Thursday, March 26, 2015

Thinking About the Sinful Woman

"Then Jesus said to the woman, 'Your sins are forgiven.'  The men at the table said among themselves, 'Who does this man think he is going around forgiving sins?'  And Jesus said to the woman, 'Your faith has saved you; go in peace.'"  Luke 7:48-50

Oh, how she must have felt hearing those words spoken by the Lord!  A rush of gratitude unmeasurable by words!  Her heart must have nearly burst with joy & love; after all, she was already so overwhelmed with emotion that she was able to wash his feet with her tears!

As we ponder the last "bad girl" in the book, let the scene in the verses above fully form in your mind.  Do you hear the not-so-quiet murmurings of the men as her weeping subsides?  Can you see them pointing and rolling their eyes?  Breath in the scent of your favorite perfume as it fills the room, covering the man-smell and the half eaten meal as it lingers on your tongue.  I like to imagine that, as Jesus told the parable of the two men who owed money, Simon and his guests grew silent in anticipation, expecting Jesus to reprimand this sinful woman.  A look of indignation crosses Simon's face as Jesus points out his utter lack of common courtesies compared to this woman's total devotion.  And then - a rumble of commotion as Jesus forgives her sins and pronounces that her faith has saved her, bidding her go in peace.  
Note: the NLT Study Bible says that "the Pharisees believed that only God could forgive sins.  They did not grasp the fact that Jesus was indeed God."  Simon was a Pharisee, and I'd imagine so were several of the guests, though it doesn't say that explicitly.  I surmised that from verse 36, "When the Pharisee who was the host...", implying that there was more than one Pharisee in attendance.

Now, who knows how it all actually unfolded; perhaps there were people in the crowd who were changed by what they witnessed.  I'd like to think that there were.  As a reader of the story, we can count ourselves as one of the crowd - a witness to this sinful woman's actions of faith & worship.  And of Jesus' mercy, kindness, and forgiveness.  How will what happened here change you?  How does it effect your life as you move forward along the path God has laid out for you?  

Think in ink as you read the Study Guide questions in the back of the book.  These are some great questions to really sink your teeth into.  Ms. Higgs asks us to dig deep, guiding us to Scripture for support and answers.  For those who will be meeting on Friday morning, we are going to discuss each of these questions.  That's how much I like them!  If you're doing the study with us entirely through the blog, be sure to spend time on each of the questions, reading the verses and putting pen to paper to explore your thoughts.  Anyone can read the Bible and skim the questions, but when we consume the word of the Lord, it changes us.

I can't wait to read what you think about The Sinful Woman!  Click here to go to the blog to share your comments, revelations, and reactions.  What is the most important lesson you learned from this forgiven "bad girl".

Your Partner in Ministry,


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

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Bad Girls of the Bible: The Sinful Woman

"A certain immoral woman heard he was there and brought a beautiful jar filled with expensive perfume.  Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping.  Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair.  Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them."  Luke 7:37-38 (NLT)

Welcome to the discussion of our final "Bad Girl", the sinful woman.  You can read her entire story in Luke 7, verses 36 through 50.  It is a short, but powerful story.  Read it slowly, picturing the dinner party, the guests, this woman (an unwelcome party crasher) as she makes her way towards Jesus through the crowd.  Can you hear the murmurs over her weeping, smell the food mixed with the heady aroma of the expensive perfume as she pours it over his feet?  Where is Jesus looking when he speaks, what do you imagine is his tone of voice, the expression on his face?  The words in black & white & red (if you have a red-letter edition) are flat on the page.  But when we use our senses to bring to life this scene of faith, love, worship, and forgiveness we can better grasp the importance of these few verses.

Liz Curtis Higgs does a thorough job of focusing our attention on several important points and helps us draw the scene more completely with details of social customs of the time.  This adds to our understanding of the boldness of this woman seeking forgiveness and how upsetting Jesus was to the "establishment" of the day.  I can only imagine how long people talked about that dinner party "fiasco"!  Simon was probably hoping it would blow over with the next big headline, but here we are, still talking about it more than 2 thousand years later!  

As I read, I was struck with the correlation our author makes in how this woman worshipped Jesus and how we should worship Him.  On page 231 she says, "she shattered the mold of how worship was to be done - passionately, personally, and with humble abandon."  She goes on to say, "Worship is about rekindling an ashen heart into a blazing fire.... Seek him openly.  Abandon self humbly. Worship him completely.  Embrace his forgiveness joyfully."  (pg. 233).  Can you picture a life lived in worshipping God like that!  And while we wouldn't all take the same actions of worshipping, we would all have the same shining spirit!

The fictional story of Anita helps us imagine what this scene would look like if it had taken place today.  A woman on death row being pardoned!!  What was her crime?  Why would she be pardoned?  We don't know and it really doesn't matter.  Because in both the fictional and Biblical stories, it's not the details of sin that are important - it's the heart and actions of the sinner that tell the story.

What is it about these stories (Anita's and the sinful woman's) that struck home for you?  Who can you identify with: Simon, his guests, the sinful woman?  If we're honest, we've probably been all those people at one time or another.  How can we be changed and live the life we were created for after reading this story?

I cannot wait to read your thoughts on our final "Bad Girl"!  Click here to be taken to the blog so you can leave your perspective in the 'Comments' section.

Your Partner in Ministry,


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


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Thinking about Michal

"But as the Ark of the Lord's covenant entered the City of David, Michal, the daughter of Saul, looked down from her window.  When she saw King David dancing and leaping for joy, she was filled with contempt for him."  1 Chronicles 15:29

Michal is the epitome of a tragic figure.  In the previous post, I quoted 1 Samuel 18, where we're told she falls in love with David.  Now, we see she is filled with contempt for him.  The more her story sits in my heart, the more I think, "this poor woman".  It's not difficult to imagine a woman like her in our midst.  A woman in love with a man who, maybe, didn't love her back; raised in a home with a jealous & vindictive father; neglected by her husband; used by her father.  I wonder, did she have any friends?  Where was her mother in all of this?  Were the women in her life absent or did she push them away?

There are so many avenues to explore in this story!  But, for the purposes of this study, we'll stick to a few that will, hopefully, help us in our understanding and faith journey.

1: Having a heart for God.  Clearly David had a heart for God (Acts 13:22), but Michal obviously came into the marriage on the fence when it came to her faith.  1 Samuel 19:13 says she put an idol in the bed and covered it up to look like David!  Having a life-sized idol in one's home may point to the fact that you're not wholly in the camp of the Lord Almighty!

2: Choosing the right path isn't always easy or obvious.  In 1 Samuel 19, starting at verse 11 we find Michal in a very sticky situation.  Her father is trying to kill her new husband!  In the heat of the moment, fearing for her life, she makes a few decisions that impact the rest of her life.  And she makes these decisions based on God's laws.  She is caught between a rock (her father) and a hard place (her husband).  Should she "honor your father and mother, as the Lord your God commanded you." (Deuteronomy 5:16) or should she leave her father and mother and join with her husband, "and the two are united into one." as it's written in Genesis 2:24?  For me, her downfall was in the embellishment.  Just like Eve's embellishment to the Serpent, "God says we must not eat it or even touch it, or we will die." (Genesis 3:3), Michal's claim that David was going to kill her if she didn't help him, was crossing the line.

3. Jealousy leads to bitterness.  Even though I can understand why Michal was jealous, the lesson for me personally is that jealousy, left unchecked, leads to bitterness.  And bitterness is like an invading vine in the garden.  It takes over everything!  It takes root in the pit of our stomach and grows, wrapping itself around our hearts and minds, taking control of our tongues, obscuring our vision, and clogging our ears.

So, what does all this mean for you & me?  Think in ink as you consider the points above.  Read and answer the Study Guide questions in the back of the book.  How do you have a heart for God?  How can you make the right decision, even in sticky situations?  When your loyalty is divided, what can you do?  How can you combat jealousy and bitterness?  Is there someone or some situation that stirs up jealousy in you?  How should you handle it?  How can you help others when you see the green-eyed monster reflected in their eyes?

Finally, consider once more the contrast between Jonathan and Michal.  What is the difference between their decisions?  How do their decisions effect their lives?  How does that inform our personal faith?  And does it help us help others?

I look forward to reading your reactions, comments, and questions!  Click here to post them on the blog if you are reading this in your e-mail.

Your Partner in Ministry,


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

Monday, March 16, 2015

Bad Girls of the Bible: Michal

"In the meantime, Saul's daughter Michal had fallen in love with David, and Saul was delighted when he heard about it.  "Here's another chance to see him killed by the Philistines!" Saul said to himself.  But to David he said, "I have a way for you to become my son-in-law after all!"  28.When the king realized how much the Lord was with David and how much Michal loved him, he became even more afraid of him, and he remained David's enemy for the rest of his life."  1 Samuel 18:20-21, 28-29

This is one of those situations where I think, "poor Michal" (MEE-kal)!  She was in love with the most amazing guy on the planet!!  By all accounts, David would be the near-perfect man even in today's society!  He was smart, good-looking, humble, kind, trustworthy, popular, strong, courageous, he could fight, dance, write, & sing!   And he was a man after God's own heart!  (Acts 13:22)  Could a woman ask for anything more in a husband?!  He was the "Complete Package"!

But, that's where the fairy tale ends.  As we read Michal's story, we can try to guess why, in one breath she saved David's life while slandering him in a lie she told her father.  That's so twisted, I don't even know where to begin!  Once again, Michal's story is scattered and incomplete; she is a character in David's story, so we don't get her point of view, her thoughts, or her feelings.  What we can do is make a "best guess" based on her actions and reactions.   Usually I like to read a character's story for myself directly from my Bible, but Michal is only mentioned here & there from 1 Samuel 14  through 2 Samuel 6 and again (an important) mention of her in 1 Chronicles 15:29.  It's always a good idea to read the whole story, but in this chapter, I think reading the author's excerpts and then reading the Study Guide questions found in the back of the book, will serve you just as well.

One way to further explore Michal's situation and choices is to compare and contrast her to her brother Jonathan.  This is where reading the whole story comes in handy.  He and David were best friends; they loved each other (note that there is no mention of David loving Michal).  Jonathan was put in nearly the same situation as Michal, yet he made very different choices.

Think in ink as you look at this pair of siblings and their relationship with David.  What is the difference in their responses?  Why do you think that is?  While we may be tempted to say that Michal was stuck between a rock and a hard place because she was a woman, remember other women have made better choices in similar situations.  How could she have done things differently?

What did you think about the fictional story of Michele, Dave, & Phil?  Our author has made updating & fictionalizing our Bible stories look easy, but this one seemed to be a bit of a challenge.  I didn't quite see how the characters really matched Michal, David, and Paltiel, though in the end, the results were the same.  And maybe that's a good lesson in and of itself.  Our lives don't often parallel those in the Bible, but we can still look to them for guidance.  We may not face exactly the same situations, but we do have the same choices.  We can choose, at any point, to have a heart for God.  I really like what Ms. Higgs says at the end of the section, "What Lessons Can We Learn from Michal?":  "Bad Girls blame their situations.  Good Girls rise above them." (pg. 213)

I look forward to sharing and exploring this story with you.  Click here to leave comments, questions, thoughts & reactions 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

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Thinking about Jezebel

"Are you the king of Israel or not?" Jezebel asked.  "Get up and eat and don't worry about it.  I'll get you Naboth's vineyard!"  1 Kings 21: 7

Thinking about Jezebel over the past few days and looking closely at her behavior, I'm beginning to think that we have more in common than I'd care to admit!  Not to the same degree, by any stretch, but have I rolled my eyes at my husband's wishy-washiness and been frustrated beyond all composure by his inability to make a decision?  YES!  Oh my, yes!  Over and over again, until I threaten to take matters into my own hands.  I really feel I have the patience of Job when it comes to him (he took 7 years to research and purchase a watch!), but when the decision involves me, I'm not willing to wait that long!

Without considering her evil ways, what words would you use to describe Jezebel?  Look at her words & actions in 1 Kings 19: 1-2; 21: 7-8, and 21:15.  Can you relate to her at all, even in a very scaled back scenario?  Does she have any redeeming qualities and how could they have been used for good rather than evil?

Jezebel, and Jasmine in the fictional story, were women born into their situations.  They were raised in families that don't believe in God, but they married men who did.  If you were to rewrite this story with Jezebel & Jasmine as heroines, how would you write their happy endings?  For inspiration, read what Scripture says about how we can live in God's grace and how we are to interact with any "Jezebel's" that may cross our path.  Ms. Higgs points us to the following verses:
1 Peter 3:10-11
Romans 12:16
1 Corinthians 13: 4-5
Look to 1 Corinthians 16:13 to discover how we can be strong women and remain very much a Christian (not a Jezebel).

I look forward to reading your thoughts on this "bad to the bone girl", Jezebel!  Click here to go to the website and leave your Comments!

Your Partner in Ministry,


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

Monday, March 9, 2015

Bad Girls of the Bible: Jezebel

"But Ahab did what was evil in the Lord's sight, even more than any of the kings before him.  And as though it were not enough to live like Jeroboam, he married Jezebel, the daughter of King Ethbaal of the Sidonians, and he began to worship Baal."  1Kings 16:30-31

Jezebel!  Now there's a name that conjures up some not-so-nice thoughts.  This is the first time I've really read this story with a focus on Jezebel.  I had heard the term 'she's a Jezebel', but not in reference to women who behaved like Ahab's wife.  I always thought a Jezebel was more like a 'Potiphar's wife' - someone who threw herself at men and tried to manipulate them for personal pleasure.  Jezebel, and her fictitious counterpart Jasmine, are strong women with a manipulative leadership style and an unquenchable thirst for power.

Jasmine's story, set in modern-day New Orleans, is a colorful re-imagined tale of how Jezebel may have acted had she lived today.  As you read the story, did it remind you of anyone, man or woman?  Our author points out, we don't like anyone who acts like this, regardless of their gender!  You may not know someone who's willing to murder to get what they want, but do you know someone who treats their spouse like she treats Abe?  Does this character bring to mind a person who leads others astray, forcing or enticing them down a dark and forbidding path?  A leader who leads by fear & threat?  We have probably had a few people like this cross our paths.

In the Bible, Jezebel's story is spread out from 1 Kings 16:31 to 2 Kings 9:37.  If you want the full story of what was going on and all the players I encourage you to read it; it's quite interesting.  However, be prepared with a score sheet to follow all the Kings & leaders & battles & prophets.  And I challenge you not to gasp and squirm at the behavior of these people!  All the while, cheering for the prophets of the Lord, the miracles they perform and the prophesies they proclaim.  There's even a few verses, at least in the New Living Testament, where I chuckled at the sarcasm!  But, if you want to only read about Jezebel, start with the verses that open this post, then jump to 1 Kings 18:7 - 19:2.  Chapter 21 is the story of Naboth's Vineyard, the one Ms. Higgs parallels in the fictional story of Jasmine and Abe.  The next few chapters are filled with battles, kings dying and rising to power, and tales of God's prophets, Elijah and Elisha.  A good read to gain an understanding of what's going on in the Northern and Southern Kingdoms and a realization that Jezebel is still alive throughout all of it, manipulating & influencing her husband & sons!  Finally, in 2 Kings 9:30-37, we read of the destruction of Jezebel.  She didn't just die - she was obliterated!

I encourage you to take the time to read Jezebel's story for yourself.  As in past chapters, it's given piece-meal throughout and I found it difficult to put it all together.  I like to read things for myself and hope you will, too.

Now that you have - what do you think of her?  I don't doubt her evil ways and that her influence reached far and wide.  However, I am not convinced she alone corrupted King Ahab.  It says that "he did what was evil in the Lord's sight..." even before Jezebel appeared in his castle.  Ahab repents, for a little while, and she continues to worship Baal and order the death of prophets; in the end they both meet a terrible death, though hers is both gory and insulting.

That being said, it all comes down to this question: what does this story mean for us?
What does Jezebel's actions and the consequences mean for you and me?  Does it impact how we live our lives in 21st Century America?  How and Why?  Can we identify with even a small aspect of this woman's character and what does the Bible suggest we do about it?  As Christians, how can we influence others to not be a 'Jezebel'?  "What Lessons Can We Learn from Jezebel?", at the end of the chapter, covers some good points on this "Bad to the Bone" woman.

Grab your journal or write in the margins of your book as you think in ink on these questions.  Share your thoughts in the Comments (click on the highlighted word) section of the blog.  I can't wait to read them!

Your Partner in Ministry,


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

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Thinking about Rahab

"I accept your terms," she replied.  And she sent them on their way, leaving the scarlet rope hanging from the window."  Joshua 2:21

I sit here writing on another snowy day in what seems to be a never-ending winter, with this picture of hope in my head.  Isn't it beautiful!  With the danger that came before and knowing the destruction that was on it's way, this red ribbon tied to the window is like a flower pushing through the snow with it's promise of spring.  A burst of color in a bleak world!

Rahab is a woman of intelligence, independence, courage, strength, faith, selflessness, and obedience.  It's no wonder she has been held up since the times of the early church as an example of faith, forgiveness, obedience, and grace.

I suppose some people might say that she was just telling these spies what they wanted to hear to save her own, pretty little neck.  But, Joshua 2: 8-13 shows us that she was acting on faith, not out of self-preservation.  And Romans 10:10 explains it further.  (Bad Girls of the Bible Workbook, pg 90).  Here is a woman, going against everything she was raised to believe, because she had heard of the works of the God of the Hebrews!  Simply hearing about God changed her heart.  When she had the opportunity to act on her belief, she acted boldly.  She saved not only herself, but the spies and her family as well.

Rahab displayed obedience, even though she was an independent woman.  That's one thing I struggle with, I have to admit.  It's difficult for me to incorporate independence with obedience.  They seem to be opposites.  I can think it through and give examples of when to be independent and when to be obedient, but they are rarely combined.  It is one attribute of Rahab's that I hope to one day claim as my own: to be independent, yet boldly obedient to God.

Rahab, a prostitute and a pagan, became the great-great grandmother of King David! (Matthew 1:1,5)  And we know who came from King David's line!  How did that happen?!  Read James 2:25 to find out!  She left her old life in the ruins of Jericho and never looked back.  She didn't let her past define or limit her future as a child of God.  She made it look easy, but we all know it's not.  What is holding you back from boldly walking in God's grace?

Now that Rahab's story has been with you for a few days and you've given some thought to the bravery, faith, and actions of this heroine of the Bible, how will she inspire you?
Who will you save; how will you act boldly on your faith; how will you be obedient to God; what will you leave behind?  I know, that's a lot of questions!  But I'd like for you to think in ink on these and any other questions or points that come to you.  Because it's great fun to read adventurous stories of courageous people, but if they don't somehow inspire you, than it's simply entertainment.  And while the Bible has plenty of entertainment value, that's not it's purpose.
The people in the Bible are like us for a reason.  They are flawed, their faith ebbs and flows, they have checkered pasts, and even doubt & question God!  Sound familiar?
The people in the Bible are like us, so that we can identify with them and realize that just as God loved them, He loves us.  Just as He forgave them, He forgives us.

I hope that Rahab has inspired you to live fully in grace and act boldly in faith!

Your Partner in Ministry,


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

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Bad Girls of the Bible: Rahab

"Rahab, who had hidden the two men, replied, "The men were here earlier, but I didn't know where they were from.  They left the city at dusk, as the city gates were about to close, and I don't know where they went.  If you hurry, you can probably catch up with them." (But she had taken them up to the roof and hidden them beneath piles of flax.)"  Joshua 2: 4-6

This woman is one of my favorite people in the Bible!  What a treat to be discussing her with you.  I have read her story several times and yet, Liz Curtis Higgs still manages to bring to light a few new points.

For her complete story, open your Bible to Joshua and read chapter 2, then jump to chapter 6 where her story continues in verses 17 and 22-25.  You are welcome to read everything from chapter 2 through 6 if you want to read about Joshua and the entire battle of Jericho.  It's an interesting story, unlike any battle that has ever taken place, before or since.  I thought Ms. Higgs parallel fictional story of Rae and the seismologists was creative - just the kind of doomsday situation we might see in a movie: spies, an unlikely heroine, government conspiracy, and the impending destruction of an entire US city!   These ancient stories never get old!

So, in the middle of this amazing, action packed story we have a prostitute who harbors spies and lies to her government about it.  Her people would have added 'traitor' to her title of prostitute, but the Israelites call her a Heroine; she is held up as an example of God's grace and love centuries later, and was an ancestress of the royal line of David!  WOW!!!

One of the things I find absolutely fascinating comes about because of how we are studying these "bad girls" back to back.  Ms. Higgs points it out throughout the reading and I want to address it here.  I'd love to read your reaction to the following thoughts:

*Rahab, faced with a similar, yet more dangerous situation as Delilah chose to do the exact opposite!  Rahab was approached by her government and asked to turn over spies they knew had visited her establishment.  Despite the fact that she didn't know these men personally and knew they were here to spy on her people, she hid them from her government at great peril to her own life!

*Rahab lied!!  Just last week Sapphira lied and paid the ultimate price - she died!  Talk about confusing: in one situation lying is okay and in another it's a death sentence.  Clearly, sometimes it's okay to tell a lie.

*Rahab left everything behind and started a new life with the Israelites.  Unlike Lot's wife, Rahab didn't concern herself with saving her favorite dress or her most prized possession.  She wanted to save her family and struck a bargain that put her life at risk.  Her 'things' had no place in her new life!

One woman (an outcast in every sense of the word & single) puts to shame 3 other "bad girls".  Over the course of a few days, she faces danger, invites strangers into her home, rescues her entire family (something Lot couldn't do, by the way), and leaves all her earthly possessions in the rubble of her city.  If I had to choose just one word to describe her, it would be COURAGEOUS.

The section "What Lessons Can We Learn from Rahab?" addresses 4 points.  Do you have any to add?

What is the most important lesson you learned from Rahab?  In one fell swoop, she shows us that these other "bad girls" could have made different choices and lived to tell a very different tale.  What does that mean for us?  

One of the most important ideas I take away from this story is found in James 2: 25-26, "Rahab the prostitute is another example of this.  She was made right with God by her actions - when she hid those messengers and sent them safely away by a different road.  Just as the body is dead without a spirit, so also faith is dead without good deeds."  (NLT)

How will you be inspired by Rahab?  Click here to see how one woman is saving women & girls from human trafficking in India in Rahab's name through the charity Rahab's Rope!!

Go to the blog to leave your Comments!  I can't wait to read them!

Your Partner in Ministry,


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