Thursday, February 4, 2021

Four Women Menioned in Matthew's Genealogy of Jesus - TAMAR

  

It always makes it more meaningful to a story to understand its setting, what came before to influence the story line and where and when the story takes place. One’s genealogy helps to do that for an individual. Today there is great interest in one’s genealogy, learning from where one’s ancestors hailed and interesting anecdotes about them. I’ve even had my ancestry checked out, only to find that I had a significant amount of ancestors from a country I didn’t even know figured into my life at all.

     Matthew supplies that genealogy for Jesus in the opening chapter of his book in the New Testament. What makes Matthew’s genealogy so interesting is that there are four women mentioned as mothers. This was done at a time in Jewish history when women weren’t even considered a person but a thing by many men. Eugene Peterson reminds us that “In the regular form of morning prayer, a male Jew would give thanks that God had not made him a Gentile, a slave or a woman.” It’s really extraordinary that they are mentioned by name here considering that all were either immoral, or foreign. Pastor Tim Dilena of Times Square Church in NYC says, “Not only did Jesus associate with liars, cheaters, adulterers, murderers, and prostitutes—but Jesus had them in his lineage.” Regardless of your ancestry, God’s plan always prevails, and that’s good news for all of us. For the next four months we will be looking more closely at these four women.


            The first mother mentioned is Tamar, the mother of Perez, a son of Judah. Tamar was a widow, and, like you, found out that there were battles and challenges after becoming a widow that overshadowed the death of her husband. While the pain of grief that accompanies the death of a spouse can be great, often that is only the beginning of the pain.

            Let me quickly summarize the story for you to help you understand what led to Tamar’s depth of despair and hopelessness. (Genesis 38:5-30) Tamar was married to Judah’s oldest son, Er, but because of his wickedness, God caused him to die before Tamar conceived a child. Onan, the second son, was, according to Jewish tradition, to raise up a son through Tamar to keep the brother’s lineage alive, but he refused to do so and he too died at God’s hands. There was a third, Shelah, who was much younger, but Judah promised when he was old enough, he would give him to Tamar in marriage to conceive a child. This was in keeping with the custom of “kinsman redeemer” found in the book of Ruth. The closest of kin was to insure the line of the deceased husband. Once Tamar had married into Judah’s family, she was a part of it and he was legally her father. But he told her to go back to her own father and he would call for her when Shelah was mature.

            Tamar remained a widow waiting for Shelah to become mature so that she could conceive a child. However, Judah, fearing that Shelah would also die, refused to give him to Tamar. It’s not an exaggeration to say that childless widowhood was shameful in those days. Yet she, with the promise of Shelah, the youngest son, waited in anticipation of an end to her widowhood and the shame of childlessness, only to realize that Judah had deceived her. This was a crushing blow to her as Shelah had been her last hope to fulfill her long-held desire for motherhood and an end to her shame. In fact, she considered it her religious duty to produce an heir from the tribe of Judah, and she was not going to her grave without one.


A plan began to foment in her mind, one that might appear devious, but took a lot of courage. She dressed in the veiled clothing of a temple prostitute and seduced, not Shelah, but Judah who had been recently widowed. Can you imagine the fear Tamar experienced attempting to conceal her identity by disguising her voice and making sure Judah didn’t catch a glimpse of her face? She deserved a medal for chutzpah, if nothing else.  She became impregnated by Judah and bore twins, one of whom was Perez.

            Tamar suffered greatly from the sins of her two husbands. Doubtless she was shamed by the wickedness of Er and humiliated and insulted by Onan’s behavior. But, since she was a woman, she had no rights of her own; no one cared about her opinions and certainly less about her feelings – except God. God knew that His son, the promised Messiah, would come from the tribe of Judah and I suggest that it was He who put a strong desire in Tamar’s heart for bearing a child.

            Her story demonstrates how God can take the greatest disappointments, the deepest pain, even the failures and sins in our lives and turn them around for good. God gave her not just one, but two sons from the tribe of Judah. Finally, she was vindicated and recompensed all in one birth. Think about it, the law said that she deserved death, yet God gave her life and the privilege of being in the lineage of his son. That demonstrates His great love for and compassion toward her.

            Ladies, no matter the situation in which you find yourselves, God’s grace is greater still and He will come to your rescue. He, as your loving, caring Father, will rescue you from your deepest pit and make those plans He has for you become a reality



Next month we will look at the story of Rehab, the second woman mentioned in Matthew’s genealogy.





                       
                      Through It All -- Lyndia Randle & Marshall Hall

          



                                                                                    

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Remember Lot's Wife

 The story of Lot’s wife is a sad one. Yet, it could easily become your story or my story too. That’s one reason it’s good for us to remember her and learn from her.

             We know from Scripture that Sodom was an extremely wicked, God-reviling city. Yet, because it was a prosperous city and offered the best of amenities of the day, it appealed to Lot and his wife. They started

out as a young couple as nomadic herdsmen living in a tent. But, when given the opportunity by Lot’s Uncle Abraham to choose an area in which to settle down, they chose the prosperous Jordan district. Before long they traded in the tent for a magnificent stone home in the heart of the city of Sodom. They began to live the lifestyle they had only been able to dream about previously. It would appear that money and social position became Mrs. Lot’s gods.

             The story of what eventually happened to Lot, his wife and their daughters is recorded in Genesis 19:12-26 in your Bibles. To sum it up, two angels came to Lot’s house one evening and told him to get his family together and get ready to leave everything as God was going to destroy the


city. Early the next morning, they pushed Lot to hurry and get going to avoid the destruction that was coming. But he, his wife and two daughters were dragging their feet, seemingly not wanting to leave their lovely homes and their chosen city. The Scripture says, “The men grabbed Lot’s arm and the arms of his wife and daughters – God was so merciful to them – and dragged them to safety outside of the city.” Once outside the city the angels told them to run for their lives and “Don’t look back.” (vs. 16, 17a)

             Lot, his wife and their daughters were barely outside of the city when judgment broke loose. Sulphur and fire rained down from heaven on Sodom and Gomorrah. The entire region was wiped from the face of the earth by the hand of God. No human being, no animal, not a blade of grass or small shrub remained alive. Yet, Lot’s wife proved that she hadn’t taken


God’s instructions very seriously. She looked back. Her feet had left Sodom, but her heart was still there. And instantly she turned into a pillar of salt. In Luke 17:32 Jesus told us to remember Lot’s wife. So, let’s do just that and see what lessons she might have for us.

            Merely to look back, to remember is not a bad thing. It becomes bad when we become chained to our past, no matter what characterized it. Obviously, if we can’t let go of memories of past mistakes and are chained to our past by unhealthy memories, it is destructive. But is it possible to cling in an unhealthy way to even the good things that are forever gone?  Memories are a treasure and one of the best legacies that exist after a death. But, there must be a balance between remembering and clinging to the memories. There is a life and death difference between holding a memory in gratitude and remaining chained to it. When you clutch it, demanding from it still, you even run the risk of moving into unreality and neuroticism.  A very wise widow wrote, “To live in memory, however tempting, is not to live at all.” When you refuse to move forward, giving your first attention to the present, then you solidify yourselves as surely as Lot’s wife was turned into a stationary pillar of salt.

           As we age, sometimes we cling to memories of our youth and feel that our best years are behind us. God was certainly good when you were in the bloom of youth and good health, but has He changed?  Whatever stage of life you’re in, whatever state your body and mind are in, God knows and His love for you hasn’t diminished in the least. I strongly encourage you to not dwell on those places in the past, gone forever. For many women, their best and most productive years are their “senior years.”     

 Remember how the angels had to literally guide Lot’s wife and her family out of destruction? How many times has God taken you by the hand and tried to lead you toward the safety of a grace-filled life, one designed just for you. Yet, because you couldn’t quite trust Him, you chose to look back and found yourself engulfed in the death of self-pity and longing for the impossible, a life that can’t be regained.

 As we approach 2021, I encourage you to live fully in the present, with a glance backwards to check progress and give thanks for past blessings, with your eyes focused on the future. 2021 is a new year, a new page in the book of your life. Embrace it fully, knowing that your life is in God’s hands and His loving care is with you each moment. Healing and wholeness will be yours through Christ who loves you and gave Himself for you.  

Message by Shari Hervold

 
                                 "How Great is our God"  by Chris Tomlin

           


            

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Mary, Did You Know?

Mark Lowry wrote a song a few years back that quickly became a holiday favorite entitled, Mary, Did You Know? It questions whether Mary, the mother of Jesus, knew the true essence of who Jesus really
was as the Son of God. Did she really know the extent of what she was saying when she told Gabriel, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be unto me according to  your word,” (Luke 1;38 EV)? Regardless of our speculations about Mary’s foreknowledge, the question remains: What enabled her to endure in quiet humility his cruel and unfair treatment,   especially by the church leaders of the day? It is the same strength that will keep you strong when life throws you “curve balls” that seek to undo you. Mary’s absolute trust in her Heavenly Father was unshakeable and she knew that His ultimate purpose would prevail. His word was his bond.

            In this life we will experience pain, sickness, death, poverty, childlessness, unwanted pregnancies, disappointments with children, financial reversals and other unpleasant occurrences, all of which are part of the human experience. John 16:33 reminds us, “In this world you will have tribulation.” So, what should a Christian woman’s response be to all of these vicissitudes of life?

 Let’s look back again to the response of Mary to the announcement of Gabriel. Without consideration to what it would personally cost her, she could say with full assurance in her heavenly Father, “May it be unto me according to your word.” In other words, may everything you have said come true. Mary was able to ponder each incident in her life with full assurance in the words of God. When Jesus made the announcement that we would have troubles in this life, He knew that it would not be received well. Who wants to be assured that bad times will definitely come? But then He delivers the good news, “But be of good cheer. I have overcome the world,” (John 16:33 MEV). We, like Mary, must believe the words of Christ and have a calm assurance that he is in control no matter what comes our way. Our faith must be rooted in our risen Savior who is the ultimate overcomer.

            As women we identify with the mothering aspect of Mary’s role in Jesus’s live. We can feel her humiliation at being considered an immoral young woman, we feel her hurt as her child is mistreated by the neighborhood kids for being a “bastard,” we share her pride when he becomes a rabbi, we understand her confusion over some of his teachings and activities, we weep with her as he is brutally beaten and crucified, and rejoice with her at his resurrection. Then, she learns that he is going to return to his heavenly home, his true home. But, we don’t read of any disappointment from Mary over this because by this time she had come to realize that she was simply a vessel chosen by God to be a part of a plan for mankind much larger than she. Living out her reply to Gabriel had by now become second nature to her. She willingly waited with the others in the Upper Room for the infilling of the Holy Spirit, and, upon reflection could see how God’s plan was coming to pass. We must do the same, becoming stronger in our faith with each tribulation – no matter the form it takes – and someday we, too, will reflect on our lives and see the hand of God in it all.

            As we experience the joy of the wonderful Christmas season and look forward to the new year, we are faced with a question concerning our own lives: Do we know what lies ahead for us? We only know what Jesus told us. We know that in addition to good times, we can expect some tribulation. Perhaps for some it will be sickness, other may face financial reversals, some may make a major move with a change in lifestyle, and others may experience the death of a loved one. But one fact remains, only God knows what lies ahead for each of us and, if we want to experience true peace of heart and mind, we must remain firm in our faith and trust in Jesus and His Word. Then and only then can we say as Mary did, “I am the servant of the Lord. May it be unto me according to your Word.” Have a blessed and joyous Christmas!

Message by Shari Hervold

 "Mary Did You Know"  by Mark Lowry

 


                                     
                                              

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Animals Make a World of Difference for Widows in India

 Did you know many of the widows Friends Needing Friends serve are in India? In good times these women and their children survive on as little as $1.90 a day. Now with the pandemic to contend with, the future of these families looks bleaker than ever before. The fear of disease is keeping employers unwilling to re-open; the well-to-do won't allow domestic help to enter their homes. Many of these widows are totally disabled. Unlike America, most Indian citizens have no government safety net to fall back on. It's even worse for widows; help from the outside is their only hope...

 During the Covid lockdown, FNF, with their partner Kerusomen Gospel Ministries sent  emergency food packages to starving widows and their communities. It was a lifesaver, for sure, but only for the short term. 

As always, God's plan is so much bigger than we imagine.

We think BAG of food. He says BUILD a business.

God doesn't want to provide food for a day, a week or even a month. He offers us the blessing of joining Him in a transformational mission: providing food and income for entire communities, creating businesses that will last generations. 

As the holidays approach, you can give a gift that lasts a lifetime. Prayerfully consider partnering with us to provide 65 goats and 500 chickens to abandoned widows and struggling families in India. A gift of just $25 can create lasting change and a make a huge difference.

Did you know many of the widows Friends Needing Friends serve are in India? In good times these women and their children survive on as little as $1.90 a day. Now with the pandemic to contend with, the future of these families looks bleaker than ever before. The fear of disease is keeping employers unwilling to re-open; the well-to-do won't allow domestic help to enter their homes. Many of these widows are totally disabled. Unlike America, most Indian citizens have no government safety net to fall back on. It's even worse for widows; help from the outside is their only hope...

 During the Covid lockdown, FNF, with their partner Kerusomen Gospel Ministries sent  emergency food packages to starving widows and their communities. It was a lifesaver, for sure, but only for the short term. 

As always, God's plan is so much bigger than we imagine.

We think BAG of food. He says BUILD a business.

God doesn't want to provide food for a day, a week or even a month. He offers us the blessing of joining Him in a transformational mission: providing food and income for entire communities, creating businesses that will last generations. 

As the holidays approach, you can give a gift that lasts a lifetime. Prayerfully consider partnering with us to provide 65 goats and 500 chickens to abandoned widows and struggling families in India. A gift of just $25 can create lasting change and a make a huge difference.

Watch a short video from Tom Caprio, KGM president, to find your best Gift of Hope!