Kickoff the Year with Brunch on Tuesday

brunchThe Winter/Spring session of Equip Her Tuesday Mornings starts this coming Tuesday, January 17 24th!. If you haven’t already registered, be sure to do so today [click HERE]. See you on Tuesday!

WINTER/SPRING BIBLE STUDIES

Tuesday Mornings, January 17 – April 11, 9:00AM – 11:30AM

Choose from one of these four electives:

Moms Uplifting Moms (MUMs) // Facilitator: Laurie Harms Just for moms! We offer a place to gather with other mothers of preschoolers to learn to seek God’s best for yourself and your family. You’ll be led through study in God’s Word, group discussion and prayer time. Cost:  $10 (workbook included). Homework: 20 min/day. Like us on Facebook for activity updates.

Selah // Teachers: Stacey Kuszak & Renee Meyer NEW!! Designed for moms with kids in elementary – high school years. This community will explore the question: how might we love, lead and influence our families? Bible study will focus on making the Lord’s Prayer a pattern for living. You and God. Mom-to-Mom. Pause to pursue with purpose! Cost: $10 (workbook included). Homework: 20-30 min/day.

Restored! – A Study in Nehemiah // Teachers: Marlys Burgett & Shereen Schwaninger  Has life left you heartbroken? Do you wonder if you’ll ever experience wholeness? When Nehemiah found himself among the broken-down walls of Jerusalem, he turned to God. His answer was a restoration project. Walk with us through the book of Nehemiah to learn what it means to trust God and others to restore and revive our lives. Cost: $10 (workbook included). Homework: 30-60 min/week.

Register HERE for Tuesday Morning childcare.

Sunday Mornings, January 15 – April 9, 9:00AM – 10:15 AM, D-203

Restored! – A Study in Nehemiah // Teachers: Marlys Burgett & Shereen Schwaninger  Has life left you heartbroken? Do you wonder if you’ll ever experience wholeness? When Nehemiah found himself among the broken-down walls of Jerusalem, he turned to God. His answer was a restoration project. Walk with us through the book of Nehemiah to learn what it means to trust God and others to restore and revive our lives. Cost: $10 (workbook included). Homework: 30-60 min/week.

Wednesday Nights, January 18 – April 12, 6:30PM – 8:00PM

Epic of Eden // Facilitator: Denise Davis How many times have you resolved to really understand the Old Testament? Does your Bible knowledge feel like a jumble of people, action scenes, and commands? This video study featuring Sandra Richter, Ph.D., puts the history of God’s redeeming grace in perspective. Join us each week and learn how Old Testament understanding leads to fresh depths of New Testament faith for your everyday life. Cost: $18 if registered by January 8th, $25 after that date (video guide included). Homework: 5 lessons/week, 30+ min/lesson.

Register HERE for Wednesday Night childcare.

Questions? Contact Shereen at lbcequipher@gmail.com.

 

Join us for Classes in 2017

ehcollageWe hope you join us this semester for our Equip Her Life women’s bible studies. To register for any of the classes listed below, click HERE.

WINTER/SPRING BIBLE STUDIES

Tuesday Mornings, January 17 – April 11, 9:00AM – 11:30AM

Choose from one of these four electives:

Moms Uplifting Moms (MUMs) // Facilitator: Laurie Harms Just for moms! We offer a place to gather with other mothers of preschoolers to learn to seek God’s best for yourself and your family. You’ll be led through study in God’s Word, group discussion and prayer time. Cost:  $10 (workbook included). Homework: 20 min/day. Like us on Facebook for activity updates.

Selah // Teachers: Stacey Kuszak & Renee Meyer NEW!! Designed for moms with kids in elementary – high school years. This community will explore the question: how might we love, lead and influence our families? Bible study will focus on making the Lord’s Prayer a pattern for living. You and God. Mom-to-Mom. Pause to pursue with purpose! Cost: $10 (workbook included). Homework: 20-30 min/day.

Restored! – A Study in Nehemiah // Teachers: Marlys Burgett & Shereen Schwaninger  Has life left you heartbroken? Do you wonder if you’ll ever experience wholeness? When Nehemiah found himself among the broken-down walls of Jerusalem, he turned to God. His answer was a restoration project. Walk with us through the book of Nehemiah to learn what it means to trust God and others to restore and revive our lives. Cost: $10 (workbook included). Homework: 30-60 min/week.

Register HERE for Tuesday Morning childcare.

Sunday Mornings, January 15 – April 9, 9:00AM – 10:15 AM, D-203

Restored! – A Study in Nehemiah // Teachers: Marlys Burgett & Shereen Schwaninger  Has life left you heartbroken? Do you wonder if you’ll ever experience wholeness? When Nehemiah found himself among the broken-down walls of Jerusalem, he turned to God. His answer was a restoration project. Walk with us through the book of Nehemiah to learn what it means to trust God and others to restore and revive our lives. Cost: $10 (workbook included). Homework: 30-60 min/week.

Wednesday Nights, January 18 – April 12, 6:30PM – 8:00PM

Epic of Eden // Facilitator: Denise Davis How many times have you resolved to really understand the Old Testament? Does your Bible knowledge feel like a jumble of people, action scenes, and commands? This video study featuring Sandra Richter, Ph.D., puts the history of God’s redeeming grace in perspective. Join us each week and learn how Old Testament understanding leads to fresh depths of New Testament faith for your everyday life. Cost: $18 if registered by January 8th, $25 after that date (video guide included). Homework: 5 lessons/week, 30+ min/lesson.

Register HERE for Wednesday Night childcare.

Questions? Contact Shereen at lbcequipher@gmail.com.

Simeon’s Song

V0034650 Simeon holds the Christ child, who is holding an apple. MezzBy Claudine Lehman

“Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Moved by the spirit he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in arms and praised God, saying:

‘Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the sight of all people. A light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.'”  Luke 2:25-32

This final Christmas song in Luke is a worship hymn from the lips of Simeon, an upright and devout man who was waiting  for the coming Messiah,  Israel’s consolation.

The word “waiting” caught my attention as I read this. Maybe because I’ve always had a hard time waiting. This passage tells us Simeon waited and the Holy Spirit was upon him, and that he would live to see the Messiah. Therefore he was in the right place (temple courts) at the right time (when parents came with the child) to see the Child Jesus, Israel’s consolation. What if Simeon had not been a “waiting” person?

I noticed too that Simeon was worshiping while waiting for the “coming Messiah.” He was blessing God for keeping his promise even though Simeon had not yet seen the Messiah. He was praising God that he was going to be privileged to see the Lord’s Christ. This reminds me of a time my husband gently reminded me that I needed to start praising God for who He is even though I couldn’t see He doing anything. Simeon was a man of faith who worshiped waiting patiently.

I noticed too that Simeon was at peace. Peace while waiting. He wasn’t afraid to die. Death meant freedom from the cares and burdens of this life and blessings of the next life. His was peacefully waiting.

 “He was waiting for the Messiah the consolation of Israel.” [vs. 25]

Think with me for a minute about this word “wait.” How many ways can we wait? Patiently wait? Eagerly wait? Or do we wait “with a shove,” a hurry up? Do we wait in fear? Are we tired of waiting?  Impatiently waiting? The list is endless.

I believe Simeon’s waiting involved focusing on all the promises of God. It involved many times of quiet solitude waiting to hear what God would say–times of daily searching the Scripture to learn the will and ways of God. Simeon had been waiting all his life. He would have been a working man, so the waiting had to involve a regular work day when he looked at life through the eyes of God, not man.

Simeon was an upright and devout man, who waited for the coming Messiah, Israel’s consolation.

I want to be like Simeon–waiting with patient,  in eager expectation of what God has next for me. I need to find times of quiet solitude to listen . . . longer times to be taught by the Word of God. I desire a heart to be obedient to the will of God. I too am waiting eagerly to see the Lord’s Christ.

The Song of Angels

christmas-angelBy Katie Kafka

And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” Luke 2:13-14

As I read these verses from Luke 2 over and over again, I can’t help but let imagination take over in a flood of wonderment. What I would give to witness this heavenly multitude myself . . . to stand with the shepherds and absorb the glory of the Lord shining around me? What would that feel like? To hear the expression of angels proclaiming a message of praise and peace. What does that sound like? Is there anything tangible that could even compare? Perhaps the only thing (in my mind) that may come marginally close would be a virtuoso orchestra and choir performing Handel’s Messiah. Majestic in its own right, and yet, it still falls exceedingly short.

The angels’ song is both an upward praise giving glory to God in heaven and an outward petition of peace for mankind. God is Magnificent and nothing satisfies Him more than extending His gift of peace in full measure to the masses. As much as I whole-heartedly believe the notion of this song, how does this angelic phrase go beyond words on a page? How does it become more than an elaborate articulation in a familiar story?

Lets take a moment to notice the context immediately surrounding this heavenly display. Read Luke 2:1-20 and note any details surrounding the song. Who is the audience? What was their reaction to the song? How did they respond?

1 Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. 2 This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. 4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, 5 in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. 6 While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

8 In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; 11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,

And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

15 When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. 17 When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.

This heavenly display was reserved for an audience of common sheep herders and their flock. We see this time and again throughout the Bible. God is all about using ordinary people in an elevated way that transforms lives. Did you note the responsive progression of the shepherds in the passage? Fear progressed into an urgent need to reconcile the news of Immanuel. At first sight of baby Jesus, the shepherds, with a new-found peace, began to proclaim their story. The angel song is their testimony. A definitive moment in their life bringing them to the realization that God is with us. The Savior is here. All who heard their testimony wondered. Mary treasured and pondered it in her heart. The shepherds responded in praise, giving glory to God for this experience.

I encourage you to find a way to acknowledge your testimony this Christmas. This is why the Savior was born. We all have a story to share. So what is your “angel song”? What is your testimony? Can you identify a definitive moment in your life that brought you to a transforming realization that God is with you? Perhaps this moment started with fear and progressed to a heart of peace that only comes from resting in your salvation. To this I say, glory to God in the Highest! He is pleased.

Zechariah’s Song

incense-665068_960_720By Sunshine Metschke

There are so many beautiful, joy-filled hymns we sing at Christmastime. Some remind us of the sweetness of the silent night upon which the Savior was born and the humble conditions that surrounded Him. Some proclaim the long-awaited Savior has finally arrived!

But one familiar hymn has always sounded desperate and haunting to me . . .

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear

This song represents the longing of God’s chosen ones, who at the time of Zechariah the Priest, had not heard from God for 400 years.

Silence.

No miracles.

No messengers.

NOTHING.

Until that one day when Zechariah, righteous in the sight of the Lord, was chosen by lot for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: to offer the incense at the temple. This incense represented the prayers of the saints–the prayers of faithful generations desperate for the Messiah.

And it was in this moment that a holy interruption by the angel Gabriel began to reveal God’s plan for redemption, proclaiming the Messiah was indeed near.

11 “Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”         (Luke 1:11-17)

What a startling event! This was not routine as usual. Did you catch what Gabriel told Zechariah would happen? There were many things packed into Gabriel’s words, but here are a few to focus upon:

“Your prayer has been heard.

Which prayer? The one I just prayed?  In his startled state, I’m guessing Zechariah was questioning every word which had just escaped his mouth. And while the Scriptures don’t tell us what Zechariah prayed for at this, the most important moment of his professional life, we can be certain that, as part of his priestly commitment, he prayed on behalf of the worshipers gathered outside that the Messiah would come soon. But he may have also prayed on behalf of his beloved Elizabeth, that the Lord might bless her.

“Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son.”

Now, having a baby might not seem too strange, except that Zechariah and Elizabeth were old, reminiscent of Abraham and Sarah. And while they longed for a child, at their age, they believed that ship had sailed.

Zechariah’s disbelief is displayed in the coming verses as he questions Gabriel’s credentials and how this could even be possible. And because of his disbelief, he falls mute, unable to tell the waiting worshipers (or even his wife!) what has just occurred.

“He will bring back many of the people Israel to the Lord their God . . . and he will go on before the Lord . . . to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

Not only did Gabriel promise a child, but also that this child would prepare the people Israel for their Messiah.

If Zechariah, in his old age, was about to be a father to a child that would prepare the way for the Messiah, this meant the time of the Messiah was near.

What joy!

Months pass, and Elizabeth bears a son. When they take him to the temple to be circumcised, they assume he will be called Zechariah after his father, which was the cultural norm. But Elizabeth declares that the long-awaited child will be called John. The people question Elizabeth’s decision, but Zechariah confirms it by writing on a tablet, “His name is John.” In this act of obedience to what the angel Gabriel directed, Zechariah’s mouth was opened, and he was finally able to speak.

After at least nine months of his own silence, knowing that centuries of God’s silence would soon – very soon – be broken with the birth of the Messiah, Zechariah is filled with the Spirit and begins to praise the Lord, reminding those gathered of the promises that God had made, of the mighty acts of the coming King, and of the ways that God would restore His people to Himself:

 67His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:

68 “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has come to his people and redeemed them.
69 He has raised up a horn[c] of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David
70 (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
71 salvation from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us—
72 to show mercy to our ancestors
and to remember his holy covenant,
73     the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
74 to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,
and to enable us to serve him without fear
75     in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.”                  (Luke 1:67-75)

He reminds the people what they have been told for generations, encouraging them to continue clinging to the hope of the coming Messiah. Because He IS near.

And then, Zechariah prophesies over his newborn son, a powerful word about John’s high and holy calling:

76”And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
79 to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.”                                                             (Luke 1: 76-79)

Oh, that I may have the faith of Zechariah, a bold faith to come to the Lord in desperate prayer, knowing that The Lord is near. He hears. And He keeps his promises!

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!

Mary’s Song

11153760234_82620f4c80_zBy Renee Meyer

As protestant believers, we don’t spend a lot of time thinking or talking about Mary outside of Christmas. But I love Mary, the mother of Jesus, and wonder how much we could learn from her, year round. We could all, like Mary, respond to God’s voice by saying, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.”

Mary responds to God’s choosing of her by breaking into song, a song Bible scholars call “the Magnificat.” That’s a big fancy word for a song that is about being simple and humble and small.

“My soul exalts the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.

For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed.

For the Mighty One has done great things for me; And holy is His name.

And His mercy is upon generation after generation Toward those who fear Him.

He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart. He has brought down rulers from their thrones, And has exalted those who were humble. He has filled the hungry with good things; And sent away the rich empty-handed.

He has given help to Israel His servant, In remembrance of His mercy, As He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and his descendants forever.”

(Luke 1:46-55)

Generations of women waited and hoped, knowing God had promised to send a Messiah, a deliverer for the Jewish nation. The entire nation hoped for God’s promised King, and every Jewish woman hoped she would be the one through whom God’s promise would come.

As the women of Israel hoped and waited through 400 dark years of God’s silence, what kind of woman do you think they expected God to choose?

Who do we expect God to choose and use?

I expect God to choose someone who is talented. Resourced. Ensconced in the religious and cultural centers of her world.

But Mary was not chosen for any of those things. As far as we know, Mary was not especially talented, resourced, or connected.

But she was pious, grounded in Scripture, brought up on the hope of the Messiah. And she was poor, in a forgotten corner of the nation.

She wasn’t royalty. She wasn’t even middle class.

In a dark and hurting world, Jesus was born to a peasant teenager. From the beginning of time God chose, on purpose, to birth deliverance and light, His Word, into poverty. Into an ordinary, peasant family.

His mercy is upon generation after generation . . .

And here we sit, in times that feel like night, as if God is silent. Where is God’s mercy in our generation? What deliverance might God be working in our dark, hurting world? How might He be working to birth the light of Jesus today?

As women of God, are we watching and waiting and hoping He will choose us?

From what kind of person do we expect God’s mercy to enter our world? Where do we expect to learn from God, to meet Him?

Perhaps we expect God’s light and voice to come from the educated. The good-looking, the well-resourced, the shiny and well-packaged products of the church and Christian culture.

Is this where we find the light of Jesus? Is this where mercy will come from in our generation?

Maybe.

But we might also find Jesus in our own lives. And maybe we will find the light of Christ in the face of an immigrant, a stranger. Perhaps we could see Jesus in the eyes of the poor, in an unwed mother, in a simple, faithful life. Maybe God’s mercy will come from unexpected places. Again.

He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart. He has brought down rulers from their thrones, And has exalted those who were humble. He has filled the hungry with good things; And sent away the rich empty-handed.

Are you feeling small? Ignored? Unimportant and unseen? Does the thought of God choosing you or using you seem improbable or impossible?

Hear Mary singing to you across the centuries this Advent season.

He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave . . .

He sees.

He sees you.

He values.

He values you.

And He has chosen you to birth His Son, His light and voice into this dark world. You carry the life of Christ in you, sister, into your generation. Are you expectant?

Look for Him. Watch for His hand of goodness and blessing this Christmas and sing with Mary,

. . . the Mighty One has done great things for me; And holy is His name. And His mercy is upon generation after generation Toward those who fear Him.

A Prophet’s Song

ed5357ee55b6c4fd4fcc51235b514b98Reading through the Old Testament this year, I’ve encountered many prophets. Prophecy is not a very glamorous occupation. Most often the prophets walk a tightrope on a sturdy thread of truth from God while the people of God seemed to be on the other end shaking the rope. They’re constantly on the edge of death and continually spared by the Almighty. But spared for what kind of life?

Hiding,

     fleeing,

          confronting,

     often an example of futile living to an ignorant crowd,

frequently threatened mercilessly by that same crowd.

Prophets were the voice of God to people who seemed to be particularly hard of hearing. Often prophetic news from above was not favorable to their lifestyle here below. So, when the news was as hope-giving as this, I imagine it was with great personal relief that the prophet Isaiah rose to speak to the waiting crowd …

How lovely on the mountains Are the feet of him who brings good news, Who announces peace And brings good news of happiness, Who announces salvation, And says to Zion, “Your God reigns!” 

Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices, They shout joyfully together; For they will see with their own eyes When the LORD restores Zion. 

Break forth, shout joyfully together, You waste places of Jerusalem; For the LORD has comforted His people, He has redeemed Jerusalem. 

The LORD has bared His holy arm In the sight of all the nations, That all the ends of the earth may see The salvation of our God.  (Isaiah 52:7-10)

Can you hear the sigh of relief between the lines of this song?

Do you sense the lightness in his voice, bright tones as he articulates each word?

Good news, oh yes! But not merely news of a relief effort, a promise of peaceShalom. For the Hebrews, Shalom isn’t just a greeting or a sentiment. It’s THE sign of God’s presence to experience the mutual flourishing that He alone can give. It’s the hope they cling to during oppression from outside forces.

The song tells us that the One who announces Shalom is the Savior who can fulfill it. We call Him Jesus and during Advent we look toward the horizon like the watchmen waiting for His appearance. As faithful followers we lift up a shout of praise – when we gather for Sunday worship, as we take time out of the busyness for reflection, even when we hum along with Christmas carols in the shopping mall.

Much like prophets of old, we might find ourselves walking a tightrope. Proclaiming the truth of Jesus as the Son of God born as a baby and raised to be our Redeemer can be shaky ground in our culture. We may be tempted to keep quiet and settle for the “ho-ho-ho” of the holidays.

But our world is desperate for the promise of Shalom – broken by shame, laid waste by corruption, blind to the hope of a true King. Will you dare to speak the Truth?

May the anticipation of Jesus this Advent season stir you to courage as you sing with the prophet, “Your God reigns!”

I just love this time of year, don’t you? I can’t help but feel the anticipation of a child as the Christmas season rolls around again. Shereen has started our annual Advent time on the blog with the Song of the Prophet. Be sure to check back each week as we hear from a variety of voices singing the songs of the season. You won’t want to miss it! –KJA