Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Women in Scripture: Lois and Eunice


Lois and Eunice
Lois and Eunice are mentioned by name only once in scripture. In the beginning of his second letter to the young pastor Timothy, the apostle Paul writes,
I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. (2 Timothy 1:5, ESV)
Since he names these two women, Paul must have known them personally. Perhaps he met Timothy, his mother Eunice, and grandmother Lois, on his first missionary journey when he visited Lystra where they lived (Acts 13:13-14:21). It may be that Paul, along with his fellow-missionary Barnabas, led them all to Christ during this visit.

What we know for sure is that when Paul returned later to Lystra, Timothy was already a respected disciple:
Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. He was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.
(Acts 16:1-3, ESV).
We can gather a little more about Eunice’s life from these verses, too. She was a Jewish woman who was (or had been—some think she was a widow) married to Greek man. Hers was a mixed marriage: a faithful Jewish wife and an unbelieving Gentile husband. That her husband was Greek was the reason Timothy had not been circumcised.

Lois, who was probably Eunice’s mother, was a believer, too. She may have lived with Eunice, helping her bring up young Timothy. At the very least, she was involved enough in Timothy’s life to be part of his heritage of faith. Paul tells us that as a young child, Timothy learned the truths of the Old Testament:
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 3:14-15, ESV)
The “whom” in verse 14 is plural, which makes me think that both Eunice and Lois were involved in Timothy’s religious education. Because of their faithful teaching, Timothy was familiar enough with the Old Testament to be “wise for salvation.” When he heard the gospel—the good news of salvation in Christ Jesus—he recognized it as the fulfillment of the everything God had promised in the scripture his mother and grandmother taught him.

Lois and Eunice were ordinary women in ordinary circumstances who were faithful in a rather ordinary way. Their situation was not ideal: They were raising a child who either had no father or an unbelieving one. Still, they taught young Timothy God’s word, and God’s word, as always, accomplished what he purposed for it. In this case, their teaching was an instrument God used to work genuine faith in their son’s and grandson’s heart, paving the way for him to become Paul’s right-hand man and a New Testament pastor. What’s more, two thousand years later, we know the names of these two ordinary women, and they continue to teach us through their admirable example recorded for us in our scripture.

The obvious lesson from a study of Lois and Eunice is that God intends for mothers and grandmothers to be teachers, teaching their children and grandchildren God’s word, and that he may use their faithful witness to bring the children to faith.

But there’s another lesson, too. Like Lois and Eunice, what we teach from the Old Testament should cause our children to recognize salvation in Christ as its fulfillment. Yes, there are morality tales there, and lists of dos and don’ts, but even those point beyond themselves to the truth that everyone needs a Saviour. And throughout, there are all the promises of God that find their Yes in Christ. May we teach the children in our lives—and anyone else we have opportunity to teach—from all the scripture, Old Testament included, in a way that makes them “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

Monday, February 13, 2017

Women in Scripture: Hulda


Hulda


   The first time I heard Huldah mentioned, my response was, “Who?” I mean, I’d read the verses that mentioned her, but she didn’t make much of an impression. It was John Piper, in one of the panel discussions at Together for the Gospel 2008 that first brought her to my attention. Piper said:
   My goal for the women of our church is that they become sages. It’s an unusual word; we all tend to know what it means. It’s a Huldah-like…they streamed to Huldah. She was a prophet, but she evidently didn’t do public prophetic ministry, they came to her in quiet. I don’t know the details. 
   So who is this sage-like woman, anyhow? The Bible just gives us a few verses to go on. We actually know more about her husband than we do her. We know she lived in Jerusalem and that she was a prophetess. Her story starts during the reign of King Josiah. While workers were restoring the temple, they found the Book of the Law. When it was read to the king, he was distressed at what he heard.
   “Go, inquire of the LORD for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found. For great is the wrath of the LORD that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us.” So Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam, and Achbor, and Shaphan, and Asaiah went to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe (now she lived in Jerusalem in the Second Quarter), and they talked with her. (2 Kings 22:13-14) 
   Huldah’s subsequent message was the same as the rest of the Old Testament prophets: God’s people had ignored his ways, and there would be consequences. But due to Josiah’s desire to seek God, the nation’s destruction would not occur in his lifetime. The office of Old Testament Prophetess is closed to us today. But we can still learn from Huldah and her example.  
   Her reputation preceded her. She was known to them before that day, and she was known to be a woman of God. She was knowledgeable about his Word, and she sought the Lord. I want to be careful not to infer too much, but it appears she was well-known for loving the Lord and walking in his ways.  
   She was asked. Women are not to be busybodies. They are to mind their own affairs. They are to avoid going from house to house spreading rumors (1 Timothy 5:13). I may feel I have all sorts of suggestions for the people around me, but if I’m not in charge, and I’m not asked, in most instances I need to keep my mouth shut. If you’ve ever received advice from someone who didn’t know the whole story, you know how unwelcome and unhelpful it is. Don’t be that woman. I’m not suggesting Huldah’s wisdom was more valuable because it was sought by men. Huldah’s wisdom was valuable because she sought the Lord. As I get older, I have gained a little insight (mostly in the category of what not to do). I also know many women who are far wiser than I am. This is valuable to the church, and there is a purpose for it, but it doesn’t happen overnight. It comes from time spent following God and learning his ways.
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About the Author: Staci Eastin is the author of The Organized Heart (Cruciform Press, 2011). She also blogs at Writing and Living and the group blog Out of the Ordinary. She and her husband Todd have been married since 1994 and are the parents of three children. Staci lives in Southeast Missouri. 

This post originally appeared on September 13, 2013 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

When Mother Reads Aloud

(Disclaimer: This encouragement goes for dads, too)

I thought I would write about something a bit different today. We all need some lighter blog content, don't we? I happened to be scanning my old blog archives from about ten years ago, and came across this poem, whose author I do not know. If you know it, please tell me:
When Mother reads aloud, the past
Seems real as every day;
I hear the tramp of armies vast,
I see the spears and lances cast,
I join the thrilling fray;
Brave knights and ladies fair and proud
I meet when Mother reads aloud. 
When Mother reads aloud, far lands
Seem very near and true;
I cross the desert's gleaming sands,
Or hunt the jungle's prowling bands
Or sail the ocean blue.
Far heights, whose peaks the cold mists shroud,
I scale, when Mother reads aloud. 
When Mother reads aloud, I long
For noble deeds to do -
To help the right, redress the wrong;
It seems so easy to be strong,
So simple and so true.
Oh, thick and fast the visions crowd
My eyes, when Mother reads aloud.
When my oldest child, my daughter, was about eight months old, she could not crawl, but she did sit well, and she loved paper. She loved to play with the flyers from the newspaper. Seeing her interest in pictures, we began letting her handle books designed for little hands. She loved them. We began sitting together and I would show her how to turn the pages. Of course, there were only ever a few words on the page; sometimes, only one word. But I would read the word and then turn the page. Sometimes, she would be eager to take charge and turn the page before we'd read everything, and I would say, "Wait, mommy will turn the page." Eventually, she learned to wait patiently for me to turn the page.

Our reading time began with a few minutes in the chair. By the time she was a year old, she would sit quietly for five or six books every day before nap time. I went through the same process with my boys when they came along, culminating in our homeschooling days when we read together in the morning after our math and spelling were done. We would have hot chocolate with marshmallows in the winter and juice in the warmer months. And Goldfish crackers. They all liked to have a container of those. We read the Bible, novels, poetry, history, and science.

I can't understate the value of reading aloud. It is possible today to have robotic teddy bears read to our kids, or to have them listen to audio books read by someone else, or to use a device that reads to them. You don't even need mom or dad! Isn't that handy? Maybe, but I think that is shortchanging everyone. By reading aloud, we gain a lot more.

First, we show them that we as parents value reading. That sends a message to them. As they grow up, they see that their parents value books, and they will have a family heritage which values reading. Perhaps you will have a child who doesn't grow up to be an avid reader despite your example; it won't be your fault.

Second, it provides quiet time with your kids. I see a lot of kids who are 12 years old and still can't sit still in church. They need to be entertained. I never had a problem with my kids sitting in church, and I wonder if it is because they were taught to sit still early. It wasn't immediate, but it developed over time. And it required patience.

Third, it teaches them the love of a story. When I read aloud to the kids, I tried to read with as much expression as I could muster. That meant reading the voice of Eyeore in the slow, draggy voice one would expect. It meant trying to do the Cockney accent that the moles used in Redwall. When Charlotte dies at the end of Charlotte's Web (sorry if I spoiled this for you), I cried without embarrassment, because I was caught up in the story. Maybe the kids thought I was a wimp, or maybe they just saw that I loved the story.

Fourth, it helps with language development. When we read aloud to young children, we can talk about words, and we can read words that are difficult for them and explain them. Yes, yes, they can use the internet and look them up, but wouldn't you rather just interact with your kids instead of farming them out to Nanny Google?

Part of learning to be good readers of the Bible means learning to be good readers in general. God's revealed will has been passed on to us through the medium of words. As Christians, we should be people of words, and what better way to instil that than by reading aloud? By all means read the Bible out loud. We did. But we read other things as well. It was a staple of bed time when they were young and when we were homeschooling, it was a core part of our curriculum. My daughter, who has taught undergraduate university students in English, has mentioned numerous times the fact that young people don't know how to read well. That should be remedied.

My children are grown and are avid readers. I look forward to having grandchildren. I know that my husband will be the one they run to for rough and tumble games and Lego building. I will be happy to read to them as much as they want. And it will be a wonderful thing.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Women in Scripture: Hagar


Hagar
 God Sees Me

     I pay attention to men and women in the Bible who are the misfits because there is always a lesson to learn from their stories. One of my favorites is that of Hagar, the slave of Sarah and Abraham. The story is in Genesis 16 and to summarize, Sarah (then called Sarai) had been unable to conceive so she encouraged Abraham (then called Abram) to have a child through their Egyptian servant, Hagar. Hagar taunted Sarah after becoming pregnant and in turn, Sarah treated Hagar harshly to the point that she fled into the desert. 

    If anyone felt invisible and unwanted, it was Hagar.  She was living every woman's nightmare…pregnant, alone, utterly abandoned. Or so she thought. God knew her circumstance and sent an angel to minister to her. After this encounter with the Lord, Hagar said to him (verse 13), "You are the God who sees me," for she said, "I have now seen the One who sees me." In Hebrew, that name is El-Roi, the God who sees.

    I'm reminded of a line from the movie Shall We Dance?, a story about a man (played by Richard Gere) who takes up ballroom dancing while going through a midlife crisis. In one scene his wife (played by Susan Sarandon) is explaining to someone why people get married: "Because we need a witness to our lives. There's a billion people on the planet. I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage...you're saying 'your life will not go unnoticed, because I will notice it. Your life will not go unwitnessed, because I will witness it.'"

    Isn't that what we all want to some degree? To be seen? Witnessed? Acknowledged?  El-Roi does this for us. He says to each of us, "your life will not go unnoticed, because I will notice it. Your life will not go unwitnessed, because I will witness it. I see you."

    When we forget that our heavenly Father sees us, we will feel invisible and unimportant and will seek acknowledgement from others that will always leave us wanting.  That’s why the story of Hagar is an important reminder of God’s character. It reminds us that even if no one else notices, God witnesses a life he lovingly created for his glory and purpose.  He never abandons his watch over us. He sees us through the filter of Jesus and the cross, redeemed and worthy. That's hardly insignificant!

   God has much to say about how important we are to him.  Psalm 139 is a beautiful testament of the God who sees as he supervised the formation of each one of us before we were born and has remained constantly aware of every moment of our lives thereafter. In fact, there is nowhere we can go that he does not see.  Psalm 121 tells us that the Lord never takes a break from watching over us.  Isaiah 61:3 says we are a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor. Isaiah 40:10 reminds us that even if the mountains fall, His unfailing love for us will not be shaken nor his covenant removed. 

    No matter how invisible we feel on this planet at times, we are never out of God’s sight. Even if no one else ever knows who we are, even if we never get credit for anything good we've ever done, even when we feel alone, he remains El-Roi, the God who sees us and is always there.

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About the Author:  Cindy is mom to three adult daughters and one teenage son who just graduated high school, and has been married 35 years to her college sweetheart.   She enjoys real letter writing, real books, dark chocolate, and still likes to color with a new box of crayons.   You can find Cindy at Letters From Midlife.
This post originally appeared at Theology for Girls on September 6, 2013 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Women in Scripture: Lydia


Lydia
“So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the[d] district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days. And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.” Acts 16:11-15 
   Who was Lydia? The text tells us that she was originally from the city of Thyatira, the modern-day Turkish city of Akhira, located in the province for which she was named. Lydia was a gentile, business woman who sold purple cloth and dye. Her hometown was well known for this trade especially the dye reserved for royalty. Therefore, she was likely a woman of means and able to maintain a household. Luke describes her as a “worshipper of God” meaning a seeker of YHWH, but not a Jewish proselyte yet. But when the Apostle Paul crossed Lydia's path on his second missionary journey, her life was changed forever. [1]  
   Paul desired to go to Asia Minor and preach the gospel but “the Spirit of Jesus” forbade him. (Acts 16:7). He then received a vision of a Macedonian man asking him to “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” (Acts 16:8). So in the providence of God, He shut the door to Asia Minor but brought a woman from Asia Minor to Paul. 
   We aren't given many details about Lydia's conversion but one thing is very clear - God opened her heart. The word open is translated from the Greek word dianoigo. This is defined by Greek scholar A.T. Robertson as “to open up wide or completely like both sides of a folding door.” Another definition is “to open by dividing or drawing asunder, to open thoroughly” from Greek lexicologist Joseph Henry Thayer. [2] Thus the Holy Spirit had been at work behind the scenes, changing Lydia's stony heart to a heart of flesh, and preparing it to receive the good news. As C.H. Spurgeon said, “Although the Lord opened the heart, Paul’s words were the instrument of her conversion. The heart may be opened and willing to receive, but then if the Truth of God enters not, what would be the use of an open door? But God always takes care to open the heart at a time when the messenger of mercy shall be going by, that the heart may give him admittance. “ [3] 
   Lydia exhibited her newfound faith in word and deed. She and her household were baptized, and she opened her home to Paul and his companions. This was not a small thing. During their time in Philippi, Paul and Silas's preaching resulted in the deliverance and conversion of a demon-possessed girl, which  was rewarded with beating and imprisonment. Also, the Jews had not given up pursuing Paul as a traitor to their faith. Yet, Lydia was willing to count the cost for the sake of her brothers in Christ and receive them gladly into her home. 
    In a way, Lydia's story is our story, too. The Holy Spirit was working in advance unbeknownst to us, creating a hunger for God and convicting us of sin. We were at exactly the right place and the right time to hear the gospel. A messenger delivered the Word, and God opened up our hearts to receive it. Likewise, the Holy Spirit enables us to live out our faith day by day. 
   Lydia's story also gives us hope for those whom we earnestly desire to come to Christ. Thankfully, the burden of saving a soul rests on more capable shoulders than ours or the ones who need the gospel. Yes, we should pray and speak. But in the end, we trust a merciful and gracious God. If He can open our hearts, He can open the hearts of those who still need Him. 

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Sources:
[1] Twelve Extraordinary Women, John MacArthur, Thomas Nelson, 2005, pp. 187-197.
[2] The Gospel Call & True Conversion, Paul Washer, Reformation Heritage Books, 2013, pp. 59-60.
[3]  Lessons From Lydia's Conversion,  Sermon 544, C.H. Spurgeon, December 13, 1863.

This post was originally published at Theology for Girls in the fall of 2013.