Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Women Who Followed Jesus

I am glad I am a woman. I come from a long line of women who were also glad they were born a woman. My great grandmother, Sarah Elizabeth, was married to a Baptist preacher, had 10 children, and worked hard to raise her family on a small dirt farm. She had a knack for making things grow and her daughter, my grandmother, inherited her same spirit and deep convictions. My mother was also a woman of deep convictions and I am thankful for the spiritual principles she taught me as a child. I am so blessed to have sisters, daughters-in-law, granddaughters, sisters-in-law, and women friends who enrich my life every single day and feed my spirit with truth and grace. And maybe that is why the women who faithfully ministered to Jesus during His earthly ministry, and faithfully followed Him to the cross, then to the tomb, are so interesting to me; their lives were dramatically changed when they met Jesus.

As we celebrate Easter, my mind can't help but linger on the women who followed Jesus to the cross.....
and stayed there when the men left. And to those women who fearlessly came in the dark, cold, damp hours of the early morning to His empty tomb to lovingly prepare that precious body for a proper Jewish burial, I am awed by their devotion. And I am awed that in their world where women were de-valued, Christ first revealed His resurrected body to these faithful women and not the disciples.

Jesus was the first Jewish Rabbi to discuss the Law and the Old Testament with women. He drew them into Bible Study and forever changed their status in society. He healed their diseases and gave women dignity and honor that those of that time and era would never even consider. (check out the opinions of the Pharisees and other religious leaders regarding women)

In John 4, Jesus chose the Samaritan woman, a woman who had been married 5 times and was living with a man who was not her husband, to reveal that He was the long awaited Messiah. (v26)
In Luke 8:43, Jesus, full of compassion for her illness, allowed a woman with "an issue of blood" to touch His outer garment. That was definitely not in keeping with the Law, but she was important to Jesus.
In Luke 10: 39, He allowed Mary of Bethany to "sit at His feet and hear Him teach the word" to the men in the room.

And then there was Salome; I love her! She was all about her 2 sons, James and John, who were called by Jesus to be His disciples. (Matt. 4) Not only did her sons become a part of Jesus' "inner circle", but Salome faithfully ministered to Jesus and was at His side during His darkest hour. And she was standing there at the cross when Jesus asked John to care for Mary. As her oldest son, that would have been His job, but Jesus knew He wouldn't be there in the flesh as Mary aged and He asked His dear friend John to see to her needs. And you know what? I don't think Salome minded one bit!

Joanna. She was the wife of Chuza, who was a steward in Herod's palace. Because of  her husband's prominence, she held a place of honor and wealth. Joanna became a believer and faithfully ministered to Jesus from her wealth and abundance. She, too, was among the women who gathered to make their way to the tomb that first Easter morning. Luke 24:10 tells us that other women were there and maybe Susannah, a woman of great wealth was among the group. Several women named Mary came to the tomb, but then there was also Mary Magdalene. So much conjecture has been written about her, and so much fascination surrounds her seemingly sordid past. All I know and all I care about is that she loved Jesus with all her heart and soul. Whatever else she may have been and done does not deter me for one minute from wanting to meet her in heaven and spend time talking with her about what those days were like.

Were there others? The Bible says there were. Unnoticed, forgotten, sad and forlorn to others, but not to Jesus. He knew and loved each one and in Heaven their love and devotion to Him will be displayed for all to see. But sadly, in some parts of our world women are not valued as Jesus valued them. Many times when the news is on our tv, I get up from my seat and leave the room to keep from hearing the atrocities to women and young girls that are taking place in the name of a pagan religion that still sees women and girls as property to be used and abused and cast away. If only, if only, those same women and girls could sit at Jesus' feet as Mary of Bethany; could touch His garment, like the woman with the issue of blood; could be healed of her demons, like Mary of Magdala; could hear His tender pardon of sin like the woman at the well.
What a difference Jesus makes in the lives of women. Are there women and girls in your sphere of influence who need Jesus? Are they waiting for you to introduce them to Him?

Dear friend, you and I, in our warm, safe, loving homes, where most of us have never known abuse, may feel helpless to change the lives of frightened, abused women in another part of the world, but our God can. May I give you a challenge? It will cost you nothing but a broken heart, tears of compassion, a love that reaches around the world, and a small amount of time. As we celebrate our risen Lord this Easter week of Passover, will you join me each day in prayer for our sisters in Christ and those who still do not know Him; will you help me pray for their deliverance from a life of shame and abuse, will you hold fast to the promise in Jeremiah 32:17?
"Ah, Lord God! Behold, You have made the heaven and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm, and there is nothing too hard for You."

I can promise you this; as your heart grows more tender, as you see new reports of slave trading, and as you look into the veiled brown eyes of those desperate girls and women, you will find yourself praying for them and their plight with an intensity that surprises you.

Women are important to Jesus. And my heart is so thankful that He set the standard for how women and girls and children are to be treated. You my friend are important to Jesus. There is no situation that is hopeless, no devastation that He is not the Master of.

That same resurrection power that was first displayed on that first Easter morning is available to you and to me to conquer every fear, every doubt, every hurtful situation in our lives.
"Oh death where is thy sting, Oh grave where is your victory?" Nothing is too hard for Him, claim that promise as your very own because, dear sister, it is. And pray; pray that the plight of those precious women and girls enslaved in the name of religion will soon know freedom in Christ.

Happy Easter, Happy Resurrection morning.    Penny

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Don't Hide Your "Talent"!!!

I love the parables of Jesus. Each one is definitely in a class all by itself. The parables make me feel good; they fill me with hope and promise and an awareness that Jesus really does care about me and everything about me is important to Him. People are healed in the parables. Health is restored, troubled minds are freed from demons, relationships restored, and grace and mercy triumph.

As a child sitting beside my mother in church, I vividly remember the first time I heard the story of the Parable of the Talents. As I listened wide eyed to the preacher, I honestly thought a talent was well....a talent, like singing or playing a musical instrument. Growing up in a family of musicians and singers, that was naturally what I thought the parable was about. And I can remember being horrified that Jesus would take the one talent (I thought it was singing)  He had given to a servant and give it to the servant He had already given five! I soon learned that the "talent" in the parable was a term for measuring in ancient times, but I still remember my childish indignation that the person with only one talent had it taken from him and the person with five, was given one more.

Beginning in Matthew 24, the disciples are seated at Jesus' feet, and verse 3 tells us they asked Him "in private" to explain to them what He had preached publicly in the Temple about the "end of the age." And for the next 2 chapters, every single word that Jesus spoke is devoted to teaching His disciples (you and me) deep, rich, life altering spiritual truth about His eternal kingdom. And in verse 14 He teaches them the Parable of the Talents.

v14: "For the kingdom of Heaven is like a man traveling into a far country."

The master of the house was preparing to take a long journey and he called 3 of his most trusted servants and gave them explicit instructions as to the overseeing of his affairs while he was gone. To one servant he gave 5 "talents", to one he gave 2, and to another he gave 1. The master knew his servants well, and he knew how much responsibility and wealth each one could handle. He promised he would return and when he did, each servant would give an accounting to the master for the talents he'd been given to invest.

We aren't told what was being measured, but if it was gold, then it was definitely a fortune, especially in their day, because 1 talent of gold would have been $29,374.50. Of course today, a talent of gold would be considerably more, but that's still a lot of money. Multiply that by 5 and the first servant had a small fortune to invest for his master. So for the sake of this post, we'll say each talent was a measure of gold.

In v16, how did the servant with 5 talents oversee his master's gold?
In v17, how did the servant with 2 talents oversee his master's gold?
But in v18, what did the guy with 1 talent do?

His gold may not have been worth as much as the the other 7 talents, but it was worth it to the master. If it wasn't as important to the master, he wouldn't have entrusted it with the servant, he would have simply given it to one of the other servants. Maybe the 3rd servant felt undervalued, not as worthy or important, and maybe he felt that gave him the right to disregard the master's trust in him and just go bury it somewhere and use the excuse that he was afraid of the master.

Do you ever feel that you aren't important? Do you look at other women who seem to have it all together and feel, well, less than......Do you ever wish you looked better, felt better, had more money, had a better marriage, better kids, yada yada yada? I bet (and I don't bet) if every woman was honest, she would admit to feelings of less than.....

Today, your "talents" are every thing the Master has entrusted into your capable hands.
On this cold, snowy, stay in the house and make snow cream kind of day, drying countless wet snowsuits, socks, gloves, hats, and refereeing countless fusses and squabbles, it's easy to dig a hole and hide the talent. But all the Master is asking us to do, is to take what He has given us, invest it wisely, give it back to Him, and watch Him multiply it for our good and His glory.

Marriage is worth our investment, raising kids who love God and serve Him, is a wise investment, serving Him by serving others is worth it. He doesn't expect you, or even ask you, to be like anyone else; He just wants you and me to be who He has created us to be.

Did the servant with one talent feel less valued than the other 2? Maybe. But he was important to the master.
Look at the "talents" the Master has given you; if you start right now investing in those "talents", how much would each of those "talents" be worth when the Master returns? And that is what this parable is saying; the Master will soon return and we will give an accounting of the "talents".

You're the one God has chosen to raise those kids. You are the one God has chosen to be a wife to your husband. You are the one God has chosen to teach that Sunday School Class, take care of sick patients in the ICU, lead a Bible Study on Wednesday night, teach those rowdy kindergartners, prepare those lunches in the school cafeteria, read to those dear elderly saints in the nursing home, and be an intercessor in prayer for those suffering around the world. And nobody can do it like you. Be proud (a God given proud) of those "talents" and invest yourself in each one, refuse to compare your "talents" to any other woman, and watch those "talents" double and multiply!

Revelation 22:12
"Behold, I come quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every person according as his work shall be."

I love the parables of Jesus!!


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Stronghold of Fear

A new year holds such promise and hope and if you're like me, you've promised yourself that you're going to work on "some things" this year. And as I "turned the calendar" as my Mama used to say, I knew it was time to stop talking about it and actually do it.

There will always be lots of room for improvement in my life and I've identified several areas, spiritual and physical, where I see lots of need for improvement. (there will always be those everlasting 10 lbs, right ladies? Funny how they always seem to be there every Jan. 1!)
And spiritually, I have identified several areas where my enemy has a really good "stronghold" on me.

In an earlier post I defined a stronghold as "an exalted thought in our mind." (2 Corinth. 2:10). And while Satan cannot know us intimately, as God knows each of His children intimately, he sure does know our weaknesses and he tailor makes a stronghold that attacks us at our most vulnerable point.

Back in the 60's there was an expression that became a popular way for someone to explain away their unusual behavior. If someone didn't like flying in an airplane or getting into an elevator they would simply say,
"I have a "hang-up" about that." Well, ladies, a stronghold is an exalted thought that we get mentally hung up over. It becomes an obsessive way of thinking that influences our behavior, and literally does what it says;
it gets a stronghold on us and often a very destructive hold on us.

In a previous post I dealt with the stronghold of unforgiveness and I received some really good feed-back on that very destructive stronghold, and promised we'd expose another stronghold soon. One faithful reader reminded me a few months back that I hadn't done that, (so sorry, no excuses) and what better time to do that than the beginning of a new year.

Like most women I know, I have struggled all my life with fear; the fear of "what if." Maybe you struggle with it, too. What if my child gets an incurable disease? What if my husband gets sick, looses his job, can't take care of us? What if something happens to me or my husband, who will care for our children? What if my parents become unable to care for themselves? What if a tree crashes through the ceiling in my bedroom while we're asleep? What if, what if, what if???

Although there is no scientific data to back this up, I personally believe that all women are wired with an extra chromosome that men do not have; I call it the worry chromosome and it can be vicious. It is a fear that begins to build in the pit of your stomach and moves up into your chest where a panic begins to build and your heart begins to race and your breathing becomes shallow and you think you will pass out, and it causes us to do, act, speak, and think in ways that as believers we should not. ( I doubt this sentence is grammatically correct, but it makes the point I want to make)

I recently heard of a woman who received a devastating report from her doctor. She immediately went home and started getting pictures ready for display at her funeral. (I'm not kidding) She bought a new dress, pearls, the whole outfit, and planned her funeral right down to the number of songs. Her family and friends were heartbroken, she was a mess, went back to her doctor for another test and he told her the problem was gone, she was fine. Panic and fear can cause rational people to become irrational rather quickly!!

Do you have a teenager? When they are 10 minutes late coming home, where is your mind? I've stood at my front window many, many nights watching for those headlights to come around the curve with a heart racing so fast, imagining all sorts of things, and nearly in tears by the time they pull in the driveway. And where was David? Sound asleep because he doesn't have the chromosome.

Well ladies, I know that as long as we are women, as long as there are people we love, we will have many opportunities for worry and fear. But......I do know that fear does not come from God, and within each believer He has given us the power to take authority over the very thing we can get so hung up over.

Here's a good verse to commit to memory and to pray back to Satan each time he intrudes our thoughts with his fear and panic:
2 Timothy 1:7: For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."
Declare to him that you have a sound mind and you will not fear.
But as good and perfect as that verse is, I still struggled with fear of the unknown. I still worried over silly things, still obsessed, still felt seasons of panic.

I don't remember exactly when I began to do this, but I do remember it was during a recurring fear in my life. One day as I was praying, begging God to do this particular thing in my life, I said, "But Lord, whatever You do, I agree with You. You are right, and I agree with whatever and however you choose to answer my prayer."

Ladies, those words, "Lord, I agree with You", were burden lifting words. They:
1. Took the panic away.
2. Put the responsibility where it belongs, on God.
3. Changed my perspective. I'm not in control, in charge, He is.
4. Said, "He is always right, will never allow anything that is wrong for me, always has good in mind for me, and always has a good and perfect purpose for my life in any and all situations."
5. Allowed me to experience freedom and a closeness to Him that I have never known.
In other words, I truly experienced what it meant to trust. Not just say I trust Him, but to experience it.

Do I ever panic and feel afraid? Oh you better believe it. Do I ever wonder what I'll do if.........? Oh yeah.
But when those thoughts and feelings and emotions invade my heart and mind, I may wrestle with them for bit, cry awhile, but the Holy Spirit always leads me back to, "I agree with You, Father. You are right, no matter what happens."

Dear friend, fear is what is produced when there is no trust. Don't live with that fear and panic that builds and builds until you feel like you are about to "bust". Agree with God and allow His peace to fill your heart and mind and experience an intimacy with Him that is beyond all words.

I would really love to hear from you. I hope this post will be a blessing and a help as you grow in your relationship with the One we can always agree with.


Saturday, January 24, 2015

MOPS and Snow!!

This has been a very busy week in the Noffsinger household. My mother-in-law, Mayme Nell Noffsinger passed away Monday. She had battled dementia, had a stroke, and recently suffered with pneumonia. But she was a fighter and had been all her life. She raised 5 children, worked hard, and for those who knew her, she was never "still a minute." She left us with many good memories and she will be greatly missed by her family, friends, and church family.

I was blest this week to speak to the MOPS group at 1st Baptist Madisonville. They are great Moms doing a great job. We talked about patience and how to have more of it and that patience is an act of the Holy Spirit in our lives and a Fruit of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22,23) We also talked about how we can keep from comparing ourselves to other Moms and we learned a lot from Hannah's example. Here are a few pics of the day and thank you so much Madisonville MOPS for the privilege of being with you and being a part of your day.

This is Haylee, their MOPS coordinator, and me. Thanks Haylee for inviting me to speak to your group!!

One reason I enjoy MOPS so much is all the good food!!

And for our readers in the southern hemisphere who often ask me about our Kentucky weather, we had a beautiful snowy night and are still enjoying it this morning. (hope it's the last one this winter!!)

Hope you have a blest day and a great Lord's Day tomorrow. Look for my next blog post soon.


Friday, January 9, 2015

5 Things Your Husband Needs You to Pray for Him....Right Now

I recently heard a report that marriages in the U S are on the decline. And two of the reasons cited were that women have more career and financial options, and there is less financial stress to live together, than to be married. And then when you add to the mix tv shows like a Girlfriends Guide to Divorce, and other shows that depict single women living together as a family unit, you have an all out attack on traditional moral values and on traditional marriage.

As Christian women we know that our enemy Satan issued an all out attack on the family in the Garden of Eden and He is intensifying his strategy every single day. He knows if he can destroy the family unit of Mom, Dad, and children, he will destroy the church, and if he can destroy the church, he will destroy Christianity. The good news is, in Genesis 2, God performed the first marriage ceremony and marriage is still alive and well today. And in Matthew 16, Jesus Christ established the church and He announced to Satan and the world that "the gates of hell will not prevail" against His church. So as believers, we know that marriage itself is secure until Christ returns for His bride, and that the New Testament, Bible believing church will prevail. But......there is an attack on our moral and ethical fiber and while our enemy may not be able to destroy marriage and the church completely, he can still destroy individual families and local congregations. And all we have to do is look around and see that he is enjoying a measure of success.

If you are reading this and you are married, please do not take your marriage for granted; our enemy is out to destroy your marriage, too. And he uses small stuff to create big havoc in our homes. Your marriage is important to God. As long as you and your husband are living together in the bonds of holy matrimony, all of heaven is fighting for the survival of your marriage. David and I will be married 45 years this May and all of heaven is still fighting for us, because you see, it doesn't matter how long we are married, Satan never gives up trying to destroy us. There is so much more at stake here than David and me; we have 3 grown sons, 8 grandchildren, our sisters, brothers, friends, younger couples that look up to us, and a host of others that could easily be hurt or brought down if he can destroy our marriage. I am still shocked at the destruction of Stephan and Gigi Graham Tchividian's marriage; it hurt me because I admired her so much. I am still shocked at the destruction of the marriage of our friends who were married 40 plus years, and of the destruction of a 60 year marriage we heard of recently.

But praise God He has not left us defenseless. He has armed us with the supernatural power of His Holy Word, our God-given right as His child to pray, and the "gumption" as my Mama used to say, to get in there and fight; not just for ourselves, but we need to fight for our man. And we fight for him each time we go to the throne of grace on his behalf.

Here are 5 simple things your husband needs you to ask God to do in his life; he may not ask you to pray for him and these particular matters, he may not know he needs them, but he does. This is not a complete list by any means, but it will sure get you started. Keep a prayer journal and each time you see God's hand actively working in your husband's life, write it down; it will build your faith and encourage you to keep on keeping on.

Your husband needs you to pray for his:

1. Health and safety.
Men don't like to eat healthy. Please don't tell him I said so, but probably your husband is an all meat and potatoes kind of guy. But guess who does the cooking at my house? Me, unless it's chili. Pray that God will help you and your family to make healthier eating choices, then cook it! A man's work and travel can often be dangerous. Pray each day for his safety, pray that God will keep him healthy, and ask God to grant you many years of marriage to raise your kids and influence their lives.

2. His relationship with God.
Simply pray that your husband will read his Bible and pray. If he doesn't ask the blessing at meal time, suggest he start. If he isn't comfortable, suggest you take turns, including the kids. Ask him to read the kids their Bible story before bedtime. It's amazing how much biblical knowledge is in a child's Bible Story Book. They have some great ones at Life Way. Look for ways you can work in spiritual truth and biblical discussions in your private conversations. Take notes during the pastor's sermons, then share with him some of the things you got from the message. Always be positive about God, the Bible, prayer, church; he needs to know you really believe what you say you believe and he'll know it by how you talk (yes that's #1) and how you live.. Ask him to pray for a specific thing for you or the kids, and be sure and tell him how God is answering his prayer, it will elevate his trust and faith. It's amazing what your prayers for his spirituality will do for him, for you, your marriage, and your family. Everyone will reap the benefits of your prayer.

3. His relationship with you and your kids.
Ladies let's face it; often we're to blame when we don't receive what we need from our husbands. How many times have you heard him say, "I didn't know you wanted/needed that! Why didn't you tell me?" Whether it's a certain piece of jewelry for Valentine's Day or a little time to cry on his shoulder, if he doesn't give it, assume he doesn't know how, and tell him. He needs you, today, to pray for his relationship with you and the kids. Ask God specifically to develop a deeper love and understanding between you and him, and him and your kids. That is a prayer that is God's will and a prayer He has promised to answer.
(1 John:5:14,15) And if he isn't as involved with your children as you had hoped he would be, tell God, He'll listen. He is the One Who will move your husband's heart in that direction.

4. His morality and integrity.
Oh, ladies, you do not have enough time here to read all that is involved in a man's morals and his integrity. Morality and integrity are more a way of thinking than doing, and it is something that must be taught to our little boys during their morally formative years. If you have small sons, please, please, please, instill in their young minds and hearts spiritual principles that will shape how they think. And when our thinking is right, our doing will be right, too. Pray right now that God will draw your husband toward high moral standards of integrity in his thinking, then see to it that you feed those standards by your daily walk and talk. Don't criticize him for watching something on tv that is wrong while you are reading a trashy romance novel. (sorry, I don't mean to be so blunt) Make sure we as wives have the same standards we want for our husbands.

5. His sexuality.
I heard a statistic that men hear or see literally thousands of sexually explicit material every minute. (sorry I don't remember the exact number). Wherever he is, whatever he is doing, he needs you, right now, to pray for his purity; purity in his thoughts and his actions. There are women who are sending an invitation to your husband right now to "look at them", to "fantasize about them" and they don't know him and he doesn't know them. It can be an invitation as simple as passing each other in the Mall or watching a newscast with a female anchor who really needs to be wearing a jacket!!! And as you pray for his purity, pray for yours, as well. And pray that God will bless your intimacy with each other and strengthen your marriage. (it is not easy for me to write about this, I embarrass easily, lol, but I see how simple flirtations and "looks" between a man and woman can escalate to something else.) Protect your marriage, pray for his sexuality.

It may take time to see changes in his choice of tv shows, or his reading material. It may take time to see real spiritual growth, or see him become a more devoted Dad and husband, or the spiritual leader in your home that you need him to be, but please keep praying, God is faithful, He desires your success, He will help you.

My son is a pastor and he recently shared with me that he had been preaching a series of sermons on the home and marriage, and one of the men in his church who had experienced a time of difficulty in his marriage said this: "I decided it was more important to stay with my kids than to leave my wife."

Ladies, with the exception of the abuse of your children or yourself, (and that abuse can take on many forms)
I still believe every marriage can be saved, (call me a starry eyed optimist) every home can be a good home, and every child deserves a Mom and Dad who love God, love each other, love them, and who are committed to stay married to each other for a lifetime, and that includes better or worse, richer or poorer. Old fashioned, maybe. Politically correct, no. Right....with all my heart I believe YES!