Reflections: The Woman God Sees

I spoke to 70 women at our church’s Women’s Day Retreat. The following is the message that I shared with them. I edited out a few details to protect the privacy of personal history of people mentioned:

Let me begin by telling you two stories… Listen for which one you relate to the most…

Once upon a time there was a girl who was raised by Christian parents who loved her and her siblings very much. She asked Jesus into her heart when she was four years old and she was baptized when she was eight years old. She had several strong Christian role models in her life; including her grandparents, who would travel halfway across the country to spend time with her family. Throughout her younger years, the girl had several close friends who she remains in contact with now that she is an adult. During elementary school years, she looked forward to going to church camp every year. During middle and high school years, she enjoyed going to youth groups every week. She loved to sing solos or with worship teams and choirs and still loves to sing as an adult. She also enjoyed going on local, short term, and overseas mission trips. As an adult, she married a Christian man in the military, went to college, traveled the world, has had several fulfilling jobs, and has several children. She served as a Women’s Ministry Director at a church she attended. She has lead and facilitated Bible Study groups at churches and at her home. Over the years, she has mentored several women and teen girls. She currently serves in various jobs, ministries, and volunteer positions within her community.

That sounds like a pretty good life right? Maybe it is similar to your story?

Maybe you don’t relate to that at all. Maybe you will relate better to the next story…

Once upon a time there was a girl who grew up in a poor household. Her father almost died of a chronic condition when she was a toddler. Fortunately, her father recovered but the problems did not end there. The family constantly struggled financially with lack of money. The girl’s mother struggled with severe depression due to an abusive childhood and a stressful marriage. As the oldest of four, the girl often cared for the kids when the parents were not able to care for them. When the girl was 13, her parents divorced and her mother got re-married a year later. During her middle school and high school years the girl always looked for love from the various boyfriends she had. She started smoking cigarettes in secret with her friends. She rebelled against her parents with a bad attitude and anger outbursts. She got married as soon as she was able to at age 20 because she wanted to get away from her dysfunctional childhood and be on her own. She quickly realized that she carried her childhood baggage into her marriage. She experienced a very bad car accident with a semi-truck resulting in chronic pain. She had several miscarriages. She and her husband worked difficult jobs on different shifts and they hardly ever saw each other. They both allowed sin to creep into their lives, and as a result they were on the verge of divorce when her husband got notice that they were moving overseas for his job. During their attempt to reconcile, they got pregnant again. They decided to stay together and moved overseas and had two children. However, they never really resolved their sin issues and their marriage hit rock bottom. She continued to allow anger and bitterness invade her life.

You would not want to be that woman right? Which story do you relate to the most?

What if I told you that both stories describe the life of same woman?

What if I told you that… I am that woman.

Before you knew my story, you may have had preconceived notions of who I was based on the persona that I put forward in public… the smile on my face, my answers in Bible study, a brief conversation in the church hallway, what I write on my blog. You may have assumed I had a decent life based on the little that you knew about me. Does it shock you now that you know the truth? Now that you know that there is more to my story? My dysfunctional childhood, the pain of loosing unborn babies, the heartache of a marriage hitting rock bottom due to sin my husband and I allowed into our lives?

It is a misconception that Christians are supposed to have a perfect life and are perfect people.

Even though we often portray our best in public, we often put forward a persona that we want other people to see while hiding the struggles, heartaches, and sins that we are dealing with in private or within our home. Maybe you really have had a great overall life! But I can guarantee that every single one of us has had to go through a valley that makes us feel completely ugly, alone, depressed, and separated from God.

The stain of sin has ruined every person on earth. If you have ever hit rock bottom, you know that it is the worst hopeless feeling in the world. You feel like there is no way out. You feel like a minute in time is an eternity. You feel like you cannot continue on your own. You feel like you are not enough. Maybe, you are in the bottom of this pit right now.

Let me tell you a little secret: You will never be able to get out of your pit on your own. You may try different things that seem to work but eventually everything that you try to do will fall short.

God never promised that we would always be happy or have perfect lives when we have Jesus as our Savior;

instead he uses Paul’s testimony to tell us that Christians can have hardships far beyond our ability to endure. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1:8-11:

“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.”

Through our hardships; God wants us to fully rely on him so that he can deliver us and heal us. God wants to draw us into a closer relationship with him. He will always rescue us but sometimes it is in the midst of our hardships. He doesn’t always remove us from circumstances but allows us to go through them in order to draw us nearer to Him.

Remember when I said that you cannot get out of your pit on your own?

The good news is that JESUS can carry you out of your pit! JESUS can walk beside you through the valley. JESUS can fill the hopelessness in your life. JESUS can blot out the sins in your life.

One of my favorite Bible verses is:

Isaiah 40:29-31 “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

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Our theme for this retreat is: “Reflections: The Woman God Sees.” The name of God “El Roi” means “the God who sees me.” This name was only used in the Bible once in Genesis 16:13:

“She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”

An Egyptian slave woman named Hagar gave this name to God when she was alone in the desert. When she was completely hopeless in the circumstances that she was facing, God answered her cry for help. God saw her right where she was. Although Hagar is the only woman recorded in the Bible praying to “El Roi,” there are several other women in the Bible who also went through hardships and hopeless circumstances. God saw them too and he answered them and delivered them.

Ruth: a pagan widowed woman moved to a foreign land with her mother-in-law after her husband died. Facing famine and ruin, she chose to follow the God of the Hebrews. She was rescued and married by a kinsmen redeemer. Her son, Obed, is in the lineage of Christ.

Esther: a Jewish girl who was taken from her family to be in the king’s harem. She eventually earned the king’s favor and became a queen “for such a time as this.” She fasted and prayed for God to deliver her people who were sentenced to death. God provided a way for the people to defend themselves against those that would try to kill them.

Bathsheba: a married woman whose husband was away at war, committed adultery with King David (whether by force or by consent we do not know). After she got pregnant, the king had her husband killed and then married her. Due to their sin, they lost their baby. Due to their repentance, their second son, Solomon, later became king and is in the lineage of Christ.

New Testament Women, there are too many to mention but here are a few that stand out in my mind in no particular order:

Mary and Martha: were sisters who along with their brother Lazarus were close friends with Jesus and his disciples. They often hosted them in their home. When Lazarus was dying, they sent word to Jesus in hopes that he would make it in time to heal him. Jesus arrived after Lazarus had already been in the tomb for several days. In their grief, Mary and Martha questioned Jesus’ timing. When he raised Lazarus from the grave, he showed them that he cared for them and that there is a purpose for the difficulties that we face.

The Samaritan woman has had 5 husbands and was currently living with a man not her husband. Jesus met her at the well as she was drawing water during a time that was not typical for women to get water. She was avoiding being around other women who would gossip and shame her. Jesus not only spoke to her, which was not typical of a man or rabbi to do, but he also saw into her heart and gave her the living water of hope, forgiveness, and salvation.

The unnamed woman with the issue of blood: We know that she had a constant menstrual bleeding and hemorrhaging that lasted for 12 years. This made her “unclean” in the Jewish culture and everyone and everything that she touched would also be unclean. She would not have been allowed in the temple. People would have shunned her. As Jesus passed by, she recognized that he could heal her. She moved through the crowd and was able to touch the hem of his garment. Which means by the time she got to him, she was crawling on the ground… I wonder if it is because she was so faint from blood loss or if it is because the crowd was trying to push her away. Jesus stopped walking and turned to the woman saying that her faith had made her well. After 12 years of suffering, she was healed because she had faith enough to reach out to Jesus.

We all have to climb different mountains and walk (maybe crawl) through different valleys.

Over the years I have reconciled with my parents. God healed my mom of her depression and she is an amazing living testimony of how God can bring someone out of a pit. My husband and I will be celebrating fifteen years of marriage in a couple of weeks and we have three beautiful children. It took a long time for my husband and I to get to where we are today. God did not heal our wounds overnight and God still allowed us to suffer through additional heartaches and trials. I still have to deal with my sin stronghold of anger on almost a daily basis. I often struggle with complacency with my relationship with Jesus. However, God is continuously working on me. I can look back over past circumstances and see God’s presence in a way that I did not see him at the time. Knowing that he carried me out of my pits and through my valleys, allows me to trust in him whenever I face a new trial. It also allows me to minister to women who face similar trials that I have faced in the past.

I want you to know that God sees you.

God hears you.

God knows YOUR name.

God loves you.

Zephaniah 3:17 says: “The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”

Have faith and reach out to the God of the universe. Allow him to meet you right where you are.

Pray with me the following verse:

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” Psalm 51:10-12

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“El ROI” image found here.

“The Woman God Sees” graphic downloaded from CTA.

Once Upon A Time Storybook Bible

This book is illustrated by Omar Aranda and published by ZonderKids. The book is approximately 8 x 10 inches which is similar to other hardback illustrated children’s books. Comprised of 33 popular Bible stories, there are 18 stories from the Old Testament and 15 stories from the New Testament. Each story has a title, scripture verse (taken from the New International Version (NIV), vibrant illustrations, “Once Upon A Time…” paraphrased story, and a “Happily Ever After” word of wisdom and story scripture reference.

On the front cover, it states, “The Bible is not a fairy tale. Every great story happened once upon a time.” An example of a “Happily Ever After” section in the Queen Esther story states, “Esther was brave to face Haman and the king. God gave her the courage she needed to save her people. He makes all of us brave when we need to be.” In the Darkest Day story about Jesus dying on the cross it states, “Jesus gave his life to save the world. He died so that one day, you could join him in heaven. Tell him thank you for his sacrifice.” I love the colorful illustrations of this book. The stories are written simplistically for a preschool and early elementary audience. This book will definitely appeal to young children and would make a great gift!

In accordance with the Federal Trade Commission I am required to disclose that ZonderKids provided this book for free in exchange for my review. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own.

*****

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Order at Christian Book Distributors through the following link!

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Once Upon a Time Storybook Bible
By ZonderKidz

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The Shack

In light of the new movie adaptation of The Shack, I thought I would reblog my review of the book. I have no plans to watch the movie because of how strongly I feel about the bad and misleading theology the book presents. I would consider watching it if someone asked me to give my opinion of it but I highly doubt the movie would make significant enough changes from the book to change my opinion of it. If you choose to watch the movie and/or read the book, I encourage you to do so with caution and with careful consideration and comparison to scripture. Do not let the emotional story cloud your discernment.

Heart Treasures

Here is my “review” of the book, “The Shack.” I wrote this and e-mailed it to all of my friends in August 2008 after reading “The Shack” for my church’s book club. Since the book is still making its rounds in the Christian community and since it came up in conversation in the comments section of another blog; I thought that sharing this would be relevant.

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I recently read a popular book called “The Shack” by William P. (Paul) Young. I am giving you my opinion of this book now because I can find a ton more positive reviews about this book than negative. Especially within the Christian community; most of the reviews/comments I have read give mostly praise and “how this book changed my life” perspectives. Personally, for a book that many people consider as Christian Fiction; I find this book to be mostly unbiblical and very…

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How To Be A Noble Woman

A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.
She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.
She selects wool and flax
and works with eager hands.
She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar.
She gets up while it is still night;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her female servants.
She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.
She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night.
In her hand she holds the distaff
and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy.
When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
She makes coverings for her bed;
she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
Her husband is respected at the city gate,
where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
She makes linen garments and sells them,
and supplies the merchants with sashes.
She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Honor her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

Proverbs 31:13-31 NIV

*****

The Beginner’s Bible (Updated 2016)

This book was first published by ZonderKids in 1989. It has been a favorite among households with young children. The old version has beautiful, colorful, and engaging illustrations. This updated version has the same illustrations but they have been transformed into three-dimensional art. 15541995_10211632981809220_344271054706927781_n

(Left: old version. Right: updated 2016 version.)

The stories are exactly the same in both versions. Over 90 stories divided between the old and new testaments.

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I remember my younger brother and sister receiving The Beginner’s Bible when they were toddlers. I loved reading it to them. Our family loved this book! When my first daughter was born, we received a copy of it. If it had not been given to us, I would have definitely bought it myself. The illustrations are eye-catching and perfect for younger children. The stories are easy to read for beginners.

However, I personally prefer the previous version instead of the updated version when it comes to the illustrations. In my opinion, this is a classic example of when newer is not always better. The pages in the updated version are thicker and shinny but I think that the 2D illustrations in the older version are more crisp. Here is a side by side comparison (Top: old version. Bottom: updated 2016 version.):

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Whatever your illustration preferences, I definitely recommend The Beginner’s Bible for any household or church library!

In accordance with the Federal Trade Commission I am required to disclose that ZonderKids provided this book for free in exchange for my review. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own.

*****

Order at Christian Book Distributors through the following link!

I get credit for all purchases made through my CBD links!

The Beginner’s Bible, New and Updated Edition 2016
By Zondervan / Zondervan

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Hidden In My Heart

Hidden In My Heart is a New Living Translation (NLT) Scripture Memory Bible geared towards children. Towards the beginning of the Bible, there are “Ten Hide-It Helpers” to help with memorization of scripture. After that, there are fifteen pages of “Thematic Memory Verse Plans” which includes checklist boxes. At the beginning of each book of the Bible, there is a section that gives general information about that book. The information includes: Who wrote [the book]? When was it written? Why is it in the Bible? and What’s it about? Throughout the Bible there are 100 Core Verses listed in three translations: NLT, New International Version (NIV), & King James Version (KJV). These sections also include an “Explore & Apply” and a Prayer. In the back of the Bible, there is a checklist and “Dig Deeper” section for each of the 100 Core Verses. Also, throughout the Bible there are 136 Challenge Verses (also written in NLT, NIV, & KJV) along with a checklist in the back.

What makes this Bible really unique is that there is a download code for scripture memory songs for the 100 Core Verses. Before gaining access to the songs, an account must be made using email address, download code, and password. I assume this is to ensure that the code is not shared outside of the person/family/organization who owns the Bible. There is an option to download the full files of 100+ songs in either NLT, NIV, & KJV. Or each song can be downloaded individually.

This Bible has some unique qualities such as the memory verses printed in three Bible versions and the scripture memory song downloads that are available. I think that it would be a good addition to any family library. The sections that focus on scripture memory in this Bible will be helpful to anyone (child or adult) who has a goal of memorizing more verses. I personally love all of the checklists! I have listened to a few of the song downloads and they are catchy tunes that would be easy for a child to pick up. The songs would absolutely be a valuable tool for those who utilize them!

In accordance with the Federal Trade Commission I am required to disclose that Tyndale House provided this book for free in exchange for my review. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own.

*****

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Order at Christian Book Distributors through the following link!

I get credit for all purchases made through my CBD links!

NLT Hidden in My Heart Scripture Memory Bible, Softcover By Stephen Elkins / Tyndale House

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To Be Left-Handed Is Not A Sin

A couple of months ago, a friend on Facebook posted the following meme… to which I felt the need to respond. I said that this meme is Biblically inaccurate. Although right-handedness or the right hand in general is considered a sign of strength (in the Bible and elsewhere), there is not anything in the Bible that says that being left-handed is a sin. ztIJsgw

My friend deleted the meme in response to my comments because he did not want to post something inaccurate. He did message me in private to say that he had heard before that left-handedness was a sin which is why people were punished for using their left hand in the middle ages and even more recently… sometimes by the church. I told him that I would research left-handedness in a Biblical context and get back to him.

The first thing I noticed was that I was not sure at all where the “25 times” in the meme came from. Looking in my New International Version (NIV) Bible Concordance… I can only find 12 times where it actually says “left hand (ed).” There are many more than 25 occasions where it says “right hand (ed).”

As I mentioned above, there is nothing in the Bible that says being left-handed is a sin. The notion is taken from Biblical mentions of the right hand being a sign of strength and power. If you think about it, throughout history when talking about kings and kingdoms, the right hand man, etc. has more power.  Or considering that being right-handedness is a dominant trait, more people will have better strength in their right hand and right arm. When the Bible talks about God’s kingdom or God’s right hand it is to illustrate that power in a way humans would understand based on how kingdoms and power work on earth.

Here are all the instances where the Bible talks about being left handed that I could find. Passages are listed first (NIV) and my commentary in brackets is under each passage.

Genesis 48:13-14 “And Joseph took both of them, Ephraim on his right toward Israel’s left hand and Manasseh on his left toward Israel’s right hand, and brought them close to him. But Israel reached out his right hand and put it on Ephraim’s head, though he was the younger, and crossing his arms, he put his left hand on Manasseh’s head, even though Manasseh was the firstborn.”

[Traditionally when giving a death bed blessing the right hand is placed on the head. By switching hands and putting his right hand on the youngest son, he gave him a bigger blessing. However, they were both blessed AND both of Joseph’s sons became 2 of the 12 tribes of Israel.]

Leviticus 14:15, 26 “The priest shall then take some of the log of oil, pour it in the palm of his own left hand,…” “The priest is to pour some of the oil into the palm of his own left hand,…”

[These are part of instructions to a priestly ritual.]

Judges 3:15 “Again the Israelites cried out to the Lord, and he gave them a deliverer—Ehud, a left-handed man, the son of Gera the Benjamite. The Israelites sent him with tribute to Eglon king of Moab.”

[Reading this chapter in context, it tells the story of Ehud, from the tribe of Benjamin, going to give tribute to an evil king. Ehud tells the king he has a secret message and plunges his sword in the king’s belly. The king was so fat that the sword was hidden and Ehud was able to escape before servants found the dead king. Because Ehud was left handed (which was unusual), he had his sword attached to his right side and people would not have noticed it.]

Judges 7:20 “The three companies blew the trumpets and smashed the jars. Grasping the torches in their left hands and holding in their right hands the trumpets they were to blow, they shouted, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!”

[Self explanatory]

Judges 16:29 “Then Samson reached toward the two central pillars on which the temple stood. Bracing himself against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other,”

[Self explanatory]

Judges 20:16 “Among all these soldiers there were seven hundred select troops who were left-handed, each of whom could sling a stone at a hair and not miss.”

[The tribe of Benjamin was known for having many left handed people… like Ehud.]

1 Chronicles 6:44 ” and from their associates, the Merarites, at his left hand: Ethan son of Kishi, the son of Abdi, the son of Malluk,”

[This chapter is listing genealogy.]

1 Chronicles 12:2 “they were armed with bows and were able to shoot arrows or to sling stones right-handed or left-handed; they were relatives of Saul from the tribe of Benjamin)”

[Archers and soldiers were often ambidextrous and again these men were from the tribe of Benjamin]

Daniel 12:7 “The man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, lifted his right hand and his left hand toward heaven, and I heard him swear by him who lives forever, saying, “It will be for a time, times and half a time. When the power of the holy people has been finally broken, all these things will be completed.”

[A man delivering a message to Daniel in a vision. Both hands are equal in this passage.]

Matthew 6:3 “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,”

[In context, this is talking about not bragging when giving to the needy. We should give in humility not expecting praise from man.]

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Also, I am going to be blunt here… but hopefully not in a way that will be perceived as judgmental because that is not my intent. Ultimately, the meme is an attack on Biblical Christianity for the purpose of justifying the LGBT lifestyles. Not only did it distort the Bible but it mocked it. The Bible is either Truth or it is not. It can’t be both. Many people living or supporting LGBT lifestyles say they are Christians yet completely try to justify their lifestyle by using the Bible. It can’t be done for the following reasons:

*100% of the verses referring to God’s ideal for marriage involve one man and one woman.
*100% of the verses addressing homosexual behavior describe it as sin in the clearest and strongest possible terms.
*0% of 31,173 Bible verses refer to homosexual behavior in a positive or even benign way or even hint at the acceptability of homosexual unions of any kind. There are no exceptions for “committed” relationships.

Here is a blog post that I wrote last year after the SCOTUS ruling in favor of gay marriage which expands on my position on this matter: A Conservative Perspective

I completely understand that there are people who do not believe the Bible is God’s word. Ultimately, that is between them and God which is why Christians should be loving and respectful to those who believe differently than we do (whether on this subject or others). We should not have a judgmental attitude towards others however, it is not wrong to respectfully teach what the Bible says in context especially when people distort & mock it to fit their agenda. And it is not wrong to respectfully debate differences of opinion. I have many friends and a few family members who are gay. Most of them know my beliefs on the subject but still know that I still love them as my friends and family.

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Feel free to voice your opinions and engage in respectful debate in the comments. However, any comments that are disrespectful, use inappropriate language, etc. will be deleted.

Fruit of the Spirit- 30 Day Scripture Writing Plans

This month I have posted two scripture writing plans… At the time, I only created black and white downloads of the plans. I went back and added a papyrus design option to the downloads. I thought that maybe some of you would prefer something a little more than the black and white!

Black and white is still available for those who need easy printing. If you want to make the black and white more unique, just print them on the color paper of your choice!

I will continue to add the papyrus design to future posts in this series!

Here are the links to the previous blog posts where you can find the download links:

Fruit of the Spirit: LOVE

Fruit of the Spirit: JOY & PEACE

Fruit of the Spirit LoveFruit of the Spirit JOY-PEACE