July 2022 Bible Study: Shine Like a Star

By Major Beth Desplancke
Territorial Women’s Ministries Program Secretary

A Bible Study on the Book of Esther

Summer is here and the sun is shining. What about the sunshine do you enjoy (or perhaps don’t enjoy)?
Jesus is the light of the world, and He tasks His followers, believers, to shine His light to others (Matthew 5:14-16). What does it mean to shine?

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines shine as: 1. To emit rays of light; 2. To be bright by reflection of light; 3. To be eminent, conspicuous, or distinguished; to perform extremely well; 4. To have a bright glowing appearance; 5. To be conspicuously evident or clear.

When Jesus calls us to shine it is because He wants us to be world changers. A beautiful example of someone who shone brightly and changed the world is Esther.

We probably know the story of Esther, but basically, King Xerxes banished his wife, Vashti, and he needed a new queen (Esther chapter 1). A beauty pageant was held to find the next queen.

Read Esther 2:2-4.
After 12 months of beauty treatments, Esther was able to go before the king and ultimately, she was chosen to be the queen of Persia. Yes, she was beautiful on the outside, but that is not what made her shine.

Haddasseh was her Jewish name; Esther is her Persian name. Esther’s name means “star,” and she shines brightly in dark circumstances; God used her dramatically to save the Jews. Let’s look at four “star” qualities that Esther had, that we too should have in our Christians lives, as we shine brightly for the Lord.

Her Faith.

Read Esther 2:5-7.
⦁ What do we learn about Esther and Mordecai in these verses?

In these verses we see the first ray of light in a pagan, godless land. In chapter 1 we see scenes of wealth, pride, drunkenness and gluttony, betrayal, rage and conniving politicians. Then suddenly we meet the cousins Esther and Mordecai. They are Jews; they are God’s chosen people. We too, live in a dark, sin-filled, world, and today our world, our communities need the light of Christ.

⦁ What does Ephesians 5:8 challenges us to do?

Esther demonstrated faith in her God, no matter what she experienced. She was taken from her home, to live in the palace. Despite not being surrounded by other believers, and being surrounded by the life of the palace, nowhere do we see Esther compromise in her lifestyle. We don’t see her acting like the others

Read Esther 2:8-10, 15, 17.

⦁ What did Esther not do?

⦁ Two times in these verses what does it say about how people responded to Esther (v. 9, 17)?

She won their favor; it wasn’t because of who she was, it was who she had shining in her and through her – the Lord. She is remaining distinct, and without revealing her Jewish identity, people see something different in her. She never panics when taken from her home, or when difficulty arises. She trusts in God and that is all she needs. Her faith in the Lord carries her through, and it is her faith in the Lord that helps with her next star quality.

Her Courage.

⦁ How would you define courage?

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines courage as “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty. Bethany Hamilton, the professional surfer who lost an arm to a shark attack said, “Courage doesn’t mean you don’t get afraid. Courage means you don’t let fear stop you.”
Esther was such a woman. In chapter 3 we discover an evil plot – Haman wants to destroy all the Jews. In chapter 4 we see that Mordecai hears of this plot and is mourning. Esther hears of Mordecai’s distress, and she too becomes upset, and wants to know why Mordecai is so distraught.

Read Esther 4:5-16.

⦁ What does Esther learn from Mordecai?

⦁ Why was Esther hesitant to act at first?

⦁ What was Mordecai’s wise words to Esther?

⦁ How did Esther act courageously?

This is a dark world, and bad things will happen, but we don’t need to be afraid. We have the Lord who journeys with us, and He has already defeated our enemy.

⦁ What does 1 John 4:4 tell us?

⦁ What does Peter tell us in 1 Peter 3:14-16 about facing difficulties?

⦁ What words of comfort does Jesus offer us in Matthew 10:26-31?

I have read that there are 365 “fear nots” in the Bible – one for each day of the year. We need not fear anything or anyone, if we have God on our side. And the best way to shine the light of Christ, is not to be fearful when the world around us seems like it is spinning out of control. In her faith, Esther trusted God and knew that God was in control. Because of her faith, she had courage to act. Part of our shining as lights is having the wisdom to know when to act.

Her Wisdom.

Esther demonstrates wisdom over and over again, by listening to Mordecai’s advice and guidance

⦁ What does the book of Proverbs tell us about listening to wise advice? Read Proverbs 12:15 and 13:20.

Esther’s wisdom comes through prayer. Esther didn’t panic in face of danger, and she didn’t rush ahead without thinking. She showed wisdom by waiting to act.

Read Esther 5:1-4.

⦁ How long did Esther wait to act?

⦁ What had she been doing according to chapter 4 before she approached the king?

Prayer should always be our first response; not worrying. We can shine the spotlight on the Lord if we are people of prayer rather than people of panic.

⦁ What does Philippians 4:6 tell us to not do and to do?

So, this wise woman invites the King and Haman to a banquet, and then the king asks her what she wants.

⦁ How does Esther respond to the king’s question (Esther 5:7-8)?

In chapter 7 we see Esther holding the second banquet, and this time she acts and speaks up and tells the king what Haman is plotting.

Read Esther 7:1-8.

⦁ This time when the King asks what Esther wants, how does Esther respond?

The king issues a second decree in Esther 8, allowing the Jews in every city the right to assemble and protect themselves. Through Esther’s wisdom, the Jews were spared, and God’s light was shone to a dark world.

Her Speech.

Nowhere in 10 chapters of Esther’s story will you find anger or agitation, violence or panic, rashness or reaction. Esther knew that out-of-control emotions wouldn’t help her avert disaster. She chose gentle, persistent, persuasive and sweet speech.

⦁ What does Proverbs 13:3 say about our words?

Notice what words are not recorded about Esther; not once is she recorded as moaning and groaning or complaining about her situation.

⦁ What does Paul advise us to do as believers in Philippians 2:14-15?

God needs bright lights shining for Him in this dark world. Things aren’t any brighter than in Esther’s days. And God calls all of us to shine, to be a star – not a star that says “Look how great I am,” but a star that points others to God.

Jill Briscoe writes, “Have you ever looked at your particular situation and realized that God wants to use you on the stage of history in a way similar to the way He used Esther? People are dying in the darkness, and He wants to hang us up like stars at night to bring attention to the Light of the world – Jesus! What a sense of worth it brings us, to realize that like Esther we are center stage in God’s thinking… for just “such a time as this!’”

Questions to Ponder
⦁ How can you shine your faith this week so others will see God?
⦁ What courageous task is God calling you to this week, where you can shine Him?
⦁ How will you shine God through wise decisions this week?
⦁ How will you shine God and His love through the words you speak or the words you choose not to speak this week?

In closing pray this prayer of joyful surrender by Mother Teresa of Calcutta:
Dear Jesus, help me to spread your fragrance everywhere I go.
Flood my soul with your spirit and life.
Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly that my life may only be a radiance of yours. Shine through me and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with
may feel your presence in my soul. Let them look up and see no longer me, but only Jesus. Amen.

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More Than Conquerors – IHQ Bible Studies

More than Conquerors is a collection of 23 Bible studies developed by women from different parts of our Salvation Army world. Unlike previous collections, Let Justice Roll and Time to be Holy, the 2022 studies are written exclusively by women under 40-years-old, providing an intentional platform for younger voices.

Commissioner Rosalie Peddle, World President of Women’s Ministries, writes:

Being ‘more than conquerors’ is not about pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps and trying harder, neither is it about coming up with the right plan to make something happen. It is not about us at all! Paul declares in Romans 8:37 that we are ‘more than conquerors through him who loved us’. Being ‘more than conquerors’ is recognizing Jesus is with us even in the grit of the battle and that it is only with his help that we pull through and keep pressing on. Jesus is true to his promises as he lifts our heads and helps us see beyond the giants, the obstacles and the trials that loom before us.

Go to https://salvationarmy.org/ihq/more-than-conquerors For the Bible Studies in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Swedish. Tamil and Swahili.

Also check out previous IHQ Bible studies: Let Justice Roll (2021) and Take Time to Be Holy (2020)

June 2022 Bible Study: Transformed Treasures

By Major Nancy Helms
Spiritual Care Director – College for Officer Training

Transformation in the life of the believer is an ongoing process, which takes intentionality and willingness to submit one’s life to the will of the Father. In the New Testament, the Greek word for transformation is metamorphosis. It means “a change of the form or nature of a thing or person into a completely different one, by natural or supernatural means.” Spiritual formation is the process of Christ being formed in us or transforming us – for God’s glory, for our benefit and for the sake of others. The gospel message drives this truth home. As children of God, we are redeemed and made new by the power of the cross, through the death and resurrection of Christ. “The old has gone, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). As Christians, we have a role in the ongoing process of transformation.

A beautiful story of transformation in the Bible took place in the life of Saul, who was once a radical persecutor of Christians. Read about his transformation in Acts 9: 1-19. Christ got ahold of Saul, and he became a new and transformed creature. The man who was once a passionate and radical persecutor of Christians, became a passionate and radical defender of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This same transformation is possible in the life of anyone who believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and Savior to humankind. For Paul, who was once Saul, this transformation was immediate; yet, it took the rest of his life to wrestle with and work out his salvation.

Our lives are not that different than Paul’s. We are initially saved through the grace and love of God, through His Son, Jesus, and we continue to work out our salvation as He works in us. Like sea glass being tossed in the ocean, we are constantly being refined and restored. “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). Restoration requires action. I have a cabinet in my garage I intend to restore; however, if I never touch it, it will never change. If we don’t nurture our spiritual well-being, we will never change. In fact, we will eventually return to the old self. Consider three biblical reminders from Paul, which help us become the transformed treasures God created us to be.

Transformed through Prayer

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6,7).

Richard Foster, in his book, Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth, says, “Prayer catapults us onto the frontier of the spiritual life. Of all the Spiritual Disciplines prayer is the most central because it ushers us into perpetual communion with the Father…Real prayer is life creating and life changing” (transforming). So often, prayer is put on the back burner of our lives and replaced with meaningless pursuits. Transformation is not possible without persistent and consistent prayer. Paul speaks often on the importance of a life devoted to prayer. Reflect on the following questions as you consider your personal prayer journey.

  • Do I have a specific and regular time set aside to meet with and commune with God?
  • Do my prayers offer sincere praise and thanksgiving?
  • Do my prayers include a time confession, creating a space for cleansing and purity?
  • Do my prayers include petitions and intercession for myself and others?
  • Do I stop to listen to God when I pray?
  • Do my prayers draw me closer to God?
  • How can I create more space in my life for communing with God?
  • What does Paul mean when he says, “Pray in every situation”?

“Our prayers may be awkward. Our attempts may be feeble. But since the power of prayer is in the one who hears it and not in the one who says it, our prayers do make a difference.” – Max Lucado
“Pray without ceasing.” ~ Paul (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

Transformed through Scripture

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work”
(2 Timothy 3:16,17).

The word of God equips us for the mission of God. His word is a powerful source of transformation, as individuals and as a body of believers growing together. It’s one thing to know the Scripture cerebrally. It’s a completely different thing to live in the Scriptures and ponder it in our hearts. We can memorize the Bible from front to back without being transformed. Reading for information is much different than ingesting and digesting for transformation. Scripture is a place where, when approached with the right heart-set and mindset, can become a source for sacred encounters with our holy God, where transformation can be deep and rich.

Ruth Haley Barton, in her book, Sacred Rhythms, Arranging Our lives for Spiritual Transformation, wrote, “Many of us approach the Scriptures more like a textbook than a love letter. In Western culture in particular, we are predisposed to a certain kind of reading. We have been schooled in an information reading process that establishes the reader as the master of the text…The information-gathering mindset is very appropriate and helpful for a student in an academic or a learning environment. But when applied to Scripture, this approach does not serve the deeper longing of our heart – the longing to hear a word from God that is personal and intimate and takes us deeper into the love that our soul craves. The study of Scripture is important, but if we stop there, we will eventually hit a wall spiritually.” When we read Scripture for transformation, we engage our minds as well as our hearts. Examine the following Scripture and ruminate on the questions below:

The author of Hebrews says that “the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12)

  • When has the word of God felt most alive to you?
  • Do you have moments in each day where you ponder God’s word in your heart and consider how it is speaking to you personally?
  • Can you describe a time where God’s word has changed you from the inside out?
  • Consider reading a passage of Scripture and placing yourself in the narrative. Choose your own passage or try Luke 2: 1-21. Imagine yourself in this story as one of the characters. How did God meet your in this narrative? Can you relate to the shepherds, angels, Mary or Joseph?

Transformed through Fellowship

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you have a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (Colossians 1:26).

Christian community is isn’t just gathering on a Sunday morning for worship. It’s a continual fellowship, in which the love of Christ binds us together in unity. The early Church met together daily, opening the Scriptures, praying, serving and living their lives in common. Acts 4: 32 says, “All the believers were one in heart and mind.” This meant they loved with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. They carried each other’s burdens. What a beautiful picture of fellowship. In our hurried world, this type of fellowship is rare in the 21st century. Too often, we barely have time to meet our own critical needs, let alone the needs of our neighbor.

Adele Calhoun, in the Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us, writes, “We belong together, not apart. God is not a bachelor who lives alone. The Almighty One is a holy community of three. And we express this divine nature best when we are in a community committed to growing and being transformed into Christlikeness.” When we belong to Christian community, we become stronger together and part of a living organism. We need one another to be complete and to experience transformation to the fullest. Think about the following questions as you reflect on your life in community with the body of Christ.

  • When has the body of Christ encouraged your walk with God?
  • How have you been an encourager within the body of Christ?
  • What gifts do you use to edify the body of Christ?
  • Are you a part of a small group, that meets together on a regular basis for fellowship, breaking open the word of God and prayer?
  • What thoughts do you have when you think about the following words? 1) dependent 2) independent 3) interdependent
  • What kind of connection do you think God wants you to have with other believers that might be lacking now?

“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity” (Psalm 133:1).

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Note: Check out this month’s craft, Sea Glass Ideas, and this month’s devotional, Sea Glass and Souls, that coordinates with this Bible study.

September 2022 Bible Study: Everything I Needed to Know I Learned in Sunday School

By Major Cathi Boyd
Las Vegas, NV Adult Rehabilitation Center

“Share your crayons,” “Don’t take cuts in line,” “If you make a mess, clean it up.”
These are the simple rules we learned in Kindergarten, and according to Robert Fulgrum in his book, Everything I Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, these rules that served us well as youngsters will serve us just as well as adults. The secret of the book’s back to basics appeal is in a return to a kinder, gentler time when right was right and wrong was wrong; and even if you disagreed with your neighbor, cookies and milk would make everything better.

What rules do you remember from your kindergarten days? Do you agree or disagree that living by these kinds of principles would make life better today? Why or why not?

Life today can be very confusing. What once was right is now called wrong and vice versa. I recently saw a cartoon where a man complained to his neighbor, “The trouble with kids today is that they don’t play by the rules.” The neighbor replied, “How can they when we grownups keep changing the rules!”

As Christians living in a complicated world, we look to God’s Word for rules to live by. The book of Micah shares some of these back-to-basics principles. Micah was a prophet living in the country of Judah, a country that appeared strong economically, but had fallen to the depths of spiritual depravity. The rich grew richer and lived the lush lifestyle seemingly unaware or uncaring of the impoverished people living around them. People went to the Temple to be seen worshipping God, but practiced all sorts of idolatry and lived their lives doing whatever pleased them. A nation that once proudly called itself the people of God had in fact turned its back on the One who has founded it.

Do you see any parallels between Judah at the time, and America today? What sorts of things do people idolize (put in the place of God) today? What things in your life might be called an idol?

When bad things happened to the people of Judah they began crying out about injustice. They asked questions like: “How could a loving God allows children to die of hunger?” “Where is God when brother is killing brother in the streets?” “Why did God allow my wife to suffer with cancer?” “I’m a good person, I’ve worked hard all my life, why won’t God cut me a break?” Questions that people are still asking today. “What does God want from me?” The prophet Micah had an answer for the people then and for us today. He shared three principles that are so simple that even the kindergarten Sunday School class could understand them:

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humble with your God.” Micah 6:8

Micah tells us plainly that God requires three things of us: to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God. Let’s look at each of these three.

To Act Justly. To do the right thing regardless of circumstances or situations. To do the right thing when no one is looking. (Actually, that’s not true, because God is always looking. I almost stole a candy bar when I was a little kid, but our Sunday School memory verse came to mind: “But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear Him.” (Psalm 33:18) I didn’t understand that to fear God meant to revere Him, but I sure was afraid of Him seeing me take the candy and telling my mom. She was the one whose wrath I feared!).

To act justly is putting into practice the Golden Rule all the time, towards everyone, even when it doesn’t seem fair. It’s seeking to be pure in thought as well as deed; pure of motive as well as action. No white lies, no sneaking things from the office, no saying one thing to a person and stabbing them in the back to the another. It means speaking truthfully, keeping our word, and standing up for what is right even when it is unpopular. It’s treating all people with dignity due them as fellow creations made in the image of God. Acting justly is what sent Jesus to the cross.

Can you think of a time when Scripture helped you make the right choice?
Justice is a hot topic. Here are some other verses from God’s Word that talks about justice. Which one speaks to your heart today? Why? Isaiah 1:17, Amos 5:24, Romans 12:19, Isaiah 30:18, Jeremiah 23:5.

To Love Mercy. The story is told of a mother who sought from Napoleon the pardon of her son. Napoleon said it was the man’s second offense and justice demanded his death. “I don’t ask for justice,” said the mother, “I please for mercy.” “But” the emperor said, “he does not deserve mercy.” “Sir,” cried the mother, “It would not be mercy if he deserved it, and mercy is all I ask.” “Well then,” Napoleon replied, “I will show mercy.”

What a clever mother. Mercy is not something any one of us deserves. God, however, is full of mercy towards us. Another translation of the word mercy is loving kindness and the Bible speaks often of God’s loving kindness towards us. (see Psalm 63:3, Psalm 117:2, Isaiah 54:8, Nehemiah 9:17). Eternal salvation is ours only through the mercy of God and this underserved, unearned gift is given freely to all who ask (see Titus 3:3-5).

We in turn are to show mercy, loving kindness to others from the overflow of gratitude we have for what God has done for us. We love because He first loved us. Yet this idea of mercy is more than feeling. Loving kindness is a verb, an action word.

Read Mark 12:29-31. How do the word of Jesus fulfill the words of Micah? How can we live these words – how do we love mercy with our actions? What can you do this week?

Loving justly and loving mercy go hand in hand. Without mercy, justice becomes intolerant, harsh or self-righteous. Without justice, even handedness, and the ever-present sense of who we would be if God had not forgiven us, mercy becomes self-serving smug do-gooding. But neither of these has nay lasting meaning with the third thing God requires.

To Walk Humbly with Our God. Walking with God is the driving force behind all we do. To walk humbly literally means walking with attentiveness, thoughtfulness, and watchfulness. We need to follow closely in our Father’s footsteps. It is, like Jesus said, loving the Lord God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. It is also growing to know God so that you can know how He wants you to live each day.

My husband is 11 inches taller than me. After 41 years of walking together we have learned to compromise. He shortens his stride and I walk a little faster. When we hike, he takes the lead to warn me of hidden roots or slippery places, and he stops and lends a hand when I need it. When we went cross country skiing, he broke the trail through the snow because I was the weaker skier. Can you see the connection to walking with God? Sometimes He will seem to be ahead of us, showing the way, breaking the trail, and warning us of dangers in the road. We can listen and avoid trouble, or we can be stubborn and face the consequences. He will always be there to pick us up if we fall. As we grow to know Him, we begin to match strides with Him. We begin to know instinctively the way He would have us go. And as the popular poem Footprints suggests, when we look behind us and see only one set of footprints it will be because God was carrying us during a difficult time. We know we are never alone when we are walking humbly with God.

“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’” Isaiah 30:21

Have you ever sensed God was telling you what you should do, or which way you should turn in a particular situation? Did you pay attention, or did you go your own way? What happened? Was there any lasting change from this experience?

So, everything I needed to know I learned in Sunday School. What does God require of us? To act justly, love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God. And yes, milk and cookies are still a good way to smooth things over with someone with whom you’ve had a disagreement.

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August 2022 Bible Study: To Be Seen By God

By Jacqui Larsson, Territorial Social Justice Ministries Director
Territorial Social Justice Department

Hagar might not be someone who stands out to you from scriptures, but her story has always stuck with me. She was a slave who was held in a situation she hadn’t asked for or wanted with no other options or choices available to her, and after being forced to become a surrogate for Abraham and Sarah, Hagar finally got to the point that she was so tired of being treated badly by her mistress, Sarah, that she fled. She soon found herself alone and desperate, without food or shelter… and pregnant! It would be an understatement to say that she felt scared, alone, and unloved – wondering, in her despair, if anyone cared about her or her unborn baby.

You can read Hagar’s story in Genesis 16:1-13.

Maybe we can relate to Hagar in our own lives, and we can certainly relate her story to trafficking victims who are forced into situations against their will every day! But we’ve all experienced feelings of fear, loneliness, and feeling unloved – maybe you have been abandoned by people you love, betrayed by a friend, been laid off or furloughed from a job, neglected or abused as a child, or just overlooked for the hard work you have completed or the time you have put into a project. Maybe you’ve wondered the same as Hagar when she found herself alone at a desert well: “Does anyone actually see me? Does anyone really understand what I’m going through?” Perhaps you’ve even wondered if God sees you.

But praise God! Just as Hagar cried out to God, we can cry out today too and know that, as with Hagar: God sees us!

God Sees You
Have you ever wondered whether, out of approximately 7.7 billion people in this world, does God really know that you exist? Could he single you out as an individual, or are we all just seen as a mass of humanity? Scripture tells us that God knows the number of hairs on our head (Matt 10:30), and if he cares for the sparrows, how much more will he care for us? (Luke 12:7). We were formed in our Mother’s womb and each of us are “fearfully and wonderfully made – all of His “works [that’s you & me!] are wonderful” (Psalm 139:13-14).

He loves you so much, that He sent His only son, Jesus Christ, to die a horrific death for you and your sins, so that you could be forgiven and reconciled back to God, because He wants a relationship with you (John 3:16; Romans 5:8). You are his “workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Ephesians 2:10), and he can use your past, your present and your future to do his work here on earth. He knows your strengths and weaknesses…he knows your name!

God Knows Your Name
Did you notice that in this short passage every time Sarah or Abraham mentioned Hagar in their conversations, she was simply referred to as “my slave” or “your slave” (Genesis 16:2, 5, 6)? She was seen as an object, a means to an end, with no value other than what she could “do” for them. I’m sure we can all think of times when we have only been appreciated for what we have done rather than who we are, and just like those being trafficked are simply used as commodities and objects to be bought and sold, Hagar knew that she had no value in their eyes other than someone to be used for their Masters’ selfish gain: to provide an heir. Can you imagine how demoralizing that must have been for Hagar?

But God did not see her as a commodity or a means to get things done in his grand plan, when God found Hagar at the well, the first word out of His mouth was, “Hagar” (Genesis 16:8). When no one else cared enough to show Hagar any decency, God saw her, made himself known, and called her by name.
People being held in trafficking situations are often “branded” with tattoos to demonstrate to the world that they are owned, that they are an object that belongs to someone else. I recently read of a twelve-year-old girl who had been tattooed with the name of her trafficker… on her eyelids! This meant that every time she looked in the mirror or was with someone else, they would know she was a “claimed possession”. But scripture tells us that, not only is our name known to God, our name is engraved into the palm of his hand (Isaiah 49:16). Being engraved carries a deeper implication than being written with ink or even a sharpie – our names are there forever and will never fade or be washed away as if God is “washing his hands of us” but will remain permanently in his hand!

In trafficking situations, the victim/survivor will often be given a new name or come up with a “street name” in order to create an alternate persona, mentally escape and remove themselves from their tragic reality, but God does not call us by this name, or the names others give us based on how they perceive us – God calls us by our own name and we are his beloved child. If you are in Christ—if you’ve believed in his name, having accepted the free gift of grace through faith – then your name is immortalized forever, because it is written in The Book of Life.

Later in the story, Hagar is so thankful to know that she is seen in this circumstance that she gives God a name: El Roi, the God Who Sees (Genesis 16:13).

God Sees Your Situation
God, or El Roi, does not turn his face away from your painful situation and although sometimes we behave in ways that we wish God would not see – he sees our hurts, our disappointments and knows exactly what is happening to you every second of the day – good and bad. We have all taken turns in our life that we are not proud of, and just like us, it is very common for survivors of trafficking to struggle with the concept of forgiveness and grace – they will often blame themselves for their experiences and question how can God see the situations I have been in and still really love me? They have often been let down by life’s circumstances, hurt by others who should have loved them, and abused by those who claim to rescue them – so the concept of the Creator of the Universe actually caring about them is almost impossible to grasp, but God knows, sees and still unconditionally loves.

“When Hagar is removed physically from those who control every aspect of her life, a personal identity and relationship materializes. As a socially marginalized woman, her most intimate relationship, it turns out, is with God.”

God Sees Your Need
I love the fact that God, or El Roi appeared to Hagar in her time of need. He saw her struggling and at that time reassured her that things would be alright! Hagar was seen, loved, and not forgotten. She was comforted and reassured that her unborn son (Ishmael meaning “God hears”, whom God named personally) would be cared for. God did not only see Hagar and appear to her, he comforted her and guided her in her next steps. God didn’t show up, wave a magic wand and fix the situation, he took the time to be present and reassure her in her time of despair. It is during your greatest times of need that El Roi pours out His grace and mercy upon you (Hebrews 4:14-16).

God sees you! He sees exactly what you’re going through, because, to quote Hagar, “You are [El Roi] a God of seeing. Truly, here I have seen Him who looks after me” (Genesis 16:13).

Jesus was the perfect example of how we should go out into the world to see those around us who are hurting. May we be God’s hands and feet in our communities as we intentionally look out for those who are in need – some of those needs may be in plain sight, but I pray that God will open our eyes to see the needs of those who are hidden in the darkness, for those who are sold in the night, for those who toil for endless hours, days, years because they have no escape.

Lord, we thank you that you see us today and everyday – that you not only see us, but you are present, you shower your love over us, comfort us and show us your plan for our lives. Open our eyes Lord so that we may see the vulnerable people around us who may be at risk from dangers, such as trafficking, and help us to shine your light into the darkness where men, women and children are being forced into slavery and sold within our own communities. Help us to see the signs and share your love!

Note: Check out this month’s devotional, Eyes Wide Open, and this month’s craft, Lights Shining in the Darkness, that coordinates with this devotional. Also check out the resource Red Flags and Responses.

May 2022 Bible Study: Tame That Spark! (It only takes a little one!)

By Major Noelle Nelson
Divisional Women’s Ministries Secretary – Golden State Division

By any chance, do you have a sibling? Multiple siblings? All boys? All girls? A mix of both? Whether it’s one or many, siblings can be wonderful! Or not…

My sister (and only sibling) and I recently revealed to our Mom just how mean we were to each other as kids. This came as a surprise to her, since she’ll tell anyone that we were “such good girls!” That’s probably because our behavior consisted of:
⦁ No hitting
⦁ No throwing things at each other
⦁ No breaking each others’ belongings
⦁ No sabotaging of dates
⦁ No nasty pranks

Little wonder my Mom thought we were just wonderful! But here’s what we DID do, and it’s a short list:

⦁ Making intense facial expressions at each other when Mom’s back was turned
⦁ Using our words to hurt each other’s feelings… the deeper the better

We would say the most hurtful things to each other, sometimes whispered, sometimes in passing, occasionally in the bathroom while the other was in the shower. (Because you’ve got a captive audience when your target is trapped in the shower!) Through our teen years we continued to use our words to hurt each other, embarrass each other, criticize, and make each other feel low and sad. Thank God we were able to make amends, albeit not until our adult years, and become the best of friends, because our words almost destroyed us.

Read James 3:2-12

“We all make many mistakes, but those who control their tongues can also control themselves in every other way. We can make a large horse turn around and go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. And a tiny rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot wants it to go, even though the winds are strong. So also, the tongue is a small thing, but what enormous damage it can do. A tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is full of wickedness that can ruin your whole life. It can turn the entire course of your life into a blazing flame of destruction, for it is set on fire by hell itself. People can tame all kinds of animals and birds and reptiles and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is an uncontrollable evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it breaks out into curses against those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brother and sisters, this is not right! Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? Can you pick olives from a fig tree or figs from a grapevine? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty pool.”

At any given time of the year certain areas of the country tend to be at risk for forest fires. Maybe you can recall the infamous wildfire of 2020 in El Dorado, CA. It became known as the ‘Gender Reveal Fire’ because it was caused by a smoke-generating pyrotechnic device that was meant to explode with either blue or pink smoke. At this point, I’m not sure anyone even remembers what color the smoke was! What we do remember, however, is that tens of thousands of acres were burned, because of a single spark. That same spark that can create warmth and light can also blaze out of control and destroy acres, homes, and even claim lives.

Question: How does the Bible describe the tongue in James 3:6a?
(The tongue is a flame of fire)

Yes, the same tongue that can bring words like a soothing balm, can also lash out with words that could destroy another person. Our words hold a lot of weight! What we choose to say says a lot about us as a person. What comes out of our mouths has the power to heal or destroy. That’s pretty heavy. It’s not all bad news, though! We have a choice, and a way to make it happen!

  1. First, Make good choices about what you fill your time with.

Read Luke 6:45

“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart… for the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

Question: What are your favorite hobbies? Do you have a favorite movie or book?

What we spend our time thinking about, reading, watching, the activities we participate in… that’s what we are filling our minds with. All these things that we place into our minds will eventually take root in our hearts, and then manifest either through our words or actions. So, go ahead and read the books, watch the movies, chat with your friends! But always ask, would Jesus be doing this, too? Determine that you will not fill your mind and heart with things God would not be pleased with, because this WILL affect the words that come out of your mouth.

Philippians 4:8 tells us, “I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious – the best, not the worst, the beautiful, not the ugly, things to praise, not things to curse.” (The Message)

  1. Second, work hard at controlling what you say!

Once we have filled our minds and hearts with good things, we still need to work at controlling what we say. We are human. We will always have days of feeling grouchy, irritated, or mad. But these are never good reasons to let our words recklessly fly out.

Question: Do you find it easy or difficult to control what you say? When do you find it most difficult to ‘tame your tongue’? When do you find it easiest?

Read Proverbs 16:24

“Kind words are like honey – sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.”

My Dad is a life-long member of Rotary International. The Rotarians have something called “The Four-Way Test of Rotary International.” The test says:
Of the things we think, say or do

  1. Is it the TRUTH?
  2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
  3. Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
  4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

Question: How do you feel about these four questions? What would it feel like to have a person think these through before speaking to you (especially when they’re irritated or cranky!)? How would others feel if you did the same? Would your relationships be a bit, somewhat, or a lot better if you did?

If our words don’t match up to ALL FOUR of these, then we should probably re-think the words we speak! Perhaps make it a special goal this week to speak to your family in the same way you would speak to your friends: with love and grace. (We did say that we need to work hard at controlling what we say! Yes, that means sometimes it is hard!)

  1. Finally, allow God to transform you into a new person.

James 3:12 says, “Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? Can you pick olives from a fig tree or figs from a grapevine? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty pool.” In other words, you can’t live one way but expect the results to be different. Wouldn’t it be great if people always flocked to you for your words of kindness and encouragement, rather than being one whose words are too frequently salty or bitter? It’s a huge task to transform our way of thinking and speaking! (Again, we did say that we need to work hard at controlling what we say!) But, with God’s help, it can be done.

Read Romans 12:2

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

Question: What customs and behaviors of the world do you need to walk away from? How will the people around you know that you have been transformed?

Let God take control and do the hard work! He is there to help you to make good choices about what you fill your time with, help you be successful in controlling what you say, and give you the courage to let Him transform you! Let’s not let our tongues spew hot sparks that can cause disastrous emotional wildfires. Let’s use our tongues to produce words that bring warmth and light, bringing others closer to the Lord.

Prayer time: God, open my eyes to the specific ways I need to change the way I think and speak. I want to be a flame of warmth and hope, not a dangerous spark that can cause harm. Teach me to fix my thoughts on what is true and honorable and right; things that are pure and lovely and admirable; things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Make me more like You. Amen.

Suggested prayer choruses:
⦁ Change My Heart, Oh God
⦁ Spirit of the Living God

Download a printable version of this Bible Study:

April 2022 Bible Study: Hope & Strength

By Major Sabrina Tumey
Sitka, AK Corps – Alaska Division

Read 1 Kings 17:7-16

Have you ever felt that your hope was gone, and there was no strength left within you? This is an all too real experience for many folks day after day. God told the prophet Elijah to go to Zarephath. During a drought, he was to be provided for by a widow. Elijah knew it, and God did, too, but the widow Zarephath didn’t know it!

So…Elijah got to the city gate of Zarephath and saw a widow gathering sticks. He asked her for some water; she went to get him some, and he called out, “And please bring a piece of bread.”

This stopped her forward progress, and her words revealed her empty bucket of hope and lack of strength. She told him, “I don’t have any bread…just a bit of flour and a little oil…I was gathering sticks to make a small fire and prepare a last meal for me and my son…and then die.” She had almost nothing left. (She acknowledged that Elijah had a belief in the Lord his God, but she was defeated and done.) Ever been there?

[This might be a good place to discuss how the ladies may relate to the Widow of Zarephath.]

Yet, Elijah asks her to not give up…not to be afraid. He said, “Go, do what you said, but please make me a small cake of bread first—then for you and your boy.” He told her this is why, “The God of Israel says the jar of flour will NOT be used up and the jug of oil will NOT run dry until the day the Lord gives rain on the land.”

She was crazy brave, and she did what Elijah asked. AND there was food every day for Elijah, the Widow of Zarephath, and her son. Psalm 42:5 states, “Why are you so downcast, o my soul? Why do disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.” Psalm 105:4 exclaims, “Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always.”

God wants to help us. He wants us to not give up and quit. We need to anchor to Him and His hope provided in His promises. We also need to draw strength from Him to keep going…to do one more meal, load of laundry, another meeting. He wants to bring us through…He will never fail us.

Questions to consider:

  1. What is one thing God is asking you to hope in?
  2. How is He giving you strength?
  3. How can we, as women, help provide hope and strength to others?
  4. Whom in your life do you need to do this for? [_________________________ write down their name]

March 2022 Bible Study: Eve, the Privilege of Being the First Woman

By Captain Patricia Torres
Ventura, CA Corps – California South Division

INTRODUCTION
There is much confusion in the world today in regards of the role of women in marriage. Though the Bible is not a manual that answers every human question, it contains the answer to questions such as: Why did God create Adam and Eve? What is the main purpose of the woman? We will see in the story of Eve that women are a beautiful creation with a huge capacity to influence those around them. Women have a responsibility to use that influence for good and not for evil.

A. EVE, CREATED IN THE IMAGE OF GOD
We read in Genesis 1: 27, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female He created them.” Eve, like Adam, was created perfect and in the image and likeness of God, i.e., not only did they have body and soul, but also a spirit. The spirit is the part of us that can know God and have fellowship with Him. Adam and Eve were intelligent beings, capable of thinking and reasoning; having emotions, able to feel and love, and able to make their own decisions.

Eve understood that she had been created to glorify God, to love Him and to have communion with her husband, multiply and fill the Earth. The two understood they needed to fill the earth and subdue it, having authority over it. (Genesis 1: 28)

B. THE FUNCTION OF THE FIRST WOMAN: SUITABLE HELP
Chapter 1 of Genesis tells us about the creation while chapter 2 enters more in detail about the formation of men and women. Once the Lord formed Adam from the dust of the Earth, then he said: “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2: 18). So God made Adam fall into a deep sleep and created a woman from one of his ribs. Eve was created to be of help to Adam, a colleague and a friend.

God didn’t create woman out of the man’s head, so that she does not dominate; He didn’t create her from man’s feet so he wouldn’t step on her, but of a rib, so that she would be his companion. While she was created after the man, it is not to say that it was “a solution of last minute”. She was part of the original plan. Woman is not complete without the man, or the man without the woman. They are equal in value, but with different functions. Within the operation of the marriage, the man is intended to be head of the household and thus ensure the family order. God is a God of order. In the Trinity, the Son is not inferior to the Father; however, He is obedient to his Father’s authority.

C. FOUR PRINCIPLES FOR A HAPPY MARRIAGE
Hundreds of books have been written about the “secret” for marital happiness. In Genesis 2 we have four principles: “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” Genesis 2: 24, 25

In these two verses we find four dynamic principles ensuring the happiness of man and woman. Many family conflicts are rooted in that we’ve broken one or more of these biblical principles. Although God gave them to us thousands of years ago, they are still current and hold much truth and power in the 21th century.

It is significant that the words of verse 24, coming out of the mouth of Adam, “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh,” are repeated three times in the New Testament. Twice said by Jesus (Matthew 19: 5; Mark 10: 7-8) and once by the Apostle Paul (Ephesians 5: 31). These words were declared once before the fall of man into sin and three times after he sinned. Here we have the marriage plan for man, the way God intended it to be, in its perfect state and also among a world of sin.

FOUR SIMPLE BUT POWERFUL PRINCIPLES:

  1. Man will leave his father and his mother…SEPARATION
  2. He will unite to his wife…PERMANENCE
  3. And they will be one flesh…UNION
  4. Were both naked, Adam and his wife, and were not ashamed…INTIMACY

D. THE FIRST ACT OF DISOBEDIENCE
In Genesis 3 begins a radical change because Satan is present in the form of a snake, the most cunning of all animals. First he appears to Eve, with the intention of making her doubt God’s goodness: “Did God really say: You must not eat from any tree in the garden?” (Genesis 3:1).

Eve clearly replied: “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.”

Satan then denied what was said by God. “You will certainly not die”… This is the first lie recorded in history. Eve had to make a decision: God had said “or you will die” and now Satan tells her, ” You will certainly not die.” She had to choose whom to believe: God or Satan. We have to make this same decision daily!

Eve then saw the fruit: that the tree was good for food, it was pleasant to the eyes, that it was desirable to make one wise, and she ate it. Eve chose to believe Satan; she was deceived. Being crafty, Satan did not use this same plan with Adam; he didn’t speak directly to Adam, but had Eve make Adam disobey God. When Eve offered the fruit, Adam had made a decision. He knew very well what God had said, however; he took the fruit.

This story clearly demonstrates one of the special qualities of the woman, a quality that can be used for good or evil: the power of influencing. There is no explanation adequate to the influential nature of women, but it is a reality that the tempter directed himself to Eve instead of her husband.

E. THE IMMEDIATE CONSEQUENCES OF SIN

  1. Spiritual Death
    The entrance of sin results in that the couple was separated from God who is the source of life. The friendship they had enjoyed with their Creator, was now broken. Therefore, they experimented for the first time shame, guilt and fear.
  2. The curse
    Due to his daring behavior, God cursed Satan and the Earth. But Eve and Adam only received a punishment because God wanted to restore them in the future.
    a) Satan
    The serpent would be cursed among the created animals; God said to the serpent that its head would be crushed by the seed of the woman. We will see that this curse was symbolic, noting the future time of the defeat of Satan.
    b) Woman
    She would birth to her children with suffering and pain. God made emphasis on the fact that Adam would rule over her.
    c) Man
    The land would be cursed because of him, it would produce thorns and thistles for him, and he would have to fulfill his needs with the sweat of his brow meaning through hard and painful labor. Because of his sin he and Eve had to exit the garden, leave paradise, and the door was closed.

F. THE FIRST PROMISE OF RESTORATION
God did not allow the first couple to leave the garden that day without first receiving a word of hope. He always has a word of hope… for them and for us. He always offers a way out of our impossible situation.

He not only made them with his own hands, skins to cover their nakedness, but He spoke to them clearly about One who would bring them permanent relief from their sad condition. He spoke of a person who was going to be born of a woman, and that one day would crush the head of that snake which Eve had that fatal conversation with. (Genesis 3: 15)

Satan is personified as a snake. This prophecy stated that one day Satan would encounter one of the descendants son of Eve (speaking of Jesus), but this Son will hurt Satan and defeat him. On the cross, Satan thought he would crush Jesus; but when Jesus rose from the dead, he crushed the head of the devil. The door to the presence of God is no longer closed!

SUMMARY
What lesson can we learn from Eve?

  1. Eve was created to be a suitable help for man, a colleague and a friend. When it is understood that women are not in a competition with men, but they are to help and to be friends and companions, then less conflicts in marriage and between sexes will occur.
  2. Eve did not honor the leadership role of her husband and thus suffered serious consequences. The spirit of rebellion in Adam and Eve affected their children and as a consequence one of them killed his sibling. This same spirit of rebellion is present in the world today destroying entire families. Do not allow such spirit to come into your heart.
  3. Eve, along with Adam, was created to conquer their world. God said to BOTH, the man to the woman: “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the Earth, subdue it and rule over it…” (Gen. 1: 28). The word SUBDUE means “conquer” and the word RULE means “govern”.

Did you know that you were created to govern and rule in this life and not to be dominated, nor be a victim of circumstances?

  1. Adam blamed Eve, and she blamed the serpent. When you commit an error, do you have the tendency to blame someone else and or blame the circumstances around you? The first sign of maturity is to accept responsibility for our own actions and to say: “I am guilty” or “I have sinned”.
  2. When a woman recognizes that the purpose of her life is becoming a fulfilled woman. What does this mean?

It means to know God and have full communion with Him. He wants to take your wretched life and make you a new creation. (2 Corinthians 5: 17) What happened with Eve affects us all. Through her and Adam, sin entered the world. But the good news is:

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6: 23

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5: 8

Now the only sin which separates us from God is not accepting Jesus Christ as our only Lord and Savior. To take advantage of this salvation, we must repent and confess Him with our mouth. “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord”, and believe in your heart God raised Him, from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that “With the heart, belief for Justice, but with the mouth is confessed for salvation.” (Romans 10: 9, 10) If you’ve never taken this important step, you can do it right now. Pray aloud and with all your heart.

FATHER I CONFESS THAT JESUS CHRIST IS LORD.” I ACCEPT HIM AS THE SOLE LORD OF MY LIFE RIGHT NOW. I BELIEVE IN MY HEART THAT YOU RAISED JESUS FROM THE DEAD. I REPENT AND RENOUNCE MY PAST LIFE. I THANK YOU FOR FORGIVING ALL MY SINS. I MAKE JESUS THE LORD OF MY LIFE”.

After you do so, Accept the forgiveness of God, do not continue living with guilt. Many women live with a sense of guilt and need to be set free from it. Have you accepted God’s forgiveness? Have you forgiven yourself?

Final Prayer

Biblegateway.com/resources/all-women-bible/eve; Womeninthebible.net/women-bible-old-testament/eve
Holy Bible, New Living Translation Carol Stream, IL 1996. Print; www.biblestudytools.com. N.p., n.d. Web.

Download the printable version of this Bible study.

February 2022 Bible Study: Love in Style

By Captain Susan Cassin
Anacortes, WA Corps – Northwest Division

When it comes to shopping there are two prevailing mindsets around this activity. There are those who love it and those who only endure it out of necessity; hoping to get in and out of the store as quickly as possible and with as little impact to their bank account as possible. If I were to look at my life as a teenager and in my early adult years, I definitely fell into the later category where shopping was just a chore to get through.

To this day, I can’t say I love shopping but my attitude towards this activity was altered after a shopping trip with friends over 8 years ago. Now, I can’t remember what occasioned this shopping adventure, but here we were, just three college students on a budget, probably running errands, who on a whim, stopped in at some department store to do some window shopping.

What began as an opportunity to browse that racks, somehow morphed into us grabbing a bunch of dresses to take turns trying on. In that moment as I joined in with picking out dresses, what normally been a chore, became a memory of fun and laughter to cherish. As we grabbed dresses to try out, seemingly by unspoken agreement, we selected outfits that we viewed as dowdy, garish, and so out of our regular realm of style that we would’ve never had looked twice at them if we were actually on the hunt for something to buy.

As I reflect back on this memory, I experience great joy in recalling how we each took turns trying on the dresses, posing in front of the dressing room mirror, and taking silly group photos. Added to the feeling of joy was the amazement that somehow each of us, different in body shape and size, were able to fit into these dresses. Of course, as you all know from your own experience, the ability to fit into a clothing item doesn’t mean that it works for your body type, coloring, style, occasion, etc.

God created us individually and uniquely. For this reason, the things that might be a good fit for one person, might not work for you or for someone else. In the case of this fashion experiment, some dresses looked way better on me than on my friends and vice a versus. The reality of our uniqueness extends beyond the realm of fashion and our physical appearance to encompass all aspects of our lives. One of these aspects that I’d like to spend our time looking at today is the connection between our individuality and the command we’ve been given to love.

In John chapter 13, Jesus who knows that He is just hours away from being arrested, going through a sham of a trial, and will be crucified amongst two criminals, is sharing one last meal with his disciples. During this meal that we call the Last Supper, Jesus doesn’t waste these last moments of intimate fellowship with his friends and students. Jesus attempts to prepare them that he is soon leaving them, and Jesus continues to teach. In John’s account of the Last Supper, in John 13:34-35, Jesus says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Now, if you’ve read any of the other gospels, you may recall that in Mark 12:28-32, that Jesus summarizes the Ten Commandments given to the Israelites in Exodus by saying that the first and greatest commandment that we have been given, is to love God with all that we are, and the second greatest commandment is to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Knowing that this commandment to love was already established as part of the Mosaic Law found in the Old Testament, makes us question, how is this a new commandment? Well when Jesus refers to this new commandment in John 13:34, the Greek word kainos that is used, is a word that conveys freshness. This tells us that Jesus isn’t introducing a new commandment, but he is instead, giving our perspective or understanding on what it means to live out this commandment, a makeover. Let’s breakdown what this love makeover looked like.

  1. Jesus says, “love one another.” In other portions of Scripture there is a call to love one’s neighbor. The use of the word neighbor though seems to have created ambiguity because it gave people an excuse to define for themselves who counted as their “neighbor.” We see Jesus encounter this very issue in Luke 10:25-37, when an expert of the law who wanted to “justify himself” asks, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus’s answer is to share the Parable of the Good Samaritan and by the end of the telling, the message is clear, your neighbor is everyone you encounter whether they are friend, stranger, or enemy.
  1. Next, we see that Jesus tells his disciples, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34). In the Old Covenant way of love, we were to love as we love ourselves. What we see then, is Jesus is redefining the measuring stick of how we love by saying you are love to the same extent that I have loved you.

Jesus’ love was of a sacrificial nature and not just because Jesus died for our sins on the cross. There are other examples in Scripture, even within the same chapter of John 13, when Jesus who should’ve been the one being served, chose to instead serve His disciples by washing their feet. This task was normally done by the lowest slave within a household.

Jesus’ way of love was to disregarded position and pride; even His own and instead display love in action through serving others. Another example of Jesus’ sacrificial love is when He shows compassion to the people who followed after Him by feeding them even though he Himself was hungry and just needed a rest.

Time and again, we see Jesus acting outside of societal expectations to show love. Jesus, listened, spoke, instructed, comforted, prayed with and for others. He also claimed His disciples as His own, calling them his family. Jesus corrected and identified areas of growth for those who followed Him. Jesus loved sacrificially, and the way His love was shown was adapted to meet people where they were at.

At the heart of this new commandment is this idea of loving everyone, even those who think, look, speak, act differently than us in a sacrificial way as Jesus did. Jesus offered no caveat to this commandment, he simply said love everyone, including people we know, people we don’t know, and even the people we don’t like. We are called to love all people.

In Matthew 5:43-48, Jesus addresses the issue of loving our enemies. He talks about how if we only love those who love us, or those who we can stand, that this doesn’t set us apart from non-believers because they do that too. Jesus also indicates that in loving everyone we show ourselves to be God’s children since the Father shows loves by sending both sun and rain to the righteous and unrighteous alike.

So if we are to live out the command to love others, what does this look like?

As I began I shared that during my shopping adventure, that while my friends and I were all able to wear the dresses we picked out, that that the fit of those outfits worked better for some than they did for others within our trio. If we think of love, in the same way that we do when trying on an outfit, we come to recognize that the style of love that works for me won’t necessarily work for you. Each of us receives and gives love in different ways. Some feel loved when given things while others might feel loved when a friend spends quality time with them.

You might then be wondering about how we come determine what love is in style for yourself and for the others around us? Well outside for observing and noticing your own behavior, there was a book published years ago called The 5 Love Languages (by Gary Chapman) that talks about how people give/receive love. As a result of this book’s popularity, there are now online surveys that one can take to identify both how you receive love and how you give love. [Check it out: https://www.5lovelanguages.com/quizzes]

The results from such a survey, if shared will give you and others a better understanding of self and those around you who have also shared. The results may also bring you out of your comfort zone as you seek to show love according to someone’s style. For instance, if you normally give love by acts of service but you learn that someone in your life receives love through quality time, you will need to change things up in order to love someone according to the style that fits them best. It’s important to note that while this survey is a helpful tool, that if one were to spend time reflecting on moments when they felt most loved, they’d be about to pin down their own love style.

Additionally if we’re talking about loving everyone, we’re not going to be able to have every acquaintance take a survey before you interact with them. This means that learning what love is in style for an individual, becomes about listening, observing, and noticing those around you. It becomes about trying something new and seeing what happens. If what you try doesn’t work, it means trying something different.

Loving one another as Jesus loves us, means loving sacrificially but also individually. It requires that we become willing to personalize love in the same way that we personalize fashion to fit what works for the individual.

Today as you consider this concept ask yourself

  • How do I receive love?
  • How do I show love?
  • Can I identify what love kind of love is in style for my friends around me?
  • What can I do to be more observant of others around me?
  • What is one way this week that I can show someone love in a different style than is my norm?

Prayer:

Lord, we are so grateful that while you love us all equally, that you also recognize the individuality within us. We are thankful that you meet us where we are and love us as we are. Help us to sacrificially love others even when this means getting out of our comfort zone or giving up time doing something else that we enjoy. Today as we consider the many styles or expressions of love that are before us, let us be willing to try to love people in a more personal way that recognizes our uniqueness. Help us to love everyone, no matter who they are. We recognize that this isn’t something we can do in our own strength but in your strength, we’ll be able to succeed. Amen.

January 2022 Bible Study: When the Promise Tarries

by Lt. Omoduni George-Kawaley
Portland Moore Street, OR Corps – Cascade Division

Text: Genesis 18:6-15

Overview of the Passage
Sarah was promised a son, and his name was to be called Isaac (Gen. 17: 19). God would establish His covenant with him. Even though Abraham had received this promise from God 24 years earlier, this is the first time God clearly states that Sarah would be the one to bear this covenant child. Before this encounter, Sarah had given up hope of conceiving because she had passed the age of childbearing. This led her to give her maid Hagar to Abraham so that the “promise” could be fulfilled. But God had other plans. His promise was to both Abraham and Sarah, so God again appeared to Abraham in the form of three men. Abraham recognizes that these were no ordinary visitors and treated them with reverent hospitality.

And Abraham ran unto the herd and fetched a calf, tender and good, and gave it unto a young man, and he hastened to dress it. And he took butter and milk and the calf which he had dressed and set it before them, and he stood by them under the tree, and they ate.
Genesis 18:6-8

Imagine:
You are Sarah, unexpected visitors show up in your house, and without consulting you, your husband invites them to stay for dinner. Then he asks you to quickly prepare a very specific dish without inquiring whether you have the necessary ingredients.

Questions:

  • How prepared are you to welcome and entertain uninvited guests?
  • How do you react when others make decisions that has a direct or indirect impact on you without consulting you?

Read verses 9-12
9 “Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him. “There, in the tent,” he said.
10 Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah, your wife, will have a son.” Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him.
11 Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing.
12 So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?”

Imagine:
Abraham had told Sarah about his encounters with God and God’s promise to him. For the first time, Sarah gets to hear firsthand the promise that not only was God going to give Abraham a child but that she was going to be the mother. It gets better! God gave the specific gender of the child – a Son – and the exact time of his birth – in a year!

Questions:

  • If you were Sarah, what might you have thought and felt when you heard this news?
  • Why do you think Sarah laughed?

You may think that Sarah was eavesdropping. But remember that in those days, it was customary for men and women to sit in separate groups. However, it was expected that the women stay close in case they were needed. As to her laughter and question, Sarah was only stating the obvious…. barren women, especially those who are way past menopause, do not get pregnant! That was Fact, not Faith speaking!

Reflections:

  • What’s promises are still unfulfilled in your life?
  • What are the facts in your situation, and what role does faith play in your waiting period?

Let’s read the remaining verses:
13 Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’
14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”
15 Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.” But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.”

Imagine:
Sarah did not speak out loud. She thought to herself. But these “visitors” apparently heard her thoughts! Weird, right? The guests not only showed up uninvited and ate your food; now they can hear your thoughts too. Moreover, they question your faith in God: “Is there anything too hard for the Lord?” If we can grasp the greatness of that truth, we can understand what it means to walk by faith.

Questions:

  • Why did God ask Abraham and not Sarah directly?
  • What does this tell us about God’s principle concerning the family? (Read Ephesians 5:22-33).

God did not question Sarah! His questions were to Abraham: Why did Sarah laugh? Is there anything too hard for the Lord? Remember, God’s covenant was with Abraham! Sarah was only a vessel that He would use to carry the seed of His promise. Even though she was not addressed, Sarah felt so guilty that she tried to cover up by lying. How naïve – if God could hear her thoughts, could a laugh be hidden.

You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. Psalm 139:2

Reflections:

  • How do you respond when someone tells you your faults?
  • Are there any secret sins you are covering up?

Key Takeaways:

  • God will always fulfill His promise, no matter how long it tarries because that is His nature.
  • God understands our humanity and shows us mercy even when we make mistakes. God did not punish Sarah for lying or change His mind about His promise. He showed her mercy.
  • God does not want us to cover our faults but rather to repent and enjoy His mercy.
  • Nothing is too hard for God to do!

Prayer
Dear Lord Jesus, help us to trust you even when things appear to be hopeless. Always remind us that nothing is impossible with you. Amen.

Download the printable version of this month’s Bible study.