Thursday, October 19, 2017

The One Year Experiencing God's Love Devotional by Sandra Byrd


The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.-Matthew 13:45-46


I love devotionals.  When I began following the Lord again in my early twenties, I spent lots of time reading devotionals.  That was one of the ways I learned about God.  

I recently had the opportunity to read Sandra Byrd’s new devotional, The One Year Experiencing God’s Love Devotional. Sandra has so much wisdom to share  that it is a joy to read her words and her stories.  Each devotional is very warm and inviting, and speaks of the Father inviting you into relationship with Him.

In her new book, you will find wisdom, encouragement, and learn about a lot of different stuff!  In a devotional entitled “Fire Power”, Sandra connected some dots for me between events in the Old Testament, and the New.  In another devotional, I was reminded that when Jesus walks into a situation, it always changes for the better. There are book lists, recipes, and an idea for an Advent activity with your family at Christmas as well.  

As I read, I often highlight or underline passages that are meaningful to me.  In "Understanding Down Under", a devotional on friendship, I highlighted these words.  It reminded me of a very close friend of mine who was my roommate at Bible school.  Though we are now far apart in distance, she is still very close in heart.

My summer circumstances often coincide with a stark time in a friend's life.  I'll share my sun to give her the warmth she needs, and she'll do it for me later, when my winter blows in-for a season-before spring arrives again.  That way, we're always dividing the grief and sharing the joy together.  He loves us both, and both through each other.  That's God's design for friendship.

The love of God is the most important subject we can learn about.  1 John 4:8 says, “God is Love.”  It is not merely what He does, but who He is.  Love is also why God sent Jesus.  John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that He sent His only Son, that whoever believes in Him, should not perish, but have eternal life.”  Love is the heartbeat and foundation for everything God does.

I recommend this devotional to anyone who wants to get to know God better. Whether you are a seasoned Believer, just starting out, or haven’t really come to know God yet, you will be encouraged, strengthened, and loved by the words in this book.  

Many blessings to you as you learn to walk in His love for you,

Beth






To learn more about the author, you can visit her at her website www.sandrabyrd.com.

Disclosure Statement:  I received a copy of this devotional from the publisher in exchange for my review.  The thoughts and opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Women in the Life of Jesus: Women in the Upper Room

But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”-Acts 1:8


There were women in the upper room on the day of Pentecost.  Acts 1 tells of Jesus’ last moments on earth.  He gives his disciples specific directions.  He tells them to go back to Jerusalem and wait for the “Promise of the Father.”(Acts 1:4)  When they get back to Jerusalem, the women join them.

Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey.  And when they had entered, they went up into the upper room where they were staying: Peter, James, John, and Andrew; Philip and Thomas; Bartholomew and Matthew; James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot; and Judas the son of James.  These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication,  with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.-Acts 1:12-14 (NKJV)


Later in Acts 1, Peter stands up and there is discussion about which disciple should take Judas’ place. They make that decision, and then it moves into Acts 2, at the coming of the Holy Spirit.  There doesn’t seem to be an interruption in the flow of action with the disciples, including the women all being together.  
When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.-Acts 2:4 (NKJV)
After they all receive the Holy Spirit, which equips them with the power of God, Jews that have come to Jerusalem to celebrate Pentecost, hear them speaking in tongues in the languages of the regions they are from, and declaring the works of God.  This is astonishing to them, as they believe them all to be from Galilee. That’s when Peter stands up, preaches Jesus, and quotes the prophet Joel saying:
And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God,
That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your young men shall see visions,
Your old men shall dream dreams.
And on My menservants and on My maidservants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days;
And they shall prophesy.
I will show wonders in heaven above
And signs in the earth beneath:
Blood and fire and vapor of smoke.
The sun shall be turned into darkness,
And the moon into blood,
Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord.
And it shall come to pass
That whoever calls on the name of the Lord
Shall be saved.’-Acts 2:17-21 (NKJV)


And then 3000 people get saved!  Three thousand.  That is a lot for me in one moment. And the Holy Spirit came on all those who heard the message that day and the scripture above was fulfilled.
There were women there that day.  Peter repeats what Joel says, women being included in that list of what would happen when the Holy Spirit is poured out. Daughters and maidservants would prophesy!
When the Holy Spirit came upon them, they received power.  That power is the word “dunamis” in the Greek.  It means miraculous power.  In the Gospels it is often translated as miracles, wonderful works, mighty works, power, and virtue.  They received the same power that came on Jesus that day in the river Jordan.  Both men and women received that power!!
What the prophet Joel prophesied began on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:4, and it continues to this day.  God poured out His Spirit on the Early Church that day.  They began witnessing of Jesus in Jerusalem and then Samaria.  But Jesus also said there would be witnesses "unto the ends of the earth."  That is us!  God is still pouring out His Spirit on men and women, equipping them with power to do what He has prepared for them in advance to do. And this baptism is for every Believer.


Many blessings to you as you continue to learn and grow in Him,
Beth








To read more posts in this series, go here to Women in the Life of Jesus. 


Saturday, September 9, 2017

Women in the Life of Jesus: Women at the Resurrection/Mary the Evangelist


Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.  Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.”
Peter therefore went out, and the other disciple, and were going to the tomb.  So they both ran together, and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first.  And he, stooping down and looking in, saw the linen cloths lying there; yet he did not go in.  Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there,  and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself.  Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed.  For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.  Then the disciples went away again to their own homes.
But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb.  And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.  Then they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”
She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.”
Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus.  Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?”
She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary!”
She turned and said to Him, “Rabboni!” (which is to say, Teacher).
Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’”
Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things to her.-John 20:1-18 (NKJV)

There was a flurry of activity amongst the disciples on the day of Jesus’ resurrection!  As I was reading, I noticed that each account by all four Gospel writers gives different details.  There was lots of running back and forth it seemed like, with the women and the men.  It was like putting a puzzle together, but way more fun.  If you want to read all four accounts you can go to Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, and John 20.  

Apparently there were many women there that day.  Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, Salome who is the mother of James and John, Joanna, and the other women (as told to us by Luke.)  They had all come bringing spices to anoint Jesus’ body. Now, why would they do that?  Because they all still thought He was dead.

Even though Jesus had told His disciples repeatedly He would rise from the dead, apparently nobody believed Him.  After the women see the empty tomb, and hear the angel’s message, they go and tell the men.  But they think they are speaking “nonsense.”  Human frailty was on display that day, but nevertheless Jesus was still bringing comfort, truth, and encouragement to them all.

The first person Jesus appeared to was Mary Magdalene, so I want to spend a little time talking about her.  She actually gets to have a conversation with Him.  And He gives her a message.  

Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.-John 20:17 (NKJV)
 Some have said that Mary Magdalene was an evangelist. The Greek word for evangelist means “bearer of good tidings.”  The Bible doesn’t refer to her as an evangelist, but it seems to me on that day she qualifies.  She was the first female to share the good news of the resurrection of Jesus.  She gets to tell the apostles that Jesus is alive and He is ascending to God.  

In Ephesians 4, there is a list of ministry gifts, but there is also a mention of His ascension as well.

But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.  Therefore He says:
“When He ascended on high,
He led captivity captive,
And gave gifts to men.”
(Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth?  He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, -Ephesians 4:7-12


According to Strong's Concordance, the Greek word for "men"  in Ephesians 4:8, And gave gifts to men, is the word "anthrōpos."  It means "man, human, mankind."

HELPS-Word Studies says "anthrōpos " relates to both genders (male and female) as both are created in the image of God – each equally vested with individual personhood and destiny.

In Great Truths to Live By, Kenneth Wuest explains, "There are two words in the Greek which mean man, anēr, which refers to a male individual of the human race, and anthrōpos, which is the racial generic term, and which has the general, generic idea of mankind.

The Lord has given these ministry gifts to women as well as men.  There is no distinction in this passage of scripture about whether men or women gets specific gifts.  It just says that the Lord gave “some.”  Just like the Lord privileged Mary Magdalene that day by giving her the opportunity to serve Him with that message, so He gives other women the same opportunity.  The ministry gifts listed in this passage are for serving.  We are all called to service in some way.
 Many blessings to you as you grow in the knowledge of Him,
Beth


To read more posts in this series, go here to Women in the Life of Jesus. 

Monday, September 4, 2017

Women in the Life of Jesus: The Women at the Cross





All four writers of the Gospels mention the women at the Cross the day Jesus was crucified.  Some give more details than others, but they all four mention that women were there.  


Matthew’s Gospel says,


And many women who followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to Him, were there looking on from afar, among whom were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.-Matthew 27:55-56 (NKJV)


Mark says,


There were also women looking on from afar, among whom were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the Less and of Joses, and Salome, who also followed Him and ministered to Him when He was in Galilee, and many other women who came up with Him to Jerusalem.-Mark 15:40-41(NKJV)


Luke gives the least amount of detail.  His Gospel reads,


But all His acquaintances, and the women who followed Him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.-Luke 23:49 (NKJV)


John’s Gospel has the women up close.


Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.  When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple who He loved standing by, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold your son!’ The He said to the disciple, ‘Behold your mother!’ And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.-John 19:25-27 (NKJV)


There were a lot of woman at the Cross the day Jesus was crucified, some of them named and some of the unnamed.  One of the noticeable things about the women that day is many were named Mary.  I don’t think there are any coincidences in the Bible, or with God, so this must be significant.  


The Hebrew word for Mary means “obstinacy” or “rebellion.”  I have also seen the definition “bitter.”  So there was a lot of rebellion surrounding Jesus on the Cross that day.


In John’s Gospel, he describes a scene between Mary and John.


When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold your son!’ The He said to the disciple, ‘Behold your mother!’ And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.-John 19:25-27 (NKJV)


I have always found this scenario very interesting.  Why would Jesus tell John to care for His  mother?  He had at least 5 other siblings.  Should they be responsible for the care of Mary?  She was also not an old woman when this took place.  Jesus was only 33 when He was crucified.  She had him at a very young age.  If she was 18 when Jesus was born, which scholars estimate she was much younger, she would still have only been 51 at Jesus’ death.  I am 45 and do not need to be cared for.  How could a woman so young need to be cared for?


I don’t think that was the point of this particular passage.


The name John means “Jehovah is gracious.”  So Jesus asked a man whose name means “Jehovah is gracious” to care for a woman whose name means “bitterness, rebellion, and obstinacy.”  John and Mary were a picture of what was happening in the spiritual realm.


There at the Cross that day grace came to care for rebellion.  That is what happened with Jesus’ death.  His grace came to care for our rebellion.  


May you grow in the knowledge of His love,
Beth



To read more posts in this series, go here to Women in the Life of Jesus. 
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