Another mass school shooting happened in our nation this week. A high school in Parkland, Florida was the scene of 17 senseless deaths.
It seems like a bad nightmare is being replayed. For many of us it is almost too painful to watch; too painful to look at the pictures of the victims, never mind the videos of the event. Yet, we can’t just pretend that nothing is happening all around us. We’d like to. We’d like to forget and just move on. But the cycle continues: a mass shooting – outrage and lots of comments on social media – some tears and some prayers – little if any action – forget and move on – some time passes – another mass shooting.
Many have ideas of how to break the cycle and stop this insanity. Few do anything, expecting someone else to act and fix it. As Christians we must ask “What does the LORD require of us?” The Bible points us to many places one of which is Micah 6:8:
“O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right (act justly), to love mercy (kindness), and to walk humbly with your God. “ (NLT)Read different versions here.
Do what is right – act justly and live righteously, following God’s ways in relationship with him and with people. It means to live unselfishly by putting other’s needs before your own. Let your “talk” be known by your “walk”. Live authentically. Write letters to government officials expressing your views. Respond to hatred and evil with love as Jesus taught us.
Love mercy and kindness – show your children the way of the Lord by how you live. Talk to them about how to be kind to others.Do not tolerate bullying. Reach out to the lonely and forgotten. Consider getting involved in your child’s or grandchild’s school. Pay attention to the other children in the classroom. Click here for one teacher’s strategy that speak volumes.
Walk humbly with your God – exemplify a life of prayer that earnestly seeks God in knowing what to do and how to live. Pray for others. Pray for your child’s or grandchild’s school, administrators, teachers and schoolmates. Do this regularly.
Our nation has lost its way. We have taken God out of the school. It’s more than time to stand up as Christians and say “enough”. We do this by how we live. We will pray. We will believe God and trust him for his protection. We will live lives that honor God and teach our children to do the same. We will reach out to others in Christ’s love and seek to bring his comfort and healing to those that are hurting. We will act in the school and within government. We will not sit idly by, forgetting the lives that have been lost. Right now we pray for Parkland, Florida and we will continue to do so, asking God to intervene in that community and bring his light into the darkness. We “weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15)
Don’t go it alone! Gather others to pray and act with you – even two or three can make an impact. A group of people can encourage each other and help keep one another focused and accountable. It’s too easy to start and then quit. Perseverance is key. Here are some suggestions on how to start a prayer watch written by Mike and Cindy Jacobs.
Women of the Word is committed to pray for our children and grandchildren and to teach them the ways of the LORD. We desire to raise up godly offspring and encourage the generations following us to live out Micah 6:8.
This blog is based on an excerpt from Lois Tverberg’s latest book “Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus”. You can read the first chapter free here.
Did you know that you can now order a copy of a Bible translation called “Your Personalized Bible” which will insert your name in more than seven thousand verses? Here are a few verses from my copy:
Lois like a sheep has gone astray. Lois has turned to her own way; and the Lord has laid on Him Lois’s iniquity. (Isa. 53:6)
Lois is the light of the world. (Matt. 5:14)
You have made Lois a little lower than God,
And crowned Lois with glory and honor.
You make Lois a ruler over the works of Your hands.
You have put all things under Lois’ feet. (Ps. 8:5–6)
You might think I’d be a fan of this style of study. I’m single, never married. I’m self-employed. I work by myself out of my own home office. I have no boss, no husband, no children. I’m queen of my own pleasant little world.
I’ve heard the siren call of individualism and succumbed as much as anyone, so you’d think I’d want to read my Bible that way. The more I study the Bible, however, the more I’m realizing the many ways that a me-o-centric approach misunderstands the text.
Take, for instance, this Bible’s translation of 1 Corinthians 3:16, “Lois is a temple of God.” Often people read this line as saying, “Your body is a sacred ‘deity-shrine’ and you must pamper it accordingly.”
Paul, however, wasn’t trying to convince us to apply more UV-blocking moisturizer and eat more leafy green vegetables. Rather, he was telling the Corinthians that all together they were the temple of God, and that they were being built together into one dwelling place for his Spirit. Pagans had many temples, but the true God had only one. They were the “house,” the beit that God had promised to David—not just a structure but a lineage, a family. Paul’s focus was not on each person individually but rather on the body of believers as a whole.
Lois Tverberg holds a Ph.D in biology and was a college professor. While in a Bible study class she became interested in studying the Bible in it’s cultural context. Discovering the answers to head-scratching questions and sharing the “ah-hah” moments with others became a passion. She began learning Hebrew and Greek, studying in the land of Israel, and exploring recent scholarship on Jesus’ first-century Jewish world. Ultimately, she left a life in academia to devote herself full-time to teaching and writing on the topic, and now has been at it for almost twenty years. She has authored five books and also directs the En-Gedi Resource Center, an educational ministry.
Lois will be the speaker at “Through the Eyes of Jesus”, a Bible study seminar for men and women in Janesville, Wisconsin April 13 & 14, 2018. Early Bird deadling is March 19, 2018. Registration includes Saturday lunch. Our time together will include worship, teaching, and practical application via round-table discussion. You will receive materials to take home with you for ongoing study. Information here.
I have been spending a lot of time in the book ofHaggai(ESV) over the last several weeks, reading it in several different versions of the Bible, studying some of the words in Hebrew and asking the Lord to bring revelation. What is HE saying? What does it mean for Women of the Word? Here are some things I gleaned:
It’s good to “Give careful thought to your ways” (Haggai 1:4 & 7 NIV). Am I changing more into the image of Jesus? Do I reflect His likeness to others more than I did a year ago? Is the fruit of the Spirit evident in my life? If not, I must sincerely take time before the Lord and ask Him to examine my heart and motives and be willing to make adjustments as He directs.
Obey the voice of the Lord and fear (reverence) the Lord (Haggai 1:12). Obedience results in blessing and peace. It also affects others because nothing happens in a vacuum. The Body of Christ is a community.
Know that God is with us (Haggai 1:13, Haggai 1:4 & 5). Jesus echoed this when He said “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)
The Lord STIRRED (ESV) up the spirit of Zerubbabel (governor), Joshua (high priest), and all the remnant of the people (Haggai 1:14). In the NLT the word stirred is translated SPARKED! It means to arouse and awaken. Are you catching what God is doing? He is working on three levels: governmentally, in the Church, and among the people. HE is doing this in 2018!
Three times the Lord says “Be strong” (Haggai 2:4). He says it to Zerubbabel (governor of Judah), Joshua (the high priest), and the people. He’s not just saying it to the leaders! HELLO! Please hear me. He’s saying it to YOU and me!
We tend to look back at the “former glory” or the “glory days.” The book of Haggai is about the Jewish people returning from exile in Babylon. They are attempting to rebuild the destroyed temple of Solomon. But they become disinterested, discouraged and dissastified. They were more interested in building their own houses rather than the house of the Lord. Once they did start building they became discouraged because it was taking a long time and they had to fight against enemy interference. The older generation who had seen the First Temple was dissastified with the Second Temple because it didn’t have the splendor of Solomon’s temple. For us this means we must stop looking at what “church” or “the ministry” looked like in the past. We judge by our eyes. God is interested in building a dwelling place for Himself within us (individually and corporately). Let’s stop looking at the “former glory” (Haggai 2:3). He promises that that the future glory will be greater than the past (Haggai 2:9). For baby-boomers, like me, that tells me I ought to be encouraging and mentoring the millenials and future generations to live authentically and passionately for God.
God is shaking the heavens and the earth (all nations), but He has all resources at His disposal to build His dwelling place among men (Haggai 2:6 – 9).
God has made an everlasting covenant of peace with us, His dwelling place, and He affirms it again (Haggai 2:9).
If I were to summarize these OT verses in NT terms, I would say “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). Jesus tells us 6 times in this chapter “do not be anxious.” Anxiety is rampant in the world and in the church. We must actively live out “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6 ESV) Then we can expect that the “peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7 ESV)
As a result of studying the book of Haggai (ESV) I’ve made some decisions. I will NOT be disinterested, disfocused, discouraged, nor dissastified. I will NOT give into anxiety. I will seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and I will get to work building the dwelling place of the Lord in myself, the church and in Women of the Word in whatever ways He shows me. Will you join me?
The cell phone rang at 2:00 AM, waking me from a sound sleep. A call at that hour is never good news and this one didn’t disappoint. It was about my son and the caller gave me news that rocked my world and placed me on the prodigal road along with a multitude of other moms. How did we get here? How is it that we gave our children the greatest treasure possible, how to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the compass of His Word for all of life’s journey and they have turned their backs and thrown it away?
I received Jesus at the age of 22. I was not raised in a Christ-following home but my mom gave me what she could. There was a God and He should be honored on Sundays. I have grown up with a religious perspective of God, church on Sunday and the 10 commandments but didn’t learn that a personal relationship with Jesus was possible until graduate school. I was thankful that I knew the Savior prior to meeting my husband and starting a family. I was eager to base my marriage on Biblical principles and raise our family according to the ways of the Lord. We were first generation believers and had no modeling in our own childhood families. After our two sons were born, there were nightly prayers, Sunday school, Christian school and camp. Music and television were closely monitored. The family budget was tight and we watched the Lord provide in miraculous ways. I loved hearing my son’s questions and observations and enjoyed their humor about life. Both of our sons were developing a personal faith in Jesus of their own! As we sailed through childhood and then the teen years, I privately congratulated myself that we avoided the usual heartbreaks of other families. We were raising our kids the right way!
When other parents hit rough patches in child rearing I thought….”those parents are getting the fruit of their labors”. What do you expect if your family is worshipping soccer on Sunday instead of the Savior”? I was so judgmental! Many years later, I learned that the issue is not so black and white. Godly parents can have rebellious adult children who don’t honor the Lord and His commands. Look at God, the perfect parent. He had a broken heart over Adam and Eve and Judas to name a few.
God was and continues to humble me. After both sons graduated from Bible College and worked in the youth ministry, I thought I was home free. They are grown and walking with the Lord. Now, I will enjoy them as young adults and await marriage and grandchildren. Was I in for a shock! The enemy set his trap and little by little, my sons began to follow worldly pleasures.
So after the 2:00am phone call, there have been a series of events that have caused a long painful road of broken dreams and unanswered prayers. At times the sense of failure, shame and brokenness has been more that my mother’s heart can bear. Although my husband was heart-broken, I noticed that he did not experience the prodigal journey the same way I did. For moms it’s a deeply personal sense of shame, brokenness and failure. The mother-child bond, given by the Lord to protect and nurture a little one to adulthood can be overwhelmingly painful when living with a prodigal. Many times I would meet other moms in church or out shopping and face the inevitable question, “how are the kids”? and I would raise my mask and respond, “oh, they are doing just great”. I hated it! How did we get to this place? Where did I go wrong? Where are you God and why aren’t you answering my prayers?
As a Christian leader, I have been aware that there are many hurting moms whose children are not following the Lord. Now I had joined the sisterhood in the shame, grief and isolation, the overwhelming sense of failure. H.O.P.E for Moms of Prodigals was born.
I realized that the Body of Christ provides connection and support for moms of toddlers and teens. But when the child grows to adulthood, a mom is on her own. If that adult child makes poor choices and turns her back on the ways of the Lord, the journey can be lonely and devastating.
H.O.P.E. is the expectation that God is at work in secret places. The evidence of His hand often appears suddenly in an atmosphere of faith, trust and belief. There is so much of this journey that is out of our control, while we wait with hopeful expectancy. But there ARE things we can do. There ARE strategies for prayer. There ARE mindsets that will ease the pain and we share the journey with other sisters.
H is for humility. We have spent a lifetime loving, nurturing, comforting and praying for our child. When our child hits the rough patches in life, we attempted to smooth it over, to fix it. But we can’t fix this. Our adult child must walk through this one on his or her own.And so in humility, we release our child to the ONE who has all power, all knowledge and loves our child more than we ever will. In humility, we admit we don’t have the answers and cling to HIS promises. His ways are greater than our ways. (Isaiah 55:8-9)
O is for obedience. We cling to the Lord’s Word and His presence. We listen for the leading of the Holy Spirit. We ask the Lord to show us what needs to be change in our own hearts. We confess sin to the Lord and to our adult child as the Holy Spirit leads. Whatever He says to do, we do it. We keep the love line open with our child, sending texts and cards, assuring him of our love. We keep our commitments. We serve the church and build His Kingdom. We trust God and do good, just as Jesus did, led by His Holy Spirit. We fight against the temptation to isolate, to complain about where is God in this situation, to have an anger that slides into bitterness. We are “no matter what” sisters and we are determined to trust God and be obedient in all things. No matter what the outcome, let the Lord find us obedient to His ways and will!If you love me, keep my commands.(John 14:15)
P is for praise and prayer. We are aware that our words have power. And as the enemy desires that the prodigal journey would draw us away from God, the Lord bids us to draw close. He stirs us to change our perspective and adjust our focus. Our focus must come off our adult child and on to the Lord.
Set your mind on things above, not on things of earth ~Colossians 3:2. Our focus must remain fixed on our precious Savior who is mighty and loves greatly and works all things together for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose~Romans 8:28.
Let’s encourage our sisters on those days when the pain is great, the discouragement is overwhelming, the future looks hopeless…do not weary in well doing for in due season you will reap if you faint not~Galatians 6:9.
I am reminded of the words of one mom who gave me this Word from the Lord. As she was crying out on behalf of her child, the Lord spoke to her heart…”release your child to me, stop praying and start thanking me for what I’m doing in secret places”. I walked away, pondering that word. Stop praying? Really? Then, I realized that to “thank the Lord for what he was doing in secret places” was a position of FAITH. Prayer is so much more powerful when faith is mixed with the prayer. Thanksgiving primes the pump of faith. And so we practice praising in the storm and praying continually with an attitude of faith.
E is for expectation. What would become of me if I had not expected the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living~Psalm 27:13. Any day! Suddenly, our breakthrough will come. And the Lord will find us in faith, believing, trusting, expecting. Hallelujah!
Are you a mom with a prodigal? Do you know a mom who is walking the prodigal road? While we can’t control their choices, we can control our response to their choices! Join us as we respond with H.O.P.E., encouraging one another, persevering and awaiting the homecoming! May the God of hope fill you with all hope and peace as your trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit~Romans 15:13.
Denise Ridley is the founder of Waters Edge Ministries. She is a speaker for various ministries, including Women of the Wordand hosts a Christian radio program that airs in VT and MA. Her professional career includes being an Educational Therapist, Admissions Coordinator, Director of Guidance and Vocational Rehabilational Counselor. She holds an MA in Deaf Education and a M.Ed in Rehabilitation Counseling. Denise is married, with 2 grown sons and 4 grandchildren.
You’ve written a couple of other books before this one that have similar titles – Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus and Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus. How do they relate to your new book?
Sitting at the Feet was about the Jewish customs that deepen our understanding of Jesus’ life and ministry, like the biblical feasts, the Jewish prayers, and the relationship of rabbi and disciple. Walking in the Dust was about the Jewish context of Jesus’ teachings. Many of the things he said make much more sense when you know the conversation that was going on around him. Disciples are supposed to “walk in the ways” of their rabbi and obey his teaching. So I chose some of Jesus’ teachings that are especially practical for our lives and have a Jewish context that sheds light on their meaning.
My newest book, Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus, pulls back a bit and starts by looking at cultural issues that get in the way as we read the Bible in the modern, Western world. Among the things I asked myself as I wrote was, what cultural tools can I give readers to read the Bible more authentically? How does a lack of grasp of Jesus as a Jewish Middle Easterner cause us to misunderstand his words? Ultimately, my goal was to equip the average Christian to read the Bible more like a first-century disciple.
In your new book, you talk about cultural differences that get in the way of understanding the Bible and suggest that we need to grasp how the Bible “thinks.” What do you mean by that?
I started the book with a story about when my five-year-old nephew arrived in Iowa from Atlanta for Christmas. He had never seen snow before, so he asked, “What do you do with the snow when you have to mow the lawn?” He couldn’t imagine a reality where people didn’t mow their lawns year round, so he assumed it was universal. In the same way, many of our problems with the Bible come from misunderstanding its cultural reality and projecting our own onto it instead. We need to grasp how the Bible “thinks” – the basic background assumptions that biblical peoples had about life. Often these were very different than ours today. It’s also important that we don’t mix these two worlds together inappropriately, like mixing lawnmowers and snow.
You mention an acronym, “WEIRD,” that psychologists coined for the ways that that American culture is unusual compared to the rest of the world. How do you think this comes into play in reading the Bible?
The acronym “WEIRD” stands for “Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic.” All these traits tend to characterize Europeans and especially Americans. We live in an educated, Western culture that values scientific thought above all else. We are industrialized so that our world does not revolve around family and clan but around work and business. We are relatively rich so that many basic worries are simply not on our radar screens. We live in a democracy and dislike all hierarchy and authority.
I point out that these same characteristics tend to set us apart culturally from the Bible, so that major biblical themes, like farming and kings, simply do not resonate. I explore these and other cultural difficulties that modern readers (especially Americans) have with the Bible.
There’s a chapter titled “Greek Brain, Hebrew Brain” where you discuss the difference between Western vs. Eastern thought. How does this influence how we read the Bible?
Western thinking is very analytical, theoretical and focused on abstract concepts. It began in Greece in the 5th century AD and has deeply affected European-based cultures. We see it as the essence of mental sophistication and have a hard time imagining that anyone could think any other way. Much of the Bible, however, communicates in a more ancient way. It speaks in concrete images and parables rather than abstract concepts and argumentation. In this chapter, I show that brilliant ideas can be expressed this way too, and to give readers some basic skills to bridge the gap between East and West.
Another chapter is called, “Why Jesus Needs those Boring ‘Begats.’” In it, you point out that many people wonder why the Bible contains so many meaningless lists of names. What is significant about genealogies, culturally? Why were they included?
In the Bible, the family was central. Even if you don’t agree with it on every issue, you have to grasp how it “thinks” in terms of family as the center of reality in order to follow its most basic themes. The growth and relationships of a family were the core of how societies functioned. The main theme of the biblical story is God’s promise to Abraham to give him a great family, and the covenant that God makes with that family, Israel. Every time genealogies are listed it shows how God is fulfilling his promise. Even in the New Testament, whether or not believers in Christ needed to be “sons of Abraham” (Torah-observant Jews, who lived by the family covenant) was a major issue.
How does our perspective change if we read the Bible as a “we” instead of merely as an individual?
Americans are very individualistic, and we tend to focus on the Bible as a series of personal encounters between individuals and God. We also assume that the ultimate audience for Bible reading is “me.” We miss how often the Scriptures focus on the group rather than the individual. When Jesus preaches, he’s almost always addressing a crowd. When Paul tells his audience that they are a temple of God, we hear it as about how “my body is a temple.” But Paul is actually talking about them all together as God’s temple, not to each of them individually. In this chapter, I point out many places where things make more sense when you see them in light of their communal implications.
Here’s another example of how “we” is important. People talk about Jesus is “my personal savior” and struggle to find the gospel in the Gospels. That’s because the biblical imagery is actually about Christ saving a group of people. Jesus is the “Christ,” God’s anointed king, who has come to redeem a people to be his kingdom. When we “accept Christ” we are submitting to his kingship and joining his people. The imagery of a “kingdom” is inherently plural, so it passes right by us.
You tell about a Christian scholar who theorized that Paul knew his Scriptures by memory. Christian scholars were very skeptical, but Jewish scholars strongly agreed with him. Why was this story important to you?
When I first started hearing about Jesus’ Jewish context, I was skeptical about whether it could be of use to Christians. I was also skeptical of ideas like that Jesus and Paul likely knew their Scriptures (our Old Testament) by heart and expected their listeners to be very familiar with them too. I was told that they would hint to it and drop in little quotes often in their teaching, and these hints were often quite important to grasp the point.
At first, I absolutely didn’t believe this. But as I studied more about traditional Judaism, I discovered that even since the first century, rabbinic sermons have been overloaded with hints, quotes and subtle links to Bible passages. Memorization has been strongly stressed. I laughed when I read about a scholar on Paul’s Jewish context who spoke about this at conferences about twenty or thirty years ago. Christian scholars would all poo-poo him and say, “highly unlikely” or “totally impossible.” The Jewish scholars in his audience, however, would all nod their heads in agreement and say, of course, he did!
In the last section of the book, I go into more detail about how Jewish teachers studied their Scriptures and alluded to them in preaching. Most importantly, I talk about how some of Jesus’ boldest claims to being the Messiah, the Christ who God sent as Savior, were delivered in this very subtle Jewish way. There are a lot of skeptical scholars who have said that Jesus was just a wandering wise man whose followers exalted to a divine status. But they know nothing about Jesus’ Jewish habit of hinting to his Scriptures, so they miss some of his most powerful statements about being the Son of God.
What started your interest in the Jewishness of Jesus? Was there a particular event that piqued your interest?
I was raised in a devout Christian home. I’m not Jewish and my overall interest is in understanding the reality of Jesus and the Bible, rather than Judaism per se. A little over twenty years ago I signed up for a seminar on ancient Israel and the Jewish culture of the Bible at my church, thinking it would be just some dry historical information. But all of a sudden Bible stories that were foggy and confusing became clear and deeply relevant to my life. I started hearing the words of Scripture through the ears of its ancient listeners, and it made all the difference in the world.
My background was originally in the sciences, and I have a Ph. D. in biology. I was teaching as a college biology professor and my background in research compelled me to dig deeper. Over the years I’ve traveled to Israel several times to experience the land and history in person and to study the language and the culture. Every time I come home I’m newly inspired because in the past few decades scholars and archaeologists have unearthed enormous amounts of information that clarifies the Bible’s stories, particularly the Jewish setting of Jesus.
Why do you think that so many Christians are unaware of their Jewish heritage?
All of the disciples were Jewish, and the New Testament was written almost entirely by Jews. But within only a couple centuries Gentiles became the majority in the church, and many were hostile to its Jewish origins. Even in Romans, Paul warned the Gentiles not to be arrogant toward the Jews, but his words went unheeded. One reason was that early Christians needed to establish their identity as a new movement, and they defended their faith by focusing on their differences with Judaism.
Through the ages, there has been occasional interest by Christians in understanding their Jewish roots, but for much of its history, the church has struggled with anti-Semitism. And Jews who had felt the persecution of Christians were understandably less than interested in helping them understand the roots of their faith. It’s only been in the last century that Christians have become avidly interested in the topic. One reason for this is because we mingle so much more. Jews and Christians now have relative freedom to discuss their beliefs, and both groups are curious about how the other reads their common Scriptures.
Lois Tverberg has been a speaker at Women of the Word. We look forward to her return with us in April 2018 for “Through the Eyes of Jesus”. Click here for more information. This event is open to men and women. Please join us.
It feels as if it were yesterday, that wildly unexpected visitation in the fields, when the Angel of the Lord came to us. Now is the time of year, your earth years, not heaven’s time, where my story is told again and again, as it should be. But allow me to share it myself as the exact facts are more glorious than you know. And please, I say it is “my story” because it is so precious to me, but it is our story, us shepherds in that field near Bethlehem, and it is your story and it is, most of all, our Jesus’ story.
We were sitting around on that dark, brooding night, passing our time by whittling, or chatting, or daydreaming of better days. We did not realize that the most incredible wonder was about to happen. I was not sure if I was dreaming or awake when I first saw the Angel, but one’s mind would not have the material to create a dream of such a glorious being. He was majestic, clothed in a great light that seemed to push us back and down to our knees. He was suddenly there, far taller than a man, shining like the sun, staring deeply into my eyes. I was terrified. My heart was beating so loud and fast that I thought to run but could not move my legs. His gaze held us there. His words astounded.
“Don’t be afraid,” he said, “I am sent from God to bring you some very happy news: In the City of David your Saviour is now born, and not just your Saviour, but the Saviour of all people. The sign you will look for will be in an unlikely but fitting place –for you will find the the Baby from heaven wrapped in lambskin swaddling clothes and placed in a feed trough.”
I know that your nativity scenes feature a little wooden stable, or perhaps, your tradition suggests a cave, or perhaps your imagination suggests the backside of a very full country inn, where the donkeys who accompanied the travelers were housed. It was not like that really. You see, I was a special kind of shepherd, still quite looked down on, but less so than the ordinary shepherd who sat keeping sheep safe In the middle of nowhere. You see, that night I was tending the flocks in the shepherd’s fields outside Bethlehem watching over the lambs that were born for temple sacrifice. I worked at Migdal Eder, which nurtured and cared especially for the Passover lambs, the ones that must be perfect and without blemish.
Migdal Eder was where Rachel gave birth to little Benjamin “Son of My Right Hand”, the youngest son of Jacob (Gen 35:21), you will see the hint that God put in that! Migdal Eder means “the tower of the flock” because there was a tower there and that is where we cared for the newborn lambs. The chosen baby lambs were wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed in a manger so they would not hurt themselves–they had to be perfect for the sacrifice! The prophet Micah was the one that linked Bethlehem with Jesus — “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah,Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.” (Micah 5:2) but you missed the hint of the exact spot–Migdal Eder!
The prophet Micah, it seems to me, refers to Migdal Eder when he writes:“And you, O tower of the flock (see picture above), the stronghold of the daughter of Zion, to you shall it come, even the former dominion shall come, the kingdom of the daughter of Jerusalem.” (Micah 4:8). From this verse grew up the understanding amongst our people that the Messiah would first be declared here. And so He was!
Oh my! I bow my knee to God when I think that He came to us shepherds, came to us nobodies, to tell us our King had come! Who was I and Who would write such a story? Only God! Blessed be He!
I find it amusing, now, in looking back, that we who earned our living as shepherd’s, were not considered trustworthy enough to bear witness in court and yet the High King of Heaven’s courts trusted and blessed us with the announcement and the announcing of the Messiah! That is what our God is like though, yes? Always confounding the high and mighty and revealing Himself to the humble of heart.
Please believe me when I tell you that it was sometimes hard to be humble after the events of that night–so privileged did all we shepherds feel! But what mystery is this? the High King of heaven, born of a woman, a baby wrapped safely in lambskin like a sacrificial lamb? and put in the feed trough like those destined to be sacrificed?
Now and forever it is the first duty of the shepherd to keep the flock safe, the little lambs….I cry when I think that He is My Shepherd, just as I, for a few blessed moments, was His shepherd. I cry when I see how He shepherded us in His low estate, giving Himself as the sacrifice for our sins. Who could have thought this story up?
The Angel came and spoke, his voice like a thunderstorm, and then behind him the heaven themselves opened to reveal a great multitude of heavenly beings–more angels and God knows who, singing in the most incredible harmony of love and adoration: “Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth, peace and goodwill toward all people.” Do you know what it is like to hear heaven sing?
We ran to the tower to find them–you know it was not December– and there they were! The same glow that was with the angels was resting on the little One in the manger. My heart turned over within me when I laid eyes on Him–so small and serene yet so full of something so large, so very large.
His parents looked up, startled to see us, we were so bedraggled and bug-eyed, standing before their Baby in awe! We tried to explain, tried a hundred times before it made sense to us or to them–our words tripping out of our mouths…but they would get very used to odd stories and unlikely spokesmen. Mary looked at Joseph, then down at Jesus, for that was His Name, and started to cry. Joseph just looked at us like he had seen a ghost.
We could not contain ourselves, I’m not sure how far we ran that night, telling everyone what had happened, babbling the story out like mad men. Of course you can guess the ones who believed us and the ones who did not. It did not matter–we had seen the Truth! We had heard heaven sing! We knew! God, we knew! The Little Baby, wrapped like a sacrificial Lamb, the angels, the Light, the Glory! We could not really have known completely how it all fit together, but we knew our lives had forever changed!
I tell you all this to remind you that there is always more glory to the Story than you know. I tell you this to remind you that God comes to the lowly and the humble and the forgotten and not to the high of heart. He does this because that is what He is like. So as you celebrate His birth, please remember what I have told you and let your heart kneel before Him….perhaps the heavens will open and you will hear the host and inhabitants of heaven praising Him. Forever praising Him.
Won’t you join us?
_______ My story here is fictionalized but based on some very interesting facts…. if you want to read more about Migdal Eder, check out Alfred Edersheim’s, “The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah’s” commentary on Migdal Eder, and read various other commentators various takes on the subject. I’m going to love to hear what actually happened from the shepherds themselves one day.
At many holiday gatherings, there sits an empty chair. It may be a chair that once sat a husband, a mother or father, or a child. Its significance came only from the love felt for the one who once occupied its place.
Although the chair may be temporarily occupied by another as the house fills with company, the absence of a loved one is still sharply felt and can bring an ache along with the joy. If one is not careful, that pain can override all the goodness of the day and of the season…and overtake your life.
This is a spirit of grief and despair that is not the life of faith we are called to. Faith is a complete trust in the God who formed us; who knows our very thoughts. The enemy of our soul will use negative circumstances in our lives and magnify it until the grief and despair is all we see. The grief becomes a lens that tints and taints all the beauty and purpose of life; until we become withdrawn…thoughts become unclear…life becomes uncertain…and hope seems a distant harbor.
There is another chair that we are told of from history. It is in a synagogue in the town of Nazareth. Jesus read from a Messianic prophecy to the congregation there. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19) from Isaiah 61:1.
Jesus then sat down in what some say is the chair reserved for Messiah, others say it was the chair from which the Rabbi taught signifying His priesthood, and yet others say he sat down amongst the congregation signifying his humanity. The important thing is that He said, “Today, this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
You could have heard a pin drop. Sometimes, truth is not well received but it is meant to set us free.
Let us encourage ourselves when we see the empty chair in our house and picture Jesus sitting there. The One who was sent to heal the broken-hearted. The One who was sent to deliver the captives and give sight to those who cannot see Him. The One who sets at liberty those whose emotions are bruised and who walk through life in pain.
See Jesus there in your empty chair. He will never leave us nor forsake us. He hears us when we pray according to His will. He is working behind the scenes even when we don’t see any outward signs of change.
For, you see, Jesus is sitting in a chair and the Bible says we are seated with Him in heavenly places. It is the chair the Father had prepared for him. It is at the Father’s right hand.
When Jesus sat on this chair the words, “It is finished” rang through all eternity. The provision for salvation in its entirety had been made once for all. This is our hope. Our faith is attached to this power.
Dear heart, see through this lens. The one of faith, hope, and love. He has already provided and is working on our behalf. See the beauty of the little things of life and begin to give out to others from this place; even if it is but a smile and a kind word. It is only in the giving that we can receive our healing.
You have to admit, some Bible passages are real head- scratchers. For instance, in several places God says, “I will not remember your sins.”
But how can God, in his infinite intellect, forget something? And what does he expect of us, since we pray, “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us?” Does God really expect us to forgive and to forget the sins of others?
For some this is not just an academic question. A few years ago I heard a young woman recount nightmarish memories of being raped by a babysitter when she was ten. Over the years she had tried to forgive and sought healing. But as a Christian, she was plagued by the idea that God would not forgive her sins unless she forgave and forgot sins committed against her. How on earth could she ever forget?
Remembering, in Hebraic Thought
Understanding the Hebrew words for “remember” and “forget” can help us untangle this theological knot. They, like many words, have a wider breadth of meaning than in English, because Hebrew is a “word-poor” language (having about 4,000 words, vs. 100,000 or more in English).
In English, our definition of the word “remember” focuses entirely on the idea of recalling memories and bringing ideas into our thoughts. To “forget” is to fail to bring a certain memory to mind. Both words are concerned entirely with mental activity, whether or not information is present.
But the Hebrew verb zakhar has a much wider definition than just “remember.” It includes both remembering and the actions that are taken because of remembering. It often implies that a person did a favor for someone, helped them, or was faithful to a promise or covenant. For instance:
But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the cattle that were with him in the ark; and God caused a wind to pass over the earth, and the water subsided. Genesis 8:1
It sounds like God woke up one morning and slapped himself on the forehead, suddenly realizing that he left Noah out there bobbing around on the waves. But the idea in this passage is that God acted upon his promise that Noah’s family and the animals would be rescued from the flood.
Later in Genesis we find another example:
Then God remembered Rachel; he listened to her and opened her womb.” (vs 30:22)
Once again, the verb “remember” focuses on the action, not the mental activity. God paid attention to Rachel’s needs, listened to her prayer, and answered it. Here, “remember” means “to intervene,” focusing on what God did, not what God was thinking about.
The Idea of Forgetting
The Hebrew words for forget, shakach and nashah are also broad in scope. Often they mean to ignore, neglect, forsake, or disregard a person or covenant. For instance,
So watch yourselves, that you do not forget the covenant of the LORD your God which he made with you, and make for yourselves a graven image in the form of anything against which the LORD your God has commanded you. Deuteronomy 4:23
The idea here is that the Israelites would intentionally ignore their covenant, not necessarily forget that they made it. When the Israelites lapse into idolatry, we also hear God threatening to forget them:
Therefore behold, I will surely forget you and cast you away from My presence, along with the city which I gave you and your fathers. Jeremiah 23:39
Once again the emphasis is on action rather than mental activity. God is saying that he would spurn his people, not lose their memory from his mind. When God “forgets” something, he does not necessarily lack information. This helps us understand why in the Psalms, we hear people asking God why he is forgetting them:
How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? Psalm 13:1
Here the psalmist is saying “why do you ignore my prayers and not intervene in my crisis?” God doesn’t forget, but sometimes it seems as if he does.
Interestingly, “forget” is almost never used in combination with “sin.” But often the Bible says that God will “not remember” our sins. The idea of “remembering sins” takes the idea of acting according to memory and puts it into a negative framework. It suggests that God is going to give the person what he deserves for the sin. He will punish sin, not just keep it on his mind. Consider:
They have gone deep in depravity as in the days of Gibeah; He will remember their iniquity, he will punish their sins.Hosea 9:9
The second line here is a parallelism, where the two phrases are synonymous. To “remember their iniquity” is the same as to “punish their sin.” It is automatically negative, implying that God will intervene to bring justice. So, to not remember sins is to decide not to punish them:
If a wicked man restores a pledge, pays back what he has taken by robbery, … he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of his sins that he has committed will be remembered against him. Ezekiel 33:15-16
Because Hebrew focuses on action rather than the thought, it doesn’t necessarily imply that God loses the memory of sins in his infinite mind. It simply means that he has decided to forgo prosecution.
What are the Implications?
Knowing that Hebrew often focuses on action rather than on mental state, we can now see how God can “forget” people, but yet not forget. Or how he can choose not to “remember” sins, and yet not erase them from his memory. God chooses to put them aside, to ignore them and not bring them up again.
If you’ve ever been in a close relationship, you know what this is like. A wife whose feelings are hurt by her husband (or vise versa) “decides to forget” —to put the offense out of her mind even though the memory doesn’t goes away. Out of love, you simply choose not to ever act in revenge for the sin. And once you have done this, the memory itself tends to subside.
The Hebraic idea of “remembering sins” really encompasses the idea of punishment of sin, not just knowing about them. I find this very freeing in terms of understanding God’s expectations of us. Often we struggle with a person who has hurt us repeatedly, and wonder whether forgiveness means to pretend that the person won’t act the same way again. Are we allowed to protect ourselves, even if we hope they’ll change?
The idea that we can decide not to “remember” someone’s sins in terms of seeking revenge allows us to remember in order to make a situation better and make wise decisions in the future.
You know, if God could simply delete things from his data banks, he would have a much easier job than humans who can’t erase their memories. When we forgive a person, we need to choose to put aside our grievances, and often we need to do that over and over again as the memory returns to our minds.
When you think about it, it shows more love to be hurt and choose to not remember, time and time again, rather than to simply be able to forget about an incident. But interestingly, the more we love one another, the easier it does become to remove the memory of the past from our minds. In this sense, perhaps God’s infinite love really does entirely remove our sins from his infinite mind.
Lois Tverberg will be speaking at Women of the Wordon April 13 & 14, 2018 in Janesville, WI. This seminar entitled “Through the Eyes of Jesus” is open to both men and women. Lois has authored four books which illuminate the teachings of the Bible from within it’s cultural context. They help us think and live Hebraically, so that we can become better disciples of Jesus. Her newest book, “Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus” is available on her website Our Rabbi Jesus or on Amazon.
I am a daughter of the Most High God, the Alpha and Omega, the Author of all life, the One who is, who was and who is to come.
I am a daughter of the great I AM, the Almighty KING!! I wish you could hear me say this, hear me say His names without pride, but with such joy, expectancy, and love. I am also a returned prodigal. I am in LOVE with my God, my Jesus, my Savior, my King, but I wasn’t always this way. I went through years of self– years of trying to satisfy myself. I spent years thinking I was my own god, believing I knew best and I had control. The twisted level of my thinking is almost unimaginable to me, yet when I ponder it…I remember.
The purpose of this quick testimony is not to inform you of the gravity of my sin, but to show you how unimaginably great a redeemer we serve. JESUS…that is the name above all names. JESUS… that is the man who saves! He came to share Good News, to set free captives, to deliver us from bondage, and to set blind eyes to see. He bore our sin, and he bore our sickness. JESUS came to deliver us and to restore our broken hearts. That’s just what He did for me.
I am a product of:
Prayers of a broken-hearted mother and father,
Prayers of a grandmother insistent on standing in the gap for my life,
Prayers of so many friends and family members crying out to God on my behalf.
I am a product of a God who hears, a God who answers, and a God who, even without those prayers, NEVER, EVER, EVER gave up on me!
I cannot express enough the joy I now have in Christ. The healing power of the blood of Jesus Christ is beyond my wildest expectation. How do we get our loved ones who have walked away to experience that power? Sometimes the people around us have to be just broken enough, just hurt enough, just in enough mess that they cry out, “OH LORD HELP ME!” And when they do, He is there. When they set their minds upon Him and taste and see that He is good, He will draw them unto Himself and give them staying power; He will start to appear better than this world, and He will become their desire.
I know each one of you is praying for someone, or more than one, near and dear to you. DON’T GIVE UP! NEVER GIVE UP! In Psalm 107 the Bible commands “ Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! His faithful love endures forever.” Has the Lord redeemed you? Then pray and speak out! Tell others that He has redeemed you from your enemies. The LORD has redeemed me and I will speak out to tell of the great, great things He has done for me. I will proclaim from every mountain top that God has saved me and restored me. Who else is like him? Taste and see for the Lord is good and so worthy to be praised. He reigns above all and through all. He alone has the victory, and He will succeed in the lives of those for whom you are praying.
Standing in the gap is exactly that. When you intercede, you place yourself in the space between what is now, and what will be when heaven has its way. You place yourself there, as a sacrifice, as a line in the sand saying you will not be moved until you see heaven move on behalf of your loved one. This is a Jesus-like action. The Bible says Jesus himself makes intercession on our behalf. He ever lives to intercede on our behalf. PRAISE GOD! Jesus himself is pleading before the Father the same case for your loved one!
Jesus taught us to pray “ Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” So stand in the gap, make intercession on behalf of those prodigals. Pray that they would experience the love of the Father and the restorative healing power of Jesus. Pray that they will walk in the way in which they were raised. Pray that they would come to the understanding and knowledge of God. Pray that the power of the Holy Spirit would come and breathe on them in their lives. Even if they reside in the pit of hell-on-earth, the Holy Spirit goes there. He is there… Call out to their dry bones and speak: “COME ALIVE!” May the Spirit of the living, breathing God move on their behalves and change the very course of their lives in Jesus name!
I want to pray for you and with you: O Father, gracious loving Father, I ask that you would refresh every woman reading these words, every intercessor pleading on behalf of a loved one. Lord, increase their measure of faith that they may know they have what they are requesting. Give them staying power, strength and grace. Place a new fire in each woman. May praise rise up out of their bellies, for you will be praised. With angels and saints we will sing worthy, worthy, worthy are you LORD!
Father, refresh them in your Holy Spirit and give them new utterances on behalf of their loved ones. Father, bend down and hear our prayers, oh Lord. Help us we cry. The prayers of wounded intercessors hold great power in heaven. Hear their cries and answer us quickly God! We want revival, revival of your sleeping people, revival in your church, in the ones present and the ones running.
Oh Lord, call them in from every corner of the earth. In their distress may they call out to you for help, O Lord. We know You will come and rescue them from their distress; You will heal them, and restore everything the enemy has stolen. Lord, turn deserts into pools of water and dry lands into springs of water in our lives and the lives of every prodigal child. WAKE UP SLEEPERS, COME ALIVE DRY BONES! Cry out for your redeemer is near. Cry out to JESUS and be restored, be fulfilled, be loved!
Lord, we know you hear our prayers and cries for mercy. We know You are good and faithful and will answer our every request. We thank You and we bless You! We ask all this because of the blood of Jesus shed for our sins at Calvary, and we ask it in the name of Jesus. Amen.
In closing, I want to share a secret; there’s a bonus for you…there is a reward beyond even the great joy of seeing these things come to pass while still in the land of the living. There is reward in heaven and great blessing that comes today as we say these prayers. These prayers help us change more and more into the image of Jesus. They renew our minds and refresh our souls. They are hard to pray and exhausting at times, but God…you see, He uses EVERYTHING for our good, for the good of those that love him…even our broken hearts!
Be blessed, and be loved!
Christine Disibio speaks at Women of the Word. She is a millennial with a heart to reach them and the iGeneration with the Gospel. In the everyday circumstances of life, the light of Jesus shines into darkness. Her life is rooted in applying biblical principles and prayer. Christine and her husband are entrepreneurs who see their business as an avenue to witness of God’s redemptive purposes to their employees and customers. They have two young children and live in New England.
Women of the Word has a closed Facebook group called H.O.P.E. for Moms of Prodigals. Please visit it by clicking here.
The Fall 2017 Women of the Word events were entitled “Steadfast” in North Carolina, and “Courageous” in Maine. Both themes are a now word to women as these are character qualities we need to develop in order to live victoriously in today’s world. We need to dig into God’s Word for His strategies and we need the power of the Holy Spirit daily so that we can implement God’s strategies at the appropriate time and in life giving ways.
At both events the Holy Spirit moved amongst us. The events opened with concerts of worship and prayer. All the women participated praying together for one another, the church and our nation. In North Carolina great joy broke out during the Saturday evening worship service causing the women to be ready to receive anointed ministry before the teaching of the Word. Hallelujah! Women also moved into great freedom in Maine as the Holy Spirit brought deliverance to several of them. Many were baptized by the Holy Spirit and operated in the gifts of the Spirit.
Our speaker team at both events was inter-generational as were the attendees. This is the heart of WOW – to reach women across generations. Below are some encouraging testimonies from women who attended.
“I do not know what was more stunning this past weekend; the scenery or the word that came forth from our powerful speakers. What a weekend! I honestly feel like I got a taste of Heaven this weekend! Life-changing teaching was shared, beautiful worship, amazing fellowship, and did I tell you about that view?!
WOW has been part of my life for almost two decades. Our topic this past weekend was Steadfast and I believe the leadership of WOW knows something
about being steadfast. We each need to be reminded that this journey is filled with trials and tribulations of all kinds but we must choose to cleave to Jesus and submit our wills to the cross. We never reach a moment in our relationship with Him where the blood of Christ or the cross are irrelevant. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can allow Him to “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.” (Psalm 139:23) Being steadfast in this journey allows that beautiful cleansing to take place so that we can reflect Jesus to a dying world who is so in need. This weekend was a must hear word! Contact WOW to get MP3 or CDs!” ~~ Marly Ellenburg from Seneca, SC
There are many things I love about WOW, the preaching & teaching the Word of GOD, the anointing, the sincerity in which the ladies serve, the supporting of one another, the edification lived out and expressed. Then there is the work of GOD in the services, in the motel rooms, around meal times, while traveling to and from the events. For me, most assuredly the residual affect in the lives of those who attend that far reaches Conference time and goes into the home, the community and the local church. Hold fast to that which has been received and keep on seeking until there are break throughs that move mountains.
A word of encouragement ladies and something to keep in mind: Much prayer has gone into seeking the LORDs plan for each event with each Lady who is going to attend in mind. It’s not for a moment of celebration only but it’s for a lifetime effect. Walk out what you’ve learned. Don’t forget you have been prayed for. And remember this, “Your situation may not have changed when you got back home, BUT you have!” ~~ Yvonne Beals from Madison, ME
Please pass this on to others: I heard people say what I felt – it was the best conference I have even been to! Thank you to all of you!! I often come home drained, but I felt encouraged and invigorated. It felt like a packed long weekend with it was only about 24 hours. It was great!! So many encouraging talks!! ~~ Margo Mason from Searsport, ME
After reviewing my notes from the “Courageous” WOW Conference in Maine, I found the underlying theme was the courage it takes to change ourselves. Change is something we naturally resist. We enjoy the comfort of routine and habits even if, at times, they are self destructive. We hold onto our anger and offense; and at times, we justify our words and actions that are contrary to the Word of God.
In June Evans’ lunch meeting, she spoke of how she cooperated with the Holy Spirit to change her into the woman she is today. She warned of self-deception, those “blind spots” that we all have and to ask the Holy Spirit to show us what they are. We were encouraged to be open to God’s discipline which will bring the peaceable fruit of righteousness. God’s grace empowers us not to sin.
Denise Ridley made a statement that struck me profoundly. “When a storm comes you can forget who you are.” In order for that not to occur: 1) Read the Word 2) Speak the Word 3) Obey the Word 4) Don’t Isolate! (get a prayer/accountability partner) 5) Be Persistent.
Betsy Roy’s teaching was transparent of her own life and rich with biblical steps to take in repentence and restoration.
I taught of how I had to have the courage to become a “Peace Maker” and not a “Peace Keeper” in my marriage which also overlapped into ministry. There were other wonderful messages that I am looking forward to listening to soon.
I would encourage you to contact the WOW office and order the cd sets (or mp3’s). Listen to them over and over again as they are timeless truths. I have cd’s from 10 years ago that I will take out and listen to even now.
God wants us to have the courage to be the Women of the Word He has called us to be. He has equipped us with His Word and with His Holy Spirit. We are truly overcomers in Christ Jesus! ~~ Kim Warf from Bangor, ME