Friday, March 28, 2008

The Proverbs 29 1/2 Woman

by Marsha Loftis

This Week's Verse: Proverbs 31:10-30 as detailed below.

The Proverbs 31 Woman! EEEK!... To be honest, I have always had some issues with this gal. I am single and I have never been in love with a Christian man so I can’t really identify with her situation. Not only must she be some kind of woman, but HE must be some kind of guy! I see her as the “perfect” woman so comparing myself to her is useless. I can’t hold a candle to this girl! Let’s just say we’re different, very different.

Let’s explore the difference between the Proverbs 31 woman and me, the “29 1/2 Woman”... maybe less, by the time we get done.

Prov. 31:10 states that she is worth far more than rubies. I think I’m O.K. here. I would tend to agree that, yes, I am worth far more than that.

(11) Her husband calls her…My husband calls me his “ex-wife”. She’s got me there. We won’t talk about what he called me when we were married! There are some divorces where people say, “Oh, it wasn’t really anyone’s fault.” They even have a "No fault divorce" just for those instances. This was not my case. It was a “my fault” divorce. And I’ve sought forgiveness for disappointing God and not honoring my vows. Guess what? He has forgiven.

(12) She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life…I hope he’s better off now. I feel like I am. If I had not been and done what I did, I would not have met God, where he was waiting for me.

(13) She selects wool and flax…If wool coats count, then we’re good. I have no idea what flax is. …works eager with her hands…depends on what I’m working on. Laundry, dishes, dusting? Not so much. I SHOULD, because I hate all of them and should work eagerly to get them done as soon as I can! Getting my hair fixed before church, yeah I get pretty eager there. (‘Cause I’m usually running late.)

(14) She is like the merchant ships bringing food from afar…Yes! Wendy’s is almost a whole mile from my house.

(15) She gets up while it’s still dark…Nearly every day. Like now. It’s 4:30 am. That’s mainly because I work all night Friday, Saturday, and Sunday on the weekend and then during the week, I can’t sleep all the way through the night. …provides food for her family…Yeah, I work all night and go to Wendy’s a lot. We already covered this one. …portions for her servant girls…What servant girls? If you ask my daughter, she is one. “Do I have to put the dishes away again?” “Yes. You do.” “Awww…Man…I have to do everything.” “No. You don’t. But you do have to put the dishes away.”

(16) She considers a field…I like to say about the corn, “Knee high by the Fourth of July…” So, yes, I consider a field. …and buys it… Oh. Never mind. …Out of her earnings she plants a vineyard… I’ve been known to buy a little wine but if I was to plant anything, it would die.

(17) She sets about her work vigorously…( isn’t that eagerly?) …her arms are strong for her tasks… Well, I don’t like to brag, but I got some guns! (Arms, for those who were wondering.)

(18) She sees her trading is profitable…Anyone who knows me knows I don’t trade anything. Nor do I throw it away. I just move it into the nearest closet or the garage. I am a hoarder. (Pray for me.) …her lamp does not go out at night…This is true. Remember? I don’t sleep at night. I might start a load of laundry…Ugh…and finish it by the light of day… maybe.

(19) In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers… Is this English? I honestly have no idea what this verse means. So, there’s no comparison. I must win! Right? Or maybe I have to forfeit this one. Yeah, that’s probably it.

(20) She opens her arms to the poor and extends her arms to the needy…I’m seriously working on this one. I told you, I hoard. I keep things I know I don’t need. That someone else could use. Someone with less than me. I was not born with a servant’s heart. I have said more times than I care to admit, “I was not put on this earth to serve you.” And now God is saying, “As a matter of fact, Marsha, yes you were.”

(21) When it snows, she has no fear… I don’t mind driving in the snow, it’s the ice that gets me. …her household are clothed in scarlet…My daughter has a red coat.

(22) She makes coverings for her bed…I don’t really sew much unless something is falling apart and I have to put it back together. 'Cause ya know I ain’t throwin' it away if I can help it!

(23) Her husband…Yeah, we been there.

(24) She makesand sells…Don’t sew much, and if I did I’m pretty sure no one would want to but it when I was done.

(25) She is clothed with strength and dignity…I am probably my own worst critic. But I’m gonna go ahead and say this, I TRY to conduct myself in this manner. She can laugh at the days to come. This is probably not because she’s going to say something stupid and will then have to laugh about it later, as is in my case.

(26) She speaks with wisdom…See? I told you. Faithful instruction is on her tongue… I still consider myself kinda new at this "God and Jesus and stuff" but I know this, He’s still on working on me! (Thank you, Lord.) I do my best to pass along what I know to my daughter. It all probably sounds like blah, blah, blah... but, one day, hopefully, it will all make sense.

(27) She watches over the affairs of her house… Yes. Who else is gonna do it? …does not eat the bread of idleness… I’m going to eat the bread, and I’m probably going to eat it on my couch. So this one is going to her.

This woman is making me tired! How ‘bout you? And I’m just talking about what she does. It’s not looking too good for “29 ½,” is it?

( 28) Her children arise and call her blessed…No, not mine. Mine arises and calls me, “Mean Mom”. She is clearly not a morning person. She wonders why I’m using my “Mean Mom” voice. I tell her I was using my “Nice Mommy” voice 45 minutes ago when "I started trying to get you up. I have progressed to THIS VOICE ! Now, GET OUT OF BED!"

(29) Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all… If you define noble as doing the best I can with God and what He has blessed me with, then, yeah, I do some noble stuff. For Him, with Him, and with His grace and love carrying me through when I cannot go on in my own strength.

(30) Charm is deceptive…I’m trying not to fall for this one anymore. And beauty is fleeting… I hear ya Sister! Fleeting, falling, spreading, sagging…well, I’m sure you get my point. …but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Then, praise away! But not me. Praise God, Our Creator, Lover of our womanly souls and emotions and everything that makes us female.

29 ½….Yeah…I’ll take that. Maybe next year I’ll be a 30, or with His help, should I dare hope for a 31?!

Father God, help me not to compare myself to this woman or any other. Help me to see that with your love and guidance I can be the woman you want me to be, unlike any other but made perfectly by You, for You and Your glory. Thank you for making me wonderfully different!! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

My study Bible calls her the "Wife of noble character". The dictionary defines noble as "having or showing qualities of high moral character, such as courage, generosity, or honor." It's not about comparing ourselves to her or anyone else. These are characteristics we should all strive for, whether you are a wife, daughter, or mother. Be wise in your dealings with your family and others. Take care of them in a timely manner. Be there for your family and instruct them the best way you know how, praying and praising the whole way through!

Power Verses:
Proverbs 31:10-30

Friday, March 21, 2008

His Joy Comes With the Morning

By Kathy Lay

This Weeks’ Verse: Psalm 30:5, “For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime! Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.” (NLT)

Twenty-two stinkin' hours. Twenty-two hours I'll never get back again because I allowed some punk to infect me with his funk and put me on intruder alert mode. This person is a friend from the past who we tried to help once. And as people tend to come and go out of our lives, he'd drifted out to the perimeter of “acquaintence.” We had only infrequent contact with him and because of some unfortunate circumstances, when we did have contact, it was tainted with negativity. Then all of the sudden one night this week, a few phone calls culminated in a dark night for us. All we'd done was try to help the guy and now in some twisted turn of events, we were on the defense?

This guy was infiltrating and threatening my quality of life. My fleshly response, I'm ashamed to admit, was fear. I hate conflict and avoid it like the plague. Now faced with it I felt nauseous, on the brink of tears, and shaky. I tossed and turned a good portion of the night imagining the worst. I prayed for peace and resolution, but allowed my mind to drift into worry.

When my alarm went off the next morning I went straight to the Word (why had I not done that earlier?!). I opened my NLT to Psalm 103 and my eyes were drawn directly to verse 6 because at some earlier date I had drawn a box around it: “The Lord gives righteousness and justice to all who are treated unfairly.” Thank You, Lord! Our dawn was beginning to break.

There was an appointed hour for a phone call that afternoon that would either resolve things (our desire all along) or take the situation to a whole new ugly level (as this guy seemed bent on some mis-directed vengeance trip). I'd confided in an angel wrapped in the flesh of a dear friend and at the appointed time, she initiated an instant message intercessory prayer that kept us focused on unleashing God's power for over 15 minutes. If you've never prayed with someone via instant message—Whew! It was powerful! And effective! Our dawn was turning to morning.

As I emerged from my office that afternoon into the cold, gray rain, there was a ray of light burning in my husband's parked car. He had our "adversary" on his cell phone and the situation was being resolved—Hallelujah! My God-confidence had been restored so much through the prayer with my friend that I knew it would be. But how awesome to rejoice and bask in the light of day!

Spring follows winter, the mountaintop is across the valley, and the light of morning chases away the darkness. How I love our faithful God!

An angel in Matt. 28:6 told the women, “He isn't here! He has been raised from the dead just as he said would happen...”

Just as he said would happen. As painful as his trial, persecution, and crucifixion were, Jesus knew the outcome all along. That hope, that promise from His Father God, saw Him through his dark night and I imagine, tinged his proclamation on the cross, “It is finished!” with a resounding note of triumph.

That hope, friends, is our hope too.

His crown of thorns was traded for a crown of glory…so ours will be.

His abused, wounded, beaten and crushed body was restored fully…so ours will be.

His sorrow and weeping marked a dark period, but oh, did joy ever come with the morning! And so it is for us. As we reflect on Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection this Easter weekend, cling to that amazing promise that dark is always followed by light for God's children. His joy most definitely comes with the morning.

Father God, how faithful You are! Thank you for showing yourself so mightily and for the promise that even though we may weep in a season of darkness, You'll give us joy in the morning. Thank you for the most joyous of mornings, the day when victory was claimed over sin and death forever. Though we're humbled and grateful for the big picture result of that—spending eternity with You!—I also pray we claim that hope in our daily lives now, Lord. To live victoriously in and for You is the best witness we can give. In Jesus Name, Amen!

*Read the Easter accounts in the gospels and absorb the details of Holy Week and the blessed Resurrection.
*Watch “The Passion of the Christ” and with each crack of the whip or pounding of the hammer, place your burdens and sins on the one who willingly takes them. It makes the resurrection that much sweeter. If you're in a period of darkness right now, claim the promise of joy that will follow in your morning. It's coming, Dear one.

Power Verses:
Psalm 17:10-11, “For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your godly one to rot in the grave. You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasure of living with you forever.” (NLT)
1 Corinthians 15:55, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (NLT)
Isaiah 26:19, “But your dead will live; their bodies will rise. You who dwell in the dust, wake up and shout for joy. Your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead.” (NIV)
Matthew 28:8, “The women, deep in wonder and full of joy, lost no time in leaving the tomb. They ran to tell the disciples. Then Jesus met them, stopping them in their tracks. ‘Good morning!’ he said. They fell to their knees, embraced his feet, and worshiped him. Jesus said, ‘You're holding on to me for dear life! Don't be frightened like that. Go tell my brothers that they are to go to Galilee, and that I'll meet them there.’” (MSG)

Friday, March 14, 2008

Jars of Clay

By Bethany Lashbrook

This Week's Verse: Ecclesiastes 7:4, "When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, a man cannot discover anything about his future." (NIV)

I’ve been having a real tough time lately. I am struggling with the typical day-to-day activities that every mother has faced at one point in time or another. My newly acquired job is not going exactly as I had planned. I seem to be losing my motherly qualities at home in regards to my children and my overall duties. I find that this winter weather is nauseating and need some sunshine in my life as well as in the weather.

Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 4:7-10, "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that that all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body." (bold mine)

Why do I think that if Jesus suffered and died on the cross for me, then I will not suffer for Him? What I suffer is nothing compared to his ultimate suffering, his ultimate sacrifice. My daily activities are nothing compared to His. I am not exempt from this way of life. I chose this walk, for the good and for the not so good. The Lord knows what he is doing. He has chosen this specific walk for me, whether or not I understand it.

So, I will learn to take this walk one day at a time. I will remember that God has chosen this walk specifically for me. I may not quite understand it, but someday I will. I will look back on these times and think “you were right Lord, you had me right where I was needed – THANK YOU”. I will continue on being a jar of clay for now – hard pressed on every side but not crushed. And, from now on, I will try to remember that God only puts on my shoulders what I can carry.

Lord, thank you so much for your gentle, kind ways. Lord, help me to lean on you on days that I feel I just can’t take it anymore. Help me to remember Lord that you sent your one and only son to die for me. If this means that I too must suffer, then I will gladly share in His sufferings. Lord, guide and direct me in all that you do. Amen.

Identify a time in your life when you have been a “jar of clay”. Afterwards, did you thank the Lord for all that he has helped you go through or did you burrow in your sorrow?

Are you having a wonderful time in your life right now? Remember to praise Him for it, because your next step on your journey might cause you to fall. The Lord will hold you up, even if it feels like you are sinking.

Remember that God has chosen YOU, his special child to follow Him. Never did He say that it would be an easy task. The road is long, windy, and full of different paths. We, as His children will sometimes take the wrong path. We, as His children will sometimes be on a path and think “how did I get here?" We, as His children will sometimes ask Him to carry us on a path because it is too rocky for us to be on. Whatever the path, whatever the journey, remember – IT IS CHOSEN FROM GOD.

Power Verses:
Isaiah 53:5, "But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities: the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed." (NIV)
Romans 8:28, "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose." (NIV)
Jeremiah 17:14, "Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed: Save me and I will be saved; for you are the one I praise." (NIV)

Friday, March 7, 2008

Who's Your Daddy?

by Marsha Loftis

This Week's Verse: Psalm 68:5-6, "A father of the fatherless and a judge and protector of widows is God in his Holy habitation. God places the solitary in families and gives the desolate a home in which to dwell. "

In this nation of fatherless children, my own being one of them, I wonder, am I teaching her to love on, listen to, lean on, and be guided by the only Father that truly matters?

You see, I am not only raising a 'fatherless child,' I am one too. So I can painfully identify with her and this plight sweeping our nation. In case you were wondering...Yes, she does have a father. So do I. But, unfortunately, what we don't have are Dads... That old saying, “Anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a Dad," is never more prevalent than in today’s society.

If you don't know a child being raised by someone other than their biological father then I'm sure you are in the minority. Maybe you know a child who has been blessed to not be raised by their biological father. One who is being led, lifted up, and encouraged by a wonderful man who has stepped up to the plate and taken on this awesome responsibility. My prayer is that every lonely and left out child eventually finds this kind of father-figure. For those who don't seem to be headed for this life-style I pray that those of us in the same situation can teach them to call on our ultimate Father-figure...Our Abba Father!

This concept of having an "Abba Father” was foreign to me until I came to FCC. First, I had never heard the term before. Second, being from an absent-father home, how could some "being" I had never met before love me more than my own flesh and blood father?! This seemed absurd! My study Bible uses this term as "an exceptionally close relationship to God." I hope I'm not alone in this revelation. I hope everyone "got it" and continues to "get" what God in his infinite love and mercy has to offer. That feeling of being scooped up in your father's arms. That feeling of being loved, cherished, and adored by Our Creator...How awesome is that! He not only made us, He promises never to leave us or be absent from our lives, but to be our Abba Father, Our Daddy.

Even Jesus cried out "Abba Father" (Mark 14:36) and since we have received the Spirit of Sonship, we are heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ (Gal. 4:6). Whatever your station in life, by the grace of God, it is our birthright to call out "Abba Father." When we suffer with him it is so that one day, we may also share in His glory!

Father God, I pray that you'll settle down in the hearts of those who need your comforting presence. Let them know they are not alone. I pray every person reading this, "fatherless" or not boldly proclaims, "I AM A CHILD OF GOD!" In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Join me in getting these verses to the people who need them. Write one out on a piece of paper and slip it into a gnarled and noble hand. Whisper one in the ear of a toddler while you are praying over them. Tell a ten year old, "I hear you're father's a King?!" Let them know they are important to you and to God. Wherever life has left them, God will take them the rest of the way.

Power Verses:
2 Cor. 6:18, "I will be a Father to you and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty." (NIV)
Romans 8:15, "We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what's coming to us--an unbelievable inheritance!" (MSG)
Galatians 4:6, "...God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba Father’...God has made you an heir." (NIV)
Deuteronomy 31:7-8, "Be strong. Take courage…God is striding ahead of you. He's right there with you. He won't let you down; he won't leave you." (MSG)
*On a personal note, I was blessed more than twenty years ago to have a step-dad who filled in a lot of the gaps my own father didn't. And my daughter’s father is trying to get his life in order so he can be a dad to her.

God is good!