Archive for June, 2010

If you’re Resting at the River’s Edge with us, reading through the Bible in two years, Friday’s reading included 1 Corinthians 13 – the “love chapter.” I’ve read this passage many, many times. When I read it yesterday, though, for some reason it arrested my attention and I read it much more slowly than normal. I read it as bullet points instead of in paragraph form, and I concentrating on each point. What a challenge this passage provides! Let me share with you the challenge God gave me – the challenge to truly love those God has put in our lives.

1If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

I’ve listened to music that sounded to my ears like clanging cymbals. (Oh, it makes me feel so old to say that.) I like most types of music, but I’ve heard the occasional home band that hasn’t quite found their stride. Perhaps each musician and singer was good, but put together, they couldn’t find the same key or timing. I couldn’t wait for the music to stop. The clashing and discordant noise literally hurt my ears. That’s what my voice sounds like when I am speaking without first having shown my love. That’s what my voice sounds like when I haven’t first proven my love. Ugh. My heart is pierced by the phrase “That’s what my voice sounds like.”

Lord, teach me to demonstrate love before I speak.

2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

Nothing. A vast emptiness. A void. The faith that can move mountains, the gift of being able to see what God is revealing, the ability to understand all mysteries and all knowledge – they all come to nothing – they all have no impact – if I am not operating out of love. Having those things and not having love – I am totally ineffectual – I am nothing.

Lord give me that faith that moves mountains. Enable me to understand the deep truths of Your Word. But first, Lord, give me love for others. Teach me to love as You love.

3If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

No sacrifice has meaning without love. My sacrifices gain nothing for me if I have not sacrificed out of love. When I think of sacrifice, my mind automatically assumes that the sacrifice is made out of love. Not true. Sacrifices are often made out of pride (I’ll sacrifice to show how disciplined or capable I am) or spite (what my mother used to describe as “biting off my nose to spite my face”) or duty. Nothing is gained from those sacrifices. It is the sacrifice made out of love that impacts the world.

4aLove is patient.

Again. Love is patient again. And again, and again, and again. It hopes and waits expectantly – that’s patience.

4bLove is kind.

Kindness has been lost to a large degree in our society. Treating others with respect and a positive attitude – it is a hallmark of love.

4cLove does not envy.

Love is not jealous of the position, achievements or property of others. It rejoices over the blessings others receive without regard for our own situation. Has my annoyingly rich neighbor just gotten a promotion making him even richer? I will not envy, I will rejoice that he is being rewarded for his hard work and abilities.

Lord…help me to rejoice.

4dLove does not boast.

Love cares too much about the other person to boast. When I boast I am elevating myself at the expense of others. That’s not love.

4eLove is not proud.

Pride gets in the way of love. Like boasting, it requires that I elevate myself over others. I can’t serve when I am prideful.

Lord, help me to humble myself in all conversations and all venues.

5aLove is not rude.

Patience and kindness are the antithesis of rudeness. Love is patient and kind. It is not rude – even to those around us who seem to invite us to be rude to them. Love especially smiles upon those people.

5bLove is not self-seeking.

Rather, it seeks the best for others.

5cLove is not easily angered.

Love holds to peace – at the expense of saying all those things we might want to say and of feeling all those things we might want to feel. When we are wronged or someone we love is wronged – love is not easily angered.

5dLove keeps no record of wrongs.

There are no “I told you so’s” in love. There is no grudge-holding in love.

6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

Love does not rejoice at the misfortune of those who have sinned against us.

7aLove always protects.

It doesn’t tell stories that would put others in a bad light. It doesn’t complain about the weaknesses of others. It protects – it shields and covers. (Please don’t interpret this wrongly. Love does not enable bad behavior.)

7bLove always trusts.

Love is not suspicious. It always trusts.

7cLove always hopes.

Hope – to expect with confidence. Love always anticipates the best – it is always waiting and looking for the best to appear. Sometimes I fall into expecting the worst from some people. That’s not love.

7dLove always perseveres.

Love doesn’t give up. It continues to be patient and kind. It continues to protect and trust. It continues to keep no record of wrongs and it continues to hope.

8aLove never fails.

One of the meanings for the word translated “fails” is “to be without effect.” Love never becomes ineffective. It always has an effect. Whether we see that effect or not, we can know that love is changing the situation and the person.

There are things that my husband is not that I would like him to be. Surprise! Or should I say “no surprise!” No single person is all we want them to be. I can choose to focus on those things he is not, but I wouldn’t be practicing love. I could keep track of all the times he fails me, but I would not be demonstrating love. I could lose patience with him because yet again he did things his way instead of my way, but I would not be showing him love. People don’t “fall out of love” – they quit practicing love.

Lord, there are many things I could benefit from practicing. Help me to make practicing love second nature – something I do daily.

It’s easy (ok, relatively easy) to apply this list to my husband, who has built up credits beyond credits in the “love bank;” but God has also called me to apply this list to those who are overdrawn in their love bank account. God has called me to apply this list to those who have haven’t even opened an account yet and to those who probably never plan to open an account.

Life gets wearisome. Love always hopes, perseveres and never fails. Keeping love alive takes a bit of conscious effort, but it shields us from the weariness that comes from living around those who are not practicing love.

8bBut where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away…13And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

That which we do out of love “remains” – it never ceases to have an effect, it endures, it lives on.

Father, give me a heart of love toward those around me. Let me see through eyes of love and hear through ears of love. But mostly, Lord, help me to respond as love would have me respond. Make me a mountain-mover, but first make me a lover.

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A business contact ask this question in a survey:

Relating to ‘blogging’ – tell me one thing that would enhance the way you presently take your message to the customer. What is it right now that you can’t do, or aren’t doing, that would totally motivate you and bring your customers closer?

My answer came pretty quickly because I’ve been thinking about it for awhile:

I would like to have the equipment, software and knowledge/capability to do web videos well. I’d like to add greeting, motivational, teaching and “how to” videos to my company website and my ministry blog.

As I typed the last word of my answer, I realized that it wasn’t really the true answer. So I added this as a second paragraph:

That’s the practical answer – the real answer is probably the time to learn and implement it!

And when I typed the last word to that answer…God spoke to me. He whispered into my mind what we’ve heard over and over again –

“You make time for those things you consider most important. What are you choosing to make time for?”

Yes, I’ve heard it many times, but hearing it from God carries a little more weight (yeah, like a LOT more weight!).

This was not a condemnation, it was a gentle reminder. I serve a God who allows me ample time for rest (in fact He’d like me to take a whole day out of every seven to rest, enjoy His presence and His creation – but that’s another blog). He’s not a relentless task master. He wants me to live purposefully, choosing to spend my time wisely. Yet I easily fall into letting the urgent overtake the important.

Falling a step further, I develop the mindset that accepts the premise that I am too busy to do _____________ (fill in the blank with the pressure of unfulfilled tasks and dreams). Holding to that premise brings unnecessary pressure and irresponsible relief.

The Burden of Busy-ness
Living under the belief that I am too busy for _____________ brings with it a condemnation, a heaviness, and ultimately a weariness. There are so many things I want to do, but I am too busy to do them. The mindset says I am always too busy…so I quit adding fun and adventure to my calendar or list of things to do. It might be a business adventure, an adventure with God, or fun with family and friends – they all fall into the pit of “I’m too busy.” So my life becomes smaller – full of doing more of the same things because there’s surely  no time to add new and different things.

Science teaches us that emotional experiences (both positive and negative) release norepinephrine into our brains which enhances our brains’ ability to make connections – in other words, adventures make us smarter!  But when I’m too busy for an adventure, my world shrinks and shrinks and shrinks – physically, emotionally and eventually mentally. Pretty soon I’m too tired and too depressed to think of anything fun and adventurous to do.

The Convenient Excuse of Busy-ness
Conversely, living under the belief that I am too busy for _____________ also carries with it the constantly available and convenient excuse that releases me from any new obligations. When “I’m too busy” becomes my automatic response, I not only pass up the opportunities for adventures, I also pass up the opportunities to serve others – especially when it would be inconvenient to do so. They fly by without me intentionally giving them consideration. I become the priest or Levite who walked by the man who had been beaten and left half dead instead of being the good Samaritan who spent some of his time and money to help the man (Luke 10:30-37). The priest and Levite, perhaps because they were too caught up in their own lives, missed the opportunity to be the hands of Jesus extended to the man. I miss opportunities to be Christ to those people God puts in my life when “I’m too busy” is my constant thought companion. And my life becomes smaller in the process.

A Full Life
My life is never bigger and fuller than when I am fulfilling God’s purposes for me on this earth. When I own the perspective that I am always too busy, I miss those purposes and my life becomes wearisome. Today’s question on a business survey – or rather my response to it – reminded me that I don’t want to live out of the “I don’t have time for that” mantra. Beginning today, I am hoping to change my thought patterns to consider opportunities and reject or accept them based on God’s plans, not my schedule. I hope to strike the phrase “I’m too busy” from my mental responses and replace it with “Yes, let’s do it!” or “That sounds great, but it’s not God’s best for me right now.”

I think Moses faced the same challenge. He is the writer of Psalm 90. Here’s verse 12 in two different translations:

Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Psalm 90:12 (NIV)

Teach us to make the most of our time,
so that we may grow in wisdom.

Psalm 90:12 (NLT)

That’s my prayer today. Lord – teach me to make the most of my time so that I might grow in wisdom. Remove the “I’m too busy” perspective, the “I don’t have time” drag on my life and replace it with a sense of adventure, discovering Your purposes for each day and pursuing them with an undivided heart.

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One of my favorite movies is Guess Who with Ashton Kutcher, Zoe Saldana, Bernie Mac and Judith Scott. It’s a 2005 remake of the 1967 film Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner with Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy & Sidney Poitier.

In Guess Who, Theresa brings her boyfriend Simon home to meet her parents. Theresa and her parents are black. Theresa neglects to tell her parents that Simon is white, complicating all the relationships. Overriding the issue of race is Theresa’s father’s distrust of Simon. After a dinner ruckus that many consider the funniest part of the movie, Theresa goes to her father to talk. Every time I watch this scene I am stunned by its strength and truth. It is a perfect message for Father’s Day.

Theresa confesses to her father that she is afraid to marry a white man. She loves him and he’s a wonderful guy, but she’s experienced hateful words and looks when they are in public and she is afraid. Here’s the interchange that impacted me so strongly:

Theresa: I need you to tell me that it’s OK to be with him.
Her Father: Baby, me telling you it’s OK is not going to change the world.
Theresa: But it would change my world. Daddy, it’ll change my world if I know you’re behind us.

“But it would change my world.” Somehow, knowing that we have our father’s support, approval and blessing changes our world. Knowing that we have someone behind us gives us courage to face the battles in front of us.

Yesterday I was organizing some old photos and I came across the envelope that holds all the memorabilia associated with my father’s death. I don’t think I’ve looked through it since my dad died a few years ago, and I didn’t go looking for it yesterday – God’s timing sure is interesting, isn’t it? One of the things in the envelope was the printed version of his online guestbook. I read all the entries, and here’s part of my husband’s entry:

“Hey there, old man!” That’s how Pat and I always greeted each other. My father died of cancer when I was 12 years old. For the last 29 years, Pat Parks was as close to being a father to me as anyone. I always felt like he had my back. He wasn’t one to hover over us, but I  always knew that he was watching out for me…I look forward to seeing him again – on the Other Side – and saying, “Hey there, old man!” (emphasis mine)

Dads – let your kids know that you have their backs. Don’t hover, but let them know you are behind them – cheering, encouraging and backing up in a fight when necessary. (And be sure to tell your daughters how smart and beautiful they are!)

The wonderful thing about being a child of God, is that He is a perfect Father. Whether our earthly fathers were supportive or not, we can stand with confidence and face the battles in front of us because He always has our backs. He promised He would. And we can bank on that.

18Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Matthew 28:18-30

5bfor he has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” 6So we can say with confidence,
“The Lord is my helper;
I will not be afraid.
What can anyone do to me?”

Hebrews 13:5b-6

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But you are a shield around me, O LORD;
you bestow glory on me and lift up my head.

Psalm 3:3

David wrote this Psalm at one of the low points in his life. He was running from his son Absalom who was trying to steal the Kingdom from him. Rather than stay and fight to retain his leadership of the kingdom, David runs to avoid losing his own life, the lives of his leadership team and bloodshed in the city of Jerusalem. (2 Samuel 15:14)

An aside: I paused in my writing to discuss David and Absalom with my husband. His summary is perhaps better than mine. Here’s how he describes David’s thoughts at the time: “My son Absalom wants to kill me and become king in my place. Let’s run for our lives…But wait! I have to write this song first!” It made me laugh out loud!

Phil can be irreverent at times, and it’s one of the things that make him such a great teacher. People remember the crazy things he says for quite a long time because of the way he puts them. It’s a gift I don’t have.

Imagine how hurt, embarrassed and afraid David must be. Out of that emotional place, He wrote Psalm 3. When I read verse 3, I was reminded of what we learned from Romans 8:30 in part 4 of my series titled “The Me I Don’t Even Recognize.”

29For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
Romans 8:29-30

This passage teaches that those people who come to know Christ have been called, justified and glorified. (Read the whole series if you missed it. There’s some great content about those words.) The word “glorified” relates to our Psalm and means praised, celebrated, held in high honor, and to cause the dignity and worth of some person or thing to become manifest or acknowledged. And from the context of Romans 8:30, we see that God has already done it!

David didn’t have the privilege of having the book of Romans to study from, but he knew the Lord so intimately that in the midst of being chased down by his son, he was able to write the very same thing as Paul: That God bestows glory on His children. Imagine how important that was to David at that point in his life. He was saying “Father, my son may be trying to ruin everything I’ve done in my life and is trying to kill me, but You hold me in high honor. You celebrate me. You lift my head when it falls to my chest in defeat or shame.”

What God did for David, He will also do for you, friend.

I usually interpret the first line of the verse – “You are a shield around me, O Lord” – to relate to protection from physical harm, but seeing it today and coupling it with the second half of the verse, I wonder if David also had in mind that God is the shield around his emotions – the One who constantly encourages so that David is not defeated in his spirit.

I need that God around me, sometimes more often than I’d like to admit. Life has a way of beating us down – there is always more to do and there are always setbacks; discouragement is always nearby. But for those of us who love the Lord, we have a shield against that discouragement. He bestows us with glory. He lifts our heads. He is passionately in love with us.

My walk with the Lord was revolutionized when I came to understand that God is my greatest cheerleader. I mean no disrespect to the Lord – He is so very much more than that, of course – but for the longest time I saw Him as my personal judge – the One who constantly evaluated my performance and found it lacking. I hope that’s not where you are, friend. I hope you’ve come to know Him as I have – the One who sees me as I will one day be, and who is ever encouraging me to become that person. He has already bestowed glory on me; He has already made my worth known; He has already celebrated who I am and He holds me in high honor – already!

He is the God who looks down from heaven and smiles to Himself as He sees me pursue Him in the midst of the life He has given me. He looks down and says “See her – she’s my girl – she’s doing great – she’s so faithful, so loving, so kind, so smart, so passionate, so talented, so…….” Now of course, I’m not all those things – yet! But as He shields me from the discouragement that would be so easy to succumb to, He lifts my head and I can begin to believe that I really am those things.

What He does for me, He is happy to do for you. If you don’t know Him, I encourage you to get to know Him and make Him Lord of your life. He will be your greatest cheerleader, your shield and the lifter of your head.

For a clear presentation of what it means to know God, click here.
For a discussion about what it means to make Him Lord of your life, click here.

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As we finished reading Judges, there was one phrase that jumped out because of its frequent use:

In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit. Judges 17:6

In those days Israel had no king. Judges 18:1

In those days Israel had no king. Judges 19:1

In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit. Judges 21:25

If you recall the reading, intermingled with these verses is a description of horrible decline among the Israelites. The sentence seems to be both an indictment and an explanation of their behavior.

I looked up the word “king” in the dictionary. Of the many definitions provided, I found this one to be interesting:

King: One that holds a preeminent position; especially: A chief among competitors (Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary)

Clearly the Israelites had rejected the Lord as their king. He no longer held a preeminent position in their lives – “everyone did as he saw fit.” They no longer asked the Lord what He wanted them to do (until after they got themselves into trouble by running headlong into whatever situation their emotions took them). And while He IS chief among all competitors (so much so that anything and anyone else can hardly be called a competitor because they lag so far behind in excellence and power), the Israelites chose to place other gods and their own desires above Him.

I am reminded of my last blog in which I quoted the following Scripture:

Where there is no vision/revelation/prophecy, the people perish/cast off restraint
Proverbs 29:18 (a combination of KJV, NIV and NRSV)

When the Israelites turned from the Lord, they lost the vision and revelation that He provided and it led to the people casting off all restraint – “everyone did as he saw fit.”

Who is your king today? Who (or what) holds the preeminent position in your life? To whom or what are you giving your allegiance today?
I pray that it is the King of all Kings, the Lord of all Lords, the only true God who is full of mercy and grace and has purposes and plans for your life that go way beyond all the other good things you’re pursuing.

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Phil (my husband) and I are in the midst of what we’re calling our personal/spiritual/business/ministry strategic planning retreat. Yeah, it’s a mouthful, but we’re (or at least I’m) feeling a bit overwhelmed and “fractured” lately. I know it’s not how God wants me to feel. So we set aside a few days to seek the Lord for each area of our life – to determine how He wants us to move forward and/or what He wants us to weed out. Unfortunately, the retreat is falling during a time when Phil’s not feeling well and it has been interrupted by times of extreme “mal-ness” and a number of medical tests. I keep reminding myself that God knows the schedule and He will accomplish His will during this time for us. Maybe we’ll need another retreat in a few weeks and if that’s the case, He’ll provide the time and venue. Or perhaps we’ll accomplish all we need to accomplish despite the interruptions. I’m leaving it up to him and refusing to stress about it.

Anyway (all that was an aside, really), on our first morning, after a good time of worship we started by writing all the various areas of our life on sheets of paper – one said “Us” (referring to our life together and our relationship); another said “family” (referring to our extended family); we included sheets for our church, our various secular jobs/businesses and our various ministries (including Apprehending Grace Ministries). We then began to make notes on each sheet of paper about that area of our lives. Some pages only had a more detailed description of what that area encompassed, some had dreams for that area of our life, some just had a task list. Then we prayed over the sheets of paper and it was time to take a break. Later in the day I typed the information into my laptop.

The next morning while Phil was having a stress test, I began to look at the information and realized that for one of the areas we had identified:

  • dreams & visions
  • issues & challenges
  • tasks
  • questions
  • other comments

That seemed like a good approach, so I began to organize the comments under the other areas into these categories. What I found was revealing – it wasn’t something I didn’t know and probably hadn’t acknowledged at some point, but still, seeing it on paper was revealing: There are some areas of our lives for which we have no dreams or vision – they are simply “obligations.” I was grieved when I realized this. I don’t want my life to be about obligations; I want it to be about pursuing dreams and visions. Phil doesn’t want his life to be about obligations; he wants it to be about pursuing dreams and visions. I’m guessing you don’t want your life to be about obligations, but about dreams and visions. And I’m guessing that most of us have areas where we have no vision. In those areas of obligation, we just do what we have to do. Yet I believe that is not how God wants us to live. If He has put an area of responsibility into my life, He has a vision for what He wants me to do in that area. Even if it’s an area that I’d call an obligation.

Finally, this morning we pulled the lists out again and we began to look at those areas in which we have no dreams. First we realized that we do, indeed, have some dreams for them – they had simply been hidden under the mountain of obligation and everyday challenges. We had allowed frustrations and disappointments to obscure the dreams and visions. Secondly, we asked God to give us dreams and vision where we lacked them and to strengthen the dreams and visions we have. We prayed and are going to continue to pray for God’s vision for our lives in these areas. He has started to reveal some vision and we are believing for stronger vision in the future. Additionally, we’re going to continue to put those visions in front of us and pray into those visions. I am getting excited about how we will approach those areas as they change in our minds and spirits from obligations to areas where we purposefully live out the vision God has given us.

Throughout this process, one song and one verse have been running through my mind. First the song. “He’s Real” was written by Russell Fragal and recorded by Hillsongs in 1995.

I got dreams, turn them into plans
Too big for human hands
Trust Him you’ll see
He’s got all the power you need!

I want to make plans that are greater than me – because quite frankly, any plans I make that I can achieve without the Lord aren’t really worth achieving. I want a life spent pursuing God’s best – and that means living His plans, not mine.

And then there’s the verse. Do you know where I’m going? I’m going to Proverbs 29:18a. Here it is in several different translations:

Where there is no vision, the people perish (KJV)

Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint (NIV)

Where there is no prophecy, the people cast off restraint (NRSV)

As I look at my sheets of paper – the various areas of my life – I find that those areas where I have little or no vision are floundering – they are dying a slow death. Further, they are the areas where I am most undisciplined – I have cast off restraints. Lacking vision leads to lacking purpose, which leads to lacking discipline.

Socrates said:

The unexamined life is not worth living.

We’ve found that to be true this week as we’ve pursued some life planning. Give it a try. I thought I needed to set aside three days for it. It turns out that I learned a lot in about five hours spread out over three days. And I’m expecting great rewards from it.

I pray God’s blessing on your time of planning. May He reveal His plans and purposes, dreams and visions to you for all areas of your life.

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In yesterday’s blog, we read that the angel of the Lord greeted Gideon as “mighty warrior.” We learned that the word translated as “warrior” is chayil and means “strength, might, efficiency, wealth and army.”

We find the word chayil used in a curious place in an unexpected way in the book of Proverbs. You’ll find it right there in Proverbs 31:10. I’m guessing that most of the women reading this are groaning and crying out “Nooooo! Please, don’t make me read about this totally perfect woman that I can’t compete with!” That was my perspective for a very long time. Learning about the word “chayil” helped change it.

A Verse in Many Translations

Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.
Proverbs 31:10 (KJV)

How does that make you feel, ladies? I like the part about rubies, but how do you feel about the “virtuous” part? Well, the longer I know the Lord, the more attractive “virtuous” is to me, but to tell you the truth, virtuous brings to mind words like prim and proper and…well, boring.

A wife of noble character, who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.
Proverbs 31:10 (NIV)

A capable wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.
Proverbs 31:10 (NRSV)

Who can find a virtuous and capable wife? She is worth more than precious rubies.
Proverbs 31:10 (NLT)

If you can find a truly good wife, she is worth more than precious gems!
Proverbs 31:10 (TLB)

The word that is translated as virtuous, noble, capable, truly good and excellent is chayil – which we’ve already said means “strength, might, efficiency, wealth and army.” There’s nothing prim and proper or wimpy about the word. In all honesty, it improves my self-esteem to know that God wants me to be strong, mighty, efficient and having great influence (wealthy).

There’s something interesting about the word chayil and how it’s been translated in the Bible.

What’s in a Word?

The word is used 249 times in 233 verses in the Old testament. It is only translated “virtue” or “virtuous” 4 times, always when referring to women. Hmmm. Whom else does it refer to, and how else is it translated? Well, generally, the word connotes power of some kind. Based on KJV, here’s how it’s translated:


Translated As

Approx. #
of Times

Army, Armies, Soldiers, Band of Men, Forces, Company, Able Men

81
Valor, Valiant, Valiantest, Valiantly (related to men)

61

Power, Might, Mighty, Strong, Strength

31

Wealth, Substance, Riches, Property/Goods, Worthy, Worthily

31

Host

28

Virtuous, Virtuously (women or daughters)

4

Aloud

3

War, Activity

3

Let’s use some of those words in Proverbs 31:

A powerful woman, a woman of valor is more precious than rubies. A woman of strength, who can find her?
(Sandy Hovatter translation)

That gives me a different view of myself.

I looked up virtuous in the dictionary and found:

Adj. 1. Conforming to moral and ethical principles; morally excellent; upright. 2. Chaste, as a person. 3. Archaic. Able to produce effects; potent (emphasis mine)

The King James translation, uses the word virtuous to translate chayil. In today’s language, that means morally excellent or chaste; in the time the translation was made, it most likely meant able to produce effects. Morally excellent is a wonderful, Godly thing to be. I’m just not so sure it was what the author of the Proverb was intending when he used chayil to describe what we’ve come to call The Proverbs 31 Woman.

This study, along with a study of God creating woman as a “helper” to Adam revitalized how I saw myself as a Godly woman. Perhaps another time I’ll bring you the “helper” lesson. For now, spend some time thinking about God’s Proverbs 31 Woman.

And be blessed!

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11The angel of the LORD came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. 12When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.”

13“But sir,” Gideon replied, “if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our fathers told us about when they said, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the LORD has abandoned us and put us into the hand of Midian.”

14The LORD turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”

15“But Lord,” Gideon asked, “how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”

16The LORD answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together.”

17Gideon replied, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, give me a sign that it is really you talking to me.
Judges 6:11-17


2 Lessons of Hope


Did you catch Gideon’s perspective and attitude?

He is living his life in the midst of a terrorist state. Verses 3 through 5 of the chapter paint the picture for us:

3Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples invaded the country. 4They camped on the land and ruined the crops all the way to Gaza and did not spare a living thing for Israel, neither sheep nor cattle nor donkeys. 5They came up with their livestock and their tents like swarms of locusts. It was impossible to count the men and their camels; they invaded the land to ravage it.
Judges 6:3-5

Imagine living in a place where every time you are ready to receive your paycheck, terrorists invade your business and steal your check, then ruin all the equipment and set the building on fire. OK, so the first time that happens you’re pretty devastated, but you pick yourself up and you build again and you work and work until you’ve earned enough money to actually take some money out of the business. Or maybe you find someone else who has built again and you work for them and you are about to get your first paycheck in quite a long time. In either scenario, just as you’re about to receive your paycheck, terrorists strike again. They steal your paycheck and all money in the building, again demolish the property and set fire to the building. What do you do? How do you feel?

That’s where Gideon lived. He was doing the best he could for his family, but he was clearly not at the top of his game spiritually. He was secretly threshing wheat in a wine press to feed his family. I imagine as he sat there alone that he struggled to hold onto the faith of his fathers. I imagine that the voices in his head were leading him to despair instead of hope.

You can hardly blame him for his responses to the angel –

“If the Lord…why? Where are all His wonders…?” (v. 13)
“How can I…” (v. 15)
“If…give me a sign…” (v.17)

Yep! Gideon is at a very low point spiritually. I’ve been there. I’m guessing you have as well.

It’s fascinating that this is the person God chooses to use to save the Israelites.
Lesson #1: God can use us in the midst of our own personal crisis of faith!


Did you catch how the angel addressed Gideon?

Gideon – who is at an emotional and spiritual low point and who is hiding from the enemy in terror – is addressed by the angel of the Lord as “mighty warrior.” The word that is translated “warrior” is chayil and means “strength, might, efficiency, wealth and army.” It is often translated valor. (Tomorrow I’ll blog about more about this word – it’s pretty exciting.) The angel makes his point even stronger by adding an adjective (gibbor) that means “strong, mighty.”

I repeat – the angel of the Lord called Gideon “mighty warrior.” I imagine Gideon looked around to see who the angel was talking to. Given his current mindset and experience, I wouldn’t be surprised if a moment of terror seized his heart as he imagined that the angel was talking to someone about to steal his family’s food again.

Lesson #2: God sees us as the finished product, not as we are in the midst of our failures.
Yes, He sees our sins and our failures. But He sees BEYOND our sins and our failures to the person we truly are. Our sin and failure does not need to define us for all our life.


Perhaps my real-life example helps illustrate this:
Yesterday, I was experiencing a moment of weak faith, wandering about mentally and emotionally and fighting against despair about my future (I’ll blog about this in a few days). But even in that moment, God knew that I would skirt the brink of despair and settle on the Rock of Hope. He would have been totally correct to address me as “Rock of Hope settler” had He spoken to me as I was resting at “Despair Place” because that is where I ended the day.

“Mighty warrior” is the person God saw in Gideon. “Rock of Hope settler” is the person He sees in me.

Where are you, friend? Are you hiding from the world, having been terrorized by the enemy? God can still use you. He sees beyond your weaknesses and failures and even beyond your sin. Be encouraged. Gideon went on, after a bit of coaxing by the Lord, to be that “mighty warrior” the angel found hiding in the wine press. You can too.

28And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

31What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? …

37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
Romans 8:28-37

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I absolutely loved this video…what an impact to further understand it’s origin.

Grab a cup of tea and take a 9 minute God-break!

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Today’s reading included Galatians 3. I am challenged each time I read this chapter – it is one of my favorite chapters of Scripture (but then I think I write something like that in every blog!).

1You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? 3Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? 4Have you suffered so much for nothing—if it really was for nothing? 5Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?

6Consider Abraham: “He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” 7Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham.
Galatians 3:1-7

Paul speaks to me and says “Foolish Sandy! Are you so easily deceived? Did you receive the Lord by your good works or by believing that Jesus is the Son of God and that He died for your sins? If God provides salvation through His Son Jesus, won’t He provide all else through Him? Are you trying to earn those other things on your own?”

And I am challenged to let go of striving and take hold of faith. I am challenged to see that my efforts are a slap in the face or a turning of my back on the One who gives freely.

Paul goes on to explain to the Galatians and to me, that the promises of God came to the Hebrews, not through the law, but through His covenant with Abraham. It is not obedience to the law that enables them to receive the promises of God, it is through the covenant that God initiated and made with them. Similarly, it is not through my works that I will receive God’s promises and the inheritance He has promised me, it is through the new covenant He has initiated with me.

1When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless. 2I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”

3Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, 4“As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. 5No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. 6I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. 7I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.”
Genesis 17:1-7

God initiated the covenant with Abraham – it is by God’s grace that the covenant was established – His choosing, His reaching to Abraham, His goodness. It was not because of Abraham’s efforts or goodness that he became a party to the covenant, an inheritor of the promises.

God told Abraham to leave his country, his people and his father’s household and “go to the land I will show you” (Genesis 12:1). Scripture records simply “So Abram left, as the Lord had told him” (Genesis 12:4a). Abraham demonstrated his faith by leaving all that was familiar and following the Lord.

Likewise, God initiated His covenant with me by His grace. I didn’t go to God and ask for Christ to die for me. I didn’t reach out to Him before He reached out to me.

9This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
1 John 4:9-10

I demonstrate my faith the same way Abraham demonstrated his faith – by leaving what I know and following God. By saying “Yes, Lord” with my feet and my hands and my heart and my head.

Recognize that following and saying “yes, Lord” means that we are not walking in front of Him, rather He is walking in front of us. And it doesn’t mean that the responsibility for the success of any one thing or everything I am doing doesn’t live or die with me. To believe that it does – or to act in such a way that reveals that I believe it does – puts me in the ranks of the foolish Galatians.

However, when I understand that my actions demonstrate the faith that I have and when I grab hold of the confidence that God has given me His many promises – where is there room for striving? There is none. There is only room for faithful obedience. Faithful obedience has reflects that we know that we know that we know that God is in control and there is no place and no need for my striving. Faithful obedience is full of hope and confidence that each step is a step toward the good things that God has prepared in advance for us to do.

8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—9not by works, so that no one can boast. 10For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Ephesians 2:8-9

God has prepared the works for us to do, friends, and He has prepared us to do them. There is no place for striving in it. Reading this passage this morning prompted me to pray. Including that prayer seems an appropriate way to end this blog. I hope that it is your prayer as well.

Lord, thank You for Your grace. I am awed and humbled and blessed beyond measure by it. Thank you for releasing me from the need for striving. Forgive me when I forget that it’s all about You and all about Your plans. And beyond that, Lord, forgive me when I make it about me by trying to achieve on my own. Help me to apprehend the life you have created me to live not through earthly means, but by following You.

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