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Week Ten - El Olam: The Everlasting God

Becky Thompson

Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba and called there on the name of the LORD, the Everlasting God (El Olam). Genesis 21:33 ESV I thought I would start by plugging the scripture in right there at the top, because honestly, while this is cool, and this is the first time we see “El Olam” in the scriptures, Abraham and his gardening skills aren’t going to be the topic of conversation today. I found myself going round and round trying to figure out how to share with you how very special and incomprehensible this characteristic of God is, but it’s just that… incomprehensible. As I studied the scripture and commentaries on this portion of scripture, I was really confused. I didn’t understand why it’s so important that Abraham and Abimelech made a treaty. I didn’t understand the importance of Abraham planting a tree and calling out to God. A quick note: a tamarisk tree is an evergreen and long-living tree, how fitting to use a tamarisk tree as a symbol of permanence! If you missed that, head back to Genesis 21:22 and read until verse 34. If you’ve spent some time in Genesis or studying the life of Abraham, and if you’re like me, you might be thinking…“wait a second… isn’t Abimelech the guy that Abraham gave his wife to?” Here’s a very quick recap. Abraham was afraid that Abimelech and the men with him would kill him and take his wife Sarah to be Abimelech’s wife. Abraham’s clever ideas was to tell them Sarah was his sister (technically true and um… awkward, see Genesis 20:12). Instead of waiting to see what would happen or pick up and leave, Abraham misled them, and Abimelech, the King of Gerar, took Sarah as his wife. It’s a doozy of a story, check it out by reading Genesis 20. It’s only 18 verses… so you got this! Um, I have no words, except that THIS IS NOT THE FIRST TIME HE DID THIS! See Gen 12:10-20. By the way, these are the same folks they were just known back then as Abram and Sarai. Ladies, I really struggle to get over this. I think this is the hang-up I have with the whole treaty thing. What’s the significance of these two men having a treaty here, what’s the significance of the tamarisk tree? Why does Abraham choose this time and place to worship God and call him “El Olam”? To answer these, we have to understand some of the context and what has been going on. Let’s take a look backward. Abraham had so much going for him, yet there are a number of questionable decisions he makes or agrees to. Here’s two: • He gives his wife to Pharaoh in Genesis 12. • He lets Sarah convince him to take God’s promise of “being a father of many nations” (Genesis 15:4-5) into his own hands (FYI, he takes Sarah’s servant, Hagar, and gets her pregnant. Again…no words). So, when I read that Abraham cuts a treaty with the king that he previously gave his wife to and plants a tree to remember this place and moment and calls upon the name of El Olam, the only conclusion I can draw is that we have a God who keeps His promises and His mercy endures. No matter how much we may mess up. Abraham is flawed and God never leaves him. Friends, we are flawed, and God never leaves us. This feels like a breath of fresh air! Let’s keep going. We know from study over previous weeks the term “El” is Hebrew for God. “Olam”, also Hebrew, doesn’t exactly translate to English. The best we can do is describe it as “everlasting.” While “olam” translated as “everlasting” is mentioned 400 times in the Bible, the name “El Olam” is only used four times. God is Everlasting. God exists for eternity, forever, and is change-less. God will never change. Let me say that again…God will never change. We can count on that. Today, things around us are changing, almost constantly. Things are out of our control and we are at the whims and mercy of those wielding the power or decision making. Gas prices are changing, the seasons change, finances change, circumstances and relationships change. Even my kids school schedule changes almost weekly! It’s a phenomenon I can’t get over. I don’t think I’ll ever crush my schedule in any given week when my kids have random days off in the middle of the week, or extra-extra early releases! In Revelation 1:8, God reveals himself to us as “the Alpha and Omega”. A reference to the Greek alphabet, alpha is the first letter, and omega is the last letter. He’s the beginning and the end of all time. He is the God of now and the God of the future. He is God, who always was, always is, and always will be. Contrast to us, we are finite. We have a beginning and an end. We were born with physical bodies and we will pass away from this earth. In my humanity, I can relate to Abraham. I need something stable and something that endures. There is enough change and crazy happening here and I’ve made my fair share of not-so-wise decisions, just like Abraham. But this isn’t about Abraham. It’s certainly not about me (or you either!). It’s about El Olam, our Everlasting God, who deserves to have evergreens planted as symbols of His character and for us to call on His name and worship Him. Abraham isn’t the only one to describe God as everlasting. Let’s see how others in scripture have described or worshipped Him. King David calls out to El Olam: “from eternity to eternity, you are God” (Psalm 90:2) and sings out, the “LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and His truth endureth to all generations.” (Psalm 100:5) God reveals His unchanging nature through a message he gave to Malachi, “I, the Lord, have not changed.” (Malachi 3:6) The author of Hebrews affirms, “God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8) Take a moment and head back to Genesis 21 and read verse 22-34. These two men had not-so-insignificant issue last chapter and through their resolution they gave each other things (animals, silver and prayers), and here they are again, another issue, resolving it with the exchange of animals again, but this time there’s an addition of seven ewe lambs. Let’s break this down. Abimelech asks Abraham…“what’s the meaning of the seven ewe lambs?”. Abraham explains it’s the legal proof that he dug this well. Side note: digging a well was one of the first and main ways one could establish ownership of a property during these times. Also, water was extremely scarce and valuable in Palestine back then and still to this day. Part of the conflict we hear coming out of the region of Israel and Palestine now has to do with water and the rights to it. Back to the scripture. So they make an oath, a swearing if you will. According to Ellicott’s Commentary, “the word in Hebrew for “swearing” is a passive verb, literally signifying “to be sevened,” that is, done or confirmed by seven. In this ancient narrative we see a covenant actually thus made binding. Seven ewe lambs are picked out and placed by themselves, and by accepting these Abimelech bound himself to acknowledge and respect Abraham’s title to the well.” So, all is well, (no pun intended) and Abraham plants a tree and the place is called Beer Sheba. Any guesses on what Beer Sheba stands for? If you guessed “seven wells” or “oath of wells” you would be correct! Wells can translate to “beer” for us today, or “ba’ar”. “Sheba” came from “sheva”, that is very similar to “seven”, which we know means swearing or an oath. I could go on and on with the linguistics here. It is fascinating stuff, but a lot crammed into this little paragraph. You can dive deeper into this any time by getting yourself a study bible, books on Hebrew translations or commentaries. Alas, we’re at the end (“alas” stems from the Latin word lassus meaning…I’m kidding, I’m done with the linguistics). But we are at the end. When all of this is said and done, Abraham has been through so much, and there’s definitely more coming for him if you keep reading Genesis. But, he doesn’t miss the opportunity to create a meaningful place to commemorate this enduring oath. He plants a tree as this symbol and he worships his God, his El Olam. The everlasting God who endures, who keeps His promises, who never leaves us, who never changes. Abraham knows this to be the true, the accurate character of God, because he walks with Him, he listens to Him. Abraham’s life hasn’t been perfect and we know there are some things he’s done that leave us scratching our heads, but God doesn’t change. And God doesn’t let the flaws we have get in the way. Our everlasting God deserves our praise and worship. And now that we know this, we can call on Him, by name. So who is El Olam to you? How does knowing God as El Olam impact you, the way you live and the way you worship? If you haven’t known God as El Olam, what steps can you take to learn more about Him? What’s one thing in your life right now that you can or need to call out to El Olam? Let’s Pray: El Olam, you are our Everlasting Father. You deserve all the glory and praise. Your love and promises endure. You endure. You are our refuge and safe place and we know we can count on You and Your unchanging nature, and we know nothing we can do or say will make You turn from us. Help each one of us to continually turn toward You in our times of challenge or stress. Thank You for Your love, mercy, and grace that You give freely to us, each and every day. Amen.

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Week Nine - El Roi: The God Who Sees

Jenniemarie Cisneros

We live in a world where access to connection with others near and far is instantaneous and constant, and yet, people are lonelier than ever. It is so easy to curate a life filled with highlight reels for others looking in to see. But we guard our real lives. To be fair it’s hard to capture fear, despair, waiting for answers, indecisiveness, and all of life’s unanswered questions in a pretty, little square picture box with the perfect caption. We scroll and see how others seem to have it all together and we think, “if only this… or that…” We continue to pray and seek God’s wisdom, but we grow weary and take matters into our hands you know, to help God along. Before we know it, we have isolated ourselves and wonder if anyone sees us. Does God see us? News flash: He Does! In fact, one of the names for God is El Roi which literally means the God who sees me. It is only used once in scripture and it was Hagar, a woman slave, who gave God the name. In Genesis we learn of the story of Abram and Sarai. God made a promise to make a great nation through their many, many offspring to come. The only problem was they were old in age and Sarai was barren. Still full of faith, Abram and Sarai believed until Sarai didn’t. She got tired of waiting and started to question logistically how this would be possible and decided to take matters in her own hands. This is where we are introduced to Hagar. Genesis 16: 1-4a says, “Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her. Abram agreed to what Sarai said. So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar, and she conceived.” Oftentimes when we study this passage, we focus on Sarai being inpatient and the consequences of a lack of faith. Today, I want us to focus on Sarah’s decision, including Abram’s agreement, from Hagar’s point of view. Hagar had zero say in the matter. She was a slave and under the authority of Sarai. She was not seen as a person but as property to do as she was told. Reading this story with Hagar in mind is important to understand not only how she was feeling but what was at stake in the actions she was about to take. Let’s continue reading Genesis16: 4b-6. "When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the LORD judge between you and me. Your slave is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her." Sarai became resentful and jealous of Hagar. She blamed Abraham for doing exactly what she asked causing Hagar to despise her. I mean, if I was Hagar, I wouldn’t be exactly happy about this situation. Sarai began to mistreat Hagar so much so that Hagar ran away. Leaving may seem like the obvious choice to you and me if we were in a situation where we were treated poorly but remember Hagar was a slave. She was pregnant, alone, and had nowhere to go. She felt helpless and unknown. Let’s see how this changes in Genesis 16:7 - 12 "The angel of the LORD found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?” “I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered. Then the angel of the LORD told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” The angel added, “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.” The angel of the LORD also said to her: “You are now pregnant and you will give birth to a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the LORD has heard of your misery. He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.” This is the first time the term Angel of the Lord appears in the Bible. The use of this phrase translates as God himself appearing to Hagar. It’s important to note that God didn’t just appear, he called her by name: Hagar slave of Sarai! Not only did God see her, He knew exactly who she was. He took the time to comfort her and make a promise to increase her descendants for her obedience. Check out Hagar’s response in Genesis 16:13- 16 “She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered. So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael.” This is significant for many reasons. There are many names for God: Abba, Yahweh, Jehovah Shalom, Elohim… to name a few. We learn these names because God reveals Himself with these names and how they are significant in describing a part of His character. El Roi is the only name given to God… and it fascinates me that it was given to Him by a woman, who’s job was to go unnoticed. This story resonates with me on many levels. I had a dysfunctional at best childhood. So much so that at one point I too was a runaway. Surely life on the street would be better than my home life. The jury is still out on that answer. I do know this, I left because I felt helpless and unseen. This feeling became a reoccurring theme in my life from being a young professional woman in the workforce, a stay at mom, the only woman of color in many rooms, a trauma kid who manages anxiety and depression, and well, just a human being trying to be a disciple of Christ. Just recently I broke down in tears, ugly crying because I felt like I was failing at everything: being a wife, mom, sister, friend, employee. The hardest part is feeling alone because I often feel like if I tell anyone I was struggling they would see me differently. It’s an old trauma response: trying to control the narrative of my life. But you know what? God sees me. The real me and I am reminded that I am created in His image on purpose for a purpose. I am not a mistake, and I don’t need to prove my worth to Him. I am worthy simply because I am His. It is who our God is. A God who sees. The same characteristic is demonstrated in Jesus. Jesus saw people, especially women. He went out of His way to have an encounter with the woman at the well, He stood up for the woman caught in adultery, and He called the bleeding woman daughter after she was healed. I’m not sure what your story is but I believe it’s a safe bet you either have experienced a time when you felt unseen or are struggling in this exact moment. When I start to feel this way, I am reminded of Hagar’s story and she once felt so desperate she fled and was found by God who gave her so much hope of all the names she called him El Roi, the God who sees me. Sisters, you too are seen, known, and loved by God. Call out to El Roi, lay your request before Him and allow Him to comfort you, to restore you, to give you peace that transcends all understanding. He sees you and He knows you by name. Before we close our time together today. I want you to grab a notebook and a pen. Look up versus below and write them down. Make it a priority to commit them to memory. Recite them back to yourself any time you need a reminder that God is El Roi. Ephesians 1:4 – 5 Jeremiah 1:5 Psalms 139:14 Let’s Pray: Father God, I pray that every woman reading this feels seen and known by you. May you restore their hope and faith. Provide tangible ways to meet their needs here on Earth. Give them courage to reach out, to show up, be brave and share their needs with others. May be reminded often that you are El Roi, the God who sees.

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Week Eight - Jehova-Jireh: The Lord Will Provide

Erin Stearns

Lord God, Thank you for this opportunity to share the ways you have provided in my life. Please provide the words to me now as you know I am much more comfortable with verbal communication than written. Speak to our hearts Lord and make Yourself known. Thank you for Your Ultimate provision, Jesus Christ. Your Son, who sacrificed Himself so that we may have life in Him. In the Mighty Name of Jesus, Amen. I have come to know God more as Jehovah-Jireh these past few years more than any other name He carries. I trust God to provide my finances, to help me raise my children, to guide my marriage, and to help me get through my struggles while healing my hurts, habits, and hang-ups. Why would I not trust him to guide me as I write about the ways He shows up for me? Jehovah-Jireh, the Lord will provide. Jehovah- Jireh, means that God is watching us very closely, searching for our needs and then providing for us when that need arises. The Lord will provide salvation. John 3:16 (NIV) For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. Salvation is the greatest provision that each one of us needs. God has provided for our eternal salvation by giving the greatest gift He could give—His Son—to die for our sins. Jesus rescued me from the depths of my drug addiction at 20 years old. At that time, my dad was incredibly ill with early onset Alzheimer’s and Dementia. We took up visiting shifts between the hospital, nursing homes and home, and during this Jesus was watching out for me. I was lost in my addiction with only fellow addicts to call friends and in the background, Jesus was calling for me. My mom and sister were doing everything they could to hold our lives together and behind the scenes Jesus was preparing a way for me. He reached in and pulled me out of the pit I was in, and my life was forever changed. Isaiah 25:9 (NIV) In that day they will say, “Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the Lord, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation. The Lord will provide a way back to him. Romans 8:39 (NIV) Neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Throughout the years I slowly drifted away from God, choosing my will over His. There have been plenty of times when I knew God was calling me back, but I was too stubborn to go. The loudest call I’ve had, came after my daughter was born. I was so lonely as a new stay at home mom of two. I felt lost without my career, longing for purpose outside of my children. God saw my loneliness and knew I needed more. A dear friend invited me repeatedly to her mom ‘s group at church, but I was adamant that I just wasn’t a “moms group kind of girl.” I did, however, agree to join her for a Central Women’s movie night. From the moment I stepped in, I could feel the love the leaders had poured into the event and my spirit was suddenly still. I knew I was in the right place. I ended up joining the mom’s group, becoming a table leader, and eventually would be asked to lead the Central Mom’s group at our Mesa Campus. By attending and investing in this mom’s group and returning to church each weekend, I found my way back to Jesus. And guess what, eventually, my husband did too. The Lord will provide a way forward. Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) For I know the plans I have for you, “declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. If you would’ve told me 5 years ago that I would be homeschooling two karate kids, leading a mom’s group, and writing a blog for a Bible study, all while being completely sober, I would’ve scoffed. None of those things have ever been on a list of things I had the desire to do. Before having Jesus back in my life, my plan was to enjoy my career as a medical assistant, maybe even managing a practice someday. I imagined little things like toting my kids back-and-forth to softball and baseball games as they excelled in academics while earning lots of patches for their letterman’s jackets. Boy did God have other plans for my life! However, as I grow closer to Jesus, I realize it’s not about what I have planned, it’s about what He has planned for me. I constantly remind myself to lean in and trust that He has provided everything I need to complete the race he has set out before me. Just as I had my own plans in mind for what God had blessed me with, I am sure Abraham had plans of his own future before God asked him to sacrifice his only son Isaac. Genesis 22:2 (NIV) Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love- Isaac_ and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” Abraham, having built his relationship with God long before, had full faith in Him having proved Himself trustworthy. Abraham obediently packed his supplies along with his son and headed to the mountaintop. Once there, he prepared the altar and was ready with his knife in hand to sacrifice his son. However, because of Abraham’s faith, God came through and provided a ram in the thicket to offer instead. Abraham passed the test, and the nations were blessed for it. Genesis 22:14 (NIV) So, Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.” The Lord will provide a way out. 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV) No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. Although I have a history of drug addiction, I never would’ve called myself an alcoholic. Throughout the years, I have been able to stop drinking on my own accord, such as during my two pregnancies and while having some minor health issues here and there. When the pandemic hit however, I found myself leaning more and more on my glass of wine at night than on the strength of Jesus. I found myself anxiously awaiting that pre-dinner glass of wine and with the days all melting together, I would start earlier and earlier. There was that deep feeling of loneliness again. This feeling was more than just pandemic based. I had fallen away from Jesus and was trying to rely on my own strength again to pull through. When I heard about Celebrate Recovery, a Christ based twelve step program, during a sermon one day, I felt a pull at my heart. Jesus was calling me. A few months later, I was invited by a friend who didn’t want to go alone. I accepted and in turn encouraged my husband to check it out. A few weeks went by, and my husband felt called to join a step study, an answered prayer, and a story for a different day. My husband and I have been on our journey of healing since October 2021. Not just practicing sobriety but diving deeper into our relationship with Jesus. It’s been incredible to see God show up in such a real way! Our marriage is better, our parenting is better, and God has revealed “hurts” that I didn't even realize I was carrying. Thinking back throughout the years, of all the ways God has provided for me and continues to provide for me, is overwhelming at times. He continues to rescue me and make me open my eyes to the things He wishes to reveal to me. I know He will continue to push me towards things that are hard, and I welcome Him with open arms because I know it is His will, not mine, it’s His story of my life, not mine. How is God providing for you?” Jehovah-Jireh, the Lord will provide for you. The future may be unknown, but our God is not. When God brings it all together, it’s not going to be what you think. It’s going to be bigger, better, and more rewarding than you ever expected. How has Jehovah-Jireh shown Himself to you? What area in your life is God using to draw you back to him? What is God calling you to? What is he asking you to sacrifice and release control of so He can put something better in its place? With Jehovah Jireh guiding us we can confidently say yes! Yes, to the things that terrify us. Yes, to the things that are hard. Yes, to the things the world would say no to. Yes, to the things that require effort. Yes, to the things that will inspire growth. Hebrews 4:16 (NIV) Let us then approach God’s throne with grace and confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

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Week Seven - Yahweh: I Am Enough Because He is I am

Megan Hart

Have you ever felt like you were lacking? I mean honestly living from a place of scarcity. There are moments where I just don’t feel like I am bringing enough to the table. I feel like I get overlooked, I just don’t feel like I’m contributing enough to my family, my work, my marriage, or my kids. I’m trying to make sure that everyone else is doing alright. I forget about myself and I’m not able to focus on what really sustains me. In these situations, it is easy to and not feel whole, or not feel like I am enough. If I am honest, these moments happen to me a lot and in my experience, this usually happens when I am furthest from God. When I get in this headspace, I’m reminded (usually by my husband) of one of the names for God, which I find to be one of the most powerful, profound yet simplistic names for God. Yahweh. Name of God - Yahweh – Lord “Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one." (Deuteronomy 6:4) In the original Hebrew language Yahweh is translated as I am. And this is what I want to dive into today. “I am” In Exodus we read: “Then the Lord said to Moses, “I have heard the Israelites’ complaints. Now tell them, ‘In the evening you will have meat to eat, and in the morning, you will have all the bread you want. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.’” That evening vast numbers of quail flew in and covered the camp. And the next morning the area around the camp was wet with dew. When the dew evaporated, a flaky substance as fine as frost blanketed the ground. The Israelites were puzzled when they saw it. “What is it?” they asked each other. They had no idea what it was. And Moses told them, “It is the food the Lord has given you to eat.” ‭‭Exodus‬ ‭16:11-15‬ ‭NLT‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬ Can you imagine being in the desert and having God provide your meals? I mean every morning and every night. This miracle of making sweet bread appearing every morning to the people of Israel, as they are in the wilderness, shows how intimately connected God wants to be with humanity. Since the world is fallen, and God is perfect He’s not able to walk alongside His creation, but He’s able to provide fresh bread in the morning to His people and ensure they are taken care of. He says they will know that I am the Lord your God. We see that Jesus also references Himself as I am multiple times in scripture. Since we know Jesus is the son of God but also connected to God through the Trinity, this is extremely significant, and this directly points to Him being God. Here are a few examples: I am the bread of life “Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty." (John‬ ‭6:35‬ ‭NLT‬‬‬‬‬‬)‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬ When Jesus says, I am the bread of life, He is saying He can satisfy our deepest needs. He genuinely cares for his creation. If He can bring bread to the people of Israel in the middle of nowhere, He can take care of my needs – our needs. I am the light of the world In John 8, verse 12 we read, “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” Immediately before this verse, Jesus pardons the women caught in adultery. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. As He was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd. “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” They were trying to trap Him into saying something they could use against Him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with His finger. They kept demanding an answer, so He stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then He stooped down again and wrote in the dust. When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” (John 8:1-11) With this context we see that in John 8:12 Jesus is essentially speaking to the crowd of on lookers, accusers, and His precious daughter who is being accused. This story in the bible is such a beautiful reminder that God never asked us to be perfect. He is only asking that we follow him. As a mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend, employee, and Christ follower, this is a relief. I am the vine Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:5 NLT) Apart from me you can do nothing. This phrase gives so much peace. Jesus doesn’t expect us to do anything without him. You can let go of the control (I know it’s hard). He never asked us to do this alone, because He never intended us to do any of this without Him. What does it look like to fully accept God as Yahweh? For me this is learning that I must cling to Him when I feel like I’m not enough, I feel like I’m lacking, I’m trying to do life by myself. I need to shift my focus away from myself and onto Yahweh, the I am. When I feel unfulfilled, He is the Bread of Life When I find myself in darkness and don’t see a way out, He is the Light. When I am walking alone and feel like I am coming up short, He is the Vine. I truly know that I am enough because I trust in the I am of Yahweh. Let’s Pray Yahweh, we come before you, broken, depleted, and needing rest. We surrender our shortcomings to you. We ask that you go before us and ease the burdens we face in our everyday lives. We ask that you bring light to the dark situations we face. We ask that you continue to walk beside us every step of the way. Thank you for letting us come just as we are and giving us peace and rest in knowing who you are. Amen.

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Week Six - Jehova Rapha: The God Who Heals

Linh Bashara

Today, I am going to tell you about a great Doctor who healed me. I remember as a little girl, being tied to a coffee table in the living room with a kitchen towel stuffed in my mouth and beaten by the metal buckle end of a belt. I suffered mental and physical abuse my entire childhood at the hands of a close family member. It left me scarred, wounded me physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. I was so broken, in so much pain feeling unloved, unworthy, and hopeless that I tried to end my life at the age of 12. Thank God, it was not my time and I have a testimony to tell you about my encounter with Jehovah Rapha, which is just one of God’s powerful and amazing names. Jehovah, in Hebrew means existing one or Lord. Rapha means to heal, to make complete or to make whole. The two combined together means, the God who heals. God is the Great Physician, and He can heal emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually. He may not bring healing in the way that is expected but will always bring healing in the way that is needed. In the abundance of His great love, Jehovah Rapha will heal in accordance with His good, pleasing, and perfect will and plan. Exodus 15 verse 26 says, “If you listen carefully to the Lord your God and do what is right in His eyes, if you pay attention to His commands and keep all His decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord who heals you”. God revealed Himself to His people that He is the One that will protect them and heal them if they placed their trust in Him and obey. As you can imagine, my childhood abuse affected me profoundly. Most nights, I would have nightmares of this person trying to hurt me. These nightmares continued well into my adulthood where I would jolt up with night sweats. My pain, trauma, and brokenness left me sick inside. I was wounded from my past and I was mentally and emotionally tortured by these nightmares. I knew in the depth of my soul that I needed help and healing. As an adult, I sought doctors and counselors who were only able to help so much. I still felt broken and wounded, suffering from horrible nightmares. For 27 years, these nightmares raged on, and I accepted that they were just a part of me until I had an encounter with the mighty physician, Jehovah Rapha in 2009. A friend invited me to church and I sat in the worship center listening to the pastor speak. The pastor spoke of God’s love, forgiveness, and healing through His Son Jesus Christ. Jehovah Rapha said in Jeremiah 30, verse 17 “I will restore health to your body and heal your wounds”. As I sat there and listened, I knew that I wanted my health restored and my wounds healed. However, I realized that I needed another healing besides mentally and emotionally. I needed spiritual healing from the effects of sin. The pastor went on to say that in Romans 3, verse 23 “we all have sinned and fall short of God’s glorious standards” and in Romans 6:23, “the wages of sin is death”. The sins that I committed, and the ones committed against me left me wounded and broken inside, but it also caused a spiritual sickness that led to death and a separation between God and myself. I did not realize that I was bleeding out from within and needed the mighty physician to heal me! The pastor spoke the good news that Jesus went to the cross to die for the sins of the world and through him, we have forgiveness of sins, healing, eternal life, and a restored relationship to God the Father, if we trust Jesus to be our Lord and Savior. I believed what I heard and with tears pouring down my face, I knew at that very moment that I needed Jesus. When I placed my full trust in Jesus and was baptized, I felt the weight of pain and brokenness lift. I no longer suffered from horrible nightmares. Jehovah Rapha, the God who heals, brought healing to me physically and spiritually. I not only received God’s forgiveness, but He helped me to forgive the family member that hurt me, along with others, and myself. Through Jesus, I have been set free, healed, and made whole and complete. Thank You Jehovah Rapha! Since my surrender to Jesus, Jehovah Rapha has never stopped being the mighty Healer in my life. I’m constantly and continually needing Him to bring healing to me in so many ways. We live in a world that is fallen and full of trouble, but Jesus promises to be with us to the end of time and He helps us through all of life’s troubles. There was time Jehovah Rapha brought healing to me but not in the way I was hoping or expecting. When I was in my early 30s, I had a manic episode where I was saying and doing things that I could not control. I had lost all control of my mental and physical abilities and was living in my own reality which was made up in my head. It was far from the true reality. The police were called, and I was checked into a hospital. It was there that the doctor diagnosed me with bi-polar disorder. I was a new Christian at the time and refused to take my medicine because I believed that God would divinely heal me, and I would not medication. So, I stopped my medicine and had another manic episode that landed me in the hospital for 9 days. It was at the hospital that God made it known to me that He was going to bring healing by way of doctors and medication. So, instead of being wise in my own eyes, I surrendered and submitted to God’s will and plan. I received the healing that I needed and now can function with no more manic episodes. God is so gracious to me. He is the amazing healer, and He can use anyone or anything to bring healing. I am thankful for His gift of the doctor and medicine and today I can function with a sound mind. God’s healing for my bi-polar disorder came in accordance with His good, pleasing, and perfect will. Jehovah Rapha, the God who heals, said in Jeremiah 33, verse 6 “Nevertheless, I will bring health and healing it; I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security”. I was hoping, praying, and expecting a different way of healing and deliverance but, God used the doctors and medicine to make me whole and complete once more. I have been on the same medicine for 13 years now. I can be the woman that God created me to be so that I can continue to do His will and His work in my life. God says that He wants good for me, not to harm me, but to give me hope and a future. Can God do divine healings where medicine is not needed? Absolutely! But that is not how He chose to heal me, and I am grateful that healing can come through numerous ways and still be miraculous. Throughout the years, I have had moments that had left me wholly dependent on Jehovah Rapha and He has remained steadfast and faithful in providing healing physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Jesus said in John 16, verse 33 “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world.” He is the Overcomer and in Him, we are too. Friends, I do not know if you are going through anything currently where you need healing physically or spiritually, but I do know that Jehovah Rapha desires to bring healing to you. Jesus sees you and loves you. He knows you by name and He loves you with an everlasting love. Jesus, Jehovah Rapha, the God who heals, says “Come to me all those who are feeling weary and burdened, and I will give rest.” (Matthew 11:28) He wants us to boldly come before Him and ask because we can and because He says so. Ephesians 3, verse 12 and Hebrews 4, verse 16 God said that through faith in Jesus, we can “boldly come to His throne of grace and receive mercy and find grace in our time of need..." and Matthew 7, verse 7 says to “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be open to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” May you come confidently to Jesus and ask. May Jehovah Rapha bring healing to you in the way that you need, and may you trust Him in the way that He heals. Let us pray. Father God in heaven, You are good and Your love endures forever. Thank You for revealing to us that you are Jehovah Rapha, the God who heals. Thank You, that You demonstrate Your love and power that You can heal physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Thank You, that complete healing is found through Your Son Jesus Christ. I pray for any woman reading, watching, listening, that they will trust You and receive the healing that they need from You. May You receive the glory for all the greatness that You do. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen. https://www.christianity.com/wiki/god/what-does-it-mean-that-god-is-jehovah-rapha.html https://www.compellingtruth.org/Jehovah-Rapha.html https://www.womanofnoblecharacter.com/jehovah-rapha/ https://www.gotquestions.org/Jehovah-Rapha.html

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Week Five - Jehovah Rohi: The Lord Our Shepherd

Debbie Briggs

I want to personally invite you to sit with me and with The Lord our Shepherd. It will be worth it to stop the busyness of your day and find a peaceful chair or spot to absorb the next few minutes with Jehovah Rohi. All of us tend to squeeze in all we can between activities in our lives. Don’t squeeze this in. Let’s take a moment and ask ourselves: “How did I make this hour, this day, this week, this month so complicated? Why can’t life be calmer? Why is it so crazy? Why do I have this rush to do more, go more, and not take time to enjoy the moments?” We order the most important item from Etsy for the birthday party we are hosting, and we find ourselves freaking out that it is not yet at our doorstep, when all along, we knew the delivery date was going to be a tight squeeze. Yes, we seem to squeeze things in. We are the squeeze experts. We are focusing on two portions of Scripture, Psalm 23 and John 10. We will be reminded how to live at a slower pace in our lives by the experts: Old Testament David and New Testament John. David was Israel’s most celebrated king who wrote many of the Psalms in the Old Testament. Although an incredible king, early in his life David was a shepherd who learned how to lovingly care for his sheep. John, the beloved apostle, was one of the original twelve disciples of Jesus who had a big heart and wrote about the shepherd and his flock in John 10. David chose to write a hymn of praise with the imagery of the shepherd and his sheep. Scripture is filled with these parallels. It is no accident. David had the credentials to speak into our hearts on this subject. His “resume” is filled with worthy entries, not only documenting successfully how he reigned as king, but how he cared for his sheep. When David speaks, we listen. And perhaps he is singing, because the Psalms were meant to be sung by individuals, groups, or soldiers on their way to battle. Although David was a highly acclaimed king, his humble beginnings as a shepherd boy taught him how to love and deal with people and life. His emotions pour out as he teaches us to calmly take in the Lord Our Shepherd who wants us to hear his voice. Why would that be? Because we have a shepherd who is watching over us. Take a deep breath, sip your coffee, or look at the blue sky and continue, because we are not meant to squeeze in the reading of the 23rd Psalm and portions of John 10. “The Lord is my shepherd …” (Psalm 23:1) It is no accident that in Scripture there are numerous references to God the Father as our Shepherd and Jesus the Son as our Shepherd. A shepherd is just that, a herder of sheep. Sheep need a lot of help. In fact, think about it, most animals do not need as much attention. Sheep are fearful and stubborn, and needy, they must be guided. They get caught in thistles. They thirst and cannot find water. They need to be led to greener pastures. They need someone to guide them and protect them. They can get themselves into messes without a shepherd. Sheep need a shepherd so that they can be guided to do what is best for them. I just told you there are numerous references to God the Father and Jesus the Son as the Shepherd in Scripture, but guess what? WE are in the Scriptures too! We are sheep and without a shepherd, if we choose to live without the Shepherd, we will lose our way. We get caught in the thistles and we do not do life well at all. “… I shall not be in want.” (Psalm 23:1) David provided everything his sheep needed: He guided them to their food, to their water, and he protected them from their enemies. Even when they did not even know who their enemies were. When sheep are calmly guided, they are content. Are we? Are you content in whatever situation you are in, knowing you are being led by the Master Shepherd? “…I have learned to be content in whatever the circumstances.” (Philippians 4:11) Reminder for all of us: The Good Shepherd is delighted to give us what we need. “He makes me lie down in green pastures…” (Psalm 23:2) Sheep will not lie down if they are agitated. Does that sound familiar to you? We get so worked up, so agitated that we cannot stop to get out of the muck and sit in the green. The shepherd MAKES the sheep lie down. He knows what is best for them. Are you so unsettled about a situation that you have to be forced to calm down? “… He leads me beside quiet waters.” (Psalm 23:2) Sheep need to be led to still waters. How many times do we need still waters more than anything else? In most cases we make the choice to go the “unstill” route. We need water for our physical health; we need quiet for our emotional health. “He restores my soul …” (Psalm 23:3) There are times when shepherds need to rescue their flock. Sheep need intervention, especially when they do not see danger coming. Do you know what the term a “cast sheep” means? When a sheep is cast, it is stuck … so stuck that it is on its back, flailing, needing the help of the shepherd to roll it over and get it out of the mess. Whoa! Don’t we find ourselves upside down, flailing, and asking God to get us out of this mess? We are crying out for God to restore our souls and put us back to where we need to be. “… He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” (Psalm 23:3) This is important to note: sheep do not know the right paths. Only by the guiding of the shepherd will they be able to do what is best. No doubt, we are just like the sheep. Without allowing God to guide us in the right paths, we do not know what is best for us. “For his name’s sake” is so immensely powerful! We view life’s path as OUR path. In Isaiah 53, verse 6 it states “We all, like sheep, have gone astray …” If we are journeying on a path, the path meant for us by God, we are leaning into the path truly meant for us (“for his name’s sake”), not the path we had defined as ours. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death …” (Psalm 23:4) As I mentioned, without the shepherd’s help, sheep get themselves in messes, over and over again! They need their shepherd. David was an expert shepherd who helped his sheep in their troubles. The valleys will happen, no doubt, but this is the question: how do we maneuver through the valleys? “… I will fear no evil, for you are with me …” (Psalm 23:4) I am so excited to share with you my life verse that has guided me through the hardest of times when I thought I could not bear the pain. It has taken away intense fear and allowed me to know that I could get through anything. To try to tackle life’s fears alone is daunting! “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7) Some translations substitute “fear” for “timidity” and “sound mind” for “self-discipline.” The bottom line for us here is that there is no need to fear because we are never alone when we go through life with Jehovah Rohi. “…your rod and your staff, they comfort me …” (Psalm 23:4) Sheep get entangled with thorns and briars, and the shepherd has to use his rod to bring comfort to the sheep. Wolves and other prey are ready to pounce on the sheep. The staff guides and protects the sheep where they need to go. We as sheep need the guidance, protection, and defense of the shepherd. “You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies …” (Psalm 23:5) The shepherd prepares a flat “table” or mesa for the arrival of the sheep, where they can graze and be on even terrain. The Good Shepherd goes before us to help us. “…You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” (Psalm 23:5) Summer flies and parasites travel to the moist nostrils of the sheep and cause excruciating pain, inflammation, and infections. The sheep are so distraught, they lose the desire to eat, and they bang their heads against trees to try to rid themselves of what is eating them up. The shepherd knows to pour oil over the head of his sheep to deter the flies and parasites, a calming relief. Our Good Shepherd takes care of every detail. He keeps us from banging our heads against the wall. He soothes us when we are attacked with the excruciating pain in our lives, even when our choices are the originator of the pain. God’s daily provision anoints us with overflowing grace. “Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life …” (Psalm 23:5) Look at the word “follow.” Follow cannot happen if there was nothing before it. If we pour goodness and love into our lives and the lives of others, it follows us throughout our life. “… and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23:5) A sealed deal right there. The Savior died for his sheep. You are the recipient of Jehovah Rohi’s love. When we accept Jesus as our Savior, we belong to Him … forever. There is only one way into the fold. “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.” (John 10:9) “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me – just as the Father knows me and I know the Father – and I lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10:14) Next steps: 1. I challenge you to read the 23rd Psalm and John 10 daily this week. It is so incredibly rich and relevant for our lives. I know … life gets so busy, but again, resist the urge to “squeeze it in” and sit with your coffee or tea in your special “go-to” chair or better yet … by still waters or by green pastures. 2. Answer these two questions: What can I eliminate from my life so that I can better hear His voice? What can I add to my life to hear Him better? 3. Listen to the beautiful song by Fernando Ortega: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3fIVTpzi0zU. Powerful! I could not have journeyed through life without the guidance and protection of Jehovah Rohi, The Lord My Shepherd. I invite you into the life of being more attentive to God’s watch and care. Whether it is initially asking Jesus to come into your life or whether it means to grow in the constant reminder that Jehovah Rohi is the most incredible Shepherd of your life, just know He delights in peacefully walking with you. He knows your voice and wants you to know His. “When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.” (John 10:4) “Lord Jesus, I am forever grateful that you are my Shepherd. Thank you that you delight in knowing my voice. May I intentionally seek to know Yours better.” Keller, W. Phillip, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1970, 2007). Fernando Ortega, “The Good Shepherd” from album Come Down, O Love Divine, 2011. All Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version, Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.

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Week Four - Jehova Shalom: The God of Reconciliation and Completeness

Allison Mangrum

Speak now or forever hold your peace. I come bringing a peace offering. I could use a little peace and quiet. Have you ever heard any of the above phrases about peace? Have you ever noticed that our ideas and definitions of peace vary wildly, depending on what we are talking about? If I say, “speak now or forever hold your peace,” peace is defined by your acquiescence on an issue. But if I say, “I could use a little peace and quiet,” peace is defined by a lack of interruption to my day. What exactly is peace and why do we seem to have so many different ideas about what it means? With so many different definitions of peace, is it any wonder that we struggle to find peace both in our personal lives and in our world at large? In order for us to experience peace, we must first understand who God is and what His word says about peace. The Hebrew word for peace—shalom—is repeated 237 times throughout the Old Testament, including in the book of Judges, where it is used as a title, or name, for God. (Strong’s) “But the LORD said to him, “Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.” So, Gideon built an altar to the LORD there and called it The LORD Is Peace.” (Judges 6:23-24) In this passage, we see the Lord speak peace, or shalom, over Gideon to calm Gideon’s fear. We also see Gideon respond to the Lord by building an altar to Him and giving Him the name Jehovah Shalom, or The Lord is Peace. According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, shalom means “completeness, soundness, welfare, or peace.” I love that word “completeness.” It means that with shalom, nothing is lacking—it is whole, content, perfect. When Gideon named the Lord “Jehovah Shalom,” he was calling God the Lord of Completeness, Wholeness, Contentment, and Perfection. All throughout the Old Testament, we see variations of the word shalom. The Hebrew word shelem (found 29 times throughout Leviticus) means peace offering, sacrifice for alliance, or voluntary sacrifice of thanks. Shillem (found in Deuteronomy) means recompense, retribution, or requital. (NAS Exhaustive Concordance; Strong’s) The Hebrew people were well-versed in the concept of shalom and they understood that shalom did not just happen by accident. It came through some kind of sacrifice of self, whether voluntarily (as in a peace offering) or as a result of retribution. While the book of Judges is the only place in scripture where God is given the title of Jehovah Shalom, there are other places in scripture where we see God embody shalom. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.” (Isaiah 9:6-7) Here, the prophet Isaiah is foretelling the birth of the promised Messiah (Jesus), giving Him the title Prince of Peace, and promising the people that there will be no end to the shalom the Messiah brings. Just as Isaiah foretold the birth of Christ, he also foretold his death. “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5) In this passage, Isaiah foretells that our shalom will come as a result of the Messiah being punished for our sins. In other words, our peace and completeness as humankind would come through the suffering and death of the Prince of Peace we read about a few chapters earlier. This brings us to our big idea: True shalom begins with reconciliation to God. One of my all-time favorite passages of scripture is Colossians 1:15-23. I encourage you to take a moment right now to grab your Bible and read through the entire passage. It’s a beautiful depiction of who Jesus is. But for the purposes of this study, we are going to focus on verses 19-20. “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Colossians 1:19-20) That word “peace” in verse 20 comes from the Greek word eirénopoieó and means to harmonize or to reconcile. (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon; Strong’s) Jesus came to reconcile humankind and bring shalom through his death on the cross. Without Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, shalom would be impossible. Take a moment to reflect on what we’ve learned so far about shalom. How does the definition of shalom in scripture change the way you think about peace? What is God revealing to you about Himself in these scriptures? How can we experience shalom on earth? What is our responsibility when it comes to living in shalom? Now that we understand who God is, and what His word says about shalom, let’s explore what scripture says about how we can pursue shalom in our lives. I believe scripture gives us a roadmap for living in shalom, here on earth, in the following relationships: Shalom with God, Shalom with Mankind, and Shalom with Ourselves. If you are seeking to live a life of peace, Shalom with God is the most important and crucial step. In fact, I believe peace with others and with ourselves is impossible if we aren’t first reconciled to God. Remember our big idea: True shalom begins with reconciliation to God. Shalom with God We know that shalom with God was already provided freely to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of our sins. Jesus made the voluntary sacrifice for us and paid our retribution, so that we could have shalom with Him. All that is required of us is to believe in Him and accept His love and forgiveness. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) Next Step: Pray and Accept—If you haven’t yet made the decision to receive God’s gift of shalom, I encourage you to do so now. He loves you deeply and wants to be in relationship with you. Take a moment to pray to Him right now. Acknowledge that you believe that Jesus died to reconcile you to God. Admit that you need Him and that you accept His gift of love, His gift of forgiveness, and His gift of completeness. Make a commitment to follow Jesus and live your life in a way that honors God and others. If you said this prayer today, congratulations! We know that Jesus and the angels are rejoicing! And we want to rejoice with you, too! Let someone know that you made this decision today! Email women@centralaz.com Shalom with Mankind When it comes to the pursuit of shalom in our world, peace amongst mankind is probably the most difficult for us to achieve. Whereas God made shalom with Him easy for us (He made the sacrifice and all we have to do is accept), peace with our fellow human beings requires sacrifice from us. In Romans 12:9-21, the apostle Paul gives instructions on how to live at peace with our fellow man. Open your Bible and take a moment to read that entire passage right now. Paul is illustrating for us that peace with one another comes through love in action: Honoring others above ourselves. Praying for one another. Feeding the hungry. Practicing hospitality. Being humble. Loving our enemies and caring for them. “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18) As far as it depends on you. We can’t control the actions of others, but we are responsible for how we act and for the words we speak. God does not promise us perfect shalom with mankind this side of heaven, but He does command us to live our lives in pursuit of peace. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9) That word “children” comes from the Greek word huios and means anyone sharing the same nature as or resembling the character of their Father. (HELPS Word Study). In the same way that God has modeled perfect shalom and offered reconciliation to us, we must also seek to live in shalom with one another. Furthermore, we are commanded in scripture to help reconcile others to God. In fact, it was one of the last things Jesus said to His disciples: “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20) The apostle Paul reiterates this in his letter to the Romans: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. “(2 Corinthians 5:17-20a) If we want to be peacemakers and experience shalom with our fellow humans, we must take seriously God’s commandment to share the good news of Jesus with others. Next Step: Pray and Share—Think of one person in your life who needs to hear the good news of Jesus. Write the name of that person down and commit to pray for them daily. Ask God to open up their heart to hear the good news of Jesus. Ask God to give you opportunities to share His love and shalom with them. Shalom with Ourselves Shalom with ourselves can be difficult to obtain. After all, we are our own worst critics. It is often harder for us to forgive ourselves than it is for us to forgive others. The good news is that God has set us free from our shame and guilt. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 1:5) I recently heard an analogy about how to train an elephant—if you tie a baby elephant to a rope attached to a stake in the ground, he will not be able to run away. If you continue to tie the baby elephant to the stake, over time, the elephant is conditioned to learn that when he is tied to the rope, he can’t escape. Even after the elephant becomes an adult, he will not run away. Although he could easily walk away and pull the stake from the ground, the elephant has been conditioned to believe that he is stuck. Is that where you find yourself these days? Even though you know that Jesus has reconciled you to God, do you still live as though you are tied down by the shame and guilt of your past? Sisters, this shouldn’t be! You have been set free from your past and you are meant to live in perfect completeness. Sometimes, a lack of shalom in our own lives isn’t a result of our sin, but rather, a result of anxiety or depression. The ongoing battle in our minds keeps us from experiencing internal shalom. Other times our lack of peace is a result of our self-worth. Sadly, for many, our self-worth is shaped by cruelty, abuse, or neglect by others. Because of the sin of someone else, we are conditioned to believe that we are worthless. And that can be a difficult lie to overcome. Ladies, you are image bearers of God (Genesis 1:27) and your heavenly Father knows everything about you and adores you. (Psalm 139:13-14a) There is nothing about you that your Creator and Father doesn’t already know. Your anxiety that you can’t seem to break free from? He knows. The trauma that you suffered at the hand of another? He knows. That deep depression that consumes you in darkness for weeks at a time? He knows. And in your pain and darkness, he meets you there. “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) “Answer me when I call to you, my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer. … In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety.” (Psalm 4:1,8) “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27) “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Next Step: Pray and Let Go—Take a moment to pray to your heavenly Father. Ask Him to meet you in your pain, in your trauma, in your darkness, in your anxiety, in your shame. Pray that He would give you the eyes to see yourself as the valuable, complete, and beautiful daughter He created you to be. Ask Him for the grace to forgive yourself for the things that are keeping you chained to your past. Imagine yourself at the foot of His throne and release your fear and anxiety at His feet. Imagine his light and his love enveloping you in your darkness and loneliness. Ask God for his perfect shalom to fill you and give you peace. Friends, our God is Jehovah Shalom, the God of Reconciliation and Completeness! I believe God wants you to experience true shalom in your lives! True shalom begins with reconciliation to God, but it doesn’t end there—it’s a life-long journey of seeking to live in reconciliation and completeness with God, others, and ourselves. I hope you walk away from today’s study knowing how much God loves you and desires for you to live in perfect shalom! Let us pray. Lord, we read in Your word that You are Jehovah Shalom. You are the God of wholeness, completion, and perfection. You are the God who reconciled us to You through the death of Your Son, Jesus, our Prince of Peace. We thank you for providing a way for us to be reconciled to You. Thank you for setting us free. God, in the chaos of our world, we crave Your perfection. We long for the peace that only comes from You. Help us to love others the way You love us. Help us to serve others the way You serve us. Help us to sacrifice our preferences, our time, our finances, and our lives for others, the way You have sacrificed for us. May our lives reflect Your perfect peace as we seek to live in shalom with our brothers and sisters. Finally, Father, we ask for your perfect peace in the innermost part of our souls. That part of us that no one else sees. May we use kindness and grace in the words we speak to ourselves. Give us the eyes to see ourselves the way You see us—beautiful, complete, and enough. Silence the negative self-talk and replace it with the truth of Your word. Quiet the anxiety that leaves us feeling restless and restore our peace of mind. Surround us with Your love and light when all we can see is darkness all around. Jehovah Shalom, we thank you for the perfect peace that only comes from You. May we live our lives in pursuit of Your perfect peace. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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