Bible Study and Teaching, Inspire

Birds in Flight

Bird iStock_000002531168LargeI enjoyed a “pre-saved” holy moment that gave me a glimpse of God as the author of life.  Raised an aetheist, as a sophomore in college, I was bothered by the conversion of my skeptical father to Christianity.  Billy Graham’s book How to Be Born Again was a best-seller that year, so I decided to purchase a copy to gain insight into my father’s newfound faith.  Spreading out a blanket on the shores of Lake Michigan, I pulled out my book for a leisurely read.  An excerpt from chapter 3, “Does God Really Speak to Us?” made me blurt out loud, “Yeah, right!” Graham proposed that God was the Creator who speaks to His creatures through creation; “In its own language, nature speaks of God’s existence, whether it is the cry of a baby or the song of a meadowlark…the instincts of a bird within his plans.”

Arrogantly, I decided to put creator God to a test, challenging, “If you formed the instincts within a bird and want to show me that You are sovereign over all, then influence the bird tweeting in the distance to sing a little song for me by landing upon the tree I’m sitting under.”  Fluttering out of the distance, a small gray swallow came into view.  Then he lit upon the branch above my head and chirped a happy melody.  Closing the book ceremoniously, I thought, Maybe God really does exist and has created me for a purpose.

Just like that, in a holy moment, God had sprung the lock on a college coed’s closed mind with His unseen hand of providence.  I began attending Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, California, and two months later I offered my heart to the Lord.  My experience is evidence that holy moments are designed to draw us closer to the Holy One.

God is creator of heaven and Earth, sovereign over all He has made. And his creations, from the stars at night to the birds in flight, are evidence of His divine nature. Paul tells us, “since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20, NIV).  Nothing, not even the fall or the flight of a sparrow, escapes God’s all-seeing eye. And He uses the intricacies of nature to get the attention of his ultimate creation, humanity. People like you and me are much more valuable to God than a flock of sparrows (see Luke 12:7).

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Bible Study and Teaching

Live Brilliantly

Do you look around and see the world in darkness and despair? Do you long to see a world filled with love and light? First John is a short yet powerful book full of assurances that while we might not find light and love in this world, we can find it in the One who created it.

Join me and she Ministries in our upcoming citywide Bible study, Live Brilliantly: A Study in the Book of 1 John, Part 1, beginning Tuesday, September 10, as we study powerful verses like “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5) and “If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

Bible Study and Teaching

Peace At Any Price

Lenya and LourdesEdited

Last week, I got to do something I enjoy very much: visit another women’s ministry and teach. The ladies of Flourish, the women’s ministry at Calvary Kendall in Miami, welcomed me with love and spunk. My friend Lourdes and her husband, Pedro, lead this dynamic church full of Jesus fanatics. I spoke four years ago at their retreat, and this group of ladies is always energetic, interactive, and fun.

Their auditorium was packed to overflowing–and then their overflow quickly filled up. I got to meet and talk with many of the ladies after giving my message, “Peace at Any Price?” from the book of Judges. This is where Gideon, the “mighty man of valor,” meets Jehovah Shalom, The Lord Is My Peace.

As I walked the ladies through this story where we find Gideon in a place of having no peace, I could feel their spirits crying out with the same feeling. When you turn on the TV or check the latest headlines, there seems to be no peace in this world. There is war, famine, crime, and natural disasters at every corner.

As I wrapped up my message, I gave the ladies in turmoil the opportunity to pray to receive God’s peace. As I prayed over the women, I felt a sense of the freedom only God can give come upon the room. He was breaking the chains of bondage as the ladies stood to their feet seeking freedom.

Thanks to the ladies of Calvary Kendall for being so welcoming, vulnerable, and loving. It was a joy to walk through this Scripture with you.

If you need a dose of freedom, you can listen to “Peace at Any Price?” here. Peace is just a step away. If you’re fighting for it personally, spiritually, relationally, or nationally, spend some time getting to know Jehovah Shalom. Gideon did. And because he met Jehovah Shalom, he confronted the enemy, while trusting God for the victory, and through God’s peace, he overcame.

Names of God

Jehovah Jireh

jehovajireh

One of the teachings I had from the fall semester is this month’s devotion; we meet the Provider, Jehovah Jireh.

Founding Father Thomas Paine wrote The American Crisis to bolster soldiers tempted to retreat during the American Revolution. While suffering deprivation, hostile living conditions, and savage attacks, their businesses at home failed and their families languished in poverty.

One South Carolinian farmer’s wife, Eliza Pinckney, described her situation: “My property pulled to pieces, burnt and destroyed, my money of no value, my children sick and prisoners.” Most children did not survive infancy. Parents refrained from naming a baby until they reached two years old. Until that age, parents called babies “our little visitor” or “my little angel.”

“These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives everything its value.”

Modern Americans view a long line a Starbucks, no access to cable TV, or riding public transportation as a trial. The biblical view holds much higher stakes:

Job: “When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).

Jeremiah: “You have tested my heart toward you” (Jer. 12:3).

 Israel: “God led you…these 40 years in the wilderness,
to humble you and test you,
to know what was in your heart,
whether you would keep His commandments ” (Deut. 8:2).

When Abraham was 75, God called him to a life of faith in leaving his father. When Abraham met Jehovah Jireh, he was 100 years old and facing his greatest “trial of the soul.” God tested him with the object most valued by the patriarch, his only son. Twenty years had passed between Genesis 21 when Ishmael was banished and when Isaac was born. His “only son” was mature. With a name that means “laughter,” Isaac brought delight to his parent and embodied the very promises of God. In meeting Jehovah Jireh, Abraham’s faith was stretched to the limits.

Do you know the Lord who will provide for all of your needs, physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual? Meet the God who you can trust in all circumstances.

Jehovah Jireh (The Lord Provides)

This name of God is a compound of two names. Jehovah imparts the fundamentals about God: He is the self-existent God of righteousness and holiness, a God of revelation who makes and keeps His promises. The second name, Jireh, means the Lord will provide, with the additional meaning of “pre-vision.” In other words, God knows how events unfold before they occur.

As with other compound names of God, the second name Jireh points to a historical incident; in this case, God’s command that Abraham sacrifice his son.

“Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you” (Gen. 22:2).

This was the moment of truth in Abraham’s life, the zenith of his faith in God. After decades of childlessness, God blessed him with a son, and now, unimaginably, God told him to take that son and sacrifice him on Mount Moriah.

This was the test to end all tests. Without objection, Abraham obeyed God’s command. His life of challenges and faith culminated in glorious commitment and absolute trust in God, even though he didn’t understand His methods or His motives.

When Abraham’s knife was raised over the bound body of his precious, only son, God intervened: “Abraham, Abraham! Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me” (Gen. 22:11-12).

And then, Jehovah Jireh provided a sacrifice of His own. In a beautiful picture of the future provision of God’s only Son for our sins, He provided a ram caught in a thicket, his head ringed with a crown of thorns.

Names of God

Yahweh

Yahweh was the last teaching I did in our fall semester, and it was one that prompted many questions. In Exodus 3, we move from the patriarchs to the prophet and witness an encounter between Moses and YHWH. When God spoke to Moses from a burning bush, we see Him break a forty-year silence. For more than four decades, there is no record of God speaking to Moses in the wilderness. On a day that began like any other, God gave Moses an incredible message. Until the burning bush God was a God of the past to Moses — a God of dead men. God showed Moses that He could work in his life today — and He can work in yours too!

Oftentimes we find that simple things turn out to be the most profound. Does God use the ordinary to make an extraordinary point? Does God move supernaturally, naturally? Has God spoken to you through a bumper sticker? A phone call? A chance encounter?

God got Balaam’s attention through a well-placed donkey. A famine forced Joseph’s family to be reunited. An earthquake released Peter from prison. And Caesar’s tax hike ensured that the birth of Christ occurred in Bethlehem.

As you study the encounter between Moses and YHWH, consider:

 Have you found God on the backside of your desert — changing your waste into shining?
Have you become a partner to God’s plan in bearing the burdens of others?
Are you on a first-name basis with God — is God your God?
Have you surrendered your will to His will — occupation and all?
Have you consecrated your heart and hands to reach out in faith to God’s will?
Are you questioning God because you don’t understand God’s heart?

If you don’t know Yahweh, I encourage you to spend time in Exodus 3, and just like Moses, come to know the God who wants to be your Lord
Yahweh (Jehovah)

When we think about ourselves, we unconsciously wrap our thoughts in the context of our name. Have you ever wondered what name God uses when He refers to Himself? In Isaiah 42:8, He tells us: “I am the Lord, that is My name…”

In Hebrew, this name was Yahweh. The Jews so feared profaning the name of God, they dropped the vowels —  resulting in YHWH. In English texts, the name was translated Jehovah or Lord — all in uppercase letters, as distinct from the lowercase letters of Lord. It is generally agreed that Yahweh (or Jehovah in English) is the best translation of God’s proper name. The names Lord and Jehovah appear almost 7,000 times in Scripture.

As might be expected, this is a big name with big implications. Yahweh comes from the verb “to be” in Hebrew. Therefore, it is inextricably linked with life and existence. When pondering the creation, invariably we come to the point of asking, “Who created God?” The answer is found in His name: He is self-existent. It has been said that He is the “uncaused cause” of everything.

Moses came right up to this truth. God told him to go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt. The ever-reluctant Moses asked God what he should say when asked the name of the God who sent him.

And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you'” (Ex. 3:14).

As we strive to scale the Mount Everest of God’s names, the name Yahweh is at the peak. He is life: self-existent, righteous, and holy. In His justice, He will punish wickedness; in His love, He redeems the sinner. How? Through His Son, Jesus — a name that means “Yahweh saves.”

Names of God

Adonai

This month we are studying the beautiful name of God, Adonai — Lord. When Abram encountered Adonai in Genesis 15, he acknowledged that God had control over his life and his family’s future. Abram likely understood the concept of lordship more than most since he bore the title lord/master/owner over a huge tribe, including 318 soldiers. In those days, this relationship was not angst-filled. The purchased slave enjoyed closeness and compassion that a hired servant did not, and was free to come and go as he wished. Slaves joined the family for Passover while servants were shunned.

When you give God rights to your life, you are acknowledging His lordship over every area. The saying goes, “If He’s not Lord of all, He’s not Lord at all.” Is Jesus your Adonai?

Adonai (Lord)

By Laura Sowers

We are drawn to the idea of an all-powerful, all-loving God, and we embrace the idea that the God of the universe is standing by to bless, lead, and protect us. Yet in Scripture we repeatedly find Him referred to as Adonai, the Hebrew word for Lord, which means “Master” or “Owner.” This is a term of respect and deference to someone of wisdom and position. The singular adon always referred to a man, while Adonai is a plural and possessive noun that refers to the Trinity and to God.

Slavery is usually a repulsive notion. However, in ancient Israel, a slave under the care of a good master enjoyed benefits such as help, direction, protection, and affection. The relationship was clear-cut: the slave was the possession of the master and was expected to submit and obey. In return, the master had the obligation to care for the slave.

In Psalm 123:2, we see a picture of the dynamic between a servant girl and her mistress: “Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress, so our eyes wait upon the Lord our God, until He has mercy on us.” The servant was obediently ready, watching the hand of her mistress for the slightest gesture indicating “Come,” “Wait,” “Go.”

Submission is difficult. When Moses asked God to find someone else to speak for Him, God reacted in obvious anger. Moses’ fear revealed doubt that God had the power to compensate for his human insufficiencies.

Jesus was the example of both the perfect Master and the perfect Servant. He surrendered His will to the will of the Father and paid His servants’ debts. Remember our Lord is our Master, our Adonai, who bought us with the price of His perfect blood. We are not our own, but we are completely free in Him.

Names of God

El Shaddai

I don’t know how February snuck past me, but in the midst of starting our spring semester of Live Awesomely: Exalting the Names of God, Part 2 and teaching the first two sessions, it did. Anytime you study a name of God it’s both daunting and beautiful. As I spend time with Jehovah Rophe, the Lord Who Heals You, and Jehovah Nissi, the Lord is My Banner, I always find myself drawing deeper into the Lord, which is what we’re supposed to do. This is why He tells us who He is, so we will draw near to Him. We can think we know someone from Instagram and Twitter (follow me @lenyaheitzig) or from what we read or hear about them, but we don’t really know them until we spend time in their presence. It’s true. Even after all these years walking with the Lord, I find I get to know Him best when I sit at His feet and truly let Him tell me who He is.

I know the month is almost over but I’m going to sneak this in before February completely passes. Here is this month’s devotional “El Shaddai , God Almighty, ” which  we have been studying in the she 2013 Prayer Journal.

El Shaddai (God Almighty)

By Laura Sowers

The first time the name El Shaddai is found in the Old Testament, God was speaking to Abraham about Himself: “I am Almighty God [El Shaddai]; walk before Me and be blameless” (Gen. 17:1). Previously, God told Abraham that he would be the father of a “great nation.” Then to illustrate this promise, He brought him outside and said, “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them….So shall your descendants be” (Gen. 15:5).

At this point, Abraham and Sarah were childless — and old. So this seemed to Abraham an impossible proclamation that contradicted human reason and the very laws of nature. In other words, the perfect circumstances for God Almighty to reveal the fullness of His blessings and power! Through Father Abraham, we learn that nothing is impossible for God.

At first look, the name El Shaddai seems redundant. The Hebrew El means might, power, and omnipotence. Shaddai is translated “almighty,” so it appears a simple restatement. However, Shaddai speaks of God’s ever-existent nature plus the unexpected attribute of being a mighty nourisher. In fact, shad means “breast” and refers to the sustaining abundance from a mother for her child.

God is our wellspring of never-ending supply and blessings. In the New Testament, Jesus spoke of this abundance to the Samaritan woman at the well: “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst” (John 4:13-14).

El Shaddai is the God who triumphs over our obstacles and transforms us in the process. Our part is to empty ourselves of pride and self-sufficiency in order to be filled. El Shaddai responds by strengthening our faith, bringing fruitfulness from the pruning, and replacing our self-sufficiency with a deeper knowledge of Him.

Names of God

Elohim

I have been waiting a long time for January 1, not because I’m making any new resolutions but because I finally get to start my 2013 she Ministries Prayer Journal! This is a project I have prayed about for two years. Since the beginning of my Christian walk, I have always journaled daily in my quiet times. Two years ago, the Lord gave me a vision for a prayer journal that centered daily on the Word of God, basic Christian principles, and prayer.

To complement our current Bible study, Live Awesomely: Exalting the Names of God, you begin each month with a devotion on one of the names of God and this month we discover Elohim, the Creator God.

Last semester, I taught on Elohim and I have to admit, I wasn’t the creation-lover in our family. Skip is the one who notices the beautiful sunsets or fancy birds. But after studying the Mighty Creator God, I have to say I notice His mighty creation even more. Below is the article for you to think on.

In Christ’s Love,

Lenya

P.S. It’s not too late! Even if you don’t have a journal you can get one today by ordering online at sheabq.org 

 

Elohim (Creator God)

by Laura Z. Sowers

An unknown author wisely said, “Words have meaning and names have power.” This is ever so true when pondering the names of God. Often, the very first thing we know about a person is his or her name. Sometimes the name seems to perfectly capture the personality of the individual. For instance, a cheerful woman by the name of Joy, or a steady and reliable person named Constance.

In early English society, surnames were often established according to the individual’s job or trade, such as Baker, Taylor, or Mason. Occasionally, the name reflected an attribute or characteristic, like Wise or Goodman.

In Genesis, we meet the Creator God, Elohim. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). Elohim is a Hebrew word used over 2000 times in the King James Version of the Bible. The first syllable, El, richly conveys the fundamental truth of the Creator: He is God, the ruler of the universe. Implicit in the name Elohim is a plurality that suggests the Trinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, or the Godhead. In Genesis 1:26, He says, “Let us make man in our image.”

In considering the various names of God, we understand that no one word can capture or do justice to His attributes and characteristics. This is not God’s limitation, but our own. We are bound by language, just as we are liberated by it. It’s reassuring to remember that the greatness of God is a revelation that increases as we learn about Him and endeavor to know Him better.

By learning the various names of God, we increase our sense of wonder and awe in the Lord, which subsequently enlarges our worship and adoration. Elohim is eternal; His creation purposeful and filled with meaning. He lovingly made us in His image.

Bible Study and Teaching

The Bright Lights of Las Vegas…New Mexico

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Last weekend I traveled to Las Vegas (New Mexico, not Nevada), to speak at a women’s retreat at Calvary Chapel Las Vegas for my friend Jeneane Herrera. While smaller in nature (the city’s population is around the same size as our church congregation), Las Vegas has a history rich with famous names and places.

Established in 1835, 70 years before the more popular Las Vegas, NV, the town was originally laid out in the traditional Spanish colonial style with a central plaza, home to the “Belle of the Southwest,” Plaza Hotel, and surrounded by buildings which would serve as defense if they were under attack from enemies. The arrival of the railroad in 1879 brought with it some notorious characters like Billy the Kid, Jesse James, Wyatt Earp, and dentist Doc Holliday.

While I didn’t meet any outlaws in my short time there, I was welcomed by a loving group of about 100 women who participated in “Women Under Construction.” Their mascot was Rosie the Riveter–who I love (just ask to see my Rosie iPhone cover)–and their goal was to teach women how to build their lives to support their friends and families around them, and to learn to walk with God even in the tough times. I taught on trials and temptations, both from James 1.

I also taught these lessons in 2010–right after my recovery from cancer. Teaching them again this weekend brought back memories: the difficulty in a season of trials and temptations and learning how to tell the difference between the two, but persevering through both. All of which I could see in the faces of the ladies at the retreat.

They were attentive to the messages, craving to learn the same secrets I had learned about making it through the trials and temptations. By the end of the day, there was a different light about them, and their faces shone with their desire to seek Christ in the hard times. Ladies were saved and some rededicated their lives. It’s always a work of the Spirit when your own experience can encourage someone else to “press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil.3:14).

So while I didn’t have a run-in with an outlaw or get to see the bright lights of Nevada, I got to see a light show of my own, in the hearts and lives of the women of the historic town of Las Vegas, New Mexico.

Bible Study and Teaching

Bethlehem or Belen?

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What did Mary’s Christmas look like? Bethlehem, a straggling village, possessed one main street surrounded by homes built of clay and brick. Farms, orchards, and cattle lands lay along the outskirts of town. Residents came largely from two cultural backgrounds, but lived side by side.

It sort of reminds me of Belen, New Mexico – it’s counterpart and namesake. Two Spaniards, Captain Don Diego Torres and Antonio Salazar, Torres’ brother-in-law, founded Belen in 1740. They named it Belen, Spanish for Bethlehem, in honor of that town. The 40 families who founded Belen began a community based on agriculture, and also built homes made of adobe brick. By the 19th century, Belen’s economy expanded into sheep herding, and the town grew. After New Mexico became a territory of the United Stated in 1846, immigrants began arriving and Belen developed a main street that served as a mercantile center.

Bethlehem means “House of Bread.” Early on, both the eastern and southwestern cities were agricultural based. Remember, Ruth “came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest” (Ruth 1:22).

Just as Belen expanded into sheep herding, we know that Bethlehem did the same. Luke tells us that “country shepherds living out in the fields; keeping watch over their flock by night” (Luke 2:8).

Both Belen and Bethlehem are drive-by towns situated between two major cities. Belen falls between Albuquerque and Socorro, while Bethlehem lies between Jerusalem and Hebron. Since each city enjoys close proximity to a thriving metropolis, their residents work in the larger labor pools nearby.

What one commentator wrote about Bethlehem could equally be said of Belen: “And yet, from some cause or other, it never rose to any eminence, nor ever became the theater of any action or business.” Who knows why either city never made a greater claim to fame?

Try to describe a resident of Belen compared to one from Albuquerque or another big city:

  • Probably shops at a mercantile rather than a mall, Wal-Mart not Macy’s
  • Likely wears denim (the modern version of ancient burlap) rather than diamonds
  • No doubt they eat beans and rice instead of sushi or sashimi.
  • Perhaps drives a pick-up (our modern donkey) in lieu of a luxury class car (camel).
  • Instead of dressing in heels while sitting behind a computer, those from Belen are more likely to farm in the dirt wearing cowboy boots
  • No doubt, they’d rather attend a ho-down over a symphony (BTW, did David invent country music in Bethlehem? He used to sing to the sheep while roaming the country)

The point? Mary celebrated a simple Christmas with common people like shepherds and weary travelers. And these people got it! They understood the importance of the Christ child. Mark wrote, “The common people heard Him gladly” (Mark 12:37). Not so the religious leaders or King Herod the monarch. They conspired to destroy the Savior and His birthplace.

Do you want a Mary Christmas? Keep it simple! Focus on people not presents. Seek the Son not the sparkles. And don’t let the big city take Christ out of Christmas.