By Kathi Woodall –
Amy is a newborn whose mother died in childbirth. Her aunt and grandfather walk eight miles to bring her to a milk clinic run by an orphanage in rural Haiti. At the clinic, they receive clothing and infant formula for the precious baby who weighs less than five pounds.
A few days after a clinic visit, our group joined the orphanage director as she went on a home visit to see the aunt and grandfather plus visit baby Amy. Due to the poor conditions of the roads it took us close to an hour to travel the eight miles by truck. After asking around, we found Amy’s hut and were glad to find her family home. A brief exam found her in good condition, relatively speaking. I then had the privilege of rocking her while the pastor who came with us visited with the grandfather and aunt.
My French is too poor to understand much of their Creole dialect; I’m afraid I can’t retell the conversation that transpired between the two. After several minutes of conversation, though, Pastor turned to us and said, in English, that they wanted to accept Christ as their Savior. They bowed down to pray and I could make out enough of their words to know they recognized the sin in their lives and accepted the gift of Jesus’ death on the cross as the payment for their sin. They understood this decision enabled their eternal life in heaven with Him.
As they prayed, I silently prayed for their newfound faith, spiritual protection, and growth. Here is where my story turns ugly. As I stood in the filth of their hut, holding a sweet infant who smelled of her own waste, I found myself praying, “Lord, what a blessing it would be for You to return soon and lift this family out of these desperate, dirty conditions.” Here is my confession: At this point in my prayer, my thoughts shifted. In that squalor, my bizarre mind wondered if God will hose us all off as we leave earth and enter His heavenly presence. Please don’t leave me nasty comments; I can’t help it these weird thoughts pop into my mind.
As soon as the thought entered my head, the Spirit reminded me that in God’s eyes, all of us are more dirty and filthy than the aunt and grandfather were in my eyes. “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). In our sinful state, we are so nasty, so dirty, that Holy God has to turn His back to us. In His glory and perfection, we can’t even be in His presence.
The wonder of it all is that God couldn’t stand for us not to be in His presence. His sacrifice on the cross made the way for us to be clean, and, in a way, He will hose us off when we stand before Him someday—it will just be a little more spiritual.
“‘Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.’ Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints” (Revelation 19:7-8).
By Kathi Woodall –
My daughter was sick recently, so I took her to the walk-in clinic at our pediatrician’s office. The walk-in clinic is a blessing because an appointment is not required. It is a curse because the wait can often be long, especially during cold and flu season. Anticipating the wait, I grabbed my Samsung Tablet on the way out of the house so she could play games or read while we waited. However, my preparedness turned out to be worthless. The batteries ran down the day before and I hadn’t plugged it in to recharge overnight.
A few days later I wanted to listen to my iPod while housecleaning. After searching awhile, I found it in a pocket of my backpack with a dead battery. Weeks of neglect had killed it.
As I write this, my cell phone is charging in the kitchen, my daughter’s iPod is plugged into my laptop, and my laptop is plugged into the wall. The battery on my laptop no longer charges, it doesn’t work at all unless I plug it into the outlet.
All of this charging and plugging started me wondering. Does God want to use us sometimes but we have run our batteries down so low we’re worthless? Are we ever so in need of a charge that we can’t do what He desires? Do we wander so far that, when He finds us, we can’t do anything because we haven’t plugged in lately?
We plan out each moment of our day weeks and even months ahead of time. We are so busy working, shopping, cleaning, cooking, planning, playing, talking, texting, meeting, eating, driving, and doing that we don’t take enough time to plug in and spiritually recharge.
We can recharge spiritually many different ways. Some may renew their spiritual batteries by worshipping God through music with a great praise band whereas others may recharge by spending time alone in prayer. For me, I recharge by studying God’s Word. Even better is when I can then write about it. My husband, on the other hand, reenergizes by hiking through the woods and enjoying the beauty of creation. There are as many ways to spiritually recharge ourselves as there are Christians who need to do it! What’s critical though is that we find time to stop…just stop…and plug in to Him. Let Him refill us once again.
“Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:30-31).
By Kathi Woodall –
Agapeland—many of us in our 30’s or 40’s grew up singing fun songs about a magical place whose name meant “Land of Love.” We all knew agape (pronounced a-gă-pē) love was God’s kind of love.
I’m not a kid anymore; I’m thirty-… Let’s just say I’m in that age range I mentioned earlier. Is there a grown-up story behind the magic of Agapeland?
Agape-love involves reverence, obedience, appreciation, pleasure, unwillingness to abandon, and desire. The Bible teaches about four agape-love relationships; God loves Christ and us, Christ loves us, and we can love each other.
God’s agape-love climaxes in one key passage. “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10 NIV). This intense passage both defines love and is the evidence of God’s love.
God created the physical world—waterfalls, giraffes, and lilacs. He also created the conceptual world—hope, sorrow, and love. Since God created love, He also defined love. Chocolate candies and heart-shaped boxes don’t define love. Jesus’ death—His atoning sacrifice—defines love.
Friend, our sin made us the recipients of God’s wrath. God had to separate us from Himself forever. However, Jesus came as the atoning sacrifice. In so doing, Jesus turned aside God’s wrath and allowed it to pour on Him. Imagine God’s wrath—piercing as nails and burning as fire—as it poured down on each of us. Before it scalded us, however, Jesus reached out and deflected the molten stream. His nail-pierced hands turned aside the wrath of the Father so it fell on Him and not us. He said, “This is love: not that our children love us but that we love them. This is love: the wrath our children deserve will fall on me and not on them.” That’s the real definition of love.
Jesus’ death and resurrection is also the evidence of God’s love. Returning to 1 John 4:9, God evidenced His love in the ultimate way; He sent His Son to die, “that we might live through him.” He gives us eternal life on account of the Son. Our life is the evidence of His love for us.
Agape-love should also describe believers’ relationships. In and of ourselves, we are incapable of agape-love. Throughout the gospels, only God refers to Jesus as agapetos, or beloved. For example, God said at Jesus’ baptism, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17 KJV). The remainder of the New Testament never used it in this context again. The usage of the phrase shifted after the Holy Spirit indwelt believers. Agapetos appears 53 more times; every use is between fellow believers.
John encouraged believers to agape-love each other. We are able to because of Jesus’ sacrificial example. John wrote a few verses earlier, we, “love one another for love comes from God; everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7 NIV). Love extended to us; we extend it to others.
God’s ways are so contrary to the ways of the world! To try to fit Him into our definitions twists and warps the whole process. He is the definition of love. He is the evidence of love. He is love. When we truly know God and His feelings for each of us, then that same love naturally pours out to others. Since He loves us in this way, no reason exists as to why we should not be displaying that same love for others. Those who are loved—let us love.
By Kathi Woodall –
Last year, our pastor called my husband two days before Christmas. He asked if our daughter would play the piano for church on Christmas morning. Somewhat surprised, but knowing she had a few Christmas carols in her musical repertoire, my husband agreed. Now, my daughter was only six years old and wasn’t an accomplished pianist. In fact, she had only been taking lessons for a few months. Despite her inexperience, she nonchalantly agreed to play. On Christmas morning, she seated her small frame in front of the grand piano and simply yet beautifully played “O Come, All Ye Faithful” and “Silent Night.”
“I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” (Luke 18:17).
A month previous, my daughter received a book of Level One Christmas carols. Born with a passion for music, she diligently began to learn every song in the book. She never expected to play for anyone besides her piano teacher and us. Audience or not, it didn’t matter, she simply loved to play and practiced her carols every day.
Similarly, God wants us to study and know His Word everyday simply because we love Him, not so we can look good when we spiritually perform for others. When we grow in Him just because we love Him, we become a vessel He can use at unexpected, impromptu opportunities. “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15).
After the Christmas service, many people commented they couldn’t even see my daughter while she was playing because she was so little. The pews full of watching eyes, the imposing grandeur of the piano, and the expectant silence of the room could have scared her into not playing her songs. The intimidating combination could have kept her from doing what she had been asked to do.
I have felt this way so many times in my ministry. The voice inside my head says, “You can’t teach. What business do you have trying to explain the Word of God?” Or, “You can’t speak. People will be bored with what you have to say.” Sometimes the voice says, “You can’t write. Everyone will be critical of the words you type.” At those times I have to recognize the true enemy, face the giants of fear and rejection, and persevere in what God called me to do, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).
Like I said, my daughter is not an accomplished pianist. Her song was simple. So often, we feel we can’t serve because we aren’t the most perfect, the most accomplished. We can’t have people over for coffee because our house isn’t adequate. We can’t teach a class because we’ve never done it before. We can’t serve on a mission trip because we aren’t trained like a real missionary. God calls us to those things, and countless others, not because we are perfect at them but because He is glorified through our weaknesses. “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me…For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
By Kathi Woodall –
That single Hebrew word has transformed my image of who we are, not only as wives, but as women. “A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies” (Proverbs 31:10 NIV).
The Hebrew word translates to noble in the New International Version. Capable, virtuous, excellent, and worthy are also common translations. If someone used any one of these adjectives to describe us, we would take it as a compliment. The problem is that none of them fully capture the meaning of the original Hebrew word. The Hebrew word translated here as noble, virtuous and excellent is chayil (khah-yil). Even today, people of the Jewish faith refer to this passage as “Eshet Chayil,” or “A Woman of Valor.” A woman of valor is perhaps the most accurate and has become my favorite translation of this familiar passage.
The Old Testament uses chayil most often in the context of war or battle. Traditionally, the role of a man is to fight for and defend his country or his homeland. Scripture is full of stories of the Israelite men leaving their homes to go to battle; over and over it refers to them as chayil. They are the valiant warriors who crossed the Jordan to claim the Promised Land and fought alongside Joshua. They were the “elite army” of Israel who could “wage war with great power” (2 Chronicles 26:13). King David was chayil even before God chose him as king; he was “a mighty man of valor” (1 Samuel 9:1).
These are merely a sampling of the imagery behind the word chayil. Like these valiant warriors, a chayil woman fights for and defends her home. She protects it from invading negative influences and organizes those under her so that it runs smoothly and calmly. A chayil woman is strong, mighty, and efficient. She is valiant and virtuous. But, and this is a very important point, she is all of these things alongside her husband, never in opposition to him.
What is the significance of comparing to rubies? In our society, when we think of the most valuable gemstone, we immediately think of diamonds. But, just as our society doesn’t recognize the value of a good wife, neither does it recognize the value of a ruby. According to a jeweler friend of mine, a ruby of gemstone quality can be worth more than a diamond of the same size, and it is definitely rarer.
A good marriage has many balancing factors. One of them is a valiant, chayil woman for a wife and a husband who recognizes and respects that quality in her. Then, a powerful, beautiful marriage can be built that is worthy of being compared to the future marriage relationship between Christ and His bride, the church.
Like a flawless ruby, do you view yourself as being of inestimable value? If you don’t view yourself that way, will you accept that you are and begin to ask God to reveal the jewel He created you to be?