The 8 Most Powerful Women in the Bible: Part Three

What makes a woman powerful? Is it money, fame, a political position, or is it an Oscar-winning actress? Any of these attributes may be true in today’s society, but not in biblical days. Many excellent examples of strong, influential women grace the pages of the Bible. Now two thousand years later, everyone may find much wisdom in the biblical females. Use them as a guiding tool in your personal lives and to develop a relationship with God.


Did you miss the first two parts of this series? Click HERE for Part One. Click HERE for Part Two.


Joanna the Apostle (also known as Junia)

Joanna does not have a specific story as some other women in this series. In fact, her life is pieced together by many scriptures throughout the Bible, but what an influential person! She was an upper-class Jewish woman in 1st century Palestine. Her grandfather was Theophilus, the High Priest in the Second Temple, in Jerusalem.

The earliest mention of Joanna was in Luke 8:3, where she is referred to as the wife of Chuza, a steward to Herod Antipas. They were married when she was very young, and they both maintained jobs in Herod’s royal household. I’m sure this placed Joanna in a very unpopular category with ordinary Jews. One of her husband’s duties was to make sure everyone paid their taxes to Herod.

Like Mary Magdalene, Joanna, too, had demons in her body. She was often curious about Jesus and His miracles. Would He cleanse her as well? On the days she traveled away from the royal household, she would sit as a bystander and listen to His sermons of parables. One day, Jesus directed his attention to her and spoke with conviction. As the healing miracles of Jesus’ power tell, He knew she was possessed, too, with infirmities…and so He healed her.

Joanna gave a lot of money to Jesus and His disciples. She was wealthy, well-connected, and influential, so she was able to protect Him in subtle ways. She became instrumental in the success of His mission. In this biblical age, it was scandalous for a woman to be financially supportive of a man, much less a female who came from King Herod’s house. But, she took the risk, even though she witnessed her employer, King Herod, behead John the Baptist.

Ruins of King Herod’s palace

At some point in Joanna’s marriage, she becomes single again. One can only imagine the reasons why this happened – perhaps Chuza divorced her, or was he murdered for his position in the royal home? The Bible does not state a specific cause. But, Joanna was in the ranks of the Galilean poor with no social standing or financial security, but she held her head high, turning her life to serve Jesus.

She memorized the Lord’s parables and joined Jesus in storytelling among the poor villages along with a few other women. Many of their listeners were rejected for their conversion to Christianity, so Joanna could sympathize with their feelings. Indeed she was inspired by Jesus’ teachings. She traveled as far as Rome, being a witness to the Lord. She was eventually named an Apostle.

It is spoken in scripture Joanna and Mary Magdalene prepared the cloths to wrap Jesus’ body after His crucifixion. She was also a witness to the empty tomb after His resurrection. Her love for Jesus was deep, and she served Him faithfully until the end of His life.


What made Joanna a powerful woman?

Joanna was brave and proud. She faced public condemnation by becoming single and leaving a royal household, but she held her head high amidst the turmoil and confusion. I’m sure her conversion to Christianity was a radical change too.

When she lived among the elite and wealthy, she gave her money to Jesus and the disciples. She was generous to a fault. Her high values didn’t place wealth on personal belongings, but rather to God.

Joanna was inspiring because she transitioned from an aristocratic woman to a humble servant during her life. She didn’t mourn the loss of possessions but became a witness to the strength of the Lord. Money was a means-to-an-end to serve others.

Jesus healed her ailments because he recognized the self-power she had inside her to change.

Her stewardship to Jesus and the Gospel was uncompromising, and in return, He blessed her with grace.

After Jesus’ death, Joanna became a traveling missionary. It is implied that if she died outside the Holy Land, they brought her body back to Jerusalem. In the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches, they adorned Joanna a saint.


EVE

Imagine if suddenly your body just appeared as an adult. You are facing another human who looks different, and his name is Man. Everything around is magically beautiful. Objects called trees stand taller than yourself, and the ground is green with grass and shrubs.

God spoke to them saying they could eat from any fruit of the trees except for the tree of good and evil in the middle of the garden. God warned them if they ate from the tree, they would die. This scenario is precisely the one Eve faced on her creation day. I wonder what her thoughts were at this exact moment?

As she walked through the shrubbery, she saw a slithering serpent who spoke to her. (Genesis 3:1-6, NIV)

“Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

Eve responded, “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.”

“You will not certainly die, for God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil,” the serpent retorted.

The fruit on the tree looked delicious, so she picked it off the stem and took a nibble. Then she handed it to the Man who also took a bite of the irresistible fruit. Their eyes opened wide when they realized they were naked. Ashamed and embarrassed, Adam and Eve pulled fig leaves off of the trees, sewed them together, and covered the most intimate parts of their body.

Suddenly, they heard footsteps walking in the garden, so they hid, in fear, among the trees. The Lord God approached them and asked why they were hiding. Adam spoke first… “I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

God said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” Adam and Eve hung their heads down.

Adam answered, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Then Eve responded to God, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:11-13 NIV)

God sternly faced Eve and said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16 NIV)

Then the Lord God said to Adam, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:17-19 NIV)

The Lord made garments of skin for them to wear and moved Adam to the east side of the Garden of Eden, where he would work the land for food. Adam and Eve procreated, and a son, named Cain, was born. Later, another son, Abel, was born. As they grew older, their children learned to struggle, working in the fields.

Eve realized the curse God placed upon them, for life was a battle. Childbirth was unbearable, and then she endured the death of her son, Abel. The Lord punished Cain for killing Abel and placed him in the land of Nod, east of Eden, to become a wanderer. We must do what is right before God or reap the consequences.


Many misunderstandings about Eve swirl throughout the generations and since the beginning of mankind. She is held responsible for the sin of humanity by eating the forbidden fruit. Some believe she ‘enticed’ Adam to eat it, too. However, there isn’t biblical truth to this statement. The fact is, Adam did not have to take the fruit and eat it, but he did, knowingly aware of the consequences.

Eve is mislabeled with names such as “the devil’s gateway,” “temptress,“ and “wicked persuasion.” My response to any of those unwarranted titles come from this standpoint – Eve did not know of evil, nor Satan and his lies. How can she be singly be held accountable for the fall of mankind?


What made Eve a powerful woman?

Eve was the first woman, no other before her.

She is “the mother of all living,” for she is the beginning of humanity. Eve represents the maternal potential of adult women. She proclaimed the sons she gave childbirth to were created by man and God.

Eve was created with a pure heart, and her only knowledge of life came from Adam and God.

Created in God’s image, Eve carries the feminine qualities of the character of God. Her power of being a woman teaches us mankind cannot exist without ‘womankind.’


Eve’s powerful story wasn’t so much about her good qualities, but what she taught us about life and a relationship with God:

Disobedience to God leads us to follow our own will, thus unfortunate consequences. She believed Satan rather than God. How many of us, today, act on impulse versus praying to God for the correct answer to problems?

When we compromise God’s Word by blocking out or changing the parts we refuse to hear, it becomes a means to continue sinning.

If we do not resist sin when it presents itself, we will eventually give in to the temptation.


Next Sunday will be the final two women in this series. Be sure to join us!


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The 8 Most Powerful Women in the Bible: Part One

What makes a woman powerful? Is it money, fame, a political position, or is it an Oscar-winning actress? Any of these attributes may be true in today’s society, but not in biblical days. Many excellent examples of strong, influential women grace the pages of the Bible, and I will review two a week for the next four Sundays. Our ladies, now two thousand years later, may find much wisdom in the biblical females. Use them as a guiding tool in your personal lives and to develop a relationship with God.

The last point I want to express is “behind every successful man is a strong and wise woman.” So true of these most powerful women in the Bible! I hope you enjoy my review.


MARY MAGDALENE

Mary of Magdala lived in a comfortable village of many Greeks in Galilee. They depicted her as a prostitute in town. According to scriptures, the single Mary Magdalene had a serious sickness caused by ‘seven demons,’ so many people assumed she was a fallen woman. But, in biblical times, certain illnesses such as schizophrenia, blindness, heart disease, and epilepsy were thought to be demonic. The Bible is unclear what her specific situation was, but bible scholars agree she was not a prostitute.

At some point in her life, Mary met Jesus in one of the many villages He ministered to, and He healed her afflictions. She became an immediate follower and a leader of a group of women who traveled with Jesus and helped to support His ministry. Only a strong, self-confident woman would be so brave to spread the Gospel in biblical days.

Jesus had two groups of people who accompanied Him – a group of men led by Peter the Apostle, and a group of women led by Mary Magdalene. However, according to religious tradition, females were meant to be seen and not heard, but Mary, in controversy, was very close to Jesus. Just as I wrote in the past, God chooses people to be His disciples that we least expect to reach this broken world. Mary was one such example. Her great faith earned special attention from Jesus.

On the day they crucified Jesus, Mary Magdalene, along with two others, stood at the base of His cross and watched Him breathe His last breath. Her heartbreak must have been unimaginable!  In the Bible passages of Luke 23 and Matthew 27, Mary prepared Jesus’ body for burial by making a spice anointment for the linens. She observed from afar as they placed His body in the rock tomb. Mary visited His burial site every day as if waiting… did she know something?

Image of Mary Magdalene courtesy of James Tissot Collection at Brooklyn Museum freebibleimages.org

In the early morning light, the following week, Mary visited the tomb. As she sat and prayed an earthquake erupted and forced the rock away from the entrance of the grave. Mary jumped up to look inside, and it was empty! Suddenly, God’s angel appeared before her.

“Woman, why are you weeping?”

With tears streaming down her face, Mary replied, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”

Suddenly a voice from behind her spoke, “Mary! Why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?”

Not recognizing the face, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” He responded with, “Mary!” It was Jesus standing before her.

She dropped to her knees, grabbed His hands, and said in Hebrew “Rabbouni!” Jesus told her not to hold on to Him because He had not ascended to the Father yet. Instead, He ordered her to go tell the disciples he was resurrected.

Mary Magdalene at Jesus’ resurrection courtesy of freebibleimages.org

Mary ran to them and announced, “I have seen the Lord.”

It is interesting that in a society where women were held in low regard, Christ showed Himself first to a woman. Mary loved her Lord, and she was His truest, faithful follower.

What made Mary Magdalene a powerful woman?

  • She taught us to live courageously and faithfully for Christ. Jesus set her free by eliminating her ‘demons,’ and instead of going about her own life, Mary worked for Him. Even when she faced difficult times, and people called her hopeless, she allowed Jesus to work through her.
  • Mary was more loyal to Jesus than His own disciples. They hid as Jesus was led to His crucifixion, but Mary stayed with Him. She also anointed His linen with spices.
  • Mary was given the honor of being the first person to see Jesus after His resurrection. She was very important to Christ, or He would not have revealed Himself to her before the other disciples. It may be safe to comment Jesus changed the way women were viewed in society.
  • Mary teaches us that even if our lives are in terrible disarray, it is never too late to find hope in God.
  • Peter, one of Jesus’ closest friends and His apostle, ostracized her work as a disciple. In the Gospel of Thomas, he said, “Let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of the Life,” but her strength of character and love of God gave her the courage to move forward. Today, she is often called the first woman evangelist.

What happened to Mary Magdalene after Jesus’ resurrection? Much controversy exists about this topic. One theory suggests fourteen years after the crucifixion, she was put into a boat by Jews and set adrift without sails or oars. The boat landed in southern France where she lived in solitude in a cave.

Another theory claims she accompanied John to Ephesus, where she died and was buried. Some say she evangelized Provence, France during her last thirty years.

A recent book titled The Lost Gospel even claims Mary and Jesus were secretly married and had two children, but someone’s imagination was a little overextended.

Today, in the Russian Orthodox church, they know her as the patroness of sinners and penitent women. One of the world’s best-known monuments is the Church of Mary Magdalene in East Jerusalem.


HANNAH

Image of Hannah courtesy of Moody Publishers and freebibleimages.org

Hannah is an inspiring and wonderful story of humanity and all its flaws. No one is the leading character in the story of their own life.

Elkanah lived in the Ephraim hills of a small town thirteen miles to the northeast of Jerusalem. He practiced polygamy through his Levite religion. Hannah was his first wife, and he adored and loved her, doting on her every need. But, she was infertile, and his family name needed to be honored with children, so he married another woman. Peninnah was envious of the love Elkanah had for Hannah. She cruelly taunted Hannah to tears each time she gave birth to their ten sons, and Hannah lost her sense of appetite.

One day, Hannah traveled to the sanctuary, and she spoke to the priest about her inability to have children. Her soul was crushed as the tears flowed down her lovely face. She dropped to her knees before the altar and prayed.

“Oh, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, if you’ll take a good, hard look at my pain, if you’ll quit neglecting me and go into action for me by giving me a son, I’ll give him completely, unreservedly to you. I’ll set him apart for a life of holy discipline.”

Before the year was out, Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son named Samuel. She told Elkanah she asked God for this son. Hannah also explained when the child was weaned, she would present him before God, where he would remain forever. He agreed with her plans.

Image courtesy of freebibleimages.org

The day arrived when Samuel was no longer dependent on Hannah for nutrition. She took him to Shiloh along with a butchered bull, flour, and wine and presented him to the priest, Eli. “I prayed for this child, and God gave me what I asked for. And now I have dedicated him to God. He’s dedicated to God for life.”

Hannah and Elkanah dedicated their lives to God as they watched their son grow up among the priests. Hannah made Samuel little white robes cut to his size, and they took them to him. Eli often said a prayer over her on those visits, “God give you children to replace this child you have dedicated to God.” His blessings and prayers were heard as Hannah and Elkanah had three more sons and a daughter.

Today, we acknowledge Samuel as a prophet by Jews, Christians, and Muslims, an equal to Moses. He wrote the story of his life, including his mother, Hannah, in the Book of Samuel.

What made Hannah a powerful woman?

  • Hannah’s main attribute was perseverance. She prayed for many years for God to give her a child. She had faith in the power of the Lord and never doubted He would answer her prayers. Hannah teaches us never to give up, even when we think something is impossible. Her faithfulness to the Lord bled into her son, who became a great man.
  • Her boldness, strength, and devotion were like no other for she was a mother who gave up her first-born to the Lord. I’m sure most parents would rethink this decision. But, Hannah recognized all things are God’s possessions, even our children. He honors parents with children as merely a gift, a temporary gift. We are to mold them in the ways of the Lord as a blessing to all nations. In Hannah’s case, because she fulfilled her promise to God, He blessed her with a legacy of five more children.
  • Hannah’s power is also demonstrated through a promise which she kept to God. Her integrity is in the commitment of handing her child over to God. She never went back on her word, for if she did, she might never have conceived any more children. God rewards us for loyalty.

Thank you, Hannah, for teaching us we must trust in the Lord in everything in our lives. Life is not always a bowl of cherries, but with persistent prayer, miracles can and will happen. Dedication to the Master who created us, along with integrity, will reap you blessings beyond your wildest imagination.

Hannah is buried in the Tomb of Samuel in the West bank, beside her son Samuel, on top of a steep hill just north of the Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramot.

We hope you enjoyed Part One and will return next Sunday for two more powerful women in the Bible.


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The Dynamic Story of Paul the Apostle: Part 3, Second Missionary Trip

Paul and Barnabas settled back home and enjoyed leisurely visits with the disciples. They discussed their handpicks for church leaders in their first journey. They also detailed how God used them to open the door of faith to people of all nations. Excitement filled the air.

Not long after their arrival home, some Jews from Judea appeared at Antioch (of Syria) and insisted they must circumcise every man for eternal salvation. A fierce protest ensued, so the church sent Paul, Barnabas, and a few others to Jerusalem to settle the dispute. (Acts 15)

The Jerusalem conference happily received Paul and Barnabas. They knew about the good works of the two disciples. The meeting began, and it wasn’t long before they argued both sides. After a long period of heated discussions, James (the brother of Jesus) declared the decision. Non-Jewish people would not be burdened with circumcision. A letter would be given, instead, to every male – ‘Do not get involved in idolatry, guard the morality of sex and marriage, and do not serve offensive food to the Jewish Christians.’

Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch, reported the decision of the conference, and it relieved many – they were pleased with the result. It was time to return to their missionary work. Paul wanted to return to a few of his earlier churches to give them continuing encouragement. But Paul and Barnabas went their separate ways. Paul chose Silas, a leading member, and preacher of the early church, to make this three-year journey with him through Asia Minor.


Image of Paul’s second missionary trip courtesy of freebibleimages.org

LYSTRA/ PHRYGIA (Acts 14:8-16:40)

It was the fall of 51 A.D., and Paul and Silas arrived in Lystra. He met a disciple named Timothy whose excellent reputation preceded him. Paul took the young man under his wing and mentored him, but one stipulation applied before he could travel with Paul… he must be circumcised so he wouldn’t offend the Jews who lived in Lystra. Timothy became one of Paul’s most steadfast and trusted companions as they traveled from town to town, presenting the Gospel. Day after day, the congregations grew larger and stronger in faith throughout Lystra and Phrygia.


MYSIA to MACEDONIA (Acts 16:16-40)

The apostles went to Mysia (northwest corner of Turkey) at the suggestion of the Holy Spirit. They finally arrived in the seaport of Troas which sat on the Aegean Sea. Macedonia would soon prove to be an eventful trip.

The night of Paul’s arrival in Troas, he could barely sleep. He had a vision of a Macedonian standing on the far shore yelling to him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” Paul understood God’s message; He wanted Paul to settle into Europe, so he quickly put his plans and map in place.

When they arrived in New City, Paul and Silas walked to Philippi, the main city and a Roman colony of Macedonia. They prepared the list of cities they would visit, which also included Apollonia, Amphipolis, and Thessalonica.

Several days later was the Sabbath, and the apostles strolled down to the river where there was to be a prayer meeting. They sat amongst the women who gathered there and talked with them. Lydia, a purple-dye textile dealer from Thyatira, was a good God-fearing woman. She developed a lasting relationship with the disciples, and they even stayed as guests in her home until they moved to their next location. But, before the disciples left, Paul baptized Lydia and her family. Today, we know her in the Bible as the first European convert to Christianity.

Image of Lydia courtesy of freebibleimages.org

Some time passed, and a discerning incident occurred in town. The disciples ran into a slave girl on the street who was a psychic. She began following Paul around for several days, sarcastically yelling to everyone, “These men are working for the Most High God. They’re laying out the road of salvation for you!”

Paul became irate one day and turned to her, “Out! In the name of Jesus Christ, get out of her!” And the spirit departed from her.

When the slave girl’s owners realized their fortune-telling business was bankrupt, they gathered many people together. They searched and found Paul and Silas and viciously attacked them. The mob dragged the disciples by their feet into the market square where the police arrested them for disturbing the peace. They put Paul and Silas in a maximum-security cell with their legs clamped in round ironclads.

Paul and Silas in jail; image courtesy of freebibleimages.org

About midnight, other prisoners in the jail heard praying and singing of hymns. Paul and Silas were clearly amused at their arrest. Then, without warning, the ground beneath their feet started moving and shaking – it was an earthquake! The walls of the jailhouse shook, and every door flew open.

Badly shaken by the disruption, the warden fell on his knees before Paul and Silas. “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” The apostles stood shocked and examined his pitiful face.

“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” The warden took Paul and Silas home. He bandaged their wounds and fed them a meal. In the morning hours, Paul and Silas baptized the jailer and his entire family.

The next morning, the court judges sent word the apostles were free. Paul objected based on the principle it humiliated them in public and good standing Roman citizens. Surprised the apostles were Romans, the judges hurried to them and apologized for the mishap. It was time for the ninety-seven mile trip to Thessalonica.


THESSALONICA (Acts 17:2-9)

Thessalonica was an ancient and prosperous city of Macedon in northern Greece. It was a major trade route with many cultures. Paul and Silas took refuge in a man’s home named Jason, who was a Jewish Christian.

A community of Jews inhabited the area, so Paul immediately preached in the synagogues, “this Jesus I’m introducing you to is the Messiah.” The apostle won many of the God-fearing Greeks. Mad with jealousy, the Jews gathered a group of brawlers off the streets, and they hunted every street in search of Paul and Silas. They broke into Jason’s house but couldn’t find the apostles, so they collared Jason and his friends instead and dragged them before the mayor.

The Jews yelled hysterically, “These people are out to destroy the world, and now they’ve shown up on our doorstep, attacking everything we hold dear! Jason is hiding them, these traitors and turncoats who say Jesus is king and Caesar is nothing!”

The crowd of people and the mayor were alarmed by their charges. Jason had to post a heavy bail while the case was investigated. In the dead of night, Paul and Silas slipped out of town, but not before contacting Antioch (in Syria) to send Timothy to Berea.


BEREA (Acts 17:10-15)

A more matured Timothy joined the apostles in Berea, a city in northern Greece. They, again, met with the Jewish community and were treated so much better than in Thessalonica. The Jews were enthusiastic to hear Paul’s message, and many converted to Christians.

After only three months in Berea, reports filtered back to the Jews in Thessalonica that the three apostles were in town. Another Jewish mob scene began, and with the help of Timothy and Silas, Paul was put on a boat and taken out to sea. When Paul reached Athens, he sent word back to Timothy and Silas to come as quick as possible.


ATHENS (Acts 17:16-34)

Paul toured the city of Athens while he waited for Timothy and Silas to arrive by his side. The city was full of junkyard idols. Paganism gripped the town and works of art such as statues were pillaged. It was clear the Romans deserted the city. He spoke with many of the locals and developed good friendships. His preaching of Jesus and the resurrection was often met with sarcasm, but many were intrigued too. “That’s a new slant on the gods. Tell us more!”

They soon approached Paul to make a public presentation of “his God” at the Areopagus, a hill west of the Athenian Acropolis, where the government council often met.  He took his stand and faced the audience.

Image of Areopagus courtesy of freebibleimages.org

“People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.”

Paul’s notorious speech on that day won the conversion of a few people and some Greek poets who attended the program in Athens. A successful trip it was but fifty-five miles to the southwest, Corinth was calling him.


CORINTH (Acts 18:1-11)

Corinth was a thriving cosmopolitan city. Shortly after his arrival, Paul met Aquila and Priscilla, who shared the trade of tent making with him. They were new arrivals to Corinth too; since they were Jews, they were banished from Rome by the emperor, Claudius. A friendship quickly formed between the three, and Paul was invited to live and work with them.  But every Sabbath he was at the meeting place doing his best to convince both Jews and Greeks about Jesus.

At long last Silas and Timothy arrived and now he could devote his time to preaching, but something was wrong. They persistently argued and contradicted Paul, so he walked out and went to the home of Titius Justus. Titius was a God-fearing man who lived next to the Jews’ meeting place. Paul assigned Timothy to be one of his leading troubleshooters for congregational problems within the churches of Corinth.

Many Corinthians converted to Christianity, and with the Lord’s encouragement in the middle of the night, Paul was successful in his mission. He stayed another year and a half preaching while he also wrote two epistles to the church of Thessalonica. These earliest apostolic letters today are known as First and Second Thessalonians of the Bible.

Christian persecution, once again, played in the forefront. The Jews campaigned against Paul, hauled him into court, and filed charges of seducing people into acts of worship that were illegal. Gallio, the governor, could not have cared less so he let the charges drop against Paul.

Paul stayed a little while longer before he left Corinth with his friends, Aquila and Priscilla, at his side. He wanted to go back to Jerusalem to observe the Pentecost. They boarded a ship in the harbor town of Cenchrea and headed for Ephesus in present-day Turkey.


EPHESUS to CAESAREA (Acts 18:20-21)

Priscilla and Aquila got off the ship and stayed in Ephesus. They pleaded with Paul to stay awhile longer, but he promised he would come back soon. He left the ship briefly to preach to the Jews (the first person to preach Christianity in Ephesus) and then returned to take a boat to Caesarea.

Paul disembarked in Caesarea and headed to Jerusalem where he greeted the assembly of Christians. It was a long three years, and it was time to go back to Antioch and rest.

Did you miss Part 1? Click HERE. Did you miss Part 2? Click HERE.


SUMMARY OF PAUL’S SECOND MISSIONARY TRIP

During this second missionary journey, Paul formed many disciples from all backgrounds. He took a young Timothy under his wing and mentored how to preach and exhibit patience, purity, and integrity. It was important to encourage their congregations, or it will be lifeless.

In Philippi, Paul disciples and baptized a businesswoman by the name of Lydia. She was the very first person to convert to Christianity in Europe. Many Christian denominations today recognize her as a saint, especially in the Orthodox church. A modern baptistry is located, today, on the traditional site where Lydia was baptized by Paul. In, we have to wonder if he had Lydia in mind when he wrote: “Not slothful in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.” (Romans 12:11)

Paul developed a strong bond with the married couple Aquila and Priscilla. He disciples them, and they eventually became a first-century Christian missionary team. In some religions, we often think her to have been the first female preacher or teacher in early church history.

Image of Paul, Aquila, and Priscilla courtesy of freebibleimages.org

He planted the church in Philippi during his second missionary journey somewhere the year A.D. 49 or 50. His ministry was so successful that even when he left Philippi, the Philippian Christians supported Paul sending him monetary gifts at various times when he was in financial need. He wrote about this in Philippians 4: 15-16:

“When I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need.”

He loved them for their commitment to the Lord, and they became his closest friends.

During the time they imprisoned Paul in Philippi, he suffered mentally and physically, but he knew life was never truly hopeless. God can rescue us from any trouble. We can note the earthquake which occurred while he was in jail was not felt or observed anywhere else in Philippi – another of God’s miracles.

Athens was a disturbing experience for Paul as idolatry overpowered the beauty of this lost city. He wrote about it in the Book of Romans claiming Gentiles and Jews are under divine condemnation, hopeless and helpless, and in need of salvation. His Areopagus sermon was infamous, though, because it was his first attempt to explain the nature of Christ to highly cultivated philosophers. He emphasized the need to know God, rather than worshiping the unknown. The part of his speech which covered “the resurrection of the dead” was his kiss of death. The Greeks felt it foolish and impossible, so they threw out Paul’s entire message. We can find his ministry teachings to Athens in 1 Corinthians: Chapters 1, 2, and 3; Romans chapter 1; and Colossians chapters one and two. Paul never founded a church in Athens.

Corinth, though many people were Greeks, they were more worldly and from other parts of Greece and foreign lands. They were more receptive to Paul and his message that the Savior was the highest expression of love. He made it known there is no higher love than that which gives up a son to die for their sins. It was a different psychological approach to those who praised other gods. Paul successfully founded a church in Corinth.

I hope you are enjoying this series about Paul the Apostle. Next Sunday, I will conclude with his third and final missionary trip and the circumstances of his death. As many finds the Bible confusing, I pray I have shed a light and deeper understanding of the complexity of Paul.


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Covenant of Faith

God set forth an impossible undertaking when He challenged my capabilities to be the best at something I never imagined possible. But then it occurred to me – how many others seem to be on a quest for Jesus? They do not realize the disillusionment of the deserts.

I often wonder how some people got started in life. What made them so great in their lifetime? For example, Nicodemus in the Book of John became a legend in the Jewish community as a ruler and teacher of Israel. Then there was an Indian lawyer called Ghandi, and a lady named Mother Teresa. Closer to home was a little boy called Billy, who took his Bible to school every day. He was such an avid reader, and he never gave up his desire to serve the Lord.

But many others are true to their heart, and they never waver from God’s ministry. In my personal life, it’s a profound feeling of a great success to serve the Almighty. It comes with abounding rewards and grace. Now I should ask, where is the Holy Spirit in your life?

It could be too easy to stop my ministry of writing. I’d load the kayaks in the back of my pickup truck and head to the lake. Not a bad idea, but God puts His trust in me to bring others to His kingdom. My reward for faithfulness? I am so blessed in every waking moment. I’m sure my words may confuse you, but my closest friends and family know my priority is to serve the Father.

Too many believers “toe the line” in their commitment to serve our Lord. They pray for answers but give up when there’s no immediate response. Sometimes we look for answers within this world only to discover God is already working on our healing.

If you want to see faith at work, then don’t look at a three-piece suit parading up on a stage, shaking a Bible at our Almighty. That’s blasphemy – no! Let’s examine the heartbreaking scenes of the Bahamas. A mother stood in a bathroom with her three children praying to God for help in the disastrous times of Dorian. Do you think God didn’t hear her heart? (See the video below) Prayer is the only ammunition to combat evil.

https://youtu.be/SOHeYhT0LPw

With the mighty force of just one young mother, who guarded her three children in a bathroom, she brought together the strength of nations, ready to oblige her mission. What a world we could live in if we understood the destitution of our mental thoughts! Hopefully, many received the message for it was a great example of God working through His people.

God challenges us to be successful in His glory if we stay in prayer and never give up hope. Do not render your patience. As we kayak in God’s calm waters, do not evade the fact the calm waters are His too. He wants everyone to be successful and filled with hope. We shall armor ourselves in the covenant of faith for God ordained it to be ours.

God bless you, my friends, and all the survivors of Hurricane Dorian.


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The Dynamic Story of Paul the Apostle, Part 2: First Missionary Trip

The year was 46 A.D., and with the death of King Herod, the church was again free to preach the gospel. However, the persecution of Christians in Jerusalem by the Jews and Roman authorities increased; they forced many believers to leave the area.

Paul and Barnabas headed to Jerusalem to meet Cephas (birth name Simon but later renamed Peter, by Jesus). Cephas was the fourth child born to Noah after the great flood. The men spent fifteen days fasting and praying. One day, news arrived the melting pot church in Antioch (in Syria) wanted missionaries to preach to the Jews and Gentiles. Many believers moved during the upheavals in Jerusalem, and they needed churches throughout the region.

The Holy Spirit spoke to the church elders in Antioch, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” (Acts 13:2) The church laid their hands on Paul and Barnabas in 47 A.D., and they boarded a ship headed to the island of Cyprus on their first missionary trip.


SALAMIS/ PAPHOS

They arrived in the port city of Salamis. The Roman influence was everywhere – public baths, a large theater, and a temple dedicated to Zeus. The Graeco-Roman world was ready for the message of the gospel. Focusing on the Jews, Paul and Barnabas wasted no time proclaiming the word of God in local synagogues. Most who spread the word of God were Jews who scorned and persecuted Christian missionaries. But many believers were ready to receive Paul’s ministry across the island.

Three months passed, and the two disciples decided to walk westward to Paphos, the seat of the Roman government. It was the worship center for the goddess Aphrodite (Venus). Word spread quickly they arrived in town. Soon a message arrived – the island’s Roman governor, Sergius Paulus, wanted to meet them and hear God’s word. It was also an investigation who was causing all the commotion in his community.

When the governor entered the room, Elymas (also called Bar-Jesus), a threat to the Christian community, strayed in behind him. Paul heard about this false prophet (sorcerer), and he became infuriated of his intentions, but just the same, they spoke the message for the governor. Elymas turned to the official and urged him not to pay attention to their untrue words. Paul was livid and stared Elymas in the eyes. He remembered his own experience in Damascus and knew blindness would humble a proud man.

“You son of the devil, full of every sort of deceit and fraud, and enemy of all that is good! Will you never stop perverting the true ways of the Lord? Watch now, for the Lord has laid his hand of punishment upon you, and you will be struck blind. You will not see the sunlight for some time.” (Acts 13:10-11)

Image courtesy of wikipedia.org

Elymas stepped back, and a mist and darkness came over his eyes.

“Help me! I can’t see! Someone, please, take my hands and guide me out of here!”

The governor’s eyes opened wide, and he proclaimed the gospel as truth.

*SPECIAL NOTE: This incident was a critical turning point for Paul and his ministry. He became the team leader, initiated by Barnabas because Paul showed unusual faith and courage. The move showed Barnabas was selfless enough to set the good of others above personal glory. Instead of always striving for power, it is always seeking to help.


PERGA/ PISIDIAN ANTIOCH

Paul and Barnabas set sail once again, this time to the mainland of Turkey. They arrived in Perga, an ancient city of Pamphylia, and proceeded onward to the Roman colony, Pisidian Antioch. On the Sabbath, they visited a synagogue and the church leaders invited them to speak.

Paul lifted his hand and began his speech. He started with the Israelite history, and finally, he introduced Jesus.

“It is one of King David’s descendants, Jesus, who is God’s promised Savior of Israel! Before he came, John the Baptist preached that all the people of Israel needed to repent of their sins and turn to God and be baptized… Brothers – you sons of Abraham, and also you God-fearing Gentiles – this message of Salvation has been sent to us!” Acts 13: 23-24

He told the story of Jesus’ crucifixion and the laws of forgiveness. Paul ended his speech with these final words:

“Brothers, listen! We are to proclaim that through this man Jesus there is forgiveness for your sins. Everyone who believes in him is made right in God’s sight – something the law of Moses could never do. Be careful! Don’t let the prophets’ words apply to you.” Acts 13: 38-40

Many of the Jewish and Gentile listeners were so enthralled, they invited him back the following week. This time, the whole city gathered to hear the news. Angry, jealous Jews stood in the crowd slandering, and they created arguments with Paul. Persecution soon followed Paul and Barnabas. In a state of frustration, they declared they would no longer preach the word of God to Jews…

“…since you have rejected it and judged yourselves unworthy of eternal life, we will offer it to the Gentiles. For the Lord gave us this command when he said, ‘I have made you a light to the Gentiles, to bring salvation to the farthest corners of the earth.’” Acts 13: 46-47

The Ruins of Antioch

The elated Gentiles spread the Lord’s message throughout the region. They celebrated their conversion to Christianity. However, the furious Jews gathered prominent members of the city to expel Paul and Barnabas from their city. They did not want the missionary’s blasphemy in Antioch. So be it…


ICONIUM

With a smile in their heart, and the happiness of converting many Jews and Gentiles to Christianity while in Pisidian Antioch, Paul and Barnabas headed southeast to Iconium. They preached much in synagogues, and the Lord gave them the power to perform miracles. The city became divided in their beliefs of the Good News – is it Judaism or Christianity? Upheavals ensued, and the opposition grew in strength. A huge plot to kill Barnabas and Paul spread across the town. Rumors of their impending death instigated the missionaries to flee Iconium. Paul and Barnabas left immediately and traveled to the remote city of Lystra, just twenty miles away.


LYSTRA

This little city laid within tall Roman walls and many beautiful temples dedicated to Greek Gods stood tall and proud. The temple of Zeus was the most popular for he was the father of the Greek gods. Paul and Barnabas settled right into their new surroundings. They continued to minister in the synagogues and converted many to Christianity.

One Sunday, Paul looked out over the audience and noticed a man with crippled feet intently absorbing his spoken words. Paul thought, “He needs the faith of God.”

“You! Stand up!” Paul yelled to the man. The startled man jumped to his feet and started walking. (Acts 14: 8-10)

A loud gasp of shock, then cheering erupted from the crowd. People everywhere shouted, “These men are gods in human form!” (Acts 14:11)

The priest of the temple of Zeus and a crowd of people began laying wreaths of flowers and some pulled bulls to the town gates. These were signs of sacrifices to Paul and Barnabas. The people mistakenly thought Barnabas was Zeus and Paul was Hermes. The apostles tried to convince the crowd they were mere men.

“Friends, why are you doing this? We are merely human beings – just like you! We have come to bring you the Good News that you should turn from these worthless things and turn to the living God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them.” (Acts 14: 15-18)

It was impossible to restrain the crowd. In the distance, Paul and Barnabas saw some Jews from Antioch in Turkey and Iconium arrive on the scene. Were they here to support them? No! The Jews yelled out to the masses.

“These men are imposters! They are blasphemous! Stone them! Stone them!”

Stoning of Paul. Attribution to Sweet Publishing/FreeBibleimages.org

The crowd, in great anger, surrounded the apostles and pounded Paul with rocks and stones. (It was never disclosed if Barnabas was also stoned in the Bible). In the agony of pain, Paul passed out, so the angry people dragged him out of the city. A small group of believers gathered around him for they thought he was dead, but God had different plans. The Lord miraculously healed Paul on the spot, and he got up off the ground and walked right back inside the city.

The next morning Paul and Barnabas made the grueling thirty-mile walk to Derbe in central Turkey.


DERBE

Paul preached the Bible with great success in Derbe, and in each town, he established priests to say Mass and celebrate the sacraments. The early Christian churches were quickly establishing themselves as a stronghold in every city he visited on his mission trip. Eighteen months passed, and they felt it was time to go home.


REVISIT TO LYSTRA, ICONIUM, AND PISIDIAN ANTIOCH

Though victims of persecution, Paul and Barnabas decided to retrace their steps. They would return through Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch on their way to the ship. The apostles strengthened and comforted believers and they appointed elders in the church of each city. Paul was confident the Lord would protect these early churches.


GOING HOME TO ANTIOCH OF SYRIA

Paul and Barnabas returned home by ship to Antioch of Syria in 48 A.D. Paul gathered his church together and reported all of his good deeds while in each city. “…we’ve opened a door of faith to the Gentiles,” he exclaimed with delight. The gospel spread far and wide. Paul’s journey was a preparation of more to come.

COMMENTARY:

Paul’s first successful missionary trip gives us an idea of the very beginning of Christian churches in the world. King Herod’s reign boasted fear and hatred, particularly amongst the Jews. After he died, Christianity took hold of the land for many witnessed the life and resurrection of Jesus. The church of Antioch of Syria was the foundation for sixteen more Antioch’s built in the ancient world. They had several outstanding leaders of which Paul and Barnabas were two of them.

What can we learn about the early Christian churches?

  1. Though God selects who will disciple His word, the early churches developed the skill of leadership. They meticulously trained their missionaries and ministry teams which came from many diverse backgrounds. Strong support for their apostles came in the form of prayers, education, and mentoring skills.
  2. The first Christians were Jewish Christians, either by conversion or birth. They revered the Hebrew bible in religious text which was often in Greek. They were a sect of Judaism in Rome.
  3. The early Gospels spread only by word of mouth, so training of leaders was critical for success. Preaching included the history of Jesus and His parables, salvation, and forgiveness.

Paul built many early Christian churches in this eighteen-month trip. His first journey covered the regions of south-central Asia Minor, Turkey, and Syria. He traveled about 1,400 miles spreading the Good News.

Paul’s first missionary trip teaches us several Christian highlights:

  1. Christianity met with horrible opposition and much persecution. As I’ve always said, history repeats itself for this perplexing situation still continues today. God warns all Christians; many will not believe in Him. Walk away from non-believers and pursue those who want to find a better way of life. In Paul’s case, he always began teaching to the Jews, but the Gentiles became the church’s followers.
  2. Perseverance is a virtue and is a mark of great spiritual maturity. A strict dedication to God is the only way to covert doubters to believers.
  3. It is unnecessary to fully convert non-believers. God uses Christians just to plant the seeds.
  4. Paul demonstrated the ultimate meaning of forgiveness. They expelled him from Perga, plotted his murder in Iconium, and almost died from stoning in Lystra, yet he walked back into every city and pardoned their people. He prayed for their forgiveness of sins.
  5. Paul could perform unusual miracles, but they were done as a last resort – to testify of God’s power and strength.

In conclusion, I pray for those who do not know the light of God. Let us never give up planting seeds, but remain in constant prayer… just as Paul.

Did you miss Part 1? Click here to read it.


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The Dynamic Story of Paul the Apostle: Part 1, The Conversion

The short, balding man with crooked legs leaned against the stone pillar of the Christian church and sneered at the attendees. As believers left the service, he picked up stones and threw them yelling, “Blasphemy! You mock my Messiah with your false religion! Run, or I’ll stone you to death too!” Saul of Tarsus never regretted watching Stephen get stoned to death. “Jesus the Savior”, he exclaimed, “only God is our Savior!” Stephen was a wicked and disgusting Christian, just as the people in this church, he thought to himself. It was Saul’s job to serve and protect God and the Jewish religion. All the talk of Jesus living on earth was lies so he would see to it Christians were imprisoned and killed for their false doctrines.

It was 33 AD, and Saul decided to leave his regular tent making job behind, and head to Damascus with three friends on a 136-mile trip. He was on a mission to arrest all Christians and bring them back to Jerusalem for prosecution by the Romans. Saul limped down the dusty road, when suddenly, a great light shone directly in his eyes. He stumbled onto the ground. As he glanced up, he witnessed a vision of the resurrected Jesus.

“Who art thou, Lord?”

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” (Acts 9:4-5)

Stunned and speechless, Saul’s friends backed up and looked away with their hands over their eyes. Saul trembled and staggered to his feet, but when he opened his eyes, he was blind! The men took Saul by his hands and led him the rest of the way to Damascus. Saul refused to drink or eat for the three-day trip. He could only stay in deep prayer with every step he took on the road. The Lord had revealed himself to Saul so what else could he do but praise God’s name? Everything he believed until now was wrong – the Mosaic Law. Jesus was the name he should worship!

Upon Saul’s arrival in Damascus, God ordered him to visit Ananias, a disciple (or prophet) of Jesus. As Ananias entered the room, he spoke to Saul, “Brother Saul, the LORD-Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here, has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

Ananias laid his hand over Saul’s eyes and the “scales” of dead tissue on the surface of his eyes fell to the floor; Saul’s vision was restored again. The next event was even more profound for Saul was baptized in the name of Jesus Christ and filled with the Holy Ghost. It washed away his sins and he later adopted a new Christian name – Paul.

Now baptized in the Holy Spirit, Paul (Saul of Tarsus) quietly headed for Arabia. It was a spiritual retreat where he could learn about himself and the reality of his true Savior. He was comforted and strengthened by God’s powerful presence as he studied the scriptures of the Old Testament. It is here Paul met his confidante, a Christian leader called Barnabas, who put God before his physical possessions. It intrigued Paul that Barnabas sold a field and laid the money before the feet of the apostles. The mentoring relationship between the two men laid the groundwork for Paul’s future superb ministry. He also met with Jesus’ brother, James. God was preparing Paul’s way for the ministry for the next three years. (Galatians 1:18)

COMMENTARY:

Saul of Tarsus (modern-day Turkey), better known as Paul, was born into a devout Jewish family in 5AD. Most Jews, in biblical days, were not Roman citizens, but Rome gave him and his family the honor. It is an educated guess they were of moderate wealth, which made significant contributions to the Roman Empire. Citizenship outside of Italy was only granted to people of substantial influence.

At fourteen Paul went to Jerusalem and trained to be a Rabbi, an occupation he could fall back on if tent-making proved unsuccessful. It was during this time he became a man of firm convictions for the Jewish faith. His fiery temperament caused the death of many early Christians, including Stephen, the first martyr of Christianity. Paul went from house to house, dragged out men and women believers, and threw them into jail.

If we revisit history, Paul was born in the era of Jesus’ birth and entire life. Christianity was the newest religion established in the Middle East and very much frowned on by the Jews. They do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus for he was a mere prophet and son of God. Also, this new Messianic movement (as they called Christianity) denied Roman rule and antagonized much chaos throughout the land. Therefore, Paul’s anger triggered towards the blasphemy which Christians spoke – Jesus was “King of the Jews” and “Jesus the Messiah.”

What can we learn from Saul’s conversion? A person who persecutes a Christian is persecuting Jesus and this sin is mighty. The same fall-from-grace stands true today. The Lord will seek revenge on those who attempt to destroy His children. But like Saul, if we admit our sins and seek God, we will be forgiven.

A little-known fact about Paul, he was NOT one of the original twelve disciples. As he turned his love of God into mission work, many believers assumed God assigned him to be a disciple, but this was not true. Paul began using his name, “Paul the Apostle” in his later writings. He became a prolific writer for of the twenty-seven books in the New Testament, Paul wrote thirteen of them in his lifetime – 1st Thessalonians, 1st and 2nd Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, Philemon, and Romans.

I began this blog just before Paul converted to Christianity. We can read his conversion story in Acts 9:1-19; Acts 22:3-16; Acts 26:12-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:8-9. As I researched Paul, I realized his marvelous story spread over many books of the Bible; thus the motivation to condense all the chapters and tell of his life in one dynamic narrative.

Next Sunday, we will cover Paul’s tracks just after his conversion. We will examine the profound impact he established on Christianity during his first missionary trip. His life is nothing short of miraculous – he witnessed and lived through God’s blessings and love. Isn’t this something every Christian should strive to do?


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Spiritual Happiness

Much is written about joy in the Bible. Jesus spoke of being joyful unto His Father, later transcribed to, “Be joyful unto the Lord.” As we face disillusions and fears, of either, we endure many hardships. I, too, have these familiar symptoms, but God always remains constant in my mind. These words resonate in my mind, “Bring Me your woes and do not worry for I will help you with your inspirational battles.”

Unforeseen problems arise in the worldly pressures and obligations that meet us, not greet us, at every doorstep. Life, sometimes, can appear to be short-lived… unless your faith asks God for a special blessing and miracle. Some have experienced God at His best as unfortunate events end with a silver lining.

I often write of my sordid past life, but I glance back at those times and realize God intervened in my life. Today’s blog, however, is not about me, but the one I’m closest to, my wife. This young, vibrant, and outgoing woman, plagued with a virtue of grief and sadness in the past few months, almost lost her life in a car accident twenty-five years ago. The doctors just diagnosed her with heart failure as a repercussion of the injuries.

In disbelief, we took part in many tests and things seemed questionable, but nevertheless, okay… until the last test screening. It confirmed her life might be terminal. I can’t say how one prepares to die, except to “live life like there’s no tomorrow”… and so we did, in apprehension. With no other choice, I fought for the spiritual happiness of both of us. I walked on pins and needles, often hearing the crunch of eggshells. I was too frightened to speak much, so I stayed in constant prayer. Following my blog called Faith for Two, I knew only God would see us through this dilemma.

Matthew 6:25-27

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

The day arrived for her medical procedure, and hopefully, it would not become an open-heart decision. I watched the love of my life that morning, and I observed her quietly whispering, “Goodbye, mommy loves you” to her favorite parrot of twenty-seven years. I read her last words, “No food or drink after midnight,” as she prepared herself for a procedure which could end her life. It would have been easier to move a mountain than to keep her spirits positive. I maintained my strong convictions and stayed where I knew God wanted me to be – in prayer. Only my Lord Jesus could restore that which would destroy her many years ago.

In the lobby, in front of the doors to the operating room, I kissed her goodbye. Keeping up our spiritual happiness, I told her,” I’ll see you for lunch.” With tears in her eyes, we prayed it was not our last forever kiss. I needed to go to God! Father bless her and keep her in your arms, my dear Lord.

The wait seemed like an eternity. I took a seat beside a minister, and we shared our own hearts. The door at last opened, and a doctor in scrubs called out my name, “BICKS.” He took me into a quiet room and invited me to sit beside him on the couch. I had my faith until the moment he elected to move closer to me.

“She’s all clear, Mr. Bicks,” he said. “We found no blockages, and she’s as good as new.” My sweet love, who worried for five months of dying, was born again to the likeness of the sweet, little girl I remembered thirty-two years ago. She will live! Thank You, Jesus!

A curious thought crossed my mind. Two weeks ago, the cardiologist saw the blockage in a scan, and now it doesn’t exist!? Was this one of God’s miracles? You decide…

It has been six days now, and I see a glow where worry over-shadowed her face. A renewed life called spiritual happiness far exceeds a biblical joy. Saved by grace, quite literally, His miracle child is born again. There is no greater gift than the gift of life; and when death comes calling, defying Satan’s force is a miracle!

Living in a spiritual realm of happiness, where no pressure or problems exist, can be conquered when we reach out in faith. A great example of this in the bible was the story of Jesus feeding 5,000 people on five loaves of bread and two fish (Matthew 14:15-21 and Luke 9:12-17). It is called the marvel of God’s healing hands, just as He did to my wife.

We read the miraculous stories of defying doctors’ diagnoses, but until it happens to you, we shun it with some other explanation. The Lord’s greatest feat was saving my wife’s life, and not once but twice; she put her heart and soul close enough for Him to heal her with His touch.

May I suggest we armor ourselves in prayer each morning to maintain spiritual happiness? Don’t identify with suffering, loss, or sickness. Remain steadfast in our Lord’s word, and He will calm every facet of your life. Today, my wife and I wake with a smile and a good-morning kiss, for God came to bless us with another anointed day. Our spiritual happiness is more than we ever asked for, and it is all because we serve our Almighty Savior.


NOTE FROM ANNE BICKS:

I would like to sincerely thank everyone for your cards, love, and support through this difficult time. Your kindness means the world to me! God bless you all!


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Seek the grace

Whenever I take
One single step ahead,
Whatever it is I am doing,
I so much thank God
For it
From my heart;
It is only by his grace,
That such a thing
Can be done.
When I climb one rung
Of the ladder,
I thank God for it;
It is only by his grace
That such great progress
Can be made;
Grace is all you need;
Once you have the grace,
The road will open for you;
So you seek the grace;
And nothing but the grace;
To have the grace,
Is to have the master key;
You can open the main door.
And go in as you like.

Peasants of the Fields: The Pentecost

Have you ever noticed the corners of grain or vegetable fields after the farmer plows them? Look closely the next time you pass one and see they are left uncut. It’s strange, but this tradition started in biblical days, and it dates back to the Jewish Feast of Weeks, which begins exactly fifty days after Passover. Today, June 9th marks the 2019 celebration better known as the Pentecost. Yes, I know what you are thinking – Pentecost(al) is a sect of religion who speak in tongues and follow the Holiness Movement. However, Pentecost Sunday commemorates the receiving of the Holy Spirit by early Christians which is steeped deep in Jewish roots. This tribute inspired the beginning of the “church” as we know it today.

In scriptural times, the Jews were commanded to offer the Lord new grain in the form of two wave loaves made with the finest flour and baked with leaven. The Jew, Gentile, and other nationalities came together, speaking different languages. (Thus the origin of speaking in tongues in the Pentecostal church today). Peasants of the fields harvested their grain for an offering but under one stipulation. The Lord required them to leave all four corners of the field untouched, so the poor and strangers had crops to eat too.

The Jewish religion sees the Feast of Weeks as a symbol of the coming Messiah and His ministry. The celebration denotes the Lord gathering both Jews and Gentiles and making them one in Him.

Ephesians 2:14-15

4For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace,

In Christian churches, Pentecost Sunday is an observance of the gift of the Holy Spirit. He lives and breathes in each one of us, just as He breathed on the disciples when they were filled with fear upon witnessing Jesus’ resurrection.

John 20:21-23

21Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

Waiting on Christ’s return, today, we congregate and construct our churches for praise and worship. Inside its four walls, regardless of the religion, we are baptized by one Spirit, into one body. The Lord resides in each of us. It was Peter who prophesied all men must unite in one church under heaven. Let us open our minds and understand, it was God’s request the world is to be but one religion. Let each of us pray that one day we will fulfill His wishes.

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