A Simple Touch Have you ever wanted something for many, many years; and years later you are still left wanting? Perhaps you wanted help with achieving your career dreams, for God to fix your broken marriage, for healing from a physical or mental illness, to find a spouse, to let go of the past hurt, to heal from childhood trauma, the list goes on. You probably sought help from life coaches, institutions, therapists, doctors, maybe even dating apps, evangelists, and down to the bible, yet still: no healing has come, you and your spouse are still unhappy, you still struggle with anxiety and depression, you're still wrestling with looking at pornography, you still dislike your job, or still feel lonely. It has been years; what is left for you to do? On the one hand, you know that you can't continue to live like this; on the other hand, you feel hopeless because you have tried everything – things are not just the same but worse – you are still bleeding. Hope Deferred: In Mark 5:25-34, there is a woman who might understand how you are feeling: 25 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better, she grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” 29 Immediately her bleeding stopped, and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. 30 At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” 31 “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’” 32 But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. 33 Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came, and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” Many of us might not feel like we relate to this woman because we aren’t overtly subject to physical bleeding, but the pain we feel in our hearts when our hope is deferred (Proverbs 13:12), can cause our hearts to bleed for years, leaving us feeling sick. The Touch: The length of time this woman suffered, including everything that she tried but failed, could have left her feeling hopeless. Yet, when she heard about Jesus, her faith kept her moving forward to be healed by Him through a simple touch. Sometimes we think that for Jesus to hear us we must come to him with elaborate prayers, fasts, bible study, and even evangelism. This woman shows us our approach must simply be faith in Jesus’ ability. Approaching Jesus’ in faith, we trust that he notices us, hears us, cares for us, and will respond to us. Daughter: Seen Amidst the Crowd I believe that Jesus called this woman "daughter" to acknowledge that she belonged to him despite her long suffering. See when we suffer for a long time, we can often find ourselves wondering if God sees us or if he even cares for us. We are also susceptible to these thoughts when people around us get their hopes and dreams fulfilled, and we remain in the wait. However, Jesus calls this woman daughter and speaks to the part of her heart that might have left her feeling unseen and unloved. Finally, Jesus noticed this woman’s faith amidst a crowd. Surrounded, Jesus felt power leaving him. With all that is going on in the world: global hunger, pandemics, and wars, it is easy to feel that Jesus has a crowd around him. You might feel like your problems are insignificant in comparison to all that Jesus might be dealing with. I wonder if this woman, determined to be healed, saw Jesus' love for the crowd and simultaneously knew that Jesus also loved her personally. Like the women who has been bleeding for 12 years, as we wait on the Lord, let's be women who choose to move forward to approach Jesus with a simple touch, trusting that he notices it, desires to and, can heal our own bleeding.
Forward with Simplicity: Lessons from Deborah Key Scripture Judges 5:6-7, 12 (NIV) “In the days of Shamgar son of Anath, in the days of Jael, the highways were abandoned; travelers took to winding paths. Villagers in Israel would not fight; they held back until I, Deborah, arose, until I arose, a mother in Israel. … ‘Wake up, wake up, Deborah! Wake up, wake up, break out in song! Arise, Barak! Take captive your captives, son of Abinoam.” -- The story of Deborah in Judges 4 and 5 begins like many of the stories in the Book of Judges—the Israelites sinned against the Lord, and he sold them out to King Jabin of Canaan. This went on for 20 years until the Israelites cried out to the Lord for help. At that time, Deborah was leading Israel as a judge. YES! Ladies she was a professional woman in a leadership position! She sent for Barak, a commander in Israel’s army, and told him to go and fight Jabin’s army led by Sisera. Deborah was a busy woman. Judges 4:5 says, “She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went up to her to have their disputes decided.” Deborah was a woman of great wisdom, revelation, and discernment. She also had a prophetic gift, including knowing the times and seasons of the Lord. She clearly heard the voice of the Lord. Yet Judges 5:12 says, “Wake up, wake up, Deborah! Wake up, wake up, break out in song! Arise, Barak! Take captive your captives, son of Abinoam.” Deborah and Barak needed to “wake up and arise” to a new revelation and dimension of their callings. The Lord was telling them to be alert and pay attention, as he was about to move in an extraordinary way. Judges 5:7 says, “Villagers in Israel would not fight; they held back until I, Deborah, arose, until I arose, a mother in Israel.” Of all the things Deborah could have legitimately called herself—judge, prophetess, deliverer, —she chose to call herself a mother, but it is unclear who her children were: she was a mother “in Israel,” but also a mother “over Israel” (it can be translated both ways). She saw all of Israel as her children and longed for all her children (literal and figurative) to experience peace and security. Notice the verse says no one in Israel would fight until Deborah “arose.” The Israelites were beaten down by 20 years of slavery. They were too tired and discouraged to fight. They needed someone to inspire them, and the Lord chose Deborah. She used the place of trust and authority she had been given as a judge to inspire Barak to raise up an army. She Moved Forward with Simplicity! So often we are afraid to step out of our comfort zones and become everything the Lord has called us to be. It’s a blessing the Lord doesn’t give us the whole plan for our lives in advance, because most of us would answer with a resounding “No!” Don’t let the enemy get in your head and tell you God will never use you to do great things. Don’t let your fear of what others may think get in the way of being obedient to God. The Lord prepared Deborah in the secret place of her worship, which helped her grow in confidence in hearing God’s voice. Her intentional connection to God through worship gave her confidence as she discerned the time to go to war. The Lord will do the same with us. As we go deeper in our relationship with God, God will guide us to clarity around our call for this season of kingdom work. Conclusion Women of God, it’s time for you to be bold and courageous and do the unique and amazing things God is calling you to do. Wherever the Lord has placed you, will you accept the challenge to be a light in the darkness for the Kingdom of God? Will you encourage others to do it, too? Wake up and rise to shine the glory of God everywhere you go! You carry the hope this world needs—the hope of Jesus Christ—and it’s time to stop hiding and playing small. It’s time to move Forward! A dying, hopeless world is waiting for you to be obedient. Believe and trust God has the very best plan for you and follow him to where he is working today. Reflection Questions What kinds of prayer practices have been helpful as you seek to draw closer to God? Describe a time when God helped make clear something you were called to do. What do you hear the Spirit saying to you/your family/your church/your community? How can you move Forward with Simplicity?
Moving Forward with Simplicity: Ruth I truly enjoy this theme for this month on “Moving Forward with Simplicity.” When I think about simplicity, the key word that pops into my head is simplify. Simplify also mean reducing essentials. In math, you can use simplifying to transform an expression or fraction in its lowest terms. As a math teacher, many of my students struggle with the idea of simplifying. Sometimes we do the same in our lives. I have started to learn how to simplify my life by reading the book of Ruth. Ruth stripped everything away that we, as women, may consider essential in our lives. She left her hometown, the people that she only knew, and followed her mother-in-law into an unknown land for her. She was determined to move forward with Naomi. “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go, I will go, and where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” (Ruth 1:16-17). To be able to simplify, you must have a common denominator. Ruth was willing to transform her mindset, heart, and life to follow Naomi. By doing this, she had to learn to trust and have faith in the new path that she is going. Through this process, she was able to gain so much more. The route to simplifying can also mean dividing out what is not needed in our lives. She understood that as she faced her new journey or reality with Naomi. She was the minority and understood her old identity. She may be Ruth the Moabite but through her sacrifice she embraced her new life. Simplifying is not an easy process. It may take multiple tries before you get to the lowest term, but you keep on trying. The product of her sacrifice was to later be written to be a part of the genealogy of Jesus. Ruth’s willing heart has taught me so much. Her perseverance and determination have encouraged me. There are times in my life where it is easier for me to give up because I feel like I am struggling on my own. I am still learning to pray and ask God, almost daily, please help me have a willing heart. I pray for a heart, mindset, and an openness with his people that pleases him. In what ways can we truly simplify our lives? What are some things that we need to divide out? God is calling us to have paradigm shift. He wants us to trust in his will and not our own. He is with us so “let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” (Hebrews 12: 1-2). Ruth set herself apart. She became a willing vessel who was able to move forward with simplicity by simplifying her life.
Rahab: A Paragon of Faith by Robin Nelson Joshua 2 For several weeks now, we have been reading the book Winning the War in Your Mind, which presents evidence from the Bible and modern science of how our thoughts shape who we are. The book’s opening statement that “our lives are always moving in the direction of our strongest thought” has prompted me to consider the thoughts that dominate my mind and how they originate. To help change these thoughts, I have reflected on Rahab, and have identified both the lies Satan could have used against her and the truth of how God viewed her. Ultimately, Rahab’s actions show that she chose to ignore the lies and faithfully trust the Lord. Lie #1: My value lies in my social status. In Joshua 2:1, Rahab is described as a prostitute. As such, she was a marginal member of society. Even her home and place of business were situated on the outskirts of Jericho. Joshua 2 does not speak specifically about how Rahab was viewed by the public, but I gather from other similar examples in the Bible (Luke 7:36-50; John 8:3-5) and the fact that prostitution was considered a waste of a man’s semen, that she was not seen as a valued or productive member of society. Truth #1: 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. 26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. God used Rahab’s physical and societal position to help the Israelite spies escape being captured by the king of Jericho and to provide the spies with vital information about the disposition and morale in Jericho. Because Rahab’s home was located on the edges of Jericho, the spies were able to get out of the city quickly after the king came looking for them. Also, being a prostitute, Rahab likely had access to prominent men from whom she learned important secrets of the land. Some commentaries suggest that the spies stayed at her house for that very reason. To the spies, Rahab served as a prophet delivering the message that “…. the Lord has given you this land…” and encouraged them with the news that “…a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you (Joshua 2:8-9).” The spies took that news back to Joshua and spurred on Israel to continue trusting God’s plan for them to take over Canaan. Lie #2: God’s love depends on (or my identity is rooted in) my nationality and/or cultural background. In Deuteronomy 20:16-18, Canaanites were included as one the groups of people that were to be destroyed when Israel took over the nations God promised them. As a Canaanite woman, it would have been logical for Rahab to conclude that her fate was sealed, and that no action on her behalf would change that. Truth #2: Ephesians 3:6-12, James 4:6-10, Psalm 103, Acts 11:18 Ephesians 3:6-12 6 This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. 7 I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. 8 Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, 9 and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. Although Canaan was going to be destroyed, Rahab must have trusted God. Her faith in God reminds me of the level of faith Abraham displayed when God told him to sacrifice Isaac at Moriah (Genesis 22:1-5). Just as Abraham reasoned that God would raise Isaac from the dead and keep his promise to make him the father of all nations, Rahab trusted God’s character and reasoned that He would reward her for the faith she showed when she hid the spies and helped them escape the king of Jericho. Rahab has also been compared to the Hebrew midwives (Shiphrah and Puah) who, because they feared God, ignored Pharoah’s order to kill all male babies born to the Hebrew women (Exodus 1:15-17). As a result of her faith, Rahab and her family became converts to Judaism. Additionally, Rahab was added to Jesus’s family tree despite being a Gentile. Lie #3: My past must determine my future. I struggle with believing that because I am one way today, that is the way I will always be. I tend to worry that my mistakes today determine the entire trajectory of the rest of my life. As a result, I fall into the trap of perfectionism and get anxious about trying new things. I tend to rely on my own thinking instead of God’s work in my life. I suspect that Rahab was confronted with a similar lie. I believe she may have had to overcome the thought that her life and future were limited to those of a prostitute. Truth #3: Hebrews 11:30-31 30 By faith the walls Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days. 31 By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient. As the spies were hiding at her home, Rahab asked them to show her and her family kindness by sparing their lives when they attack Jericho, and the spies agreed (Joshua 2:12-13). After Israel took over Canaan, Rahab was incorporated into the Israelite community, married Salmon, and was Boaz’s mother and King David’s great-great-grandmother. Because she aligned her actions with God’s truth instead of the world’s lies, Rahab was considered righteous for her works and became listed among heroes of faith in the Bible (Matthew 1:3). Her faith changed the trajectory of her own life and her family’s generational legacy, while leaving a practical example for us to imitate.
What is simplicity? Simplicity can be described as the baseline lifestyle that a disciple of Jesus lives out as the Holy Spirit leads us, in moderation, to desire intentional, mindful and restrained choices in all areas of our lives. However, as women, we can sometimes make this too complicated – do that, read this, be there, etc. In moving forward, our lives can begin to get out of control and we automatically have a feeling that something’s off. We long to assert our self-control and try to fix the problems on our own. The Bible teaches us that we cannot do this alone. In the book of Ruth, we are shown that Ruth’s path was far from easy. Ruth was from Moab, a nation hostile towards Israel. Jews often hated people who were from Moab. Ruth married Mahlon, who had traveled from Bethlehem to Moab due to a famine which had struck the land. She eventually lost her husband and father-in law, and going forward she labored as a single woman with her grieving mother-in-law, Naomi. She watched over her aging mother-in-law as if she were her own mother. Just like Ruth, most of us have experienced difficult paths in our lives. Although these challenges may not be as great as loosing someone close to us, they are still our challenges that are difficult for us. A couple of years ago, I faced a number of challenges in the same year. I was in a serious car accident which caused my car to roll over. The car was totaled. Although I sustained somewhat serious injuries to my neck and upper back, fortunately the injuries were not severe enough to involve hospitalization or surgery. That same year, COVID hit. I had already been confined to the house for several weeks due to my automobile injures. So just when I felt well enough to venture out of the house, we were quarantined in our homes for several weeks due to this announced pandemic. This resulted in my being isolated at home for 3 months or more which was challenging. Later that same year, a storm caused a tree to fall on our house. The tree knocked out a big bay window, damaged our side deck and caused roof damage. Despite all of the damages and the inconvenience this caused us, our house remained livable after covering the bay window with a tarp until repairs could be made. Ruth stands out for her virtues of kindness and humility. Moving forward with simplicity, she abandoned her lifelong home and her pagan gods. She did as she was told, trusting her mother-in-law and God. Ruth followed Naomi back to Bethlehem. pledged to worship God and married Boaz. Her choice was made and she never looked back. She was rewarded when she married Boaz, who gave her love and security, and rescued both women from poverty. Although none of us really know what lies ahead as we move forward, just like Ruth, we know the one true God who loves us and cares for us, and deserves our obedience. Even though I had a challenging year, I did not worry with sinful doubts and clouded outlook thinking my challenges were impossible to overcome. I had to remind myself that God is still with me despite going through the hard times of my life. Our God can do amazing things if we will just wait in patient trust. He is so faithful and always provides ways to help us with our smallest concerns. In closing, I would like to share the following verse: “Blessed is the [woman] who remains steadfast under trial, for when [she] has stood the test [she] will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” – James 1:12