Guard Your Heart

Early one morning in 2012, labor pains brought me out of a fitful sleep, and my youngest daughter was born just a few hours later.  Those first moments will be forever etched in my memory. My heart brimming over with love, pride, and fierce protection, there would be no sacrifice or obstacle too great to ensure her safety.

God calls us to protect our hearts just as I protect my daughters. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” From this verse, I imagine a fortress, mightily defended with a divine shield.

In 1 Corinthians, we read, “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.” (16:13-14). I absolutely love these verses. We must be courageous, strong, ready, firm in the faith. It reminds me of strength training. Training for physical fitness requires courage and faith that what I do today will matter tomorrow. Strengthening my faith is much more valuable than strength training, but the principles are similar. We must work diligently to get stronger, be willing to sacrifice now to reap blessings later, saying “no” to ourselves when a lack of self control would sabotage those efforts, both physically and spiritually.

There’s a saying in our home about clutter. “If it blesses you, keep it. If it doesn’t, don’t.” I love having a clean and clutter-free home, so we make decisions often about what we have and what needs to go. In the same way, if your habits are blessing and fortifying your soul, keep them. If they are weakening your faith and leaving your heart unguarded, remove them from your life.  We have to watch what we’re watching, and be cautious what we give our minds over to for the sake of entertainment.

I believe Satan does the most damage on our souls slowly, as if he’s not in any hurry, hoping not to startle us into realizing how far those ungodly decisions are leading us away from the Lord.  “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8).  When we weigh our decisions against the principles the Lord has so lovingly prepared for us, our hearts will be strengthened and we will stand ready to share our Savior with those around us.

We make a myriad of choices every day. Let this day’s decisions be governed by your guarded heart.  As we naturally protect our children, let’s also shield our hearts in the Lord, helping one another as we journey together to reach our final goal, heaven.

When Irish Eyes are Smiling

A 9 year old girl moved suddenly from a brick home in an established northern Indiana neighborhood to a trailer in the deep south of the north Georgia mountains with her mother, father, and brothers. While she thought the beauty of the rolling hills and twinkling starry skies of the rural countryside held beauty she’d only seen in pictures, she felt displaced, like a fish out of water. She felt awkward and like a misfit in her new school environment. Adding to this, her father began making plans to separate from her mother, and his already short temper became worse, creating a stressful home environment. It seemed that his aspirations in life rose far above what his family could provide him.  Her innocent childhood heart interpreted that his lack of love for them and his constant dark moods were somehow her fault. That perhaps if she were prettier or funnier, or more popular… he would have loved her and her family enough to stay with them, as other fathers did. When he left her family to live with another woman, she felt abandoned and unworthy of love from a father, one of the most precious relationships available to children.

Many of you may have guessed that I was the little girl in this story, and the sweet side of this bittersweet tale is that my Father in heaven had a provision waiting for me.

My grandfather and grandmother lived close enough for me to walk… just through the woods from our trailer. Their home wasn’t a place of grandeur by any worldly estimation, but to a young girl who so desperately craved peace and family comfort, it could have been a mansion. There’s a song, “When Irish Eyes are Smiling,” that my grandfather and I would sing together, along with other Irish ballads. He in his loud bass bravado, and I in my quiet soprano, would sing until our voices grew tired. I found acceptance in their country home. But more importantly, I felt valued. Their “Irish” eyes smiled and twinkled every time I came to their door for a visit, and little by little, my heart began to heal.

I believe there are several ingredients that sparked healing from those visits with my grandparents. First, I had faith in their unconditional love for me. Their actions in welcoming me and investing time in me proved their love. Then, I saw through the reflection in their smiling eyes, that I was worthy of being valued and appreciated, just for being me, the creature God created. There is something so powerful in the knowledge that someone truly cares for you. That no matter what, we have total security in their love that will not waver and will never be purposefully taken away. The third component in our healing relationship was their integrity. Trust was crucial here, and by following the Lord’s examples in living their lives for Him, I knew that they were a safe place for my tender heart because of Who they served.

What I experienced is unfortunately very common in our society.  Anyone who pretends that divorce doesn’t negatively effect children is simply not right in their thinking.  I was very fortunate to have the constant love from my Mom (who endured so much during this trial) and my grandparents. But I learned that no matter how wonderful these relationships were, the best place for my heart was, and always will be with our Lord.

Here are a few things about our Father God that I want to share with you:

God loves you!
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” (1 John 3:16-18)

You never have to fear that He will ever leave you:
“…God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence,“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5-6)

He truly values you.
King David praised Him and then said, “LORD, what are human beings that you care for them, mere mortals that you think of them?” (Psalm 144:3)

He has loved you longer than any human could:
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (Psalm 139:13-14)

God has called you to be one of His children:
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1)

He even allowed His precious Son to die for us, so we can be together in heaven.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Our Father is the Creator of integrity.
“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5)

You can trust in His promises:
“As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what He promised us – eternal life.” (1 John 24-25)

Even in His perfection, He hopes we will make the right choice in serving Him:
“The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some consider slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)

He is always with you.
“If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” (Psalm 139:9-10)

Just as I found comfort at the feet of my grandparents, and my own daughters now find comfort in my arms, I have found my true haven in the Lord. His love, value in His creation, and integrity combine to provide rest for my soul here on earth. Trials may come and go, but He will never leave my side, and I have lived a very happy life in Him, and because of Him.

Let’s make our goal this week to let our eyes smile upon those we come in contact with, so they too can feel genuinely valued by the Lord. You never know whose heart you might begin to heal by building them up with God’s love and encouragament. What an amazing God He is, to love us more than we can imagine? I can’t think of anything more beautiful or worth sharing than that.

Irish Eyes
My wonderful grandparents, Bill and Ethel Lee Simmons, at their 50th wedding anniversary.

Godly Women of the Bible: Deborah

Guest author Jesse Flowers continues his “Godly Women of the Bible” series:

In the book of Judges we read of Israel’s greatest woman leader. The inspired account is given in two ways – chapter 4 contains a prose narrative, while chapter 5 contains the story in poetry. It is safe to say that Deborah is the only woman who served God as an official of the state government. She was raised up by God; no other woman ruler of Israel could claim this. Deborah’s skills were exceptional and her character was holy.

 1.  She was a prophetess. This is the very first detail the author provides us about Deborah (Judges 4:4). Only two other women shared this honored position in the Old Testament (Miriam, Ex. 15:20; Huldah, 2 Kings 22:14-20). As a prophetess of God she had been uniquely selected by the Lord to be filled with the Holy Spirit to reveal divine truths to Israel. She was the wife of Lapidoth. We know nothing else about her husband. So often the Bible barely makes mention of some wife or mother, and tells us a great deal about the man. This is one of those rare exceptions where it’s the other way around.

2.  She was well respected. Deborah was well respected by all of Israel. We read in Judges 4:5 that “the children of Israel came up to her for judgment” on important matters. As the various tribes learned that she spoke by inspiration, they would naturally turn to her for instruction and advice, and to have her settle their disputes. The text reads that “she would sit under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the mountains of Ephraim” (4:5). It was her place for holding court. Here the people came to her for judgment. She was a godly woman possessing knowledge and wisdom that her people came to rely upon and no doubt benefitted from greatly.

3.  She was a woman of strong faith. The one fact that stands out above everything else in Deborah’s story is her faith in God. Repeatedly the narrative stresses her faith in God (4:4, 6, 7, 9, 14, etc.). She was full of faith at a time when so many in Israel were faithless. Recall that she lived at a time when so many in Israel “did not know the LORD nor the work which He had done for Israel” (2:10). Remember that she lived and served at a time when “the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD…forsook the LORD and served Baal and the Ashtoreths” (2:11, 13). She lived during a general time of apostasy. 1) Israel worshiped false gods (2:14-15). 2) God used other nations to punish Israel (2:14-15). 3) Israel repented and cried out to God for deliverance (2:18). 4) God provided judges to deliver Israel from oppression (2:16). 5) Israel disregarded the divinely appointed judges and returned to idolatry (2:17, 19). 6) The cycle repeats. Her faith, trust and confidence in God certainly stood in stark contrast to the majority in her day. When “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (17:6; 21:25), Deborah did what was right in God’s eyes.

4.  She was a leader. The children of Israel were starving for leadership. At this time Israel was being “harshly oppressed” by Jabin king of Canaan for doing evil in the sight of the LORD (4:1-3). Israel cried out to God for mercy and deliverance. Help and deliverance ultimately came from two unlikely sources, Deborah and Jael (4:8-9, 17-22). Deborah demonstrated leadership in summoning Barak, from the tribe of Naphtali, to come lead 10,000 of his men in battle (4:6, 14). She inspired others, such as Barak, to rise up, take courage, and lead (4:6-7, 14-16). She was courageous to lead Barak and his forces into battle against overwhelming odds when Barak refused to go without her (4:8). Consider how Deborah used her tongue to lead: she spoke the commands of God (4:6); she used cheerful, positive words of victory when those around her faced innumerable odds (4:14); her words were so wisely selected that people traveled far distances to hear her speak (4:5). Today women must use their tongues in similar ways if they are to prove effective leaders in the Lord’s church.

Robert L. Whiteside commented: “Deborah was raised up to meet an emergency. When men will not lead, or cannot lead, and some good woman can lead, it falls to her lot to do so. It is evident that there was no man willing, or able, to take the lead at that time. They cried to Jehovah, but no man made a move to do anything about it. When Barak was called by Deborah to lead the army in battle, he did not want to do so, and would not agree to assume full responsibility in the matter. In her song for the victory over Sisera and his army, Deborah said, “The rulers ceased in Israel, they ceased, until that I Deborah arose, that I arose a mother in Israel” (5:7, ASV). Thus did Deborah herself acknowledge that she was called to leadership because the rulers of Israel failed. It is a shame and a pity that the men of a nation make it necessary for a mother in Israel to settle their troubles and lead them to victory against their enemies. And so, instead of being just a mother in Israel, Deborah had to be a mother to Israel, and had to bear the burdens that rightfully belonged to men. She had the approval of Jehovah, else she would not have been an inspired prophetess” (Bible Studies, vol. 2, pp. 44-45).

Thanks to Deborah’s leadership, the land had rest for forty years (5:31).

5.  She made a difference. Read these two chapters and you will readily see that Deborah made a tremendous difference in the lives of God’s people.

John L. Kachelman, Jr. wrote: “As you read the account in chapter 5 you will notice a “before” and an “after.” Before Deborah assumed general leadership the highways were so dangerous that no one traveled them; they were deserted (v. 6). But after she led Israel the highways were so safe you could leisurely rest along the roadside without fear of robbers (v. 10, 11). Before Deborah’s leadership the city gate was the scene of battle (v. 8). But afterwards, “the people of the Lord went down to the gates” (v. 11b). The influence of this godly woman made a difference! Modern women need to consider this tremendous influence of Deborah. Let each woman ask herself these questions and answer honestly – Does my life merit the respect and devotion of others? Am I doing things which “strengthen” others? Am I a source of power for others? Does my life change things for the better? Does it make a difference if I am around?” (Studies in Judges, p. 77).

At no other point in Israel’s history has God ever raised up a woman leader like Deborah – here we discover a solitary, unique event! She was a breath of fresh air in a polluted environment of sin and ungodliness. She was a much needed light of faith and holiness during a time of darkness and corruption. Just like Deborah you too can influence everyone in your life for good (Matt. 5:13-16). Just like Deborah you can make a tremendous difference for the cause of truth and righteousness (Rom. 13:11-14; 1 Thess. 5:8). Although we also live “in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation” we too can and should “shine as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:15)!

 

Pic of Family_Florida

Jesse Flowers has been preaching for the church of Christ at Pruett and Lobit Street in Baytown, Texas for the past 8 years. He is married to his beautiful wife, April (Melton), and they have four sweet children, Jesse, Josiah, Anna and Clara. If interested, you can read more of his articles or listen to his sermons at www.biblework.com.

Godly Women of the Bible: Sarah

 

Guest author Jesse Flowers continues his “Godly Women of the Bible” series:

It seems to me that a godly woman that is often forgotten because of the enormity of the shadow cast by her husband is Sarah. Abraham is mentioned in the Bible 280 times while Sarah is mentioned just shy of 50 times. When we think of faith we don’t think of Sarah (though she had faith), we think of Abraham. He was not only the father of the Jewish nation, but is the spiritual father of all who walk in his steps of faith (Rom. 4:12).

When we mention the patriarchs of old we typically list off the big three: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But what about the wives of these mighty men: Sarah, Rebekah, Leah and Rachel? Whenever we think of Isaac’s great story we generally think of him in connection with his father Abraham, but seldom with his mother Sarah. Why is that? Most assuredly, there would be no son of promise if it wasn’t for the very key role of this godly wife and mother in the plan of God!

Indeed there is much that we can all learn from this remarkable woman of God named Sarah.

 1. She endured various hardships in life. Although she was righteous and married to a very righteous and wealthy man, this did not mean that her life was problem free. In fact, the first time we are introduced to her in Scripture we read: “But Sarai was barren; she had no child” (Gen. 11:30). While we do read of other godly women in the Bible who were barren (Rebekah, Rachel, Hannah, Elizabeth, etc.), none of them remained barren as long as Sarah. She was 90 years old when Isaac was born.

On two separate occasions her husband placed her in very awkward and dangerous situations, by presenting her to Pharaoh and to Abimelech as his sister instead as his wife (Gen. 12:10-20; 20:1-18). Also there were difficult hardships that arose regarding her handmaid Hagar and her son Ishmael (Gen. 16:1-6; 21:8-12). Like Sarah, godly women today will encounter various hardships in life (Jam. 1:2; 2 Tim. 3:12) that they too must endure holding fast to the Lord their God (Josh. 23:8).

2. Her faith was lacking and needed to grow. There were certainly occasions when Sarah’s faith was not as strong and trusting in God as it should have been. For example, when ten years had passed since God’s promise to Abraham of not only a son but a great nation, and she was still barren, she grew impatient with God’s timetable. So she suggested to her husband an alternate plan. “See now, the LORD has restrained me from bearing children. Please, go in to my maid; perhaps I shall obtain children by her” (Gen. 16:2). But we must also point out that instead of reassuring her of God’s promise he “heeded the voice of Sarai.”

Another example is found in Gen. 18:9-15. God sent divine messengers to Abraham to tell him that “Sarah your wife shall have a son” (v. 10). Sarah overheard the conversation and she laughed within herself and said, “After I have grown old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?” The LORD was not pleased with her response and asked Abraham, “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” But would it not also seem a bit far-fetched to you at age 89? Even the text says, “Now Abraham and Sarah were old, well advanced in age; and Sarah had passed the age of childbearing” (v. 11; cf. Rom. 4:19). In fact, we read of a very similar example of Abraham reacting the same way earlier (cf. Gen. 17:15-18).

But let’s be completely fair and honest. Have there not been times in our lives when our faith and trust in God was lacking and needed to grow more? At times like Jesus’ own disciples we need to be lovingly rebuked, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matt. 14:31)

3. She obeyed her husband. By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the apostle Peter holds up Sarah as an example to be emulated by all Christian wives. “For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror” (1 Peter 3:5-6). Out of all the godly wives that Peter could have chosen, he chose Sarah. She stands as a shining example for all time of a wife that had “chaste conduct accompanied by fear” (v. 2), “the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit” (v. 4), a “holy” woman “who trusted in God” and was “submissive” to her husband (v. 5).

These qualities and characteristics in a woman are ridiculed and looked down upon by many in the world today, but they are “very precious in the sight of God” (v. 4). To obey your husband is to obey your Lord (Eph. 5:22-24). The Lord calls upon Christian wives to be “daughters” of Sarah. Will you arise and answer that noble and high calling? And is it any wonder then that when Abraham lost such a godly wife and mother that he “came to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her” (Gen. 23:2)? The void in his life for the next 38 years until his own death must have been tremendous without his best friend and companion in life by his side. No doubt she was greatly loved and would be greatly missed by Abraham.

4. She had a faith that pleased God. The Bible tells us that “without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Heb. 11:6). Sarah possessed such a faith. Five verses later we read: “By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised” (v. 11). “By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed…” And where does faith come from? Faith comes from hearing the words of God (Rom. 10:17). The inspired text tells us that she bore a child when she was past the age, “because she judged Him faithful who had promised.” Do we have a faith like Sarah? Do we also judge God faithful who has made “exceedingly great and precious promises” to us (2 Peter 1:4)? She wasn’t perfect in her walk with God. Neither are we. Her faith faltered at times. So does ours. But let us be determined that over the course of our lives that we too will possess a faith that pleases God.

Can you not relate on some level to Sarah? Surely each of us can not only relate to her, but also learn some invaluable spiritual lessons. In fact, she is so significant to the story of the Bible that the apostle Paul says that Christians are children of Sarah, children of promise (Gal. 4:21-31). I must admit that I’m really looking forward to meeting Abraham in Heaven, but I am also really looking forward to meeting and getting to know this great woman of God. Aren’t you?

 

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Jesse Flowers has been preaching for the church of Christ at Pruett and Lobit Street in Baytown, Texas for the past 8 years. He is married to his beautiful wife, April (Melton), and they have four sweet children, Jesse, Josiah, Anna and Clara. If interested, you can read more of his articles or listen to his sermons at www.biblework.com.

The Gift of Honor

rasberries

One phrase my girls and I use is: “turn the key in your heart.” I’ve personally been focused on turning the key in my heart to find ways to honor others. Giving honor to the Lord first, and then to those I come in contact with.

Several months ago, Deborah Brewer led a ladies Bible study focused on this subject. It opened my eyes to the choices we make to either give the gift of honor or dishonor. During the Bible study, Deborah asked a volunteer to join her at the front of the class and she handed her friend a gift. The recipient opened the present only to find dirt inside. Deborah said when we dishonor others, it’s like giving them the gift of…. dirt. In other words, when we show dishonor to God or others, it is hurtful, insulting, and demeaning. A moment later, another volunteer was given a gift. Again, beautifully wrapped. This time, the contents were sweet and thoughtful, representing when we honor one another. This simple exercise was powerful to me because while I know how important it is to measure my words and actions, this visual comparison will serve as a reminder of the unseen, yet lasting effects of honor… or lack of.

My grandfather once said, “If you don’t remember anything else I tell you, remember this: be the reflection of the good you see in people. Sometimes we can’t see the good in ourselves, so it’s important to tell people when you see it.” I didn’t realize it at the time, but he was helping me learn that one way of showing honor is to be a positive reflection to every soul. While there are times we must confront one another, and motherhood requires that we discipline our children, there are many opportunities to give the gift of positive feedback.

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

~ Romans 12:9-18

What are some ways we can honor God and His sons and daughters? We can start by immersing ourselves in God’s written Word, obeying Him, and praising Him. While praying to our Father, we can pray for one another and find ways to uplift each other (1 Thess 5:11, Heb. 3:13). When we notice someone using their God-given gifts for Him, we can thank them for sharpening us to grow spiritually (Prov. 27:17).

I certainly have moments I’ve regretted in life, but I don’t think I’ll ever regret honoring my brothers and sisters. By being purposeful in our walk with the Lord, we can truly make a difference in this world for Him.  One word, one action, one moment at a time. Let’s be gift-givers of honor this week!

Spiritual Mirror

daily reading
Photo by Heidi Palmer

My favorite part of gardening is the benefit of quiet reflection time. While I weeded my flower beds last week, I was reminded of the parable of the sower in Luke 8:15. There Jesus explains what happens when His Word is planted in “thorny ground”. Jesus said, “And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature.” As I continued pulling the weeds out of my garden, I considered what the thorns in my soul might be.

I tell my girls that reading the Bible daily is something our soul so desperately needs, just as much as our physical bodies rely on nutritional food. While we may not see the nutritional benefits immediately, those fruits and vegetables are making us stronger over time and behind the scenes. The same is true spiritually when we are immersed in His Word. He is making us more resilient to temptations and trials that can hinder our growth, deep within our souls (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.”
~Psalm 19:7-9

My family and I recently began a 52 day spiritual challenge (click here to listen to the sermon called “52 days” by Jesse Flowers.) I appreciate challenges because they first require evaluation. We can’t set a new goal unless we find our own starting line, right? Using the Bible, I looked in a spiritual mirror (James 1:22-25) and found some unprofitable habits, attitudes and perspectives that needed to be adjusted, and found more time I could allocate for searching the scriptures.

More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.”
~ Psalm 19:10-11

Just like tending an unkempt garden, we can use our Bible as a tool to renew our minds (Romans 12:1-2) so that we will be able to discern good and evil. We then can stay firmly rooted in Him (Colossians 2:6-7). The Lord makes our journey to heaven joy-filled when we:

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
~ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-17

Do you have weeds growing in your spiritual garden, like me? Let’s live with purpose, starting right now.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
~ Hebrews 12:1-2

Godly Women of the Bible: Jochebed

Guest author Jesse Flowers continues his “Godly Women of the Bible” series:

Do you know the story of Jochebed? Perhaps for many children and adults she is virtually an unknown Bible character, and I suppose for good reason since she is only mentioned by name twice in Scripture. But we need to know her for she has an incredible story to tell us.

So who exactly is this woman named Jochebed? I will give you a BIG hint. She had a son named Moses. Of course, we know plenty about Moses, but what about the godly woman that gave birth to one of the most significant Bible characters of all? I think it’s high time that we tell her story.

  1.  She was the daughter of Levi. “And a man of the house of Levi went and took as wife a daughter of Levi” (Exodus 2:1). Here is further evidence of this same truth. “The name of Amram’s wife was Jochebed the daughter of Levi, who was born to Levi in Egypt…” (Numbers 26:59). That fact alone is pretty amazing to me. It would mean that Joseph was her uncle, Jacob was her grandfather, Isaac was her great-grandfather, and Abraham would have been her great-great grandfather! You see, Amram married his father’s sister, Jochebed. Amram’s father was Kohath, who was one of the three sons of Levi (Exodus 6:16-20). And that pretty much makes Jochebed “Bible royalty.” Of the twelve tribes of Israel, this would be the one tribe that would soon be set apart unto God for special service (Num. 1:47-54; 18:21; Deut. 10:8-9; 21:5; Josh. 13:14, 33). Her descendants and relatives would go on to do untold good for the chosen people of God, including a much later descendant named Elizabeth (Luke 1:5), the mother of John the Baptizer, the forerunner of Jesus Christ! And don’t forget that we too have been set apart unto God for special service (1 Cor. 6:11; Jude 1:1; 1 Peter 2:4-5, 9-10; Rev. 1:5-6).

  2.  She was a woman of great faith. Somewhat overlooked and too often forgotten in the impressive list of great heroes of faith, we find this statement recorded: “By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child…” (Hebrews 11:23). Now the faith spoken of in this passage did not belong to Moses yet, for he was just born, but rather it speaks to the faith belonging to Amram and Jochebed. Imagine having to hide your newborn baby from the government because they were seeking to kill him (Exodus 1:22-2:2). But this is exactly what Jochebed had to do, and it was her great faith that caused her to take such action. We read earlier in the same chapter, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (11:6). This is the faith that was possessed by Jochebed. She believed and trusted in God, and knew that her God was a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. May each one of us also possess such a faith!

  3.  She was very brave. The author of Hebrews also tells us that “they were not afraid of the king’s command” (11:23). No doubt their great faith instilled great courage in their hearts in a very frightening and dangerous time to raise a family. Pharaoh commanded all his people regarding the Hebrew women: “Every son who is born you shall cast into the river, and every daughter you shall save alive” (Exodus 1:22). The reason for the command was because “the children of Israel…multiplied and grew exceedingly mighty” (Ex. 1:7). Afraid they might join their enemies in time of war, the Egyptians made them their slaves, but the more they afflicted them, the more they grew (Ex. 1:12). Thus, Pharaoh gave the command to exterminate all male babies. I think as a parent I would have naturally been afraid of such a command. But the inspired text tells us that Jochebed was not afraid. Instead she trusted in God’s care and protection over her family (Ps. 27:1; 56:3, 11), and did all she could to keep her baby safe. I think in many respects today, Christian parents live in frightening times to raise a family. And so we too need to be very brave as we live “in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation” (Phil. 2:15) doing our absolute best to keep them safe and protected, bringing up our children “in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4).

  4.  She was a woman of great strength. After baby Moses was discovered by the daughter of Pharaoh, Miriam offered to find a Hebrew woman to nurse the baby (Exodus 2:3-9). Of course, she brought her own mother, Jochebed, to be the baby’s nurse – and she was paid to feed her own child! Do we not see God’s wonderful providence in this story? But how difficult it would have been for her to later give up her little boy to be raised by another woman. Such would require great strength. “And the child grew, and she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son” (Ex. 2:10). But Moses never forgot his roots. He never forgot who his people were, and never forgot who was his true family (Ex. 2:11; 3:14; Heb. 11:24-26). “By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter” (Heb. 11:24). No, he was proud to be the son of a godly Israelite woman named Jochebed! May we also have such great strength when we face difficult decisions and circumstances as we raise our children.

  5.  She was the mother of three amazing children. “The name of Amram’s wife was Jochebed the daughter of Levi, who was born to Levi in Egypt; and to Amram she bore Aaron and Moses and their sister Miriam” (Numbers 26:59). All three of her children played a major role in the spiritual leadership and direction of God’s people. “For I brought you up from the land of Egypt, I redeemed you from the house of bondage; and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam” (Micah 6:4).

a.  Miriam. The daughter of Jochebed, and sister of Aaron and Moses, was quite special in her own rite. She was a godly woman and leader among the nation of Israel. She is described as a “prophetess” who led all the women in praise to God (Ex. 15:20-21).

b.  Aaron. God initially chose Aaron to be the mouthpiece for Moses as he stood before Pharaoh in Egypt (Ex. 4:13-17). God later gave Aaron the great honor of being Israel’s first high priest (Ex. 28-29).

c.  Moses. Of course, God chose him specifically to lead Israel out of Egyptian bondage and to the Promised Land (Ex. 3:1-10). He was the great Lawgiver (“Law of Moses”) and prophet of the nation (Josh. 8:31-32; Deut. 18:15).

Consider this. If it wasn’t for the faith, love, bravery, and strength of a godly woman named Jochebed, then we would never read about the life and faith of Moses (Heb. 11:23-29). So in the future whenever you read in your Bible the stories about Miriam, Aaron, and Moses don’t forget about the very significant role of Jochebed. And let us be determined to also raise up great servants for the Lord and His people!

Flowers Family at Alamo

Jesse Flowers has been preaching for the church of Christ at Pruett and Lobit Street in Baytown, Texas for the past 8 years. He is married to his beautiful wife, April (Melton), and they have four sweet children, Jesse, Josiah, Anna and Clara. If interested, you can read more of his articles or listen to his sermons at www.biblework.com.

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Heaven

Enjoy my daughter’s latest article about heaven:

Isn’t it so wonderful to think about how we are going to Heaven? God gives His people a reward, a wonderful one, at the end of their lives for all eternity. In Luke, it talks about Lazarus and the rich man. The rich man had a purple robe and fine linen. Anyone who can get too attached to their outside and how they act can become selfish and mean. In this story, a leporous man named Lazarus was sitting by the rich man’s gate, and of course, the rich man didn’t do anything. When they both died, the rich man saw Lazarus standing by Abraham’s side over in Heaven. The rich man was desperate for a drop of water to cool his tongue, for he was in Hades, or Hell. After Abraham said no, the rich man asked if he could warn his five brothers to repent. But Abraham said,

“They have Moses and the prophets: let them hear them… ‘if they do not follow Moses and the prophets,neither would they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.”

~ Luke 16:29-31

In the end, we learn to be cautious of what consequences there will be if we sin. But God holds a seat for us in Heaven.

Godly Women of the Bible: Esther

Enjoy the latest article by guest author Jesse Flowers from his “Godly Women of the Bible” series:

The very first book of the Bible that I taught as a young preacher in training was the Book of Esther to a high school class in Danville, Kentucky. Ever since that time the incredible story of Esther has remained a personal favorite of mine.

“Like the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, Esther belongs to the post-exile period of Old Testament history. However, Esther is unique in that it focuses only on those Jews who remained in foreign lands during this time period rather than returning to their homeland. The book of Esther is also unique in that it is one of only two Old Testament books to bear the name of a woman, and it is the only Old Testament book which lacks any explicit mention of God” (David Dann, Overview of the Bible – Part 2, p. 29).

Esther’s life and story is truly amazing and inspirational. So what important spiritual lessons can we learn from this godly woman?

  1.  She was an orphan. “And Mordecai had brought up Hadassah, that is, Esther, his uncle’s daughter, for she had neither father nor mother…When her father and mother died, Mordecai took her as his own daughter” (2:7). She was born in a foreign land as a result of the 70-year Babylonian captivity of her Jewish ancestors from Judah. Evidently at a young age she lost both of her parents. In a time of great loss, her older cousin Mordecai raised her as if she was his own daughter. No doubt one of the greatest acts of love that can be expressed by Christian parents today is to bring an orphan into their home, to love them and raise them as their own child (James 1:27). Consider the love of our heavenly Father in that through Christ He adopted us into His spiritual family as His own sons and daughters (Rom. 8:14-17). “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1) But God had very special plans for this very special orphan.

  2.  She possessed an outward and inward beauty. The previous queen, Vashti, was removed after displeasing king Ahasuerus (1:10-22). So beautiful young virgins were sought throughout his kingdom in order for him to select his next queen. Many young women, including Esther, were taken to the king’s palace in Shushan, the Persian capital, to undergo twelve months of preparations (2:8, 12). We read that “Esther obtained favor in the sight of all who saw her” (2:15). And further that the “king loved Esther more than all the other women, and she obtained grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins; so he set the royal crown upon her head and made her queen instead of Vashti” (2:17). Yes, Esther was “lovely and beautiful” (2:7), but more importantly, the Scriptures reveal to us her inner beauty. The godly character that she possessed. The fact that she was pure in heart and life. As we continue to live in a world that is so focused on outward beauty, may Christian women give their attention to adorning the hidden person of the heart (1 Pet. 3:3-4), for that is the place where the LORD sets His gaze (1 Sam. 16:7).

  3.  She was obedient to Mordecai. “Now Esther had not revealed her family and her people, just as Mordecai had charged her, for Esther obeyed the command of Mordecai as when she was brought up by him” (2:20; cf. 2:7, 10, 15). Mordecai was always looking out for the best interests of Esther. He was always there to provide, protect, and guide her in life. And from a young girl to a young woman Esther obeyed and honored Mordecai’s instructions. Even as queen she heeded his wise counsel. What a wonderful example she is to children and young people today. We are to obey our parents in all things “for this is right” (Eph. 6:1) and “well pleasing to the Lord” (Col. 3:20). We are to give honor to our parents as children and as adults (Eph. 6:2-3; Mt. 15:3-6; 1 Tim. 5:4). Esther is a shining example of a child trained up in the way she should go, and did not depart from it when she became older (Prov. 22:6).

  4.  She was a woman of great courage. Haman, a wicked and arrogant ruler, had persuaded king Ahasuerus to sign a decree to annihilate all the Jews in the whole kingdom (3:1-15). Mordecai gave Esther the most difficult command of her life to obey – “to go in to the king to make supplication to him and plead before him for her people” (4:8). Why would this be such a difficult task to obey? For one, the king doesn’t know that he himself is married to a Jew. Secondly, if she entered the inner court to the king without being called she would be put to death unless he held out the golden scepter (4:11, 13). And thirdly, she hasn’t been summoned before his presence for an entire month! Ultimately, she responds with some of the most courageous words recorded in Scripture. “And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!” (4:16) Esther’s act of bravery lead to the salvation of the Jewish nation and to multiple victories over their enemies (5:1-9:19). The people of God today need that degree of courage for the cause of righteousness (Acts 18:9-10; 1 Cor. 16:13-14; Eph. 6:10-17; 1 Tim. 6:12; Jude 3). To be willing to forfeit our life for Christ and our brethren if the hour and occasion would require such from us (Rev. 2:10; 1 Jn. 3:16).

  5.  She played a key role in the unfolding of God’s plans (4:13-14). “Though God Himself is not explicitly mentioned anywhere in the book of Esther, God’s providential protection of His covenant people is seen throughout the book” (Ibid., 32). Was it simply a matter of chance and luck that Esther happened to be in the perfect place at the perfect time? Or can we not readily see the hand of God in the unfolding of the various events in the book? As Mordecai expressed it to Esther: “Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (4:14). If it was not for Esther we would not read of the great Bible stories of Ezra and Nehemiah. But far more importantly if it wasn’t for the brave actions of Esther, the promise that Christ would come through the seed of Abraham could not have been fulfilled (Gen. 12:3; Matt. 1:1). The providence of God is truly an incredible and amazing reality in the lives of His people to this very day. Who knows whether or not you are God’s woman for such a time as this – in your local congregation, in your community, in the workplace, or in your home?

The story and life of Esther is truly remarkable. Think about it – a Jewish orphan that became the queen of Persia! From a young orphan girl to a beautiful and radiant queen who delivered her fellow Jews from death and destruction, preserving the very people through whom the future Messiah would come. Her courageous decision to stand up and speak up so long ago positively impacted every single one of us. Now that’s a Bible story that must be told and retold to our children and grandchildren!

 

Flowers Family at Alamo

Jesse Flowers has been preaching for the church of Christ at Pruett and Lobit Street in Baytown, Texas for the past 8 years. He is married to his beautiful wife, April (Melton), and they have four sweet children, Jesse, Josiah, Anna and Clara. If interested, you can read more of his articles or listen to his sermons at www.biblework.com.

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Be Content

Enjoy this edifying article by my cousin and guest author Heidi Palmer:

Webster’s defines the word content as pleased and satisfied; not needing more. The Bible teaches us in 1 Timothy 6:6 that godliness with contentment is great gain. The passage continues on to say that the LOVE of money is the root of all evil. Lack of contentment often goes beyond our material possessions though!

Paul writes in Phil. 4:10, “For I have learned in whatever state I am to be content.” He wrote this while in prison! Could we have that same attitude in those circumstances? All too often, we are not content with where we are, what we have, or even how we look or feel. I’d guess that our situations are not nearly as bad as the one Paul was in when he made that statement. Let us strive to be like Paul and LEARN to be content.

Many times, we are like the Israelites. God provided them everything they needed, but it was never enough. God rescued them from slavery in Egypt, but soon after they began to find things to complain about. They did not have good water to drink, so they complained to Moses. (Ex. 15:24-25) Then, just a short while later they complained that they didn’t have enough to eat. They even suggested that they would have been better off if they had died by God’s hand in Egypt where they at least had “pots of meat” and were able to eat “bread to the full.” (Exodus 16) How quickly they forgot all that God had done for them!

We need to be more like Esau. Do you remember what his brother Jacob did to him? Jacob tricked their father Isaac into giving him the blessing that was supposed to be for Esau. Later when Esau came out to meet Jacob as he was traveling, Jacob was afraid that Esau was going to attack his family. Jacob sent ahead several animals as a gift for Esau. When Esau saw it, his response was, “I have enough, my brother; keep what you have for yourself.” (Gen. 33:9). Esau could have taken it with the attitude of “I deserve it,” or “it’s the least he could do after he stole my blessing.” So often, our attitude is that way. We think we deserve more, or better instead of being content with what we have.

Is it wrong to desire to be better, or to want to have something nicer than what we have, or even desire to have better health? No, it is not. We can desire a better job. We can want to live somewhere different. We can want to have a newer car. We can want better health. None of these things are wrong. It becomes an issue when our wants and desires for these things are so great that we can think of nothing else. We forget about the blessings we have.

I am reminded of the story of King Midas. He had more gold than anyone in the world, but he never thought it was enough. He had a daughter named Marygold. He wanted her to be the richest princess in the world. One day, he was in his vaults admiring all his gold, and he wished that everything he touched would turn to gold. A stranger that had appeared to him in his vaults said that his wish was granted. He woke up the next morning and started touching items around his room. He was so excited when he realized his wish had come true! He sat down to eat breakfast, and his food turned to gold. He couldn’t eat it. His tried to drink some water, but it too turned to gold. His daughter Marygold came in and noticed that her father was sad, so she ran over and gave him a hug. When he touched her, she became a gold statue. King Midas began to sob. The stranger appeared to him again and asked him if he was happy. King Midas said he was the most miserable man in the world. He said he would give up all the gold he had just to have Marygold back. He had lost all he had that was worth having.

Things of this earth are temporary. Life isn’t always going to go “our” way. Our possessions can be lost, and our health will fail us. We will have suffering. Focus on the good, be thankful for what we have, and pray that we can learn to be content in any situation. But most importantly, remember to “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven….for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matt. 6:20-21) Heaven is our goal. If we spend all of our time focused on everything that is wrong with our lives on this earth, we may miss the ultimate prize!