Great Women of Faith

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Great Women of Faith

One of my favorite texts to rediscover is Hebrews 11.  This chapter has long ago been coined as “The Hall of Fame of Faith.”  The individuals mentioned within this chapter are defined by having something wonderful accomplished towards the redemption of mankind, and faith being their motivation. 

Although the men mentioned in this chapter are the dominant “players” of this story, there are some very notable women described here as well.  It is interesting to see the women that the Holy Spirit chose to include in this text.

  In this article series we will explore the three women who are talked about, and what their role in the plan of salvation has been.  

I hope you look forward to this study, because it is an encouragement to not just women, but men as well to see how important these godly women are to our spiritual history.  

 

 


In Hebrews 11 the first woman discussed as being full of faithful action is Sarah.  What a better place to start than the woman who stood behind the great Patriarch Abraham.  When considering the individuals who began the march towards the plan of salvation, Abraham and Sarah started it all.  It begins in Genesis 12:1-4a, “Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So Abram went, as the Lord had told him…”. 

The most remarkable part of this account to me is the fact that Abraham was told to leave everyone and everything that he knew (as far as we know), went home and told Sarah they were leaving to go to a new land, and SHE WENT WITH HIM.  I love that one of the first women of faith we meet in Scripture was so guided by her faith in God she was willing to leave her “comfort zone”.  Sarah was well past the age of bearing children, and she still in some way she would bear children through God’s promise.

Though there is some wavering in her faith (Hagar the handmaiden being seen as a surrogate, and the laughing at an Angel telling her she would conceive) there is still all the actions which point to her as being the mother of the faithful as much as Abraham was the father of the faithful.

Hebrews 11:11, “By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised.”  Couple this with Hebrews 10:23, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful” and we can see how great an encouragement Sarah can truly be.

 

The next woman that we run into in Hebrews 11 is the mother of Moses.  Interestingly her name is not mentioned, but we know from Numbers 26:59 that Moses, Aaron, and Miriam’s parent’s name was Amram and Jochebed.  

The following quote from The Priscilla Papers, volume 7 details the influence of Moses’ mother in a very clear way:

Jochebed, the mother of Miriam, Moses, and Aaron, similarly refused to bow to pharoah’s command. Unwilling to kill her baby (Ex. 1:22), Jochebed devised an ingenious plan to save Moses. She built a papyrus basket for her son and sent him downstream to safety (Ex. 2:2–3). Spying the basket, pharoah’s daughter drew the baby Moses from the waters and adopted him as her own. At precisely this moment, Miriam appeared before pharoah’s daughter and offered to find a wetnurse for the baby, none other than Jochebed (Ex. 2:7). Through this arrangement, God insured that Moses would grow up under the godly influence of his mother during his most formative years. The author of Hebrews pays tribute to Jochebed (Heb. 11:23). Her faith allowed her to see the importance of saving her child’s life, for one day Moses would, in turn, save his people.


Although we have very little information about the personality, life, and death of Jochebed, we know she had a great deal of wisdom and faith.  I cannot imagine the stress of having a child during a time like when Jochebed had one, but the confidence she had in the ability of God to provide for her is amazing.  What a great woman of faith!

 

The last woman mentioned in Hebrews 11 is found in Hebrews 11:31,
“By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.” In Joshua 2 we first meet Rahab who is described as a prostitute.  It is likely she ran either an inn or brothel (they often were considered the same thing in ancient custom) and worked at this establishment.  The fact that the spies found her in such a place adds credibility to the fact she worked at an inn.  Apparently the exploits of what the Lord was doing with the Israelites had made waves in the land of Canaan and Rahab was considered a “God-fearer” by the simplest explanation of the term.  

While much has been said about the moral issues brought on by Rahab lying to the officers of Jericho, much more can be said about the fact that Rahab was willing to protect these men of Israel.  She was a foreigner to the Israelites and she was willing to proselyte because of her knowledge and faith in Jehovah-God.  

Jewish tradition added to the biblical account the notion that Rahab married Joshua after converting to faith in God, that her progeny included eight priests and prophets, including Jeremiah. She was supposedly a most beautiful woman who had become a prostitute at the early age of 10, but whose subsequent record exonerated her. A variant to the tradition holds that Rahab was not a prostitute at all, but an innkeeper, a suggestion advanced by the Targum’s euphemistic rendering of prostitute as innkeeper. Rahab (kjv Rachab) became the wife of Salmon and mother of Boaz, and thus an ancestor of Jesus (Mt 1:5).

Not everyone has a holy and wholesome past.  For such a woman to place her faith in the one and true living God, and turn her life over to Him in such a way inspires all of us to forget our past, and live for the future hope of heaven with God.  

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Be with Me, Lord

Sometimes I get so distracted while singing to make sure I am singing the right note (or at least close), the right part, or the right words, I forget the most important thing about us singing: what I am actually saying to my Father in heaven.  We are encouraged to |”speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Eph 5:19) and “…teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Col 3:16).  I enjoy just looking at the songs that we sing and to see them not as pieces of music, but poetry.  In fact, that is what we see in the entirety of the book of Psalms anyways.  One of my favorite examples is the song Be with Me, Lord.

Be with me, Lord–I cannot live without Thee,
I dare not try to take one step alone.

I cannot bear the loads of life, unaided,
I need Thy strength to lean myself upon.

Be with me, Lord, and then if dangers threaten,
If storms of trial burst above my head,
If lashing seas leap everywhere about me,
They cannot harm, or make my heart afraid.

Be with me, Lord! No other gift or blessing
Thou couldst bestow could with this one compare—
A constant sense of Thy abiding presence,
Where e’er I am, to feel that Thou art near.

Be with me Lord, when loneliness o’er-takes me,
When I must weep amid the fires of pain,
And when shall come the hour of “my departure”
For “worlds unknown,” O Lord, be with me then.


I love this song because it begins reminding us that we are not strong enough to make it through the difficulties of life with God.  I love this song even more because it ends reminding us we have a great mysterious journey ahead of us we will need the Lord’s help with.  As each day continues, we get closer and closet to the “hour of our departure”.  Living in that reality, we truly should sing “Be with Me, Lord”.  

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What Does Your Week Look Like?

One of the questions that I struggle to answer about being a full-time preacher is “what do you do all week?”  I suppose I understand the curiosity if someone works a 9-5 job (or more) and hears that all I have to do is teach a bible class, and give two sermons a week.  But many of the people that ask me that question already know that I don’t “just work two days a week.”  Honestly, there have been some who actually thought that was the case, but they are few and far between.  

 

My most common answer is “it depends on the day of the week.”  In my ministry experience, no two preachers have the same schedule.  Some like to keep a routine throughout the week where each day looks basically the same.  These preachers may have come from a secular job where clocking in and clocking out were the beginnings and ends of their day.  If that works for them, then more power to them.  Personally, I like to try and keep each of my days segregated to focus on one particular kind of task.  For example, Sundays are fairly obvious as to what my day looks like.  Mondays however are days that I use primarily to focus on the media side of my ministry.  The articles, the videos of classes and sermons, the audio to the website, are all issue that I like to address the day after I preach.  Downloading the video and audio, trimming the length, rendering and uploading to websites all take a surprising amount of time.  And one thing I’ve learned as I’ve been uploading for all these years now: the more places you use that media, the more time it takes.  Thankfully, with the set-up we currently have, it doesn’t take ALL day.

 

Tuesday are an important office day for me.  This is when I settle in on what I’ll be preaching next Sunday and get the outlines completed.  I also finish the article to be put into the bulletin as well.  My online classes are also this day, so generally all the office work that I have to do I try to get done on this day.  Fridays are also a full office day for school and any other work that needs to be done at the building.Wednesdays vary for me.  Sometimes I’ll get ahead in the office in the morning, while other times I will come to the building in the early evening and just work through until services at night. 

 

Thursdays are the day I choose to “take off.” Meaning if nothing else comes up, those days are like my Saturdays for a normal scheduled worker.  Family time, work around the house, etc usually fill this day, but more often than not I am involved with a member doing something either to fellowship or work together.  And finally, Saturdays are my “catch-all” days.  Meaning any work or activity that I need to catch up on or have not yet had the time to complete, I will do that day. 

 

Almost needless to say, I receive calls and messages from members or people from the community who need my attention and whenever I can meet those opportunities, I do.  But fortunately in my career thus far, I have not received too many calls in the middle of the night. I know this may not be as rigid as some of your days, but this loose schedule has served me well in accomplishing my responsibilities to the church and to my Lord.  So if you were ever curious what my week looks like, there is the answer.  

 

By the way, no one here has asked me this question, I just wanted to share that information with you as my family in Christ. 

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Some Thoughts About the Invitation

We sometimes use the Song “What Can Wash Away My Sin?” as an invitation song following a sermon.  I suppose the intention of doing such is to encourage those who have never obeyed the Gospel and put on Christ to come forward and have their sins washed away.  That would make the most sense.  In my experience though, many people do not put those things together if they are genuinely in need of salvation.  

 

I remember my first time hearing an invitation following a sermon.  I recall having no idea what song they were singing (because I didn’t understand what it meant to “mark this song for the invitation”).  I also didn’t know why we were standing and why the preacher was facing all of us looking around like he was waiting for something.  It is funny to think about that now after offering so many invitations after my sermons.  And so that begs the question, is an invitation the most effective way to encourage responses? I have no issue with offering the plan of salvation and singing an invitation song, but from what I’ve seen it may be that most “responses” are silent and internal.  

 

I have heard from some that they appreciated the words that were said and it caused them to “respond from their seat”.  I don’t think the Lord would have a problem with that at all.  In fact when seeing the responses after many of the preaching occasions in scripture, the response is not public.  I say all of this not to cast doubt about our tradition of giving the invitation to the congregation, but to simply encourage all of us to respond to the message of the Word of God, publicly if needs be, or silently.  I have heard sermons (and given them) where I learned something valuable and tried my best to apply it from that day forward.  It did not require a public appeal, but instead a quiet mindset shift within me.  

 

However it is that you need to change and mold into a more Christ-like person, feel free.  If we as the church can comfort, encourage, support, or help you, I’ll be down at the front.  Otherwise, feel free to “respond from your seat”. 

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Using the Little part three

For the past two weeks we have been discussing how God is seemingly interested in using that which appears to be too little, to do great things.  For this week’s discussion, I would like us to turn our attention towards the book of Luke 24:44-49, “Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day,  and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things. Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.”

In this text, we learn that the disciples of Jesus were given the ability to more fully understand why the event that had just unfolded, had to unfold in such a way.  Also, we learn that Jesus was giving them an order to stay in Jerusalem for the purpose of receiving the Holy Spirit.  What we learn from Acts 1 is that they will be receiving those gifts, and begin to spread the good news of Jesus’ resurrection to the world.  But if we really examine the implications from this, it’s astounding.

Jesus was the incarnate Word of God, the promised redeemer for all mankind from sin.  And yet, after the marvelous work of salvation had been finished, He entrusted 11 men to tell the world.  After all that time in preparation, the Gospel of Christ could have been a lost secret if these 11 men had not done what Jesus told them to do.  I think it is amazing that God Himself trusted these men with that imperative work.  

But he also trusts us enough to continue this work.  The world in which we live is just in a dire state as it was in the 1st century.  If we will not spread the news of Jesus’ victory over sin, who will?

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Using the Little part two

Last week we discussed that there are many paradoxes in scripture. We used the illustration of the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven being like a little child (Matthew 18:4).  One of the most clear ways this can work is the great amount of good that can be done with just a little.  1 Kings 17 talks about Elijah, the great prophet of God, being fed by a widow and her son by only a little bit of food they had left.  God blessed them all by her being willing to share her last meal with Elijah.  But there are a few more very clear instances in which God does great things with only a little.  


One of my favorite illustrations of this if found in John 6:5-14, “Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” 6 But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do. 7 Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little.” 8 One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to Him, 9 “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?” 10 Then Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 11 And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 So when they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.” 13 Therefore they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten.”

If you look at the other accounts of this in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, it is not said that the little boy brought those items of food with him.  It seems though that the apostles who were there were very much aware of how much food everyone had, which was not very much.  It could have been that they were trying to plan out the day and prepare for everyone to eat but had given up hope when they saw only that little amount.  Jesus is said to be testing them by asking about the food in the first place, showing us they should have had enough faith to trust in Him to provide it all along.  

The application for us from this is not only that God can do much with little, but also we need to have the faith in God to know that He will.  

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Using the Little part one

There are many paradoxes mentioned in scripture.  They are things that according to our logic, would be nonsensical, but according to the perspective and wisdom of God, they are imperative.  An example of this is found in Matthew 18:4 in discussion about who will be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven: “Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”  In any physical kingdom, this is not the case.  We do not see children being esteemed as the most important in a nation, but usually those that serve sacrificially or in leadership positions.  In the Kingdom of God, however, our aim should not be on being the greatest, but the most effective servant that we can.  Many of these paradoxes are found in scripture, but one of the most useful if found in a few illustrations of those will only a little being used to serve the most.  

 

 

One example of this is found in 1 Kings 17:8-16, “Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, 9 “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. See, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.” 10 So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, indeed a widow was there gathering sticks. And he called to her and said, “Please bring me a little water in a cup, that I may drink.” 11 And as she was going to get it, he called to her and said, “Please bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” 12 So she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I do not have bread, only a handful of flour in a bin, and a little oil in a jar; and see, I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.” 13 And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said, but make me a small cake from it first, and bring it to me; and afterward make some for yourself and your son. 14 For thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘The bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the Lord sends rain on the earth.’ ” 15 So she went away and did according to the word of Elijah; and she and he and her household ate for many days. 16 The bin of flour was not used up, nor did the jar of oil run dry, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke by Elijah.”

 

 

God was able to not only care for His prophet Elijah in this text, but also providentially the widow and her son.  It seems that they were down to their last meal, but God used the very little they had to do wondrous things.  The application for us is that looking at what possessions, wealth, or even skills and talents we have, it may not be much in comparison to others around us.  But when we are using those things to the glory of God, they are more than enough.  We will continue this discussion next week.   

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How God Introduces Himself

When someone begins to study the Bible, inevitably there will come a time when that person begins to get a sense of who God is.  We hear so much about who God is from others, it is refreshing to put those preconceived notions out of our minds, and come to the Scriptures as a clean slate.  Each book of the Bible has some significant overall point it is trying to teach, and each of those lessons teach us about who God is.  For example when we read Genesis, we are learning that our God is a powerful creator and covenant-maker.  To guide our thoughts today, let us consider what the book of Nahum has to say about the nature of God.  

 

Nahum was a prophet who's book is all about judgment.  But this judgment is not upon a sinful Israel as so many of his contemporaries, but it is upon a foreign empire called Assyria.  The Assyrians are used by God through providence to punish a sinful Israel, but they have not repented of their great wickedness and sin.  Another prophet from an earlier time called Jonah was sent to them before and their entire capital city repented of their sins and thus were spared from God’s wrath.  Now though, their time of reckoning was upon them.  Throughout this book, God introduces Himself in a very clear way.  He did not come as a loving, forgiving, patient God, but a vengeful and just God. 

 

Notice how God describes Himself through the prophet Nahum: “Jealous” (1:2), “Avenger” (1:2), “Furious” (1:2), “Slow to anger” (1:3), “Great in creative and destructive power” (1:3), “Good” (1:7), “Knows those that trust in Him” (1:7), “Against the unrighteous and sinful” (2:13; 3:5).  By the end of these three short chapters, the readers would clearly be able to identify that God was opposed to their lifestyle and choices, and needed to be respected.  

 

This is a similar thought to the recurring theme of the book of Proverbs: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7).  For any nation, or any individual, to truly make wise decisions, it needs to be based on the reverent fear of the Almighty.  God is waiting to introduce Himself to you in His book. 

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Random Lessons from Having a Four Month Old

So Madeline has been in this world now for almost four whole months.  I have personally grown so much as a person from having her that is unbelievable.  Melissa and I were married for 9 years before deciding to have children, and I thought I had a pretty good understanding of life and love…nope.  Unless you have children of your own, there’s just no way to explain what it feels like.  So in this article, I briefly want to share some things I’ve learned so far.  

Babies that sleep through the night are a little special gift from God.  The first two months were rough.  I was getting “decent” sleep but it was never longer than two hours at a time.  I have friends that have had it much rougher than me, but still, it was challenging.  So when Maddie began to sleep through the night it was a special little miracle that made us so happy.  We get to enjoy her more throughout the day not being utterly exhausted and she gets the sleep she needs as well.

Also, every challenge that we faced in the beginning is completely worth it just to see her smile and laugh when she first sees us in the morning.  It’s amazing to see your little baby see you, recognize you, and then have such an expression of joy and love run across their little toothless smiles.  It’s the best.  

Also, time management and planning are essential life skills.  Melissa and I are already very organized and planned people, but now we have the ability to know exactly how many diapers, outfits, bibs, etc. to bring with us for however long we are going to be away from our home.  

Finally for this little article, to know that our God relates His relationship to us like a Father/Child relationship is so amazing.  I see Maddie’s little problems and cries breaks my heart sometimes, but I know she's okay and I will do everything in my power to make her smile again.  For me to feel that way about my child, I can’t even imagine the kind of love and care that our God has for all of us.  What a wonderful way to teach us of His love, to have children of our own.  

So those are some things I’ve learned along the way so far, and I’m told there are many more lessons.  I can’t wait.  

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Why?

We live in a world in which we can hear about all the bad things that have happened throughout the day any time we want.  While instant communication can be a great blessing, sometimes we can be overloaded with negativity.  While we have been hearing more bad news than any other generation, we are not the only ones to wonder why those bad things happen.  In Jesus day, bad things would happen and there was a common assumption behind the circumstance.

 

Luke 13:1-5, "There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”

The assumption was that because something bad happened to these men they must have been great sinners.  A similar thing is recorded in John 9:1-3, "Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him."

Jesus corrected the mindset that bad things happen to bad people.  This is extremely helpful for all of us to understand since bad things could happen to any one of us at any time.  This is does not mean that there is something that we must fix to be right with God; sometimes things just happen.  

This reminds me of the book of Job as well.  Job was afflicted and his friends were under the same assumption as the men in the first century.  Job knew that there was no sin in his life that was to blame for his illness and struggled to see God's plan in his suffering.  The same thing can happen to us.  We can wonder "why" the entire time we are going through tough times and lose our faith in the process. Let us take heart from the words of Jesus and know that God's plan for us lies not in an easy life now, but a eternal day of rest after this life is over. 

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