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Archive for September, 2010

Lydia fills a remarkable place in the history of the expansion of the church of Jesus Christ. Jesus told His followers to proclaim the Gospel into all the world. In the Old Testament, God had been mostly dealing with His Jewish children. But now, God wants His story of love and salvation to go to everyone, even Gentiles. God’s dealing with Lydia is just one story that illustrates God’s plan for the ages.

Our story is told in the Bible in the book of Acts, chapter 16.  We see at the beginning of our story that Paul had wanted to go to Asia to tell the good news of the Gospel, but the Holy Spirit had forbidden him. Paul then had a vision in the night of a man appealing to him to, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” And so, Paul, with Luke joining him, went to Philippi. Here he would make his very first convert –a woman! Her name was Lydia.

Paul and Luke stayed in Philippi for some days, and on the Sabbath they went outside of the city to a riverside looking for the place of prayer that they supposed would be there. It was Paul’s practice to preach in the synagogues first, but in God’s providence, there wasn’t one in Philippi. God led Paul, Luke and the others to speak to the women who were gathered by the riverside.

A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening: and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.” (Acts 16:14).

A woman named Lydia was listening. One of the most exciting things about our story is to see God’s sovereignty in how He brought Lydia to salvation. She was actually from Thyatira, which was located in that area in Asia where Paul originally wanted to go to preach. But now, here she was in Philippi on business. The irony is that, the Gospel has come to Macedonia, and the first European convert is an Asian woman! If Lydia had remained in Asia, she would not have heard the Gospel at this time. How remarkable and amazing God is in arranging things for our lives.

Lydia was a “seller of purple fabrics.” She was a businesswoman, and a very successful one at that. We are also told that she was a “worshiper of God.” Another irony in our story is that Lydia was not a Jewish woman. As we mentioned, Paul usually tried to go to the “Jew first” (Romans 1:16). In Philippi, he was seeking the prayer meeting of the Jews, but his first convert was a Gentile who was seeking God.

“The Lord opened her heart.”  How gracious and wonderful God was to bring Paul into Lydia’s life so she could hear the Gospel and respond with faith in Jesus Christ. She had been worshiping God in the best way she knew how all of these years, and now God graciously brought the Gospel to her. She must have been very loved by God Who changed all of Paul’s plans to make sure that she could be the very first convert in Europe.

And when she and her household had been baptized, she urged us, saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay.’ And she prevailed upon us. . . . . . . . They went out of the prison and entered the house of Lydia, and when they saw the brethren, they encouraged them and departed.”

Lydia and her household were baptized. Lydia’s new faith produced instant actions. This meeting was taking place next to a river, so she took advantage of it and was baptized and all of her family and servants with her. In those days, when the head of a household became a believer and was baptized, all of the household was baptized.

“Come into my house and stay.”  Lydia was so thankful for her salvation that she immediately responded with an offer of hospitality. We know since this verse says, “her house” that she was probably a widow. But she apparently decided to keep on running the family business by herself anyway. She must have been doing a good job, because she owned a large enough house to invite Paul and Luke and all of the other disciples who were with them to stay at her house.

Lydia must have been a very courageous woman. She was exposing herself to trouble. Later in this story in the book of Acts, we will see that Paul and Silas would be beaten and imprisoned in Philippi. She took the risk of opening her home to the disciples willingly. Even while Paul and Silas were in prison, she continued to use her home for the place of meeting for the new little church where all of the new believers met for fellowship and prayer.

That is where Paul and Silas went when they left the prison. By this time, many others were coming to Christ. The first church in Europe started inLydia’s home. In a few years, Paul would write an epistle to these Christians who continued to do well in love and service to God.

Lydia is a remarkable example of a courageous woman. She was an exceptional woman who showed amazing courage, thankful for the work of God in her heart. As women, we can all be encouraged by her graciousness, hospitality, sacrificial love for the brethren, servant attitude, and especially her love for her Savior, Jesus Christ.

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There have actually been a few good movies made about courageous women. In today’s posting, I will discuss six movies along with a review of each one. I would highly recommend all of these. There are really great companion books for these movies. I will list them at the end of the reviews. As is often the case, the book may be better than the movie.

There have been some movies made that are so inaccurate, that it is not worth wasting your time to watch them, unless you only seek entertainment. There are also some stories on DVD that are somewhat accurate and worth watching if you keep in mind that the director/producers took a lot of liberties with the story. In a future posting, I would like to review some movies that I could recommend with caution.

If you have some suggestions for movie reviews, please list them in the response area at the end of this posting.

The Inn of the Sixth Happiness”, starring Ingrid Bergman, Curt Jurgens, and Robert Donat.
This is the true story of the missionary, Gladys Aylward and centers around what happened to her after she became a missionary and went to China. It is set during the time that the Japanese invaded China. The Japanese destroyed the town in which she was living and Gladys will have to lead nearly 100 homeless orphans to safety through the enemy lines. This is a very exciting movie, and fairly true to her real life. You can read her own story in:
Gladys Aylward: The Little Woman, by Gladys Aylward.

Lady Jane”, starring Helena Bonham Carter and Cary Elwes.
I have already posted a story about Lady Jane Gray elsewhere on this Blog. I can hardly imagine a braver teen-ager who ever lived. Imagine standing up to the Queen of England and the top leaders of the Church. It takes incredible courage to stand for your faith in the face of execution. This DVD is historically accurate. I have only one caution. There is a scene with nudity. True, they are married. But if you don’t care for those kind of scenes any more than I do, have your remote handy after Lady Jane is married with your finger on the fast forward button. I think the producers could have left that out of a very stunning movie and not lost anything. There are many books about Lady Jane; the one I like best is:
Lady Jane Gray: Nine Days Queen, by Alison Plowden

The End of the Spear”, starring many in the cast.
This film is based on the true story of a group of missionaries who went to serve in the Amazon jungle. Five of the missionary men paid the ultimate price of love for their fellow men with their lives when they were killed by the tribesman. The martyrs’ brave widows and families decide to stay among the natives in Ecuador and continue to serve God as they had planned. Because of their faithfulness, some of the tribes people come to know the Lord. This is a really touching story of forgiveness, sacrifice, courage, and redemption. One of the wives of the original martyrs, Elisabeth Elliot, has gone on the serve the Lord all of her life. She has written an excellent book which tells the original story that the movie is based on.
Through Gates of Splendor, by Elisabeth Elliot.

The Hiding Place”, starring Jeannette Clift and Julie Harris.
This movie has been seen by literally millions of people. It is the story of Corrie ten Boom, her sister, and her father. They work with the underground in Holland to rescue the Jews from the horrible persecution of the Nazis. Corrie and her sister risk arrest and execution for doing this; nevertheless they help to save the lives of countless Jewish families. Corrie and her sister, Betsie do get caught and sent to a concentration camp. What happens there is miraculous. This is a thrilling movie of faith, courage, and love.
There are many, many books written about the ten Booms, including some excellent children’s books. The original book has been read by over 8,000,000 people and deserves to be read by everyone.
The Hiding Place, by John and Elizabeth Sherrill and Corrie ten Boom

Sophie Scholl: The Final Days”, starring a young woman who won an award for best actress, Julia Jentsch.
I have already posted a story about Sophie Scholl on this Blog. You can go there to read more details about this incredibly brave young woman who faced execution for her stance against injustice. I highly recommend the DVD. Her trial as she faces the Gestapo is awe-inspiring to say the least. Those who remained silent while Hitler was committing his atrocities against the Jews would certainly have felt very uncomfortable as Sophie called the German people to take personal responsibility for their loss of freedoms. She is a shining example of courage.
A good book to get that will explain more about her life and her experiences in the underground is:
Sophie Scholl and the White Rose, by Jud Newborn and Annette Dumbach

The Sound of Music”, starring Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer and others.
You might be surprised that I included this movie. It is a good story, and though the actors are very “Hollywood-ish”, the DVD is worth watching again and again just to listen to the music if nothing else.

The story is about a real woman however, who did marry an Austrian widower and then have to escape with her family from Austria to come eventually to the United States. They were a very talented, and devout family. (I saw the real Von Trapp Family Singers on TV – probably the Ed Sullivan show – when I was a youngster. In this picture you can see the real Maria playing her guitar and singing with some children in Austria. Two great books that I highly recommend are:
Maria: My Own Story, by Maria Von Trapp
The Story of the Trapp Family Singers, by Maria Augusta Trapp

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It did not take long after Jesus’ disciples began to spread the Gospel that they suffered persecution. The Jewish leaders who put Jesus to death wanted to stop Peter and John from spreading what they thought of as a “rebellion”. The leaders could not answer Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God. Jesus backed up His claim with many miracles, including the raising of Lazarus from the dead. They thought the best way to stop Jesus was to put Him to death. After the crucifixion, they thought they had won, but now, here came Jesus’ disciples, Peter and John, doing miracles in His name.

Yes, this is the same Peter and John who were so frightened when Jesus was arrested that they ran away and hid. They feared arrest and death.
After His resurrection, Jesus forgave Peter. At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came and gave the apostles the courage and power to go out and preach the Gospel in spite of the dangerous opposition that they would face.

Soon in their ministry, Peter and John healed a lame beggar at the temple. They said, “In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene – walk!”  (Acts 3:6) Then Peter explained to the Jewish people who were watching this miracle that the One Whom they had put to death recently was none other than Jesus Christ, “the Prince of life, the One Whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses.” (Acts 3:15).  The bible tells us that thousands believed because of the miraculous healing of the lame man and Peter’s testimony.

Again, the religious leaders had no answer to this miracle. They knew that too many people had witnessed the healing and they began to wonder what to do about it. They warned the apostles to stop, but the disciples continued to heal people and preach the Gospel and many thousands believed in Jesus.

The Jewish leaders became angry and impatient at this and began to persecute Christians with a vengeance. Many were tortured, imprisoned, and put to death.
One day, King Herod decided to please the Jewish leaders by arresting some Christians. He had James, the brother of the apostle John, put to death. The Jews were happy about this, so Herod proceeded to arrest Peter also. Herod put Peter in a prison with four squadrons of soldiers to watch over him, but an angel of the Lord helped Peter escape. (This exciting story is in Acts 12.)

At this point, Peter went to the home of someone whom he thought would shelter and protect him. He went to the home of Mary, the mother of his friend, John Mark.

Mary must have been a very courageous woman. She was aware of the persecution of the Christians, and had no doubt heard about the martyrdomof James. She knew that she risked arrest and imprisonment for helping the followers of Christ. In spite of possible grave danger to herself, she opened her home as a place for believers to meet and encourage one another. The Christians were gathered there praying, when Peter knocked on her door.

Mary is one of those remarkable women in the New Testament who are mentioned only once. But just as in the story of Anna the prophetess, Luke, the author of Acts, gives us enough details in this one verse to know and understand much about this courageous woman.

Since the house is referred to as her house, and not her husband’s, she was probably a widow. She was also wise enough to run her own household.

We know from Colossians 4:10 (where Paul sends greetings from other brethren, including “Barnabas’s cousin Mark”) that Barnabas was John Mark’s cousin. Therefore, Mary was this famous disciple’s aunt.

Her work in the support of the early church must have been well known. Peter knows right where to go after his miraculous escape from prison. Not only was he well guarded, but he gets by two different guard stations and finally outside an iron gate. The angel leads him for a while along a street and then departs from him. Peter is left alone but he knows that he can go to the home of Mary for help and protection.

Mary must have been a truly devoted follower of Jesus to have raised such a faithful son as John Mark. He was a young man at the time of our story, but he continued steadfast in faith and was used as a fellow worker in the Gospel along with his cousin Barnabas, the apostle Paul, and even Peter.  He eventually wrote the Gospel that is called after his name. Much of this can be attributed to the faith-filled influence of his extraordinary mother, Mary.

Mary is a wonderful example of courage for us. She must have known about the defection of all of the disciples when Jesus was arrested. They feared a very real danger. She knew of the persecution going on all around her. But, she trusted God to take care of her as she served Him by aiding the believers in the early church. She knew what was the right thing to do and she bravely faced whatever might come her way to follow the Lord.

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Abigail, Godly Wife

The story of Abigail and David is often told as an Old Testament romance. God does reward them with a happy marriage at the end of the story, but there is much more about the life of Abigail that is remarkable.

At the time our story takes place, (which you can read about in ISamuel, chapter 25), Saul is the king of Israel. You may remember that the Israelites were at war with the Philistines during these times. When David was a lad, he fought the champion of the Philistines, the giant Goliath. After that he went to work at the palace for Saul. As Saul grew older, he became jealous of David. He even threatened to kill him, so David had to go away and hide from Saul. He was on the run. He had a large following of men who stayed with him, living in the wilderness of Paran. There he was not only safe from Saul, but he was able to be of real service to his countrymen by protecting the large flocks which pastured far and wide from the predatory raids of the wild tribes of the desert.

One of the people that David protected was Nabal, a wealthy land owner. Nabal had many flocks of sheep. A special time for sheep farmers was when they did the shearing. It was a time of rejoicing, for when the fleeces were sold, there would be much money and a big celebration. Nabal had sold his wool and was throwing a huge party. Because David and his men had protected Nabal’s sheep, they felt that they should be invited to the celebration. David sent a delegation of ten men to greet Nabal and ask for something in return for his service.

Nabal answered David’s men roughly and sent them away empty handed. He had insulted them by acting as if he didn’t even know who they were. They went back to tell David about Nabal’s rejection, and when David heard this, he was very angry. He had four hundred men put on their swords and follow him back to Nabal’s place.

In the meantime, one of Nabal’s servants had heard how he mistreated David’s emissaries. This servant ran and told Abigail, Nabal’s wife. He told her all about how David and his men had protected them all those months that they tended the sheep. Abigail immediately resolved to take action.

The Bible tells us that Abigail was not only beautiful, but intelligent. She knew what needed to be done, and that it had to be done quickly. She had the servants load up some food and beverages and put them on donkeys. She told them to go on ahead of her to meet David. She herself followed on her donkey as soon as she could.

Imagine what courage she must have had. She had heard that David and four hundred armed soldiers were coming after her husband. She had no way of knowing what the outcome would be. She did not know if he was so angry that he would punish everyone before she had a chance to talk to him. She may have been trembling when she saw David, but she met him bravely. She got down off of her donkey and bowed to the ground and begged him to listen to her.

She asked him to put all of the blame on her. She told him to treat her as his maidservant. She apologized for not knowing sooner about the young men that David had sent to see Nabal.  She begged him to accept the gift of food that she had brought.

Now, the Bible tells us that Nabal was a worthless and foolish man. He was harsh and evil in all his doings. In spite of this, Abigail was a loyal wife. Some have criticized her because she took the very large quantity of food to David without telling her husband. She did not try to tell Nabal until the next morning. Some have said that she is not a good example of a submissive wife. But, consider:
–  The midwives lied to Pharoah. (to save the baby boys.)
–  Rahab lied to her king. (to preserve the Israelite spies.)
–  Jonathan lied to Saul about David’s whereabouts.
–  Peter and John disobeyed the religious rulers. They said, “We must obey God rather than men.”

We are not advocating rebellion here, only a closer look at what the Bible actually says about people’s actions. They knew something that we do not always know – what was in God’s will. We know that it was in God’s providence that Nabal’s servant overheard what was happening and ran to tell Abigail. We know that God used Abigail to prevent David from taking vengeance, because the Scriptures record her actions and her words to David.  We know that God’s Spirit put those wise words in Abigail’s mouth and that the Spirit caused David to listen. Abigail reminded David that when he became king, he would regret his actions. She did not want David to have, “grief or a troubled heart,…both by having shed blood without cause and by my lord having avenged himself.” After all, it is up to God to punish evildoers.

David listened to the words of this very wise woman. Then he gave thanks to God for her, and he thanked her.

“Then David said to Abigail, ‘Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me, and blessed be your discernment, and blessed be you, who has kept me this day from bloodshed and from avenging myself by my own hand.’” (ISamuel 25:32,33).

Later, God would punish Nabal. In only a few days time, God struck Nabal and he died, probably from some kind of stroke. Abigail was now a widow.

When David heard that Nabal was dead, he was thankful that God had kept him from committing the serious crime of murder. He had also been impressed with the wisdom and courage of Abigail. What a fitting wife she would make for a king. She would be a companion and advisor to him.

So David sent a proposal to Abigail. When his servants arrived at her home, she quickly accepted. She rode on her donkey again to meet him, this time to become his wife.

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