Bethel Grace Abbey Mission

This is the online outreach for Bethel Grace Abbey Mission. May our efforts to serve the hurting and homeless souls of Southern California reach to the level He has set for us. May His Glory shine through the darkness and be evident in all we do at Bethel Grace Abbey. These are only our humble beginnings, but through His love, we can move mountains. Thank you for joining us on our mission. May your life be as blessed as mine has become.
In His Loving Grace,
Jennifer Joy

Monday, February 3, 2014

Love at the Foot of the Cross

I said a while back that I would talk more about love. So here it is.

The perfect definition of love is found in 1 Corinthians 13, and it goes like this:

“Love is patient,

Love is kind.

It does not envy,

It does not boast,

It is not proud.

It does not dishonor others,

It is not self-seeking,

It is not easily angered,

It keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil

But rejoices with the truth.

It always protects,

Always trusts,

Always hopes,

Always perseveres.

Love never fails.”

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Wow. What a list. Sometimes I think to myself, “How many of these characteristics of love do I exhibit to others? How do I measure up on the Jesus scale?”

I know that I am much more patient than I was in my younger years. But I still have a long ways to go. Besides, have you ever noticed that sometimes you are more patient with friends and acquaintances than you are with your own family members? I know I am. Patience has never been my strong suit, and my patience gets tested quite often and I fail more often than not with my  husband, especially now that we live in extremely close quarters. (We live in a 32 foot motorhome with our two dogs, Tinker Belle the Pug and Gracie the standard poodle puppy.)

I try to be as kind as possible, in my dealings with others. However, this, too, can be a struggling point when my mouth speaks before my brain thinks it through--especially when I am tired or in pain. I have to keep telling myself that unkind words will not help the situation, neither will my habit of “needing” to have the last word on a subject. The Holy Spirit has been working on me lately concerning fewer words being better.

“Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.”

Ecclesiastes 5:2

(Personal addendum, based on Psalm 139: Everything is uttered before God because he hears all and knows all, even before we speak it or do it.)

Envy. I have mostly conquered envy, but there are still times when I get jealous or covet something someone else owns.

And, yes, I do catch myself boasting from time to time, but I rationalize it, thinking that it might benefit so-and-so if they heard about my personal victory. It is not necessarily bad to tell about our victories, so long as we give the glory to God, because if He did not equip us and provide for us, we would not have the victories to boast about. Our victories come through His blessings.

“But, ‘Let the one who boasts boast in The Lord.’ for it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom The Lord commends.”

2 Corinthians 10:17-18

What exactly is pride? When I typed “define pride” into the Bing search engine, the second definition that it showed was “proper sense of own value.”

definition of pride

 Wow. So, according to the world (as pointed out by the above), we are supposed to be prideful? I understand that we should feel good about ourselves and that we need to have a sense of personal respect, but seriously? Pride is the proper sense of our own value? I think not, and I base my belief on the teachings of Jesus. Humility is what our personal value needs to be based on. Jesus washed people’s feet. He did not let His status as the king, as God incarnate, interfere with what He came to this earth to accomplish. To be a servant is more important than any other thing we might have to be prideful about. John 13 states it best.

“Jesus knew that The Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.”

John 13:3-5

Today’s world is so full of pride and arrogance, that the world tends to disparage those who do not conform to the worldly ways of “me-me-me” and winning no matter the cost, calling us “nonconformists” weak and stupid. The world idolizes movie stars and professional sports figures. No wonder they are so arrogant, being held to that level by their fans.

Alas, even with my disdain for pride, I occasionally fall prey to its evil draw. I am only human, after all.

“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Better to be lowly in spirit along with the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud.”

Proverbs 16:18-19

How am I doing so far? It doesn’t look too promising for me to ever achieve God’s definition of love; however, God knows this about all of us humans.

My point in showing how I fail at some of these love traits is not to disparage myself. I show my faults to demonstrate that having faults in these areas is nothing to beat yourself up about. So long as we are working faithfully on our weaknesses, God will be pleased with us. God knows we are human and that as humans, we have a tendency to be self-centered and that we have a sinful nature.

God delights in us when we take our faults and our failures to Him. When we take our pride and our ego and we place them at the foot of the cross, He will help us bear our burdens and wipe away our shame.

He loves us that much.

My final words on love comes again from 1 Corinthians 13:

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

1 Corinthians 13:13

My prayer for you today is that you would know love in your life, the deep, abiding love only found in relationship with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

In His grace,

Jennifer Joy

Friday, January 31, 2014

Guilt Complex, Gone

I should recognize by now that if I start having troubled sleep, if I start to falter in my Walk, if depression begins to come upon me, then God is once again working his magic in my soul. For my soul upheavals are not without reward.

And, oh, how sweet the rewards when God troubles my soul.

For several weeks, I tossed and turned, having bad dreams about false accusations. These dreams tormented not only my sleep, but also my waking hours, because I did not know why I kept having this recurrent theme. No one has troubled me with lies and false blame in almost a year now.

In my past, I have suffered many false accusations. I won’t go into too much detail, but a person very dear to me had the habit of throwing me under the bus when she was caught in a lie. We were very close (or so I wished), but no matter how desperately I wanted to share  my most intimate secrets with her, I simply could not trust her. I could not trust that she would keep my secrets, and I could not trust that she would not twist my truth into something grotesque and punishing.

From all her lies and from others believing her lies, I have suffered horribly from a guilt complex since childhood.

On top of that, I also have suffered from Lyme disease since childhood. No one believed I was sick. No one believed I was almost always in severe pain. I was accused of being a hypochondriac, once again spurred on by the lies spread by my dearest loved one.

Adding insult to injury, Lyme is a very real disease caught in the ugly political-ness of the CDC and insurance red tape. The CDC is influenced by insurance lobbyists, with their single goal being to save themselves money, even at the expense of the American public. This is a whole ball of wax I don’t wish to get into, for its negativity, but if you are interested in learning more, I would suggest checking out the video, “Under Our Skin.” As a result of the insurance industry’s political agenda, I and other Lyme sufferers have been accused of lying and of being hypochondriacs. I have had a whole slew of medical professionals deny my pain and my illness, for years.

There are plenty of other people and issues I could add to this list of false accusations, but I won’t. I’m not saying that I have never been guilty of things. I am not perfect. Far from it. I have sinned plenty, but the guilt complex came about because of unwarranted lies and accusations.

It is a myth that if we have a guilty conscience, then we must be guilty.

The truth is often that we have suffered blame at the hands of others once too often.

In my final dream on the subject, I found myself standing before a long line of my accusers. Some I recognized, of course, but some I did not, because they belonged to the CDC and insurance industry, and also among them were medical professionals I did not immediately recognize. Fear and terror seized my heart as I stood alone in front of them. Then all of a sudden, Jesus was beside me. I did not have to look to my right to know He was there. His presence and His voice were unmistakable.

He said, “Tell the first one to step forward.”

I reluctantly motioned for her to come.

Jesus said, “Ask her to say what she came to say.”

I reluctantly asked, as tears threatened to escape.

She said her lies, cast her blame.

Then Jesus said, “Now, tell her she is lying, tell her that you forgive her, and then send her on her way.”

I did as He asked. My heart felt a tiny bit better.

She went to the end of the line, so that she could once again come forward with more lies and blame when her turn came again.

We went through several more people in the line, with Jesus asking me to tell each of them the same thing. I was starting to feel better about myself. Eventually, He simply said, “Tell them what for,” as each one stepped up. “Go ahead,” He lovingly encouraged, as He motioned their way.

When I awoke, my guilt complex was completely gone. I was free. My temporary fight with depression was gone.

Now, before you jump all over me about vindication, let me state that what Jesus was asking me to do in my dream had nothing to do with vindication. I know vindication flies in the face of Jesus’ teaching about turning the other cheek. But I did not argue my truth. I did not lash out at my accusers. I was calm in dealing with each one because I had my Savior by my side. I felt no need to vindicate myself with Jesus there, holding my hand. He simply told me to tell them I knew they were lying, forgive them, and send them on their way.

Through this dream, God closed the book on my guilty conscience.

When I woke up, The Holy Spirit then led me to read the book of Ezra. Here is the biblical truth I learned about false accusations:

In a quick summary, King Cyrus allowed some of the exiles to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the house of God, to fulfill the prophesy spoken by Jeremiah (Ezra 1:1-3), and he also returned the temple articles that King Nebuchadnezzar had taken (Ezra 1:7). It didn’t take long for enemies of the exiles to frustrate their plans (Ezra 4:4-16). During the reign of subsequent kings, they continued making things difficult for the builders of the temple. They launched a specific complaint in a letter to Artaxerxes about how Jerusalem had always been a rebellious and wicked city (Ezra 4:12), and so Artaxerxes issued an order to stop work, so that the city would not be rebuilt (Ezra 4:21). During the reign of Darius, the Jews once again began building the temple, having the support and guidance of the prophets, and their enyy6emies once again tried to stir up trouble (Ezra 5:2-3). In response, the Jews stated in a letter to King Darius that they were working on the temple and the city by the decree of King Cyrus. Their letter is found in verses 5:11-17. At the end of the letter, they ask King Darius to do a thorough search of the archives, so that Darius may discover the truth for himself. This truth is verified and Darius’ response is found in verses 6:3-12. King Darius not only upheld the decree of his predecessor, but he also ordered that the accusers pay the expenses for rebuilding from the royal treasury and the revenues of Trans-Euphrates. The accusers had to give everything the Jews needed for the construction and also for the burnt offerings. King Darius furthermore decreed that anyone who continued to make trouble would be put to death.

Wow! What a turnaround. When questioned by their accusers, the elders calmly stated their case, and the truth prevailed because God saw their suffering, and He provided relief as only He can.

God sees our suffering. God knows our pain. God knows when we have been wrongly accused, just as He knew that the Jewish elders had been wrongly accused of building without permission. The elders did not seek to vindicate themselves. They did not seek retribution for years of being maligned and kept from their mission. All they wanted was to continue rebuilding the temple, as God had asked. Then, God provided the means necessary to finish the task without any further interference.

It is beautiful, the workings of Our Lord. He touched deep within my pain and healed yet another wound. He is so good to me.

My prayer for you today is that you may find healing for your inmost wounds.

In His grace,

Jennifer Joy

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Troubled By Love

Once again, I have been having trouble sleeping. God is working on me again. I am a work in progress, as we all are, and I am grateful for each moment of His mercy and grace as He walks me through every heartbreak from my past.

I much prefer His discipline to being forgotten and unnoticed, and this is what I would like to talk about today.

Who wants an indifferent, uncaring God? Not me!

Before we come into His grace, we can fall into the trap of believing He does not care.

It is not that God does not care for us, it is that He is waiting for us to turn from our sins and cry out for His help. Many of the Psalms speak to this fact, and they are a great place to turn for hope, but I would like to quote a verse from Lamentations.

“My eyes will flow unceasingly, without relief, until The Lord looks down from heaven and sees.”

Lamentations 3:49

And also several verses from James:

“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”

James 4:1-3

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.”

James 4:7-8

I thank God for giving me the perseverance to discover the depth of His love, for it was through a heartfelt prayer that I began my healing journey. I prayed, “Lord, please teach me to follow Your ways.” It was as simple as that. I prayed and He helped me submit myself to reading the Bible and living The Word. I turn to Him almost constantly in prayer nowadays.

If you find prayer difficult, then think of it simply as a conversation with a good friend. There are no rules or hoops to jump through in order to pray “correctly.” The majority of the time, I am not even on bended knee, because for years it was difficult for me to kneel down in prayer because of my pain. The biblical directives to kneel have more to do with submitting yourself through the condition of your heart, rather than the position of your body.

I thank Him abundantly every time I am rebuked, every time I am disciplined, because it means that He loves me enough to bother with me. It would be far worse if God threw up His hands in disgust and just walked away. People do that. But God does not. I know I have sinned far more than I would tolerate out of someone, if I were in His position. (Sometimes I wonder how my husband could be such a saint to put up with me for so long, but that’s another story.)

Being disciplined (as opposed to being punished or neglected) means that our parents care enough to make sure we follow the right path in life. It means that they love us and want the best for us. It means that they put our rearing on a higher level than their own selfish pursuits.

That’s the way it is supposed to work, anyway. Many parents fail to demonstrate love to their children in this way. Whether it be because of addictions, working too many hours, or the latest trend—not wanting to play the part of the bad parent by disciplining, because the children are from a broken home. We do not love our children when we sugar coat everything and refuse to carry out our parental duties.

A diet of lollypops and ice cream will result in a fat child, and a childhood without loving discipline and proper guidance will result in an adult who does not know boundaries, who does not know what love truly is.

Proverbs 3 tells of the wonderful blessings of fatherly love.

“My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity.

Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.

Trust in The Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways, submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear The Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.

Honor The Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.

My son, do not despise The Lord’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because The Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.”

Proverbs 3:1-12

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

Hebrews 12:11

“I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of The Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’ The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of The Lord. It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young.”

Lamentations 3:19-27

“For no one is cast off by The Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone.”

Lamentations 3:31-33

Thank You, Lord, for disciplining me. Thank You, Lord, for being the parent in my old age that I so desperately needed and yearned for in my youth. Thank You, Lord, for saving me from my own wickedness.

My prayer for you today: Even though I know you may go through difficult times as you are refined by His loving discipline, I pray that your burdens will be lightened by coming to know Our Lord intimately through prayer and living The Word.

In His grace,

Jennifer Joy

Monday, January 27, 2014

Down With The Flu

Oh, what a miserable month I had, while I was down with the bug.

It was a month full of misery, but a month where I did not lose my faith.

Though the devil tried to steal my joy over my recent healing, I would not give in to his lies.

Oh, what a beautiful thing Our Lord has given me.

His mercy touched my inmost wounds and He has healed me, body and soul.

I wrote a few months ago about our church laying hands on me and healing me from my severe pain and suffering. Well, shortly after my healing, I came down with the flu. As many of you may know, the flu has been especially bad again this year. Just about every rig that came through Cherry Valley during November and December had at least one person sick with the flu. From talking with locals and also with friends and family spread around the country, I ascertained that this particular strain of the flu seemed to follow a rather predictable timeline.

For me, it started with several days of sore and teary eyes and a runny nose. When my eyes started to feel better, the sinus congestion kicked into high gear. I went through several boxes of tissues as I sneezed my way through about two weeks of this phase alone. Then a few days of stomach pain, diarrhea, and fever were added to the sinus issues. When that went away, my congestion and runny nose also started to dissipate, which led me to believe that I was on the mend. Not so, because after a few days of gradual improvement, my eyes were acting up again and the congestion and runny nose and sneezing really kicked into high gear. This brought on a bad cough that after a few days, went away. Another week of sinus issues and I found myself truly on the rebound to better health again.

During this horrible month or so, while I was sick with the flu, the devil tried to convince me that I was having a Lyme flare-up. I cried and I prayed to God that it wasn’t so. I did firmly believe in my healing miracle, but I was weak and worn out from being sick.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

John 10:10

I kept talking to others who had had the flu recently. I kept telling myself that so-and-so had the same constellation of symptoms and for just as long a duration. Too many people were going through the same thing, and following the same pattern, for my symptoms to be something different than what they were suffering through.

That was the devil’s mistake—trying to use such a widespread seasonal illness to convince me I had not been divinely healed.

I stuck out my tongue at the enemy and continued to rely on God.

Once upon a time, I mistakenly thought that if my belief faltered even one iota, then I would lose the promises, the blessings, and the gifts God had given me. It was as if I were dreaming, and upon awakening, I found my hands empty because I could not hold onto the possessions of my dream.

Through the maturing of my faith, I have found that His blessings and promises are not fleeting. They are not dependent on me being perfect. If things were dependent on perfection, then I would never earn any of God’s gifts.

And that’s just it: We cannot earn a single thing, based on our own efforts or our own righteousness. We need Jesus to pay for our sins.

“’But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.’

‘If you can?’ said Jesus. ‘Everything is possible for one who believes.’

Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’”

Mark 9:23-24

The above verse shows how there can be a duality to our belief—an acceptable duality. Think of it this way: If you were to win the lottery, it would most likely take your brain a while to accept the truth of your sudden prosperity. Just because you may exclaim that it is too good to be true, or that you cannot believe it, it does not make it untrue.  If you took a dip in your pile of money, Uncle Scrooge McDuck style, then you might just realize your wealth because it is evident, right in front of you.

Similarly, the more you spend time with God and in His Word, the more your faith and belief will increase.

Although I used Uncle Scrooge and piles of money as an example, I do not condone such behavior, because when we act like Uncle Scrooge, we are worshiping money instead of worshiping God. Placing such a high value on the all mighty dollar and obsessing over our fortunes amounts to idolatry. There must be nothing higher than our faith in the true All Mighty.

My prayer for you today is for belief. I pray for your peace and your prosperity, as only God can provide.

In His Grace,

Jennifer Joy

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Angels Singing

Please forgive that I have not been writing for a while. I have had the flu for at least the past month, making life quite miserable. I will talk more about the flu and its significance later, but for now I would like to share the story of my daughter’s birth, as tomorrow is her 26th birthday. I would add some of her baby pictures, except, sadly, we left them in Oregon.

My daughter, Kristina Marie, was born on a crisp, clear, cold day, the twenty-sixth day of the year, 1988, in a rickety old naval hospital on Whidbey Island. I can remember the icy wind; it seemed to seep right through the walls and windows. (This is why I joke with her about being born in a barn. That and the fact that the medical corpsmen treated us like cattle.) Luckily, I had a bed away from the window. Unluckily, since it was a shared room (having four beds), I bunked with a woman who must have thought hairspray was the glue that held the world together. She was a typical big-hair eighties type of woman, and so she was constantly applying makeup and fumigating the room with aerosol Aqua Net and nauseatingly floral perfume.

As a side note, Hairspray starring Ricki Lake hit the big screen in 1988, garnering its title from the simple fact that big eighties hair took a lot of spray to hold it all up. Since we are talking about eighties culture, I would most likely have been listening to Whitney Houston, Lionel Richie, and Heart, but my favorite song in 1988 was George Michael’s Faith.

Back then, we could get a gallon of gas for under a dollar, and postage was still under a quarter. Back then, I managed to get in and out of the grocery store, including diapers and baby food, for under $100 a month. Starbucks was just an infant itself, and coffee had not yet become the rage it is today. Checking accounts also typically earned interest. In fact, my first checking account was earning 5.25%. That’s unheard of nowadays. Savings accounts do not even earn that much today.

Kristina Marie was born on a Tuesday, although she was due over a week earlier, on a Friday (the fifteenth). I have always told her that she was born fashionably late, because she took her sweet time coming into the world, after 38 hours of labor, finally arriving just before 2:30 in the afternoon, on January 26, 1988. This was a leap year, something she and I have in common. Incidentally, my son was also born during a leap year.

Since she was determined to be fashionably late, I was likewise determined to employ just about any old wives’ tale to make her want to leave my womb. Someone told us that spicy food would trigger labor. Therefore, the Saturday before she was born, we went out for Chinese and then went to see Hello Vietnam, starring Robin Williams. The spicy food did not work, but between the MSG and hitting my head on the doorframe of our 1971 Chevy Malibu, I did have a whopper of a headache.

She weighed a healthy 8 pounds 5 ounces, and although this was considered “large,” especially for a first child, labor was a breeze. That is, the actual hard labor, when I was actively pushing, not the 37 hours that preceded it. I have never told anyone this before, but when I began pushing, a beautiful sense of peace came over me. It was as if nothing else mattered. Life. Death. The price of a cup of coffee. Nothing. Yet everything would soon matter for this new life that was entering the world. As I disappeared into the selfless act of birthing, the outside world went suddenly still. Although the doctors and corpsmen continued to buzz noisily around me, I heard nothing but angels singing. Even though I chose a drug-free birth, I felt no pain while pushing. Absolutely no pain. When I heard a faint voice say, “push,” I pushed. Instead of pain, a sense of warmth and joy overwhelmed me. When the voice said to push again, I pushed again, but still no pain. There was only this overwhelming peace as I floated, as if buoyed by the voices of angels. Four pushes, then I held my daughter in my arms for the first time. It was the single most beautiful experience of my life.

I had heard other women tell of not remembering the pain. Even though the women telling these stories acknowledged that there had been pain, they could not remember the severity. Thankfully, pain has a way of disappearing from our memories in this way, and it only leaves traces behind. It leaves an “oh, yeah, I remember now,” type memory, which we recall only when we go through it again. This was not the case for me. I seriously felt no pain. During the bulk of my labor, I do remember a great amount of pain, and fear. In fact, I cried out for my mother. Kristina’s father called my mom and told her I needed her, and so she and my sister drove five hours, to arrive just after Kristina was born. But during the active part of labor, it was as if God had placed the angels there to take the pain from me and allow me the full beauty of the moment. The pure ecstasy of it all. I thought maybe I had imagined it, that is, until I had my son. The pain from his birth, I distinctly remember going through it all. Unlike his sister, he was in a hurry to enter this world, and if his head had not been so big, he probably would have been born in the car on the way to the hospital. The pain from his birth was overwhelming and so sudden that it sent my body into shock, but his is another story not meant for today, other than as a point of comparison.

My newborn and I spent three days in the hospital, which was a typical length of stay back then. The Navy charged us a whopping $26.85 for our hospital stay, which was the cost of the meals consumed. I bet you couldn’t pull that off today, without having double coverage or some other wickedly good medical plan.

My prayer for you today is for peace, love, and joy through all of life’s challenges.

In His grace,

Jennifer Joy

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Faithfulness of Ruth

I awoke this morning, knowing that I must write about Ruth. I will explain why later.

I have read, over and over, the account of Ruth, the daughter-in-law of Naomi. It is a beautiful account of one young woman’s faith in a God she did not grow up knowing, for she was a Moabitess, and the people of Moab worshipped false gods.

It overwhelms me that the Book of Ruth is even in The Bible. First, it tells of the life of a woman. There are only two biblical books specifically about women, the other being the Book of Esther. Few women are even mentioned in the genealogy studies by name, comparatively speaking, and many of the women in The Bible are simply referred to by their gender, (even though they were important enough to mention).

Even the woman who anointed Jesus with perfume before his crucifixion is only called “a woman” or “this woman,” while the man who owned the house in Bethany where the anointing took place was specifically named. Even though Jesus states that “what she has done will also be told, in memory of her,” she is still only referred to by her gender. Women simply did not hold much worth in biblical times. (This is a topic for another day, and I will not get into its significance/relevance now.) Specific women are mentioned usually only in accordance with their male relations. Wife of, mother of, sister of, etc.

“While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.” (Matthew 26:6-7)

“Aware of this, Jesus said to them, ‘Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. . . I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.’” (Matthew 26:10, 13)

Secondly, it strikes me because, in The Old Testament, there are many admonitions against marrying foreign women, mostly for fear of falling under the curse of worshipping false gods. Yet, here in The Old Testament, is a story about a foreign-born woman, and she comes to marry a very important man. (I use the word “story” hesitantly because “story” usually indicates a work of fiction, whereas I firmly believe the Bible contains only God-breathed historical accounts, and as such, is the truth. The only real truth in this fallen world.)

However, Ruth was an extraordinary young woman.

Even though her husband (Naomi’s son) had died and she had not bore him any sons, she clung to Naomi and vowed to return to Naomi’s homeland with her. In all customary rights in her country, she very well could have returned to her own parents’ home and taken another husband, as it indicates Orpah (the other sister-in-law) did. (See Ruth 1:8-14)

She was a very loyal daughter-in-law. Her actions showed selflessness. She had taken her husband’s God as her own. This is one biblical example where it shows honor in a woman, where she actually obeys her husband and his religion, instead of her influencing her husband away from The One True God. To me, this also says she was very intelligent and able to discern the truth from all the lies she had most likely heard while growing up (through the worship of her people’s false gods). In much of The Bible, women are depicted as conniving and deceptive, finding their power only in their feminine, deceptive ways.

“I find more bitter than death the woman who is a snare, whose heart is a trap and whose hands are chains. The man who pleases God will escape her, but the sinner she will ensnare.” (Ecclesiastes 7:26)

But Ruth was different. She was intelligent, as I mentioned. She recognized her standing as a foreigner, and she knew that she had no right to ask for favors when it came to following the harvesters in the barley fields of Naomi’s kinsman, Boaz. When she met Boaz, she humbled herself and told the truth, instead of trying to be deceptive or running away and hiding her shame of being, essentially, a beggar.

“At this she bowed down with her face to the ground. She exclaimed, ‘Why have I found favor in your eyes that you would notice me—a foreigner?’. . . ‘May I continue to find favor in your eyes, my lord,’ she said. ‘You have spoken kindly to your servant—though I do not have the standing of one of your servant girls.’” (Ruth 2:10, 13)

What happened next is even more amazing.

When I first studied Ruth, I did not understand why she would lie, like a dog, at the feet of Boaz. Was she showing submissiveness by keeping his feet warm? She was a noble woman. The Bible says as much. So the gesture was not an offer to pay back his kindness sexually. When Boaz discovered her at his feet, he kept her honor intact. She returned to Naomi before anyone could recognize her. (See Ruth, chapter 3) So, what then?

I studied the kinsmanship-redeemer obligations to find the answers.

It was indeed a noble thing she did. She had prepared herself as a bride and offered herself in marriage to Boaz, as per the kinsmanship-redeemer law that upheld the family obligation to help a dead brother (or nephew in this case) carry on his name. Knowing full well this law, Boaz knew exactly what her intentions were and that Naomi had put her up to it.

Naomi could have released Ruth to chase after younger men, but both women were known to be noble, and Ruth had vowed (in verses 1:16-17) to stay with Naomi until death, and therefore, I interpret the decision also as mature, most likely beyond her years. As such, she would not allow herself to be given to her own wanton desires and whims of lust. I imagine many young women of that day were much like the young women of today: Flighty, self-seeking, immature. I do not mean for this to demean young women; however, wisdom in relationships, as in any other area of life, comes with experience and age, i.e. maturity. And I myself have been an immature young woman, tempted by my own wanton flights of fancy.

This was the best option, not only for the family but also for Ruth. It was a win-win, and we all benefited from the integrity of that noble young woman, as I will show next.

From the union between Ruth and Boaz, Obed was born. Obed was the grandfather of David. Through King David’s lineage, we also find the greatest Man to ever walk the earth—Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior. (For a full listing of the genealogy of Jesus, please see Luke 3:23-38)

And this brings me to this morning, when I awoke sermonizing the Book of Ruth. This often happens to me, waking up spouting biblical truths. This happens usually in answer to my pleading prayers to Our Lord.

My prayers in the wee hours of this morning, after being unable to sleep most of the night, were rather pitiful. It was self pity, through and through.

“Lord,” I cried, “I study and I pray and I study and pray some more. I seek to know and do Your will. But how can I know for sure that I am doing the right things, the proper things You want, when I do not come from a strong Christian family?”

I cried out to Our Lord in self pity about my past. I will not go into detail, but I did not learn right from wrong early in life. I made mistake after mistake, not having a strong, supportive family to guide me. I have paid dearly for those mistakes I made. And I still make mistakes. I still sin, but then again, everyone sins in one way or another, and it is up to us to recognize when we have sinned and to ask for forgiveness when we do.

However, Our God is a faithful God. He answers my prayers. He hears my cries in the night and He gives me wisdom and blessings beyond what I deserve.

Like Ruth, I was “foreign” to the Way, the Truth, and the Life. I did not know Christ. I knew “of” Him in my childhood and I tried to please Him, but I did not know how. My sense of loyalty, honor, and respect had become skewed, distorted. I did not come to know Him until later in my years.

I read recently how once we give up a virtue (such as virginity) we can never get it back. We are marred, disfigured at that point, so it seemed to be saying to me. My self pity ran to how disfigured I  must be at this point in my life, having given my virginity before marriage, having broken trusts and lied habitually in my early years, having shop lifted, as well as other sins. “How ugly  must I be to You, God?” I cried.

His answer to me, through The Book of Ruth is thus: Even though I came from a questionable background, I am still beautiful in His sight for how I try to live my life now. Ruth’s sin was idolatry, as her parents most likely practiced. Even so, Ruth was given the noble position of being in the lineage of Jesus. Our God forgives our past mistakes. Our God overlooks our sins, if we repent and seek to live an honorable, God-honoring life.

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (Psalm 139:14)

Our God is an awesome God.

Maybe that’s why I love Him so.

My prayer for you today is twofold: May you know discernment in your own decision-making and may you know how wonderfully beautiful you are to Our Lord and Savior.

In His Grace,

Jennifer Joy

Monday, January 6, 2014


Sometimes, there’s no rest for the wicked, as the saying goes. Then again, this sinner has decided to take advantage of an opportunity to rest, while we travel for a short while out of the local area. I will not be able to use my computer for the next week, so I will apologize in advance for not posting. If I get a chance to get some writing done, I will see if I can get it posted. Otherwise, have a great week. Lord willing, I will.

My prayer for you today, this week, and this New Year is for rest when you need it, unfettered joy, and peace beyond comprehension for all time.

In His Grace,

Jennifer Joy

Friday, January 3, 2014

Friendship, Love, and Loyalty

33000025What is friendship, truly? Is it only a relationship, through which we can get our own personal needs met?

Surely, it is not.

Friendship is a deep and lasting bond. Friendship is a gift we can treasure the rest of our lives. The bond between friends is one of the strongest on earth.

Friendship oftentimes is stronger than blood relationships. It is unfortunate but true. We cannot choose our birth family, but God has chosen our parents and siblings for us for a reason. Life is a learning experience from the day we are born to the day we die, and God has given our specific families to us so that we can learn the lessons He has intended for us.

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” Proverbs 17:17

King Saul’s initial feelings for David show how deceptive relationships can be and also how fleeting. It shows how we cannot always trust a person’s words, their confession of love for us. All too often, words are as empty as the air used to breathe them into existence.

“Saul liked him very much, and David became one of his armor-bearers.” 1 Samuel 16:21

“And from that time on Saul kept a close eye on David. . . Saul had a spear in his hand and he hurled it, saying to himself, ‘I’ll pin David to the wall.’ But David eluded him twice. Saul was afraid of David, because The Lord was with David but had departed from Saul.” 1 Samuel 18:9, 10-11

“Saul’s plan was to have David fall by the hands of the Philistines.” 1 Samuel 18:25

“Saul became still more afraid of him, and he remained his enemy the rest of his days.” 1 Samuel 18:29

Yet true loyalty in friendship can be found, as in the relationship between David and King Saul’s son, Jonathan.

“Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself.” 1 Samuel 18:1

By all human rights, Jonathan should have succeeded his father as king, yet by God’s anointing through the prophet Samuel (1 Samuel 16), David was to be Saul’s successor. Through normal human jealousy, Jonathan should have cursed the day David was born. Through that time’s acceptable loyalty to his father, Jonathan should have set out to kill David, just as his father tried to do. Even now, people tend to choose family over outsiders, as a sign of family loyalty, and it is good and honorable to do so in most cases. However, Jonathan followed the Word of God, rather than the bitterness of his own father’s jealousy and rage against David, when he chose to support and protect the rightful heir to the throne (David) from his father.

“While David was at Horesh in the Desert of Ziph, he learned that Saul had come out to take his life. And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God. ‘Don’t be afraid,’ he said. ‘My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this.’” 1 Samuel 23:15-17

Jonathan was unable to follow his father’s example because his father chose to follow his own jealousy, fear, and rage. Jonathan chose a better path. He chose to listen to God and to honor his bond of friendship, even though this, in a way, dishonored his father.

Sometimes we must make these choices, if our own family does not set a good example.

What, then, is love?

God is love. (1 John 4:16)

Love is manifest in peace, mercy, grace, respect, trust, compassion, sincerity, forgiveness, and other noble pursuits.

There is no fear in love. (1 John 4:18)

Love is not found in scheming, lying, cheating, anger, jealousy, violence, insults, hatred, and the like.

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” Romans 12:9-10

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.” Matthew 7:12

I will come back to speak more about love another day.

So in the meantime . . .

My prayer for you today is that you might know the depth and the beauty and the trueness of God’s love.

In His Grace,

Jennifer Joy

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Joyous New Year

In my studies today, Our Lord kept pointing me in the same direction, to Isaiah 43 and 44. So, I will simply share these verses with you, in hopes that their promises bring you as much comfort as they have me. They are filled with hope for the future.

But now, this is what The Lord says--

he who created you, Jacob,

he who formed you, Israel:

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;

I have summoned you by name; you are mine.

When you pass through the waters,

I will be with you;

and when you pass through the rivers,

they will not sweep over you.

When you walk through the fire,

you will not be burned;

the flames will not set you ablaze.

For I am The Lord your God,

the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;

I give Egypt for your ransom,

Cush and Seba in your stead.

Since you are precious and honored in my sight,

and because I love you,

I will give people in exchange for you,

nations in exchange for your life.

Do not be afraid, for I am with you;

I will bring your children from the east

and gather you from the west.

I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’

and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’

Bring my sons from afar

and my daughters from the ends of the earth--

everyone who is called by my name,

whom I created for my glory,

whom I formed and made.”

Isaiah 43:1-7


“I, even I, am The Lord,

and apart from me there is no savior.

I have revealed and saved and proclaimed--

I, and not some foreign god among you.

You are witnesses,”

declares The Lord,

“that I am God.

Yes, and from ancient days I am he.

No one can deliver out of my hand.

When I act, who can reverse it?”

Isaiah 43:12-13


“Forget the former things;

do not dwell on the past.

See, I am doing a new thing!

Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?

I am making a way in the wilderness

and streams in the wasteland.”

Isaiah 43:18-19

“I, even I, am he who blots out

your transgressions,

for my own sake,

and remembers your sins no more.”

Isaiah 43:25

This is what The Lord says--

he who made you,

who formed you in the womb,

and who will help you:

“Do not be afraid,

For I will pour water on the thirsty land,

and streams on the dry ground;

I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring,

and my blessing on your descendants.

They will spring up like grass in a meadow,

like poplar tress by flowing streams.”

Isaiah 44:2, 3-4

Thank you all for joining me once again, in this, the beginning of a new year.

My prayer for you today is for blessings in this new and glorious year of Our Lord, 2014.

In His Grace,

Jennifer Joy