If I knew then what I know now

My Beginning of Wisdom site
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  • Anointed & Appointed

    Posted on January 27th, 2014 rhonda No comments

    “I commend to you our sister Phoebe,

    a deacon of the church in Cenchreae.

    I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people

    and to give her any help she may need from you,

    for she has been the benefactor of many people,

    including me.”

    Romans 16:1-2


    I witnessed a beautiful example of the Holy Spirit working through the pastor and anointing a woman for the work of evangelism.


    The head pastor of my church is a man, as are all the elders.  The pastor’s wife is only woman who has preached a sermon.  She’s also a seminary Dean.  Other female leaders only minister to women.


    The evening service at our church is designated as an evangelistic service that always includes the testimony of 3 people.  Carla was one woman who gave her testimony.  When Pastor came to the lectern, instead of preaching, he said the Holy Spirit told him to ask Carla if she had a message to deliver – and she did.  So Pastor ceded the stage  and allowed her to deliver the message.


    Carla’s sermon was based on Acts 3.  She said that the Christian’s job is to bring other people into the kingdom.  We’re in the business of reaching out to people who are outside the gates of the temple, strengthening them through the power of the Holy Spirit, and bringing them in.  Carla delivered a spirit-filled, bible-based, easily understood, energetic sermon.  When the altar call was issued, people responded as though she were the Pastor.


    Pastor said he felt the hand of God leave him, and he knew better than to preach when he didn’t have God’s anointing on the sermon.  He also testified to the power of the Holy Spirit saying, “How could I have known that she had a message to preach if the Spirit didn’t tell me?”  He brought Carla back to pray for her and her ministry.  He believes she has the gift of evangelism and he encouraged her to use that gift, saying “it’s not man who appoints people, it’s the Holy Spirit”.


    I was excited to see how the worship service unfolded.  Carla had never preached before.  Not only was she a woman, but a layperson, presumably untrained.  It impressed me to see a man, the lead pastor, trust the Holy Spirit & quickly obey, especially on such short notice.  People debate whether or not women should be allowed in the ministry.  That service helped me refocus on the basics.  It’s not man who appoints people, it’s the Holy Spirit.


    “Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus.

    They risked their lives for me.

    Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them.”

    Romans 16:3-4




  • Queen Esther

    Posted on December 17th, 2013 rhonda No comments


    For you, O God, tested us;

    you refined us like silver.

    You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs.

    You let men ride over our heads;

    We went through fire and water,

    But you brought us to a place of abundance

    Psalm 66: 10-12


    I had no idea that Queen Esther was, in fact, a concubine. 

    I attended the Women’s Prayer Meeting before service started.  The leader talked to us about being in “captivity”, and used Esther as her text.  She revealed Esther’s reality clearly.  She was being prepared to be “queen” for a year.  Subconsciously, I thought of her as a forerunner of Kate Middleton, being prepared to marry Prince William.  Or maybe I thought of her as a historic Cinderella, someone being elevated from servitude to freedom through marriage.  The leader was clear.  Esther was being prepared for the King’s bed.  He’d use her, send her back to the harem, and she wasn’t to return to his presence until he wanted to use her again – or she’d be killed (v. 11).  Esther had a whole year to think about her fate. 

    Leader said that Christian women today live in a dichotomy, not hypocrisy, characterized by our living out our calling to God faithfully and still suffering the unspeakable – rape, sexual & physical abuse/assault, domestic violence, divorce, abandonment, loneliness, etc.  Also, like Esther, the best reason we’re given is that we live in a fallen world, but we’re not allowed to wallow in our own suffering.  We’re to recognize others’ pain and help them because our fate is tied to theirs (4:13-14).

    I’m thinking that not only don’t I understand Esther, but I really don’t understand how routine it is to be misused and violated in a world without God.  The poorest American is wealthy compared to most of the rest of the world.  We’re at war, but the war is not on our shores.  I grew up with the American fairytale that pain is neither frequent nor normal.  Now, I have a dawning understanding that persecution, pain & maltreatment is both quite frequent and normal in this world.  I really do have to learn how to endure suffering rather than being paralyzed and overwhelmed by it.


    None of this sits well with me. 


    “The Lord is in his holy temple;

    let all the earth be silent before him.”

    Habakkuk 2:20


  • Nelson Mandela R.I.P.

    Posted on December 11th, 2013 rhonda No comments

    “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

    Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord,

    the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me,

    but also to all who have longed for His appearing.”

    Timothy 4:7-8

    I was in college during the height of the anti-apartheid movement.

    I remember debates & discussions about how best to support the freedom struggle in South Africa.  Students erected “shanty-towns” on the main campus lawn and slept in them for weeks to show solidarity, raise awareness, and push the university to divest from South Africa.  I got my first taste of political activism on campus.  I got more political education from my classmates than my classes.  I voted.  I went to student-club meetings to hear the debates.  I signed petitions.  I went to protest rallies.  I switched banks because I wanted one that did not invest in South Africa.

    There was excitement in the air when Nelson Mandela was released from prison.  We saw him on the news with his wife, Winnie, and we were proud.  He emerged from prison “unbowed & unbroken”.  His back was straight.  He had principle.  He stood up for what he believed in.  He was a grown man.  They were a dignified couple who kept the faith.  When he came to the United States, we scrambled for a way to see him.  A friend got tickets to the baseball stadium where he was appearing, and took me with her.

    We were all watching the elections that resulted in him becoming president.  I remember seeing a picture of a very long line of voters.  Again, we were proud.  We were proud of Nelson Mandela.  We were proud of the Black South Africans for making the effort of waiting & voting to elect him.  They set an example for Americans.  Elections in the United States are fairly anemic events.  I got a taste of what South Africans must have felt when we elected Barack Obama President of the United States.

    When I think of Nelson Mandela, I just feel pride & excitement.   He ran his race, and he ran it well.  Now that he’s gone, I feel sorrow.  Nonetheless, as I see the news broadcasts from South Africa, it’s appropriate & sweet to see people singing and dancing in Madiba’s honor.


    “Brothers and sisters,

    we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death,

    so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind,

    who have no hope.

    For we believe that Jesus died and rose again,

    and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus

    those who have fallen asleep in him.”

    I Thessalonians 4:13-14

  • Mistress Sarai

    Posted on December 4th, 2013 rhonda No comments

    “Go, sleep with my maidservant;

    Perhaps I can build a family through her.”

    Genesis 16:2

    I went to see 12 Years A Slave, which is based on the true story of Solomon Northup, a free African American living in New York who was kidnapped and forced into slavery.

    I won’t spoil the plot.  One subplot involved the master’s wife and a slave woman (Pats).  The Master was fixated on Pats, and his wife was jealous, angry, alone, childless, lonely, dependent – and impotent to change anything.  She tried an ultimatum, “You either sell that slave girl or I’ll leave you!”  It didn’t work.  The film left me thinking about Mistress.  In all the films I’ve seen about slavery, Mistress is a secondary character.  She deserves a primary place because her cruelty, hatred and insensitivity are equal to her husband’s.  She was like Sarah.

    It’s important to me to reflect on the real Sarah.  Sarah was a barren, jealous, lonely, miserable woman; and Hagar was her slave and scapegoat.  Maybe Sarah was so evil because she thought she was being left out.  In Genesis 15, God promises children to Abram, with no mention of Sarah.  She figured her husband would have children with another woman while she would still be left barren.  It’s only after Sarai’s abuse of Hagar that God changes her name to Sarah, and tells her that she’ll be the mother of nations (Gen. 17).

    I got angry and started arguing with my Bible study members because the New Testament (Galations 4:21-31; I Peter 3:5-6) treats Sarah like a hero.  She wasn’t.  Despite being chosen by God, Sarah acted more like Potiphar’s wife, an Egyptian non-believer, in her abuse of slaves.  The New Testament also makes Hagar guilty.  Hagar was a victim.  Joseph Prince explained that Christ forgets our sins.  Therefore, the New Testament does not record how horrible Sarah was.  He remade Sarai into Sarah and comforted Hagar by promising to make Ishmael into a great nation as well (Gen. 16:9-12, 17:20, 21:18).   As Christians, we should be grateful that God will forget the horrible things we’ve done and console the victims of our actions.

    12 Years a Slave was about Solomon, so I don’t know what happened to Mistress or Pats.  Mistress was a professing Christian.  I hope God gave Mistress a new character and gave Pats some comfort in this world.   I hope Pats is in heaven.

    I won’t spoil the plot for you.  Experience it for yourself.


     And though she spoke to Joseph day after day,

    He refused to go to bed with her or even be with her.

    One day he went into the house to attend to his duties

    And none of the household servants was inside.

    She caught him by his cloak and said,

    “Come to bed with me!”

    Genesis 39:10-12





  • Grand Old Party

    Posted on November 20th, 2013 rhonda No comments

    “Am I therefore become your enemy,

    because I tell you the truth?”

    Galatians 4:16


    Dear Christian Republican Voters:


    I’m writing because I’m angry at you and want to be reconciled with you; for my good, our good, and the good of our country.  I originally drafted this letter when the government was shut-down and America was headed towards default.  I am angry because you voted in people who are willing to destroy this country to get what you want.  I want to talk to Republican Christians because the body of Christ should be more important than our political parties.


    Let me introduce myself first.  I am a Christian.  I believe in the Holy Trinity of the Father, Son, & Holy Ghost.  I believe that Jesus Christ died for our sins and that the only way to heaven is through Jesus Christ.  I believe the Bible is the word of God.  I’m a middle-aged, working, intelligent and educated African American woman living on the east coast who normally votes Democrat.  I support President Obama.


    No, I don’t support the President’s actions as it regards cultural/societal issues that are in contrast to the Bible.  Yet, Psalm 41:1 says “blessed is he who has regard for the weak; the Lord delivers him in times of trouble”.  President Obama’s regard for the weak is shown in enacting pay-equality for women, Obamacare, and wanting the rich to pay their fair-share in taxes.  It appears that not only do you disagree with his policies, but you hate him and his family as human beings.  Why else would a Congressman call the President a liar, during the President’s State of the Union address?  The disrespect & disdain with which you’ve treated him, through your representatives, infuriates me.  I still don’t know if President George Bush won his first election fair and square; but once the dust-up was over, Democrats accepted his authority.  Why are people still arguing that President Obama is a Kenyan with a fake birth certificate?


    That’s why I’m writing to you.  I want you to know who I am, and why I support President Obama and liberal/moderate Democrats.  I want you to realize that I’m a human being, no better or worse than you are.  I also want you to use your influence as voters to restore respect for the Office of the Presidency (regardless of who the President is) and to infuse the Republican Party with a concern for the poor, the orphan, the widow and the stranger.  That’s Biblical.  You and I should be able to be reconciled with one another based on our being members of the household of God.


    Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.

    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.

    Ephesians 6:10-12

  • Thanks Glenn

    Posted on November 12th, 2013 rhonda No comments


    Samuel said,

    “Although you were once small in your own eyes,

    did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel?”

    1 Samuel 15:17


    A woman shared that, decades ago, as a younger woman she regularly got involved with married men.  She said that it took her a long time to realize the damage that she did to the wives.  She was clueless about the pain and suffering she caused others.  She ended by saying, “When you think you’re insignificant & worthless, then nothing that you do really matters”. 


    Years ago, I heard a Pastor speak on the fact that, when we believe we’re insignificant, we do things to try to make ourselves important, and oftentimes those things can be self-destructive and painful to other people.  He used 1 Samuel as his reference point.


    The smallest things, good or bad, make a difference in other people’s lives.  I look back in gratitude at Glenn.  Decades ago, when I was a first year student in college, I remember going to an on-campus dinner given specifically for incoming freshman as a part of our Orientation week.  I am introverted, but have gained enough in maturity and insight over the years to be able to feel comfortable at formal functions where I don’t know anyone.  Back then, over 20 years ago, I was a basket case.  Even though I wasn’t technically late, it seemed that all the tables were full of people & everyone was happily chattering with other freshman, as though they’d come from the same high school together.  As I was standing there, feeling really awkward, and wondering where to sit & what to do, all of a sudden this guy, Glenn, waved me over & said that there was a seat at the table where he was.


    He wasn’t trying to get anything from me.  Glenn was just a good guy.  He facilitated a lot of the conversation at the table.  Over the 4 years that we were both in school, I saw him intermittently & we always greeted one another; but we never became friends and I don’t know where he is today.  All I know is how grateful I was that he saved me from a really awkward situation.  All these years later, that small act of kindness still sticks in my head.  I try to “pay it forward” by being welcoming to other people who are new at work, or at church, or in other social situations.


    Everything that we do makes a difference, because God created us for a purpose.  There’s no need for anyone to be “small” in their own eyes.


    “. . . what is mankind that you are mindful of them,

    human beings that you care for them?

    You have made them a little lower than the angels

    and crowned themwith glory and honor.”

    Psalm 8:4-5




  • Work It

    Posted on November 5th, 2013 rhonda No comments

    “Whatever you do,

    work at it with all your heart,

    as working for the Lord,

    not for men,

    since you know that you will receive

    an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.”

    Colossians 3:23-24 

    When I realized I wanted to become a human trafficking abolitionist, for years I harbored a fantasy that I would leave my current job and work for an organization like the International Justice Mission.  I wanted to do “important” work and free people from slavery.   I sent out resumes and requested informational interviews.  No one was interested.

    I resented the anti-trafficking world’s disinterest in me.  Then I realized that it was all for the good (Romans 8:28).  The more I read about slavery, the more I realized that it’s the most vulnerable people who get enslaved.  The “at-risk” groups are the poor, the orphan, the widow and the stranger.

    I’m an educator and a social worker.  If I do my job as an offering to God, I can do a lot of “important” preventive work.  If I can equip people with the essential life skills they need to stand on their own two feet, I will have done a lot to make them trafficking-resistant and slavery-proof.  I’ll no longer hear impoverished women entertain prostitution as a viable option to make ends meet.

    We don’t have to do someone else’s job to make a difference in this world.  Do the job that God gave you, which includes being rich in good deeds, being generous and willing to share (I Timothy 6:18).  In addition to tithing, we have other ways to be generous and make an impact.  As the body of Christ, we can gather together to provide homes for single moms & their children, ensure that babies get preventive healthcare, help a woman get job training, or even send a child to school.  We’re blessed to have Christian organizations that can maximize the impact of our gifts (www.worldvisiongifts.org).

    We all have to discern and decide to make a difference in our own way.

     “I was young

    And now I am old,

    Yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken

    or their children begging bread.

    They are always generous and lend freely:

    their children will be blessed.”

    Psalm 37:25-26



  • Rotten Apples

    Posted on October 30th, 2013 rhonda No comments


    “You belong to your father,

    The devil,

    And you want to carry out your father’s desire”

    John 8:44


    Psalm 37:20 says that “the wicked will perish: The Lord’s enemies will be like the beauty of the fields, they will vanish – vanish like smoke”.  I didn’t get the comparison between the wicked and beauty.


    I’m a city girl, so I don’t go to the fields.  I go to the Botanical Gardens, which are lovely.  All the plants, flowers and tree are well tended, unique and good to look at.  The gardens are serene and sweetly scented.  A co-worker gave me a plant for my windowsill.  It’s pretty.  Her gift was an act of kindness.


    In my mind, beauty and wickedness do not go together.  Satan, however, embodies both.  He masquerades as an angel of light (II Corinthians 11:14).  Satan used to live in heaven (Rev. 12:7-9) before being thrown out; and I understand that there is nothing ugly in or about heaven.


    So why shouldn’t Satan’s children take on the likeness of their father?  They’re beautiful on the outside and ugly on the inside.  Rotten apples.


    “Do not fret because of evil men

    Or be envious of those who do wrong

    For like the grass they will soon wither

    Like green plants they will soon die away.”

    Psalm 37:1





  • Only Joking!?

    Posted on October 22nd, 2013 rhonda No comments


    Like a madman shooting firebrands

    or deadly arrows

    is a man who deceives his neighbor and says

    “I was only joking!”

    Proverbs 26:19


    I got into a conversation with someone about online predators.  Girls are being preyed upon by men who tell them “I love you.  And if you love me, you’ll take a topless picture of yourself and send it to me online.  If you’re not willing to do this for me, it means you don’t love me”.  Once he has the initial photo, he can blackmail her into sending more & more explicit photos, and even into meeting him so that he can take further advantage of her.


    Did anyone ever sit down and teach you what real love was, or did you figure it out on your own through trial and error?  People have told me that they love me; but I don’t have any childhood memories of an adult sitting me down and giving me the definition of love.  Just in case you don’t know, I Corinthians 13:4-6 defines love as follows:


    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.


    People, especially children, must be told explicitly to stay away from anyone coercing them into acts that consequently make them feel dirty, ashamed, fearful, worthless, depressed, and hopeless.  When people ask us to commit sin, we know that their hearts aren’t pure and that we should stay away, because Christ teaches us that words come from the heart (Matthew 15:18-19).


    Christ requires our obedience (II John 1:6) as a sign of love for Him.  Fortunately, Christ does not going to ask us to do anything evil.  In fact, we find our purpose and self-esteem in Christ. 






    “Do not drag me away with the wicked,

    with those who do evil,

    Who speak cordially with their neighbors,

    but harbor malice in their hearts.”

    Psalm 28:3



  • Pressure Cooker

    Posted on October 15th, 2013 rhonda No comments


    This woman said to me,

    “Give up your son so we may eat him today, and tomorrow we’ll eat my son.” 

    So we cooked my son and ate him.

    The next day I said to her,

    “Give up your son so we may eat him”;

    but she had hidden him.

    2 Kings 6:28-29


    It’s shocking that the complainant is not ashamed to admit, to the King, that she ate her own son.  Presumably, she wants the King to coerce another woman to sacrifice her son to be a meal for both of them.  Desperation will make people do things that were once unimaginable.


    Do you remember the Indiana Jones franchise?  One staple of that type of movie is the scene where our hero is trapped in a room; and then the walls start to close in.  If our hero doesn’t do something soon, he’ll be crushed to death.  Some movies will add steel spikes to the wall, so the hero will be stabbed & then crushed.


    This society has become an Indiana Jones movie, and the walls are closing in.  People are working harder for less money & benefits.  People are being paid with debit cards and are finding it harder to open bank accounts.  People are tired, and a feeling of fear and desperation has long settled in.  Now, with the government shutdown and “debt ceiling” talk, the fear is just deepening.  The desperation is mounting.


    A time like this may present an opportunity to witness.  Watching the news is almost like watching a horror movie.  I simultaneously find it interesting and scary.  Every now and again, I have to either take a break from the news, or try to end my day with someone who is preaching God’s word.  It’s comforting to know that I have a God in heaven that owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10) and is willing and able to provide for me.  I don’t have to get worked up about what’s going on in the national or international economy, because I’m the daughter of Elohim, creator of the earth, and owner of everything in it. 


    Other people need the same assurance.  I’m committing to look for opportunities to share the gospel with people and relieve them of the sense that the wall are closing in.  No one needs to “eat” their own.  I’m committing to letting other people know that, in their time of distress, Jehovah Jireh will answer. 


    “I have had enough Lord,”

    he said

    “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.”

    Then he lay down under the tree & fell asleep.

    All at once an angel touched him and said,

    “Get up and eat.”

    He looked around, and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals,

    and a jar of water. 

    He ate and drank and then lay down again.

    I Kings 19:4-6