Selfish Ambition

a christian romance novel

Real Love

Women's Fiction

The Woman at the Well – Life Offered to the Dead

April 27, 2022

Lesson 6 of 6

The last person the Samaritan Woman expected to see was a Jewish man at the well. This was her quiet time … that one moment in the day when she could get away from the stench of her sin … that one moment she didn’t need to worry about women mocking her … telling her how cheap she’d become … telling her she was no good … she was filth … many swearing to have nothing to do with her.

As she marches forward in the noonday heat, she’s encouraged to go one more step before resting at the foot of the well. After propping her back against the hot bricks, she hears footsteps then a massive shadow blots out the sun. She tries to make out the individual, but she can barely see his face. Overwhelmed, hairs raising on the back of her neck, she wonders who he might be and why is a Jew at the well at this time of the day? Will he insult her? Will he permit her to draw water and return home without incident?

It must have been an awe-inspiring encounter.

What if the Samaritan Woman had restricted the coming Messiah to that of a King donned in fine clothing with a scepter in his hand?

Where is the plan for salvation for her? How does she answer the call? Would she recognize the Savior?

We are a wretched generation, always looking for signs and wonders to prove God exist, only to disprove the very wonders we used to validate him. Forever changing our expectations to bigger and grandeur benchmarks.

Isn’t that exactly what the Pharisees and Sadducees did to Jesus? If only you would perform a miraculous sign. If only you would rescue yourself Jesus and come down from the cross, then we would believe. And when he didn’t … Ha! Look at Him! He can’t even save himself. (Mark 15:29-31)

It takes faith to believe Jesus is the Son of God. It takes faith to believe in the one you cannot see.

Just like us, the Samaritan Woman believed and relied on herself for too many years. Told herself a million times, I can handle it. Marrying one man after another in search of happiness. Never reaching her goal. It wasn’t until Jesus spiritually rescued her that she was able to leave her sinful world behind and find rest in the Christ. Can you imagine what it must have been like … how invigorating it must have felt to tell the man in her bed to BEAT IT!

You have pursued careers, worked tirelessly in your home, are well-read; and have lost more friends than you care to admit, leaving you lonely and abandoned. Some of you don’t know what to do with yourselves and are walking aimlessly through your journey on this earth. Several of you are people-pleasers, always living in fear of not making everyone happy.

Though the Samaritan Woman wanted to be loved and at peace, time and time again love and peace eluded her. She was an over-achiever, a perfectionist who was convinced if she perfected her methods the right man would come along and things would be good. She was trapped in the same old sinful patterns year after year; trapped in her own schemes to be like those around her–married with a family. Her sinful behavior placed her on a collision course that would delve her deeper into the abyss. Never ever self-reflecting long enough to make needed adjustments. Probably marrying the same kind of man every … single … time.

We’re all like hamsters on a running wheel …. running, running, running … going nowhere fast.

The Messiah has a message for you:

“I, who speak to you, am he.” (John 4:26)

And,

“Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

When was the last time you were at the well?

Has the world overcome you?

Are your hands in too many fires?

Is your husband wearing you out?

Have family issues become too much to bear?

Who is this Messiah who offers you redemption? (Read Isaiah 53:1-2)

Do. You. Know. Him?

Let the Word of God describe him for you as Jesus claims to be God in this passage:

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, “I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?” The Jews answered Him, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.” (John 10:27-33)

Jesus is described again in Hebrews 2:14-18:

“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death–that is, the devil–and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”

During your prayer time, also read Romans 8:1-39.

These passages of scripture describe our Lord, explain his character, and expresses his profound love for us.

Jesus in all his magnificence was both man and God.

I describe him this way:

His humanity, coequal with yours

His divinity, exposed everything

His power, unlocked death’s chamber

His spirit, alive among the dead

His words, everlasting life

His ascension, endless hope.

The Samaritan Woman didn’t know any of this. Not at the time.

But later … after her encounter with Jesus at the well, she did not hesitate to cry out the Messiah’s message. She couldn’t help herself. She didn’t stop to question if people would believe her or not. She didn’t contemplate the man left in her bed. She didn’t hesitate to leave her water jug behind. And she didn’t think once about the rumors that might spread about her talking … once again … to a strange man.

The Samaritan Woman was on a mission. A spiritual mission. And nothing would hinder the delight she found in the Lord.

When was the last time you visited the well and engaged in a conversation with God?

If you keep dissecting the conversation between the Samaritan Woman and Jesus, you will notice a battle between worldly concerns and spiritual fulfillment. Physical thirst v. spiritual thirst.

Notice how the intrigue of their conversation deepens the moment the Samaritan Woman makes a plea for this living water Jesus offers her.

“The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.’ He told her, ‘Go, call your husband and come back.’ ‘I have no husband,’ she replied. Jesus said to her, ‘You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.'” (John 4:15-18)

Why would Jesus change the subject from living water to a question about her husband?

For there to be reconciliation to our Holy Father, the Samaritan Woman had to become aware of her sin so that awareness would bring about repentance.

Are you aware of your sin? Have you repented?

Turn to Ezekiel 14:6. It reads:

“Therefore, say to the people of Israel, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Repent! Turn from your idols and renounce all your detestable practices!'”

Let’s read Romans 3:19-24:

Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore, no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

Also, in Acts 17:30, it reads:

“In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.”

No matter how ignorant or well-meaning this woman might have been, the way to salvation is the same for everyone. Don’t get caught up in this idea of people being good and dismiss the biblical truth that all are lost if they do not turn away from their wicked ways, repent, and be baptized into Christ. (Romans 1:18-20)

Let me ask–Why is the gospel good enough for you to obey, but insufficient for others? Why move God’s commands like a slide-ruler because you’ve run across a very good person? His rules are what they are. No one is given a free pass because of their goodness. Everyone has sinned. (Romans 3:23)

I have another question: Would the Samaritan Woman fully understand the kind of water Jesus was offering had he not made her recall her sinful life?

I don’t think so.

Attention had to be drawn to the way she lived and contrasted with what Jesus had to offer her.

Did she immediately understand?

No. He had to reveal his divinity by exposing his knowledge of her life.

And it was then that she became amazed at his words and believed.

Divine healing begins when your soul is laid bare and fully exposed during your confession. This is a shameful experience. Once you repent from the heart and obey God’s instructions to be baptized into Christ, divine healing covers you in forgiveness and righteousness. Once God’s truth pricks the puss infecting your soul, you will experience healing and peace. You have no more hurdles to cross. No more tap dancing is required. Excuses are no longer needed to cover your nakedness because you are constantly covered by the blood of Jesus.

Like the Samaritan Woman, you rejoice and become so giddy with excitement that you can’t wait to tell all who will hear of the salvation you received.

The Samaritan Woman didn’t come seeking this living water. She came to a well constructed by her forefathers–an earthly and traditional place–to draw upon water to quench a physical thirst. Jesus came to quench a spiritual thirst … a thirst her soul had been craving for many years … a thirst that could not be satisfied with physical water.

When was the last time you engaged in a conversation with the Lord and drank from his everlasting water?

What do you seek? To recapture your traditions? To safeguard them?

Think on this: If the woman at the well had been too focused on Jesus being a Jew, she would have run away from him before he spoke a word. If she runs, she misses the message. If she misses the message, she misses an opportunity to drink his everlasting water.

More often than not, we come to God with open hands and open mouths, wanting more … failing to spend time in thanksgiving. We prop ourselves up with outside stimuli and engage in conversations that trigger a competitive spirit. We have a knack of trading his spiritual gifts for stingy tithes. Giving him only ten minutes out of a twenty-four-hour day. We’re rebellious. Disgruntled. Ungrateful. Pious. Complainers. Gossipers. Too self-reliant and self-righteous to acknowledge all blessings come from God.

God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to shed his blood because lambs and bulls and pigeons could not take away man’s transgressions. God allows you to give from the heart rather than tie you down to a tenth of your earnings. Jesus Christ is the ultimate sacrifice. He paid a debt he did not owe. We owed a debt we could not pay.

He is our living water. He paid your debt.

Let me read God’s comforting words to you.

First, hear his warning to the wicked, in Romans 1:18-32:

“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For 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 people are without excuse.

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

“Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator–who is forever praised. Amen.

“Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

“Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”

Now, to the saved, … Read Hebrews 2 on your own time because it goes hand-in-hand with Hebrews 3. Hebrews 3 reads:

“Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest. He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house. Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house, bearing witness to what would be spoken by God in the future. But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.

So, as the Holy Spirit says: ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness, where your ancestors tested and tried me, though for forty years they saw what I did. That is why I was angry with that generation; I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.’ So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’

See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end. As has just been said: ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.

‘Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies perished in the wilderness? And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.'”

IN CLOSING, I want you to know it is possible I will never get to teach you again, and I want to leave you with these words in hope you will never ever forget them: No matter what evil comes your way … no matter what form it takes, OBEY the Lord our God with all your heart and soul. Let nothing … and I mean, NOTHING come between you and God, and don’t let anything separate you or stop you from serving God. People will hurt your feelings. DON’T stop worshiping with the body of believers because of them. People will talk behind your back. DON’T retaliate. Answer kindly. They will sabotage you. If they want your position, give it to them. They will sometimes try to physically harm you. RUN for your life. Or give it up if it leads to their salvation. But don’t you dare, ever stop obeying the Lord God Almighty. He desires obedience rather than sacrifice.

Second, from this day forward, as you read scriptures, read God’s Word as if you are there in the scene with our forefathers, feeling what they felt, standing in their shoes. Dare to imagine yourself between each and every line of the scriptures you read. It’s okay to be uncomfortable for your uncomfortable feelings can often lead you to repentance. Be bold. Ask questions. Rid yourself of fear. Speak truth. Be holy.

Third, stop being lazy about researching the Word of God. Don’t skim over words you don’t know, customs you’re unfamiliar with. Look them up. Use more than one resource. The internet is often filled with erroneous information that “sounds” true, but isn’t. (For example, research when Jacob married Rachel and compare the internet’s answer to the Word of God.)

Fourth, self-reflect. The scriptures are written to teach and guide you. If you don’t self-reflect, you are assuming you’re good. The scriptures can’t offer encouragement to those who think they need no encouragement. Take on a submissive posture as you read God’s Word and let the scriptures teach, and guide, and admonish you. It’s okay to feel guilty after reading the Word. Your guilt is an opportunity to repent and get in line with God’s teachings … it’s an opportunity to obey the Father.

Fifth, look at your trials and tribulations from a different vantage point. Spiritual closeness with God cannot be attained without struggles. Count your struggles as a blessing for those same struggles will cause friction, cause you to cry out to God, cause you to wait on the Father, cause you to persevere; and when perseverance has finished its work in you, you will be mature and complete… lacking nothing. (James 1:2-4)

Sixth, stop judging one another. For those who sit in judgment are no longer working out their own salvation but sitting in judgment of those who are.

Seventh, pray without ceasing. Pray for understanding. Pray for wisdom. Pray for the brotherhood of believers.

The good news gave the Samaritan Woman heart palpitations and made her leap with joy.

Where is your joy?

Is it wrapped up in where you will eat lunch today? Or will you allow the Word of God to spiritually fill you?

Has someone barged into your life, leaving you to feel inadequate? Or perhaps your competitive spirit has caused a great chasm in your relationship with your sister in Christ and you can no longer love her deeply and put her above yourself.

Some of you have worked your fingers to the bone and can’t or won’t do anymore. Growing weary will only afford Satan the opportunity to disrupt your spiritual peace. God’s Word encourages you to steal away and rest. Stop being hardheaded and rest. (Hebrews 4:9-10)

Remember, all that we do, we do in the name of the Lord. (Colossians 3:17)

Listen closely and cling to God’s love for you:

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead. Since you are precious and honored in my sight, AND BECAUSE I LOVE YOU, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life. Do not be afraid, for I am with you ...” (Isaiah 43:2-5)

IN SUMMARY, here’s what we have learned today:

  • 1. You are not hungry and ready to rush off to have lunch with your friends. You are spiritually thirsty. Seek the Lord your God with all your heart so you can be refreshed and not turn into dry dead bones.
  • 2. Nourish your faith by reading and meditating on scripture.
  • 3. Let nothing steal your joy–not death, trials, or tribulations.
  • 4. Regardless of your circumstances, God wants you to repent, remain in prayer, and be obedient. Obedience is better than sacrifice. (I Samuel 15:22)
  • 5. Self-reflect. Examine yourself and see if your behavior lines up with the Word of the Lord. Remember, even if you don’t say anything wrong, your body language and demeanor can convey strong, negative messages. Ladies, soften your demeanor. Smile more. Be joyous.
  • 6. Don’t believe the enemy. Don’t give in to the lies. God loves you. Wait on him and he will give you the desires of your heart. Wait on the Lord.
  • 7. Rethink how you solve your issues. Seek God’s guidance first. Then wait upon the Lord. (Pslam 27:14) When going through trials, read as many scriptures as you can about our patriarchs who pleaded with God, then had to wait on him. You will begin to see that God always answers prayers. Wait on the Lord.
  • 8. Add to your list of needs – prayers of ADORATION. Take time to adore God.

In short, we have learned that obedience pulls at God’s heart-string. Your obedience makes him happy. Being a good person doesn’t cut it because no one is good.

It’s been a joy to come before you to share God’s Word. This experience has forced me to dig deep into the Word and pray for understanding. I’m like you, one of simplicity; a woman who loves the Lord our God with all my heart and soul. Thank you for your patience and your love.

May our God who knows all things grant you peace and safety.

Amen.

by

Donna B. Comeaux

one woman out of billions who loves God Almighty

Anna – Dedicated and Committed

Lesson 5 of 6

April 6, 2022

The Asherites were the most blessed among the tribes of Israel and settled in the western and coastal lands of Galilee. Their rich and fertile land was filled with wooded hills and orchards, and they were known for their olive oil which they provided to Israel in times of scarcity. Think about it–this one tribe had the capacity to fulfill all of Israel’s need for olive oil. This little bible nugget won’t mean much to you unless you know how many Israelites crossed the Jordan River into Canaan. There were 600,000 fighting men, excluding women and children. And they didn’t settle in one place; they were stretched far north as Asher to as far south as Kadesh-barnea.

Like most Jews in the Babylonian era, in the days of the Assyrian king, they were taken captive. But not all were enslaved. The Assyrians weren’t blind. They saw how fertile the land was and took full advantage of it by leaving thousands of Israelites behind to farm it. Over time, after those in captivity were released, many scattered across the globe. Several tribes can be traced from Ethiopia to India. Others returned to Jerusalem. And that’s where we find Anna, the great-great-great-great-granddaughter of Asher, the eighth son of Jacob and Leah’s maidservant, Zilpah.

During the time of Jesus, life was not favorable to widows. Some were destitute and left to beg in the streets. After reading Anna’s tribal history, I don’t get the feeling she was in this same predicament.

Being from the tribe of Asher … being a faithful and godly woman, I would caution you about looking upon Anna as someone in financial duress. This was an exceptional woman, spiritually and physically. If you will keep her story in context with the miraculous birth of Jesus and John the Baptist, it’s not too farfetched to conclude God’s miracles extended to Anna–and not only to Anna, but Simeon as well. Simeon is the righteous man who after proclaiming he had finally seen and held the Christ-child, he said, “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: …” (Luke 2:29-30)

Think of what this proclamation meant to them.

You have any idea how long God has been silent? Do you have a clue how long the people of Israel have been waiting for the Savior?

It’s been 400 years of silence from the end of Old Testament to the beginning of the New Testament writings. And from 63 BC to 476 AD the Roman Empire entered and ruled over the Israelites.

When you’ve been oppressed that long, you are in dire need of a Savior.

If we read the Bible without researching, we miss the significance of these silent years. We tend to gloss over these years because we anxiously want to move on to more profound events in the Bible. We don’t realize these silent years are powerful moments in time. We don’t understand a change is about to take place.

After being under the mighty rule of Rome for many centuries, and growing accustomed to God’s agonizing silence, the people are desperate for relief. It’s not because they are being taxed in astronomical proportions, or weighed down with heavy rules and regulations. It’s because they are enslaved, their God is silent, their freedom gone, and nothing they own is really theirs anymore.

To complicate this time period in which they lived, the Jews are bombarded with soothsayers, false prophets, witchcraft, sickness, diseases, schizophrenia, demonic possession, theft, and disloyalty. (This is the result of disobedience.) Like our street-corner evangelists who preach “the end is near,” the Israelites had their fair share of fake prophets shouting promises of the coming Savior, and emboldened and arrogant enough to claim to be the Savior himself.

During this dreadful spiritual drought, the chief priests added laws to Torah and required more than the people could bear. Oppressed on all sides, the Jews are worshiping without their heart and soul spiritually connected to the Father. They are faint of heart, feeling like a desperate people with no hope. Those in control have no qualms about selling their pigeons and lambs and doves at a high price to the poor. They, too, have lost their spiritual connection to the Head and feel no shame or guilt.

This was the era in which Jesus had arrived.

Imagine how chaotic their place of worship had become–filled with people coming and going–rarely anyone sitting in a peaceful state to absorb the meaning of Torah. Romans ruled. Jews constantly on guard. Unrest, prevalent. People scared. Watchful. Nervous. Rebels angry. Itching for a fight to take matters into their own hands and rescue their people from slavery.

Anna was brave. Amid all this chaos–Roman soldiers lurking nearby … Pharisees and Sadducees correcting … scolding … taxing … working both sides of the political spectrum–Anna was focused. A lot of things were against her. To stand up in the temple was a no-no for a woman of any age, but she did it. To be such a loudmouth in the temple, near the temple, would draw attention to herself and the Roman soldiers might inquire, possibly have her locked up, thrown out, or beheaded. They were touchy — these Roman soldiers — they didn’t like the Jews stirring up trouble. The Jews outnumbered them. The Jews might band together and overtake the Roman soldiers. Any skirmish, any sign of trouble, would make these sensitive and skittish Romans over-react.

Still, Anna stood up and proclaimed the Lord’s arrival.

In the midst of adversity, have you ever stood up for the weak? Have you dared to shut down negative talk and gossip? If you didn’t, what does your silence indicate? What does your silence say about you?

What if the Roman soldiers had heard Anna’s proclamation?

Jesus to rule Jerusalem? You mean, this baby will grow up and some day rule Israel?

Any of the Roman Emperors would have rushed to the scene, snatched the child, and not hesitate to kill him on the spot. Even hundreds of years earlier, had the Roman rulers heard of such a king, they would have bribed the chief priests and given them anything they wanted just to know Jesus’ lineage so they could wipe the tribe out.

But that didn’t happen. That wasn’t Jesus’ story. His death would come later, at a time he, and he alone would dictate.

Here is a woman who is not only spiritually knowledgeable but physically ept–with enough stamina to preach with enthusiasm about the Christ that out-bolstered any man alive at the time. In this era, healthcare was limited to the very rich, and in a worse-case scenario she should be on her deathbed. If we were to read the text without knowing Anna’s age, we’d see a vigorous, dedicated, and healthy woman. But seeing that she is old, there’s no doubt Anna is challenging us to preach the Word of God no matter our circumstances.

If an old woman can stand up and proclaim the Lord, what’s wrong with you? What’s keeping my mouth clamped shut? Age has nothing to do with it. Dedication and Devotion does.

Speaking of age — let’s address Anna’s age.

Calculating her age may have a great deal to do with the Bible translation you use. For our purposes today, I want you to take as many translations into account as possible because the language, the punctuation, and the wording can make a huge difference in the way we interpret Anna’s age. If you disagree with my assessment, please don’t let it overwork you. This isn’t extremely important. Just keep in mind that Anna, no matter what her age, was very old. (See commentary: https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/people-cultures-in-the-bible/people-in-the-bible/anna-in-the-bible/ )

Luke 2:36-38 says Anna had been widowed for 84 years. If Anna married at the young age of 17 and had been married for seven years at the time her husband died, then she is estimated to be 24 years of age. When you add the 84 years she’s been widowed to her 24 years, that would make her approximately 108 years old when she sees Jesus. If Anna was 12 years of age when she married she would be approximately 103 years old.

That’s a lot of alone time.

Take a closer look at Luke 2:36-38 one more time and let’s examine seven things that stand out about Anna.

  • 1. First of all, she’s a prophetess (a rare position for a woman as compared to the number of men who held this role; I can account for only two others that the Bible specifically addresses as prophetesses)
  • 2. Anna is also a young widow who has committed herself to the Lord, and her commitment only gets stronger with time
  • 3. Anna also never leaves the temple
  • 4. She worships day and night
  • 5. She fasts and prays all the time
  • 6. She doesn’t fail to give thanks upon seeing the Holy One of God
  • 7. Finally, Anna speaks about Jesus to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem–in other words, she prophesies about the coming Redeemer.

FIRST, let’s address Anna’s status as a prophetess.

If someone stood in this room and prophesied, the first thing all of us would say, “Well, my goodness. Where did she come from? What was that all about?”

It would be so out of the ordinary, we would have a hard time believing the prophetess wasn’t drunk, or out of her mind. Reminds you of which story in the Bible?

… like Eli supposed Hanna was drunk. (I Samuel 1:13)

And yet, the Bible clearly tells us in I Corinthians 14:1-5:

“Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. For the one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.

Why is accepting the spiritual gift of prophesy so hard?

For way too long we have been exposed to so-called prophets who are not prophets. We’ve been led to believe profound utterances and noises–which have turned out to be just that, noises–are signs of prophesy, when they are, in fact, not. There is no edification of the church through noises. There are no words of encouragement to lift us up through noises. What we’ve received instead is division, not a spurring to worship and glorify God in spirit and in truth.

Yet, the Bible calls us to be open and accept prophesy. As intelligent people, we need to constantly remind ourselves what the Bible means by prophesy. In I Corinthians 14:1-5, prophesy is understood, it’s encouraging, and it offers consolation. Those familiar with scripture are hesitant to accept the spiritual gift of prophesy. In order to get to a spiritual place where we can accept prophesy, I must ask an important question. Are we so anchored deep in tradition that we cannot be obedient in this spiritual area of our lives?

I dare say there’s not a person in this room who would have accepted the likes of John the Baptist. Can you hear him? A loudmouth shouting from the hills. Dressed in animal skin. Wild, wooly hair. Looking like he needs a bath. Like the Pharisees and Sadducees, you and I would have stood at a distance, arms folded, wagging our heads, and mumbling, “How ridiculous,” under our breaths.

Here it is 2022, and we can hardly stand looking at a woman walking down the aisles of our congregation covered in tattoos. How can we expect to accept John the Baptist sitting next to us today with half of his wild hair brushing against our shoulders, or his locust breath preaching repentance?

As you sit there self-reflecting, are you not liking your reflection? You shouldn’t.

I’m not liking what I’m seeing either. But I must ask myself …

What’s the opportunity here?

Let go of religious tradition and change your heart to one of submission and repentance. (And by the way, I have no idea what that will look like for you.) But if you let go of your tradition, that would mean we would need to be open to God’s direction. If I’m open to him, he might pull me away from my comfort zone. On the other hand, if I don’t follow his lead, it might be harder to purify and refine me pure as gold.

Here’s an important question for you: Do you want to grow, or do you want to stay comfortable? Do you want a close relationship with God, or do you want to hold on to tradition and have everything remain the same, sound the same, and people act the same?

I know. You don’t want to change. You like things just fine the way they are. I get it. You don’t want to work that hard. I hate change, too. I HATE IT!!!! I don’t like to move from place to place, house to house. I don’t like anyone moving my furniture. I don’t like things out of place. I. DON’T. LIKE. CHANGE. — HATE. IT!

But here’s the thing: The word “grow” is in direct contradiction to the word “tradition.”

Keep that in mind.

Babies don’t remain babies. They grow. They change. They mature. They age. They die. They spiritually live again. Keeping your world the same as it was in yester years is a lot like asking your spiritual self to remain in its infant state. Is that what you really want? Do I honestly want to stifle my spiritual growth by remaining in a state of infancy, or should I feed on the “meat” of the Word and grow spiritually healthy?

What if Anna had made the choice to remain in an infant state and not proclaim Christ? What if Anna had not taken a risk, stepped out in faith, go against the grain to proclaim, “Folks, Christ is here?”

SECOND, Anna dedicated herself to worshiping God.

It’s hard for some of us to get up at 6:15 for Sunday morning worship. I mean, “Who gets up this early–besides Grandmother.” Can’t I sleep another 45 minutes? I do. Guess what happens. I wake at 9:50. Hurry about. Then remember, “Oh, I can watch service on Youtube.”

That is “NOT” dedication.

I am convicted by Hebrews 10:24-25:

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Notices what sticks out the most in this verse.

“… and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Planning is involved for the first day of the week.

I need to plan to worship.

I need to go to bed earlier.

I need to pray for a peaceful night’s sleep.

I need to be diligent about getting up at the appointed time so I can prepare my heart and mind and soul to worship–on purpose.

You see how we can turn something as simple as going to worship into an arduous task? Our struggles with obedience are endless. Let’s fix this.

Personal Story —

We were led and baptized into Christ on April 1, 1975. After we became Christians, we were on fire for the Lord. My husband and I stood on OU street-corners preaching the word; grabbed hold of fellow students and opened up scriptures; set up Bible studies; called our local preacher in Norman, Oklahoma, at two and three in the morning in search of scriptural answers to our questions, or to appease our curious minds and thirsty souls for more of God’s Word.

Sometimes we’d miss morning worship because we were too tired. (Probably because we stayed up too late playing cards.)

We’d get together for cards again, and during our fun times, we’d discuss the error of our ways. So, we came up with a plan. We called each other every Sunday morning and encouraged one another to get out of bed. If we stayed up late playing cards, we agreed we’d get up and go to church no matter how tired we felt. We were submissive toward one another during those phone calls, heeding the call to get up and stay true to our word. After a year past, those phone calls were unnecessary.

It helps to have spiritual relationships with people who love the Lord.

It helps more to love God Almighty.

To be enslaved to my friendship with this couple is good in the beginning, but it would not sustain me over a long period of time. I would need to grow up and stand on my own two spiritual feet and ante up. God needed to be my anchor. Not my friends.

The Bible should convict you. It should trouble you. It should lead you to admit your failures. And if you allow it, it will help you confess your sins before God. If you ask, God will help you develop a plan to address your issues. Follow the plan.

My spirit is so filled with conviction when the Holy Scriptures reveal the error of my ways that all I can do is shake my hands like they’re on fire.

The truth hurts.

And it saves.

I thank God for his Word because it makes me aware of my failings; makes me desire to be a better servant; places me in a submissive posture.

And though it hurts … though it is convicting … though it is uncomfortable, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Why?

Because God is near during my moments of conviction. Where else would he be? He’s the one convicting us. He’s the one giving us the answers to our questions. He’s the one providing help for our infirmities.

What’s the opportunity here?

Stop running from your convictions and sit still before the Holy One and recommit to serve him in whatever area of your life that lacks attention. Don’t avoid repentance. Don’t avoid confession. Don’t run from correction. God disciplines those he loves. It is truly love when God calls you out. He’s saving you a lot of heartache.

THIRD, Anna never leaves the temple.

The temple was a holy place for the people of God to gather and worship him. Over time, this holy place became no more than brick and mortar. New Testament Christians are members of the spiritual body of Jesus Christ of which Christ is the head. When we look at Jesus’ body being the holy temple that embodies his sisters and brothers, how can we possibly leave it?

In many ways.

Recently, I had a conversation with a dear sister in the Lord that disturbed me. Years ago, she remarried outside the body of Christ. Somewhere along her new journey, she decided to leave the church for the growing affection of another.

How did this happen?

Could have been a need to please her husband.

Could have been a matter of convenience–separate cars going in separate directions; two people never able to worship together, but want to.

What’s my point?

Jesus is at the bow … guiding your spiritual journey … giving directions … telling you where to turn … how fast to go … when to slow down and wait … what to say or not say.

If you fail to follow his instructions, you will be left behind or possibly fall out the boat.

Watch yourself!!!! Your first responsibility is to keep yourself blameless. Faultless.

I Timothy 4:14-16, reads:

Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery (body of elders – definition mine). Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all. Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.” (emphasis mine)

What’s your opportunity here?

Listen and follow the Holy Spirit’s lead. He was given to you as a guide, a comforter, a teacher, an interpreter, and as an intercessor for your prayers. Listening to him will lighten your load and cause the world to ponder, and perhaps envy the hope within you. Do not forget what the scripture says in John 16:12-15:

I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore, I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.”

What peace there is for those who belong to God and obey him from the heart.

FOURTH, Anna worshiped day and night.

Okay, I will confess. When I first read this, I envisioned Anna on her hands and knees all day and all night. I immediately rubbed my arthritic knees and back, and thought, “How in the world did she do this?”

Spiritual reality set in and I later understood the commitment it takes to focus on sincere worship. The fruit in this pudding is not time. It’s quality. When the Bible says, “all day and all night,” I get all bent out of shape. My mind goes ballistic! I think about my valuable time. I’m important. I can’t possibly stay on my hands and knees all day. I’ve got things to do. Who will do the washing? The cooking? The ironing? The grocery shopping? I’ve got to have some ME TIME, right?

If you think Anna was exempt from taking care of herself, think again. At 84 or 103–depending how you calculate her age–most, if not all of her family is dead. She would need to rely on the kindness of neighbors for most of what she needed. Let’s face it, Anna had to bathe, eat, and interface with neighbors, even if it were for only a moment.

Because of her dedication to serve God, and him only, I suspect there wasn’t much time for frivolous talk. That’s one way to stay clear of gossip, isn’t it?

There are too many examples in God’s Word of people who have dedicated themselves to service and worship for me to declare I can’t do the same.

Amid much adversity, Nehemiah rebuilt the City of Jerusalem. People plotted against him. Wanted to kill him. Nehemiah not only rebuilt Jerusalem despite hardship, he also stood before the people of Israel and reminded them of their sin against God, urging them to turn to God and worship him only.

Barren and without an heir, Hannah prayed continuously for a son and promised to dedicate him to God. And she did. From Hannah’s womb, came the prophet Samuel.

Abraham, son of Terah, was 75 years old when God commanded he leave Harran for the land of Canaan. Abraham served and worshipped God until he died … through ALL adversities, especially when asked to sacrifice his only son.

These commitments took discipline. And discipline never fails to produce perseverance; and when perseverance perfects its work in you, you will lack nothing. (James 1:4)

In Hebrews 12:10-13:

For they disciplined (speaking of our parents – my explanation) us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.”

What’s your opportunity here? What’s your challenge?

Regardless of your struggle, I suggest you begin with prayer.

You might say, Anna didn’t have the distractions we have today. It’s not possible to spend that much time in prayer.

Who’s telling you that?

Where you get the idea that you cannot devote your life and time to the Heavenly Father?

Think it’s ridiculous?

Okay. Let’s say it’s ridiculous. Then why are you here? Why pick up your Bible and bring it to worship if you don’t plan to use it, place notations in it, or highlight it?

I tell you what’s ridiculous — Playing church is ridiculous! It’s a waste of time.

But you can’t deny that I’ve now placed you in a precarious position. You are confronted with the choice to improve your worship and prayer time, or you will choose to harden your hearts and do the exact opposite, remaining in the same lifeless rhythm as before.

Too often we read about Abraham, Joseph, Mary, Samuel, Hannah, Nehemiah, and Anna and sit back and “wish” we could be as dedicated.

YOU CAN BE! God says you can. Anytime God commands you to do something, he’s commanding what you “CAN” do. He NEVER asks you for the impossible. NEVER!!

If this is true, how will you go about retracing where you’ve been so you can plot the error of your ways? How will you set out (like Abraham) to change and be obedient to our Heavenly Father?

HOW will you do that?

You know you need to make a change.

HOW. WILL. YOU. DO. IT?

Begin with prayer.

Why?

Because no one knows YOU better than the Father. I can encourage you, but I can’t be with you every day to hold you accountable. I don’t know your weaknesses. And I won’t always be able to know when you’re lying to me. The church can pray for you, but they can’t make you do anything. You, and only you, can change you. God offers and leaves the door open, but you must walk through it.

You may stumble through the doorway. You will sometimes bump the wall. But only you can choose to get up again and start fresh “every” morning. Every morning, for the rest of your life, the Word of God can produce in you the godliness God intended.

Make the choice. Make the change. Pray for it. Follow God’s lead.

FIVE and SIX — Anna fasted and prayed and gave thanks for the Holy One of God.

You have probably heard me say it before — we get so caught up with asking God for what we want that we don’t take enough time to ADORE him for who he is–the GREAT I AM.

Please don’t hear me say that you shouldn’t make your requests and petitions known before God. You should tell God whatever you want to tell him. You serve Him. Not me. But I encourage you to spend just as much time, if not more, ADORING GOD.

In the COMMENT section of this lecture, request a copy of scriptures devoted to ADORING GOD and I’ll send it to you. When you receive them, read them during your prayer time.

SEVEN, Anna can’t shut up about the Lord.

How powerful!!

This gets me excited.

When was the last time you met someone on fire for the Lord? Do you wake up at 10 o’clock on a Wednesday morning and go, “Woo-Hoo! The Lord is here!”

Isn’t that exactly the way we should feel in the early morning hours? There needs to be a thanksgiving on our lips and a song in our heart from the moment we rise until we lie down in the evening.

God is gracious enough to allow me to see one more glorious day, so we should sing songs of PRAISE!

I admire Anna’s boldness.

Think she cared what people thought of her?

Oh, my goodness, she was probably antique as the pillars holding up the temple, people walking by her as if she was one of them. Only sojourners thought she was insane. Everyone else was accustomed to such outbursts, for there were many who proclaimed the coming of the Christ just like there are those today proclaiming the end of the world. These sojourners probably looked in amazement–because of her excitement … because of her boldness–not because of her proclamation.

Soon, they would come to know the Truth when he walked the earth, going from village to village, painstakingly preaching “he is the living water.” Only those anxiously looking for the Lord, who have faith, believe he is the Christ–the Son of God.

To everyone else, he’s another prophet who is about to get what is coming to him. He’s another prophet who will fizzle away in time, leaving them with nothing but a shattered faith, and dwindling hope.

None of this dampens the Truth. The Truth is herald throughout the countryside on a swift wind. Everyone hears about Jesus. Some believe. Some don’t. Some are healed. Some are not. Some see. Some remain blind. Some rejoice. Some look upon him with disdain.

Isn’t it the same way today? Some landing on fertile soil. Some landing on rocky soil, never taking root.

Anna was a prophetess. A bold one. A woman with a one-track mind. GOD was on her mind day in and day out. She spent every waking moment serving and giving thanks to him. He was her mission. He was her goal. He was her salvation. He was her food. He was her strength.

She didn’t have time to criticize, patronize, ostracize, horrify, desensitize, and marginalize those who preach the Word of God.

No one had to tell Anna how, when, or where to serve God. She served him everywhere, all the time. Her service to God meant more than the title, PROPHETESS. To be in his service was who she was from a young age until she was an old woman. Nothing … Nothing knocked her off course.

If fills me with great joy to know Anna left us an example of how to persevere through arthritic conditions, feeble knees, political and social unrest, and still serve the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, and soul. Circumstances shouldn’t determine our faith. Our faith should determine how we handle our circumstances.

Spiritually handle your circumstances with the Sword of Truth!

This is the freedom our Father talks about. His yoke is easy. He’s laid it out for you. He’s drawn you a roadmap. He’s given you an instruction manual. Read it. Do it his way. Because … in Christ … when you read and follow his instructions, love his decrees, magnify his name, pray in ADORATION of Him, sing in the Spirit, testify, prophesy, understand his glorious nature, ENJOY his bountiful love, and ACCEPT with all thanksgiving his endless mercy and grace, FREEDOM IS YOUR!!

With this FREEDOM, we can’t help but shout … PRAISE GOD ALMIGHTY IN THE HEAVENS!!

Today, you can become a woman like Anna. Someone who worships God no matter what anyone tells you, what they accuse you of … if your skin is darker, lighter, or you’re pale as a ghost … no matter your financial status, education, political affiliation, or if you live in a rent house, townhouse, boathouse, three-story house, or a $3B mansion.

You see … that hardworking machine pumping inside your chest … that large mass inside your head … Your heart and mind is what God examines. He doesn’t give two figs about earthly wealth. HE CARES ABOUT YOU!

What we need to do right here and right now is examine ourselves to make sure we’re in the will of the Father. Every word you utter matters. Every thought you have matters. The way you treat your sisters matter. The words out your mouth; the way you treat the brotherhood is a reflection of your relationship with the Father. If there’s spiritual interference between you and the Father, there will be division and skirmishes within the body of Christ. And when that happens, you can almost assuredly trace it back to selfishness, self-centeredness, and pride.

So, gather your pencil and paper and map out your day, putting God at the top of your list. Set your mind on him and be dedicated and committed to the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.

MAKE TODAY A DAY OF CHANGE.

Pray without ceasing. (I Thessalonians 5:17)

BE OBEDIENT!! Even when it hurts. Even when it’s uncomfortable.

Worship. Every. Day. Live it. Be Holy.

So, what have we learned?

  • Be Discipline
  • Be Deliberate and Worship on purpose
  • Create a plan
  • Ask God’s blessings over your plans
  • Give thanks and ADORATION
  • Live out the Word even when it’s uncomfortable

Serving him with every fiber of your being is of utmost importance, because by doing so, we not only build a close relationship with the Father, but we encourage others to do the same.

May our God who knows all things grant you peace.

Amen!

by Donna B. Comeaux

My only credentials: one in a billion women who love the Lord our God

Mary, Mother of Jesus – Extraordinarily Ordinary

Lesson 4 of 6

March 23, 2022

Mary’s Humanity in first person:

There are many misconceptions about me that are uncomfortable … misconceptions that elevate me to heights I don’t deserve. Some suggest I possess an unconsciously quiet demeanor. Others think I’m a woman of rare qualities, able to submit beyond my will. Some adore and worship me. Statues, beads, poems, movies, outlandish rituals, musical compositions, halos, candles, pictures, religious debates– uphold me as a supernatural healer and intercessor, void of human mortality.

I wasn’t present when the world began, or with God as his Spirit hovered over the deep. I didn’t form one creature from the earth or called even greater creatures from the sea. And I sure didn’t create man from the dust of the earth and breathe into him life so he could become a living soul.

I would never have the courage to bear the weight of your sins. I didn’t … couldn’t … wouldn’t die for you. It would never occur to me to plan an escape for you … to offer you eternal salvation so you could be reconciled to the Father. I never raised anyone from the dead, and never will. I never ever healed the sick, or made the blind see.

I’m not God’s only Son.

I’m God’s servant.

A vessel.

An ordinary young woman.

Present at a time God appointed to fulfill his promises to his people.

So, what is the world doing?

Idol worshiping.

It has been a problem since the beginning. People are easily swayed into thinking too highly of others and of themselves.

No, the spotlight doesn’t belong to me. Or to you. God alone should be praised and adored. Worship him only.

I wish there were more adequate words to convince the world of his greatness.

As I recall, the prophets were very direct. Plain-spoken. Still, the people didn’t listen.

As for me …

I was ordinary. Young. Spry. Happy. An obedient servant looking forward to her wedding day. Joseph and I changed our wedding date several times because the Romans made it difficult to plan. They raised taxes and imposed stringent rules every new moon. Joseph was a good man; worked twice as hard to prepare for our future and wasn’t easily deterred.

It’s one reason Gabriel’s message was so disconcerting. The timing was all wrong. So, I thought.

It was winter. The sixth month. Adar (Uh-dar). Gabriel almost scared the life right out of me, standing there happily proclaiming the good news. He had this wide, silly grin on his face. His apparel, radiant. I, on the other hand, was terrified. Knees shaking. Heart pounding. Unable to hold the jar of water in my hands. Eventually, I flopped to the ground as a thousand questions flooded through my mind. At one point, I looked around to be sure Gabriel wasn’t talking to someone else.

Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God! The Lord is with you.” (Luke 1:30-31)

Did you hear that?

He called me by name.

Still, I was perplexed. Why was he talking to me? Why come from on high and visit the likes of me? I could think of fifty young girls in our city who were more worthy. I come from a modest home; raised by a righteous father; a god-fearing mother. Why me?

Gabriel didn’t hesitate to make his visit known to me. And he wasn’t about to entertain the questions swirling around in my head. However, what he suggested was downright impossible and his declaration turned me to stone. I was petrified … couldn’t move … barely breathed. What does he mean, “… you will be with child and give birth to a son, …” How is that possible? I am not married. Have never been with a man.

Oooh no. There’s been a mistake. Either I’ve picked up a jug of overly-fermented wine, or I’ve had too much sun.

I slapped my face as hard as I could and pressed my shaky knees together. I was scared to ask, but I forced the question from my lips anyway. “How can this be since I am a virgin?” His response raised hairs on the back of my neck, and Isaiah 7:14 rang through my ears: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign; The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”

Is it possible? Am I the virgin scriptures spoke about? Would God bestow upon me such great an honor?

Shock and awe settled behind my wide-stretched eyes, my jaw dropped, and reality didn’t reconvene with my brain waves for several minutes. When it did, joy spun me out of control. I wanted to leap in the air and click my heels. Until …

It occurred to me that I would need to tell my parents. My sister. This unexpected news might bring them to their knees … cause them to question my account of Gabriel’s message. I couldn’t help but wonder if father would do the most despicable — beat me. I had heard of such things occurring in other homes but never experienced this kind of violence myself. If he raised his hand, who could blame him. Gabriel’s message could potentially bring about shame and disgrace. In situations like this, women were stoned to death, or cast out.

I gathered myself and tried to invoke reason. Had I dreamed or made this up? Given the hour of the day, it was too early to have dreamed anything in broad daylight. Because of the brilliant blue sky, it was unlikely Gabriel’s radiance was a figment of my imagination. As for my father, he would never do such a thing … never beat me. He was a god-fearing man, full of gentleness, kindness, and love.

Joseph, on the other hand, would not be obliged to show mercy. How would I tell the man whom I love that I haven’t been unfaithful?

Fear got the best of me, and I couldn’t stop shaking. When my nerves and mind finally calmed down, I valiantly stood before Gabriel and declared, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.”

For me to give birth to a son, would be a miracle like none other. It’s been centuries since miracles like this have materialized. But wait …

Months ago we celebrated with my cousin, Elizabeth. Had not an angel of the Lord come to her and Zachariah and announced they, too, would give birth to a son?

I knocked over my jar of water and hurried home to pack. I needed to see Elizabeth … to share my good news … to compare the miracles we now share. She was eighty-eight and three months away from giving birth to a son. Being with her would give me comfort. If anyone could appreciate my good news, it would be Elizabeth.

I’ll never forget how she greeted me once she heard my voice: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”

Yes, Elizabeth, “Why am I so favored?” I was just ordinary.

Not every day was joyful. The Roman Empire was a thorn in our flesh. Herod issued an edict, ordering every male child–newborns to two years of age–killed. No child spared. Wails swept throughout Bethlehem and surrounding towns and lingered in my ears all the way to Egypt. I woke up in a foreign land, in the wee hours of the morning to mournful cries filling the sky. What were we doing in Egypt among a people who hadn’t treated us kindly? Shouldn’t we return to Bethlehem and help my people?

I cuddled Jesus close to me and kissed his small hands. Caring for my two-year-old helped ease the sea of hopelessness we left behind. Like our great-grandmothers before us … mothers who walked this Egyptian soil … we would not soon forget our misery. Neither did the Romans waste time reminding us they would exercise rule and control over us. After Herod died and we returned to Bethlehem, there was a stench of death in the air, getting stronger as we approached the city. Along the horizon was a long row of crosses standing beside the road. Most who hung there were dead. Those who were not, begged to die.

It was trying times. A time when we ached for the Messiah.

Little did I know how difficult things would become … what it would be like to be entrusted with raising a child of God.

When Jesus was about seven or nine years of age, bizarre things began to happen. The sick, miraculously healed; prayers answered in what seemed like an instant. After one of our evening meals, we prayed for a father who had nearly drowned while fishing, later coming down with a terrible fever. Before our prayers ended, there was a knock on the door. The father’s adult son announced he was healed. Joseph questioned the son four times regarding the hour of his father’s healing. “Only moments ago,” he said. “Only moments ago.” As soon as the son left, we turned to Jesus, but he had slipped away. We heard him repairing a bench he had promised to deliver the next day.

On a separate occasion, Jesus went missing. How do you lose a twleve-year-old? Our frantic search led us to the temple where we found him teaching the elders. Losing a child is a mother’s worse nightmare. Fortunately, for us, we were spared a painful separation. From that point on, if I was busy churning butter, kneading bread, or weaving cloth, Jesus often slipped away on long escapades to preach and teach strangers in the city. Once, we found him about five miles outside of Nazareth, standing on a hill, preaching to a crowd of children. Ha!! As I look back on it, I’m certain it was his way of practicing before a live audience.

We tried to ignore the miracles, but it became increasingly evident Jesus had a special connection to God.

God was not only with him, but in him.

I questioned him once about all the good works he had performed, but he immediately silenced me. “Quiet, Mother. It’s not time yet.” Hmm. Not time for what?

Too often I found myself sitting on the riverbank pondering this question. I must admit, my conclusions were all wrong. I was a lot like his followers, in the beginning, thinking he would establish an earthly kingdom … that he’d come to rescue us from slavery … that he’d come to replace the Roman Empire and reign supreme. We were too carnal minded and unprepared to address our dreadful, spiritual state … too feeble minded to accept spiritual truth to understand him then. Brings to mind what a righteous man once said to me, “And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” I had no idea what he meant. His words rang hollow.

I never had special powers. I wasn’t a prophetess. I wasn’t capable of spiritually interpreting those words to mean I would lose my son to evil, brutal men. Hard to fathom losing a child. Harder to lose a son to despicable people bent on crucifying the innocent.

Yes. I admit it. I was warned. But those words weren’t enough to prepare me for the gravest burden ever–his death.

To watch him be taken because of rumors and accusations, jealousy and envy, money and power, to a merciless crucifixion was too unbearable for words.

They took hold of my son and flung him around as if he were fodder for their mindless games. Parading him through the wicked arms of the chief priests … watching as they appealed to Pilate for his death was horrendous. Many in the crowd had witnessed him healing the sick, raising the dead, forgiving sins. Yet, there they stood shouting and hurling insults. Their treatment of him resembled the cruelty many go through when thrown in an arena waiting for the lions to pour in and devour you.

They cried out, “CRUCIFY HIM!!”

“Crucify him?”

This is MY son!!! My first born. The one to reign over the house of Jacob forever. “Tell them, Jesus. Tell them how you will rule the earth … that you are the Son of the Most High. Don’t let them do this to you. I have seen what you can do. You have healed and blessed and turned water into wine. For crying out loud, you walked on water. This is the time to reveal yourself … your greatness. Jesus. Please! Show them who you really are.”

Those words remained trapped in my throat, never to escape my lips.

Roars of the maddening crowd were heard all around me. Laughter and heckling drowned out everything I wanted to say. Seething anger pressed me like a cake of figs. Loud voices raged. Then they did the unthinkable. The massive crowd inched forward toward Pilate and bargained for Barabbas.

How dare they do this–trade my son’s life for that of a thief. Do they not have children of their own? Can they not see his suffering? They are about to spill innocent blood. Is there no compassion in the world anymore?

John and Mary of Magdalene held me up because I was too weak to stand on my own. Pools of tears blinded me and I could no longer see my son standing before a herd of vipers, or see the jagged edges of torn flesh streaking across his body — flies feeding off him, sweat burning him, spittle caked to his nose … on the side of his face.

I hear the whip lashing his back. Can you hear it? Can you? When was the last time you heard those lashes … the groans … see how the pain distorted and deformed his face?

“Let it be me,” I said inside my soul. “Let me take his place.”

No one heard me. Evil forces clamped my tongue to the roof of my mouth.

Great halls and huge pillars couldn’t … wouldn’t bear his pain. The earth shifted and moaned with him. Rocks cried out and crashed to the ground! The disgruntled sky resembled pillows of smoke. When they pressed the crown of thorns on his head, I gasped … held my breath as blood poured from him like a swollen river. Anguish and terror released from me, and I cried out, “Yeshua! Yeshua! I’m here, Yeshua!” With all my might, I tried to push pass the soldiers, but they hemmed us in. I pleaded, “He’s my son. Let me through.” Our voices, mere whimpers among the soldiers’ scoffs.

Their minds were set. Yes! They were determined. Hearts hard as stone. Hands stained with blood. My son’s blood.

The. Worse. Day. Of. My. Life.

My family has never cried so long and hard. My second oldest, Simon, was angry. Joses wanted to fight everyone involved in his brother’s death. James couldn’t stand it and ran off to sulk in his pain. Several disciples wrestled Judas to the ground to keep him from barging through the crowd to attack the soldiers. My daughters wailed. (Mary’s family – Mark 6:3)

Together we made the unbearable walk to his tomb. Many times I faltered, too reluctant to make another step toward our final goodbye. After placing his body in the tomb, I wept for two days, stealing off to a nearby river to weep, and to allow Jesus’ childhood memories to take hold of me.

Wasn’t it yesterday when he fell and bruised his knee and I thought he’d walk with a limp for the rest of his life? Silly me. Before concern swelled inside me, he was like new again.

I remember his gentleness when correcting neighborhood children on misinterpretations of scripture … how baffled they were at his knowledge. He never missed an opportunity to speak to teachers of the law, speaking with authority–without one day of schooling. He did everything with such humility and patience.

Not long after he died, I prepared his favorite meal–I couldn’t help myself–lentil soup with loaves of fresh Bread, a bowl of cool cucumbers, and roasted corn. I sat them on the table and closed my eyes, remembering how famished he was after a long day of making cabinets, tables, and benches. I ruffled his hair then patted his hand to slow him down so he wouldn’t continue to eat like a hungry animal. My hand patted the table instead. It was clear. He was no longer with me.

A hole filled my heart. I was bruised. Wounded. A sword had sliced through my soul and left me for dead. I couldn’t move … could faintly hear. My pain, too deep to soothe. An anguish too inconsolable.

Why kill my son? What crime had he committed? Who did he wrong?

John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, kept watch over me night and day. I couldn’t eat. Couldn’t sleep. If I closed my eyes, I’d see my son’s bloody body and flinch each and every time that whip struck his back.

I still see the blood on my hands … on my clothes … the deep lacerations … long thorns embedded in his brow.

No. No mourning feast for me. Nothing can bring me comfort. Solace forever eludes me.

The only modicum of comfort I received was knowing the women with us would move forward to properly embalm my son. They debated who might roll away the stone. Though they never determined who would help them, they plowed ahead to the tomb anyway.

That’s when everything changed.

Mary of Magdalene burst through the door and announced, “He’s risen! The tomb is empty!” We looked at one another in disbelief. In unison, the disciples asked, “How can this be?” In meticulous detail the women explained how an angel of the Lord declared Jesus had risen from the dead. After inching their way inside the tomb–fear and disbelief in their eyes, a glaring light streaking through the cave, the morning heat warming them–their senses came alive.

The tomb was empty.

Empty?

Empty.

Mary of Magdalene recalled she carefully lifted a corner of the burial cloth, her eyes filled with awe and wonder. Others patted the linen cloth as they circled where Jesus had laid. No one spoke. No one attempted to explain.

Upon hearing the women’s account, I immediately thought someone had stolen my son’s body. Why would the soldiers do this? The disciples dismissed the women’s account and left to go home, or go fishing. But John and Peter raced to the tomb to see for themselves if what the women had said was true.

As crazy as it sounded, I still hadn’t fully convinced myself that someone hadn’t stolen his body. I wondered if I was just an overwrought mother still grieving the loss of her son. Oh, how I wanted to see my son. In truth, I didn’t care how crazy the women’s report sounded. I would do anything, believe any report if it meant I could see my son again.

It wasn’t until Cleopas, my sister’s husband (John 19:25) and his companion rushed through the door and told us they had seen him. I retreated to a corner of the room, wondering if they had fantasized as we had done or if it was indeed true. These last few days have been hard and long. Wouldn’t my son have pity on me and come reassure me how things really are for him? Wouldn’t he be sensitive enough to ease my soul from this indescribable pain?

Then it happened.

He did not knock and walk through the doorway. He did not call out from the heavens. He did not send messengers to alert his coming. He appeared–standing among us to ease our burning hearts and help us accept truth.

Hadn’t he warned us? Hadn’t he told us on many occasions that he was “about his father’s business?” That he’d come to “seek and save the lost.” That in three days, he’d rise again? I, for one, thought the number three was symbolic. It never occurred to me he literally meant in three days he’d be alive again.

Jesus, the Son of God, had risen from the dead.

Jesus, the Son of God, stood here in the house with us. In the flesh. In the Spirit. Three Persons in One. Alive. Breathing. Flesh and bones. Thomas’ misgivings about the Christ gave us an opportunity to see my son’s wounds for ourselves … the holes … the scars and lacerations … to see they were real.

The reasons we concocted for his arrival in this world were wrong. He subjected himself to a lowly birth and became human in a fallen world so he could reconcile us to God. He came to bear the weight of our guilt and shame. It was our sins that made the earth shake, the sky darken, the dead to rise and walk the streets.

This understanding demolished our confusion.

Healing eased our pain.

Joy replaced our anger.

Confession eradicated blame.

Every one of those 40 days he was with us was indescribable joy. I was never so happy. I must have rubbed his head, hugged his neck, and kissed his cheek a thousand times. I’d walk beside him, squeeze his arm, just to reassure myself he was flesh and blood … again.

When he left us for a second time to ascend into heaven, a part of me wanted to go with him. As he rose, I reached for him, my tear-filled eyes pleading for him to stay and allow me to hold him one last time … to cup my hands and memorize the contours of his face. But in that moment, it became evident, he no longer belonged to me alone. He was God in the flesh, spiritually transformed for us all. He looked into my eyes and gave me comfort. Then he said,

This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power on high.

While he blessed us, he left and was taken up into heaven.

I don’t have enough words to describe the impact of his promise and the indelible imprint he left on my life. I am indeed a blessed woman of all women. I thank God for finding favor and choosing me to give honor and glory to him, and an opportunity to live out the mission he set before me.

As ordinary as you are, he has designed a mission for each of you … a plan tailor-made which will bring glory and honor to Him.

Listen and Obey.

May our God who knows all grant you peace.

Amen.

by Donna B. Comeaux

one in a billion women who love the Lord our God

https://youtu.be/ifCWN5pJGIE

Abigail – Confrontational Relationships

Lesson 3 of 6

March 2, 2022

It’s spring.

Sheep shearing season.

Somewhere near the Jezreel Valley, close to the northern mountains of Judah lies an estate belonging to a wealthy Calebite named Nabal, a descendant of the Tribe of Judah. His estate is in Carmel, seven miles from Hebron, at the southern tip of the Dead Sea. Don’t confuse Carmel with Mt. Carmel which is near the Mediterranean Sea.

Years ago twelve men spied out the Land of Canaan. Two were convinced Israel could conquer the land. (Numbers 13:23-33) Caleb and Joshua were the faithful few while the other ten waddled in doubt. God wasn’t pleased and made the Israeli nation wander the wilderness for another 40 years.

The whole family suffered the consequences of someone else’s sin.

Personally speaking, I would be one hot mamma if these ten men caused me to wander the wilderness again. Going without conveniences is no fun — no home to call my own, no modern amenities to make daily life easier to bear, no fresh seasoning for cooking. HA! Instead of grumbling about returning to Egypt, I’d get a frying pan and pop those rascals over the head. You can’t convince me the Israelite women didn’t want to lay hands on them.

Yet, there’s something sobering and familiar about their way of thinking. They, like us, suffer from unbelief.

Abigail is surrounded by men just like this … men who struggle to walk in obedience … men who–no matter how much of God’s power they have witnessed–choose to doubt.

As an example, take a look at King Saul, Nabal, and David.

King Saul is enraged over David’s popularity. The killing of Goliath haunts him. Aware God has taken the kingdom from him aggravates his situation and his jealousy of David turns to hatred. His hate is so overpowering he is willing to kill. Spilling blood hardens his heart and to his unawares sin becomes a slow burn, then an all-consuming fire which engulfs his soul.

The king has gone from innocence and obedience to ruthlessness and murderous conduct. He’s gone from following God’s lead to succumbing to his own desires. When Jacob foretold each tribe’s fate, he described the Tribe of Benjamin this way:

“… a ravenous wolf; in the morning he devours the prey, in the evening he divides the plunder.” (Genesis 49:27)

In other words, all day long this spirited and warlike (strong and daring) tribe of Israel will prey upon and plunder their enemy to enrich themselves. As further evidence of this tribe’s character, read Judges 19-21. The read will cause you to sit up and pay attention.

King Saul is from the Tribe of Benjamin. He is living up to Jacob’s prophesy.

Nabal is not much better. Though I have no idea what led to his sinister and selfish behavior, one thing is very clear. He possessed enough arrogance to cover a mountain range. He’s described as being, “… surly (hostile, arrogant, mean) and mean in his dealings.” His servants say of him, “He is such a wicked man that no one can talk to him.”

Nabal is no Caleb. He reminds us not everyone born into a good family will walk in full obedience. Undoubtedly, Nabal has either forgotten the story of his family lineage, or accredits himself for his success and flatly refuses to acknowledge God.

Either way, he’s in spiritual trouble.

David, is not thinking straight. His men haven’t eaten and he’s desperate. Nabal’s refusal to accommodate him with food doesn’t make him look good in front of his men. Honor and pride are at stake. He’s in a pickle; justifiably angry, wants to avenge the wrong done to him, and feels the pressure to “do” something to remedy Nabal’s disrespect. He’s not exhibiting the mindset of a future king, but more like an ego-driven man in search of a kill.

The plot thickens because he and Nabal not only know each other, but they’re from the same tribe–the Tribe of Judah–and are distant cousins. If David is successful with his plan to kill Nabal, he could possibly taint his reign on the throne. It never occurs to him that he’s about to replicate King Saul’s murderous behavior and bring God’s wrath down on him.

Abigail is surrounded by three men.

From the same nation.

From two different tribes.

Serving the same God.

People from the same family determined to destroy each other.

All engaging in destructive behavior.

No matter what Abigail chooses to do to save her servants, she could be killed.

King Saul could kill her during his pursuit of David, intercepting her on her way to bring David food then accuse her of helping David escape like he accused the 85 priests he slaughtered earlier. (I Samuel 22)

Nabal could accuse her of being too sympathetic and kill her for extending kindness toward David.

David might kill her for merely being Nabal’s wife, blaming her, in part, for Nabal’s selfishness; giving her no opportunity to explain her position and plea for her servants’ lives. Or worse, he could ignore her pleas and let her watch as he assassinates everyone with his sword.

This beautiful and intelligent woman is the complete opposite of the men around her. She’s brave. Understands the danger before her and still presses forward to save her servants, with no idea how this will end.

What must have gone through her mind when Nabal’s servants reported what he had said to David? Fear had to turn her blood ice cold. Her knee-jerk reaction may have been, “Idiot!” I see her calculating how much time before a barrage of David’s soldiers burst through her door to cut down every man. Images of dead people all over the floor cloud her brain. It unnerves her to think of children whimpering for their mothers, death looming through the thick night air, the horrible stench reeking along corridors.

“This can’t happen,” Abigail says to herself. Before contemplating her next step, fear takes a turn and invigorates her, moving her swiftly through hallways, in and out of servants’ doorways. She rattles off one order after another, pushing people to move faster; snapping her fingers, clapping her hands, commanding them to pull out more grain, gather more figs, feed and water the donkeys.

I see the frenzy of activity … the coordination involved to prepare the load: “… two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five dressed sheep, five seats of roasted grain, a hundred cakes of raisins, and two hundred cakes of pressed figs, …” (I Samuel 25:18) [five seahs are equivalent to: 9 quart; 8.5 liters; or 144 medium size eggs]

Soon, a quiet desperation overtakes Abigail and she visualizes standing–no–kneeling before David, the future king of Israel. “My lord,” she whispers. God’s anointed. Her hands tremble. Acid rises and burns her throat. Abigail coughs. Coughs again. Rips off her headdress. Claps her hands. Servants rush in. “Help me get in more comfortable clothes. I’m going to meet the future king of Israel.” Those words weaken and buckle her knees. Her servants catch her right before she hits the floor. Still, they waste no time to find suitable clothes for her.

Abigail talks to herself, cautions herself not to ask, but to plea with David to not destroy her people.

“What do I say to a king?” In a split second, she whispers, “Nothing. You beg, Abigail. Yes, you beg. Say whatever is necessary to save these people. Exchange your life for theirs if it comes to that.”

So, she paces back and forth, back and forth, practicing her lines.

Confrontational relationships are difficult. You’re constantly on guard. Defensive. You lie to yourself and assert, “It’s me! I need to change.” You go about working harder, praying longer, giving more, only to wake up exhausted, confused, and lost for words. You’re lost for words because you’ve said everything you can think to say to God.

But that’s not entirely true. Is it?

You were never honest. You didn’t tell God how you hated these people who did you wrong. You never told him how bad you wanted to leave. Why would you? You’ve been programmed to accept punishment because you “deserve it.”

What are you to do?

You try again. That’s what you do. You make every effort to please, but again, you’re unsuccessful. You go from doubting the individual causing the discord to doubting yourself. Confidence erodes and you’re forever in search of a moment of peace.

I see Abigail hiding away in one of the many rooms in Nabal’s large estate, trying to appease her disdain for him. How many times was she interrupted by grumbling servants who needed her to intercede on their behalf?

What a dreadful state to be in … to bear the weight of responsibility for a people; and be subservient to a terrible master.

What was it like to sit across the dinner table to watch her husband eat like a glutton and bark orders like a selfish, mindless dog? I don’t think for one moment Nabal’s refusal to give David aid was the first time he had denied anyone food. Yes, he’s done this time and time again. At each unbearable meal, Abigail listens to his misgivings of people who can’t provide for themselves. Never once does he recognize the power he has to help them.

If I were Abigail, I’d escape for a long trek across the Jezebel Valley and not think of returning. The slow journey would provide much needed peace.

But I’m not Abigail.

For whatever reason, Abigail didn’t seek refuge. Was she comfortable? Perhaps. Did she feel a burden of responsibility for her servants? It’s likely. We may never know.

We can, however, relate to what it’s like to be cornered in relationships with people who turn out to be evil doers. We want to distance ourselves, but don’t know how to do so in a godly manner. We don’t want to seem rude. CAUTION: Joseph ran from Potiphar’ wife. Some situations call for drastic action–rude or not. Running might be necessary. There’s no shame in it.

Waiting certainly wasn’t a part of Abigail’s DNA, at least not as far as this story goes. Scripture specifically states, “Abigail acted quickly.” (ESV) “Abigail lost no time.” (NIV)

No sitting and praying and meditating on Torah.

No seeking the counsel of others.

No more pacing the floors in frantic displays of hysteria.

No second-guessing herself.

This woman is on a mission and comprehends what ought to be done.

I love this part of Abigail’s story. She moves with precision, while having no idea if her plan will work or if she will die in the process.

Think about what’s going on here.

The political climate is hostile. The region is on edge. There are fighting skirmishes everywhere. The Amalekites want to kill the Jews. The Philistines want King Saul’s head. A chapter or two ago, King Saul slaughtered the chief priests and about 85 men who wore the linen ephod (priests of the Lord). In addition to killing the priests, he annihilated the city of Nob, including women and children and livestock. (I Samuel 21) WHY? Why would he do such a thing? Because he thought they had helped David escape. All of Judah knows Saul is after David and he will kill anyone who gets in his way. The smell of blood is in the air. Everyone is afraid.

King Saul should have shied away from spilling innocent blood. In a weird sort of way, the blood fueled his hatred rather than curtail it.

Abigail isn’t a woman isolated from the world. She’s up-to-date on the latest news; mindful of the conflicts within the region. She’s made privy of the hot pursuits and skirmishes of war. What she doesn’t know firsthand, her servants are sure to inform her as soon as news arrives.

Too often our Christian brotherhood is lured into thinking they either need to hide away in their homes or should button up and shut up.

This method of survival is short-lived and dangerous. Dangerous because it offers a false sense of security. It allows too much distance between us and the world and weakens opportunities to spread the Word. We can’t show the world how to live out the Word if we don’t interact with them. You can’t be an example to a people with whom you have no contact.

No, Abigail was never on the run. She knew exactly what was happening outside of her home, and keenly aware David would reign over Israel.

Beginning in I Samuel 25:23-31, Abigail shares some of what she knows.

  • 1. Abigail and Nabal, along with their servants, knew David before he requested food. God had declared David the next king of Israel through the prophet, Samuel, and word spread among the people.
  • 2. Abigail is smart and humble enough to greet David as if he’s already a king. (see v. 23) She acknowledges him as superior to her (see v.24) Her humility reveals her willingness to die.
  • 3. After Abigail begs David to listen, she pleads for her life. WHOA!! Where did I see that verse? Look in v. 25. Why do you think Abigail says, “And as for me, your servant, I did not see the men my lord sent.” What is Abigail saying? If Abigail wants to save her household, there needs to be a clear distinction between she and Nabal. Abigail probably thought that if David sees her as a mere extension of Nabal, he might kill her. Abigail knows she can’t save her household if she dies before she’s had a chance to plea for her servants’ lives.
  • 4. Abigail is smart and strategically redirects (shoulder) blame when necessary. Her goal is to diffuse David’s anger by diverting his attention from Nabal to her. (see v.25) She sees David as powerful and capable of wiping out Nabal’s household.
  • 5. Abigail recognizes God’s sovereignty and relationship with David. (see v.26) “Now, since the Lord has kept you, my master, from bloodshed and from avenging yourself with your own hands, …” This is interesting because God has not kept David from doing anything yet. Let’s hold this thought for a moment. We’ll come back to this.
  • 6. Abigail is convinced God will make David’s dynasty a lasting one because David fights the Lord’s battles. (see v.28)
  • 7. Abigail wisely helps David see his wrongdoing if he goes through with his plan to destroy his kindred (Nabal). (see v.28) HA!! So, Abigail knows David’s lineage … that David and Nabal are from the Tribe of Judah; that they are distant cousins.
  • 8. Abigail knows David’s reputation. (see v.29) “Even though someone is pursuing you to take your life, the life of my lord will be bound securely in the bundle of the living by the Lord your God, but the lives of your enemies he will hurl away as from the pocket of a sling.

Notice she uses the word sling in this verse. If David isn’t telling Abigail his story, how does she know about David and Goliath? Let’s not forget the songs sung about David: “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.” (I Samuel 18:7)

David and Goliath’s encounter was a big deal and news spread all over the world. And though David is older now, the stories of his victory are not soon forgotten. Wars won by our God are never kept secret.

The eight things I previously mentioned were taken from Abigail’s plea to David in I Samuel 25:23-31. I want to draw your attention to something you may have missed. Consider what I’m about to say as one of your bible nuggets.

Out of all the things Abigail said, can you distinguish what she knows from what she hopes?

How did she come to know these things?

The majority of what Abigail said are “not” things known to her.

That’s right. She didn’t “know” half of what she said.

You probably think I’m insane. Trust me. She did not “know” most of what she said.

It wasn’t factual.

It was FAITH.

Read the passage of scripture again. Diligently.

Abigail’s plea to David was based on FAITH. She didn’t “know” anything beyond what was common knowledge to her people. She didn’t have the mind of God. She couldn’t see the future. She’s no prophet. Not a priest. Not an angel.

Unlike the ten Israelites who spied out the Land of Canaan, along with Caleb and Joshua, Abigail believed in God and recognized his power and what was possible through him.

Abigail began her plea of mercy–and that’s precisely what it was–a plea of mercy spoken as if it had already come to past. Abigail is bold throughout her petition, hoping but unknowing, for an outcome yet to unfold.

This was a plea spoken in FAITH.

ACTIVITY

Print out the diagram below. If you can’t print it, draw one. Reread I Samuel 25:23-31. As you read scriptures, on one side of the chart, fill in “What Abigail Knew” and, on the other side of the chart, fill in “What Abigail Hoped.” This is a nice exercise to do with a friend.

While doing this exercise, constantly ask yourself: “Did she really know this?”

MORE THAN LIKELY, you have concluded most of Abigail’s pleas to David were borne of FAITH, not knowledge.

You can’t help but respect the way Abigail navigated through all that was going on around her. Oh, we could say she was trying to save David’s life or trying to prevent his kingdom from being tarnished, but we know full well she was more interested in saving her people. David’s welfare was secondary.

You know what’s intriguing about this story? God had options. He could have gathered a thousand angels to prevent David’s plan of attack. He’s been known to unite an army to fight a battle. At times, he’s used as few as fifty men to fight an enemy. In this story, God uses one person. A woman. Someone who was smart enough to safeguard her plan to save the lives of others. Someone whose need far outweighed David’s thirst for vengeance. Isn’t it amazing how everyone’s need collided, yet God’s plans are uninterrupted?

Abigail’s god-given ability to strategize leave no doubt in my mind that she also used her beauty to capture David’s attention. She could have sent her servants in her name. She chose to go in person.

Why?

For one thing, her beauty made David pause; softened his anger. For another, knowing God had approved David’s kingship helped Abigail appeal to David’s sense of reasoning and the possibility he might fall from grace if he acted on his plan to kill Nabal.

Whatever strength she had; whatever tenacity she possessed was derived from the one and only Savior. I’m certain her daily struggles with Nabal equipped her with the necessary boldness to face David. How much worse can it be than daily interactions with a cantankerous old fool?

Trials and tribulations have a way of preparing you for battle.

James 1:2-4, reads: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Nabal was Abigail’s trial. Nabal sat on Abigail’s last nerve, ripping and shredding those synapses into little bitty pieces. God used that evil man to temper Abigail and make her ready for the situation she found herself in with David. For me, Abigail is our first Esther.

There are commentators who look at this story from a different angle, taking the position that Abigail slighted her husband … disrespected Nabal by not sharing her plan to appeal to David. Of course, most of those commentators are men. They imply, “men tell us everything.” Really? What planet do they live on? I like to think Abigail exhibited wisdom by not telling Nabal that she was rushing off to give food to David and beg for the lives of her servants. If Abigail had shared her plan, who’s to say Nabal would not have turned on her and killed everyone.

The man had the understanding of a goat. He’s mean. Hot-headed. Stingy. Arrogant. Wealthy. Intimidating. Insolent (downright rude and insulting). Think about it–if he’s bold enough to give David a piece of his mind–the future king of Israel, then we must conclude he wasn’t about to withhold his evil tongue from his wife.

To reveal Abigail’s intentions is a lot like disclosing a planned attack to your enemy.

Proverbs 10:14 and 12:23, read: “Smart people don’t tell everything they know, but fools tell everything and show they are fools.

Scriptures warn us we will encounter people like Nabal. It’s spiritual warfare. The Father has written we should ready ourselves for this fight. In Ephesians 6:13, it says: “Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

If Abigail had gone to David in any other way than with the spirit of humility, we would not have the opportunity to learn from her story.

Why?

Because she’d be dead!

Not every battle is or should be fought with a sharp tongue. It’s unnecessary to scheme and manipulate … lay awake fretting over the misdeeds of others. This battle belongs to the Lord. (II Chronicles 20:15)

You will not fare well, however, if you deny your pain. Emotions may go silent for a time, but trust me, they don’t go poof and vaporize.

To heal, we must admit truth. Your truth. Let God heal.

No matter how ugly you feel toward someone, admit it before God. He won’t leave you. He won’t turn his face from you. Instead, he’ll rescue you and heal you from the poison growing inside you. He can do immeasurably more than you can imagine. (Ephesians 3:20)

So, FIGHT BACK! Fight back with OBEDIENCE. OBEY! Even during your trials … in your toughest moments … when confrontations are at their worse, FIGHT BACK!

How?

FIGHT BACK with obedience. Be holy as he is holy. FIGHT BACK with spiritual obedience!!

What type of fighter are you? One who stands ready and prepared? One who will obey even when you don’t want to? (Matthew 21:28-32) Or perhaps you’re someone who likes to peep between the curtains and wait for someone else to do the dirty work? Are you more like David and likely to draw your sword and cut off the heads of those who have offended you? Or do you crave to be more like Abigail, using grace and tenacity, wisdom and patience?

To mimic her, you’ll need to:

  • 1. Know your enemy and the danger imposed by them.
  • 2. Appeal to God.
  • 3. Create a plan before you act or react.
  • 4. Be willing to prostrate yourself to bring about peace.

If you’ve done this, then all you must do is WAIT ON THE LORD.

What have we learned from this lesson on Abigail?

  • 1. Nothing wrong with Brawn (physical strength), Beauty (pleasing to look upon), and Brains (intelligence). Don’t conceal your intelligence and leave only your beauty to be magnified by the world.
  • 2. Understand the world around you. Don’t shelter yourself to the point of ignorance. Stay apprised to the new fads and world events so you can help your family navigate around spiritual and physical danger. You can be holy and aware rather than unholy and consumed.
  • 3. Maintain integrity and poise during adversity. No screaming and hollering or going ballistic on others. And stop cursing/cussing. It sounds awful. It’s sinful. You are becoming worldly. Rather, you are called to peace. Don’t react as the world does. No overreacting in private. No overreacting in public. Ever. If you see a sister doing so, consider yourself and correct her with gentleness.
  • 4. Failing at point #3–to maintain your integrity and poise during adversity–won’t encourage others to listen to your testimony. Temper yourself so others will consider your faith. Think of Abigail and how she would have been received by David if she were to react like Nabal.

Confrontational relationships are not easy. In your confusion, you don’t know which way to go, or what to say. Close communion with God determines how well you’ll listen to his voice. A lack of communion increases our potential to spiritually fail.

Where there is a slack in obedience, there is sin. Sin grows. Like a roaring lion, it crouches and waits for an opportunity to devour you.

Let God do what he does best. Love. Heal. Forgive.

Don’t aggravate volatile situations. If you do, you may be the one who suffers the consequences for someone else’s bad behavior.

WAIT ON GOD. Even if it means you might appear to be the one in the wrong for a time. WAIT ON GOD. He will vindicate you.

Feed off God’s Word. Let it nourish you so you can spiritually grow stronger to ward off the devil’s evil schemes. Fear not! For if God is for you, who can be against you. (Romans 8:31)

Walk in His ways and remain OBEDIENT. Keep in mind that you are not the only one who will suffer from your sins. Continue to do wrong and your entire household will suffer … the entire family of God will suffer. Remain OBEDIENT.

Go in peace.

by Donna B. Comeaux

another woman out of billions who love the Lord our God

Leah – Imperfections Don’t Alter God’s Plan

Lesson 2 of 6

February 9, 2022

God has shown he is more than capable of doing great things through sinful people. He is magnificent, glorious, and his perfect plan of salvation reconciles the penitent to himself. His very nature exposes our sinful state. Rather than recoil at our nakedness, he lets us know Imperfections Don’t Alter His Plan to love and care for us.

Whoever he chooses to use for his purpose, be reassured no one comes perfectly packaged together.

Like us, Leah is flawed, and so is her family–parents, in-laws, grandparents, and great-great-grandparents, alike.

Inside Leah’s story are the complex dynamics of two families whose distinguishing traits are a lot like your own. Somewhere in the back of your mind, you might yearn to read a story about better people.

There are none.

Perhaps there’s a slight tendency to suggest God should have shaken his head in disgust and moved on to Plan B.

That’s not what he did.

He chose deceivers, liars, and thieves–jealousy linking these terrible idiosyncrasies together like glue.

One of the greatest lessons learned from this story is Leah and Rachel can’t sin their way out of the path God has laid out for them. No amount of bickering, stealing, manipulating, or lying can sway God from carrying out his will for mankind. Yes, some will be saved; some will be lost. After all, there are rewards for the saved; doom and destruction for the disobedient.

Like the contrast between the obedient and disobedient, there’s a striking differentiation between Leah and Rachel.

Leah had weak eyes, and from her moaning and groaning, you witness her low self-esteem. Can you blame her? She was abandoned. Chosen last. Unloved. Excluded.

Rachel was a shapely woman, beautiful, and strong–her strength very much in line with her duties as a shepherd.

Are we saying Leah’s story is all about outward appearance?

Let’s not kid ourselves. God is not shallow minded. He doesn’t make decisions based on appearance. He rightly judges the mind and heart of man.

Perhaps what we need to do is dig deeper … go behind the scenes … return to the beginning to uncover the depth of understanding necessary to appreciate what God is saying in Genesis 29-31.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth …

He made every kind of animal, beast, creeping things, and fowls of the air … male and female he made them … commanding all to populate the earth after their kind.

In the beginning …

One Wife. For Life.

Let’s imagine Leah whimpering, praying, and crying out to God for love. Share in her agony as travelers enter her father’s home, sitting around a fire, everyone ignoring her. Leah’s tendency to shy away goes unnoticed. Excluding herself from decisions is never questioned. To please his guests and attract a husband for his daughters, Laban sends for Rachel, insisting she lay down her staff and leave her sheep to serve his guests. He’s assured the men will cast flirtatious glances at Rachel, but she is not interested and serves the men in haste.

Once Jacob arrives, everything changes. Rachel is smitten by his presence. So is Leah. And before Leah has a chance to showcase her domestic abilities to make blankets and cook stew, Jacob watches Rachel’s every move. Leah sulks. Wishes she was as beautiful … as strong … as pleasing to the eyes as her sister.

Somewhere deep in her gut, life for her has ended. The handwriting is on the wall. Jacob will marry Rachel, taking her away and leaving Leah to her hopeless end. She’ll never marry. She will die a lonely death while weaving blankets for her father … while cooking for her hungry brothers … while thirsting for what she can never have–a family of her own.

When Jacob asks for Rachel’s hand, it stands to reason that Laban had to meet with his daughters to share his deceitful plan to marry Leah to Jacob. How else can this deception unfold? This didn’t happen in a vacuum, right? They had to know. They know the scheme is wrong, and Leah had to feel bad about it. What is she to do? Entangled and sucked into a web of right and wrong, there’s something about her father’s devious plan which prevents her from speaking up. The lie they’ve woven will help her escape the void in her life … that emptiness too deep to touch … too large and all encompassing to grasp. This chance at marriage is the glimmer of hope she desires. Taking a stance for truth will leave her wanton, and any hope for a family will be wiped out.

Against her better judgment, Leah says nothing to her father; less to her sister; her familiar look of timidity masking fear eating away at her soul. Her hands tremble as she fastens her earrings. Her knees weaken as servants tug and meticulously wrap scarves around her waist. It’s a struggle to be joyous while preparing for her wedding … Rachel’s wedding. Hard to ignore the tears puddling in her sister’s eyes.

She loves and hates her so.

Odd.

At this moment, Leah loves Rachel more than ever. She’s drawn to memories of her teenage sister looking up to her … how she taught little Rachel to weave her first blanket … how she watched the toddler’s first reaction to stories of Noah and the Ark … how she rescued her baby sister from a snake which had made its way inside their home.

Leah bit the inside of her lower lip, releasing a salty, metallic pool in her mouth–a reminder of what she was about to do to her sister. She can no longer look at Rachel who is on her knees smoothing Leah’s garment. “Don’t give in,” Leah says to herself. “This is my only chance. Rachel will one day marry. She’s strong. An excellent shepherd. Beautiful. Men love the sight of her. Even in simple wedding clothes, she’s more beautiful. I’m nothing. If I wait, there won’t be a second chance for me.”

So, beauty and hate, like vinegar and oil, separate these two, and Leah digs in deep to claim the day as her own. During the wedding ceremony, through her colorful veil, Leah sees the joy in Jacob’s eyes, hears the laughter of satisfaction in his voice. On their marriage bed, she’s pleased with his satisfaction, his declaration of love, his promise to give her children.

But during the night when Jacob has long gone asleep, Leah remains focused on the sound of sheep off in the distance; highly alert to movements across the land; skittish with the uneasy stillness that comes later in the night. Desperately, she pines for the darkness to remain, to veil her, unrelenting to the dawn. It seems like moments after their wedding daylight bursts forth and snatches away every ounce passion. Harsh rays of light begrudgingly reveal a stark reality, one she will not soon forget. Something bitter, and rotten, and foul is about to unfold. Suspicions of a boisterous uproar is about to disrupt her joy, and never ever will it return to her again.

Unexpectedly, Jacob stirs. Reaches for his bride.

When he discovers the family’s deceitfulness, Leah is forced to accept the awful consequences for her failure to speak truth. She’s convinced it is punishment … a death sentence as her father declares Rachel will marry Jacob at the end of Leah’s bridal week. Out of all the possible repercussions from her deceit … their deceit … this is the most dreadful.

Unable to contain her anger, many heated battles with her sister ensue. Tearful days elongate sleepless nights. Nothing pacifies the loneliness which finds a home in the center of Leah’s soul. Nothing soothes her longing for Jacob.

If I’m writing this script, which I’m not, I think at this point I’d get out my red pen and do some heavy editing to recast these misfits. They are not turning out to be good examples of God’s people. In my mind, they ought to be law-abiding followers, anxiously waiting on God to unfold his plan, and less tempted to take the bull by the horn.

However, if they followed my idea of how they should conduct themselves, I’d be pulling the log out of their eyes and keeping it wedged in my own.

What are we to do when we encounter people like this? People like us?

Snub them?

If that’s the case, I should be the first to go.

I’m just like them.

And so are you.

God is a stickler about his commandments. Wouldn’t you if you had taken the time to sit on a mountain with Moses to write each and every law? He didn’t write these laws for his good pleasure. He wrote these laws to keep you from harm and to reconcile you to him. He’s also a stickler about how we treat the weak and feeble; the old and frail; the lost and abandoned. God did not like Jacob having more than one wife. And neither is he pleased with Jacob’s favoritism toward Rachel.

Yet, he doesn’t rewrite either of their stories. He allows their deceitful ways to play right into a script he’s already read.

Why?

He sees the whole picture.

What appears right and good, pure and perfect can often be misleading. The opposite is also true. What seems dysfunctional, ill-fitted, and misaligned can be the very thing God uses for his purpose.

Let’s look at a video clip to prove my point.

[NOTE: Begin video at precisely 4:27 minutes; end at 5:35 minutes. Return to the beginning of the video and run for 35 seconds.]

https://youtu.be/cokCgWPRZPg

(This video is having issues pulling up. Just click on the link above to get to Youtube to see it.)

If you saw Itzhak Perlman (It Zok) on the street for the first time, your first reaction would be, “Oh my, that poor man.” But as you watched him on this video, in his element, unaware of his physical limitations, you immediately expected a grand performance from a well-fitted individual. It wasn’t until you watched him struggle to get seated that you gained a new appreciation for what he “can” do with that tiny violin, rather than what he “couldn’t” do with his legs.

Imperfections Don’t Alter God’s Plan. They ENHANCE THEM. REVEAL them. EXPOSES God’s greatness, power, glory, and goodness.

Leah isn’t looking at what God can do for her. All she sees is what he’s “not” doing. She doesn’t have the love of her husband or the comfort of children to sustain her.

Like for so many of us, there’s a large schism separating Leah’s feelings from spiritual reality. She’d rather focus on her hatred toward her sister than find hope in God’s promises.

As a result, the rivalry between these two sisters is unleashed with fury. Their love for Jacob puts them at odds with one another and increases their determination to win their husband’s affection.

We quarrel with one another because we are struggling to measure up. Our comparisons to one another grows out of control. We’re blinded and unwilling to recognize that every single time you align yourself alongside another imperfect individual, the result is a slightly curved measuring rod. No matter how much you tap that yardstick to get it straight, that curve remains.

Why?

Because: Imperfection + Imperfection = Imperfection

We create quite a bit of misery and trouble for ourselves when we choose to live a life based on our comparisons to someone else. And let’s not ignore the hatred and bitterness soon to follow.

Spiritual truth is this: God turned Leah and Rachel’s fierce competition into a blessing. He wasn’t pleased with the way they behaved. He didn’t like it. But he wasn’t confined by it either.

Months after God opened Leah’s womb, she became a delighted and proud woman. She now had bragging rights.

She names her firstborn, Reuben, then says:

“… because the Lord has seen my misery.” (Genesis 29:32)

She conceives again and names the second child, Levi, and says in deep agony:

“… for surely my husband will become attached to me now.” (Genesis 29:34)

Can you hear the desperation in Leah’s voice? She has two healthy sons, children she always wanted, and she’s still not happy.

The third time Leah conceives she names her son, Judah, and declares:

This time I will praise the Lord.” (Genesis 29:35)

What has happened to Leah?

She changed her focus — from Jacob to God. Though this transformation took some time, Leah continued in her spiritual growth.

Whining over Jacob’s inability to love her was getting Leah nowhere. She turns to God, her everlasting peace … the one who does not fail her … the one who truly knows and loves her.

Why now?

Why didn’t Leah turn to God four sons ago? Think on this for a moment.

It’s true–Leah was never favored by Jacob. She lived most of her married life selling and buying back the services of a husband who didn’t affectionately love her.

I can’t imagine coming to you and using a cake of figs or a roasted lamb, or mandrakes to bargain for my husband’s bed for the night. That’s just crazy to me. God’s original intent has always been “one” wife for life. If he wanted man to have two wives, he would have made another woman to work alongside Adam and Eve.

And mandrakes? What in the world are mandrakes?

Let’s take a look at this video.

In this video, you can see mandrakes are fleshy, green-colored (unripe) berries that have an outward texture a lot like a nectarine. They are barely two inches in diameter. They grow from September to April and bloom glossy green and violet flowers. They have medicinal benefits: alleviating stomach ulcers, colic, constipation, asthma, hay fever, convulsions, arthritis, whooping cough; trigger vomiting, sedate, reduce pain, jaundice, inflammation, varicose veins, depression, spasms, arouse sexual desire, and controls maniacal behavior (wild or maniac).

Their roots are a lot more interesting than the edible fruit. The roots and leaves are poisonous. In ancient days, witches and sorcerers boiled the roots. This sweet-smelling root is intoxicating, having aphrodisiac and hallucinating properties often used to charm or stimulate fertility. In other words, it’s a modern-day Viagra, of sorts.

If you wanted to exhibit more sinister behavior, all you had to do was pull up the root, rather than WAIT on God, boil these roots, and allow their narcotic properties to intoxicate your victim.

Could Leah and Rachel have done such a thing? It’s not too far-fetched. They are idol worshippers, and there’s no telling which idol practices they used to sway the outcome they desired. They are bent on having the attention of their husband who is about 84 years old. We know from their bickering back and forth that these two women would have gone to any length to have children. When they couldn’t or didn’t have babies in a timely manner, they concluded God needed extra help, using their handmaidens to do just that–Help.

Help, however, was not what God wanted.

He wants OBEDIENCE. If that means WAIT on the Lord, then I suggest you WAIT on the Lord. Otherwise, like Leah and Rachel, you will cause yourself a lot of heartache and misery.

Flawed people have flawed thinking, and each time we try to lend God a hand, we end up making a mess of things. It doesn’t occur to us to be still. What seems sensible and right to us is far from what God intended.

Why didn’t Leah turn to God the moment her father concocted his deceitful plan against Jacob?

Why are we flawed in this same way? Something to think about.

Many years pass and everything has changed. Jacob’s family has grown. His flocks have increased as well.

Strange how that happened.

Laban, the mater of trickery, convinced Jacob to continue to work for him, and as payment he’d give him all black, spotted, and striped sheep. On his way home, Laban must have laughed his head off and called Jacob an idiot. Over ninety percent of Laban’s flock is white, and the ten percent that were blemished he separates from Jacob so they can’t be accredited to Jacob as his own. Let me be clear — Laban was bent on having Jacob start with nothing and end with nothing. Laban is absolutely sure God is blessing him as long as Jacob stays with him, and Laban plans to milk this train for as long as he possibly can.

God, however, saw Laban’s crafty ways. What Laban didn’t know was he couldn’t out-fox the Father.

When the sheep come to drink water from the well, Jacob would strip slivers of bark from poplar, almond, and plane (sycamore and chestnut) trees, creating a striped pattern in each of the branches. He’d place them in water, letting the healthy and strong ewes eat the twigs and drink the powdery substance that emitted from the twigs and into the water. To distract the healthy ewes, he faced them toward the blemished sheep who also came to drink water from the same well. The blemished animals served as a distraction for the healthy ewes who drank from the trough. While drinking from the trough, male sheep came from behind and mated with them.

This passage puzzled me, so I dug deeper to find the answers to my nagging question: Why is Jacob putting striped twigs of poplar, almond, sycamore, and chestnut trees in the water?

Poplar, almond, and plane (chestnut and sycamore) trees have medicinal value and are known to cure inflammation, uterus infections, promote health and fertility, and fight off infections. During a scientific study, scientist separated sheep equally, feeding half the sheep with the medicinal properties found in these branches; then feeding the other half of the sheep with regular feed. The sheep fed with the medicinal properties from the tree branches increased in weight, were healthier, and produced more multiple births (twins) than the sheep who were not fed with the medicinal properties of the trees.

To this day, the medicinal properties found in these trees are used to feed sheep and other animals.

Does this mean God did not miraculously increase Jacob’s flock?

Of course not.

Keep in mind God used the wind and fire to hold back Pharoah’s Army and to keep them from killing the Israelites. God used creepy things to pester the Egyptians. He can use anything he chooses to attain his goal. He’s God of the universe, over the living and the dead, over the firmaments and the earth.

Jacob eventually sees there’s no end to his uncle’s dishonesty. He’s ready to go home, but patiently waits for an opportunity to escape.

By early spring, the time is right.

It’s sheep shearing time.

Let’s look at this video clip on sheep shearing.

Begin video at 4:05 minutes.

Laban has an enormous herd of sheep, and Jacob calculates sheep shearing will keep Laban and his servants busy for several days.

Sheep shearing season is a festive time of year. People all over the region come to settle debts and celebrate their profits. The wool is sold, but some is set aside to be cleaned and woven into blankets, clothing, and saddles. Women were busy extracting lanolin from the wool, carefully placing it in jars to later use it as moisturizers to be sold at market. Revelry and boisterous laughter are heard throughout the city, along the hillside, as everyone is in high spirits because of the profits they will receive from the wool. Marriages are hastily conducted. Slaves steal off in search of freedom.

It’s a great opportunity to get away.

Because Laban has an enormous herd of sheep to be sheared, Jacob concludes he’ll be long gone by the time Laban realizes he and his family have escaped.

And so it came to pass that Jacob left Laban’s household.

There’s a penalty for their dysfunctional behavior?

A stressful family unit.

Jacob doesn’t appreciate Leah for many years. Her beauty never intensifies. He could no more expect Leah’s beauty to increase any more than we can expect Itzhak Perlman to walk without crutches. Matter of fact, we appreciate the violinist even more because of his handicap.

Despite all this, Jacob is blessed. So is Leah.

What does Leah’s blessings spiritually mean?

Though Leah wasn’t Jacob’s first choice … though he made her feel abandoned by favoring her sister, Rachel, God remembered and blessed a whole nation through her.

God never forgets the abandoned.

Reminds you of what verse?

So the last shall be first, and the first last; for many be called, but few chosen.” (Matthew 20:16)

Take a look at us … here at this church. We are a big congregation. Not as big as some mega churches, still we’re large in number.

Here you sit. One of many. A dot. Insignificant. Nameless.

And yet, God knows you by name.

But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” (Isaiah 43:1)

I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10:14-15)

In the beginning, I’m sure Leah felt like you … like she was left on an island.

See, if you believe you’re on an island, then you’ll act as if you’re on an island.

It all begins with our belief system and our daily interaction, or the lack thereof, with the Father. If our spiritual belief system is not strong enough, our potential to spiritually fail goes up. We act as if we need to be cornered with no way out before we look UP in search of God. We have this tendency to converse with everyone on the planet, seeking help by any means necessary until we exhaust every avenue available to us before realizing the Father knows us best … before realizing all we need to do is ask him for what we need, then wait on him.

Your belief system is like a battery. As long as your battery is charged and in good working order, you function just fine. If you stray away from the Word, your spiritual battery is slowly sapped of energy.

Get in the habit of checking your spiritual charge, or you’ll wake up one day and not know or understand how you fell in the pit.

On some level, Leah finally understood the Father loved her.

How? How did Leah know God loved her?

Since her trickery has whittled down and she’s had all the babies she can have, there’s no need to compete with her sister anymore. At some point, Leah became wise, slowed down and focused on matters of importance–spending time in contentment with God and being thankful.

Leah had a lot to be thankful for.

This is Leah’s real story.

From this woman’s womb, a nation was born.

The bad things that happened to her and by her did not negate God’s love for her.

She was abandoned AND God blessed her.

She was unloved AND God loved her.

She was alone AND God gave her six sons and a daughter to raise.

God even made provisions for Leah’s burial.

Rachel died first, while giving birth to Benjamin and is buried beside the road to Ephrath (pronounced–Eff wrath), which is called Bethlehem.

Leah dies later and lays in a burial place Abraham bought from Ephron, the Hittite. Before Jacob dies, he instructs his sons to bury him next to his wife, Leah.

Did you hear that?

His wife.

Think on it.

Before Jacob marries Rachel, he marries Leah, first. A week after he marries Leah, he marries the woman of his dreams–Rachel. Out of tradition and hardship, come a blessing.

Here at this place, you might be unnamed. You might feel insignificant among these massive amount of people, but you are not forgotten. You are not being ignored. God sees and hears and knows your pain. He feels your loneliness.

We may feel left out, but IT’S A LIE! Don’t believe it. You are a child of the King. You are not forgotten. You are not less than anyone else. You are not more than anyone else. You are included. Set aside your worldly status, your financial gain, your emotional turmoil, your neglectful parents, your bullying co-workers, and your abusive spouse, and reflect on God’s truth–

Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; …” (Isaiah 43:4-5) [Emphasis mine.]

Don’t be fooled: your real family are those in the body of Christ … those in heavenly places … those who are at rest waiting for your arrival.

Don’t allow your circumstances to define who you are, but rather who you belong to. You were bought with a price. Don’t waste his blood. Let it cover you … drench you … pour all over you. Allow God’s grace to be active within you. Do not fight the Holy Spirit. Obey him. Listen to him, for,

He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is to come.” (John 16:12-13)

Leah was not perfect.

GOD IS PERFECT.

Not one speck of darkness can be found in him. He’s come to save us and cover our sins … to clothes us like he clothed Adam and Eve.

Think on this:

Above the Ark of the Covenant is the Mercy Seat (the lid), and underneath the Mercy Seat are Aaron’s staff, tablets of the Ten Commandments, and bowl of manna. God is hovering over the Mercy Seat and a law we could not keep. Without Christ being the Mercy Seat, we are forever separated from the Father. But Christ as the Mercy Seat is our perpetuation — our go-between to get to the Father. Come to God’s Mercy Seat. Give up your manipulative behavior, your white lies, and your bad attitude, your political view, and everything that separates you from Jesus Christ and the fellowship of the saints. Come rest and let God’s Mercy be enough.

We can’t perfect our way out of our struggles. Imperfections Don’t Alter God’s Plan for you.

IN SUMMARY, what have we learned?

  1. Our failures have no power over God’s purpose for our lives.
  2. We are to be in full obedience to our Father, but dotting every “I” and crossing every “T” shouldn’t be our full focus. We are not called to legalism. The Mercy Seat — Jesus Christ covers our failures.
  3. Sharpen your listening skills. By listening to the Holy Spirit, you are reassured he will “never” steer you wrong.
  4. Don’t minimize God’s power to miraculously turn your plans into a blessing.
  5. Though most of the time we make choices according to the flesh, God is not confined by them.

Let’s pray.

Father-God, help us to listen … to really listen to the Holy Spirit and follow his lead. We know you love us, but we often need to be reminded just how much you love us … how you continue to sacrifice for us. Help us remain OBEDIENT and walk in your ways. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Donna B. Comeaux

Another woman out of billions who love the Lord our God.

EVE – God is God — I Am Not

Lesson 1 of 7

This lecture I presented on Eve goes much deeper than the video you are about to watch. I will go deep and as I do so, you and I will discover many things we never considered before today. But I assure you the learning process will prove: we are all like Eve to one degree or another.

During this presentation, I want you to come with me into Eve’s world to discover God’s faithfulness–even when we are not. I will ask thought-provoking questions to stimulate self-awareness so you can spiritually examine your walk with God. Not your neighbor’s walk. Not your family’s walk. Not your spouse’s walk. Not your preacher’s walk. But YOUR walk. My goal isn’t to leave you with warm fuzzies, but rather, to spiritually convict you to repent. I’m hoping the conviction you feel will lead you to have a deeper love, a deeper affection, and a deeper commitment to Christ.

To prepare for this lesson, I sat down and placed myself in the Garden of Eden to presuppose Eve’s struggle with good and evil–listening intently to what was said and what was going on around her. By doing this, I was able to relate to Eve’s dilemma and the wrong choices I’ve made along with the repercussions that ensued.

So, let’s go to the Garden of Eden and see what things we have in common with Eve, and the dilemma she finds herself in.

IN THE BEGINNING …

Imagine a place of perfection … the environment is pleasant; food is plentiful; work is a joy; having babies is painless; clothes are unnecessary; long pleasure trips are a waste of time. Everything around you is quite lovely. You have a bird’s eye view of majestic mountains, giant creatures, and all the zoo animals you can stand. Matter of fact, there’s no need to dig up dead dinosaur fossils. There are more than a hundred of them walking all around you. And you’re not afraid. Fear isn’t a part of your vocabulary. Every living creature God created are plant-eaters, not people-eaters.

All you need to do while living in this perfect world is not go into the middle of the garden and touch or “… eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” (Genesis 2:17)

God’s ONE and only command.

Think about that for a moment.

Adam and Eve had only ONE command to follow. Just ONE.

How many of you have heard of the Torah?

The Torah is the first five books of the Old Testament. It was written by God through Moses. This is one of the many reasons why Moses was up in the mountain with God for so long, during which time the people were making a golden calf.

Which five (5) books are they?

In Hebrew, the books are: Be’reshit, Shemot, Va-yikra, Be-midbar, and Devarim–all of which correspond to our English Bible as: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.

The Torah has 613 commands1 — 248 positives (do’s) and 365 negatives (do not’s).

THAT’S A LOT OF RULES!

As I tried to wrap my mind around the Jews having to succumb to such restrictions, I couldn’t help but recall the story of Zachariah and Elizabeth in Luke 1. They were found blameless by God, though they hadn’t received the one thing they wanted–a child.

The political uproar from the oppressive Roman Empire was the main stumbling block for the Jews, giving them reason to grow anxious for the Messiah. If the political atmosphere wasn’t enough to concern them, low wages, high taxes, and pressures from the religious sect to adhere to every word of the Torah made life almost unbearable.

The thought of having to pay government and religious taxes is absurd to us, but in addition to the Herodian government taxing the people’s crops, they collected a “head tax”–a denarius for every male over fourteen, and female over twelve. This amounted to a day’s wage. Then there were road taxes (tolls) and port taxes2. The Pharisees also imposed a religious tax, taking a tenth from the people to support the priests and other various causes.

Despite this hardship, God found Zachariah and Elizabeth BLAMELESS.

… during a time when religious leaders (the Pharisees) were dead set on binding the people to 613 laws.

… during a time when the world … their world was in chaos.

… during a time when Zachariah and Elizabeth were late in years and without a child.

I’m sure Adam and Eve would gladly follow God’s ONE command if they had another shot at it.

But let’s face it. Adam and Eve didn’t obey God’s ONE command. And though you and I can make the choice to be more like Zachariah and Elizabeth, we are forever repeating Adam and Eve’s mistakes.

What’s so complicated about God’s ONE command anyway?

God is thorough. He tells you what you can have. He tells you what not to do. And he lays out dire consequences if you are disobedient.

What else you need to know?

A few years ago, my daughter-in-law sent us a video of our four-year-old granddaughter. This darling little girl was dressed in a cute red and white striped Santa outfit with a Santa hat on her head. My daughter-in-law and her mother placed red candies in a jar then set them on a table, specifically instructing my granddaughter not to touch them. This giggling four-year-old nodded with glee, but the moment everyone left the room, she placed curled fingers to her face, stared at the jar for half a second then gobbled up two or three candies.

There’s something exciting about the naughtiness of breaking rules. We laugh at these little infractions until a price needs to be paid.

In the garden, Satan dismissed the consequences of disobedience, sowing seeds of doubt by twisting God’s words around to say, “Did God really say, …” (Genesis 3:1) Then later lying, “You will not surely die, …” (Genesis 3:4)

Can you hear him whispering out his lies?

He does this over and over again. Never changing his tactics. His strategy is indeed monotonous, but effective.

Satan has whispered in our ears for so long that he’s worn down our spiritual defenses, turning our spiritual boldness into a lulled sense of complacency.

No doubt, Satan sported a sly grin as he tempted Eve, peeping through tree branches to get a good look at her, choosing his words carefully to spur doubt, alert to any indication of success.

For as long as I can remember, I surmised it wasn’t Eve’s fault. She didn’t know what Satan was doing. After closely examining scripture and listening to Eve’s response, you’ll see my defense of her doesn’t hold up.

"We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die." (Genesis 3:2-3) [Emphasis mine.]

Is Eve without excuse? 

Is she?

No!

What were her options?

Challenge the challenger. 

How?

By responding to Satan with this: "Who are you to question God? Let's summon the Father and see what he has to say about your proposal." 

Instead, Eve placed Satan's offer on a scale beside God's command, and her growing desires pulled the scale in her favor. 

She should have heeded God's warning. 

When we are confronted with new ideas that are not aligned with scripture, more often than not, we fail to question the source of the new information. Unfortunately, we become too lackadaisical about going to the Word in search of Truth.

We need to admit the obvious! Eve knew what God had said word-for-word and understood the penalty for disobeying him. 

Yet, where does she find herself? 

In the middle of the garden. 

As I studied this scene in Genesis, I got the sense the evil one begins his conversation with Eve at a distance from the fruit, enticing her to move from her place to examine it. 

I see this unfolding at a snail's pace. It's a deliberate, methodical act. There's time to think and break down the have's and have not's. Time to walk away. Time to consult her husband. Time to call on God. 

Tell me ... Have you ever left your place and drifted away from God? 

Ever wonder how you got so caught up in a world of deceit? 

Ever get mad and frustrated about your pull to the dark side? 

Anger is a God-given emotion with a God-given method on how to handle it. Anger exercised outside of God's will provides a nice opening Satan uses to slip inside your head. 

He tells you what you want to hear, feeds your anger, lingers to appease your desire, your sense of righteousness then questions your commitment. If he stays too long, he becomes familiar... less threatening. Then, day by day, you lose your way home. 

We should ask God to rebuke him, but like Eve, we listen. Spin it. Replay his ideas in our minds and mold and reshape them until they are tailor-made to our needs. 

I meditated on Genesis 1-3 then speculated why Satan didn't threaten or physically harm Eve. Why disguise himself to be something he's not--a negotiator--when in fact, he's a fallen angel doomed for destruction. He's your first ventriloquist. None of the animals could talk. He's also the first prosecutor to lose in God's court of law on the pretense of having a strong case. 

Satan disguises himself because it falls within his character--he's the father of lies. He's not about to show himself as he really is. He doesn't physically harm Eve in any way because (1) he's not after her physical body. He's after her soul and the soul of her offspring and is using this opportunity in the garden to milk all he can from Eve; and (2) since Adam and Eve hadn't crossed the threshold of sin, Satan is limited in what he can do. He's a master of disguise--masquerading like an angel of light--and at this point, all he has at his disposal are disguises and twisted words. 

Don't lose sight of what's most important here: one of the most powerful things God gave man was freedom of choice. 

Satan's goal is to take away that freedom and enslave you. To have you DIE with him. 

I speculated about something else. Why did Eve listen to someone with whom she was unfamiliar? 

Ooooh, now here is where paying close attention to scripture is important. 

The Bible says, 

"Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made." (Genesis 3:1)

He was familiar! 

Did you notice Eve was never afraid of him? She had seen him before. The Word describes him as a wild animal, crafty (deceitful, sly, cunning, skillful in evil schemes). 

During Satan's discussion with Eve, he awakens her desires, emphasizing she can have what only God possesses--the knowledge of the tree of good and evil. To sweeten the pot, he throws in the idea of becoming wise as God. 

Let's break this down. 

If you become wise as God, then you intend to be like him. And if you're like God, what need do you have of him? 

Did Eve think this through? 

I know you're tempted to let her off the hook, but DON'T.

Eve thought it through carefully. Satan didn't ask, "... Did God really say ..." just to be asking the question. He questioned her so she could indeed repeat what God had said, so he could use it against her at a later time. He planned to whip her with guilt over what she had done. He would later make her feel unworthy of love, powerless, insignificant, mess up the family system God had set up and make her think she was first ... she was in control. His plan was to dilute woman from her godliness to the point of despair ... to make woman chase the man's leadership role to the point of exhaustion. Eve's doubt and questioning of God would become a nightmare. 

Listen to Satan's persuasive half-truths: 

"You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." (Genesis 3:4-5)

Satan takes the truth and delicately weaves it into something that feels good and sounds even better but is vastly different from what God had said. 

Soon, doubt is his foot in the door and victory is on the horizon. 

In the meantime, God's angels are not wielding swords in front of Eve to make/force/cajole/persuade her to obey. Neither does Satan have any power to strangle or threaten her. Free Will is exactly what it implies--FREE. WILL. God won't make you do anything. Neither can Satan. Satan can't even share some of the fire he's under. Only he is feeling the heat. But he sure wants you to join him. 

The evil one can only entice Eve. 

That's his limit. 

And it's enough. 

The second Eve succumbs to Satan's devious scheme, you know she had to feel rotten about it. The effect of disobedience is immediate. Imagine the darkness ... the unmovable heaviness anchored to her soul. Guilt. Shame. Fear. Running. Hiding. Heart pounding and racing out of control. She and Adam trying to fix it by covering themselves with leaves ... unable to repair the damage. 

How would you feel if you had brought sin into the world for the first time? 

Consider how you may have brought sin upon your family. Perhaps you manipulated your family's finances so you could get new furniture; or buy new clothes; or take a needless and expensive trip ... only to later wake up one morning to an upsetting telephone call. You're now in financial hardship. You can't hide it. Your family suffers, or worse, your marriage ends in divorce. 

Perhaps a family member has become a drug addict and resolved to stealing and ends up in prison, embarrassing you, your family, ruining your good name and reputation. 

Sin is serious business. And it effects the whole family. 

In Joshua 7, we read about the sin of Achan. You will recall Joshua is leading the people of Israel to the promise land, and they need to take Jericho. God promises them victory. Joshua sends men to fight the enemy, but the Israelites are defeated and men die. Joshua tears his clothes and lays prostrate on the ground, crying out to the Lord. Joshua 7:10-15, reads: 

"10The Lord said to Joshua, 'Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? 11Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their possessions. 12That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction. 

"13Go, consecrate the people. Tell them, 'Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow: for this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: There are devoted things among you, Israel. You cannot stand against your enemies until you remove them. 

"14'In the morning, present yourselves tribe by tribe. The tribe the Lord chooses shall come forward clan by clan; the clan the Lord chooses shall come forward family by family; and the family the Lord chooses shall come forward man by man. 

"15'Whoever is caught with the devoted things shall be destroyed by fire, along with all that belongs to him. He has violated the covenant of the Lord and has done an outrageous thing in Israel!'"

God hates disobedience and will not allow it to go unpunished. The Bible says his anger “burned.” A price needs to be paid for disobedience and Achan’s entire family paid a heavy price. They all died.

Like Adam and Eve, Achan brought sin upon his entire family. The consequence was death. Joshua brought Achan and his whole family before the Lord, took them to the Valley of Achor, stoned them, burned them then placed a heap of rocks over them. Then the Lord our God turned away from his fierce anger toward Israel.

God punished Achan … without hesitation … weeding him out tribe by tribe, clan by clan, family by family, man by man.

He punished Satan … without a stutter.

He punished Eve … without considering her as a weaker vessel.

He punished Adam … without considering his excuses (“… the woman you gave me …”).

YES! We should have reverent fear of the Lord our God.

But he also sacrificed an animal … an innocent animal to clothe them … because he loved them … because he refused to abandon them.

Before the Fall of Man, there was no shame or guilt or lying or hiding or fear. After the Fall of Man, Adam and Eve are like the world is now–sinful, emotional, fearful, guilty, liars, manipulators, pretenders, unrighteous. And God sees it all! From the moment Satan became victorious in getting Eve to eat the fruit, he’s been in her head … in her ears feeding her lies ever since.

Consider this question: if he’s not in her ear, then what was the point? Why tempt Adam and Eve if his aim isn’t to spiritually destroy them and pay them a daily visit to break their commitment to God? Another way to look at it: what else does he have to do? He’s got all the time in the world to torture them … and us.

So, the guilt over what Eve had done stayed with her, hindering her ability to fully accept God’s grace and forgiveness. She must have had bad days when her struggle was almost unbearable, pushing God’s forgiveness to the side, overcome with sadness over the burden she’d placed on the world and on her children.

Everything is all messed up now. Their family dynamics is going down the tubes. Where there was joy, there’s sadness. Where there was praise and worship, there’s depression. Where there was understanding, there’s confusion. The good life is behind them–on the other side of the angel who is wielding his sword back and forth to keep them out of the garden. After being kicked out of the garden–their original home–their new surroundings are far removed from where life began.

The bottom is up.

The top is down.

Nothing is the same.

As far as Satan is concerned, the destruction of God’s family has begun. He literally hates God’s family … God’s authority … and he will butt up against it every chance he gets.

Let me show you what this raging war against good and evil looks like in our society.

From the time you rise until the time you lie down, you are busy feeding, listening, ironing, taxi driving, performing as counselor-in-chief, acting as judge and jury, teaching, scolding, storytelling, healing, coordinating, volunteering, studying, tinkering like a repairman, attempting to juggle numbers as an accountant, and spiritually encouraging everyone in your path.

To combat our weariness, we read the Bible on our phones, on the computer, CDs, DVD, televisions. There’s no time to sit and meditate. We’re guilty about short-changing God, so we get busy feeding, listening, ironing, taxi driving, performing as counselor-in-chief, acting as judge and jury, teaching, scolding, storytelling, healing, coordinating, volunteering, studying, tinkering like a repairman, attempting to juggle numbers as an accountant, and spiritually encouraging everyone in your path.

And the cycle continues.

Like Eve, we want to be like God.

You might respond, “But that’s not my intent.”

Isn’t it?

We want to manage and manipulate and control everything, right?

We think all of our “busyness” will spiritually save our family … make everything perfect at church … at work … at home.

Where did we get this idea that we needed to be god to everyone?

In the garden …

From the serpent …

And we still haven’t stopped this obsession to be a god.

Case in point —

Lately, I’ve watched my life spiral out of control. My need to bear the weight of my family’s spiritual growth sometimes overtakes me.

Let me be clear: These are grown people I’m trying to spiritually care for, not young children.

I pray day and night for them as if our lives depend on it.

I wring my hands as my anxiety grows.

There is nothing my family can discuss with me without me expressing God’s will for their lives. I give examples. I warn them. I press them to read their Bible. “Pray,” I say.

Not much has changed.

I have one family member who doesn’t read the Word because of a silly notion that they have it all under control; all you need to do is think things through very carefully. You see, like Eve, they are wiser, more intelligent; they’ve got a handle on the situation.

My family’s not spiritually growing. At least, that’s my take on it.

I want to help them. I can’t. But I keep trying.

I’m exhausted all the time.

Why do I feel so much weight on my shoulders?

I’m the oldest.

I’ve taken care of them all my life.

I cooked for them. Bathed them. Disciplined them. Encouraged them. Listened to their heartbreaks. Took them in and put a roof over their head. Cried with, and, for them.

I’m responsible.

I’m convinced I must live out Christ so I don’t lose them to the evils of this world.

There’s only one problem with my conviction.

WHO. MADE. ME. GOD?

GOD IS GOD — I AM NOT!

Is there any place in God’s Word where he overloaded his people with responsibility?

Do you think Eve ever felt like making up for what she had done by trying to help her offspring stay clear of sin?

I’m sure Satan was in her ear all the time, reminding her it was a lost cause to help them, reminding her of the decision she’d made. I’m certain she battled guilt for a little while before concluding she needed to completely trust God. As her trust increased, like us, her spiritual growth evolved. Her growth didn’t leap into being. It didn’t happen overnight. It took time.

God never intended for us to take on responsibilities that weigh us down to the point of desperation or exhaustion.

Okay, but isn’t it right to be a good example for those around me?

At what cost?

Our obsession to save family is rooted in distrust and we’ve forgotten the scriptures that read:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding: in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your ways to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun.” (Psalm 37:3-6)

My behavior contradicts God’s commands and dilutes the words of encouragement found in scriptures. Peace goes hand-in-hand with your trust in our Holy One and does not bring about anxiety.

If I’m wringing wet with sweat because fear and anxiety have overtaken me, waiting on the Lord won’t be an option for me. My fretful state will sidestep the written Word of God and increase my vulnerability to Satan’s craftiness. It won’t be long before I’m listening to the wrong voice and making the wrong choice.

A daily diet of God’s Holy Word subsides all fears.

Amen?

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” (Psalm 56:3)

You and I will, no doubt, encounter every human emotion known to man, but these emotions shouldn’t be in control. No matter how you feeeeel about your circumstances, be obedient.

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.” (Isaiah 26:3-4)

Another passage reads:

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” (I John 5:14)

These scriptures lay bare the true war raging in our spiritual bodies–a lack of trust and confidence. Confidence requires belief. Our beliefs are challenged by evil spirits, but these evil spirits can’t hold us down unless we loose connection with the Head (God).

I warn you! Don’t lose your connection to God.

GOD IS GOD — I AM NOT!

Remember, we are presupposing Eve is like you and me … experiencing every emotion known to mankind — guilt, shame, doubt, feeling unworthy and insignificant — all brought on by disobedience.

With that in mind, I want you to listen closely to this next scripture.

After deep meditation, it has encouraged me to make changes in my spiritual walk with the Father.

Philippians 2:12-18 reads:

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose …

Tell me — Is Paul encouraging them to “continue to work out [their individual] salvation with fear and trembling …” or is he saying they should work out the salvation of others?

Oh my!

You mean, I’m responsible for me, and you’re responsible for you?

But I thought we are to be a light to the world?

Indeed, you are.

But to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling means you must go through a spiritual process (spiritual growth, if you will) on your own so your love, faith, and trust in God is forever evolving and increasing.

How do you expect to do that for someone else?

No matter how guilt-ridden Eve felt for her mistake in the garden, she, like you, had to come to realize four things:

  • She must confess her sins;
  • Ask for God’s forgiveness;
  • Submit herself to God; and
  • Remain obedient.

Notice something even more important in this scripture:

“… for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose …

Let me get this straight — if God is working in me to will and to act, why am I so exhausted all the time?

If Moses was admonished for trying to do too much, and Moses is so much greater than I, could I learn from his mistake?

You bet.

That stirs up another question: Am I in full obedience when I have too much on my plate?

NO! You are not in full obedience when your plate is too full.

Why?

The Spirit who lives in you is not one of chaos, confusion, or quarrels. He doesn’t run late or is always gasping for air. Neither will he weigh you down with responsibilities you can’t carry. And he’s sure not going to tell you to do something that’s not aligned with scripture. He only speaks what he hears from the Father.

So, what drives me to take on so much?

FEAR!

Too often we say, “I can’t trust anyone to do it right.” Or, “I can’t rely on anyone.” Or, “No one will volunteer.”

Trying to convince us that you’re Little Miss Perfect and nothing will go wrong if you remain in control is preposterous. Here’s the thing: you don’t really believe that and neither do we. It’s unfortunate, but sometimes things just need to fall. — Donna, how can you say such a thing? — I can boldly say this because the fact of the matter is this: GOD IS ABLE even when you are not.

We’ve all sinned.

We all make mistakes.

No one is immune.

What good is it for you to carry the weight of responsibility for someone else if they are fully capable of fulfilling their own obligation to the Lord?

How can someone gain from spiritual growth if you’ve taken away their opportunity to rely on the Father?

You’re not only hindering their spiritual growth, but you’re also stealing it. Stop being a thief!

I believe Eve was finally encouraged through God’s forgiveness and grace. She didn’t hide in a cave of depression or allow guilt to drive her father away from the Father. Yes, she wrestled with guilt, but she won the war. This woman of God went on to raise her family, live in submission to her husband, and walk in full obedience to the Father.

Let’s face it, like Eve, we make mistakes. Sometimes we head in a direction detrimental to our spiritual, psychological, and emotional growth. Some of these wrong turns have all the right landmarks to lead us home, but we fail to pay close attention to the detours up ahead. It’s not until we’ve gone too far that we realize we’ve made a wrong turn.

Many roads look the same, sisters, but they don’t all lead home.

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” (Proverbs 14:12)

Not long after God showed me that I was not trusting him to answer my prayers for my family, and after a tumultuous week of one family issue after another, I sat my family down and sternly told them that they needed to spiritually grow up and be responsible for their own salvation.

That was May 2021.

It’s now January 2022, and I’ve got a new issue. I’ve become a problem within the solution. Just like I took over God’s job to oversee the spiritual growth of my family, I’m also trying to take control of the solution.

Sin in the garden continues. We are in constant spiritual warfare. Like Eve, I’m trying to be like God. A war rages in all of us and we need the Father to steer our ship or we’ll loose our way.

It’s unfortunate, but opportunities to work out our salvation come during hardship. I had to bump into a wall before concluding that if I was ever going to win this battle of trying to be like God, I must put several safeguards in place.

  • If my sorry does not lead to repentance, then my sorrow is worldly and it will not bring forth the godliness and holiness God desires. In other words, avoid getting tangled up in wishing and hoping and regretting what you’ve done. REPENT! Then let God fix it. Ask God to give you spiritual peace and confidence as you live with the consequences of what you’ve done. Because, believe me, there’s always consequences for our sinful behavior.
  • Think twice before I act out of anger or haste. My next move can and will effect my entire family and it may take years to recover from poor decisions. Keep in mind, some family members may never recover.
  • Humble myself before the Lord, pray for forgiveness–for me, and for others. (I John 1:5)
  • Believe in all I ask of God.
  • Consider each temptation to “fix” my family as an opportunity to trust in the One who can. This is a crucial step. Do whatever you need to do to remember it.
  • Adore God. Offer praise of thanksgiving. Sing to Him. Your adoration of Him will reestablish and reaffirm your trust in the One who can do immeasurably more than we can imagine. (This is beautifully written in Ephesians 3:16-21.)
  • Repeat No. 5 above.

So, what have we learned from this lesson?

  1. There are no substitutes for obedience. Learn from Eve’s mistake. Obey the great I AM.
  2. We are like Eve … still fighting guilt and shame. And like Eve, we can overcome. If Zachariah and Elizabeth can be obedient in a turbulent world and be found BLAMELESS, so can we. It’s doable. Believe it! (Read: I Thessalonians 5:23 – “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”)
  3. Obey from the heart.
  4. Mistakes aren’t the end of the world. Eve picked up the pieces, repented, trusted God, took care of her family, and lived a long full life. Eve believed and trusted God.
  5. Shift your focus. Work out your own salvation and pray for the salvation of others. This is worth repeating several times a day.
  6. At every opportunity preach the Word.
  7. God’s forgiveness is far-reaching, and he doesn’t forget to provide for you.

IN CLOSING, I want to reemphasize we are all replicas of Eve in some way. Our efforts to maintain a spiritually balanced life is a work in progress that won’t come to full fruition until our Father calls us home.

Please, don’t be weary. “… the battle belongs to the Lord.” (II Chronicles 20:15)

GOD IS GOD — I AM NOT!

We don’t need to carry so much weight. God is strong and powerful and able to make your burdens light.

All you need to do is PREPARE FOR BATTLE.

Buckle the belt of Truth around your waist.

That means: God’s word of Truth offers spiritual FREEDOM.

On your chest, put on the breastplate of righteousness.

That means: Guard your heart – Proverbs 4:23.

Set your feet in blocks of the gospel of peace.

That means: Be ready to preach Christ – I Peter 3:15.

Take up your shield of faith to extinguish the evil flaming arrows.

That means: Guard against doubt.

Firmly place on your head the helmet of salvation.

That means: Protect and guard your mind – Romans 12:2.

Tighten your grip on the sword of the Spirit.

That means: Hold on tight to the Word of God.

The next time you’re in the fight of your spiritual life, imagine hearing the trumpet of the Lord. Yes, imagine it.

STAND FIRM and keep your position.

But …

WAIT! Don’t draw your sword, yet. You must wait on the Lord.

Know there’s an Army all around you.

Can you see them? (No, don’t look at me … at your family). Look Up!

The Army of the Lord is waiting for God’s command.

THE FATHER IS ABOUT TO FIGHT FOR YOU!

The Father is about to fight for you!

Did you not hear me?

The Father is about to fight for YOU!

And I guarantee, you won’t leave the battlefield with a scratch on you.

AMEN!

by Donna B. Comeaux

The Park Church of Christ

Tulsa, Oklahoma

1The 613 by Archie Rand (11 September – 13 October 2018). Duke Hall Gallery of Fine Art – James Madison University. https://www.jmu.edu/dukehallgallery/_images/000_banner.JPG

2The Political and Religious Structure in Jesus’ Time. St. Mary’s Press Essential Quick Charts: Bible Basics (2007) by Gary Dreier – 2010 Saint Mary’s Press – Living in Christ Series – Document # TX001327.

LESSON 2 has been rescheduled for posting on February 9th. Our Wednesday Morning Ladies’ Class was canceled due to inclement weather. Thanks for your understanding.

UPCOMING BIBLE STUDY

WOMEN OF THE BIBLE

January 2022 – May 2022

An Introduction

It’s been two long years. Too much death. Too much confusion. Too much heartache. Too many outside noises disrupting my spiritual peace. 

I want a new beginning. For that to happen, I must get rid of my god-complex. 

You see … 

I’m a deep thinker. I don’t take things lightly. Don’t know how. I’m serious most of the time. Sensitive. Always problem-solving. Always gathering information from what’s going on around me. Proactive most of the time. If I miss something, as I often do, it’s because I’m focused on a perplexing issue I must get under control. (OUCH! There it is! That god-complex again. We’ll discuss this later.) Needless to say, I like puzzles–piecing unfamiliar things together as if I’m smart enough to see the whole picture. I also love wearing four different hats at once. BUSY.Busy.busy is the name of the game, right? I enjoy finishing your sentences—even if I do so inside my head. But I like surprises. Love giving. 

Am I saint? 

Absolutely. 

Why?

Because God constantly cleanses me from my sins and purges me from my egotistical attitude … humbling me … warning me that he’s the one who planned out my salvation … not the other way around. He tells me through his Word — I AM. NOT. HIM. 

I’m not, you know. 

There’s only one God. 

And I’m not him. 

Like Eve, I want to be. I want to be one step ahead. I want knowledge. To be “in the know.” I want to scold and manipulate and correct and encourage to the nth degree so people will do what’s right. Did you catch that narcissistic need to control? I wear myself out trying to be what I’m not—perfect. I know I can never do enough … that my works won’t get me near the heavenly gates. I’m in a terrible predicament. I want to save the world, but sometimes find myself bumping into walls and unable to find a way out. 

I thought I knew it all. I thought I was GOoD. I never used that exact language, but the end result to my pathetic and vigorous struggle speaks louder than words. (If you don’t believe me, count the number of times I’ve used “I” in this blog.) 

Recognize my dilemma? Flesh v. Spirit

Why does everything need to center around me?

Why can’t I be more like Christ? To serve rather than be served?

It’s a battle, isn’t it? Flesh v. Spirit.

We all fight it. 

How did this fierce war for our souls begin? 

It first occurred in the garden … initiated by the serpent … the evil one. 

How do we win the war? 

WE FIGHT!!!

STRATEGIZE. 

GET EQUIPPED for it. Put on spiritual armor and prepare for war.

We don’t sit in a corner and pretend we are not in the fight for our spiritual lives. We don’t cry day in and day out and do nothing. We don’t wave our hands in despair, as if we have no hope. 

NO!

We prepare for battle, STAND OUR GROUND, and FIGHT. 

But how?*** 

  1. Know the scriptures one chapter at a time. 
  2. Surround yourselves with god-fearing people. 
  3. Know your weaknesses because the enemy sure knows them. 
  4. Pray without ceasing. 
  5. Obey. OBEY. OBEY. Scriptures were not written for entertainment. They were written to reconcile you to God and encourage you to stay in the fight. 

Beginning Wednesday, January 19, 2022, we will study WOMEN OF THE BIBLE here on my blog.

This study is a repeated lecture from our Ladies’ Wednesday Morning Bible Class which I will co-teach every two weeks through May 4th

I will pull back the curtain and help you imagine standing in the middle of the ancient world to experience what these women went through. By doing this, you will quickly discover they were no different than you and me. Their lives will provide more encouragement than you ever imagined. I will dig deep and ask thought-provoking questions in hopes of getting you to self-reflect—to take inventory of your spiritual walk with the Lord and seek his guidance to get closer to him. 

Prepare your hearts and minds by reading scriptures on the following seven women:  

January 19th      Eve   

February 2nd      Leah

February 16th    Abigail

March 2nd         Gomer (through Hosea’s eyes)

March 23rd       Mary, Mother of Jesus

April 6th            Anna (the prophetess) 

April 20th          Woman at the Well

May 4th             Summary of what we’ve learned

At the end of this written lecture, there will be a section for comments. Feel free to express your likes and dislikes about the lecture. I will use the information as a learning tool to improve my lectures.

More than ever, we are in for the fight of our spiritual lives. Time is growing short for the evil one and he’s desperate to snatch us from God the Father. At the very least, he’s determined to make us miserable (diseases, heartache, disappointment). 

DON’T LET HIS TACTICS WORK ON YOU!!

STAND FIRM. 

“… If God is for us, who can stand against us?” (Romans 8:31) 

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:14)

Together, we will encourage each other to stay in the fight. 

After all, in the end, we know who wins!!

Amen.

by Donna B. Comeaux

one of many women who love the Lord our God

December 30, 2021

***More details will be given in the first lesson to help equip you for this spiritual battle for our souls. 

REDUCE STRESS DURING A PANDEMIC

Our upcoming virtual seminar on the stress and affects COVID-19 is having on our nation will be on December 12th from 11:30 am to 2:30 pm (EST).


FIVE medical and mental health professionals will offer tips and techniques to de-escalate tension in the home and identify stress in children due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Two professionals have Ph.Ds. in Psychiatry and Psychology; one is a counselor; another is a pediatrician; and one is an emergency M.D.


There will be a One-Hour Q&A after the lecture, so prepare your questions in advance.


Come hear these professionals for FREE on December 12th from 11:30 am to 2:30 pm (EST).


To access the seminar on December 12th, go to: https://www.facebook.com/greatestcommand/


Support us by sharing this opportunity with your family and friends. It’s not often we get to experience such good quality professional help on this level. The death toll in the United States is rising, and will only get worse, right in the middle of the holidays.


Join us for this virtual seminar and take advantage of these services for FREE.

If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Donna B. Comeaux

Spiritual Accountability

Matthew 25:14-30

The Parable of the Talents

Have you ever had to leave your home for an extended period of time and entrust your property to someone until you return? 

 What are some of the things you worry about? 

Will the doors still be attached to their hinges? 

Is the carpet torn? 

Has someone rammed the car into the garage door? 

It’s a scary thought, isn’t it? 

Take a moment and suppose you’re the tenant—one entrusted to care for another’s property. You’ve been given all the tools needed for its upkeep. 

  1. The gardener has been arranged to come once a week to cut the lawn.
  2. The sprinklers are timed perfectly to come on in the morning and late in the evening. 
  3. The maid is scheduled to come in twice a week to clean. 
  4. The utilities are paid through an automatic draft. 
  5. The home is paid for and no rent or mortgage is due. 

All is necessary is you keep a visible presence so no harm is brought upon you or the property. 

The owner of the home, however, is delayed and his return is unknown. For many reasons, you grow restless. Then careless. Things are spilled on the stainless-steel stove and you are slow to keep it clean, making it harder for the maid to scrub out the mess. Many maids don’t clean the refrigerator, and your laziness is evident by the stink fanning in your face each time you open the refrigerator door. As the days grow long, and the owner is further delayed, you grow more restless, sloughing on the couch, leaving behind paper wrappers, filled garbage cans, causing the maid to work longer hours and leave many things undone. 

Out of anger and frustration, out of loneliness and depression, you ram your fist in the wall because you are bored, you are alone, you don’t know what to do with such a large house and your weariness to leave the comfort of this beautiful home grows by the day. 

In contrast, your best friend house-sits for a living because the pandemic has taken away good-paying jobs. Word is spread of his faithfulness, his diligence, and his attention to detail. As a result, he is not only paid fifty percent more than most, he receives steady work as compensation for the meticulous care of his master’s property. 

Think this story is too far-fetched? 

 Okay.

Try this. 

Before you were born, God knew you. He made every hair on your head, formed every bone in your body. He made you perfect. He made you different. He clothed you with talents, gifts, a way of speaking, tics and habits that define only you. He’s equipped you with everything you need, and has even extended enough kindness to give you some of what you want. 

All you need to do is feed the body, keep the body clean, offer it in worship to God, keep it spiritually fed. 

But too often we feed on nonsense: the wrong television programs, terrible and scary movies, dating and marrying men outside the body, feeding off hate and discord instead of truth and spiritual peace. And yet, while we partake in such things, we still expect God to bless us. I caution you: if you’re not being blessed, could it be associated with your lack of obedience? 

Perhaps it is. 

In Matthew 25:14-30, the servants weren’t punished because they didn’t profit by the same amount. No. They were rewarded according to their willingness to replicate their talents. Each servant invested his talents and doubled the return. That is, except one. Out of fear of judgment, one servant buried his talent. 

I can’t help but think of Itzhak Perlman (pronounced E-Sok) as I write this piece. Itzhak is a seventy-five-year-old Israeli-American—a classical violinist, conductor, and music teacher—who stunned the world with his exquisite ability to play the violin. He has performed throughout all over the world. At age four, Itzhak contracted polio, and has been unable to walk without the aid of crutches ever since. 

Why do I bring up this story? 

On the surface, you and I can sit and make a list of things we can’t do if we were to lose our ability to walk. It never occurs to us to make a list of things we can accomplish regardless of our circumstances. 

If you were to read Itzhak Perlman’s accomplishments, you would never see his “can’t” list. You would rather gape at his accomplishments, in awe, as he sits in a chair to be introduced, never noticing the crutches on the floor next to his chair … Until he attempts to stand. 

It is then that your mind races in wonder … How is he going to play that tiny instrument and hold himself up? 

But when Itzhak pulls on the first string, your wonder transforms to a spectacular and glorious reality. His music seems to tiptoe … then rise and dip … skip and playfully lift the soul. 

I don’t have any musical talents. I don’t know where the “C” key is located on a piano, or what part the black keys play when composing a tune. But I can appreciate Itzhak’s talent. Above all, I appreciate his tenacity to focus on his abilities rather than on his disabilities. 

Hidden in your shell of a body is a gift. We’re all born with one. Like the servants in Matthew 25, some are blessed with several talents. Itzhak took his one gift and doubled it, blessing the entire world with it. God expects you to do the same with the talent he’s given you. You and I may never become classical composers, but we will become something grand. 

To unleash that grandeur, we must not become lazy servants and dig a hole to hide our gift. 

The Holy Spirit has been speaking to you for a long time, urging you to get up and get busy. What better time than now? When the world needs you most. When your gift is at the height of fulfillment. When there is so much to be done. 

In Matthew 9:37, it reads:  

“Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.’”

In John 4:35, it reads: 

“Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” 

Opportunities pass. 

If you don’t seize the moment, you are plagued with guilt and unfulfillment. Sooner or later you become bitter, angry, jealous, envious … filled with a contentious spirit, greedy, wanton. 

God intends for you to invest your life, invest your wealth, invest your resources; not waste them. The foolish are neglectful and abuse the power entrusted to them … acting out of fear … afraid to take risks … more interested in protecting their own well-being. 

You are called to live righteous lives, in full obedience which brings about freedom so you can perform to your potential. 

In the wake of this pandemic, we haven’t been able to “step out” for a while now. Have we? Our Gucci bags are collecting dust—the leather is rotting; so is the leather on our Prada red-soled shoes. Our diamonds will remain for another’s hand … or wrist … or neck. Corners of our fine homes are collecting gossamer trappings … meals for creepy things as we await another opportunity to host needless parties so we can flaunt our riches. 

This pandemic is teaching us that none of those things have meaning. The pandemic is sifting our priorities like wheat, leaving behind whatever we thought was relative to our lives. 

What is left once your priorities are sifted? What was so important to you? Who did you put before the Holy One? Who’s sitting on God’s Holy Throne? Who distracted and convinced you to disobey our Holy Father? What intoxicating music or filthy words captivated and lured you away from the Truth? 

The pandemic is sifting you like wheat, and I want to know what’s left of you? 

What should remain is your endurance and faithfulness in the Holy One. What should remain is your steadfast love for the brotherhood. What should remain is your godliness and righteous living … until the owner of your spiritual house returns. 

We are called to be good stewards—to serve the brotherhood of believers, to feed the hungry, to entertain strangers, to visit the sick, to comfort the weak, to pray without ceasing, to—above all—love one another. 

When the bridegroom returns, you will be held accountable. Mother can’t help you. Daddy will be speechless. Siblings will hide. Friends will flee. You are alone at the feet of our Holy Father to give account of what you KNEW to do and failed to do because you were too afraid to take a risk to open your home, cook a meal, visit a prisoner, or love the unloving. 

You have a choice.

Be obedient and follow his commands. 

Or dig a hole, bury your talent, and await the judgment. 

There are no gray areas. There are no other options. 

It’s up to you.

Yes, your Spiritual Accountability is completely your own. You won’t be able to hide. And your excuses won’t be enough!

Sisters, the choice is yours. You’ve been exposed. You and God fully know. Answer the call or ignore it. But with certainty, you will be held Spiritually Accountable for all that you do, or don’t do. 

It’s up to you.

Donna B. Comeaux

October 15, 2020

This is Lesson #261 and the audio is below:

https://fccdl.in/Aup65gdCBn

Tips for Writing a Book Proposal

My first tip for writing a book proposal is to go to Steve Laube’s website and listen to the audio on this subject. You will also find a book proposal template. Download it. Study it. Use it as you see fit. You can also read my previous posts on this subject.

Other than your search for a literary agent, writing a book proposal is the most daunting task you’ll ever encounter. There are not many shortcuts. So, you might as well roll up your sleeves and pour yourself a very strong cup of caffeine, say a prayer, and get started.

I had no idea what I was getting into until I listened to Steve Laube’s audio class about a month ago. Since listening to his lecture, I’ve had time to think on this. My mind is always churning in search of ways to make things run smoother, and sometimes to my detriment, faster.

Here are a few things I came up with to help write that book proposal.

If you are in the beginning stages of writing a new book, I suggest you write a two-line synopsis at the end of each chapter. Highlight that synopsis in yellow, or whatever color you prefer.

Why?

Because in most book proposals, one of the things they’ll request is you give them a chapter-by-chapter rundown of the book. Not all publishers will ask for this, but it is better to be prepared than to start from scratch. You can also choose, like I’ve done with my completed manuscript, to write this synopsis during your last read of the book–the last read that comes just before you send it to your editor.

I’ve also found that this is an idea project you can undertake while beta readers are reading your book. This exercise helps calm the nervous energy stirring in you while you wait for feedback on your book.

NOTE: It won’t hurt to write this synopsis in your manuscript, especially if you highlight it. For one, if you do this, the synopsis is always there and a part of the book. Two, if you highlight the synopsis, you can easily delete it before you forward it to a publisher/editor/literary agent. Three, it is easily identified whenever you feel a need to update it. Four, it’s easily accessible because it’s located at the “end” of each chapter.

The other thing that keeps us stuck in the mud about writing book proposals is the tedious task of coming up with a pitch. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve Googled “pitch,” looked up examples, and I still struggle with coming up with one that fits my book. Who goes around summarizing their book in one to two sentences? I’m, as you know, longwinded. You have any idea how hard it is for a longwinded person to summarize anything in one or two sentences? I’m doomed!!

Okay. That was bit of an exaggeration. Still …

One of the things that’s proven helpful is to go to Youtube or search new or old movies and read their tag lines and pitches. See, I don’t even know if they are one and the same (tag lines and pitches). The other thing I’ve done is search through books listed on Amazon.com. Most don’t have them, but ever so often I’ll find one. Sometimes, I’ve been lucky enough to go to a writer’s website and find a pitch of their newest book, along with a “purchase/buy me” button. If they’ve done a good job with their pitch, you’re tempted to make the purchase.

Publishers will also want a synopsis of your book written like a book jacket. I’ve experienced different requests from several publishers. Some want your synopsis to be no more than 200 words. Others want your synopsis to give the full details of your book, including any surprises, and the ending.

When I first ran across a request like this, I didn’t want to comply. Something told me to go over my notes that I’d taken when I listened to Steve Laube’s audio on book proposals. During his lecture, he stresses somewhere along the way that publishers don’t want to bank money on a book that they later find out sags in the middle and doesn’t deliver in the end. Wow!

So, like it or not, we must give away the goods when requested to provide a synopsis in this fashion. Bite your inner lip my dear colleagues and give up the goods of your book.

The other thing that really gets me about book proposals is the Competitive/Market Analysis request. My first reaction to this request was: “How would I know. I’ve been busy writing the book. I have no blasted idea who will read it. And I sure don’t know a thing about the marketing side of the writing business. How’s a newbie to know such things anyway?” Straightforward answer to that snippy attitude: I BETTER FIND OUT!!

We must do our homework. If you hate research, you will utterly despise it before it’s all said and done.

It’s not like in the old days (40 years ago) when editors/literary agents and publishers marketed your book for you. They are no longer in the business of carrying the brunt of that load anymore. It’s up to us to do most of the heavy lifting. Unless, however, you’ve already made a name for yourself (i.e., you’re a Brett Farve, a Tom Brady, a Morgan Freeman, a Beyonce Knowles, a Serena Williams).

Until our names are in lights, we will need to dig in and find creative ways to market our books. To do that, we must have an idea who will read our books and how we plan to attract readers. Like you, I’m stuck in the mud on this one, always trying to determine who I wrote this book for and who might be my unlikely reader. Ask yourself this: How will I attract readers to my book? In a sea of writers, how do I get noticed?

To overcome the first part of this hurdle, I began asking myself, “What book have I read that influenced the writing of my novel?” Rarely is there one influence. List them, and include their authors. Then choose two or three that were the most influential.

Bingo!

Believe it or not, you have just fulfilled the request of the Competitive Analysis of your book proposal.

The Market Analysis side of the question has many components. I tossed and turned for nights over this one. Then one day during my search on the internet I ran across a term I hadn’t heard before: “swag bags.” Huh? When I realized what this was, my mind wouldn’t shut off. You can offer swag bags in so many different ways: as gifts for being one of the first ten purchasers of your book; as a gift for persuading someone else (or persuading two or three people) to buy your book; as a gift with the purchase of your book. Use your imagination. Look up swag bags on the internet. The pictures alone generate ideas.

The other thing I thought of regarding marketing is: purchasing those magnetic signs for my car with the picture of my book on it. I really, really, really like that idea. I don’t care if you borrow these ideas. You don’t write like me, and I don’t write like you. Dismiss the myth. There’s nothing to fear. Some people will like my book; while others might like yours. There’s enough of a share of the profit to go around. Use any idea I’ve posed here, and expound on it if you can. Do whatever works for you. But remember this, if you don’t write well, it won’t matter. Our books still won’t sell if you don’t put out a good product. It’s best to find a good reputable editor. Lose the fear of sharing ideas. We can learn from each other.

There is so much more I could share, but because I really need to edit my upcoming novel, I must stop here. However, if you have questions, ask away. If you have corrections to what is written here, I’m open to receive them. The only important criteria to your suggestions: Lose the meanness. Exert professionalism. I’m no expert. I’m still learning. But if you’ve read my “About the Author” page, you’re well aware that I’m determined to share all that I’ve learned with you. Hope you do the same.

The business side of writing is forever changing, and we must change with it. It can be a pain in the butt. Lawrence Block once responded to someone who wanted to write a book, “If you want to write fiction, the best thing you can do is take two aspirins, lie down in a dark room, and wait for the feeling to pass.”

Why didn’t I take his advice?

Donna B. Comeaux
Author, Poet

Elements of a Good Book Proposal

If you are a lot like me, you struggle with preparing a book proposal.

Writers usually prepare book proposals when soliciting to publishers. And preparing one can be a nightmare, especially if you don’t know where to start. I was in this position a week ago … totally lost and not knowing where to begin.

Now, I can say with confidence that I feel comfortable putting a book proposal together. I’ll be honest, it is a daunting task because it takes quite a while to put one together. When I finished my proposal, I wanted to just send it because I was sick of looking at it. But I let the proposal sit a day or two then I proofed it. Glad I did. So, be prepared. Preparing your proposal will take a while, so don’t be in a hurry. And once you’re done, please do yourself a favor and proof it line-by-line.

If you are thinking about preparing a book proposal, or you don’t have the slightest idea of how to go about putting one together, please, please consider taking this class. The cost is $10.00. That’s right–$10.00. And the class is worth so much more. It is AUDIO and you don’t actually get to interact with the instructor. You can, however, start and stop it as many times as you like until you finish it. It is presented by Steve Laube of The Steve Laube Agency.

Before you take the class, make sure you have pencil and paper handy, because Steve will share a wealth of information with you.

I’ve listed the web page below.

https://learn.christianwritersinstitute.com/p/the-elements-of-an-effective-book-proposal

Good luck.

Happy Writing.

Donna B. Comeaux

NOTE: There is a proposal form on the site. I’VE INCLUDED THE FORM HERE ON MY BLOG for easy reference. JUST SCROLL THROUGH my blog pages UNTIL YOU SEE A PAGE titled “Elements of a Good Book Proposal (Form).”

Waiting for the Messiah

(a fictional short story based on biblical truths and ancient customs)

“Beulah, I do not understand why Avi does it—sit there day after day weaving away, hardly sleeping.”

“Shh, Ephah, she will hear you.  Let her be.  Whatever Avi is doing she has her mind fixed on it and there is nothing we can say to change her purpose. Now, come,” Beulah said as she tugged on Ephah’s arm.

Ephah pulled away and reached for the long cloth covering Avi’s open door.  “I think we should go in and sit with her and find out what she is doing, Beulah.”

“No!  Ephah, do not.”

“Are you not curious?”

“Yes, of course I am, but it is none of our business.  We should go.  We have work to do.  The men will be home from the field soon and I must cook lentils and lamb stew for dinner, at the request of my husband.”

“Humph.  Tomorrow then,” Ephah said, sorely disappointed that they did not have time to go inside and probe Avi about her sudden withdrawal from her people.  “Tomorrow we will make her tell us.”

“No, Ephah.  No.  Tomorrow we must busy ourselves with preparations for the Pesach.  We have one week left to get ready.  Tomorrow, and all the days thereafter, we must leave Avi alone.  We have too much to do.  Come, go quickly.  There is so little time.”

A slight breeze blew the thin covering nailed to Avi’s door and cooled the stillness in her one-room bavith.  Plumes of dust entered the room as the two women outside scurried away.  Avi stopped weaving and listened.  “Adonai, thank you.  It is peaceful again.”

Avi stood then stretched her back and wiggled her toes, shook the mat and repositioned the blanket that she had folded underneath it.  The earthen floor of her bavith was smooth, hard packed; the walls made of clay.  The bavith was old, built by her late husband and two sons—all dead now.  Her roof, well-established, had a beam that ran from wall to wall and atop was a healthy crop of grass, barley, and the dying beginnings of a fig tree that wouldn’t survive the summer’s heat.

Simmering in a corner of the bavith was a pot of lentil soup.  From the market, she had purchased a leg of lamb and placed half of it in the soup; the other half she shared with a neighbor.  A small basket protected a portion of raw grain, enough to last three days.  In a tiny bowl covered with a cloth were a handful of dates, olives, and a small serving of buttermilk cheese to nourish Avi if she needed to eat before dinner.

On the opposite side of the bavith where she was hard at work, was a bed mat rolled up neat, pressed against the wall.  Next to the mat, all the clothes she owned lay wrapped and tied with a string.

For nearly a year, without fail, she rose early to fetch water from the well, filling two goatskins to capacity, doing so before the other women came to gather and participate in idle talk.  Then she’d rush back to her bavith to cook today’s meal before returning to her sewing.

Avi shared Ephah’s need to understand, but even Avi didn’t know why weaving the garment until the wee hours of the morning had become an obsession.  Sewing this garment, a man’s ef’-od, was a mystery to her, and she had no idea who would wear it.  Without knowledge of his breadth, height, and age, everything about this undertaking seemed pointless.  But the moment she made up her mind to stop fighting the message that kept running through her mind as she slept, her energy increased and she soon discovered that four hours of rest each night was sufficient.

With a week left before the Pesach, her people’s commemoration of G-d passing over them when he slew the first born of Egypt, Avi became more determined than ever to finish her work.  Everyone in Jerusalem anticipated the holiday—buying and selling goods to ensure they had enough to host kinsmen and friends coming from afar.

Avi worked tirelessly and as she did so she pondered rumors of a man claiming to be the Messiah close to her heart.  Ancient stories of the coming King had circulated throughout Israel long before her birth.  As a child, she remembered the elders talking around campfires, saying, “He will rule the earth and bring us peace.”  They celebrated this promise in full expectation—dancing to lively music, roasting the best lamb, feasting on honey, and drinking the finest wine.  Recent rumors of this miracle worker who had come to save Avi’s people spread through Jerusalem like warm honey.  She had yet to investigate these stories to determine if they were myths or truths.  Perhaps he was another imposter who might leave her people downtrodden once again, casting doubts upon the ancient tales of the patriarchs.

She’d been too preoccupied with the task at hand to walk a mile or two or three to witness the teacher everyone raved about.  The vast majority of her people reported he had healed the blind, made the lame walk, turned water into wine.  The entire countryside went into an uproar when he supposedly raised Lazarus from the dead.  The most absurd story of all, at least for Avi, was his ability to walk on water.  Avi couldn’t put that story to rest.  It agitated her, woke her in the middle of the night, caused her to call upon Adonai and cry herself to sleep.

Not long after the dreams ceased, for reasons she still couldn’t comprehend, Avi saved every denarius earned from repairing neighbors’ old garments. With the money, she bought fine expensive yarn.  Since Avi’s family died many years ago, it didn’t make sense to buy it.  What would she do with this elaborate twisted fiber?  Avi wondered if she had acted foolishly.  So taunted with worry, she wrapped the yarn of fine linen inside her cloak then sat near a lamp and stared at it as if expecting it to move about her bavith and perhaps convey a message that she had somehow missed from the Holy One.

Then one day about ten months ago, she set her loom in the middle of her bavith.  Upon a thin strip of leather, she placed seven needles.  She commenced to inserting these sharp splinters of bone and bronze in and out of the yarn to begin the painstaking task of weaving a seamless garment from top to bottom.

Everyday since Avi sewed, stopping long enough to fetch water, cook, eat and drink, bathe and lie down.  Her source of income came to a halt for she had given up mending her neighbors’ cloaks and scarves and belts, but was never in want.

Three days before Pesach, something strange occurred.  She fastened the hem then clipped the thread and held the finished ef’-od up to examine it.  “Perfect,” Avi said.  Delight filled her eyes.  She started to mount it to the wall to stretch and shape it in case the man who would wear it proved to be much larger, but an eruption outside interrupted her.  Avi held the undergarment tight to her breast, refusing to allow it to touch the ground as she stepped outside.

Not far away, people shouted praises, fanning palm branches high and low.  Something moved her forward, arms gently caressing the ef’-od in her hands, her feet unable to stop until . . .

Their eyes met.

No one ever described him, or told of the kindness in his eyes, the joy emitting from his face.  If they had, their report was inaccurate.  There was much more to him than the miracles they proclaimed.  Avi searched for a word to describe him, but all her mind could come up with was love—something she felt the moment they locked eyes.  The crowd all about him shouted, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.”  As if someone had bellowed a thunderous command, the people stepped aside, making a clear path for Avi which led directly to him.  Before she drew a breath to speak, he said, “Thank you.”

“My Lord, are you the one they speak of . . . Yeshua . . . the chosen one . . . the one who has come to save us?”

“I am he,” Yeshua said.

Avi loosened her grip on the garment, knowing without a doubt that the ef’-od belonged to him.  After she gave him the robe, she fell to her knees and hid her face.  In a low muffled voice she praised him.  Overcome with unspeakable joy, Avi couldn’t articulate her thanksgiving above a whisper, but Yeshua heard every word.  Yeshua touched her arm.  Avi stood.

“Thank you, my Lord,” Avi said, “for I have received endless joy on this day and forever.  All is now well with my soul.”  Avi’s spirit confirmed what her heart had wrestled with for quite some time.  As she had worked on the garment, a burning grew inside her, driving her, encouraging her, guiding her hands until she finished.  Now, in this moment, gazing upon the Messiah, everything in her was complete and fully satisfied.

Point of Interest:  Just as Ahijah tore his clothes into twelve pieces to represent the twelve tribes of Israel, depicting the division of the kingdom (I Kings 11:29-39); Christ’s seamless undergarment represents one robe in which we are all clothed and cannot be torn apart.

Definitions:  ef’-od = Hebrew reference to an undergarment or tunic; bavith = a house, usually one room, can have an upper room/level; Yeshua = Hebrew name for the Messiah, Jesus Christ; Pesach = Passover.

Donna B. Comeaux has been writing for the Ruby for Women Magazine (http://rubyforwomen.com) since 2013.  Donna has also written devotionals for Hopeful Living, a publication designed to encourage senior citizens, and for Believer Life.  She also contributes to The Christian Post blog section at http://blogs.christianpost.com/search.html?term=comeaux.  Not only will you find other inspirational stories on her website, you will also find tips for writers, devotionals, and a few of Donna’s political views as well.

Donna and her husband have two grown sons and eight grandchildren.  They reside in Oklahoma.

This story is also in the March 2017 issue of the Ruby for Women Magazine.  Click here to purchase a hardcopy:  https://www.createspace.com/6972935.

This story can also be found on The Christian Post:  http://blogs.christianpost.com/an-unlikely-choice/waiting-for-the-messiah-28715/

Barabbas

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One Hit Wonder

Barabbas

Barabbas was a thief and everyone knew it.  Bible scholars think he was also a revolutionist.  I tend to think he was simply Satan’s little helper to seal the deal in Jesus Christ’s crucifixion.  Satan wielded a methodical, crafty plan to maneuver people in the wrong place at the wrong time.  He took full advantage of everything imaginable, including similarities between Jesus’ and the thief’s name.  “Bar Abbas” is translated “son of the Father.”  Did Jesus not refer to His Father as “Abba?”  Think this is a coincidence?  I doubt it.

Every person involved in the crucifixion of Jesus knew exactly what they were doing, to a point.  Pilate knew all too well the Jewish council envied Jesus and wanted Him dead.  Yet, the governor did not usurp his authority to free an innocent man.  He’d rather please the people.

The people’s ambition to overthrow the government created an insatiable need to kill our Savior.  They weren’t out of their minds.  They weren’t mentally unstable.  They didn’t have moments of rage.  They didn’t have bad parenting.  Selfish gain hindered them.  Satan coaxed them into believing they needed their revolution at any cost.  If Jesus didn’t come to earth to rescue them from the hands of the Roman Empire, they determined to find someone who would.  Why not get rid of Him and move on to someone more capable to take on their cause?

None of them realized their plans had holes.  They had no idea Jesus would wreak greater havoc after His death.  Fear and panic reverberated through their community when word spread that Jesus had risen from the dead.  A host of witnesses verifying He had been seen and heard in numerous places troubled them.

Whatever revolution the people had in mind, the spiritual one that began at Jesus’ resurrection took precedence.

How many times have we seen the masses storm the streets, take to the CNN Network and Fox News, in an effort to press the public to their way of thinking?  If we listen to their arguments long enough, they tempt us to throw up our hands and cave in.

The scriptures are clear:  “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”  (Romans 12:2)  “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”  (Ephesians 6:12)

Don’t be fooled.  Satan is sly, sneaky, and patient.  He is maneuvering the masses today as he did in bible days.  What troubles me most is when my Christian sisters and brothers allow Satan to seep into their lives and massage them into compromising situations that both grieve and cause them shame.

Did it ever occur to you that you are being used?  Satan can dangle something good in front of us then lead us into a trap.  It could be as simple as a wife spending too much time with her mother and not dropping everything to serve her husband (and vice versa).  It might be your need to tell your sister in Christ that she hurt your feelings.  Leaving things unsaid “kindly and out of love” can tempt you to harbor anger.  Or maybe you want to work one more week of overtime, leaving your wife and children alone, thinking one more week won’t hurt them.  After all, it’s only seven days.  Right?  Feelings of abandonment are powerful emotions to overcome.  You must remember Satan is in the family destruction business.

Listen to what the scriptures say:  “Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial.  Everything is permissible, but not everything is constructive.  Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.”  (I Cor. 10:23)  Yes, it is good to work overtime to feed your family.  But it is wrong to do so excessively.  If we’re not careful, Satan will tempt us with our needs and the growing crowds surrounding us will chip away at our firm foundation until we are standing in the middle of a marsh and left wondering how we got there.

Do not be easily persuaded.  Test the spirit.  Stand your ground.  Don’t become immoral.  Keep yourselves pure.  Don’t slander your brother and sister.  And please don’t look the other way when you see them on the streets.  “Greet each other with a holy kiss….”  (Romans 16:16)  And fight for those who can’t fight for themselves.  That’s exactly what Jesus Christ did for us.

by Donna B. Comeaux
Freelance Writer, Author, Poet
September 1, 2013
Written for Park Plaza Church of Christ
Tulsa, Oklahoma

The sermon on Barabbas will be preached Sunday, September 1, 2013. You will be able to access this sermon by Thursday afternoon. Keep checking the website for the upload of the sermon if it is not up by Thursday. Follow these instructions to get to the church website: GO TO Parkplaza.org to hear the sermon on Barabbas. Once on the website, click “Media,” then click “One Hit Wonders.”  There is NO signin or registration.  ENJOY!

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