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Sunday, May 20, 2018

Always Give the Buoy...Jesus is the Buoy




A while ago, God started giving me this message, "Always give them the buoy. Jesus is the buoy. You are not the buoy."

When I was in my early twenties, I worked at the local YMCA. I was a lifeguard and taught swimming lessons to 3-5 year olds. I had wanted to go into the Navy and be in search and rescue, but that didn't work out. So, I started going to the Y and swimming and running, training to be a lifeguard. 

One of the things we were taught during our lifeguard training was how to use a rescue buoy or rescue tube. When we see someone drowning, and we get into the water with them, we were supposed to extend the rescue buoy to them, not extend ourselves first. People who are drowning are often panicking. And because they are panicking, if you try to use yourself to rescue them, they could drown you too.

This is not to say that we never help people, because we do. But we are not their source.

In this life, many people feel as though they are drowning. They might feel as though they are drowning in sickness, or emotional pain, or financial difficulty, or relationship issues. Jesus is the buoy in all these situations. You cannot be the buoy. They will drown you. You are not equipped to be the rescuer. But when you have the rescuer, you can give him to them, and he will save them.

This goes both ways. There will be times in our lives when we are facing situations where we may feel like we are drowning too.  We cannot make other people the buoy for us.  It is important that we learn how to look to Jesus to rescue us as well during these times.

...casting all your upon Him, for He cares for you.-1 Peter 5:7

I am the way, the truth, and the life...-John 14:6





Monday, May 14, 2018

Bread of Angels by Tessa Afshar






Therefore, sailing from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and the next day came to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is the foremost city of that part of Macedonia, a colony.  And we were staying in that city for some days.  And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women there. Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God.  The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.  And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us,  saying, 'If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay."  So she persuaded us. Acts 16:11-15 (NKJV)



Purple.  The foundation of an influential trade in a Roman world dominated by men.  One woman rises up to take the reins of success in an incredible journey of courage, grit, and friendship. And along the way, she changes the world.
But before she was Lydia, the seller of purple, she was simply a merchant's daughter who loved three things: her father, her ancestral home, and making dye.  Then unbearable betrayal robs her of nearly everything.
With only her father's secret formulas left, Lydia flees to Philippi and struggles to establish her own business on her own.  Determination and serendipitous acquaintances--along with her father's precious dye--help her become one of the city's preeminent merchants.  But fear lingers in every shadow, until Lydia meets the apostle Paul and hears his message of hope, becoming his first European convert.  Still, Lydia can't outrun her secrets forever, and when past and present collide. Still, Lydia can't outrun her secrets forever, and when past and present collide, she must either stand firm and trust in her fledgling faith or succumb to the fear that has ruled her life.
-Book Description, Tyndale House Publishers

I love the account of Lydia found in Acts 16.  I have read it many times.  So when I found out that Tessa Afshar was writing a story about her, I was so excited! 

She did such an excellent job of weaving all the Biblical details together.  Her fictional portions were very plausible, including how Lydia came from Thyatira to Philippi.  Her characterization of Paul was very believable as well. 
I have read the novel two times now, and I believe I enjoyed it more my second time around.  The first time I was so eager to get through the story, that  I don't think I enjoyed all the details.  This time I picked up on so many things I missed the first time. 
Tessa presents the Gospel in a very simple, loving way, the way I think that God meant it to be presented to people.  It was so inviting.  You travel along with Lydia throughout her story, and when her heart opens to the good news Paul shares, I could feel my heart opening anew.  You will be blessed, encouraged, and refreshed as you read Bread of Angels, the story of Lydia, seller of purple.

To learn more about the author, you can visit her at tessaafshar.com.
To read a sample of the book, visit amazon.com or christianbook.com.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Jesus' Conversations With Women: Martha and the Resurrection



Jesus had many theological conversations with women. For the last few days, I have been thinking about his dialogue with Martha in John 11. Martha gets a bad rap sometimes. We first see her in Luke 10, verses 38-42. In this chapter, she is making preparations for a meal, while her sister Mary sits at Jesus’ feet.

Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.”

And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”-Luke 10:38-42 (NKJV)

Luke's Gospel tells us she is distracted by much serving. The word distracted makes me think at some point she had been doing what Mary was doing, or perhaps it means that she also should have been sitting with her.

The next time we see her is in John chapter 11 after her brother Lazarus has died. She and Mary send a message to Jesus that Lazarus is sick, but he doesn’t make it there before Lazarus dies. When Jesus is getting ready to enter the village, Martha hears he is coming, and goes out to meet him. This is the dialogue that follows:


So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles away. And many of the Jews had joined the women around Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother.

Now Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house. Now Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.”

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”-John 11:17-27 (NKJV)

This is an amazing conversation and foundational to our lives as Believers. At the beginning of their dialogue, Martha expresses her pain that Jesus was not there when Lazarus was sick, but she goes on to demonstrate her faith in him.

Based on her words, it seems as though Martha has been transformed. No longer do we see the huffy woman in Luke 10 who is perturbed about all her serving. She is a new Martha. It seems as though she has been doing some sitting at Jesus’ feet as well, and she has become the Martha that she was always meant to be.

What caused the change in her? Maybe the answer is found in the conversation itself. They start out talking about Lazarus, but then switch to talking about who Jesus is!

When we first see her in Luke 10, she has her eyes on herself and all that she has to do. In John 11, she has her eyes on Jesus. He even goes on to teach her more in this moment. He switches her focus from in the future, to right now. Jesus says,


I am the resurrection and the life.

He is the resurrection (in the future) and the life (right now). Right now. In this moment. He is “I am.” The word life in that sentence is the Greek word “zoe.” Strong’s Concordance defines it as meaning “life, both of physical (present) and of spiritual (particularly future) existence.”

And then Martha confesses what ever person who has ever entered or will enter the kingdom has said in their heart and with their mouth,


Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.-John 11:17

She focuses her attention on Jesus now. In the moment. And then she receives a miracle. Jesus raises her brother from death.

Something else interesting to note is this event took place shortly before Passover. In John 12, we get to see Jesus and Martha together in Bethany again. Jesus would soon be entombed just as Lazarus was, and he would also be raised again! To prepare for this, Mary anoints Jesus’ feet, and we see Martha serving again. This time there is no protest to Mary being at the feet of Jesus again, just the accomplishment of peaceful service.

As we get ready to celebrate Resurrection Sunday, and always, let us remember to focus our attention on Jesus in the now. In our everyday lives, in each and every situation we face, may the words that He spoke to Martha, go deep down in our hearts,


I Am the Resurrection and the Life.

Many blessings to you as you continue to grow in the knowledge of Him,
Beth

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Women in the Early Church: Phoebe and 1 Timothy 3



Now I introduce and commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deaconess (servant) of the church at Cenchrea, that you may receive her in the Lord [with love and hospitality], as God’s people ought to receive one another. And that you may help her in whatever matter she may require assistance from you, for she has been a helper of many, including myself.-Romans 16:1-2 AMP

Phoebe is the first woman listed in Romans 16, but she gets only two verses of this chapter of Romans. We can tell a lot from these verses though.


Her name means “bright" or "radiant." She is a Believer, because Paul refers to her as “our sister.” He also calls her a deaconess, a servant of the Church in Cenchrea. Cenchrea was a port in Corinth.

The word deacon in Romans 16:1 is translated many different ways, depending upon which translation you read. It is translated deacon, deaconess, leader, and servant. They all come from the same Greek word “diakonos.” According to Strong’s Concordance, this word can mean servant, minister, waiter, administrator.

In 1 Timothy 3, Paul details the qualifications for a deacon in the Church.  At first glance, it looks like these qualifications are just referring to men. If they were just referring to men, why would Paul refer to Phoebe as a deacon? Upon looking at that passage a little closer, it seems like there may be an admonition to women as well in verse 11.


The women in like manner chaste, not slanderers, but sober, faithful in all things. -1 Timothy 3:11 (Douay-Rheims Bible)

Some translators translated the word women in 1 Timothy 3:11 as wives. This has led most people to believe that the verse was referring to the wives of the deacons. If you look in some Bibles, you will notice the word "
their" often in italics before wives, which means the translators added it for clarification. Many translators used the word women, but one translator, Weymouth, chose the word “deaconesses.” It reads like this: 

Deaconesses, in the same way, must be sober-minded women, not slanderers, but in every way temperate and trustworthy.


At the beginning of Romans 16, in verse 1, Paul commends Phoebe to the Church there at Rome. Naturally thinking, I thought that word meant "to send."  But I looked it up in the Greek just to be sure, and it doesn’t mean send. It means “stands with” as in the sense of supporting someone. Wow. That just changed the entire passage for me. Basically Paul was saying, I endorse her, so do whatever she asks you to do, and help her in whatever way she needs help.

In verse 2, he asks the Church to welcome her in a manner worthy of the Lord, and then to help her in whatever she needs help with, because she has been helper of many there, as well as a helper of Paul.  The word helper in the Greek word "prostastis."  Strong's concordance defines that word as " a female guardian, protector, patroness."  Thayer's Greek Lexicon also agrees with Strong's, but also adds in the definition " a woman set over others."


So, we can ascertain by these two verses that Paul endorses her, and that she is coming to the Church in Rome with purpose. He calls her a deaconess, which is a servant, as all people are called to be in the Body of Christ. But, what was she coming to do?

We don’t really know, but because of the tumultuous times in Rome, it was probably necessary for Paul to let them know who exactly she was. It was dangerous for Christians in Rome. Nero was emperor in Rome when this letter was written. He would eventually set fire to Rome, and then blamed the Christians for it. It could be dangerous for her traveling into Rome, and well as the Christians receiving her, who might not possibly know if someone was a Believer or not.

It is often presumed that she carried the epistle to the Romans, to the Church at Rome. The scriptures do not state that she was the carrier, but it would have made sense if she was going there anyway. Again, it was a dangerous time. If she was the carrier, what an awesome responsibility for her. Paul must have trusted her very much. The epistle to the Romans is a very important book of the Bible for Believers today. It was Paul's longest letter.  It is where we learn how salvation comes about in Romans 10. We learn about justification by faith and how we have peace with God in Romans 5. Such an important letter!!



We can learn many things about Phoebe, from just these two short verses in the Bible. She was brave. She was commended by Paul. But most importantly, she loved the Church, and went to great lengths to serve Her wherever she may be.


Many blessings to you as you continue to walk with the Lord in whatever places you serve,




Beth