He Is Always With Me

Conferences are one of my favorite things in the world to attend.  The picture here was taken when I was at the Winsome Women conference on Mackinac Island this past spring.  It was my fourth time and my friend’s first.  As I was flipping through some of my sermon notes, I noticed I had the notes I had taken at the conference and thought I would share a few with you.

Perhaps you have heard of the writer and speaker Liz Curtis Higgs.  She wrote the “Bad Girls of the BIble” series, as well as a newer book called “Embrace Grace”.  Single until late in her thirties, she truly understands how to make the most of singleness and marriage.  It is her message I am going to share with you because it truly touched my heart, and I hope it touches yours.

He Is Always With Me                          May 15, 2008

“…”Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery.” Jn. 8:4

Liz shared the story of this woman with us… “The woman caught in adultery was worthy of condemnation, but Jesus, the one who could have cast the first stone, chose to overlook and forgive her sin…”  Romans 5:8 says, “…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” 

There is a difference between Conviction and Condemnation:

Conviction — draws you near God;  Condemnation — pushes you away

For God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.  John 3:17

We are actually in a more amazing time now than 2000 years ago with Jesus, because each believer has the Holy Spirit residing inside her.  The Good News is:  God is always with you.  The Bad News is:  God is always with you! He is there in temptation, available for strength — and He will convict you when you fail.  Yet you have no reason to fail, for He is right beside you! No matter who you are, His is a “one size fits all” kind of love. 

What about singleness?  You are married to your Maker — which sets you free from a need to be completed by a man.  What does your Husband do?  He rules the universe!  We are loved and cherished by Him — He doesn’t push us to love Him, but He doesn’t back off either.  When you are tempted to self-pity, and Satan throws stones of doubt at you, remember:

A man has already died for you.

God does not condemn you, but He will convict you.  Just as He does not condemn you, so you should not condemn others.  You have no need to fear nor feel alone, because He is always with you.  He IS your strength and He will guide you through all your days.  Trust Him.


Jehosheba: A Present Mind

Have you ever read the books of Kings and Chronicles? I tried to. I had firmly resolved on January first that I would read through the Bible in one year — a resolution I had made every year for three years prior to that one. I made it through June. . . and then gave up. Somewhere in Leviticus I had begun to despair, but then it got better in Judges. However, Kings and Chronicles finished me off. Trying to keep track of all the different kings of Israel and Judah was hard enough: add three men named Ahaziah and two named Jehu, plus a complete repeat of all of Samuel and Kings in 1 and 2 Chronicles, and I was thoroughly confused.

In the midst of lists of monarchs who “did evil in the sight of the Lord”, there is one individual whose character stands out in the wickedness of the time. . . but she’s only mentioned once, and yes — she’s a woman! If this hidden heroine had not accomplished what she did, our faith would not be alive today. Who is this daring damsel of the Old Testament? Her name is Jehosheba.

With only one verse in the entire Bible mentioning Jehosheba’s role in history, what makes her so fascinating? First, she was a member of a highly dysfunctional family. The blue-bloods of Israel had no problem marrying half-sisters and step-brothers and cousins twice removed; consequently, interpersonal communication was not what it should have been. After carefully examining 2 Kings 1-11, I managed to patch together the exact family situation Jehosheba was dealing with.

“Now when Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she arose and destroyed all the royal family.” (2 Kings 11:1)

Talk about the wicked stepmother! Let’s pause here a moment. Athaliah was, from what I gathered in my study, the wife of the king of Israel and the sister of the king of Judah. By Jehoram, king of Israel, she mothered Ahaziah — who was killed by his Uncle Jehu. Joram , king of Judah, fathered Jehosheba. Hence Athaliah was Jehosheba’s aunt. When Ahaziah was killed by Jehu, Athaliah took out her wrath on the in-laws. (She’d probably been waiting a long time for that.) Once the royal family was wiped out, Athaliah took the throne. However, Athaliah was the daughter of King Ahab — on whom the Lord had pronounced a curse:

“I have found you, because you have sold yourself to do what is evil in the sight of the Lord. Behold, I will bring disaster upon you. I will utterly burn you up, and will cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free in Israel. . .” (1 Kings 21:20-21)

Athaliah was a member of Ahab’s family, and therefore had been stripped of the right to rule. The true heir should have come through the line of Jehosaphat — Jehoram’s father. Ahaziah, Jehosaphat’s grandson, was now dead, and Athaliah had seen to the elimination of everyone else with a claim to the throne. At least, she thought she had. What she didn’t know was that Ahaziah had a son. . . and he wasn’t dead.

“But Jehosheba, the daughter of King Joram, sister of Ahaziah [a different Ahaziah], took Joash the son of Ahaziah and stole him away from among the king’s sons who were being put to death, and she put him and his nurse in a bedroom. Thus they hid him from Athaliah, so that he was not put to death. And he remained with her six years, hidden in the house of the Lord, while Athaliah reigned over the land.” (2 Kings 11:2-3)

In the midst of a massacre, one woman saved the entire Davidic line from perishing completely. Because Ahab’s line was cursed, any heir to the throne of Israel had to come through Jehosaphat — a descendent of David. For through David would come the promised Messiah:

“Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” (Jn. 7:42)

The entire genealogy of Jesus is recorded in the first chapter of Matthew:
“The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the son of Abraham.” (Matt. 1:1)

One woman changed the entire course of history. What was the key to her success? Certainly her courage and fortitude are to be commended — especially in the face of her own aunt’s cruelty. However, Jehosheba possessed more than just a spirit of bravery: she had a present mind.

You have probably heard the numerous blond jokes that fly around; terms like “airhead” and ditsy, and phrases like “the phone’s ringin’ but nobody’s home!”. While it’s always humorous to see such people in action, when reality hits, they crumple under the pressure. Many girls aren’t so extreme as the blonds we joke about and the airheads we laugh at. Many girls just love to dream. Dreaming is a wonderful pastime, and I would never tell a girl to stop — unless she’s dreaming at the wrong time and in the wrong place. Every girl loves to imagine what her future will be, but in the words of Rudyard Kipling, one should “dream, but not make dreams your master; think, but not make thoughts your aim.” Imagine if Jehosheba had been distracted during Athaliah’s slaying spree. Little Joash would have been killed — along with David’s entire bloodline. Jehosheba’s mind was focused on the need at hand — and she set her heart to accomplish what had to be done.

I struggle often with keeping my mind focused on God and what He needs me to do now. It is terribly tempting to think about what I’ll do, where I’ll go and who I’ll meet in the future, but God wants me to seek out what I can do, where I can go and who I can meet today.

“You keep her in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because she trusts in you.”
(Is. 26:3)

“To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”
(Rom. 8:6)

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Col. 3:2)

A present mind is a mind fixed on God and focused on accomplishing His work. Jehosheba’s preservation of Joash and the line of David reflected her priorities — and the status of her mind. She was operating in the present; redeeming the time. Though only one verse in the entire Bible refers to this hidden heroine, her legacy lives on in the fact that we worship Jesus Christ, the Son of David, today.

Father, I know that all my life
Is portioned out for me;
The changes that will surely come
I do not fear to see:
I ask thee for a present mind
Intent on pleasing Thee.

The Queen of Sheba: The Quest for Wisdom

“Who do you think you are, anyway? The queen of Sheba?”
Actually, yes.
And so are you.

2 Chronicles 9 tells the story of the ‘queen of the south’, or the ‘queen of Sheba’ (probably Egypt). She came to Jerusalem seeking wisdom — Solomon’s wisdom, given by God. She came to discover truth.

“Now when the queen of Sheba heard from of the fame of Solomon, she came to Jerusalem to test him with hard questions, having a very great retinue and camels bearing spices and very much gold and precious stones. And when she came to Solomon, she told him all that was on her mind. And Solomon answered her questions. There was nothing hidden from Solomon that he could not explain to her. And when the queen of Sheba had seen the wisdom of Solomon… there was no more breath in her. And she said to the king, “The report was true that I heard in my own land of your words and of your wisdom, but I did not believe the reports until I came and my own eyes had seen it. And behold, half the greatness of your wisdom was not told me; you surpass the report that I heard.” (2 Chron. 9:1-6)

What is wisdom? Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Proverbs 2:6: “For the Lord gives wisdom, from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” According to Webster’s Dictionary, wisdom “…in Scriptural theology… is true religion; godliness; piety; the knowledge and fear of God, and sincere and uniform obedience to His commands. This is the wisdom which is from above.”

These days we hear a lot about “intellectuals” and the “Intellectual Movement”. Science (as defined by our culture) has become the “key” to understanding the past, present and future. Christianity is viewed as old-fashioned; the Bible is out-of-date; and it is “contrary to human reason” to believe in a Triune God or in the deity of Jesus Christ. The wisdom of the world cannot — or rather, will not — accommodate the “myths” and “legends” of the Judeo-Christian faith. Webster defined worldly wisdom as “mere human erudition; or the carnal policy of men, their craft and artifices in promoting their temporal interests.” The “carnal policy of men” seems to fit nicely with the the foundational motivation of these secular intellectuals: their desire to be like God.

When Christians say they “want to be like God” there is fundamental difference between their definition of “like” and the intellectuals’. Christians usually mean they desire to reflect God’s character — His love, mercy, compassion, etc. The world’s desire to be “like” God would be better phrased as “a desire to be God”. This mentality is nothing new. In fact, we find it at the beginning of time:

“But the serpent said to the woman, “You will surely not die. For God knows that when you eat it [the fruit] your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the fruit was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that it was to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit and ate. . .”
(Gen. 3:5-6)

Our culture today is in the process of removing God as Lawgiver and Lord to enthrone human reason in His place. Books such as Why Christianity Must Change or Die (Spong) and The God Delusion (Dawkins) illustrate this fact. They advertise “wisdom” and strive after “knowledge”, but they perpetuate is only an empty excuse for understanding.

“For the wisdom of the world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness” and again “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.””
(1 Cor. 3:19-20)

So in this world of confusion and deceit, Christians, like the queen of Sheba, are on a quest for wisdom. Not wisdom as society defines it — the denial of “ignorant” fundamental Christian values — but wisdom as God gives.

“…The God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him, having the eyes of your heart enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which He has called you…” (Eph. 1:17-18)

A spirit of wisdom, in the knowledge of Him. As we know Him (Jesus), He gives us this spirit. But what does that mean? How does this benefit us in our Christian walk?

“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” (Jas. 3:17)

Wisdom from God manifests itself in the above qualities, which are remarkably similar to those named in Galatians as the “fruit of the Spirit”. This being said, think of these as the “fruit of the spirit of wisdom“. These qualities are simply reflections of God’s holy character, and they can be ours, also, if we remain like the queen of Sheba in this world — seeking after godly understanding.

True wisdom is found in Christ Jesus:

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father except through me.”
(Jn. 14:6)

Jesus is the ultimate source of our righteousness, peace, our joy — and our understanding. We need His wisdom just to live:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not upon your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He wil l direct your paths.” (Prov. 3:5-6)

Wisdom and Jesus Christ cannot be separated. When they are, the result is a relative, foundation-less standard of truth. One way to understand the vital link between godly wisdom and its Giver is to replace the words “wisdom”, “knowledge” and “understanding” in Proverbs Chapters 1-3 with Jesus’ name. This illustrates the connection between our relationship with God and the guidance He gives us.

“Blessed is the one who finds Jesus,
and the one who gets the Holy Spirit,
for the gain from Him is better than gain from silver
and His profit is better than gold.
He is more precious than jewels,
and nothing you desire can compare with Him. . .
His ways are ways of pleasantness,
and all His paths are peace.”
(Prov. 3:13-17)

The queen of Sheba traveled hundreds of miles to find wisdom. She understood its value. Yet we have God’s wisdom — which surpasses even Solomon’s — within prayer’s reach.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (Jas. 1:5)
Ask Him for it, and you can surely say with the queen of Sheba:
“And behold, half the greatness of your wisdom was not told me; you surpass the report that I heard.”

Michal: Love & Father Figures

“And Saul’s daughter Michal loved David…” 1 Sam. 18:20

Have you ever heard of Michal? She isn’t the most well-known character in the Bible, but she is nonetheless an important one. Important to we girls and women who want to learn what not to do as a follower of Christ. To truly understand Michal’s character, we need to understand the circumstances under which she lived, and the years that led up to her great mistake. Below is a summary.

Michal was the daughter of King Saul, the first monarch of Israel. At the time we meet Michal, Saul has heard the prophecy of his downfall and David is rising in favor with the people. David is only eighteen at the time. No doubt Michal had seen plenty of David; after all, she was a princess, and he was a national hero and hearthrob. I’m sure she had a stack of Israel Todays lying on her sheepskin with David’s face plastered all over them. And I bet it didn’t help that David was “ruddy and handsome and had beautiful eyes” (1 Sam. 16:12), either.

So the daughter of the King is in love with the Israelite Perseus. Before we move on, let me clarify the family situation here: King Saul did not like David. His daughter loved him. But this is not a case of a father’s over-protection; we will soon see that Saul is all too eager to pawn off Michal onto any Jew, Hun or Hittite that comes his way. Saul is afraid of David because Samuel has already told the king that Israel will be given to another. Saul believes that if he can kill David, the kingdom will remain in his hands. This is where Michal comes in.

Saul was poking through Michal’s room one day and saw her scroll lying open on her desk. He picked it up, as nosy fathers do. “Dear Diary,” he reads. “I can’t tell you how much I feel in my heart. David, son of Jesse, is the handsomest, strongest, bravest man I know.” Saul flushes angrily and almost throws the scroll across the room, but reads on. “I am so in love with him. His eyes are so beautiful, and his hair is such a lovely red-brown, I could swoon everytime I see him. I wish I could marry him!” Saul looks up with a wicked smile on his face. He throws the scroll down and dances devilishly around the room. He rubs his hands in glee. “Yes…yes! Let her marry him… let her be a snare to him!” Get the guy in the house and dad can kill him in no time.

A couple days later David is sent a message. Saul offers David Michal as a wife. But David refuses. “Is it such a small thing to become the king’s son-in-law?” he asks. Don’t I have to win the woman? he’s thinking. I’m a nobody! After all, she is a princess! “Well, this works, too,” Saul snickers. He responds to David: “Kill 100 Philistines for me as a bride-price.” The idea, of course, is for David to be killed. David agrees… and kills 200 Philistines instead! Saul, somewhat disappointed, hands over the merchandise — Michal.

We see the true character of Michal come out in 2 Samuel 6. Twenty years have passed since she was the love-struck young princess. David has just been crowned king of Israel, and the people are rejoicing in the streets. In a moment of utter abandonment in worship and praise to God, David dances in “a linen ephod” “with all his might” (v. 14). Michal, looking out a palace window, is watching.

When David returned from the celebration to ‘bless his household'(v. 20), Michal came out to meet him. Before he could open his mouth she snapped, “How the king of Israel honored himself today, uncovering himself before the eyes of his servant’s female servants, as one of the vulgar fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!” (v. 20) Sarcasm, jealousy and disrespect. Yet David responds as if he’s used to it: “It was before the Lord, who chose me above your father and above all his house, to appoint me as prince over Israel, the people of the Lord — and I will make merry before the Lord. I will make myself yet more contemptible than this, and I will be abased in your eyes. But by the female servants of whom you have spoken, by them I will be held in honor.” (v. 21-22, emphasis mine)

Michal’s remark to David revealed more than disgust for his choreography. She was revealing the true content of her heart. She had no understanding, no grasp on David’s relationship with God. If she had, she would have known David was not out to get the attention of a bunch of servant girls. He was doing what he said he was doing — dancing before the Lord. True love trusts. Michal’s “love” doubted and disrespected.

Michal’s idea of “love” had been twisted from the beginning. She seems to have “loved” David for his personality, popularity and power, but not because he had a heart for the Lord. This is not surprising, since Michal was raised in a home where the main male figure had no heart for God himself — Saul. When a girl never sees godly character portrayed before her, she is not likely to appreciate and look for it in her husband. Michal’s love for David was shallow and rootless. She could not understand David’s love for the Lord because she had none herself. So “she despised him in her heart” (v. 16), and responded to him in sarcasm, jealousy and disrespect.

There is much to be learned from this example. First, many girls don’t understand the importance of a father figure in their lives. Your father will set the example for what you desire in a husband. He will be your protector and guide; your guardian and friend. Michal had a father who didn’t set any kind of godly example for her to follow. Consequently, she never took her faith in God seriously. She also could not effectively be a helpmeet to her husband because she was not one in spirit with him. If her father had set that example, perhaps she would have followed it.

Secondly, Michal did not understand what true love was. As stated above, she based her love on David’s external attributes, not on what was in his heart. Her love was essentially attraction and infatuation — a glorified crush, if you will. True love does not care about looks, wealth, or popularity — it deals with the visions, desires and values of the person it touches. As 1 Samuel 16:7 says: “… For the Lord sees not as man sees; man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” If Michal had had a godly father directly involved in her life, there is a good chance she would have understood what true love was.

Michal’s weaknesses can be found in some measure in us all. Let us learn from her mistake and choose to respond in love and not disdain, choose to accept godly authority in our lives, and choose to look beyond emotion and feeling to the attributes of a true, lasting love. And for those of you that have good, godly fathers — thank God for them! There are so many girls out there that are on their own — just like Michal.