Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Thinking about Sapphira

"Peter asked her, "Was this the price you and your husband received for your land?"   "Yes," she replied, "that was the price." "  Acts 5:8

Now that you have read the stories of Sophia and Sapphira, what do you say is the reason for their deaths?  Hint: it's in verse 8.  

Oh my!  Did you have any idea that lying is punishable by death?  In our world of "little white lies" that punishment seems harsh and over-the-top, doesn't it.

But, it doesn't stop at the lying.  The sin goes deeper.  I think it goes straight to the heart of these women.  When given the opportunity to come clean, they chose to lie, again.  You know the saying, "Oh! what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!" from Mariom, by Sir Walter Scott.  These women conspired to deceive and refused to come clean.  Even in our modern law, we recognize the difference between something done on the spur of the moment and an act planned in advance.  The latter nearly always receives the harshest punishment when proven guilty.

Our author, Liz Curtis Higgs, investigates why these women may have lied; what motivated them to deceive.  The fictional story of Sophia gives a hint to one motive: fear.  Fear of losing something that could not be replaced (years of hard work, ladder climbing, status), fear of not having enough, fear of not fitting in.  What might have been other motives?  There are a few other, less sympathetic, motives for sure!  Ms. Higgs asks us (in the workbook) to "read Acts 4:36-37 and asks why Barnabas was singled out as the "Son of Encouragement".  Now read Acts 5:1-2.  What do you think motivated Ananias and Sapphira to give their money to the apostles?"  This is an interesting line of inquiry and leads us to more questions: why may have they kept some of the money for themselves?  Did they know it was wrong?  Did they have any other options if they needed some of the money for themselves?  What are some reasons people donate, other than a purely generous spirit?   Think in ink and share your thoughts in the comments (click here).

Very closely tied to their deceit is the giving of the profits from the sale of the land.  When we read Acts 4:32, we are given the impression that the people in the early church are a very generous group!  Ms. Higgs points us to 3 verses that address the virtues of generosity, Psalm 112:5, Proverbs 11:25 and 2 Corinthians 9:13.  What are the benefits mentioned in each and how might these verses prevent us from becoming a Sophia or Sapphira?  Living in community, especially a faith community, we are called to do good and help those in need.  The following verses include some Biblical financial advice: 1 Timothy 6:17-18.  Taken together with the verses about generosity, what does this mean for us?

We all learned from a very early age to always tell the truth.  But we quickly learn that honesty can sometimes be complicated.  There are emotions, fears, and consequences attached to that honesty that might be avoided if we can pull off a "little lie".  After all, it's not hurting anyone, really.  It is frightening and sobering to think that when we lie to people, we are also lying to God.  And He knows it!  He knows what's in our hearts - our motives.  That's the one big thing I take away from this story!

What is your 'take away'?  What did you learn from the examples of Sophia and Sapphira?  What lesson will you instill in your children and grandchildren and new believers based on these women's folly?

Your Partner in Ministry,


"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24

Monday, February 23, 2015

Bad Girls of the Bible: Sapphira

"He brought part of the money to the apostles, but he claimed it was the full amount.  His wife had agreed to this deception."  Acts 5:2

Collusion - there is it in black and white (well, purple & white)!  Ananias & Sapphira had a secret agreement to defraud the apostles.  Their deceit made the headlines, "Great fear gripped the entire church and all others who heard what had happened."  Acts 5:11, just like it does today.  I'm sure you can think of a few notorious individuals who have made the paper by defrauding people who trusted them.  I don't know about you, but I am pretty quick to wag an accusing finger in their direction.  And I certainly don't count my sins to be as grievous as theirs.  

In fact, we don't have to dig too deeply to understand the message this story has for us.  It seems so straightforward and obvious, I wondered how our author could write more than a few lines about it:  'Be honest.  Don't lie.  And if you do and are given the opportunity to come clean, admit to it and ask for forgiveness.'  That's fairly obvious, right.  So what more is there?

Thankfully, Liz Curtis Higgs saw more to this story and presented a much more relatable scenario in the fictional story of Aidan & Sofia.  They are a hardworking, generous couple that have waited a long time and have done a lot of good to earn a place among the "altruistic elite".  And when tragedy strikes and their dreams seem to vanish, who among us wouldn't have taken advantage when good luck swings back in their direction?  That story made me squirm a little!  Have you ever found yourself with a similar decision?  Your situation may not have involved a million dollar check, but perhaps you have withheld a 'little something' for yourself or your family after promising to help others?

I even found myself asking, "Is this the same as saying 'I don't have any money on me' (though I probably have some change or a dollar to two) when confronted by can shakers, pan handlers, and red-pot bell rings?"  A few years ago, I changed my response to "no thank you" or "not today" if I had the cash, but didn't want to give.  Why in the world did I feel the need to lie about not having money?  To make me look good, 'I would give if I could, but I can't'?  To avoid the stares & grumbling after walking by without dropping some cold, hard cash in the collection?  Whatever drove me to lie, I decided to change my response regardless of how it made me look to them, because how I look to God is more important.

Although the Biblical story comes in snippets throughout the chapter, I find it best to read the whole thing at once.  For a complete picture, read Acts 4:32 - 5:11.  In these few verses we see a whole host of sins and the immediate and fatal result.  While this seems extreme to us, we still have to ask ourselves: what does this mean for me?  How can the deaths of Ananias & Sapphira (of Aiden & Sofia) inform how I live my daily life?

Think in ink as you read and share your thoughts on Sapphira's story in the comments.  Would you have done things differently if you were Sapphira or Sofia?  What is the most important lesson you learned?  Will it change how you live in a small or big way?

I'd love to read your response to the questions above or how you handled a similar situation in your life.  Click here to go to the blog to leave a comment.

Your Partner in Ministry,


"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Thinking about Delilah

"Then Delilah pouted, "How can you say you love me when you don't confide in me?  You've made fun of me three times now, and you still haven't told me what makes you so strong!"  So day after day she nagged him until he couldn't stand it any longer."  Judges 16: 15-16

Oh Delilah!  Have you ever known a woman like her?  I didn't think I had, but then I read this and I'm pretty sure I saw her staring at me from the mirror!

This is what we know about her according to the Biblical story:
*  She's a Philistine woman
*  Samson is in love with her (and he seems to visit her quite regularly)
*  She accepts a large sum of money from powerful leaders for information leading to the capture of   Samson, an enemy of her people.
*  She deceives Samson repeatedly
*  She pouts and nags until she gets what she wants

So, how am I like Delilah?  Well, if you ask my husband he would probably say that I'm pretty good at pouting and nagging until I get what I want.  That's if my feminine wiles don't get it for me first!  You know what I mean!!  Admit it, you've all done it at least once in your life!  Maybe it was to avoid him from noticing the little dent in the fender or that new dress in the closet.  Want a puppy or a kitten? That's when we lay it on thick: charm, batting the eye lashes, the sing-songy speech and constant references to how cute they are, his favorite dish at dinner and he gets to control the remote!  And when all that subtly doesn't work: nag, nag, nag.

I have to admit I have always bought in to the vilification of Delilah.  However, when I read the story again, leaving all the preconceived notions of what she was out of it, I saw her as a real person with a difficult decision to make.  I have asked myself over and over again, if I were in her sandals, would I have made a better choice?  Can I condemn her with what little I know of her?

I think not.  So I have to look at her actions and endeavor to do better.  To lift up those I love, to be honest, and to be respectful of their efforts and decisions.  Once again, there is the message of looking to God to fulfill me, not to money or possessions or relationships.  The section in the book, "What Lessons Can We Learn from Delilah?" is a good wrap up of this chapter.

While Delilah is the 'bad girl' we are studying in this book, there is also much to say about Samson and much we can learn from him.  But, honestly that's worth a whole other study and too much to cover in one week!  Don't let that discourage you from looking at his weaknesses and strengths.  His behavior certainly contributes to why we label Delilah a 'Bad Girl of the Bible'.

What do you consider the most important lesson you learned from Delilah?  Maybe it's something I touched on or maybe something that I didn't mention.  I'd love to hear your thoughts!!  Click here to go to the blog to leave a comment.

Your Partner in Ministry,


"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24

Monday, February 16, 2015

Bad Girls of the Bible: Delilah

"Later Samson fell in love with a woman named Delilah, who lived in the valley of Sorek.  The leaders of the Philistines went to her and said, 'Find out from Samson what makes him so strong and how he can be overpowered and tied up securely.  Then each of us will give you eleven hundred pieces of silver.' "  Judges 16:4-5

After reading about 3 nameless women, it's nice to finally put a name with the story.  And what a name it is!  Downright notorious!  The name Delilah conjures up all kinds of "bad girl" images in our minds because of her role in the book of Judges and her "relationship" with Samson.  She has been vilified over the centuries, but I like the way Liz Curtis Higgs examines her.

If you haven't read the book of Judges before (or recently), let me fill you in: it's brutal!!  This chapter, "The First Cut is the Deepest", takes a different look at the story of Samson & Delilah.  In the Bible, we know a lot about Samson, and he's not a real likable guy, in my opinion.  But God is with him, and no matter how many times he stumbles and struggles with weakness and temptation, he always calls on God for help and relies on God for forgiveness and strength.  Delilah, on the other hand...

Ms. Higgs approaches this tragic story from such a different angle, it really made me think.  She turns the narrative from Samson to Delilah.  And even if we just can't grasp how she may have felt, the fictional story of Lila, the hair stylist to Judge Sam Nazar, gives us one possibility.  Through Lila's story we start to have some sympathy for her and Delilah, strange as that may seem.  The Bible tells us very little about who Delilah was, her circumstances, or her relationship with Samson.  He was in love with her, but there's nothing to indicate it was mutual.  Our chapter is filled with questions, conjecture and inference, but oh how interesting!  And feeling a touch of sympathy for Lila/Delilah does not take away her "bad girl" status.

I hope you enjoy this inventive look at the infamous story of Samson and Delilah.  In the end, Ms. Higgs brings it all full circle to reveal why Delilah is "A Truly Bad Girl".  Take a look at the section, "What Lessons Can We Learn from Delilah?" for some final thoughts on why this story is important for us to read.  Many scholars think modern times are very similar to those found in the book of Judges, so perhaps there is more to learn from Samson and Delilah than we at first thought.

Think in ink and share your thoughts with us in the Comments.  I can't wait to read what you've learned from this truly bad girl of the Bible!

Your Partner in Ministry,


"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Thinking about The Woman at the Well

"Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, 'Please give me a drink.'  The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans.  She said to Jesus, 'You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman.  Why are you asking me for a drink?' " John 4:7, 9

Wow!  Can you picture this scene?  Let me fill in a few details: it's high noon, the hottest part of the day when most people are taking a siesta or meeting for lunch in town, inside, which is where Jesus' disciples are!  Meaning, Jesus is alone with this woman.  Which begs the question: why are these two down at the well?!

Scholars have speculated and tried their best to give reasons why.  There are chapters & books & studies & lectures on all the possibilities!  But why do you think this encounter is written out for us?  And why, if it's so important, does this woman not have a name?  We have speculated before as to why some people are nameless in the Bible.  This story gives rise to a possibility we haven't yet mentioned.  This new possibility came to me as I woke this morning, but I don't want to share it just yet.  Think in ink and then share your ideas in the comment section.  I can't wait to read your thoughts on this!!  I'll share mine after our discussion on Friday morning.

I once had a pastor that introduced me to the word "God-incidence".  He said there is no such thing as 'coincidence', that when things come together it's for a very specific reason.  Do you think this story is coincidence or God-incidence?  Ms. Higgs points out 3 passages that may help us answer that question.  Read Job 31:4, Proverbs 16:9 and Jeremiah 19:23 and journal how these verses might comfort or encourage you.  Can you recall a time of God-incidence in your life?  If not, keep your heart and mind open to the possibility in the future.  I truly believe that it has happened to you, though you may not have recognized it.

Finally, we have to ask ourselves what this story has to do with life today?  What does this mean for me & you?  We may not share her exact sins, but we do share her thirst for fulfillment.  Have you seen a commercial?  Or looked at a print ad?  It seems every car company, gadget maker, jewelry store, restaurant, and diet plan has the answers we need to live a fabulously fulfilling life!  But as Christians we know, deep in our hearts, that filling our Pandora bracelet isn't the same as filling our heart.
In the companion study guide book, Ms. Higgs suggests re-reading John 4: 11-15, pointing out that the woman at the well was thirstier than she realized, and asks, "what are you thirsty for, spiritually?".  What a great question, followed up with "what have you been reaching for (work, hobby, materialism, busyness) instead of the living water Christ offers?
Oh, ouch!  That's where it hits home for me!  Looking everywhere but to Christ, for my self-worth, direction, affirmation, and fulfillment.  As a mother and wife, I also see it and try to head it off at the pass, for my husband and children.  If we aren't immune to the pressure of advertising and lure of shiny promises, how much more are our children drawn into this false sense of worth.

This simple story of a "chance" (not really) meeting at the town well is filled with hope and promise!  This woman at the well sets an example of how we should quench our spiritual thirst (don't be afraid to ask questions and seek answers from the Lord).  And what we should do afterwards.  Despite what the townspeople think of her, she does not hesitate to run to tell them about her meeting the Messiah and the Living Water he has to offer!  How will you be like the woman at the well in your life?

I am so excited to discuss this story with you!  Click here to start an on-line discussion in the comment section!

Your Partner in Ministry,


"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24

Monday, February 2, 2015

Bad Girls of the Bible: The Woman at the Well

Jesus replied, "If you only knew the gift God has for you and who I am, you would ask me, and I would give you living water."  John 4:10 NLT

Have you ever been so thirsty that every pore seemed to scream for water?  I'm not talking hot from laying on the beach, but a thirst so overwhelming that only complete submersion while drinking, will squelch it.  

It's a terrible feeling, being so thirsty.  It makes me wonder how I got that way!  Did I really forget to drink all day long?  The simple & obvious answer is 'yes'.  On days like that, I'm focused on getting something done, preoccupied with a project, or running from one thing to another.  Neglecting my daily need for food & water catches up with me in a very strong way around dinner time!

As we read the story about the Woman at the Well and Crystal, the waitress in the bar, we see two women who have neglected their daily spiritual needs.  And in the course of their stories, Jesus catches up with them in a very real way.  We know (because Jesus tells us) just how these women have come to be "bad girls"; they were neglecting themselves, turning to other means to fill a void that only Jesus can fill.

Oh how I can relate to that!  Am I alone or have you felt that way, too?  Turning to worldly things and seeking our worth from other people to fulfill the longing in our heart is how we can suddenly find ourselves spiritually "thirsty".  Being busy with the day to day, running from one activity to another, completing one project after another, being a care giver, supporter, and general "jo friday" or "jackie of all trades" can leave us tired, depleted, and empty.

It can, but it doesn't have to!  As Crystal and the Woman at the Well learned, when we seek the living water that Jesus has to offer, we will thirst no more.  Filling the well of our soul with the living Water, the Word, frees us to be the women God created us to be.  "Jesus replied, 'People soon become thirsty again after drinking this water.  But the water I give them takes away thirst altogether.  It becomes a perpetual spring within them giving them eternal life.'"   John 4: 13-14

As you read this chapter, look for yourself in the story.  With whom do you identify and why?  Turn to the Study Guide questions at the back of the book, taking the time to answer the questions in your journal.  Think in ink!  

I would love to know the most important lesson you learned from another nameless woman, The Woman at the Well!  If you are reading this in your e-mail, click here to go to the blog and leave a comment.

For some inspiration and entertainment, click  here to listen to Casting Crowns, "The Well".  Thanks Lisa!!!!

Your Partner in Ministry,


"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24