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Monday, December 20, 2010

Mary, Did You Know?

Mary the Mother of the Savior

Her name was Mary and she was chosen by God to bear His only begotten Son. She was humble, faithful, courageous and a true disciple of Christ.  But most of all she was real. She did breath, hurt, hope and love like all of us. I envision Mary holding her newborn son for the very first time, crying with elation, gratitude and relief all at once. Did her heart rejoice knowing who her son was and what He was to become? Did she comprehend His mission and the sacrifice that He alone would perform?  Did she understand how wonderful she was and how much she would be revered and loved? Certainly, she was one of the noblest and greatest of all the spirit children of our Father in Heaven.

The Christmas story from the gospel of Luke.
http://lds.org/scriptures/nt/luke/2?lang=eng 


As the mother of Jesus Christ, Mary stands apart from all women in history.  Not only was she chosen to be the mother of the Messiah but she was to raise the only perfect man to walk on earth.  Mary was a young poor girl from Nazareth betrothed to an ordinary carpenter. These facts made her unsuitable in the eyes of her people. How could such a common girl be the chosen one? Yet, the angle Gabriel visited her and told her that she was “Highly Favored by God”. Even with God's favor, Mary would still suffer much. Though she would one day be highly honored as the mother of the Savior, she would first know disgrace as an unwed mother. She would nearly lose her fiancĂ©. Her beloved son would be rejected and cruelly murdered. Mary's submission to God's plan would cost her dearly, yet she was willing to be God's servant.

God knew that Mary was a woman of rare strength and obedience. She was the only human being to be with Jesus throughout his entire life, from his birth until his death. She gave life to him as her child and watched him die as her Savior. Mary also knew the Scriptures. When the angel appeared and told her that her child would be God's Son, Mary replied, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it unto me according to thy word." (Luke 1:38). She knew of the Old Testament prophesies about the coming Messiah.

God looked upon the quality of her trust and obedience. He knew she would willingly serve God in one of the most important callings ever given to a human being. Just like Mary, God looks at our obedience and trust, usually not the qualifications that man might look upon. God will often choose and use the most unlikely of choices.

Some mistakenly cast Mary as the “Mother of God”. She was indeed the mother of Jesus, the Son of God. However, God the Son existed from eternity. Mary was the source of Jesus’ human nature. Even so it is appropriate that we honor Mary and the faith that she displayed throughout her life.

This Christmas, as I celebrate the birth of Christ, I celebrate Mary too.  I am so grateful for this wonderful woman and her ability to fulfill her role as the mother of our Savior.  My heart is full of love for her and I marvel and thank her for her example and gift to the world.

Merry Christmas Everyone.  May the true meaning of Christmas fill your heart and home. God Bless, Patty

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Elizabeth

    Do you every feel like God does not hear your prayers? Are there times in your life when you ask, “Where are you, Heavenly Father?” “Are you really listening? Elizabeth the wife of the priest Zacharias was a woman whose prayers were unanswered for many years. However, she was a woman of great spiritual maturity whose decades of deep disappointment strengthened her instead of destroying her faith. She taught us to trust in God and to wait. As we can be sure that God’s answer will come and in a way that we never imagined!
  
    Like her husband Zacharias, Elizabeth came from a line of priestly families, the same priestly line that the Messiah would come from. Luke took great care to describe that she and her husband were “both righteous before God, walking in all commandments of the Lord, blameless”. This description teaches us the first thing we need to know about having our prayers answered. Elizabeth and Zacharias were not said to be sinless or perfect but that they kept the commandments and had true hearts dedicated to the Lord. 

    Elizabeth “had no child, was barren, stricken in years” and must have yearned deeply for a baby of her own. I imagine her fasting and praying with great supplication. Sometimes even begging for peace and inspiration to follow God’s will. Despite her disappointment, she relied on God’s love and continued to celebrate his blessings.

   On one such occasion, her husband was chosen to participate in the temple ordinances. What pride she must have felt as this important responsibility came upon him. While Zacharias was in the temple he was visited by the angel Gabriel who told him that Elizabeth would soon bear a son “who would be great in the site of the Lord”. In fact, Elizabeth was selected by God to give birth to John the Baptist who would prepare the way for the Messiah. John would also become a powerful missionary and Jesus would call him the greatest of all the prophets.

    Zacharias was overcome with this news and found it too hard to believe, even coming from a heavenly messenger. Because of his lack of faith, he lost his ability to speak. Elizabeth however, believed in miracles and soon became pregnant, praising God for taking away her “reproach” or barrenness. 
     In Elizabeth’s sixth month of pregnancy she was visited by her cousin Mary. Elizabeth was given divine revelation to know that Mary was also with child. When the two women met, Elizabeth’s unborn baby responded by suddenly moving and kicking in her womb. Elizabeth was filled with the spirit and in a moment of penetrating clarity pronounced a blessing upon Mary.
“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that thee would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” 

    First of all, I love that Mary would come to her. Mary a pregnant teenager, with more hopes and fears in her heart than we can imagine. Her older cousin must have been kind, understanding and capable of good advice.  At just the sight of her, Elizabeth’s blessing gave Mary the confirmation, courage and peace that she was searching for.  Elizabeth realized that Mary had been chosen to give birth to the Messiah and she rejoiced in it. What comfort her words must have given to Mary. Over the next three months, Elizabeth would continue to encourage and help Mary prepare for her Mission. The birth and miracle of Elizabeth’s son would also teach Mary that “With God, nothing shall be impossible.”
    
    At a time when Elizabeth was settling down to a quiet old age, her life took an unexpected turn. She became pregnant and bore the son she had always hoped for. And God had answered her prayer at the most opportune time. Not only would her son assist with the coming of the Messiah but she would assist Christ’s mother for his coming too.
    
    Elizabeth story teaches us that answers will come from God. They will come in a way and in a time that will be most enjoyed and for our benefit. I learn from her that, prayers are worth waiting for.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Have you heard the one about Jesus and the Mother-in-law?

Mother-in-laws often get a bad rap. There are so many bad jokes and stories about them. It’s almost like their doomed - -constantly accused of being meddlesome, manipulative, and opinionated.  I love my mother-in-law. She is kind, loving and supportive. Plus, she makes the best brownies ever! Mother-in-laws can be a tremendous example and blessing to their extended families. The account of Peter’s mother-in-law is about one such faithful woman and a story worth telling.
  
After worshipping God in the synagogue one day, Jesus, Peter, Andrew, James, and John went to Peter's home to relax and eat. When they arrived, Peter's wife's mother was bedridden with a fever. Dr. Luke, using medical terms, tells us that she had a “high” fever. (Luke 4:38) This implies that the fever was very serious and perhaps even life-threatening. When the Savior heard about her condition,” he came and took her by the hand, and lifted her up; and immediately the fever left her, and she ministered unto them. (Mark 1:31)  

Jesus healed many people but with this particular healing, something unique happened. Quite often, after being healed, people left Jesus to go about their renewed lives. Peter's mother-in-law, however, immediately rose and began to minister to them. The Greek word for ‘minister’ can also mean to ‘serve’. Peter’s mother-in-law teaches us that if we are truly grateful to the Lord then we will not just thank him but we will serve him. 

And her service did not stop there. Peter’s home immediately became available to Jesus and his disciples whenever they stayed in Capernaum. Mark tells us the “whole city” gathered at Peter’s door (Mark 1:33). Late into the night miracle after miracle took place. It is likely that Peter’s mother-in-law was a widow and lived in his home. I imagine that she must have done a lot of cooking and cleaning during those times. Quietly serving the Master, while she herself feasted on His words
 
I think about all of the times that Peter was away from his family serving the Lord. Did they suffer from the loss of Peter’s financial income? Were they afraid of persecution because they were intimate with Jesus and his disciples? Were they worried that Peter himself would never come home? This wonderful lady must have been a tremendous support to Peter’s family. Her faith, testimony and witness of Christ’s mission surely must have given them great courage. 

I am grateful God chose to give us two Mother’s. The one that gives us life and the one that helps us understand life from a new perspective. We may not always agree with our mother-in-law but I believe that most act out of love. Like Peter’s mother-in-law, they can teach us and bless us. Sometimes it’s hard for adult children to open their hearts and lives to suggestions and help from their parents. But this story teaches us that a mother-in-law’s life experience, discernment and undying love for her family can be invaluable. So here’s to Mother-in-laws everywhere and to my own whom I am truly thankful for

Church over the house where Peter's mother-in-law was said to live -Capernaum Israel




Monday, September 27, 2010

Anna the Prophetess


“Do Good, Feel Good” is a terrific motto for happiness. And new research shows that choosing to help others activates the brain’s subgenual area, the part of the brain that produces feel-good chemicals, like oxytocin. The Bible has always taught us this eternal truth and the story of Anna is a wonderful example. If you are ever feeling lonely, discouraged or afraid, try Anna’s remedy—serve the Lord. You will experience great joy instead.

Luke 2:36-38. Anna the prophetess was a woman of faithful service. Anna likely became a bride at a young age and was only married seven years until her husband passed away. I imagine that this began a long string of lonely days and nights. Perhaps no kinsman were willing to take her hand as was customary in those ancient days in Jerusalem; or they thought Anna was barren, for there is no record of children in her brief years of marriage. And a woman without a husband or children would have no status in that society. So Anna went on alone, waiting for the companion that never claimed her hand, yearning for the child that was never laid in her arms. 
 
As time passed, her hair likely turned gray, her eyes wrinkled, and her step became much slower and yet she did not just sit and wait for life to come to her. Life had dealt her empty arms, and she chose to turn empty arms into open arms through service. Luke records that Anna “departed not from the temple, but served God with fasting and prayers night and day.” Anna forsook her sorrow to assist those who needed her help. And in so doing she came alive, and became great in the eyes of those she served.
 
When Mary and Joseph brought the newborn Jesus to the temple to make their offerings, Anna was there and when she saw the child, she came in an instant and gave thanks to the Lord. She was among the first to recognize Him as the Messiah and from that time forward, she bore a fervent testimony of Him “to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.” I envision Anna, at her great age, holding the new infant, the Lord that she had served so faithfully for so many years. Imagine her joy as she cuddled the child in her arms. 

The Savior taught His disciples, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it”.  Perhaps the Savior is telling us that unless we lose ourselves in service to others, there is little purpose to our own lives. Those who live only for themselves eventually shrivel up and figuratively lose their lives, while those who lose themselves in service to others grow and flourish—and in effect save their lives.

Anna teaches us this great lesson too. Her story invites us and challenges us to forget ourselves and serve others. Let us follow her example and seek ways to help others. Show a little extra kindness today. Ask the Lord to be his hands and his servant. Put a smile on someone’s face and I promise that you will be smiling too.



Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Job's Wife "Curse God and Die!"

What was it like to have been Job’s wife? And do we give her a harder time than is necessary? Consider this. Every single one of Job's trials was also born by his wife. And yet we hardly stop to offer her compassion.

She is introduced after Job, one of the richest and most faithful men of his time, has had all of his cattle, flocks, camels and children taken from him. Moreover, he is suffering from a horrible disease. As he sat on an ash heap outside the city walls, Job still did not blame God. His wife, out of bitterness, discouragement or perhaps empathy for his sufferings tells Job” Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die! (Job 2:9-10). Whatever her reasons or motivations for saying this, we are unsure. However, we do know the following facts.

She experienced the death of every single one of her children. One day her seven sons and three daughters were all gathered together for a feast in the house of her firstborn. A mighty storm came and the house collapsed, killing all of her children at once. I wonder were there grandchildren in that house too? This must have been the worst day of her life. Everything that she had hoped for and drew joy from was now ripped from her life forever.

 She experienced dramatic financial loss. Job was an incredibly rich man who went from living a privileged life to an impoverished one. He must have had many servants and been well respected in his community. I cannot imagine how hard it was for his wife to see her husband so defeated and to suffer the loss of her children all at the same time. 

She became the caretaker for her disease-ravaged husband. 
Job was stricken with boils from the soles of his foot to the crown of his head. This means that Job likely could not walk, sit or even sleep without being in pain. His appearance became so distorted that even his closest friends didn’t recognize him. When they approached, they fell down in anguish and pity. Job’s wife had to endure that every day and she was the one who cared for him. They had little or no money for a physician. She had no children to relieve her from nursing him.

When everyone else had deserted Job, her love was constant. When Job was finally restored to health and wealth, she was still there. God Blessed Job with twice as much as he had before but he also blessed Job’s wife, as she became mother again to seven sons and three daughters. She was also reinstated as a great lady in the household of Job.

    I once went through a sixth month period in my life where I could somewhat relate to Job’s wife. In the Month of June, My Father-in-Law died from unexpected complications after a surgery. Soon after, my husband got very ill with phenomena. My car was stolen on Thanksgiving Day and on December 5th my own father had a heart attack and passed away. During all that time, I was pregnant with my second child and was trying to “keep it together” at my job. One day an associate called me up on the phone and told me how horrible my performance had recently been. I just sobbed on the phone and said nothing. That night I commented to my husband “I don’t understand why God is allowing this to happen to us. I just don’t think I can take it anymore!” I remember him looking at me and saying, “Don’t ever say that.”
    This reminds me of Job’s reaction when his wife was at her wits end and told him to” Curse God and die.” Job then said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10). In a sense, this was the same loving counsel my own husband gave me. He reminded me of who I was and what I believed. That “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”(Job 1:21)

     Job's and his wife’s experiences can explain why good people may go through discouraging and traumatic times and be tempted to resent God for not obviously and quickly intervening on their behalf. Like Job's wife, we can fail to understand that God sees far more than we see.
     Looking back on my own trials, I understand how much I grew spiritually. I know that God was still there and that he loved me deeply. Like Job’s wife I had my moments of weakness, but also like her, I did persevere.
    We need always to remember some excellent advice from King David: "Wait on the LORD; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the LORD!" (Psalm 27:14). We should learn from Job and his wife’s experience to maintain patient respect and trust in God even in the midst of our sufferings (James 5:10-11).

Monday, August 2, 2010

A Price Above Rubies




Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies. Proverbs 31:10
I love rubies. They are a beautiful and rare stone made of my favorite color, red. All rubies have color impurities that make them distinctive. Gemologist can identify natural rubies through these imperfections, as they do not exist in synthetic stones. Rubies are a rough stone that is heated before cutting and placed into a beautiful setting. They are considered one of the most precious stones in the world and can command a very high price. Just as we can’t find precious rubies laying around everywhere, it is extraordinary to find virtuous women in today’s society. A woman of high moral character is indeed a treasure.
Like rubies, all women are beautiful and precious, especially to God. Like gems, we each have our own unique characteristics and imperfections that make us special. Just as the master gemologist refines gems into something exceptional, God also purifies our spirits through our experiences and trials in life.
The virtuous woman places all of her trust in the Lord. She knows that only through him she can be everything that he wants her to be. She understands that the storms will come, the winds will blow, there will be times when the "ends may not meet", there may be sickness, trials, and heartache. However, the conclusion of the matter is this, she is assured that there will be times of joy, laughter, and deliverance with life more abundantly; this is the promise of her Father in Heaven. She knows that she can “do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. Her strength and faith give hope and blessings to all who know her. She is a shining example of a daughter of God and a Christian woman. This is what makes her so valuable.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Esther



Who knoweth whether thou art come for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14
Esther was one of the bravest women in the Old Testament. This is because she risked her life in order to save her people from certain death. I wonder, could I ever be that brave? I once visited a Haunted House and a man dressed up as a monster jumped out and howled at me. I grabbed my twelve year old daughter and hid behind her. She still teases me about it.
God has a purpose and a plan for each one of us. It may not be as demanding and scary as Queen Esther’s mission but it may take as much bravery to accomplish. When we are faced with trials or great adversity in our life, we can draw strength from her story of faith, obedience and courage.
Esther’s life reads like a Cinderella story – born in obscurity she becomes queen over all of Persia, one of the most powerful empires in history. When we first meet her she is called by her Hebrew name, Hadassah. She is an orphan, who was raised in the household of her cousin Mordecai. They are of the House of Israel, who more than a hundred years before her birth had been taken into captivity by the Babylonians. The Babylonians were then later conquered by the Persians. Now, after many years, her people were allowed to return to their homeland. However, many chose to stay in this foreign land (for it had become their new home). This choice to stay angered many people, some in very high places of power and authority.
The King of Persia, Aasuerus, sent his wife Vashti away for disobeying him. The king had ordered her to appear before him at a drunken feast he was hosting. Ahasuerus wanted her to unveil herself before his guest so that he could show off his wife’s beauty. To Vashti’s credit, she refused to obey his immodest and degrading request. To save face, Ahasuerus disposed of Queen Vashti and began searching for a new queen to take her place. Hadassah, along with all the other beautiful young maidens in the kingdom were then forced to appear at the palace for the King’s choosing.
Before Hadassah’s departure, Mordecai instructed her that she should not reveal her true identity as a Jew. He feared that should her heritage be known, she would not be treated well. He told her to go by the Persian name of Esther. Which means “Star”. Perhaps, he believed that if Esther could become Queen, she would somehow light the way for their people. Mordecai must have realized there was something unique in Esther's opportunity. Esther was a righteous woman and it had to be divine providence that she became the wife of the non-Jewish king. Mordecai was aware of the impending calamity that would likely befall the Jews. Could Esther be the one through whom they would be saved?
Esther heeded her cousin’s counsel and guarded her secret. During this time, she trusted in the Lord and magnified him through her words and deeds. When the occasion arrived, Esther was introduced to the King and he fell in love with her. Out of all who were brought to the palace, she was crowned Queen.
Mordecai remained in contact with Esther and sent messages to her as often as he could. Not long after her marriage, he heard about a plot to kill the king. He passed this information on to Esther, who in turn told her husband and saved his life. The king was grateful but soon forgot about it and life went on as before.
Haman, the villain in the book of Esther, was second in command to the king and everyone had to bow to him. But Mordecai would not bow to Haman. Maybe Mordecai saw it as false worship, dishonoring God. Haman hated Mordecai for not showing him honor.
When Haman discovered that Mordecai was a Jew he dreamed up a plan to destroy him. He told the King that there was a group of people in the land who held to their own laws and did not keep the Persian laws. Haman advised the King that these people, the Jews, should all be destroyed. The King agreed. He did not know that Queen Esther was a Jew.
Mordecai informed Queen Esther of the new law and asked her to go to the King and plead for the lives of the Jews. Mordecai thought the King would listen to her since he loved her and would change the law.
But Queen Esther was afraid. She also knew of another law that said if anyone dared to approach the King without being summoned by him, could be put to death. The only exception was if the King would hold out his golden scepter to them. She was worried that he would not hold out his scepter for her because he had ignored her for thirty days. Yet, she knew the only way to save her people, the Jews, from death would be for her to intercede for them.
She sent word to Mordecai to ask her people to pray and fast with her. The fasting and praying for guidance would last for three days. Esther must have realized that all that had happened in her life had prepared her for this moment in history.
Esther decided that she would have to reveal her heritage and appeal for deliverance for her people in a hostile court. Trusting in God she went to the king. Miraculously, he did hold out his specter to her. She then asked her husband, the King and Haman to a series of private banquets. At the last banquet she petitioned the King for his help. She revealed the truth about Haman and his plans to eradicate the Jews, which included her. The King was so angry that he had Haman executed. The King also made a new law that helped insure that the Jewish people could live safely in his kingdom from that time forward.
~The lessons that we can learn from Esther are faithfulness, trust in God, and a willingness to follow His will whether we are afraid or not. Esther’s act on behalf of the Jews is an emblem of sacrifice. Her story is a representation of what the Savior, Jesus Christ, would do hundreds of years later. Esther – Hadassah – was willing to sacrifice herself to save her people.
~The book of Esther is a very unusual book of the Bible. First, it's one of only two books in the entire Scriptures named for a woman (the other is Ruth). Secondly, the book of Esther does not mention God by name. However, the presence of God is easily seen in this story. Just because he is silent does not mean that he is not there.
Easter’s life was full of challenges and adversity but through it all God was there, molding her, preparing her and finally bringing her to her full potential. Sometimes in my own life, I feel like God is silent. I wonder where he is when I am experiencing challenges and even pain. Esther’s story reminds me that God never leaves us if we do not leave him. Sometimes he is testing us, stretching us and teaching us how to become a better person. If we remain faithful like Queen Esther, who knows what God has in store for us?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Deborah


The story of Deborah describes the unlikely victory of the Israelites, led by an extraordinary woman who was a prophetess, a judge and a deliverer for her people. Though she lived in the time of “Judges”, some thirteen centuries before Christ, there are few women in history who have ever attained the public dignity and supreme authority as Deborah.
The scriptures tell us that she was the wife of a man named Lapidoth. Therefore, she must have been a homemaker and perhaps a mother. The rabbis say she was a keeper of the tabernacle lamps. If so, these were wonderful and humble tasks for a woman who was to become so great a strength in Israel.
In Deborah’s time, the children of Israel began to worship pagan deities so God allowed them to fall into the hands of Jabin, the king of Canaan, who oppressed them sorely for twenty years. Because the men of Israel had faltered in leadership, Deborah arose as a counselor, judge and prophetess for her people. She sat under a sacred tree in the hill country of Ephraim where she gave ruling on particular matters. People came to her when they needed a dispute settled, or when they needed advice about their future actions. She listened, considered the problem then gave her guidance.
Deborah was distressed over the plight of her people. She spoke out about the deteriorating state of the country around Ephraim. Law and order had broken down, and it was no longer safe to travel on the highways. As she spoke and listened to the people, she must have sensed their common enthusiasm for immediate action against their enemy.
With courage and faith in God she called for Israel’s most capable military leader Barak. Together they made a plan to move against their enemy. At first, Barak must have made the case that their tribesmen were hill people, who fought mostly on foot. Their enemies had nine hundred thundering, iron chariots to clear their way. There technology, fighting skills and numbers were far superior to the Israelite forces! Deborah however, let Barak know that she was not afraid to do as the Lord commanded. She told him“Hath not the Lord God of Israel commanded, saying Go and draw toward mount Tabor, and take with thee ten thousand men of the children of Naphtale and of the children of Zebulun?”.
Deborah further told him, “I will draw unto thee to the river Kishon Sisera, the captain of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his multitude; and I will deliver him unto thine hand." Deborah's strategy was to get the enemy to fight in a muddy place where their chariots would be disabled. She knew that if they came, God would disarm Sisera's army and be Israel's shield.

Barak, sensing the spiritual insight that Deborah possessed and urgent need for her spiritual presence and counsel said, “If thou wilt go with me, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go.”
She then prophesized, “I will surely go with thee; notwithstanding the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honour; for the Lord shall deliver Sisera into the hand of a woman.” So Deborah went with Barak to Kedesh.
After Barak had assembled his men on a flat place atop Mount Tabor and Sisera had formed his army and chariots on the plain near the Kishon River, Deborah alerted Barak: “Up; for this is the day in which the Lord hath delivered Sisera into thine hand: is not the Lord gone out before thee?”
Barak and his ten thousand warriors descended from Mount Tabor, and the Lord strengthened them. They fought so fiercely that Sisera was forced to flee for his life on foot, his chariots were destroyed, and all of his men were slain.
When the battle was over, Barak went in search of Sisera and discovered that he was already dead. He lay on the ground inside the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite. Sisera had sought safety inside Jael’s tent, but, as Deborah had prophesied, he had been delivered “into the hand of a woman.” Jael had killed him while he was asleep for the good of all Israel.
Because of Deborah’s valor and her ability to inspire confidence in Barak to do his duty as God had commanded, “the children of Israel prospered, and prevailed against Jabin the king of Canaan, until they had destroyed Jabin king of Canaan.”

Why this story is important?
~God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things.
~Women can have the gift of prophesy.
~ God does gift women for spiritual leadership. At the same time, Barak as a military leader indicates that not every leadership role is appropriate for women.
Deborah’s story is largely about success against all odds. Though everything about the time and culture were against Deborah, she put her faith, courage and trust in God. She stayed worthy in a time of great sin so that the Lord could communicate with her and act through her. She prayed and listened to him when the priesthood leaders of her time would not. She gave her life to his service, believed in his promises and he used her to bring about his will.
Deborah’s courage and humility are models for us. She kept her eyes focused on God and not the circumstances around her. She gave God the glory for the victory and she thanked Him specifically for what He did for her and her country. She reminds us that we all have the potential to do great things for God if we will only listen, trust and obey.



Saturday, June 19, 2010

Hannah




Hannah was a wonderful woman of faith and is among my favorite women in the Old Testament. Hannah was married to a devout Israelite man named Elkanah who also h
ad another wife, named Peninnah. Elkanah and Peninnah had several children together, but Hannah remained childless.
The Old Testament mentions the word mother, or one of its derivatives, 232 times, which is 50 percent more than all of the other standard works combined. This shows the significance of mothers in the Old Testament. To be childless in this society must have been devastating for Hannah. She knew the importance of being a mother and all of her thoughts must have been about becoming a mother and holding her baby in her arms
Each year Elkanah took his family to worship and offer sacrifice at the tabernacle in Shiloh. There he gave Penninah and her children a portion but he gave Hannah a double portion because of his love for her. He may have done this too because she did not have any children. This must have made Peninnah very jealous because she began to taunt Hannah about being childless.
One day Hannah became so heartbroken that she wouldn’t even eat and her husband could not comfort her. She then went up to the tabernacle, and prayed with great weeping. In her prayer she asked God for a son and in return she vowed to give that son back to God for the service of the Shiloh priests. She promised he would remain a Nazarite all the days of his life.
Eli the High Priest came upon her and saw her praying. Hannah was silently moving her lips and sobbing so deeply that he thought she was drunk and questioned her. When she explained that she was not drunk but was pouring her heart out to the Lord, he told her to “Go in Peace and the God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou has asked of him.”
As promised, she conceived and bore a son. She called his name Samuel saying, Because “I have asked him of Jehovah”. Now it would have been easy for Hannah to rationalize her promise, To thank God and keep her treasured child. But she did not go back on her word. She raised Samuel until he was weaned and brought him to the tabernacle. She presented her precious son to Eli the priest so that he could grow up and worship the Lord there.
The amazing thing to me about Hannah is that she was not bitter at all. She was truly grateful to the Lord for her son and seems triumphant in returning Samuel back to him. In her song, she looks beyond the gift and praises the giver.
"My heart rejoices in the Lord; my horn is exalted in the Lord.
I smile at my enemies, because I rejoice in Your salvation.
No one is holy like the Lord, for there is none besides You,
Nor is there any rock like our God." (I Samuel 2:1-2)
Because of her great faith Hannah continued to be blessed by the Lord. After this, she had several more sons and daughters. She was also able to visit her son in the tabernacle each year and to see Samuel become an instrument of the Lord. Samuel became a great prophet and judge in the land. Because Hannah asked of the Lord, all of Israel was blessed.

In reading this story, there are many similarities between Mary, the Mother of Jesus and Hannah. I can’t help but think that Hannah was an inspiration to Mary.

~First of all, both women raised their sons knowing that they were to be given to the Lord. Unlike other Hebrew sons, they would not grow up and have normal lives, marry, have children and be there for their aging parents. They were raised for a greater, more holy purpose. Their children’s lives were dedicated to the Lord and solely for doing his will.
~Hannah refers to herself three times as a “handmaid” of the Lord, signifying that she is a servant of the Lord too. When Mary is told by the angel of God that she is going to be the mother of Jesus, she also refers to herself as his “handmaiden”. Both of these women show their humility and willingness to undergo whatever the Lord asked of them, no matter what the consequences.
~Both of their reactions were similar. They each praised God, no matter what trials or opposition they faced.
~The birth of each of their firstborn sons were miracles.
Hannah praises the Lord and refers to “his anointed”. This was another name for the Messiah. Can you imagine Mary’s comfort in knowing that Hannah was looking forward to the birth of her child, the Messiah to come? Her testimony, her faith and trust in Jesus Christ must have given Mary great strength. I love Hannah for this!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Naomi and Ruth


The story of Naomi and Ruth is a tale of faith, love, loyalty and redemption. The story begins when there was a great famine in the land of Israel. A man from Bethlehem named Elimelech took his wife Naomi and his two sons Mahlon and Chilion to live in Moab. This country was just across the river Jordan but the people there were considered pagans and did not worship the one true God. The distance was only about 30 to 40 miles but as far as most Israelites were concerned, it was as far away as heaven and hell. However, the family went anyway and the son’s each married women of Moab. The two women were name Orprah and Ruth. After a time, Elimelech and both of her sons died. This left the three woman widowed and without protection. According to the laws at that time, women were not allowed to own property. So the women had no way of making a living. Since Naomi hand no kin in the land of Moab, she decided that the only thing for her to do was to go back to Bethlehem. She then encouraged both of her daughters-in-laws to go back to their families too. Neither one of the women wanted to leave Naomi. Eventually Orprah relented and returned to her kin, Ruth however would not go. She told her mother-in-law “ Intreat me not to leave thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people and thy God my God.”
Ruth Loved and cared so much for Naomi that she was willing to leave her homeland forever. She was also willing to travel with her to a strange land where people might not accept her. Naomi’s example of living the gospel must have been very strong, because Ruth was also willing to turn from her religion and join the faith of her mother-in-law.
When Naomi returned to Bethlehem people came out to meet her and said “is this not Naomi?”. She told them not to call her Naomi anymore but to call her Mara, which means bitter because she said “the Almighty hath dealt bitterly with me.”
Naomi had lost everything and was severally depressed but soon she turned her hope and ambitions to the one person in her life that had not been taken away from her. Her loving, faithful and obedient daughter-in-law Ruth.
Naomi told Ruth to go out to her kinsman’s field and to collect the grain that was left behind by the workers. For this was a law at that time that provided for the poor. Those in need were allowed to glean the fields after the reapers. Ruth did this faithfully and was able to provide quite well for herself and Naomi. Soon people began to ask about her and take notice of the loving service she gave to Naomi. One day Boaz, the kinsman who owned the field noticed Ruth too. He rewarded Ruth with special privileges and sent home extra food to her mother-in-law.
Now there was a law of Moses that provided for the welfare of widows in their society (Deuteronomy 25: 5-10). If a husband died, then it was the obligation of the nearest kinsman or blood relative to marry the widow and redeem the departed mans heritage. The firstborn of that marriage would then be raised to carry on dead man’s name.
Naomi understood this law and after learning of Boaz’s attention to Ruth, began to make a plan. In fact, the matchmaker told Ruth “I will not rest for thee, for that it may be well with thee” (Ruth 3:1).
Naomi then instructed Ruth to get dressed up and to go into Boaz’s tent after he had eaten and went to bed. She told her to uncover his feet and lie down next to him, and then wait for him to tell her what to do. In this day and age, this seems like a very scandalous and strange thing to do but in their culture, this was acceptable. Ruth was taking advantage of the law and was purposing marriage to Boaz.
About Midnight Boaz woke up and was startled to find a woman lying next to him. He asked who she was; she replied “I am Ruth, thy handmaiden”. She was laying next to his feet in submission to him, showing that she was willing to serve him and to be an obedient wife. Normally, a man in this society proposed marriage by spreading his skirt, or robe, around his intended. So she asked him to spread his skirt over her and said “for thou are a near kinsman.”
In Ezekiel 16:8, the Lord says: “Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness; yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord God, and thou becamest mine.”
Boaz accepted her as his own. Boaz then told her that he had heard of her story and all that she had done. He knew of her kindness to Naomi and of her character, he called her a virtuous woman and promised to seek her hand in marriage.
The next day, he went out to see Ruth's closest male relative. This man said that he could not marry Ruth and granted Boaz the right to marry her instead. I wonder if this kinsman was concerned that Ruth was from Moab. She was not an Israelite and there were religious and societal complications with a marriage like this.
Fortunately, this did not concern Boaz. He saw into the heart of Ruth and was only concerned with who she was and what she had become. They soon married and were blessed with a baby. Naomi became the grandmother and nursemaid to this child and was restored with great happiness. They named the child Obed. Obed was the father of Jesse, who was the father of David, who was a descendant of Jesus Christ.
The true meaning of the gospel comes out in this story. Boaz represents the Savior and Ruth represents us. Once we accept the gospel and turn away from our old life, the Lord will bring us in to his own. Ruth’s story shows us that participation in the kingdom of God is not decided by bloodlines but by our obedience to God’s will. Her humility and submission to Boaz demonstrates how we must also come to the Lord and ask for his blessings and entrance into his kingdom. It is only through the Lords good grace and works that makes this possible.
Boaz was Ruth’s kinsman. The Hebrew word for “kinsman” is “goel.” The Hebrew word for “Redeemer” is also “goel.” In Biblical times, these words were interchangeable. If a man was a kinsman, it was his duty to be a redeemer for his families’ inheritance. Boaz played a role very similar to the one that Jesus played for all mankind. Thus Boaz is a type of Christ’s love and redemptive power.
“Where you go, I will go…” With these words, Ruth sealed her fate. By seeking out the Savior with faith like Ruth, we too can secure our place with our Lord in Heaven.

Why do you think Ruth went with Naomi?
What do you think Ruth gave up to go with her?
Would you ask a man to marry you?
What qualities do you like best about Ruth
?