What’s That Smell?

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things?  For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God. 2 Corinthians 2:14 – 17

Sometimes when I am reading I wonder why the author wrote what he/she wrote?  I just wish I could ask the author to clarify what I am reading so I can understand it better; to explain to me what the words on the page mean and what difference they should make in my life.   God, who inspired men to write the Bible has given that gift to His children.  As I read The Word I can have an immediate, on-going dialogue with the author, God, as I reading – no other book, no other author can do that, no other book or author even invites that ceaseless conversation.

So, when given the assignment to read and pray through the verses above from 2 Corinthians, I knew I had some questions that I needed God to answer:

  • How do I “manifest the sweet aroma of Him in every place”?
  • How do I become “the fragrance of Christ”?
  • Or in simpler terms – How can I smell like Jesus to everyone, everywhere, all the time?

Aromatherapy is not a new thing but for some reason using essential oils for theraputic purposes seems to be enjoying renewed popularity among many women I know so I started to think about how these oils are made.  Most of them are made by pressing or crushing organic materials to extract the fragrant oil they contain; sometimes heat is applied to release the fragrance; the resulting essential oil has a powerful and pervasive smell.  The oil is not released on it’s own; the perfumer applies the pressure and must know when and how to apply the correct pressure. God was showing me that crushing is required and the original material will be destoyed but the result is a sweet aroma.

God kept answering my questions by reminding me that pleasant fragrances are attractive, they make me want more, they can be comforting and soothing. Fragrance has the power to bring back memories and the sense of smell is more effective than any other senses in bringing back past experiences.  An aroma is invisible, like a breeze it moves through unseen but if not refreshed somehow it can become stale or lose strength.

Then God said, “Turn here…”

Therefore, thus says the Lord,
“If you return, then I will restore you—
Before Me you will stand;
And if you extract the precious from the worthless,
You will become My spokesman. Jeremiah 15:19

Here was another part of my answer.  I need to allow God to transform me into a new person by changing the way I think (Romans 12:2). God will separate the precious from the worthless as I am “crushed”, purified and refined.  My part is to return to Him, read His Word, talk to Him about His Word and ask Him to seal His Word in my mind and heart.  God is the master perfumer, as He is applying pressure, the fragrance of Christ will be released and I will be able to “manifest the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Christ” as Jesus flows through me and I speak and act like Him, becoming His spokeswoman.

Those who catch a whiff of my “Jesus fragrance” will have one of two responses; they will be offended because it smells like death and judgment to them or they will be delighted because they recognize the smell of life.  But the way my fragrance is perceived by others is not up to me because it is not me pouring it out but Jesus!  I am completely free to stand and allow my sweet aroma to flow everywhere I go and to breathe it back in again.  Any time my scent weakens He will restore it to full strength!

God gives me a choice, will I turn to Him and trust Him to extract the sweet aroma of Christ His way or will I continue to go my own, unscented or worse, malodorous, way.

Or in simpler terms – my fragrance can either be sweet and proclaim Christ or it can stink things up!

What’s that smell?  JESUS!  Yeah – ain’t it sweet!

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Glorious Clothing

For He has clothed me with garments of salvation,
He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness,
As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. Isaiah 61:10

Finding clothes I like, at the price I want to pay, that are comfortable and stylish is a challenge.  For me, shopping requires planning and preparation.  Not too long ago I went ISO pants suitable for work.  I knew it would not be easy.  I ate a hearty breakfast for energy.  I wore an outfit that would be easy to take off and put back on so I would not end up a wrinkled mess when I was done.  A pair of  flat, comfortable shoes were an important tactical decision.  I picked “pizza day” to shop so I would not need to rush home to make dinner, just make a phone call to arrange delivery.  I was focused, I was prepared, I was determined.  I hit the racks, flipping aside hanger after hanger of rejects and pulling the rare but possible contender.  Two hours later, after three rounds in the dressing room, trying on 18 pairs of different pants all labeled as the same size – victory!!  One pair fit perfectly, was the color I wanted, were on sale.  I drove home tired and happy with one pair of pants and two matching tops.  Can I get an “Amen”, sisters?!?

My search to find “just the right thing” is a pale reflection of the desire God has given us to dress appropriately.  Isaiah 61:10 describes the beautiful and perfect outfit God has chosen for me.

  • The garment of salvation – a brand new garment that fits me perfectly because it was designed by the Master Designer just for me, the perfect size, the right price – FREE.  The garment that cost me nothing cost Jesus everything.
  • The robe of righteousness – red, the same red as the blood Jesus shed on the cross.  When God sees me, He sees the red robe, He declares that I am in right standing before Him.  He sees nothing else.
  • The bridegroom’s garland – a fragrant ring of colorful flowers that encircle the neck of the happy groom.  Each flower, joined together in an unbroken circle representing the complete joining of the groom to his bride; Jesus, the groom, I, the bride.
  • The bride’s jewels – each one carefully chosen to adorn and enhance the beauty of the lovely bride; each jewel represents my treasure preserved and saved for this special day, this moment.  The bride herself is a jewel, rare, precious, highly valued.

God’s outfit is simple, it is not one size fits all or even most.  It fits me and it is glorious.  God’s outfit for you will be same but different, your garland, your jewels will be unique to you and fit you perfectly.  God dresses me and sees me in my outfit already; I will not see myself in it until I get to heaven.  On that day, my clothes shopping days will be over forever and I will not need or want any other clothing.  Hallelujah – I cannot wait!!

Back At It!

One thing about life that I know for certain is that nothing is certain!  Life suddenly got crazy busy and I found that there was little time and no energy for writing or reading and commenting on others’ blogs but, happy to say, I’m back…

Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it?  Lamentations 3:37

One of the most challenging truths of the Christian life is knowing that nothing happens without God’s permission.  The good, the bad, the ugly, the bitter and the sweet – any and all of it, God allows in our lives.

You probably know the story of Job; he is the supreme example of a man whom God allowed to be tested and tried with every possible calamity.  A man upright and blameless, God permits Satan to test him.  First, much of Job’s livestock is stolen and the rest burned; the raiders kill all but one of the servants responsible for watching and caring for the herds of oxen, donkeys, sheep and camels.  Next, Job’s seven sons and three daughters die when a windstorm causes the collapse of the house where they were having dinner. Job is then afflicted with sores over his entire body and his wife, in her grief, tells Job to curse God and die – being dead has got to be better than being in this mess!

But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.  Job 2:10

And that is the key, we believe the lie and the liar who whispers that a God who is really good would never allow trouble, grief, struggles or pain into our lives.  The same liar that persuaded Eve to bite the fruit tries to convince us that a “little” sin is ok because God does not want us to be “unhappy”.

Now don’t miss this, over and over the Bible gives examples of people pleading with God to relieve their pain and suffering and God answers; much of Jesus’ ministry was devoted to healing.  Job honestly poured his heart out to God and asked Him more than once why he had even been born.  God knows it all, there is no point in holding anything back from Him so pray for your difficult circumstances to change and remember that God may want to change you.

I know God has allowed me to learn more about myself during trials than at any other times.  I have learned how dependent I am on Him, how weak I am, how much pride is hidden in my heart.  Adversity has shown me my strength, helped me understand His grace, and developed my faith in Him.  Pressing through adversity with acceptance brings Him glory.

Yep, the past few weeks have been busier than usual with a lot of things, many of them really great and memorable; all of them an opportunity to witness God’s goodness all the time.  Thanks God, for ALL of it!

Pardon the Interruption – Luke 8

When my kids were young I had two wishes, 1. to finish a cup of coffee while it was still hot and, 2. to take an uninterrupted shower.  Two simple wishes that I think every parent or caregiver of young kids understands.  Is it a law that my phone will only ring when I it is on the other side of the room and I am sitting in my favorite comfy chair AND it is just a  phone solicitation?  Is there a bulletin that goes out saying, “She’s reading, start your conversation now!”  Why are these little interruptions so darn interrupting?

After being asked to leave the swine herders, Jesus gets a warm welcome at his next stop, (Luke 8:40) where He is met by a man named Jairus,  Unlike the Gerasene demoniac, Jairus was an important and highly respected man.  He is also a desperate man, a loving father whose daughter is dying.  He falls at Jesus feet, pleading for Jesus to come and heal his daughter.  I understand Jairus desperation; God taught me how to pray as I prayed for my children, when they were sick, when they were struggling, when they rebelled.  In those times, I prayed fervently and without ceasing, often without words but with groans and tears.  Desperation will drive you to your knees at the feet of Jesus and there is no better place to be!  Jairus came humbly but also confidently; he expected Jesus to answer, he expected Jesus to act.  When we lay it all down before Jesus we can have that same confidence; that if what we ask is in His will, He will hear and answer, how glorious!

BUT…

…an interruption…

A woman pushes and shoves her way through the crush of people and touches the fringe of Jesus’ cloak.  The briefest touch by a single finger and a quick withdrawal but Jesus notices – He always notices.  I love that about Jesus!  I am very goal oriented, I can be so focused on my agenda, my “to-do” list, that I miss the people around me, I miss an opportunity to give a kind or encouraging word.  If I am not listening to God’s voice, I can see interruptions as annoyances and not as divine appointments.

Jesus not only notices her, He draws attention to her and she is forced to proclaim her shame.  The hemorrhage would have made her “unclean” and unable to worship in the temple.  During her 12 years of suffering, she endured much at the hands of physicians and spent all she had seeking a cure.  And she shares the news of the immediate, miraculous healing she just experienced to the crowd – she must have been smiling as she told this good news.

In the meantime, Jairus is waiting.  Jairus knows every second counts, his daughter, his only daughter, is dying – why is Jesus taking so long?  So, another…

…interruption…

News comes, the worst news, Jairus’ daughter has died.  “Don’t trouble the teacher”,  (Luke 8:49) in other words, don’t bother Jesus, we don’t need Him any more.  Jesus always knows what is best and His timing is perfect; He knows what we think, He knows how we feel so He tells Jairus not to be afraid, He will make his daughter well.  Jesus goes to Jairus’ house.  The mourners laugh; it can be easier to laugh than to accept Jesus words as true and I wonder how foolish they felt when Jairus’ daughter got up!

Jesus orders that someone get her something to eat.  Jesus is both miraculous and practical.  This reminds me that after an amazing encounter with Jesus, I need to get back to the everyday business of living life, a changed life, a new life, an ordinary, interrupted life made extraordinary by Jesus!

Dead Man Walking – Luke 8

Have you ever eaten those frozen pot pies?  I have not eaten one in years but I used to love the chicken ones.  One of my early cooking attempts was baking a couple of them for an easy summer dinner for the family.  I had put a few of them on a cookie sheet and anxiously waited for them to finish baking.  As I took them out of the oven my hand brushed the pan.  I recoiled and dropped the pot pies, spilling them on the door of the oven and the floor, the pies exploded.  The contents hit my bare legs (I had shorts on) and it felt like hot lava. I screamed and jumped back – too late.  I had second and third degree burns on my upper left thigh.  For a long time I was afraid to use the oven.

Jesus has just calmed the storm in Luke 8 and in verse 26, Jesus and his disciples are back in the boat.  I can tell you that after being in those waves and wind the last thing I would have wanted to do was get back into the boat but that is not Jesus.  He goes where and when His father tells Him and the safest place to be is with Jesus.  They land in the Gadara (or Gerasene depending on your translation) and meet a demon possessed man.  Jesus does not seem surprised or dismayed by this man or his appearance – Jesus knows what is going on with him; He knows what is going on with me.

Luke 8 and Mark 5 taken together paint a picture of a man who was seemed more inhuman than human.  The man was naked and incredibly strong, he had been bound with chains but they could not hold or subdue him.  He was scarred and bleeding; he cut himself with sharp stones.  He screamed constantly.  He lived in the tombs among the dead bodies.  There is no record of how long he suffered in this condition but I picture his filthy, matted hair and beard and the nearly visible stench of his unwashed body and of death.  I would have recoiled and fled in terror. Jesus strides in; this is the fearless, warrior Jesus who has come to fight for this lost man, the Jesus who will come back to fight for His bride, who fights for me.

The demons possessing the man cry out when they see and recognize Jesus and they call Him by name, Jesus, Son of the Most High God.  These evil creatures know who He is yet how many in that day, how many today, still do not recognize Him, refuse to recognize Him.  Someday every knee will bow as they recognize Him when He comes again in glory and power.  The demons would rather be sent into some nearby pigs than sent into the abyss, the place of eternal torment.  It is sad to hear some today claim that they are not afraid of hell, that they prefer hell to heaven; these demons know what that really means, they understood the seriousness and the finality of eternal separation from God.

The herdsman run away, full of fear.  The townspeople come to investigate and ask Jesus to leave.  What are they all afraid of? Losing the pigs and the income they represented?  Are they afraid of change?  A genuine encounter with Jesus will cause a change and some are more focused on what they may have to give up than on what they might gain by yielding to Christ; fear holds many back but perfect love casts out fear and Jesus love is so perfect!  So Jesus leaves, He will not stay where He is not wanted.

The man, now dressed and in his right mind, begs to go with Jesus, but Jesus instructs him to go back to his home, to tell of the great things Jesus had done.  I am so glad this story is recorded for us.  Once upon a time, I was one of the walking dead. I was afraid that if I trusted Jesus I might lose out on the fun of life; I worried about what I might have to give up.   I was in chains and full of scars, now I am free in Christ, He broke the chains, He bears my scars.  All around me are dead men, and women, but they don’t know that apart from Christ they are dead.  Jesus came intentionally to the demon possessed man of Gadara to heal his mind, his tortured spirit, to set him free.  Jesus comes today to heal and free the captives, to bring those walking in eternal death to eternal life.  Only Jesus can do this, only Jesus…

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

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!

Risk Analysis

“You know, I got a hunch, fat man. I got a hunch it’s me from here on in. One ball, corner pocket. I mean, that ever happen to you? You know, all of a sudden you feel like you can’t miss? ‘Cause I dreamed about this game, fat man. I dreamed about this game every night on the road. Five ball. You know, this is my table, man. I own it.”

“Fast Eddie” Felson is about to risk it all in the movie, “The Hustler”.  The entire roll of cash, everything he has, in a game of pool against the great “Minnesota Fats”.  I love stories of gamblers, all kinds of gamblers.  The gamblers who risk their lives climbing mountains, gamblers who risk their lives exploring new places, gamblers who risk their reputation to follow a vision.  Many of our great heroes were gamblers – they believed so strongly in their dream, they risked everything to achieve it.  Every gambler makes an assessment of the risks versus the rewards by looking at all the elements of the game as well as each player, sometimes they do this in seconds, sometimes they spend years analyzing.  But then the moment of decision arrives, stay or go, bet or go home, do or not do.

Rahab was a gambler.  She is first mentioned in the Old Testament book of Joshua, and we learn a lot about her in her first appearance: she lives in the city of Jericho, she is a harlot, she allows Joshua’s 2 spies to stay in her house.  She is also a liar, the King of Jericho sent men to find these spies, when they show up at Rahab’s house she admits they were there but says she had sent them away.  In fact, the men were hidden on her roof among the stalks of flax.

When Rahab lied to the King’s men she gambled her own life and the lives of everyone in her house.  Kings had absolute power and there was no democratic process.  What convinced Rahab that the risk of hiding these foreign spies was worth the risk?  The answer is found here:

Now before they lay down, she came up to them on the roof, and said to the men, “I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land have melted away before you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed.  When we heard it, our hearts melted and no courage remained in any man any longer because of you; for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.

Rahab knew the Lord was giving the Israelites the land, she knew the people of Jericho were terrified of them.  She had heard the stories of how God had taken them out of Egypt and given them victory in battle and most importantly, she knew and believed that this God was the one true God the Lord of heaven and earth.

The spies promise to spare her life and the life of her family IF she keeps silent and when they conquer Jericho.  Notice (verse 15) exactly where Rahab lives, “her house was on the city wall, so that she was living on the wall.”  You probably know what happens to Jericho but if not, read Joshua chapter 6.  Rahab ties a scarlet cord to her window to mark and protect her house from the impending invasion.  This red cord was a vivid marker to say, “Here I am” and also to say, “I believe!”

The walls of Jericho fall flat but God preserves and protects Rahab and reminds Joshua of the spies promise to her.  Everything she owns and her fathers family are all spared, Jericho and it’s people are utterly destroyed.

But the story of Rahab does not quite end there, “she has lived in the midst of Israel to this day, for she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.”  Joshua 6:25

Rahab is mentioned again in Matthew 1:5, only one of three women in the genealogy of Jesus, Rahab lives in the midst of Israel to this day.

In Hebrews 11:31, Rahab lived by faith, trusting in God for her life and future, when she welcomed the spies in peace, living in the midst of Israel to this day.

James 2:25 Rahab was justified by her works, gave evidence of her faith, when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way, living in the midst of Israel to this day.

I love this story of a woman who gambled everything for her God.  And not just any woman, a harlot – this identity is used in every mention of her except Matthew.  God wants us to know that Rahab was a woman the world scorned, looked down on, gossiped about, and marginalized but look what God does with and for her!  Her story, her name, she herself, lives on in the lineage of Jesus Christ.

Rahab risked it all for a very great reward – an eternal heritage.  When the Kings men pounded on her door what went through her mind?  Based on her actions, I am sure she thought, “This God will save me.

She was right.  And He is still saving anyone, anywhere, anytime.  Just ask Him.

Header image from: Photo by James Barker. Published on 16 December 2008
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