Woman Without a Name

Prospective parents spend hours discussing and researching the right name for their little ones. Countless books and websites as well as friends and family are full of helpful  suggestions, opinions and ideas. Your name identifies who you are but actually tells very little about the whole person.   Due to marriage, divorce and remarriage, my name, like the names of many other women, has actually changed a few times. Unless a person is really important to you or it is someone you see frequently, their name is easily and quickly forgotten.

The book of 2 Kings, tells of a woman of Shunem. This woman is mentioned in Chapters 4 and again in Chapter 8; we are never told her name, she is referred to always and only as “the Shunammite”.

She is a prominent woman but we are not told how this came to be (2 Kings 4:8). She is hospitable, inviting Elisha to dine and building a small room for his exclusive use when he is in her neighborhood (2 Kings 4:10). She is content; when Elisha asks how he can repay her kindness she asks for nothing. She is childless and her husband is elderly; Elisha tells her she will embrace a son next year (2 Kings 4:16). She is courageous, calm, and determined, when her son dies, she tells no one and rides quickly to Elisha (2 Kings 4:20 – 27). She is humble and grateful; Elisha comes to her home, restores her son to life; she falls at his feet in gratitude (2 King 4:37). Some time passes and Elisha warns the Shunammite woman to leave her home and find a new place wherever she can; a seven-year famine is coming. She is wise and obedient; she does not hesitate, she leaves immediately and settles in the land of the Philistines for seven years (2 Kings 8:1, 2). She is bold, upon her return she appeals to the King for the return of her house and property (2 Kings 8:3). She is honest, the King, hearing about her, asks her to tell her story; her story matches what he had been told and the King not only restores her property but orders that she be given any produce from the seven years she was away (2 Kings 8:6)

In a time of plenty, the Shunammite is generous. In a time of sorrow, she is purposeful and controlled. Given a gift she is grateful, given advice she listens. During a time of want she is not afraid but takes practical and decisive action. She is known, recognized, recorded and remembered as a woman with no name but of vast integrity.  I believe God purposefully does not tell us her name because He wants the focus on what matters; on her actions and character. She could be “Anywoman”.  The story of this woman without a name makes me wonder how people would describe me.  I pray that my character is worthy of remembrance and imitation long after my name is forgotten and that God would transform me from the inside out, conforming me to His image. I know that when I get to heaven God will give me a new name, the perfect name – I can’t wait!

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it. Revelation 2:17

Tri-focal – Now Choose

On another Sabbath He entered the synagogue and was teaching; and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees were watching Him closely to see if He healed on the Sabbath, so that they might find reason to accuse Him. But He knew what they were thinking, and He said to the man with the withered hand, “Get up and come forward!” And he got up and came forward. And Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to destroy it?” After looking around at them all, He said to him, “Stretch out your hand!”And he did so; and his hand was restored. But they themselves were filled with rage, and discussed together what they might do to Jesus.  Luke 6:6 – 11

When you encounter Jesus, you must choose and there are only two choices:

Come closer – the man with the withered hand came forward, he stood next to Jesus.  He turned away from the crowd and looked at Jesus with expectation.  He knew something was going to happen but he did not know what; he didn’t care, he just wanted to be near Jesus.  He chose Jesus; he chose healing and restoration.

Turn away – the Pharisees turned and whispered among themselves.  They rejected Jesus and rejected the truth of The Word.  They were full of rage and the trap they were hoping to use on Jesus revealed their hearts.  They chose to cling to their old life, a life of bitterness, anger, and self-righteousness.

Today is a good day to choose for yourself…

“If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve:” Joshua 24:15

Tri-focal – Part 3

On another Sabbath He entered the synagogue and was teaching; and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees were watching Him closely to see if He healed on the Sabbath, so that they might find reason to accuse Him. But He knew what they were thinking, and He said to the man with the withered hand, “Get up and come forward!” And he got up and came forward. And Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to destroy it?” After looking around at them all, He said to him, “Stretch out your hand!”And he did so; and his hand was restored. But they themselves were filled with rage, and discussed together what they might do to Jesus.

Focus On – The Pharisees

The scribes and Pharisees were watching Him closely – good idea!!  Watching Jesus closely is so worthwhile, He is interesting, endearing and altogether lovely BUT why were they so interested? They hope to trap, accuse and persecute Jesus; their motives were all wrong.

But when Jesus puts the  focus is on them, they remain silent.  They have no answer to His direct question.  They claim they are the defenders and teachers of the law; they should know it perfectly.  Why don’t they answer?

A withered hand is restored and the Pharisees are filled with rage, not just frustrated and annoyed, enraged – why?  They just witnessed a miraculous healing, why aren’t they celebrating with the man and praising God?  Not the Pharisees, they whisper together, to them, people don’t matter, rules rule.  They would rather be plotting a trap for Jesus.

Christians are always being watched and the more public we are the more closely we are watched.  Pharisees watch hoping to catch Christ followers in sin, failure, or hypocrisy. Believers are not perfect and we will and do sin, fail and act like phonies and fools.  When we do, we need to be quick to ask for forgiveness from those we’ve offended, to admit our sin and failure, to make amends.

Oh Lord, help me to be aware that I am being watched.  Help me to live above reproach and when I fail to ask for forgiveness quickly.  Help me remember that I am not the target, Jesus is!  It is the reputation of Jesus Christ I need to uphold, it is the reputation of Jesus Christ that is being attacked and defamed. Lord, show me if I am ever being a “Pharisee”, if my attitude or words are judgmental or condemning, help me to be someone who extends grace .  Help me to walk in a manner worthy of being called by His name, Christian.

Tri-focal – Part 1

On another Sabbath He entered the synagogue and was teaching; and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees were watching Him closely to see if He healed on the Sabbath, so that they might find reason to accuse Him. But He knew what they were thinking, and He said to the man with the withered hand, “Get up and come forward!” And he got up and came forward. And Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to destroy it?” After looking around at them all, He said to him, “Stretch out your hand!”And he did so; and his hand was restored. But they themselves were filled with rage, and discussed together what they might do to Jesus. Luke 6:6 – 11

Jesus, in the place of meeting and discussion is teaching; in the three years He ministered on earth, Jesus spent hours teaching, explaining and discussing the Word of God with people.  Jesus sees a man with a withered hand.  He also see the scribes and Pharisees watching and He knows what they are thinking – He always knows but knowing does not change what He intends to do, to teach.  He knows my thoughts before I do and the deep desires of my heart.  He knows that sin begins with a  thought and He wants to change me by changing the way I think.

Jesus saw everyone; I love that about Him.  Jesus really sees the least of them, the ones who were wounded inside and out; on this day He sees the man with the withered hand.  How often do I walk past people, barely noticing their existence or worse, deliberately ignoring the person I just don’t want to see or deal with?  Oh God, help me be sensitive to the people right around me, forgive me for the times I have chosen to ignore someone.  Everyone is wounded in some way, hurting, in need of a kind word or prayer, it only takes a few moments.  Jesus notices me, how can I fail to see those He loves and died to save.

Jesus questions the watchers about the law they claimed they knew and zealously argued and upheld; He wants them to see the true purpose of the law was not to condemn but to show our need for a Savior; the law could change behavior but it could not change a heart.  He restores the withered hand and the spirit of the man.  Jesus, the Great Physician the ultimate healer is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Up Next, Focus 2 – The Man

Nothing Test

“i’m starving!”, you say when you walk in the door at the end of a long day at work or school.  Are you really starving?  Did you eat at all today?  Probably, but maybe not.  Did you eat yesterday?  Very likely.  The “I’m starving” complaint is quickly followed by it’s annoying companion, “There’s nothing to eat in this house.”  This is most often uttered in front of the wide-open refrigerator.  Are your shelves and fridge completely and totally bare?  Probably not but, possibly.  Is there breakfast cereal, some almost out of date milk? Then there is food to eat in your house, it’s just not the food you want to eat!

Hunger by choice or circumstance is a very real problem everywhere but for most of us in present day America, food is always available for purchase or can be found for free/low-cost.  We are told regularly and often the average American is eating too much and obesity is considered by many to be a serious health issue.

Now it came about in the days when the judges governed, that there was a famine in the land. Ruth 1:1

Famine is a devastating, extreme and wide-spread shortage of food.  There has never been a famine in America.  Gratefully, most of us don’t have any idea what it means to be truly starving.  In a time of famine, the cupboards are literally bare.  There is no food of any kind available to anyone for any price. Famine drives people to extreme lengths to obtain food for themselves and their children.

This famine drives a man, Elimelech, to leave Bethlehem with his wife and two sons and travel to the land of Moab.  Elimelech chose Moab, and while there, he dies, leaving his wife Naomi a widow.  His sons marry Moabite women and then, the sons die. Naomi is bereft of her two children and her husband.  Naomi, hearing that there is food in Bethlehem decides to return home alone.  Her two daughters in law insist on going with her and Naomi urges them to stay in their own land with their own people; one daughter in law agrees but the other, Ruth, refuses to be parted from Naomi.  The two women, mother in law and daughter in law travel to Bethlehem.  Naomi is so crushed in spirit, she now insists on being called ‘Mara’, which means, bitter.

Even in a time of famine and loss, there is blessing.  Naomi/Mara refused to see the blessing of her faithful daughter in law, Ruth who traveled with her, leaving her own people and culture behind.

When you are completely empty it makes logical sense to go somewhere, anywhere, to get full. God allowed the famine into their lives and he allows famine to overtake us.  Maybe your famine is the loss of a loved one, loneliness and sadness is crushing your soul. Perhaps you are experiencing a famine of work, you need a job desperately.  You just don’t feel connected to God, your prayers seem to go unanswered, a time of spiritual famine.  Whatever your present famine, be careful  where or who you go to fill yourself up.  Many things and people promise fullness and don’t deliver.  Elimelech chose Moab, a land of idolatry, it is much easier to turn to the world and things of the world in a time of famine, don’t turn to an idol, turn to God.

God will sometimes strip us of everything, allow the famine to test us.  What will we do when we have nothing left?  Will we turn to Him, depend on Him or look to the world or our own resources to “get us through”?  Trials are an opportunity and we have the choice to become ‘mara’/bitter or better.  Unlike Ruth and Naomi, who had no idea if or how things would work out, we know the outcome of their story.  The famine they experienced was not a coincidence and if you are in a time of famine, of being stripped to nothing, this is not a coincidence for you either.

Moving to Florida was, for me, a small famine.  I was stripped (by choice) of familiar people, places and things.  It forced me to look to God for comfort, strength and peace.  God was getting ready to do something amazing for them and through them. God has given my many new friends, a job and now I can find my way around pretty well in my new neighborhood.  God had a plan and a purpose in their famine and bitterness and He has a plan and purpose for me and you in our “test of having nothing”.  Naomi and Ruth did not see it – we rarely do – but God calls us to keep moving, take the next step and to rely on Him – it’s called Trust!

300 Days – Part 3

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. Deuteronomy 6:5 – 7

300 days ago I began attending the women’s discipleship group at my church.

We meet together once a week for worship, prayer and sharing.  All of us are reading the Bible daily and relationally.   We share some portion of what each of us has read and learned from the Bible in the past week.  We don’t discuss it, we simply share.  We each take a turn presenting what we learned about God and our “take away” from His Word.

We work on keeping God’s Word on our hearts; an important part of our meeting is memorizing a Bible verse each week and we hold each other accountable by reciting our verses to each other.  After all the women have had a turn to share their verse and insights from the Bible, we look for a “Golden Thread”.  The Golden Thread is a common theme in our reading and shares.  It is astonishing how often it’s there.  We all have the same plan – to read through the Bible and a common goal, to know the God of the Bible.  Each one of us is reading daily from a different spot in the Bible, we all have different lives, some of us have been reading the Bible for years, some of us are “newbies” yet God is knitting our hearts together as we seek Him through His Word – only God!

Here are some practical tips to help you get started on your own 300 Day Journey:

  1. The Bible – if you don’t have one, get one.  I prefer an actual book but you can find the Bible for free online.  Bible Gateway is one I recommend.  Many people struggle with reading the Bible and there are many sections that are difficult to understand.  Use a translation or version of the Bible that is readable, the NLT (New Living Translation) is a good one.
  2. Notebook – keep track of what you have read and learned each day.  Taking notes helps you see repeated words or lessons and what God is showing you.  A simple, dollar store, notebook is good enough or use your laptop or PC – whatever is easiest for you but make notes every time you read!  Don’t worry about how it looks or sounds, this is personal between you and God.  I sometimes do little drawings in mine!
  3. Pray – Before you even open the book, ask God to help you understand.  Don’t look for loopholes or contradictions, look for what you can understand and make a note of it.  If you are a first time reader, I suggest you try some of the Psalms; Psalms (the “P” is silent) are all songs/poems.  The book of Psalms is in the middle of your Bible, in the Old Testament.  The author of the Psalms writes about every human emotion in a very honest way, joy, anger, betrayal, fear, confidence, sorrow – it’s all there.  Pray while reading, remember you are talking to God as you read along and pray after reading, asking God to help you apply what He has shown you.
  4. Memorize – pick one sentence or verse from the Bible that has a special meaning to you and memorize it.  Yes, I know it is difficult and there are tons of excuses why you cannot do it but try anyway.  Read and recite the verse over and over every day, several times a day.  I memorize by writing the verses on a 3×5 card and working on them at every red light I encounter while driving.  I’m old, I can do it, so can you!
  5. Share – what you have read and learned with another person.  You might be surprised to find others are interested in reading and sharing with you and you will start your own discipleship group!

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. John 1:1 – 5

I have passed the 300 day mark and it has been life-changing.  Someday I will meet the Word, the Living Word, Jesus, face to face.  Until that day, I pray I would be found faithful, I pray that for you too…

300 Days – Part 2

Conversation – the informal exchange of ideas by spoken words.

My best friend and I have regular conversations.  She talks, I listen, then I talk and she listens, pretty typical right?  But have you ever had a “one-sided” conversation?  A “one-sided” conversation occurs when the other person does all the talking and you do all the listening, or maybe you are one doing all the talking and if you are, snap out of it!

A “one-sided” conversation is really a monologue.  How do you feel when you walk away from the monologist?  I can tell you I feel frustrated and very reluctant to repeat that experience.  Maybe you did try to make some comments but the talker apparently does not need to breathe regularly because he/she just kept on talking and talking…

Reading the Bible relationally is talking and listening to God as He speaks through His written words, it is a conversation with the King – it is that simple.

Since the Bible is God speaking to His people it is to be taken very personally.  I picture Jesus sitting in my living room, waiting to talk with me, He is the living Word.  He has much to tell me and He wants to hear what I think, what I want and need, and my concerns.  Jesus wants to have a conversation with me – wow!

How I Read Relationally

Each day, I sit with Jesus and my Bible, my notebook and my coffee.  I begin reading from the point where I ended the day before.  I read until God nudges me to stop.  I might read a single word, one or two sentences (verses) or an entire chapter, it varies.  Sometimes, I talk to God about what I just read, sometimes I listen; God and I converse with and about these verses.  I may read and pause over and over again, each time with God and His Word is different.

When I don’t understand the verses I ask Him to teach me, to help me.  Parts of the Bible are difficult, I don’t let that stop me, I just keep reading, God will help me understand what I need, I may make a note to do some research later on the difficult sections.  Some verses are warnings, “Don’t do this!”  Some verses are rebukes, “Look what you did!”  A rebuke makes me pause to confess, asking God to forgive me.  Always, always, I learn something about God, something I can thank Him and praise Him for, about His character.

As God and I talk together, I am taking notes.  I want to remember what I learn and also because, for me, taking notes helps me see connections, helps me clarify my thoughts.  I do recommend making some notes.  I always write down two specific things:

  1. What I learn about God, and
  2. How will I apply this to my life – this is my “take away” or personal application.

Often, what I write ends up in this blog or is used to encourage or teach someone else, God’s Word is never wasted.

God and I are simply talking and if you overheard our conversation you would say, “Oh, you’re praying!”  You got it.  I read and then I pray about what I just read, using many of the same words and then wait till God answers or tells me to read some more.

Here is a very quick example from Psalm 27, verse 1.  God’s Word is in italics.

  • The Lord is my light and salvation – Oh God, I am so grateful for your light that leads me and for the gift of salvation – thank you!
  • Whom shall I fear? – I am sorry I don’t always trust you, I worry about things.  Help me not to let fear stop me.
  • The Lord is the defense of my life – You, God are my true defender.  I am safe only always with you.
  • Whom shall I dread? – I don’t have to worry what people think or say about me because you love me!
  • What I learned about God.  God is light, He protects and defends me from everything and everyone!
  • What is my take away?  God does not want me to worry or be afraid and when I am I can call on Him for strength and courage.  He will be my light when I am in the dark places!  He will show up! (Your take away may be different, remember it is personal application!)

I have been reading the Bible for years yet I have barely uncovered its rich treasure.  Reading relationally is drawing me closer to God than I have ever been, it is the most peaceful and productive part of my day.  My plan is to read the entire Bible relationally and then start over, I am nearly halfway there.

How did my best friend become my best friend?  How did I get to know her?  We had many long conversations.  My goal is to know the God of the Bible and that happens as we have many long conversations.

Try reading the Bible relationally – if you have never done it, it takes a bit of practice.  Pick a favorite part of the Bible and have a conversation with God about it.  Please let me know what God shows you!

What to know more? – Part 3 coming soon!

300 Days – Part 1

What have you been doing for the past 300 days?  Some of you probably can’t remember, some of you wish you could forget.  300 days, about 10 months, less than 1 year, doesn’t sound like too much does it?

300 days ago I began reading my Bible in a different way.

The Bible is unlike any other book that has ever or will ever be written.  The Bible is a collection of 66 shorter books written over a period of 1500 years.  Forty different men were inspired to record the words, the words were breathed by God (2 Timothy 3:16).  It has one story and one central theme.  It is the story of Jesus the Christ and the theme is God’s redemption of man.  It is called a holy book, the good book, the book without bottom.  It does not contain the words of God it IS the Word of God, a subtle but very significant distinction.  It is foolishness to those who are perishing but it is power to those who are being saved (1 Corinthians 1:18)

One hundred million Bibles are sold each year according to Wikipedia.  There are thousands of books written about the Bible and thousands of other books that attempt to refute it.  Highly educated people teach it, study it, mock it, follow it, reject it, hate it and love it.  Everyone has an opinion about the Bible even if they have never read it for themselves.

I have been reading and studying the Bible for years but am far from expert or a scholar.  I am “one of those”; I read and believe the Bible.  I do not debate the Bible but instead challenge you to read it for yourself and draw your own conclusions.  Reading and studying the Bible changed my life and 300 days ago God started to take me deeper.

Want to know more?  Read Part 2 – coming soon!

Never Less Alone

When day came, Jesus left and went to a secluded place; and the crowds were searching for Him, and came to Him and tried to keep Him from going away from them. Luke 4:42

When day came – Sunrise, the morning after a busy day, Jesus had healed and freed many for hours, into the night. His body aching, His heart weary, He rises and begins another day. Each day, He calls me to rise before the sunrise, I love sleeping and don’t like waking up early, I am a night owl – God knows this and made me this way. Jesus understands me, He helps me wake up.

Jesus – the centerpiece, the cornerstone, the Bright Morning Star. He is the one who leads. He is the only one to follow.

went – hearing His father, He follows in obedience, in submission, under authority, always with clear purpose, He moves. He does not rush or dawdle. He simply goes. God sees me rushing, feeling pressured, that is not his voice. He does not want me to run ahead of Him or walk behind Him. He wants me at His side. He shows me how and when to move. He is my friend.

to a secluded place – alone, quiet, private. A haven of rest where even the smallest sound and every tiny voice can be heard in His heart. Where is my haven of rest found? I must be intentional about getting to that place, it will not come to me. Jesus went there, I need to get myself there. I need to stay at His side, that is the haven of secure and quiet rest.

From Matthew Henry’s Commentary: He retired for a while into a place of solitude. It was but a little while that he allowed himself for sleep. When it was day he went to a solitary place to be sometimes alone with God as even those should be and plan to be who are most engaged in public work. They will find themselves never less alone than when thus alone.

and the crowds were searching for Him – all always seek Him. Even those who do not know what they really want seek Him. What is their motive? Who are these crowds? They are sinners, beggars, healthy and well, wealthy and wise, fools and fakes, users, abusers, easily amused, some have an agenda, some love HIm, some are greedy, some are empty, all are desperate, lost, and lonely.  Which one am I, are you?  Which one do I want to be?

and came to Him – to all who seek, He will be found! They did whatever they had to do to get to Him but He was never hidden.  Some will not like what they find, some will take what He has to give, stay a while and then turn away, others will fall in love with Him and follow Him always. I came, I saw, I stayed.

From Matthew Henry’s Commentary:  Though a solitary place may be a convenient retreat, yet it is not a convenient residence because we were not sent into this world to live to ourselves.

and tried to keep Him – He cannot and will not be kept in a box made by human hands. He cannot be kept by strength, He is kept by faith, He is kept by His own love for me; the love that kept Him on the cross until death. He is Messiah, the Son of God.

From Matthew Henry’s Commentary: The people sought him and though it was in a solitary place, they came to him. A desert is not desert if we be with Christ there.

 from going away from them. – He will never leave nor forsake the heart that is truly His but to the heart of pride, of self, of lies He never really came…