Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Mary: The Dark Days of Winter

The dark days of winter,black with lantern

Big Idea: Christmas and winter can be a difficult, dark time, but as life goes on, reflect on the Light of the World who brings us comfort in the darkness.

No More Christmas Lights

So Christmas is over. With the tree down, that spot in the room was dark last night. 

I have cleared out the Christmas decorations already. The nativity set is out of mind. Baby Jesus is tucked away. Life goes on. 

Three days after Jesus was born, Mary still had baby Jesus on her hands. He cried when hungry and needed to be changed.

The shepherds had come and gone. 

Christmas can be depressing

Mary was thinking about upcoming circumcision on the eighth day. Little Jesus would surely cry, she worried.  Jesus was her first baby. It was all new to her. She was far from family, far away in Bethlehem.

Joseph was worried. How would they eat? Where would they stay? A baby and his mother gotta eat.

Christmas can be hard. During the holidays there are those who have recently had someone who died, left the family, or moved away.  Holidays are hardest alone. Where is peace on earth?

For some, the parties, gifts, and upbeat music have been fun. Now gifts and bills ring hollow. Is this all there is to life?

Unwed mother gives birth in a barn

When will a baby be born? You might have a good idea but it is not predictable.

As a mid-wife in West Africa, cultural taboos prevented women who had not given birth yet to attend a birthing. First time pregnant women get no information what to expect.

One year I had four wives of pastoral students who were 15-16 year olds with first-time pregnancies. One sharp gal was really scared to give birth and had lots of questions. I coached her on what to expect. She was wide eyed.

About two weeks later after birth, she showed up on my front porch with the other 3 pregnant women.

“Mademoiselle can tell you what to expect when you have your baby,” she said as her baby cooed on her back. “Listen. It will help.”

What about Mary? Did anyone prepare her? Was there a village midwife available or did Joseph deliver the baby? Why do births happen mostly at night? Many nights I delivered a baby by kerosene lantern!

Unplanned pregnancy

A year prior Mary would not have guessed she’d be pregnant.

The angel just showed up. “God thinks a lot of you,” he said (Luke 1:28).

Poof. She was pregnant. No one understood. Not Joseph. Not her parents. Not her neighbors…

Jesus was a little surprise. But oh what a surprise!

Mary’s experiences gave her a lot to think about. (Luke 2:19, 51)

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2;19 NIV

Take-a-ways for Mary

1, God never changes. In our surprising life situations God knows and can be help us. He has not changed and able to do what He has done others.

2. God is with us. Emmanuel, a name given to Jesus, means God with us. He gets us. Jesus walked this earth in sickness and in health. In hardship. In broken relationships. He is with you in this.

3. Take time to ponder. Contemplate. Meditate. Read the Word of God. Ponder. Pray. Like Mary.

Mary’s Light

Mary gave birth in the middle of the night, in an animal shelter. It must have been smelly, dusty and unfamiliar. But the morning light came. Mary had light. The Light of the world. 

What do we have in common with Mary? We too find ourselves at times in a dark and dirty place. It feels especially brutal to the human spirit on the cold, dark days of winter. 

But there is hope and light to comfort us in the form of Jesus, son of Mary, son of God. Seek Him in your dark and dirty winter days. 

The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness a light will shine.  Isaiah 9:2 NLT

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal comfort and a wonderful hope. 2 Thessalonians 2:16 NLT


Up next: Breathe
Past: Advent: Bathsheba’s Love


1. How do you find Christmas? Joyful? Harried? Quiet or perhaps too quiet? Depressing? Have you ever had a really hard Christmas? Why was it hard?

2. What gives you peace from God in the Christmas story? Ponder on that and treasure it.

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Advent: Bathsheba's Love

Bathsheba's Love

Big Idea: Though Bathsheba experienced heartbreak from David’s rash sin, rather than letting the  consequences of sin define her, she chose to speak out with love.

Commander takes soldier’s wife, kills husband

My husband is a military man. Codes of conduct ensure trust between military members. Integrity is a core value. Taking a soldier’s spouse for your pleasure is never right and does not engender trust.

David should never have let this happen. Hollywood’s story of David and Bathsheba implies she was a seductress. But honestly we don’t see that in the Bible.

What we know about Bathsheba

  • Her grandfather, Ahithophel, was one of King David’s advisors. (2 Samuel 15:2)
  • Her father, Eliam, and husband, Uriah, were both part of David’s Mighty Men, an elite fighting force. (2 Samuel 23: 34,39)
  • Both Uriah and Bathsheba carefully followed Old Testament practices of purity
    • Uriah wouldn’t sleep with his wife while preparing for battle. (1 Samuel 21:5)
    • Bathsheba bathed for purification after menstruation in desert conditions, probably using a water basin. (Leviticus 15). It was not a leisurely bubble bath.
  • The Bible does not say Uriah and Bathsheba had children. They may have been newly married.
  • Bathsheba was summoned by the King. She may have felt she couldn’t refuse him.
  • When Uriah died in battle, Bathsheba mourned for him. (2 Sam. 11:26)
  • When Bathsheba lost her baby, she mourned. (2 Sam. 12:24)
  • After the death of her husband Uriah, David made her his 7th wife. (2 Sam. 11:27)
  • David was chastised by Nathan the prophet for his sin. Bathsheba was not. (2 Sam. 12)
  • David’s private sin had grave consequences for his family and kingdom. It bred open sexual sin by his sons, and a divided political world. (2 Sam. 13 and following)
  • Her second son was Solomon, considered the wisest man in the world. (2 Sam. 12:24)
  • David promised Bathsheba Solomon would be the heir to the throne. (I Kings 1:13)
  • She was an advocate for her son, Solomon, reminding David to hand him the throne. (I Kings 1)
  • Bathsheba spoke to King Solomon advocating for what she felt was right. (I Kings 2)
  • She is most likely the Proverbs 31 woman. Most scholars believe “King Lemuel” was Solomon sharing advice from his mother, Bathsheba. It was about how to act as a king, to value women, what a woman of value is. I am sure Solomon realized that is what she became! (Proverbs 31)

Love out of heartbreak

I believe young Bathsheba, though she did not protest against David, was taken advantage of. She was a voiceless victim. David paid dearly for his sin, but Bathsheba was affected too. The consequences of sin affect more than the individual. They affect those around them too. 

She was heartbroken losing her husband and then her first baby. She must have been heartbroken with David how his grown sons acted in public, trying to destroy the kingdom and openly sleeping with other women in David’s family.

In time, Bathsheba found her voice to be an advocate for family, for politics, and for women by presenting the picture of the Proverbs 31 woman. Indeed, her advice in Proverbs is loving and wise.

Why was Bathsheba in Jesus' genealogy?

Bathsheba was the fourth woman mentioned in Matthew 1 as part of the genealogy of Jesus. Each one was a surprising part of Jesus lineage.  In fact, Uriah, the murdered husband of Bathsheba, is also mentioned.

Jesse was the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon (whose mother was Bathsheba, the widow of Uriah). Matthew 1:9 NLT

Jesus was remarkably equally God and equally man. He came to take on flesh and understand mankind, so He could conquer death and sin. These flawed human beings in Jesus' genealogy show us he took on flesh as we know it, with all the gnarly baggage it entailed.  In all the scandal and emotional scars of David and Bathsheba, He took on the family baggage of human kind.  He gets us. He walked as one of us. 

So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. I John 1:14 NLT


Lessons from Bathsheba

  • Love your spouse.
  • Love your children.
  • Even after being a victim, or making a mistake, find your voice and act honorably.
  • Stand up for what’s right.
  • Be an advocate for others.
  • Know that with God's help you can overcome your family baggage.
  • Jesus came for families like yours and mine.

The sayings of King Lemuel—an inspired utterance his mother taught him.  Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.   Proverbs 31: 1,8,9 NLT


Up next: Mary: The Dark Days of Winter
Previous post: Advent: Joy for Ruth



1. Have you suffered at the brunt of someone else’s sin? Have you gotten involved in something wrong because you felt you could not say no to someone more powerful? How has this effected your life? Reflect on the example of Bathesheba.

2. In learning more about Bathsheba what new aspect have you learned about her life? What can you admire about her? How might her example be helpful in your walk in life?

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Advent: Joy for Ruth

Joy for Ruth

Big Idea: Ruth, from the genealogy of Jesus, found joy though she experienced multiple losses.

Migrant Widow finds Love in the Barley Fields

A beautiful love story is presented in the Biblical book of Ruth. Before the joy of love, she went through heartbreak, hunger and lived with a bitter mother-in-law.

There was famine in Israel. A family from Bethlehem migrated to Moab to survive. Their two boys married Moabite women. Then the father and two sons died. It left deep wounds on these three women.

The mother, Naomi decided to go back to Bethlehem. She told her daughter-in-laws to stay in their homeland and marry again. One agreed to stay. The other named Ruth begged Naomi to take her along. Her eloquent speech is often quoted at weddings. But it was declared to her mother-in-law.

Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Ruth 1: 16 NLT

Anger at God

Naomi’s bitterness and anger were so palpable; she arrived in Bethlehem asking everyone to call her “Mara,” which means “bitter.” Tragedy sometimes leaves people feeling like this toward God.

“The Almighty has made life very bitter for me. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me home empty.” Ruth 1: 20-21 NLT

Ruth seemed gentle though she lost her husband, and left her family and all she ever knew behind. Living with a bitter mother-in-law must have been extra taxing.

What is Gleaning?

Ruth and Naomi must have been hungry, for Ruth decided to glean in the barley fields.

From ancient societies to the present day, the poor can go behind harvesters in farmer’s fields to gather what’s left behind. This practice is called gleaning. My parents gleaned potatoes in North Dakota in the 1960s when my father’s company experienced a lengthy strike.

When Ruth started to glean, Boaz the field owner, noticed Ruth. Others told him of her kindness to Naomi. He asked the other workers to leave extra food where Ruth gleaned and then gave her lunch with his field workers.

The Kinsman Redeemer

When Ruth came home with so much food, Naomi told her she found the field of a relative! Naomi, noticing how Boaz had treated Ruth, saw a possible marriage match!

Naomi coached Ruth to present to Boaz at the barley threshing floor while he slept and lay down at his feet. 

Boaz was surprised and honored. The Levirate practice was possible, which was to marry a close relative to produce an heir for the passed husband. Additionally another practice would be fulfilled, called Kinsman Redeemer, to help a relative in need or in trouble to save the family.

Boaz was willing. Even better, it was a love match!

Their offspring was part of the lineage of King David and Jesus the Messiah. (Matthew 1:5) Amazingly the redeemer of the family line through the non-Israeli Ruth would produce the Redeemer who would also rescue us in our desperate need. 

Joy when all is lost pictured on snow

Ruth, a heartbroken penniless migrant widow who scavenged for leftover food found joy. She experienced joy when all was lost.


Up next: Advent: Bathsheba's Love
Previous post: Advent: Peace for Rahab


1. Ruth seems less scandalous than the other women in the genealogy of Matthew. But what might have been some of Ruth’s emotions through this ordea?. Think of her losing her husband, leaving her homeland, living with a bitter mother-in-law, needing to scavenge the earth for food…

2. How might you relate to something in Ruth’s life?

3. How was Boaz her rescuer? Can you see Jesus as rescuer in your life?

He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies. Psalm 103:4 NLT

They will be called “The Holy People” and “The People Redeemed by the Lord.” And Jerusalem will be known as “The Desirable Place” and “The City No Longer Forsaken.” Isaiah 62:12 NLT

Jesus gave his life for our sins, just as God our Father planned, in order to rescue us from this evil world in which we live. Galatians 1:4 NLT

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Advent: Peace for Rahab

Big Idea: Rahab found peace, love and faith in the midst of war, and she was ultimately in the genealogy for the Prince of Peace.

Wartime Bride from the Red-Light District finds Peace

There’s something about the potential for loss and the desire for belonging in war that draws couples together. It has for many centuries.
Unsplash by Andres Molina
Over 3000 years ago a woman from Jericho’s red-light district was valiantly rescued with her family finding peace, faith and love for eternity. Literally. Her offspring from wartime marriage was Boaz, then Obed, Jesse, and King David of Israel. Ultimately, her line became part of the line of Jesus the Messiah.

The Spy Who Loved Me

Cue the James Bond music. This story began with two spies needing cover. They lodged near the city gate with Rahab, a brave, shrewd Canaanite prostitute. When gruff voices came to break her door down looking for the spies, she hid them on the rooftop.

Did previous clientele tell the amazing stories of the Israelites coming out of Egypt, or was she just impressed with their faith? After re-routing the city soldiers, she made a tremendous declaration.

“I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land have melted away before you. When we heard it, our hearts melted and no courage remained in any man any longer because of you; for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath. 12 Now therefore, please swear to me by the Lord, since I have dealt kindly with you, that you also will deal kindly with my father’s household, and give me a pledge of truth” Joshua 2: 9, 11-12 (NASB)

The spies agreed if she marked her place with a scarlet cord, with her family in place, they would be rescued.

The Day the Walls Fell

The day of battle came. The walls came down and it was like a bomb had gone off. The spies kept their promise and found Rahab and family and rescued them (Joshua 6). Years later it was remarked the entire family was still living with the Israelites.

Rahab married an Israeli named Salmon. Was he one of the spies who encountered this brave woman on the spy journey? Many Biblical historians have asked this same question. The Greek text in Matthew implied Salmon was princely.

The Family Tree

Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab, Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse. Matthew 1:5 NASB

In the ancestral tree from Rahab and Salmon, Boaz was born. His wife Ruth was also part of this lineage. Incredibly two non-Hebrew women were closely tied to the Royal family of Israel’s King.

Hebrews 11 is a Hall of Faith, highlighting Old Testament faith examples. Rahab, still referred to as a prostitute, shows faith changes who you are. 

By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace. Hebrews 11: 31. NASB


Peace when war and desolation comes

Our war bride may have wondered when the walls came crashing down if she would be safe. Not only did she find safety. She found peace. The Prince of Peace.

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.  Isaiah 9:11 NASB

Up next: Advent: Joy for Ruth
Previous post: Advent: Hope for Tamar



1. When do you feel a lack of peace or life in total chaos in your life? What grounds you and brings you back to peace? How well does it work for you?

2. Reflect today on Jesus as your Prince of Peace. He wants to be your rescuer. He will come for you like the spies did for Rahab.  He will bring you peace. Reflect on that!