PCC Scroll: Women of the Bible

Here is the “Women of the Bible” from the latest PCC Scroll. It features the Widow of Zarephath.

Name: Widow of Zarephath

Her Character: Though poor, the Widow of Zarephath was willing to share what she thought was her last meal with a stranger.

Her Sorrow: She was a widow, and she lost her son for a short period of time.

Her Triumph: Her time with Elijah taught her abundance, and her son was raised from the dead.

Key Scriptures: 1 Kings 17:8-24; Luke 4:25-26

The Widow of Zarephath’s story is found in 1 Kings. During an extended drought, Elijah was instructed by God to hide near a brook. He drank from the brook and was fed by ravens. When the brook dried, he was instructed to go and live in the village of Zarephath. God would provide provisions for him there through a widow. When he arrived at Zarephath, he saw the widow gathering sticks, and he asked her for food and water. She, unaware of her assignment, told Elijah that she was going to make her last meal with her remaining provisions and then she and her son could eat it and die.

 

Elijah encouraged her to not be afraid, and he gave her specific instructions along with the prophecy that there would always be flour and oil in her containers until God sent rain. She did what Elijah instructed, and she and her son ate. During Elijah’s stay, the widow’s son became sick, and he died. I am sure she must have been bewildered why God provided food to only take her son away from her. She confronted Elijah, and Elijah prayed over the child. God heard Elijah’s prayer, and her son’s life returned to him. The widow was not Jewish, but she had heard of the faith of the Hebrews before Elijah arrived, and she experienced God’s power first hand. Elijah stayed with them for some time, and her provisions lasted until the drought was over. During a drought, she experienced God’s abundance.

 

In the Widow of Zarephath, Elijah found help from a foreigner. Her story reminds me of the Good Samaritan. Let us be willing to give help and receive help from the unexpected. I find the willingness of the Widow of Zarephath to share what she expected to be her last meal amazing. In life, I have found a willingness amongst those who have so little to share what little they have without hesitation. Meanwhile, those with so much tend to have closed fists. It’s very perplexing.

 

How many of us would be willing to share our last dollar or meal with someone in need like this unnamed woman? I can think of a few real-life examples that remind me of this widow. One is a colleague’s grandmother. Her grandmother lived in Jamaica, and the grandmother would ask family who lived in England and the U.S. for old clothes. No one was quite sure what she did with all of the clothes that were sent to her over the years until her funeral. People came by the hundreds to share stories about her generosity. There were stories from people she clothed. There were also stories from those she fed, sometimes bread being shared. There is also a widow in Greece I read about. The widow is living on a small pension, but she has opened her home to refugees. People are free to come in, shower, share a meal, and get a good night’s rest. I love these examples of real-life women who bring the Bible to life.

 

The Widow of Zarephath is honored by Jesus. He refers to her in Luke while preaching in Nazareth. This is before he would raise the only son of the Widow of Nain. I am not sure what the Widow of Zarephath’s life was after Elijah moved on, but I imagine his presence had a lasting impression on her and her son for the rest of their lives. Like the widow, let us be stewards of all we have in a manner that allows us to share our little or our abundance.

 

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PCC Scroll: Men of the Bible

Here is the “Men of the Bible” from the latest PCC Scroll. It features Stephen.

Name: Stephen

Meaning: Wreath or crown

His Character: Stephen was known for his faith, wisdom, grace, and power. He was a model of readiness and courage.

His Sorrow: Stephen was the first martyr of the Christian church and was stoned to death.

His Triumph: Stephen lived out the truth of his faith in God despite the cost, and he was among the first deacons of the Christian church and served those in need.

Key Scriptures: Acts 6:3-8:2

During the early church, Jews who accepted Jesus as Messiah were ostracized. Many were cut off from their families and friends. This caused the early Christians to depend on one another for support. They shared homes, food, and resources. As the church grew, so did the need to mobilize and organize. Leaders were chosen to manage the needs of the people. They were picked for their wisdom, integrity, and ability to hear God. Stephen was one of seven leaders (one of the first seven deacons) in charge of food distribution to the needy. He was among the Greek-speaking Christians and was able to help care for the Greek-speaking converts.

 

Stephen was also a powerful speaker. He was highly intelligent. Because of his faith and power, he was able to hold his own against highly educated people who would challenge him. Those who thought to challenge him were not able to stand against his wisdom. This made him very unpopular among those high up in the Jewish hierarchy.

 

One day, Stephen was confronted at the temple by those antagonistic to Christians. Stephen was able to respond in a way that was logical and convincing. He was able to make sound reasoning to the Jewish high council. He was able to share Jewish history beginning with Abraham. He spoke of the patriarchs and prophets who were persecuted and rejected by the Jewish people. He made applications that convicted those who listened.

 

Stephen may have known that he was heading toward death. During his trial before the Sanhedrin, he was falsely accused, but he did not feel the need to defend himself. He was exposing the motives of the leaders. Stephen was accused of blasphemy, cast from the city, and stoned to death. Even while being stoned to death, he prayed for forgiveness for those who stoned him. Parts of Stephen’s death are parallel to Jesus’ death. They were both accused of similar crimes. They both commended their spirits to God and asked God to forgive their executors. After Stephen’s death, he was lamented and buried by devout Christians.

 

Stephen is an example of a small assignment leading to a larger assignment. It was in his service to those in need that he was preparing for his true life’s mission. His compassion toward those who murdered him is something to behold. How many of us are willing to bless those who do us wrong?

 

Stephen is said to have been:

  • Full of faith (Acts 6:5)
  • Full of grace (Acts 6:8)
  • Full of power (Acts 6:8)
  • Full of light (Acts 6:15)
  • Full of scripture (Acts 7)
  • Full of wisdom (Acts 6:3, 10)
  • Full of courage (Acts 7:51-56)
  • Full of love (Acts 7:60)

 

Stephen lived and died for the gospel. Living in America, we are not faced with persecution that could lead to death. Stephen’s life does give us pause. Are we willing to lay down our lives for the Gospel’s sake? Are we willing to live and die for God?

 

It is important to mention that Saul (later Paul) was a witness to the killing of Stephen, and he approved of the deed. After the death of Stephen, a great wave of persecution began, and Saul was a leader in this effort unaware that a short time later he would meet Jesus on the road to Damascus.

 

PCC Scroll: Word of the Quarter

Here is the “Word of the Quarter” from the latest PCC Scroll.

In this issue of the PCC Scroll, we begin a new editorial calendar year and a new overarching theme. The overarching theme is “Being a good steward: Working with what’s in your hands.” We will begin the overarching theme with the subject of “Recognizing what is in your hand: What are you a steward over?”

 

Merriam-Webster defines the word stewardship as, “the conducting, supervising, or managing of something; especially the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care; stewardship of natural resources.” In our case, God is the one doing the entrusting.

 

Perhaps one of the most known lessons about stewardship is the “Parable of the Talents” found in Matthew 25:14-30. A man was going on a journey, and he gave his servants talents to be stewards over while he was away. The talents were divided by the proportion of their ability, which means no one was given something the master felt they could not handle. Although not stated, the master expected a return on the talents he gave to each of his servants. One servant was given five talents (the Life Application Study Bible refers to the talents as bags of silver), and he traded them and was able to gain five more talents. One servant was given two talents, and he traded them and was able to gain two more talents. One servant was given one talent, and he buried the money and gained nothing.

 

When the master returned, the servants were called to give an account of how they had used what had been given to them. The servants who invested and gained were rewarded. The one who did not use his talent for gain was called wicked and lazy, and he was punished. The moral of the story is that those who use what they have been given will be given even more and have abundance. Those who do nothing with what they have, even if it is a little, will have it taken away.

 

It is important to note that the servant who did not invest in his talent was afraid, and he hid his talent. How many of us hide our gifts and talents out of fear and insecurity? Remember that the Bible says each man was given based on his ability. If God has given you something, it means that you have the ability to cultivate it.

 

God has given us all resources. Be it time, talents, gifts, money, etc. It is expected that we invest and use our resources well. Regardless of how big or small we may perceive our talents, God expects us to use what He has given us to the best of our ability. In the parable, the good stewards invested what they were given. What are you doing to invest in what God has given to you?

 

Perhaps the easiest way to be a good steward is to remember everything we have from our gifts/talents, financial resources, time, etc. are on loan from God. They are not ours. We are the caretakers, not the owners. We cannot waste, abuse, or ignore what God has given to us. Whatever we have or get we need to use wisely. We invite you to discover and recognize what you have been made steward over and to begin giving it away in earnest. It will bring you abundance.

 

PCC Scroll: Editor’s Corner

Here is the “Editor’s Corner” from the latest PCC Scroll.

Periodically, many companies will perform job evaluations. As part of the process, there is normally a form where the employee has to list their essential job duties and describe what the duties entail. I find that whenever I have to complete this form, I have to really mentally do a tally of what I do because some of the little things that I do that offer value and take time get lost in bigger-picture functions.

 

If someone were to ask me what I am steward over, I would have to think about that as well. There are many things, big and small. I am steward over my ministries at church. I am steward over my gifts/talents that are used in all aspects of my life. I am steward over my health. I am steward over my finances. I am steward over the job God has provided. I am steward over my home. I am steward over my time. I am steward over my relationships. I am steward over how I treat the earth. I am steward over quite a bit and each is part of a bigger picture.

 

It is important that we be mindful of what God has given us to care for in our day-to-day lives, the big and the small. We have to invest in all and keep them running smoothly however mundane it may seem. For example, God has given me a car, and it is important for me to keep up the maintenance to keep the car in good working order. If I miss tunes ups and oil changes, I risk the car breaking down or not running at peak performance. Some things can be prevented or caught before a major catastrophe if I take care of the basic services.

 

As I get older, I am more mindful of being a good steward over my health. This has led me to work out. This has also led to me to try to walk one and a half hours, Monday-Friday. I also try to get enough rest, eat right, and drink enough water. If my body is a temple, I need to treat it as such.

 

The truth is that we are all trying to manage quite a bit, but we know from the “Parable of the Talents” that whatever God has given us to be a steward over is within our ability. If we make the effort to invest in and nurture our talents, God will add to the effort, and we will always walk in abundance.

 

Whatever God places in my hand, I strive to be a worthy and wise steward and to remember that I am but a caretaker in what God has loaned me. It is my hope that we all embrace the opportunity we have to contribute to the common good of those around us and for God’s purposes.

 

Every faculty you have, your power of thinking or of moving your limbs from moment to moment, is given you by God. If you devoted every moment of your whole life exclusively to His service, you could not give Him anything that was not in a sense His own already,” C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity.

 

PCC Scroll: Your Money Matters

Here is the “Your Money Matters” section from the latest PCC Scroll.

The theme of this issue of the PCC Scroll is “Recognizing what is in your hand: What are you a steward over?”

 

In terms of our financial health, it is important to recognize where we are financially in terms of net worth. In terms of our financial stewardship, we should all strive to be financially in the black, whether this amount is a little or a lot.

 

To determine your net worth, the first thing to do is to list out your assets or what you own.

 

This includes:

  • Money in your bank accounts (checking, savings, money market, etc.)
  • Value of your investment accounts (401, 457, IRAs, etc.)
  • Market value of your cars
  • Market value of other vehicles (RVs, collectibles, campers, etc.)
  • Market value of your home
  • Market value of any vacation or rental homes
  • Commercial land
  • Business interests
  • Personal property such as jewelry, art, and furniture
  • Cash value of any insurance policies
  • Jewelry, gems, and precious metals
  • Art
  • Other possessions of worth

 

The second thing to do is to list out your liabilities or what you owe.

 

This includes:

  • Mortgages
  • Bank loans
  • Personal loans
  • Car loans
  • Credit card balances
  • Student loans
  • Any other debt

 

What you own minus what you owe makes up your net worth. Knowing this number helps you understand your current financial health, and it gives you a measuring point as you move toward a positive net worth, helping you become a better steward over what God has blessed you with.

 

Whether you are a steward over a lot or a little financially, there is room for better stewardship. Knowing your net worth can help you determine how you behave in the future. Perhaps you will see an opportunity to make better decisions when it comes to your financial stewardship. For example, if credit card debt is preventing you from having a positive net worth, this knowledge could be motivation to not buy something you don’t need just because you want it. And if you need something, ask yourself if there is a less expensive option. For example, I may need a new winter coat, but I can control the price.

 

Knowing your net worth could be the motivation to pay off all debt. Paying off debt and having a savings account is a balance. You want money put away for a rainy day, but you also want to balance the interest you would receive in a money market account or CD vs. what you would be paying in interest on credit card debt.

 

I am all about cutting costs:

  • Little foxes spoil the vine: coffee, eating out, etc.
  • Bring your coffee, lunch, and snacks from home
  • Whether clothes or groceries, look for sales
  • If you can, consider downsizing your home or car
  • Shop for a better cellphone package
  • Get rid of expensive cable

 

I am also about balance, so treat yourself by all means if you can afford to do so. We all work hard and deserve to reap some of the benefits of our labor.

 

Perhaps after this exercise, you will see an opportunity to channel your abundance to help those in need. The scriptures are filled with mandates for us to care for widows and orphans and those marginalized and oppressed. One opportunity to give is to bring non-perishable food items for our on ongoing food drive. Just think how many we could feed if each person brought one can of food each week.

 

Whether financially you are a steward of a little or a lot, what matters in the end is what you do with the resources given to you.

 

PCC Scroll: Editor’s Corner

Here is an article I wrote for the “Editor’s Corner” section of the PCC Scroll.

Washington is one of the few states which has ocean, mountain and desert topography. As you cross the state, the landscape changes. On the east side of the state, a lot of crops are grown. The state is the leading producer in the nation of commodities like apples, hops, concord grapes, sweet cherries and blueberries, and a top producer of commodities like potatoes, apricots, nectarines and lentils. In terms of dollar value, hay is a top export. There is something about the soil here that produces a type of hay that contains one of the highest levels of nutrients in the world.

 

While there are a lot of commodities that grow here, there is an equally long list of commodities that will not survive in our climate. The care, climate and soil needed to grow a commodity like apples is different than what is needed to grow mangos. And even in the same climate, farmers treat different crops uniquely. The way hay is cared for and harvested is different than the way apples are cared for and picked, or potatoes are cared for and extracted.

 

In the natural, the climate determines what can grow there and certain soil contains better nutrients. In some cases, nutrients can be added. The same is true in the spiritual. If you want your unique harvest to grow and be fruitful, you have to make sure you are planted in the correct environment and that you are receiving the right nutrients to produce exceptional fruit.

 

Like the fruits and vegetables in nature, our talents and gifts vary, so we have to refine the processes for optimal growth. This takes times. If you are a writer, surround yourself in communities that support your talent, so you can grow and harvest your gift. If you are a musician or singer, attend workshops that help refine your craft, so you can harvest your talent.

 

The concept of sowing and reaping is found throughout the Bible. What you put out there, will come back. In the NIV, Galatians 6:7 puts it like this, “A man reaps what he sows.” When I was coming up, this was a scripture that was constantly shared as a dire warning against bad behavior. As an adult, I had to reclaim the positive side of that scripture. Like the wheat farmer talked about in “Word of the Quarter,” I have to plant and care for my harvest from seed to plant. If there is a goal I want to achieve, I have to sow into that goal. If I want something from God, I have to sow into it. If there is something I want from life, I have to work and sow into it.

 

I think that many of us have already sown heavily into our gifts. I believe that many of us are taking the time to care for what we have planted. I believe for many of us the time for harvesting is around the corner, and so we must be prepared. Our harvests will be unique and collectively powerful to behold.

 

PCC Scroll: Word of the Quarter

Here is an article I wrote for the “Word of the Quarter” section of the PCC Scroll.

 

In this issue of the PCC Scroll, we are concluding the overarching theme of “Preparing for the Harvest: Positioning Ourselves to Grow.” The overarching theme began in the fall issue with the theme of “Preparing the Soil.” The theme continued in the winter and spring issues with themes of “Positioning to Thrive” and “Removing the Dead Things.” In this issue, we conclude the overarching focus with a theme of “Your Unique Harvest.”

 

We have used farming and gardening analogies a lot during this overarching theme. For this issue, in this section, we are going to analogize the process farmers use to harvest wheat. Wheat farmers in the Midwest typically harvest in late June. The crop harvested in June was planted nine months earlier. To prepare for the harvest, farmers make sure that the equipment that will be used for harvesting is in good order and that facilities used for storage are clean and empty.

 

Farmers must prepare their storage facilities to protect the harvest from insects and to prevent the crop from spoiling. Old grain not removed can contaminate the new crop and cause it to mold. Farmers check fans and ventilation systems to insure moisture levels are correct. They remove plants from around storage bins to prevent bugs from being attracted to the area.

 

Farmers use a machine called a combine that is used for reaping and threshing the wheat. The reaping cuts off the stems while the threshing separates the grain from parts that are inedible as grain is separated from chaff and straw. This is an example of harvesting wheat. Of course, the process used to harvest peaches or strawberries would be different.

 

In keeping with this analogy, from a spiritual perspective, we did a lot of work prior to the time harvest. We prepared our ground by hoeing to loosen up the soil and remove rocks. We planted seeds (sowed) and added nutrients. We watered the plants. We kept up with pruning, and we pulled weeds up by the root. Weeding was constant because they kept trying to come back, but we knew that weeds could choke out the life and/or take nutrients from our harvest.

 

In nature, crops have a season. In the spiritual, we must be mindful of the timing of our harvest. If fruit is picked too early, it is too ripe. If it is picked too late, it can spoil, so it is important to reap your harvest during the optimal time. When it is time to harvest, preparation is needed. Skipping a step can lead to contamination or infestation. What you sow and care for will bring fruit. This fruit needs to be protected, and it needs to be used.

 

We took the time to sow our time and energy into our unique harvest and to nurture what we sowed. Our processes will be a little different, but the care and attention needed is the same.