast enough. The viruses caught me. I'll try to get better QUICK!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Friday slowdown

This Fernando Ortega song touched my heart as I worked on this study; I hope it is a blessing to all who pause here today.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Huldah - advice for a young king

Huldah is such an important part of the story of the Old Testament. Did you know that she was so respected that a gate of the city was named for her? Seriously, the history of the city of Jerusalem indicated that she was in that area to be consulted, and that her tomb was there, as well.

Certainly she was respected by the people, and was used by the Lord. Think about what her life must have been like . . . Manasseh's reign was the longest of the kings of Judah - over fifty years, in fact. It was also one of the most wicked. He went in the exact opposite direction of his dad, Hezekiah, and went right down the road of idolatry. Huldah would have heard the screams of children consumed by fire on the arms of the huge idol of Molech, for Manasseh's son, Amon, continued the horrible practices required by the false gods. She would have cried for the young women and men forced to endure sexual immorality in the groves of the idols, and she would have been saddened by the many places of Ashteroth worship.

As the northern kingdom of Israel was overrun and carried into captivity by the Assyrians, Judah continued to bow down to stars instead of the Almighty; to honor sorcerers instead of godly prophets, and to prostitute themselves to false gods, instead of welcoming the promised love of Yahweh.

Huldah would have been heartened and comforted by king Josiah's response to her prophecy, as he kept on purging the land of paganism, and brought back the celebration of the feast of the Passover. God used her to tell the young king:
                   Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I have spoken against this place and its people—that they would become a curse and be laid waste—and because you tore your robes and wept in my presence, I also have heard you, declares the Lord. 20 Therefore I will gather you to your ancestors, and you will be buried in peace. Your eyes will not see all the disaster I am going to bring on this place.’”  (II Kings 22:19-20)
Huldah was a woman used of God; she understood the truths of judgement and mercy, of punishment and salvation.

Josiah was a king whose heart was tender; he heard the book of the law and realized the terrible sins of his people. He desired to lead them in change, and he succeeded for a time. For his lifetime. God was merciful because Josiah repented.

He is merciful to women and men today; He is gracious to us when we repent:

              For the sake of your name, O Lord, forgive my iniquity, though it is great.
              (Psalm 25:11)

              Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression 
              of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight
              to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our
              sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. (Micah 7:18-19)

             If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins
             and purify us from all unrighteousness. (I John 1:9)

In my mind's eye, I can picture king Josiah, walking slowly through the restored Temple. Glancing about him, he sees cleaned floors, fresh tapestries hanging, broken down walls that have been rebuilt. It is once again God's house, and the young king must have smiled and praised God for allowing him the honor of restoring the Temple.

You and I probably feel the same way, when we have completed a thorough cleaning of our homes; all the dust is vanquished; windows gleam; stains and dirt are gone.

How about our hearts? Do we need to do some spring cleaning in our souls? Do we need forgiveness for cherishing someone or something more than we cherish our Lord? Have we spoken harshly to someone, or have we envied the blessings of God on their lives?

Perhaps it's time to clean up. To note our shortcomings. Let's call them what God calls them: sins. But let's not wallow in them, or feel self-pity. Hold them up to Christ and take ownership -- then ask Him to forgive. Let's enjoy His forgiveness, and move forward in His grace!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Huldah - advice for a young king

On Monday we read the passage that tells the story of Huldah, the prophetess, and the advice that she gave to young King Josiah. Let's look at her story in more depth now . . .

The backstory for all of this action is that Josiah's dad and granddad had been idolators, and had led the people in straying from Yahweh. Josiah's dad was called Amon (we saw yesterday that Josiah ascended to the throne when his dad was killed), and his granddad was Manasseh. They not only allowed the people to erect the poles that were used in Ashteroth worship, and the groves to idols, but they participated in the idolatry as well. (Great leaders, eh? Not just turning their eyes from the wickedness, but actually taking part in it, as well. Oy.)

So Josiah, having been brought up listening to the high priest's instruction, started purifying the city of Jerusalem and the land of Judah. His ultimate goal was to restore the Temple; he wanted to bring his people back to the worship of the one true God. It was in the eighteenth year of his reign (he was then twenty-six years old) that he started the program to rebuild the Temple. And it was while those repairs were going on, that Hilkiah found the copy of the book of the law. We don't know if it was the complete Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible) or if it was only a partial copy.

Imagine; the Word of God was lost in the house of God! Had it been discarded by the idolatrous people, or by a priest who went astray? Had it been carefully hidden and then forgotten? We cannot know the answers, but we can see the results: when the book was read to king Josiah, he realized just how far his people had wandered -- and he tore his clothing in repentance and regret. That's when he sent his officials to inquire of the Lord . . . would the dire happenings he had heard read actually come to pass? Would he and his people be judged and punished for their unfaithfulness?

Copies of the books of the law would have been either papyrus, or skillfully prepared animal skins, specially prepared from clean animals to be supple enough to take the scribe's writing and then be rolled and placed into a special container. Imagine Huldah's feelings as she received the scroll in her hands, and perhaps held it close -- the law of God that had been lost was now found.

                     The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of coins of
                     gold and silver. (Psalm 119:72)

She must have gently opened the scroll and begun to read the words. Carefully, from right to left, she absorbed the meaning, and then the words came to her from God. Pouring from her mouth as the men waited in front of her . . .  She prophesied that yes, God was going to punish Judah, but that it would not happen during Josiah's lifetime or his reign -- why? Because he had humbled himself before the Lord; his heart was tender, and he repented.

What was king Josiah's response? In our passage, we see that Josiah shared the word of the Lord that came from Huldah with the elders of the land. He began to lead the way in a great movement of dedication, and he reaffirmed the covenant of God on behalf of the people of Judah. He went to the valley where wicked Manasseh had led the people in offering children to placate the idol Molech in fires of sacrifice -- he defiled it for the purpose of idolatry, making it a rubbish dump known as Gehennon valley. The Lord Jesus referred to it as a vivid illustration of the fires of hell, which cannot be quenched.

Josiah also uncovered the altar of the wicked king, Jeroboam, and the tomb of the prophet who warned Jeroboam of the consequences of his wickedness; he even fulfilled the words of I Kings 13 by burning the bones of the prophets of Baal. After restoring the Temple, he restored the celebration of the feast of the Passover, long neglected by the people.  These were great reforms, and he offered great guidance to the people, but looking back on it, we can see that while Josiah's heart was pure and repentant, the people remained idolaters in their hearts.

Huldah was faithful to the Lord. It was probably not the most comfortable thing, with five high officials standing there, to prophesy about the coming punishment of the land of Judah. But she did, and she was used mightily by the Lord. Huldah must have been wise, for the king to send his men to her. We can assume that she must have been holy, for God sent His word for her to give to the men and to the king. She was a vessel for God to use. She was courageous, and most importantly, she was willing to be available for Him to use. We'll complete our study of Huldah tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Prayer requests

These verses have calmed my heart and inspired my soul recently:

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
2Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
3Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are hisa ;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
4Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
5For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations. (Psalm 100)

We are His. And He is interested in everything about us, every facet of our lives. So much so, that He is delighted when we come to Him with our requests.
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
          (Matthew 7:7-11)

I hope that if you have a request for prayer, or a praise for answered prayer, that you will let us know in a comment on this post. All of us who read here can join you in prayer and in praise!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Huldah - advice for a young king

Have you heard of our heroine for this week? Her name is Huldah . . .

We can read two different accounts of Huldah's prophecy, and her guidance for a young king: in II Chronicles 34, or in II Kings 22. The story is very similar; here is one for us to read:

Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem thirty-one years. He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and followed the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left.
In the eighth year of his reign, while he was still young, he began to seek the God of his father David. In his twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of high places, Asherah poles and idols. Under his direction the altars of the Baals were torn down; he cut to pieces the incense altars that were above them, and smashed the Asherah poles and the idols. These he broke to pieces and scattered over the graves of those who had sacrificed to them. He burned the bones of the priests on their altars, and so he purged Judah and Jerusalem. In the towns of Manasseh, Ephraim and Simeon, as far as Naphtali, and in the ruins around them, he tore down the altars and the Asherah poles and crushed the idols to powder and cut to pieces all the incense altars throughout Israel. Then he went back to Jerusalem.
In the eighteenth year of Josiah’s reign, to purify the land and the temple, he sent Shaphan son of Azaliah and Maaseiah the ruler of the city, with Joah son of Joahaz, the recorder, to repair the temple of the Lord his God.
They went to Hilkiah the high priest and gave him the money that had been brought into the temple of God, which the Levites who were the gatekeepers had collected from the people of Manasseh, Ephraim and the entire remnant of Israel and from all the people of Judah and Benjamin and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 10 Then they entrusted it to the men appointed to supervise the work on the Lord’s temple. These men paid the workers who repaired and restored the temple. 11 They also gave money to the carpenters and builders to purchase dressed stone, and timber for joists and beams for the buildings that the kings of Judah had allowed to fall into ruin.
12 The workers labored faithfully. Over them to direct them were Jahath and Obadiah, Levites descended from Merari, and Zechariah and Meshullam, descended from Kohath. The Levites—all who were skilled in playing musical instruments— 13 had charge of the laborers and supervised all the workers from job to job. Some of the Levites were secretaries, scribes and gatekeepers.
14 While they were bringing out the money that had been taken into the temple of the Lord, Hilkiah the priest found the Book of the Law of the Lord that had been given through Moses. 15 Hilkiah said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the Lord.” He gave it to Shaphan.
16 Then Shaphan took the book to the king and reported to him: “Your officials are doing everything that has been committed to them. 17 They have paid out the money that was in the temple of the Lord and have entrusted it to the supervisors and workers.” 18 Then Shaphan the secretary informed the king, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read from it in the presence of the king.
19 When the king heard the words of the Law, he tore his robes. 20 He gave these orders to Hilkiah, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Abdon son of Micah, Shaphan the secretary and Asaiah the king’s attendant: 21 “Go and inquire of the Lord for me and for the remnant in Israel and Judah about what is written in this book that has been found. Great is the Lord’s anger that is poured out on us because those who have gone before us have not kept the word of the Lord; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written in this book.”
22 Hilkiah and those the king had sent with him went to speak to the prophet Huldah, who was the wife of Shallum son of Tokhath, the son of Hasrah, keeper of the wardrobe. She lived in Jerusalem, in the New Quarter.
23 She said to them, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Tell the man who sent you to me, 24 ‘This is what the Lord says: I am going to bring disaster on this place and its people—all the curses written in the book that has been read in the presence of the king of Judah. 25 Because they have forsaken me and burned incense to other gods and aroused my anger by all that their hands have made, my anger will be poured out on this place and will not be quenched.’ 26 Tell the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the Lord, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says concerning the words you heard:27 Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before God when you heard what he spoke against this place and its people, and because you humbled yourself before me and tore your robes and wept in my presence, I have heard you, declares the Lord. 28 Now I will gather you to your ancestors,and you will be buried in peace. Your eyes will not see all the disaster I am going to bring on this place and on those who live here.’”
So they took her answer back to the king.
29 Then the king called together all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. 30 He went up to the temple of the Lord with the people of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the priests and the Levites—all the people from the least to the greatest. He read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant, which had been found in the temple of the Lord. 31 The king stood by his pillar and renewed the covenant in the presence of the Lord—to follow the Lord and keep his commands, statutes and decrees with all his heart and all his soul, and to obey the words of the covenant written in this book.
32 Then he had everyone in Jerusalem and Benjamin pledge themselves to it; the people of Jerusalem did this in accordance with the covenant of God, the God of their ancestors.
33 Josiah removed all the detestable idols from all the territory belonging to the Israelites, and he had all who were present in Israel serve the Lord their God. As long as he lived, they did not fail to follow the Lord, the God of their ancestors.

Remember our story of Jehosheba, who saved the child, Joash? He was crowned king when he was just seven years old . . . well, in our story this week, little Josiah was eight when he was placed on the throne, because his father was assassinated. Hilkiah, the high priest that was mentioned, probably was instrumental in teaching the young king about the things of the Lord, and the way things should be. In one of the passages about Josiah, his mom is mentioned -- her name was Jedidiah. That's the same name that God gave to Solomon; this special name meant "beloved of the Lord" so I guess we can surmise that she was a godly mother. In the eighth year of his reign (he would be sixteen years old at that point) he began to be interested in the things of God. He began to seek the Lord. Just four years later, when Josiah was twenty, he took the reins of the kingdom firmly in his hands, and began to clean things up! It was the custom to have advisors for young kings, and then when they "came of age" they would then assume the full authority of their position.

I think it's interesting to read what was involved in cleaning up the idol-worship of the land; the verses tell of tearing down the poles, idols, and altars, and burning the bones of the leaders of false worship. It's interesting, too, to see that King Josiah was personally involved -- he didn't just sit in the palace and tell other people to do the work. He went out and made sure it was done, and then went back to Jerusalem.

It's awesome to look at and compare passages of scripture and see how the pieces of the puzzle fit together; back in I Kings 13 we actually see this massive clean up prophesied - even telling the name of the king that would be in charge!

We'll move further forward in our study next time!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Yes, a woman can do that! Conclusion

Last time we studied, we noted that some men have squelched the gifts and talents of women in the local assembly or congregation instead of encouraging them to be used of God.

This is clearly going further than the verses we have read. We've seen how wrong men are when they add to the Word of God -- what if the local prophets union had told Huldah it wasn't seemly for her to prophecy? What if the Men's Tuesday Dance Group had fussed at Miriam after she led the women in dancing and praise?

Okay, I'm being facetious here, but I think you get my drift. Huldah, Miriam, Deborah, and others had very significant roles in the story of the Bible. They had valuable ministry contributions to make, just as many women do today. They were confident enough, and mature enough, to utilize their talents for God in a way that didn't cause strife, didn't usurp authority. They didn't chafe or resent the authority, the way that things were. They were glad to be serving God and bringing glory to Him, and perhaps that is the key!

I think we have discovered this week as we've studied, that we are on very safe ground when we say that there are some roles that are specifically to be filled by men in the church. But I think we've also seen that there are many other roles that women should be filling in the church of today. I think that the churches have a responsibility to encourage women to use their spiritual gifts in a Biblical manner! Many times we tell the stories of women on mission fields and in other situations, but we don't nudge ladies to utilize their own gifts in the church or ministries that are local to them. There are ministries that are near and dear to the hearts of many women, and some of them just need a gentle push to get involved -- they need to hear that "a woman CAN do that!"

The women that have brought glory to God in the past have been holy, wise, spirit-filled, and prayerful; not to mention that many of them have been courageous in their ministry that God has blessed. Are we holy? Are we wise and spiritually mature? Are we both prayerful and courageous? Then the final ingredient - are we willing to work for the Lord in whatever role He chooses?  Great things have been done for Him by women who have made themselves available to Him! They have known what they CAN do! They've not been content to say, "There's nothing for me to do!"

If you feel you are being led to a ministry or effort that helps others and glorifies God, then prayerfully consider it. Compare it to the verses that we've discussed. Then, when you are sure of God's leading, don't let anyone stop you! Say, "yes, a woman can do that! In fact, I can do that!" And go right ahead and do it -- for His glory. That's the key. That's the one thing that will make sure you are doing the right thing. And that you're doing it for the right reason.

For Him.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Yes, a woman can do that! Part II

We're studying the roles of women in the Old Testament and in the New Testament this week, and last time we noted that the ministry of prophetesses was not one of publicly proclaiming the word of God, but one of prophesying in a private situation, instead. We also began to discuss the role of teachers and the difference between teaching and prophecy.

We noted that in the Old Testament, while there were prophetesses, the teaching was done by the men: rabbis and priests. We'll look at the New Testament now, and it looks like prophecy is treated a little differently, and we also have some roles for women as teachers.

When the prophet Zephaniah, or Jeremiah, or Huldah spoke the word of God, it was unquestionably received as God's word. The listeners didn't test it or prove it or dissect it into tiny pieces; they just submitted to it.  But when prophecy is spoken of in the New Testament, the apostles encourage us to test and prove the prophecy. Let's look at some verses:

                      Do not treat prophecies with contempt, but test them all, hold on
                      to what is good. (I Thessalonians 5:20-21)

                      Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh
                      carefully what is said. (I Corinthians 14:29)

It appears that there is an element of judgement, of thoughtful criticism in New Testament prophecy. There was encouragement to have thorough consideration of the prophecies; others should carefully ponder what they heard and keep what was "good." Instead of tacit acceptance, as in the Old Testament, there was to be careful testing of prophecy in the New Testament. And we've seen yesterday that in I Corinthians 11, women who prophesied were encouraged to do it such a way that recognized the leadership and authority of the men who led the church.

Now let's look at some other verses . . . in the Old Testament, the men were the teachers -- is it different in the New Testament?

                 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of 
                 you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ. 
                 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there 
                 male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26-28)

This is a verse that many read and re-read -- women are equal of men in Christ under grace. Yep, that's true. There is no more distinction of bond servant or free, Jew or Gentile, male or female. In grace we are all equal -- as sinners saved by grace. And we are all given spiritual gifts in Christ, given to us by the Holy Spirit. Here is where the rubber meets the road again: that doesn't necessarily mean that male and female are to exercise these gifts in the same roles or in the same manner.

See what I meant earlier this week? I'm treading carefully here, because I know that for some, this is a touchy subject. Again -- I'm explaining what I believe, and this is based only on where the Spirit has led me.

Let's look at Titus chapter 2; we are going to see that yes, women can have the gift of teaching.

                    Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live,
                    not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.
                    Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and 
                     children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind,
                    and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word
                    of God. (Titus 2:3-5)

I believe that the women are to teach -- they may be gifted teachers -- but they are to teach other women. I base this on the verses in Titus, and also the ones in I Timothy: "Let the woman (some translations use "wife" here) learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence."

I got excited when I studied this. You know why? I think people have given Paul a bad rap here. He is not saying that the women are not smart. He isn't casting aspersions on their spiritual maturity. He is simply asking them to refrain from teaching in a mixed gathering of males and females. He says to them, don't teach in the assembly -- because it looks like you are usurping the leadership and teaching role of the men.
Does that make sense to you, too?

Here is another reason why I think many women have been too quick to give ole Paul a bad rap: he spoke of many women as "fellow workers" with him in spreading the gospel. He called some "fellow laborers" and did not make any distinction about them being inferior in standing, in spiritual maturity, nor due any less consideration and respect. We know this from passages in several of his letters. But we also know that he explained guidelines for the local assemblies that made it clear -- the roles of pastors, teachers and elders were open to men, not to women.

Now, even with that being said, I am not advocating nor defending the position some men have taken, and that is that women's talents and spiritual gifts are not as important or as respected as men's gifts and talents. Some have tried to squelch the use of women's gifts in ministries. Not a good idea! We will conclude our study tomorrow; hope you will join us again.


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

What are we listening to, today?

Uplifting and encouraging . . . a local radio station near me has that as its jingle.

What do you do each day to lift your own spirits?

What encourages you?

There are some days that are difficult, no matter how many cups of Java we consume. No matter how many pats on the head we receive on Facebook. No matter how many cheerful emails we see sliding into our inbox.

Are you having one of those days?

Get some time alone. No, let's change that. Get some time with God.

Even if you go and lock yourself in the bathroom or bedroom. Even if you go out and drive for a while, for no particular reason.

Spend some time talking to God. Think of the verses that you know, that promise His love, His strength, His power, and His mercy to us.

Then turn on a Christian radio station and let the words and music lift you up. Don't let darkness consume you. Don't let fear overtake you. Never. Give. Up.

Our God is still in the miracle business. He will hear you. He loves you. You can count on Him to help you . . . He's been where you are now.

Here's what I listened to, today. I hope it will be an encouragement to all.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Yes, a woman can do that!

I can imagine that this week's study will probably eclipse many of our other studies, as far as the number of folks who read it . . . I'm hoping that we don't get into a firestorm or have any conflicts! This is all going to be Biblically based study this week -- and it is in preparation for some of our "women of the Bible" that we'll study this winter and spring.

Let's dive in!
For lo, these many years, there have been many discussions (perhaps some of them were in your community of believers) about the roles of women in the church. What they should do. What they should not do. How they should do. On and on, and round and round it goes. Some people say that women can do anything that men can do in the church (some get a little strident about it, too). Some say that women have roles in the church, but there are some things they should "leave to the men." And others seem to think that the women should not have much of a role at all.

Most of the folks in these discussions are sincerely wishing to follow God's plan for men and women. Some have categories in their minds that men and women should fit into -- you know, square pegs in square holes, round pegs in round, etc.

Who's right? Who's wrong? Is the truth somewhere in the middle?
Well, I think we can find answers in the Bible. So I'd like to ask everyone to sit back, take a deep breath, exhale and blow away all of our pre-conceived notions, and then study the Word with open minds.
Are you with me?

The first thing that a lot of folks will do, is to look at women in the pages of the Bible. One of those women (whom we will study next week) is Huldah. She's a great example for us to study in more depth. Why? Huldah is called "the prophetess" in the scripture. We will read the passage next week, but for now, let's just go with that. Now, we have loads of instances in the Word of God speaking through prophets, no? Yep. Nathan, Jeremiah, Elijah, and many more.

So what was the role of a prophetess? Huldah is only one of several who held this title . . . Way back in Exodus, we find that Miriam had that job title on her resume, too. Look at this:

                     And Miriam, the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in
                     her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and
                     with dances. (Exodus 15:20)

Here's another example:

                    And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged 
                    Israel at that time. (Judges 4:4)

Here's one that you might not be as familiar with -- Isaiah's wife was a prophetess:

                   And I went unto the prophetess; and she conceived, and bare a 
                   son. (Isaiah 8:3)

Now let's hop over into the New Testament; it appears that prophetesses were common then, too. Remember our study of Anna? She was a prophetess who thanked God when the baby Jesus was brought into the temple, and she recognized that He was the Messiah. (Luke 2)

In Acts 2, on the day of Pentecost, Peter cites Joel's prophecy of when the Holy Spirit would be poured out, poured into human beings:

                     Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men 
                      shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; and on my
                      servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of 
                      my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. (Acts 2:17)

Here is a fulfillment of that quoted prophecy of Joel in the Pentecost sermon:

                      He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied. (Acts 21:9)

Phillip's four daughters -- we don't know a whole lot about them, but they were said to be prophetesses. Also in the New Testament, Paul encourages women to prophesy with proper adornment, that recognizes headship or authority:

                     But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered
                     dishonors her head; it is the same as having her head shaved.
                     (I Corinthians 11:5)

I didn't post that one in order to start down the rabbit trail of "was he talking about short hair, long hair, or head coverings" but to show that he was aware of (and seemed comfortable with) the fact that prophecy was common in the New Testament church, even among women.
That leads us to this point: we can't deny that women in the Old and the New Testament prophesied.

Now, before you get excited and think that I, Snoodles, am advocating that women should have all the leadership roles and rights of men, let's pause a moment. I am not. I know that there are some who feel that women should be pastors, teachers, elders, etc.  They even use the examples that we are studying, to support their views. Perhaps you are wondering . . . should there be no role distinctions in the church, between male and female? Do they have a point?

I will try to tell you how I feel, and what I believe. I will also try to explain the verses that I believe support my convictions. I will not, however, try to bash anyone over the head, or get into a flaming email battle about this -- quite frankly, all I know is what the Spirit has showed me. I may not have it right yet, but I kinda think I'm on the right track. (Grin)

First, Huldah did not proclaim the word of God in public -- instead, the text that we will study next week says that she explained it privately, when King Josiah sent his messengers to her. So, she had a legitimate prophetic ministry, but she didn't obstruct or distract from the public prophets of the time -- you know who they were? Jeremiah and Zephaniah. No slouches here, just bona fide prophets used of God. They would have been considered the leaders of the prophetic community; leaders perhaps of the entire religious community, and she did not go out of her way to assert herself in their arena.

We don't know why Josiah sent his messengers to Huldah, instead of to either Jeremiah or to Zephaniah, but he did. Perhaps they were traveling; perhaps they were not available for some reason. At any rate, in God's plan, Josiah sent the officials to Huldah, and she prophesied in private.

Wondering about Miriam? Well, her ministry was to women; again, she followed that same principle that the men were the "head" or authority of the congregation, and her ministry (see that verse above, if you want to refresh your memory) was to the women that she led.

Hmmmm, how about Deborah? She was a judge -- that sounds pretty public and official, doesn't it? We can see that she prophesied in private as well. The men who prophesied had public ministries: they led an itinerant life, traveling around and proclaiming the Word of the Lord. Deborah, though, did not do that:

                           And Deborah dwelt under the palm tree of Deborah between
                           Ramah and Bethel in mount Ephraim, and the children of Israel
                           came up to her for judgement. (Judges 4:5)

So they came to her. Even when she speaks to Barak, she calls him and speaks with him individually:

                           And she sent for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali
                           and said to him, The Lord, the God of Israel commands you: Go,
                           take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead
                           them up to Mount Tabor. (Judges 4:6)

Barak was freaking out about going into battle, so she rose and went with him to Kedesh; though the glory went to a woman that day instead of to Barak. (You remember Jael, right? We'll study her, too!)
It seems to me that with Huldah and with all the other prophetesses in the Old Testament, the ministry was a private one. They didn't walk about like the men and proclaim "Thus says the Lord."

It also seems to me that there is a difference here that may help us with this issue. Prophecy is different from teaching. Paul accepted that:

                            So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists,
                            the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, 
                            so that the body of Christ may be built up....  (Ephesians 4:11-12)

Prophecy is a spontaneous revelation. It's immediate. It's in the "right now."
Teaching is when we dig deep and learn from an already given and received revelation. If we look at the Old Testament, it was the priests who gave instruction in the temples and synagogues, regarding what was lawful, and what was according to the scriptures they knew. All of the priests were male, and they had that teaching role. So, in the Old Testament, prophecy and teaching were different gifts.
And though we see prophetesses in the Old Testament, we see them only rarely speaking for God to the nation -- instead their ministries were in support of male leadership, not in conflict with it.

We'll examine this issue more next time. I hope you will join me!

Friday, January 8, 2016

Friday slowdown

This is an old hymn that truly sums up our prayer moving into the New Year . . .

Father, let me dedicate, all this year to Thee,
In whatever worldly state Thou wilt have me be:
Not from sorrow, pain or care, freedom dare I claim;
This alone shall be my prayer, glorify Thy Name.

Can a child presume to choose where or how to live?
Can a Father’s love refuse all the best to give?
More Thou givest every day than the best can claim
Nor withholdest aught that may glorify Thy Name.

If in mercy Thou wilt spare joys that yet are mine;
If on life, serene and fair, brighter rays may shine;
Let my glad heart, while it sings, Thee in all proclaim,
And, whate’er the future brings, glorify Thy Name.

If Thou callest to the cross, and its shadow come,
Turning all my gain to loss, shrouding heart and home;
Let me think how Thy dear Son to His glory came,
And in deepest woe pray on, “Glorify Thy Name.”

Thursday, January 7, 2016 you make 'em?

A really cool way to achieve our goals is to harmonize our schedules with our goals. What do I mean? Well, if we don't schedule the things in our lives that are important to us, they probably are not going to happen. Can I get an "AMEN!"??

If we've made a resolution to get closer in our relationship with God, and we've told ourselves that we'll read a chapter of the Bible each day, then we had better schedule time for it, or it just isn't going to happen . . . mornings are sometimes a rush of activity -- planning for a busy day, gobbling a quick breakfast, finding the clean clothes that you thought were "right there" waiting for you . . . and what happened to your sweet time of study and prayer? Yep. It's gone.

But here is another way to harmonize our schedules with our goals . . . remember the two goals we talked about yesterday? Helping at church, and helping the planet, right? Well, who's to say that you can't be the one who helps organize some recycling baskets at church, and making sure that plastics, cardboard, and more make their way to the correct recycling station!

Perhaps you have made it a goal to get in better physical shape -- and also to witness more. Maybe a good option for you is to take an exercise class where you can meet people to speak to!

Paul said he was "straining" toward his goal. We need to do the same thing with our resolutions.

Just remember that we can't do everything all at once. If we have fifteen resolutions, that's probably too many, and we will get frustrated trying to do everything at one time! Just make a couple that are important to you, and then stick to them. And if you fall down and fail, don't give up! God forgives us, so we need to forgive ourselves, too. If we have a "relapse" then let's talk to God about it, and then get right back to work!  Many of our resolutions are like self-improvement so that we can be more like God Himself. And He is delighted with our efforts, so don't let a failure get you down!

Here is another way to focus on our goals: memorize a scripture verse that helps. The Bible has so much to say to us as we work on becoming more like Christ. Put that verse on a note card and carry it with you. Post it on the fridge. Put it on your bathroom mirror. Stick it on your computer monitor. It won't be long before that verse is in your memory and guiding your life!

Lastly, if you have a Christian friend that you can tell about your resolution, tell them and ask them to help you keep track of your progress. Maybe the two of you can work on the same resolution and help each other!

How about it?

Are you starting this new year with any resolutions?

Wednesday, January 6, 2016 you make 'em?

Resolutions are one of our most sincere ways of looking forward. . .  like a farmer who is riding high in the cab of a huge cultivator, we look to the front, not to the rear. The sixteen or so individual shovels of the cultivator are breaking up the ground in between the rows of plants -- they come pretty close to the plants themselves. Since that cultivator can do so many rows at a time, if you get "off kilter" you can do a lot of damage! So in order to get the job done, the farmer has to forget the area behind him, and keep his attention focused on what is ahead -- or that field will never get done.

Just like the farmer, and just like Paul in our focus passage, we need to leave the past behind: don't let it cause us to become complacent, and don't let it paralyze us from making progress.

                  Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at
                 my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus 
                 took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet
                 to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind
                 and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to 
                 win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ
                 Jesus.  (Philippians 3:12-14)

Paul's next tip for us as we make resolutions that can last is to implement a plan. He says he is "straining toward what is ahead." Wow! What a choice of words, there! He's not just working. He's not just trying hard. He is extremely focused: exerting all of his strength, will, and desires in order to achieve what he hopes for. Ever watched a relay race? The first runner is sprinting around the oval track, giving it all he has . . . the next runner is in his spot, cheerfully waving to the crowd, joking with his opponents, adjusting his shirt . . . Wait a minute. That's not the way it happens, is it?

The next runner is bent forward; every muscle is tuned and ready; his mind is on the runner approaching him; his eyes are on the track ahead of him; his hand is in exactly the correct position to receive the baton from his teammate and BAM!!! He takes off running!

Our plan, once developed, has to be held onto with great focus and intensity, because concentrating on our plan will help make our resolutions more of a reality, and keep us from being distracted.

Let's make our plans and set some goals -- let's keep some things in mind: First, will this plan glorify God? I Corinthians 10:31 tells us that "whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." Now, we could have some truly admirable goals . . . we might want to exercise regularly, continue our education, spend more time in volunteer ministry with our church . . . the list can go on and on. And none of these goals is right or wrong -- the question is, will our pursuing (and hopefully attaining) these goals glorify our Father?

We can also ask ourselves, if our goal will make us more like Jesus. Since this is one of our primary motivations in our Christian lives, it's important to consider. We should also ask ourselves if our goals will make positive changes in our family, our church, or our community -- and one way to do that is if our goal will enhance our ability to witness to others. If we are going to exert ourselves, and focus on this goal, will it help us witness for Him?

Now, here is where the "rubber meets the road" so to speak . . . we've made some resolutions, and they have passed our tests, so now it's time to translate our goals into activities. If we set a worthy goal (or two or three) and then nothing happens, we haven't made any positive changes!

Let's say that our goal is to get closer in our relationship with God. Then an activity that will help us would be to read a chapter of the Bible each day before we start our day. Our spiritual health depends on our study of the Word and on our prayer life -- good investments to make each day!

Perhaps our goal is to spend more time with our children or grandchildren. An activity that would help with that is to help coach a team, or organize a crafting club, or find other ways to appeal to their interests.

If you set a goal of helping more with church, then perhaps a ministry team is an activity that will help achieve that goal.
If your goal was to help our planet that God gave us, then perhaps you will be more involved in recycling.

Sometimes we can even combine goals and activities, and achieve even more -- we'll look at that, next time!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Verses that inspire

Often in my own studies, I find verses and quotes that I want to share. Like this one:

                                 God loves each of us as if there were only one of us. 

This week we are thinking about resolutions; we are dwelling on thoughts of being determined to make changes in our lives. And that quote struck home for me -- as I endeavor to improve, and to become more like Him, He is delighted with my efforts. It's as if  each of us is the only one He is watching . . . that is the level of care that He gives to us!

With that kind of love overshadowing me and helping me, I can renew my determination to be more completely like Him . . .

                  Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.  But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (I Corinthians 9:24-27)

            Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.
            (Romans 12:11)

            Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (I Timothy 6:12)

We will all have times of doubt, worry, and fear. Many of our Biblical heroines did, too. Satan will often try to use these things to weaken our faith. These verses can inspire us to think through, grasp the power of God in our lives, and push on! We are sinful people, but we can win our battles with His help!

If a particular verse has inspired or comforted you recently, won't you share it with us?

Monday, January 4, 2016 you make 'em?

Ahhhh, it's that time again.
No, not time to make the donuts. (Grin) If you are as old as I, you giggled at that commercial the very first time it actually aired. 
It's time to make the resolutions
In the dictionary, resolution is defined as "a course of action decided upon; a fixed purpose."

We resolve; we are determined to do things differently.
How about you? Are you going to eat healthier foods? Exercise more?
Are you going to be a better person? Drop an old habit and substitute a new (better) one?

Do you make resolutions at all?
Do you shy away from it because of past failures?

If we are interested in making and keeping some resolutions this year, we can find some clues on being successful . . . in Paul's letter to the Philippians. Check this out:

                 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at
                 my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus 
                 took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet
                 to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind
                 and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to 
                 win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ
                 Jesus.  (Philippians 3:12-14)

Alright, there is some preliminary work that we must do here. 
"Forgetting what is behind."
Paul is talking about forgetting in a positive way -- forgetting in such a way that the past, whether it is good or bad, will have no negative impact on our present spiritual growth.
You see, we must forget the wrongs that can paralyze us with guilt, and burden us with despair. There are things in our pasts, all of us, that can absolutely bog us down so that we cannot move. He is telling us that these are things we must not allow to stop us now. Did he (Paul) know what he was talking about? Oh boy, did he ever! He was the A number 1, "head honcho" persecutor of the church; he had a lot that he needed to leave behind him.

Paul is also warning us to forget the things that we have attained, that might cause us to shift into neutral gear, to "tread water" so to speak.
He didn't want to spend a lot of time thinking about how far he had come. And we would do well to avoid that, too. If we dwell on where we were, and how far we have come along, we might actually fall into the trap of being content with where we are now. We might even become satisfied (or smug) about our spiritual life or our maturity. We have to realize, as Paul did, that we still have a long way to go, if we want to know Christ completely.

Thirdly, if we want to make solid resolutions, we need to put the failures of previous attempts behind us. In previous years, have we made resolutions, only to discover that a few weeks later, we have fallen down and not kept them? Maybe it's only been days until we realize we've failed. Statistics say that eight out of ten people who make New Year's resolutions won't keep them for more than a month. OK, so let's translate that: by February, most people have forgotten about their determined efforts to change.

But it doesn't have to be that way. We can put those past failures behind, and not let them make us fearful, or skeptical, about our potential for success this time. And we can make a plan -- we'll discuss this next time!