Listen Well

by Rose-Marie Slosek

Words are powerful yet sometimes inadequate tools. When I speak, something of myself comes out.  Over the last weeks I have been pondering the process of how best to listen to others. Jesus said, “Be careful how you listen” (Luke 8:18). He speaks this while telling us that whatever is hidden will one day be revealed.  What someone says is sometimes only a little or the beginning of what they mean. Deeper things lay buried if we can hear them.

Are you a good listener? I’ve been in the presence of a couple good listeners of late for which I am very grateful.  We don’t just listen with our ears, but with our heart, and our spirit. Benedict of Nursia said, “Listen carefully and incline the ear of your heart.” George MacDonald said, “There is a lot of difference between hearing and listening.”  There are many times when words are not enough and we must hear what someone is saying with our spiritual ears much more than our physical ears.

Can you imagine if God only heard our words? What if He did not hear the deepest cry of our hearts when words fail?   We are even given the Spirit to intercede for us “with groanings that are too deep for words “(Romans 8:26). Our hearts are full of deep things, are they not?

So let us listen to hearts and not just words when we listen. Often we are listening only to speak.  Sometimes the person we are listening to is desperate to be heard but testing to see if their words will be truly heard or will come bouncing back to them.

Sometimes words are just not enough and we must hear between the lines. Hearing deeply, accurately, gracefully is a spiritual discipline we can develop. Spiritual listening that heals and makes a place for others is birthed out of our own ability to listen to God. When we listen to God, we allow a place for silence and mutual communication on a non-verbal level. When we listen to God we strain to hear because we value the words of God.  When we listen to God we also hear ourselves, not our words, but the disposition of our heart in listening. It takes two to listen really. One to speak and one to hold a place open for the words spoken to rest.

So listen carefully: understanding what a person is really trying to say is born of compassion, humility, grace, and spiritual discernment . We are limited to the degree that our own opinions, blind spots, and incompleteness which block the kind of conversations God wants us to have. You have not walked a mile in your neighbor’s moccasins. They may have experienced something you have not yet experienced. It might be a hurtful something or something precious to them. Listen and receive a great gift. Hold them up to God while they speak.

Sprinkle your conversations with mercy, encouragement and enough silence so you can hear the other and God and not you. Hold a place in your heart open for the ones you speak with. Listen knowing that God is listening with you. Cooperate with Him. Hear Him reply first before you speak.  He alone knows what should be said. When people are really heard healing takes place. Good listeners are so needed, and relatively rare. Be one.

Rose-Marie Slosek is a Board Member of Women of the Word. She also blogs at Pen of the Wayfarer and is a spiritual director. She loves to travel to other nations, especially Ireland and Israel , and is an avid photographer of nature. Rose-Marie also rescues dogs and gives them a loving home.

Women of the Word is an inter-generational ministry dedicated to helping women grow as disciples of Jesus by applying God’s Word through the power of the Holy Spirit. WOW holds conferences, retreats, Bible seminars and trips to Israel.

 

Fierce Forgiveness

by Lisa Gould

Unforgiveness is a force that can hold us back from living an abundant life in Christ.  It leaves many in a quandary because we know God’s word says we need to forgive, but to release forgiveness to others is not always easy.

Many times we don’t forgive because we have a misunderstanding of what forgiveness is. The enemy lies to us about what forgiveness truly looks like. He holds us in bondage with those lies to prevent us from forgiving. He does not want us to be free to be all God has called us to be. One of the most effective lies of the enemy is to convince us that if we can’t forget what a person has done, we have not truly forgiven.

Forgiveness is NOT forgetting what someone has done. If you are waiting to be ready to forget what someone has done to you before you forgive them, it’s probably never going to happen.  Although we can’t forget, we can forgive.

We must first look at the forgiveness God gives us.  If we repent and accept the free gift of God’s redemptive, Fierce Forgiveness for our sin, and then forget why we needed to be forgiven in the first place, where would our testimony be?  If I come to Christ, receiving His forgiveness for my sin and then “forget” that I had an abortion, committed adultery, and truly had broken all of the 10 commandments, the power of God’s forgiveness would be diminished. I wouldn’t have a testimony of my life before Christ and after Christ if I forgot why I needed to be forgiven.  We overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the power of our testimony (Rev 12:1).  It is the power of our overcoming testimony that draws others to Jesus.

People look at those of us whose lives have been transformed because of Christ’s forgiveness; they see and even hear that we are no longer who we used to be. The testimony of our lives spurs others on—if Jesus can forgive us, then He can and will forgive them. We can testify that He is no respecter of persons; what He does for one He will do for all (Rom 2:11-16).

When the Word talks about God “forgetting” our sin, it doesn’t mean He literally forgets it. It means He no longer holds us accountable.  If God literally forgot our sins, there would be no Bible stories like David’s. He committed adultery and murder, yet God called David a man after His own heart because, despite all his sin, David was repentant. David recalled in the psalms how he had been forgiven for his sin giving God the glory.  God didn’t forget what David had done; He chose not to hold him accountable once he repented.

In spite all of our sin, God CHOOSES to turn His back on the sin we have committed when we come to him in repentance.  He FIERCLY forgives it, all of it, every last bit of it and lavishes His love and grace upon us!  His forgiveness is FIERCE–overwhelming, overpowering, piercing, sudden, extreme, relentless, strong, harrowing, passionate, wild, brave and intense! I will never forget how I have been forgiven. When I think about how much He forgave me, it takes my breath away and leaves me in awe.

Isaiah 43:25 says that God blots out, or forgets, our sin.  He chooses to turn His back on our sin extending His grace, mercy, forgiveness, love and acceptance so our past sin no longer brings shame upon us; nor can the enemy condemn us or hold us in bondage. The Father doesn’t want us to live with the memory of his forgiveness so we dwell upon the shame of that sin but to focus on how His Fierce Forgiveness has redeemed our lives.  The power of the blood of Jesus Christ gives us victory over our past sins. We can then tell others about our journey– how we have experienced His forgiveness to live free.

Forgetting what has been done to us by others is not even a possibility unless we have some kind of operation to wipe our memories clean. That would make us robots.  God gave us a memory for a reason. If someone has abused us or our children, committed adultery, stolen from us, or broken trust in some other way, forgiving them is essential. Forgiving someone does not, however, automatically mean that the relationship is restored, especially if that relationship could be harmful. Even when continuing the relationship would not be harmful, restoration cannot happen unless there has been true repentance on the offender’s part. Repentance is a military term meaning to pivot on one’s heals, to turn and go in the other direction. It means to stop doing one thing and to start doing something else.

Even if it were possible, forgetting every time we forgive could mean a whole lot of trouble for us as we would always have the possibility of going back to unhealthy or toxic relationships. Setting appropriate boundaries with people who choose a pattern of behavior that is harmful to us does not mean that we haven’t forgiven them. It does mean that we are not going to forget how we have been mistreated and continue to allow that mistreatment. Forgiveness and restored relationship are very different things. Restoration in relationship requires the fruit of repentance Matthew 3:8–a positive change in the heart and behavior that can bring about restoration of trust and restoration of relationship.

We have a memory so we can give God glory for what He has done! It reminds us that we desperately and continuously need His Fierce Forgiveness.  We should choose to extend forgiveness to others because of the forgiveness we have received, not because we are going to forget the sins that others have committed against us. Don’t let the lie that forgetting and forgiving go together prevent you from choosing to forgive.

Lisa Gould describers herself as an ordinary lady who encountered THE extraordinary God! Growing up in an abusive home Lisa had an abortion at 18. She married an abusive man at 19 and then got radically saved at the age of 25. She began to realize her identity in Christ and that He did not intend for her to live in abuse. Lisa and her children have been set free from it all! She worked her way off welfare to become a daycare provider and then a kindergarten teacher in a Christian school for 10 years. She now has been a member of

Lisa Gould

the staff of New Life Church in Maine for the past 6 years building volunteer teams and overseeing close to 300 people in those ministries. She ministers to many women one on one to speak identity in Christ to them through  encouragement, prayer and  guidance by the power of the Holy Spirit…. which is her ultimate passion! She lives in Kennebunk Maine with her husband David of nearly 18 years. They serve together in providing spiritual guidance to couples through a program called SYMBIS( saving your marriage before it starts) and assist in facilitating a drug and alcohol program within the church. They have 5 grown children between them  who live from Maine to British Columbia Canada and places in between. Lisa will never forget the Fierce Forgiveness she has experienced through Christ’s redemption and love!  She is now in the process of completing a book on her testimony and the power of Fierce Forgiveness.

Lisa served on the Conference Steering Committee for the Women of the Word Fall 2015 Conference. Her testimony of that event is: “What an amazing time in the Lord we had at our Women of the Word conference. The conference was an intentional, appointed time of God’s daughters coming together to see His hand move in their lives. As God’s vessels, each of the speakers brought a word in due season for women collectively and individually. This was not just another status quo event to attend and then go back to living life as usual. This conference has already and will continue to have a ripple effect on women as they received salvation, healing, strength, courage and have become equipped (meaning to mend the broken places) to carry out their destinies. The women who attended will be an example to others of God’s power to suddenly transform them. Those who attended will be contagious for the Kingdom as they encounter their families, friends, work colleagues and home churches. Revival is coming and we must be equipped as his daughters for such a time as this! Women of the Word is a tool God is using to accomplish this in the earth.”

 

National Day of Prayer

by Betsy Roy

President Lincoln’s Proclamation for a National Day of Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer set the date for April 30, 1863. The “National Day of Prayer” is now the first Thursday in May which this year is May 3, 2018. Please consider adding some kind of fasting and repentance to your prayers.

Please pray right now: Father God, we ask that the Holy Spirit would move on the heart of every believer in our nation to set aside time for repentance, fasting and prayer on the National Day of Prayer (May 3, 2018). May there be a great swell of prayer before your throne of grace. 

We’re asking that this time cross every denomination, generation, ethnicity and political ideology. We pray for UNITY before the throne of the one true God, YHWH, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and of His Son Jesus Christ the Messiah! We exalt Him today as the only one true God, full of grace and truth. Righteousness exalts a nation and we are calling for a return to biblical righteousness in the Church in America and in the public square. We will not relent. We contend for the faith! We will keep ourselves in the love of God.


We are grateful today Father that your mercy endures from generation to generation and that your mercy continues to extend to us. We are not worthy in and of ourselves oh Lord our God. We thank you that the blood of Jesus makes us worthy. We ask you to embolden your Church in America in this hour to advance the Kingdom of God. We ask you for revival in the Church and a great harvest of souls across this land. Draw us together on the National Day of Prayer in unity and love across our land to repent, to fast and to pray. Arise, oh sleeper!! Arise!! Amen

Let us continue to pray for our nation daily!  God’s Word, the Bible, teaches us to “pray without ceasing”  (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and “that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions (ie our President, Vice President, Governors, Senators, Congressmen, Supreme Court Justices, etc), that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1-3)

Prevailing for America is a closed Facebook group that posts a daily prayer for our nation. Barbara Benton heads up this group. It is a closed group so you must request to join. This is not a discussion group. It is for prayer purposes only.

 

Betsy Roy is the Director of Women of the Word, an inter-generational ministry dedicated to helping women grow as disciples of Jesus by applying God’s Word through the power of the Holy Spirit. WOW holds conferences, retreats, Bible seminars and trips to Israel

Betsy and her husband Jim lead the trips to Israel, which include visiting with local believers, both Messianic and Arab. Together they have 3 daughters and 3 grandchildren which are the delight of their hearts. God’s mercy endures from generation to generation. 

Relatives I Didn’t Know I Had

by Rose-Marie Slosek

Awhile back I was researching my natural family tree.

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My relatives on my mom’s side, the Del Negro’s, come from a tiny village in the mountains of Italy called Atena Lucana. It’s amazing to me all that had to transpire for each of us to come into the world, and we are largely unaware of all those little destined moments crossing into time so we could come to be!

I guess it has surprised me to find out just how many relatives I do have, since the part of our family that I know seems relatively limited. I started to think about this, and how, even on an earthly level, this fact somehow expanded
me, made me see a bigger picture. Then, I really started to think about this concept spiritually.

No matter how large our earthly families are, most of us have felt, at least at times, alone, out of place, misunderstood, and longing to find “our people.” I think because the Body of Christ feels fragmented (from our point of view, anyway, from God’s point of view it isn’t) we feel a bit more solitary than we need to. Let’s face it, sometimes its hard to find fellowship with people who really
love and understand us, and are rooting for us!

What we fail to realize is how many relatives we have that we don’t know that we have! Paul, in Hebrews, and John, in Revelation, see things in terms of earth being a large theatre for spiritual truths to play out before those in the heavenlies. Angels watch and learn, but listen to this:

“On the contrary you have come to Mount Zion, and to the city of the ever-living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to countless hosts of angels, to the great festal gathering and Church of the first-born, whose names are recorded in Heaven,
and to a Judge who is God of all, and to the spirits of righteous men made perfect,
and to Jesus the negotiator of a new Covenant, and to the sprinkled blood which speaks in more gracious tones than that of Abel.”  (Hebrews 12:22-24 Weymouth translation)

Beloved, if we could know in our hearts just what kind of glorious family surrounds us, if we could know that “our people” are watching us and
cheering us on, if we could sense that we are not alone in our little enclaves but actively part of a universal Body, unhindered by the constraints of space and time, and undivided from God’s point of view, we would have a greatly enlarged perspective of what our life means. The sinful, self-focused part ofour experience could be diminished and the good, “I’m part of a greater Whole” part could
be increased. “Little ole me” would seem both less important but also more important.

When Hebrews 12:1 says, “Therefore, surrounded as we are by such a vast cloud of witnesses, let us fling aside every encumbrance and the sin that so readily entangles our feet. And let us run with patient endurance the race that lies before us”, my brothers and sisters, my beloved in Jesus, you are included in the spiritual genealogy of Jesus, and of God, our sweetest Father! You have family immeasurable, and holy, royal family at that! You are not alone, not forgotten, not poor for resources! We can think ourselves poor when we are rich beyond our wildest dreams. We can think ourselves alone when we are included in a Family more numerous than the grains of sands are on the beach, fathered by the God of the Universe!

Dear hidden ones that dwell in the solitary wood (Micah 7:14) know you are well cared for. You are never alone! Perhaps I am writing to just one person out there, but I know in my spirit that I am writing to MANY of you. Sleep well in the safety of your Shepherd, know that you matter and are noticed, know that in the heavenlies, your true family cheers you on.

And so do I…..

Rose-Marie Slosek is a Board Member of Women of the Word. She also blogs at Pen of the Wayfarer and is a spiritual director. She loves to travel to other nations, especially Ireland and Israel , and is an avid photographer of nature. Rose-Marie also rescues dogs and gives them a loving home.

Women of the Word is an inter-generational ministry dedicated to helping women grow as disciples of Jesus by applying God’s Word through the power of the Holy Spirit. WOW holds conferences, retreats, Bible seminars and trips to Israel, where you can connect with your spiritual roots on location! 

Getting More Useful to God.

by Rose-Marie Slosek

In a society that glorifies youth, anyone over 30 can be considered a gone-by.  That is not at all a biblical way of looking at the life-process of a believer.  God has special, highly favored, uses for those over-50’s!  There is a maturity that only walking with God for decades can produce. Jesus did not enter public ministry until age 30. He had to follow the natural order of life and learning before His time to minister came. Abraham, the father of our faith, was not called until he was 70 years old!

By its very definition, the leaders of the church are called “elders”

photo by Thomas Hafeneth at Unsplash.com

They have reached a certain age and are recognized for their wisdom,maturity and strong walk with God. Jesus tells us that people can start out well, but  that they can become like seed scattered in thorny soil–they start out well but over the long run they are choked out and overtaken by the troubles of life.  Spiritual elders (and I do not mean just church leaders), on the other hand, have a positive track record with God.

We need to remember that what we consider the end of life is but a beginning to eternal life. So we are not getting older and then passing away but we are growing more mature and entering into the place where we actually know a little bit about God.  In a sense, the oldest you could get on earth is still but a drop in the bucket of how long you will be alive (eternally!) …so please try to let that inform your perspective of aging and what it means.

Samuel Whitfield said, “One of the great mistakes we make is trying to fulfill our entire purpose in this age. When we have that perspective, unmet expectations crush us. In reality, the primary purpose of this age is to form and shape us to be a suitable companion for Jesus in the age to come.” So we are really just beginning our journey but yet we have lived long enough to know the frailties of life and of human nature. What we have to offer is a humble sense that our own strength can not carry us across the length of a life, but that we can learn to abide in and lean on God because He is ALWAYS faithful . The young rely on themselves, true “elders” rely on God.

Knowing where you end and where God begins brings a stability to you and to your environment.

Photo by Vick Mellon on Unsplash.com

One of the characteristics of people in the earlier part of life is that trouble tosses them around more severely than it does those who have learned to walk with God through many ups and downs.  Your presence in the life of your children and grandchildren can bring a deep sense of stability to them. They see that you are still there and have weathered the storms with some wear but with grace and wisdom.  They sense that.  It brings comfort to them.  All of us want to feel that someone older and wiser is leading us.  Our Heavenly Father specializes in that!

Paul writes, “For though you have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have you not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have become your father through the gospel.  (1 Cor 4:15). Paul recognizes that many people can teach you things about Jesus, but not that many can protect, watch over, and make you feel the safety that a Father’s love gives.  We get that sense of how to father (and mother) from having been fathered by God throughout our lives. We know that people don’t just need truth, they need to feel our compassion, they need someone to bind up the scrapes, someone to cry with and run to when the way seems lost and hopeless.  They need a strong figure that they can watch when it feels like they are drowning: one that stands head and shoulders above the storm and are themselves, watching and being Fathered by God.  They need someone whose gives them the reassurance of a loving gaze when they feel lost or incapable.  These love subtleties we simply do not have when we are younger.  Do you remember Radar O’Reilly, the company clerk from MASH? He knew exactly what was needed by some kind of “intuitive” radar.  That kind of radar takes awhile to grow in us.

So you can see how rare and how precious being a spiritual father and mother is.  This does not come in our youth–it blossoms, if it is going to blossom, in later decades.  You can be an outstanding example, a brother, a sister, but you can not be a father or mother in the faith until at least a few grey hairs show!

So start to see that the “race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong,” but that the prize goes to the one who loves the most and can watch over the flock of God in such a way thatothers feel the Father’s love flowing through your bespectacled eyes, and your wrinkled hands.

As you get older, you are, or can be, getting more useful to God!

Rose-Marie Slosek is a Board Member of Women of the Word. She also blogs at Pen of the Wayfarer and is a spiritual director. She loves to travel to other nations spreading the Gospel, and is an avid photographer of nature. Rose-Marie also rescues dogs and gives them a loving home.

Women of the Word is an inter-generational ministry dedicated to helping women grow as disciples of Jesus by applying God’s Word through the power of the Holy Spirit. WOW holds conferences, retreats, Bible seminars and trips to Israel.

 

Why was Resurrection “on the Third Day”? Two Answers

by Lois Tverberg

Every year during Holy Week, Christians scratch their heads over questions about Jesus’ being raised “on the third day.” We look at our calendars and see that Sunday comes only two days after Friday. Elaborate schemes have been worked out to make the timing make more sense.

 

One neglected cultural detail suggests a simpler answer. Throughout the Bible, Jews counted time this way:

– Today

– Tomorrow

– Third day

What they call the “third day” we would call “the day after tomorrow.” It sounds surprising, but here are a couple examples:

When you offer a sacrifice of peace offerings to the Lord, you shall offer it so that you may be accepted. It shall be eaten the same day you offer it or on the day after, and anything left over until the third day shall be burned up with fire. (Leviticus 19:5-6)

The Lord said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments and be ready for the third day.” (Exodus 19:10-11)

The idea is not to count 24-hour time spans but to name successive days, including the day of an announcement, which was understood as the “first day.” If an announcement came towards the end of a day, the beginning of the “third day” could arrive not much more than 24 hours later.

Seen in this light, if Jesus died and was buried on Friday, it would be completely logical that Sunday would be seen as the “third day.”

Why was the “Third Day” so Significant?

Understanding how the Jews counted days solves one mystery for our logical, Greek-thinking brains. But another insight comes from looking at Jesus’ words about “the third day” more Hebraically.

In several places we hear Jesus talk about his death, but then how he’d be raised on “the third day.” He makes this prediction over and over. Jewish scholar Pinchas Lapide thinks that he did so because of a motif that Jewish teachers had noted in their Scriptures that reminded them of a promise from Hosea:

Come, let us return to the Lord;
for he has torn us, that he may heal us;
he has struck us down, and he will bind us up.
After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will raise us up,
that we may live before him. (Hosea 6:1-2)

Hosea had rebuked the people of Israel for their sins, and they knew they were suffering from God’s punishment. But then the prophet invited them to return to the Lord, issuing a gracious promise that God’s forgiveness would soon come. Today might be a terrible day of his anger, but tomorrow would be better, and in not too long, life would seemingly begin again. This message gave them hope that even when God was angry, he desired to forgive.

When the rabbis looked back on the Scriptures in light of Hosea’s words, they noticed several places where the “third day” was when redemption came. They were not being woodenly literalistic in counting up days. They were not developing codes and prediction schemes. They were saying that scripturally, God’s forgiveness and redemption comes on “the third day,” poetically speaking.

Lapide writes that in Jewish thought,

“On the third day” has nothing to do with the date or the counting of time but contains for ears which are educated biblically a clear reference to God’s mercy and grace which is revealed after two days of affliction and death by way of redemption.

It made perfect sense to Jesus’ first Jewish followers that Christ would be raised to life “on the third day.”

 

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* Genesis Rabbah 56. Pinchas Lapide, The Resurrection of Jesus: A Jewish Perspective (Minneapolis, Fortress: 1982), 91-93.

For more about this motif of “the third day,” see p 214-216 in Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus (Tverberg, Baker, 2018).  It is part of a larger section called “Reading about the Messiah” (p 178-250) which discusses the distinctively Jewish, Hebraic way of reading the Bible that Jesus used to communicate his Messianic identity. Some of his boldest claims float right past us because we don’t know how he read his Scriptures, our Old Testament.

(Images: Raw Pixel, Dion Tavenier)

Original blog posted at ourrabbijesus.com. Re-posted here with permission.

Lois Tverberg

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. Registrations close April 6, 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.

Women of the Word is an inter-denominational, inter-generational, and inter-cultural ministry dedicated to transforming lives into the image of Jesus through growing disciples taught by God’s Word and empowered by the Holy Spirit. We honor our elders, learning from them as they mentor us. We value and strengthen the middle-aged. We seek to reach the millennials and younger generations to encourage and mentor them in the ways of the Lord. Our prayer is that we honor God together. We welcome men to join us at Bible seminars such as “Through the Eyes of Jesus” and on our Amazing Israel Adventure trips. 

A Prodigal Son’s Redemption

by David Fontanez

There is so much truth to the statement, “I wish I knew then, what I know now.” We all learn things at different speeds, but we often think back to our younger days and wonder how much further in life we could have come or how much trouble we could have avoided. Some of us learn easily, but people, like me, tend to learn the hard way. To be completely honest, learning the “hard way” often involves one of those moments of realizing “my parents were right” or “I should have listened to my parents.”

I was raised as a Christian boy. I was taught about the love of God and His will for my life. For a long time, I was actively involved in the church and served in different ministries.  But like many teenage boys, I allowed myself to be influenced by the things of the world, and I fell away from God. At age 15 I became rebellious. Often times I was disrespectful, mostly to my mother, who made every effort to guide me back to the path for which she knew I was destined. But I felt I was too far lost.

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As time passed, I went on ignoring the call of God on my life. I was focused on material things: fancy cars and late nights partying and hanging out with the wrong crowds. I remembered who God was and still believed in Him, but whenever I got myself into trouble, I blamed Him for my circumstances. I expected Him to fix all my problems when I was the one who had turned my back on Him. I hurt a lot of good people including my parents. I did a lot of things of which I am not proud. I was living in sin and found myself in bad relationships over and over again. I experimented with drugs. I became a father before I was ready, and my relationships always failed.

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Then one day, the worst thing happened. I was arrested and taken to jail. I was completely broken in that moment. In my cell the negative thoughts consumed me. I had lost my job, my home, I couldn’t see my kids, but most of all I felt completely lost. I didn’t know who I was anymore. I even contemplated suicide as I sat there drowning in tears of regret and shame, wishing I had taken my mom’s advice and changed my ways.

God has a way of using our most broken circumstances to bring us to a defining moment. During my jail experience, I was reminded of who I was meant to be in Christ. I was reminded that I had two little girls who needed me. God even sent a good friend of my mother’s (Denise Ridley) to visit me in jail with a message: “I see you, I love you and I have plans for you.” It was written on the bottom of the paper she handed me that had several verses on it about God’s love.

From that moment I knew what I had to do. It was a long road back home. It was a difficult process of fixing years of mistakes and seeking deliverance from bondages and chains that I had gathered on the road of rebellion. But I had a lot of help and support from my amazing mother (Heidy Fontanez) and my pastors (Revs. Eliezer and Cindy Garcia) who welcomed me with open arms and guided me back to where I needed to be – closer to God than ever before.

Today I am happily married to a wonderful woman of God. We serve together in different ministries at a humble and growing church in Springfield called CCRN Massachusetts (Christian Community Restoration for the Nations). I have four beautiful daughters who light up my life and shower me with love. I have a great job that I enjoy, and God is in the center of everything we do. I’m genuinely happy and tremendously blessed. I owe it all to my Good Father in heaven who, despite my flaws, my imperfections, disloyalty, sin and shame welcomed me back to His Kingdom as if I had never left. Thank you, Jesus, my Savior and my Redeemer! Thank you to my mom for never giving up on me. Thank you to my pastors for investing their time and pouring their wisdom and knowledge into my life. “I once was lost, but now I’m found. I was blind, but now I see.” (Luke 15:24) It’s amazing what God can do when He comes into a young man’s life and says, “I’m not done with you yet.”

If you are a prodigal or struggling in your walk, do not give up hope. Trust in the Lord, trust in His plan, and may His will be done in His perfect timing in your life. I leave you with this verse: “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12)

David Fontanez lives in Springfield and is married. He and his wife have four beautiful daughters. They are both members of the church they attend and are involved in ministry.  As a young boy David was involved in Junior Bible Quiz, which is a ministry of memorizing scripture for students. Those verses would rise up within him from time to time to remind him of God’s love. A verse that helped him through his  journey was out of Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on you own understanding, in all you ways submit to him and he will make your path straight.” David loves working on cars and spending time with his family.

David’s mother Heidy Fontanez assists in administering a closed Facebook group for Moms of Adult Prodigals, a ministry of Women of the Word. To learn more about H.O.P.E. for Moms of Prodigals click here.

Waiting for Resurrection

by Rose-Marie Slosek

Our life with God is in the process of growing:  there is a tension between the now and the “not yet.”  While the plan for who He meant us to be was in the mind and heart of God before we were conceived, the living out of that destiny takes place, here on earth, through a process of time and trust.

On this day, Holy Saturday as the liturgical church calls it, Jesus is in a place of utter waiting and trust on God to resurrect Him.  As a man He did not have the power to resurrect Himself, He had to wait for His Father. So likewise, we cannot bring life to ourselves but must surrender to God, knowing that His love for us will not forget us, will not abandon us, will not hurt us, but will bring us to a higher life than we have known.  This is not a hopeful truism, but a living truth!

Jesus understands waiting in trust for God to bring life and resurrection. He understands the vulnerability of waiting in hope, and trusting in faith. Today we can all say that there is something within us that is giving place, perhaps in fits and starts, to who we are yet to become.  The sons and daughters of God are being revealed. The life of God is welling up within us ready to bud forth new things that will glorify and reflect God’s nature in us.

Ponder happily that this day signifies that we are moving from the valley of the shadow of death to our rightful place beneath the shadow of His wings!  So let us surrender ourselves into the hands of our Father. Though we be in an “in-between” place, a place of almost there but not yet, we know that “He who has begun a good work in us will continue to carry it through to completion in Christ Jesus” (Phil 1:6)

Look to your Father and to your Saviour!  Resurrection awaits us!

Re-posted with permission. Original posted here.

 

Rose-Marie Slosek is a Board Member of Women of the Word. She also blogs at Pen of the Wayfarer and is a spiritual director. She loves to travel to other nations spreading the Gospel, and is an avid photographer of nature. Rose-Marie also rescues dogs and gives them a loving home.

Women of the Word is an inter-generational ministry dedicated to helping women grow as disciples of Jesus by applying God’s Word through the power of the Holy Spirit. WOW holds conferences, retreats, Bible seminars and trips to Israel.

Jesus Celebrated Passover

by Betsy Roy

During Passover and “Holy Week”,  our focus is rightly on the things that transpired during this season in the life of Jesus (Yeshua in Hebrew). Glorious LORD JESUS! Psalm 116:12 says, “What shall I render to the LORD for all His benefits to me?” Indeed! We cannot. But, we can set our hearts to follow hard after Him and honor Him with our lives as faithful disciples.

Sometime we get so busy with all the practical preparations, like cleaning,  cooking, and Easter egg hunts that we truly forget what this season is all about. We forget the purpose which is stated by God several times in Exodus Chapters 7-10, “Let my people go, that they may serve (sometimes translated ‘worship’) me!”  God’s purpose has not changed since the time of the Exodus. Jesus came to set us free from all that holds us in bondage so that we may serve (worship) Him and one another in spirit and in truth.

I encourage you to take time during this season which extends past Resurrection Sunday or “Easter” to read God’s Word and ponder it in your heart. Exodus 12 tells us how God instituted Passover. Do you see how it prefigures Jesus? In the New Testament, Jesus celebrated the Passover with his disciples. Read Luke 22:7 – 20. During the Passover Seder, Jesus instituted what Christians now call “Communion”. This all has great significance for us as believers in Jesus. Then read the rest of Luke 22 – Luke 24. Sometimes we are so familiar with a “bible story” that we miss some important revelations the Holy Spirit wants to show us because we don’t take the time to read it prayerfully. What is the text saying to you? How are you to apply the text so that you grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ? Does an understanding of Passover from the Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament) enrich what your read in the New Testament? Prayerfully so!

Also consider prayerfully reading the prophetic scriptures of Isaiah 42:1 – 4, Isaiah 49:1 – 6, Isaiah 50:4 – 9, and Isaiah 52:13 – Isaiah 53:12 known as the “Servant’s Songs” which speak of Messiah Yeshua (Jesus). 

This year (2018) Passover begins at twilight March 30 and goes till sundown April 7.  Passover is really a “season of liberation”. It includes the Feast of Passover,  the Days of Unleavened Bread and the Feast of Firstfruits. Jewish people read certain scriptures during this time and Messianic Believers add readings from the New Testament. I encourage you to read them. A great resource is Hebrew for Christians, which lists the scriptures and also teaches about this season which ends with the Feast of Shavuot (Pentecost) on May 19, 2018.

The celebration of the Passover Seder will occur throughout the world in Jewish homes this year (2018) beginning at twilight on March 30 (Nisan 14, beginning Nisan 15 on the Hebrew calendar). It’s an excellent time to pray for the salvation of Jewish people. Pray that their eyes will be opened and they see that Yeshua (Jesus) is their Messiah.

This year (2018) “Good Friday” falls on Passover. Because the Gregorian calendar, which we observe, and the Hebrew calendar are different, Passover and Easter fall on different days every year. While as Christians we might not take part in a Passover Seder, we can join in by also remembering what happened then and what happened to Jesus, the perfect Passover lamb! Let’s remember and rejoice because Jesus has set us free and wants to deliver us from every bondage so we can live the abundant life He has promised us; a life where we are free to follow Him as His disciples, serve Him, His people and gather in His harvest of souls.

Let’s give Him praise! The Hallel (praise) Psalms of 113 – 118 are read during the Passover Seder. We can read them too! Let’s begin right now!

“Praise the LORD! Praise, O servants of the LORD, praise the name of the LORD! Blessed be the name of the LORD from this time forth and forevermore! From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the LORD is to be praised! (Psalm 113:1, 2)

The Garden Tomb, Jerusalem

We have great reason to celebrate because our Savior is not dead. HE IS RISEN. HE IS ALIVE. The grave could not hold Him. The tomb is empty and because He lives, we have hope and we can face tomorrow. Yes, life has its difficulties and pain, but Jesus has promised to never leave us, nor forsake us. May this reality encourage you and may you truly experience His peace and joy during this season. The Lord abundantly bless you!

Wreath pictured with lilies from wreathswithareason.com, a non-profit organization that raises awareness and funds to combat sex-trafficking. 

Betsy Roy is the Director of Women of the Word, an inter-generational ministry dedicated to helping women grow as disciples of Jesus by applying God’s Word through the power of the Holy Spirit. WOW holds conferences, retreats, Bible seminars and trips to Israel

Betsy and her husband Jim lead the trips to Israel, which include visiting with local believers, both Messianic and Arab. Together they have 3 daughters and 3 grandchildren which are the delight of their hearts. God’s mercy endures from generation to generation. 

Stepping It Up a Notch at 60

by Rose-Marie Slosek

So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. Return, O Lord, how long? and let it repent thee concerning thy servants. O satisfy us early with thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.” (Psalm 90:12-14)

While we are eternal beings in an ultimately real sense, we are also mortals while on this earth. The Psalmist tells us to “number our days” that we might gain a sense of how short they are, and how imperative it is that our earthly sojourn should count much for the eternal kingdom of God.

A couple of us at Women of the Word are turning 60 this year! With that comes a soberness of heart that causes us to turn to the Lord, and implore Him to use us as He wills. There can be nothing held back from Him in this hour. As our bodies age, our spirit can burn every more brightly because we identify with our Lord and understand His purposes and ways in an even greater way. The desire and pursuits of earlier decades give way to wholehearted and unreserved abandon to our God and His passionate work to win all peoples to Himself.

There are some things that can not be done when we are young because we do not yet have the experience. Maturity in God happens over the course of decades– line upon line of faithful walking with God, day in and day out, through the many storms of life.  While youth has energy, the seasoned know that of themselves, they can do nothing and their self-trust has given way to trust in God alone, or at least the beginning of that. There are no shortcuts to some things. Knowing where you end, and where God begins is a great wisdom.

Paul writes, “Moreover [let us also be full of joy now!] let us exult and triumph in our troubles and rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that pressure and affliction and hardship produce patient and unswerving endurance. And endurance develops maturity of character (approved faith and tried integrity). And character produces joyful and confident hope of eternal salvation.  Such hope never disappoints or deludes or shames us, for God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. While we were yet in weakness [powerless to help ourselves], at the fitting time Christ died for us in our ungodly condition (Romans 5:3-6 Amplified).

By the time one turns 60, our character is soberingly starting to show itself for what it is. Now is our wake-up call to be awake, and surrendered, and fit for the Master’s use. For if not now, when? If we have not taken the claims of Jesus upon our life seriously, we had best get down on our knees. And if we have, there are always deeper, more wonderful depths to plumb. I feel that I am only getting to the starting line and I have endeavored to run the race with sobriety for these many decades.

God views our life from the finish point. He stands at our finish line and beckons us to run well, run with abandon, run with character, run with grace.  So let us do that, with all our mind, soul and strength. There is no time to lose, and no time like the present to press into God.

Re-posted here with permission. Original blog posted here.

Rose-Marie Slosek is a Board Member of Women of the Word. She also blogs at Pen of the Wayfarer and is a spiritual director. She loves to travel to other nations spreading the Gospel, and is an avid photographer of nature. Rose-Marie also rescues dogs and gives them a loving home.

Women of the Word is an inter-generational ministry dedicated to helping women grow as disciples of Jesus by applying God’s Word through the power of the Holy Spirit. WOW holds conferences, retreats, Bible seminars and trips to Israel.