Our prayer is that you will find here a place to be encouraged and challenged in your walk with Jesus Christ. The weekly posts on this site are penned by women of UFC for their sisters at UFC. They are intended as a continuation of discussion begun at Bible study each week about what it looks like to walk with Christ today.
Current Study Reflection
By Jamie Harms
My husband cracks me up because, when he has good news to share, his mom and I are always the first to know. Usually the first one to hear depends on which one of us picks up our phone first. Whether it is news that a grant has been funded, a paper has been accepted, a speaking invitation has been extended, or a friend/colleague is coming to town, my husband is the messenger of good news to his mom and me.
Angels were the messengers of good news that first Christmas night. Their message on that hillside was loud and clear — Christ our Messiah is here! The shepherds were recorded as the first to worship the Messiah, and as they went out from the manger, so did the message. Word began to spread, as did the hope that the Messiah was finally here. Read more…
By Jamie Harms
Have you ever waited for something expectantly? I remember as a child waiting along with all my siblings and cousins for Christmas morning. All month we enjoyed the lights and the music and watched the beautifully decorated gifts appear under the tree. On Christmas Eve, we would all crawl into our sleeping bags at my aunt’s house so excited for the next morning. However, we could not just get up and dive into the presents. We had to wait. We would wake up early and wait for my uncle to finish brewing the coffee before he would patter down the hallway to turn on Manhiem Steamroller’s Christmas album, beckoning us all into the living room for our Christmas celebration complete with the presents.
The shepherds on that original Christmas night were waiting for something, too. They grew up under the oppression of the Romans as they awaited their Messiah. He was coming to set them free. They went about their daily tasks hoping that the day for the Messiah to appear would come soon. Then one night as they tended to the sheep, a whole sky full of angels heralded Christ’s coming to them first. The least of these in the Israelite community were the first to know that the Messiah was here! Not only did they hear about His arrival first, they had the joy of worshiping Him face-to-face. Read more…
By Jamie Harms
When I was in middle school, we took care of a little boy, who had lost his mama. He and his dad became like family, practically living at our house following her death as we helped take care of the little boy during the day and often into the evening. We folded these two into family events and traditions, including at holidays. One Christmas season at the age of 3 or 4 this little boy, as he was playing with our nativity set underneath the Christmas tree, stopped and turned to my mom, saying, “I know why Jesus was born in a stable. If Jesus were born in a palace, then the shepherds could not come to visit Him.” He then bounded away to the next thing without saying anything more. From the lips of babes, this little boy uncovered a great truth about where Jesus was born. Jesus could have been born in Jerusalem at a palace heralding Himself king, but that was not His heart. Our little friend was right. If Christ had been born in a palace in Jerusalem, the shepherds could not have visited Him and worshiped Him. Instead, God chose to become flesh in the small, insignificant town of Bethlehem, where angels where His heralds and shepherds, wise foreign kings, and others could all come to worship Him. God wanted all of humankind to be able to come to Him, to see Him, to know Him, and to worship Him. Hence, He was born in a borrowed space to a young single mama in an insignificant town that all could access and would forever be known as the place where our God came to abide with us — all of us. For this we celebrate today. Read more…
By Jamie Harms
Around this time every year as the dark evenings come earlier and earlier, we see fir trees decorated with sparkling ornaments pop up in living room windows, hear bellringers as we enter stores, and spot beautifully wrapped gifts displayed all over town. Music is played everywhere to brightening the mood. Coats and gloves are worn by those walking down the street, and glittering lights adorn roof lines. All indicate that something is coming. As soon as we see these signs, we know that the Christmas season is upon us. We wait in eager expectation for Christmas to be here.
It is easy to get swept up in all the hubbub of the season and miss that Christmas is the celebration of our Emmanuel come in the flesh, and that He is coming again. It was not until I was an adult and living in Baltimore that I was introduced to a liturgical advent. Advent means coming, and the whole point is intentionally looking for the one coming. Instead of Christmas trees and gifts, liturgical advent celebrations include a wreath with five candles — one candle lit each of the four Sundays before Christmas and the fifth on Christmas morning. Read more…
Happy Thanksgiving, Ladies! We hope you take time this long holiday weekend to reflect on the many ways God has been faithful in your life in the past year. We’re looking forward to see you next Thursday, December 5, for our final week of study together in Joshua. This week we have the privilege of hearing from Andi Hines about what God has been teaching her this fall through our study.
By Andi Hines
As a young girl, I had a favorite place, a spot where I would imagine what life was going to be like. Running along the length of my grandparents’ land, a small creek twisted and turned. It seemed large then, yet I could sit on the rocks of one shore and rest my bare feet on the other. Running underneath me, the water bubbled over tiny boulders, dropping softly and occasionally stalling out in sandy eddies, where water skippers loved to dance. This little brook and its shores offered me a peaceful space that God filled. Here thoughts were not disturbed by life — His reality was strong. His presence tangible. We shared many conversations together.
Joshua’s example of quiet time is my first and favorite lesson. Part of Joshua’s responsibilities, while serving under Moses, was to stand at the door of the tent of meeting, while Moses met with the Lord. What fills the time when you are asked to stand in a sandy, barren place with nothing to do? Was it boring for him? Did he think of all the other things he could be doing? Perhaps, but also in that lack of hurry and doing, a heart can become quiet — at peace. The rush of life can take a back seat, and the mind can slow down. In those restful moments, we can engage and draw near. We can hear our precious Father speaking. Today, in that quiet space, I can find encouragement toward change and growth, the elements of preparation for the days ahead. So, my first lesson is how important it is to have quiet time with God. Read more…
Editor’s note: Given the topic of anxiety that arises within the book of Joshua, we felt it important to cover this topic in greater detail. Please note that this is an educational piece intended to help us understand the realities of clinical anxiety, as well as how to address it as Christians. That being said, this post is longer than our typical post, but we hope that it will encourage Christians who experience anxiety as well as provide insight for how we as a church can support those around us who are anxious. There is much more we could cover regarding this topic. We plan on returning to this issue in the future, but for now, here is an overview of the issue.
By Jasmine Timm
I spent a good chunk of last year worrying about all the ways I would encounter a snake while exploring the National Park system with my husband. I dreamt about snakes slithering under my tent as I slept. I replayed made-up scenarios about what I would do when a snake bit me. I even went to REI and bought a snakebite kit, just in case. This cycle of worry was nothing new to me. I can trace my fear of snakes back to childhood, and as much as I knew better than to worry incessantly about the unlikely event of being bitten by a snake, I felt as if I was engaging in battle. It was silly, really, but no matter how hard I tried to stop replaying images of snakes in my head, my body seemed to have a mind of its own and refused to give up the fight against snakes that easily. Read more…
By Jaime Sherman
Our nation’s capital is home to hundreds of rock-hewn memorials and monuments that ask its 25 million visitors annually to pause between photo ops and hot dog stands to remember. To remember the military conflicts that threatened our country’s freedom. To remember the men and women who sacrificed their time, and in many cases, their lives to ensure the life and freedom of our nation. The memorials range in size from 500 feet to smaller plaques tucked inside halls of power, and each one tells a story meant to be repeated from generation to generation.
When my husband and I visited Washington, D.C., this fall, we stood in the dark of night inside a marble temple, staring up at the 19-foot-tall, dimly lit statue of President Abraham Lincoln. Then we turned to look across the National Mall to the Reflecting Pool, to the sky-scraping Washington Monument and to the glimmering U.S. Capitol building in the distance. A nighttime glimpse of the must-sees of D.C. brought awe at the grandeur of man’s creativity, but it wasn’t until we strolled the roads of Arlington National Cemetery that we paused to truly remember, to look past man actions to God’s sovereignty in our country’s history.
In the hush fallen long over more than 400,000 memorial stones set since the Civil War, we reflected on the loss of life, on man’s devotion to his country, and on God’s promise to right every wrong in the end. It’s incredible to stand alongside grand, larger-than-life memorials, but they tend to set one’s eye on those exalted on pedestals or on the architects who sculpted the rocks. In many ways, the simple marble headstones lined one after another at Arlington helped point us to God’s power over man’s conflicts far better than the grand ones. Read more…
By Phares Gilchrist
A whole lotta preparation has gone on to get us to this point, and I don’t just mean Moses, Joshua and the children of Israel. Our western culture has been grooming us to accept or reject the events to come in the next few chapters of Joshua. We are faced with binary choices that look like this:
Is God just? Am I more just?
Is God loving? Am I more loving?
Is He gracious? Am I more gracious?
We weren’t given many specifics when God eradicated Sodom and Gomorrah. It was His doing. My fellow man was not dashing heads on rocks. We accept this as what God’s judgment looks like when a culture utterly fails in every category of decency.
Now, faced with the choice between successful implantation of Israel, upon whom rests the future redemption of all who will believe, or complete assimilation into a culture who sacrifices children and practices the use of temple prostitution as a form of worship — it was worse than even this, but it would have to be when it practices these rituals — the goal is clear. The culture will not give up its evil practices and threatens to corrupt Israel. Read more…
Phares Gilchrist Answers: No. It may seem like a hairsplitter, but genocide is ethnic cleansing. This was not racial animosity. It was facing a foe, who viewed God, the concept of holiness, and your entire population, with contempt. There were those in Canaan who were spared. It had to do with the physical territory, the ability to claim it as holy ground, for a holy God, and His chosen people. God created those He vanquished, knew them in the womb, desired their love and was repeatedly rejected by them, and replaced by every idol of evil worship imagined. This is His call based on the facts on the ground. Read more…