The Hard Decisions: Labor and Delivery

When I was a young Airman, I worked in Labor and Delivery as the primary surgical technician for c-sections. More times than I care to count, I was present when hard decisions were made about maternal or baby health.  Sometimes those choices had to do with a plummeting baby heart rate, a few times it had to do with a prolapsed cord, and once it had to do with a teratoma mass (this is a very rare cell tumor that can contain fully formed tissues, teeth, hair or bones).  The outcomes of those decisions were typically positive with both mother and baby surviving.  Sometimes those outcomes were much sadder.

In Exodus, we know there was a pharaoh trying to control Israel’s population through hard labor and ultimately by ordering Hebrew midwives to kill any male infants that they delivered (Exodus 1:15-16).  This is a much hard decision of the labor and delivery kind.

Within the scripture we see Shiphrah and Puah, the midwives, put into a scenario where they had to choose to follow the orders of the earthly leader or the commandments of the heavenly one.

It’s important to note that Moses refers to these two midwives by name.  Perhaps out of the multitude of other midwives, these two are most important because of their seniority in the area.  Perhaps they were mentors or teachers of the other midwives. Perhaps because of that leadership role, they would have been expected to follow the pharaoh’s orders and become an example to the rest of the midwives.  Perhaps they are remembered in the Old Testament scrolls because of their fear of the Lord and their disobedience of the murderous order (Exodus 1:17).

They could have been simply lost to the years as historically insignificant. 

But they were not. 

Why? Because they refused man and chose to obey God (Acts 5:17-19).  They did not kill any babies, let alone just the male infants.  In that choice, they remained faithful to the Lord.  They were able to stand before God as righteous servants rather than wretched ones.  They changed the course of world history by preserving God’s chosen people.

Their decisions were life and death ones with eternal implications.  Like modern obstetrics, they were making the hard decisions of labor and delivery. 

~Emily

“The midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live.” Exodus 1:17 (NIV)

The Owner’s Manual

I bought a new car a few weeks ago.  I wanted something just a bit bigger, and it seemed like the right time to take the plunge.  One of the things the salesman handed me as I walked out the door with keys in hand was a ginormous owner’s manual.  It amazes me how detailed the manual is, giving you specific instructions on not only the strange button you find on the side of your console but how to properly put your car in Drive.  If I need the owner’s manual to learn how to put it in Drive, I’m not sure I should be buying a car just yet!

As Christians, we also have an owner’s manual!  When we accept Christ as Lord of our life, we have the Bible that teaches us about how to live for God every day.  It teaches us seemingly small things like being kind.  It teaches us big things like how to apply appropriate church discipline.  It reminds us that to love the world means we hate the Father.  It also gives us reminders of what can happen when we look back after God has taken us out of the ungodly situation (pillar of salt, anyone?).

Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of the soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

He also says in Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

The Bible is meant to guide us and shape us.  It’s God letter to us, rich in wisdom.  When we read it daily, it’s a direct line to our Heavenly Father.  Even when there’s something tough to read or hard to swallow, it’s our Father giving us the right way to live our lives.  We need no other book!  It loves.  It corrects.  It chastens.  It guides.  It heals.

As we read our Bibles this week, I pray that we hear God’s voice in the scriptures.  And if this will be the first time you’ve picked up your Bible in a while, I pray that God’s love pours over you in words.  If you’re looking for a place to start, try starting with the book of John.  It will remind that you God is love.  And that love allowed Him to become a sacrifice for you so that you might know what eternity in heaven is.

~Erin

Modifications

On Memorial Day this year, I joined several other people at the gym I attend and we completed the Murph WOD.  This particular workout is in honor of a serviceman who gave his life for our country.  It is difficult.  It consists of a 1 mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 pushups, 300 squats, and another 1 mile run. 

Seeing as how I can barely get myself to a regular workout, I had prepared myself for only doing part of it.  However, somewhere towards the end, I was challenged by Emily to just finish it out.  And we did…together!  It was a big accomplishment to me.

When I went home to tell my husband, I explained to him about how I had modified some of the exercises (because I’m certainly not strong enough to do 200 straight pushups).  But when I really started to think about how much work I had done, I thought, “why am I minimizing my accomplishment just because it doesn’t look exactly like everyone else’s?”  Modifications are meant to be for those who want to do it but may not be capable of doing it the ‘standard’ way!  I should be proud and I don’t need to explain to someone how I had to make some changes to make it work for me.

I think about how this compares in memorizing scripture.  We work on memorizing a verse.  We repeat it over and over again, but we still need to see a word to get the rest of it out.  Maybe we have to sing it because that’s how we’ve been taught to memorize.  You could have to record your own voice, reading the verse and then listening to it!  I’ve seen multiple ways of learning something.  I’ve also seen where it just simply takes someone longer to memorize than others.  We see it as a weakness, something we have to explain away because it’s not the way everyone else does it.

I encourage you, dear friends, be proud of the studying and growing you are doing with the scripture memory.  Learning the Word of God is not a one size fits all.  What helps one may not help the other.  What matters is that you have committed to hiding God’s Word in your heart.  You have a desire to grow closer to God and understand what He says.  That is key to maturing your walk with Him!

Tell us in the comments below your best study method for memorizing scripture, and let us know which verse you’ve memorized!  And if you have memorized one yet, let us know in the comments which one you’d love to start with.  You’ll never regret it!

~Erin

“Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not see against Thee.” –Psalm 119:11

Spiritual Attacks

If you are a believer, you won’t go long without encountering spiritual warfare.  The enemy would love nothing more than for us to forget that there is constantly a spiritual battle going on amongst us.  We may not always see it and we may tend to forget that it’s going on, but it continuously brings chaos, turmoil, discouragement, fear, stress, and even defeat. 

The Bible reminds us that we should stay aware of Satan’s schemes, while staying close to the Lord. We’ve been armed for battle through the Armor of God (Ephesians 6:11-17), and also with the entire Word of God.  When we are able to pray God’s Words back to Him, we are utilizing a powerful weapon against Satan, as it’s the Truth being spoken out loud. 

Here are scriptures to read, pray, and memorize in regards to Spiritual Warfare:

Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. ~Luke 10:19 

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. ~John 10:10 

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith.  ~1 Peter 5:8-9

Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  ~James 4:7

For You have girded me with strength for battle; You have subdued under me those who rose up against me.  ~Psalm 18:39

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. ~2 Corinthians 10:3-5

No weapon that is formed against you will prosper; and every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their vindication is from Me,” declares the Lord. ~Isaiah 54:17

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. ~Ephesians 6:11-17

Remember sweet readers, when we belong to Christ, Satan never has the final word over our lives. We are fully in God’s hands.  Our responsibility in spiritual warfare includes being ready to pray, meditate, and speak the Word of God.  This battle belongs to the Lord, and He has the final victory…so fear not.

~Emily

Leadership Lessons: Moving Up The Banquet Table

Have you ever wondered how some people are given a promotion over others?  Was it because of their merit? Their work ethic? Their personality? Or was it at the expense of others? Was it because their own ambitions drove them to promotion regardless of those around them? 

In the military environment (I’m confident that this is likely true in any corporate environment), I’ve witnessed this set of questions in regards to leadership.  Specifically, when someone is given increased responsibility and/or rank, those around the leader will often remark that they are either well-deserving of the promotion, or they will comment that they were moved ahead as a result of stepping on others to get there (this self-promotion can be overt or subtle, but it eventually shows itself for self-promotion, given enough time).  It does not appear that there is an in-between, but rather only the two extremes.  One leaves the followers happy, the other leaves them scratching their heads.  

How does one end up in the category of leading the happy followers?  How do you end up being promoted based on merit, rather than circumstances that are at the expense of others?  

In Luke 14:8-10, we see the example of waiting for an invitation to move to a place of honor.

“When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place.  But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you.”

In this parable, Jesus noticed how guests have ranked themselves at a wedding banquet.  Through this example, He is teaching the concept of humility vs pride.  In human nature it is easy to place oneself higher than others may see you in status or positional power.  Jesus is teaching us specifically to allow for the host to choose where we sit at the table, lest we embarrass ourselves (and those around us) with our own false sense of importance.  

Proverbs 25:6-7 (NASB) cross-references this concept.  

“Do not boast in the presence of the king, And do not stand in the same place as great people: For it is better that it be said to you, ‘Come up here,’ Than for you to be placed lower in the presence of the prince, whom your eyes have seen.” 

These scriptures remind me of a time when I attended a family wedding.  The ushers seated me in the 2nd row of the groom side, as part of the family.  I noticed many rows behind me Uncle Kevin and Aunt Barbara, who by rights of being in the groom’s family, should be in the same row with me.  I waved to them and invited them to come sit with me.  As they moved to join me, I distinctly remember Aunt Barbara saying that it was better for them to have sat at the back and waited for the invitation to sit in the family row.  

In a seemingly innocent conversation, two people illustrated a real-life example of living out the parables that Jesus taught us about humility and waiting for the invitation.  Clearly it was an impactful showcase of this lesson, if years later I can still distinctly recall the scenario.  

Something as simple as waiting for an invitation to be moved to a position of honor, translates to humility.  It would serve us well to remember this in our daily lives, in the military promotions, in corporate American, or our political parties.  

Our promotions to the head of the banquet table should be at the host’s discretion…not because of our own self-promotion.

~Emily

What Do Our Works Say?

A few weeks ago, my girls and I decided to get tattoos.  It wasn’t really spur of the moment in the true sense of the phrase.  Peyton has been wanting mother/daughter tattoos for a while and since the three of us were together, we just went for it!

We each have a different dinosaur on our wrist. The theme is the same, but they don’t match.  We were wanting something that identified us as a unit.

This got me to thinking about how I’m identified as a Christian.  When people see me or talk to me, do they know I’m a believer?  Do they recognize I put my trust in Him? Do my actions scream ‘I love Jesus!’? 

In James 2:17-18 it says, “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.  But someone may say, “you have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith BY (emphasis mine) my works.”

I LOVE that!  This doesn’t mean that works saves you.  What the scripture is telling us is that if you have faith (you are a believer), it compels us to do good work for the cause of Christ.  When we walk in Christ, we produce faith-filled works that represent who God is and what He commands us to do.  In Bible study, we say those actions are faith-based works and not a works-based faith!

The works we produce as believers bring about things like love, joy, peace, faithfulness, self-control….you might recognize these as some of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).  I love looking at these two passages of scripture together! 

When we see ourselves with a steadfast faith, we WANT to do things that show God in His glory.  When we do those things, the people around us see who our Creator is.  They see the power of an awesome Father who cares for His children.  People see something ‘different’ in the Christian who is doing works because they love God and want to honor Him as opposed to the person who is doing works for the rewards or accolades.

I pray that this year we see mighty works completed and that our faith-based works bring glory to the one true God!

~Erin

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

I slowed to a stop and turned on my flashers about 50 yards ahead of the turn into one of the busiest gas stations on the highway.  Rylan was sitting there waiting for me.  He had been on his way to work when the alternator went out on his car, and he needed me to pick him up and help tow the car back to the house.

Let me say that there are several things wrong with this picture.  First, it was quitting time here in Alabama so all 8,000 cars in our area were in the same area at the same time.  Second, it’s a blind hill where he had stopped so I couldn’t quite see over the little hump to be able to know if I could turn around without enjoying a potential T-Bone dinner.  Third, I do not like to tow vehicles.  Oh, and fourth…I don’t really have a proper vehicle to tow.

HOWEVER, once I arrived, I sucked it up and we drove the long way back home.  If you were one of the several cars that got stuck behind us as we moseyed back at about 35 mph in the 55 mph zone, may I give a heartfelt apology!  While I may have been able to go a little faster, I was confident that slow and steady would win this race.

Paul talks about running the race in the bible.  He speaks at length to only looking what is before us and forgetting what lies behind.  He said “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of god in Christ Jesus,” Philippians 3:14.

He lovingly tells the Corinthians that he doesn’t just go crazy trying to get done.  Rather, he’s patient and steadfast.

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize?  So run that you may obtain it.  Every athlete exercises self-control in all things.  They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.  So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.  But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” –I Corinthians 9:24-27

When we are studying scripture or when we are growing in the knowledge of the Lord, it’s not about how fast we can read or how quickly we can get through the bible.  It’s about learning at the pace that allows you to mature and grow deeper in your faith.  It’s one thing to know what a piece of scripture says or where a story is at.  It’s another to know what that scripture is about, what its context is, and how it can point us back to our Father!

While reading the bible through in a year is great, (and I really do believe it is), there is power in recognizing that you need to go back and read parts again.  And again….to sit in the scripture and ask God what’s He’s revealing about Himself in the passage.  It’s ok if the year-long bible plan takes you 1 ½ years.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with spending more than one week on a bible study lesson because you find it rich with information.  Remember, the goal is just to keep moving forward.  When we are learning and developing in those lessons, we are always moving in the right direction.  Like Paul, we don’t want to have the aimless task or the thoughtless race.  This marathon we are on in our relationship with Him should be one that is the most meaningful journeys of which we will ever partake!

I pray that we can be encouraged that slow and steady maturing will bring a beautiful and meaningful relationship with our Creator!  Happy studying!

~Erin