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Posts Tagged ‘ezer’

The man who led Ethiopia from the fall of communism in 1991 until the present, Meles Zenawi, died this week.  His illness and whereabouts occupied much conversation when I was in Ethiopia last week.

Generally revered by many of the people, Zenawi was credited with enabling the nation to weather drought and war and economic downturn to become a fairly stable republic with a growing economy.   Poverty, still starkly evident, was not so pervasive as I had seen 10 years ago.   Roads and infrastructure were clearly improved.

I also know that God is working in amazing ways in Ethiopia.  Students are boldly going, at risk of their lives, to share the gospel where it has not been welcome.  Churches are growing and spreading—and cooperating.   Leaders have sensed that women are key to reaching families, neighborhoods and workplaces.

A few women, brought together by Martha Hilawe of GCM, began to pray–for 40 days, then 30 days, then 21 days.  Participation multiplied.  The vision and interest spread.  The intial plan to reach hundreds of women expanded to equip thousands.

Women: Key to Transformation

So for the 8,000 women I was with last week, the primary topic was how God could use them to bring transformation to their country.  The Rise and Shine National Women’s Conference was sponsored by the Great Commission Ministry (GCM) and many churches.  Coming from churches throughout the country to Addis Ababa for five days of inspirational speakers, practical training and lively worship, the women were tireless and enthusiastic.

As one of the “inspirational” speakers, I was surely the one who was inspired.

An amazing worship group opened and closed the conference.  Twenty minutes of non-stop singing, dancing, rhythm, with props and percussions.  I was almost as exhausted as they were as they concluded.

The beautiful women, quite distinct in features and coloring from other parts of Africa, sang, swayed and danced to the frequent worship interludes.  They frequently, in unison, bent over and swung their arms back and forth in shib sheba—dancing as David danced—with palms open to the Lord’s plans for them.  From that they moved to clapping, then hands raised above their heads, swaying side to side.

The distinctive Ethiopian trill repeatedly punctuated the worship and the messages, signifying enthusiastic agreement.

 

 

 

 

Amens and Hallelujahs

As a speaker, I appreciated the encouraging Amens and Hallelujahs!  I was awed as I surveyed the crowds spreading in three directions, protected from the rainy season by the church’s tin roof, with sides open to the elements.  They squeezed together on hard benches, breaking only for lunch and waiting in long lines for the few toilets.

I loved sharing with them about God’s intentions in making them women: in His image, as ezers—strong warrior helpers called to serve alongside their brothers in blessed alliance.  The Lord had me change my next two messages.  We talked about giving all to Him—and seeing what He will do with it.  And we ended with an emphasis on grace.

My friend Elizabeth Schenkel spoke three times about God using these women to make significant differences where they lived as they ministered in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Erick Schenkel enabled us to soar with the eagles and run in the Olympics with his devotional.

Shocking Reality

Inspiration transitioned to application.  Sessions on leadership, family and the use of Magdalena, a moving  version of the Jesus Film told by Mary Magdalene, for sharing the love of Christ helped to equip them to return home with effective ministry.

Probably the most powerful session, though, addressed issues concerning women in Ethiopia.  A young professional woman presented staggering statistics concerning forced child marriage, abuse, abductions and female circumcision.  Then she made her point vividly by showing an horrific video of a young girl undergoing female genital cutting.  I can still hear her screams.

Conference leaders felt that, although many women in the audience would have experienced that procedure, most had no idea how widespread it still is.  Hopefully the shocking video will cause many to rise up against such practices.

GCM director Damtew Kifelew gave the closing challenge, exhorting them to pray,  to plant thousands of churches–so that there was a church in walking distance of every person.  To reach children and students and families. To transform Ethiopia with the love of God.

My purpose was to open their eyes to their value in the sight of God.  I hope I did that to some degree.  But truly my eyes were opened to a passion and oneness in the Lord that touched me deeply.  I was reminded once again of my privilege—of the comfort I live in, of the relative ease of almost every aspect of my life.  And of the incredible privilege to be friends with such women.

I hope I encouraged them as they walk with God.  I know they challenged and encouraged me.

What about you?  Who challenges the comfort of your life?

C2012 Judy Douglass

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(I recently spoke at Arizona State University cru on this topic, and part 2:  We’re Better Together.  Today and Friday, I am posting the outlines for these messages.)

Who am I and why am I here?

Most of us ask this question at some time, and usually many times.  Women especially seem to search for these answers.

At transition points in our lives, when we feel dissatisfied or confused about our lives, when we have dreams that seem beyond our reach, and at many other times, we wonder who we are and what our purpose is.

God has answers.  And for women these answers include specifcs for all women and for each woman.  Here is just a summary of those truths—the discovery and living out will be unique for each woman over her lifetime.

IMAGE BEARER

“So God created human beings in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27)

This is one of the most amazing truths in Scripture.  God made us like Him—in His image.  So we could live in fellowship with Him and so we would show the entire creation what He is like!!  (In the Fall, we drastically dimmed that reflection, but we are still God’s image bearers.)

And the image bearer reality is true for the span of our lives.

STRONG HELPER: EZER

“The LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’” (Genesis 2:18)

The Hebrew word for “helper” in this verse is ezer.  It is a powerful word, used in three ways in Scripture.  Armies that came to the aid and protection of Israel were called ezers.  The most common use of the word was to describe God as our ezer, our Helper, especially in time of trouble.  In both of these uses, the word has military connotations.

The first time we see the word is in the Scripture above.   God said it was not good for the man to be alone, so He made woman as an ezer, a strong helper, a co-laborer in the assignment God gave them, a partner in the battle ahead.

And the ezer reality is true from birth to death—for the girl, the single woman, the wife, the mother, the widow.

BLESSED ALLIANCE

“God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.”  (Genesis 1:28)

God blessed the man and woman and gave them an assignment:  To increase their numbers—to have children.  To cultivate the earth and make it fruitful.  And I believe, as image bearers, to reflect and represent God, to be spiritually fruitful.

They were to do this together, in a blessed alliance.  Sin caused these allies to become more like adversaries, but Jesus restored this alliance.

(In my next post I will develop this concept more in “We’re Better Together.”)

UNIQUELY YOU

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  (Ephesians 2:10)

In Psalm 139 we understand that God was there, forming us in our mother’s womb—making each of us just as He wanted us.  In the verse above we see the result:  He declares that we are works of art!  I’m sure He said, as each of us was born:  “That’s it!  She is exactly what I had in mind—a masterpiece!”

And then He tells that He made us the way we are—all our strengths, gifts, talents, idiosyncrasies, weaknesses—for the purposes He intends for us.  He already has good works prepared—and who we are will be just right to accomplish those assignments.

KINGDOM BUILDER

“Jesus said to him, ‘…you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’” (Luke 9:60)

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last…”  (John 15:16)

Those good works God has prepared for us will include our explorations to discover who we are, our growing years, our various vocations, our marriages and our parenting, and even in retirement.

And they will also include our part in Kingdom work.  God is building His Kingdom, and each of us has a role—even many roles–to play in that great endeavor.   His design equips us for Kingdom assignments He has for each of us.

Personally, I never get over that God so lovingly and specifically designed me—because He wants to be with me, has amazing life plans for me—and invites me to be on His Kingdom team!

What about you?  Have you discovered God’s good intentions in making you?

C2012 Judy Douglass

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Help!!

Grandboy Carter, almost 6, loves to climb.  If he finds a tree with climbable branches, he is up there.  But on a recent day I heard a frantic “Jeedoo!” coming from the tree.  His foot was caught in the branches and Carter needed Help!

A popular beach activity these days is “tunneling.”  Teens especially like to dig deep holes in the sand, going down as deep as 8 feet.  Sand, being inherently unstable, sometimes collapses, burying the tunneler.  A Santa Monica teen yelled “Help” recently as sand covered him.  It took 25 minutes to dig him out:   He was fortunate there was help nearby.  Many tunnelers die.

Surely, when the mine collapsed on 33 Chilean miners, their first desire was for “Help.”   But help was slow in coming.  For 17 days rescuers assumed the miners were dead.  When it was discovered they were still alive, it was still almost two months before they were brought to the surface.

 

All of us have times in our lives when all we can say is “Help!!”  When we know God, our cry is more likely “Help, Lord.”

 

“Help, Lord!” is the right thing to say.  For our God has called Himself Elohim Ezer, God our Helper:  “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).
“The other was named Eliezer, for he said, ‘The God of my father was my help…’” (Exodus 18:4)

 
“Then Samuel took a stone and set it between Mizpah and Shen, and named it Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far the LORD has helped us.’” (1 Samuel 7:12)

 

 

“…so help us, O LORD our God, for we trust in You, and in Your name have come against this multitude. O LORD, You are our God; let not man prevail against You….” (2 Chronicles 14:11)

 

Ezer is a powerful word, with military connotations.  It implies that God is a strong Helper.  He is in the battle with us.  He enables us to be strong and will enable us to stand strong in our battles.  He rescues us from our own choices, the actions of others that threaten us, or just from the daily risks of life.

 

God also helps us in many other ways:  He gives wisdom.  He enables us to love with unconditional love.  He helps us to persevere.

 

The name of Ezer is used often in Scripture to assure us of God’s always available help:  “We wait in hope for the Lord; He is our help and our shield” (Psalms 33:20).

 

And the writer of Hebrews reiterates this truth about our God:  “So we say with confidence. ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can human beings do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:6).

 

How wonderful to have such a Helper as our God for every need!

 

Here are some ways to call on God your Helper!

  1.  Thank Him for all the ways He has helped you in the past week.
  2. Acknowledge that you know He is able to come to your rescue no matter how deep the hole you are in.
  3. Ask Him for wisdom in whatever need you have right now.

Add some more of your own:

 

How has God helped you?  Tell us about it with a comment.

 

This post is one of a series from His Name Is a Promise:  Praying the Names of God.

 

C2011 Judy Douglass

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“Thank you, Mother, for raising a worthless daughter.”

These words, part of a lament of a bride going to meet her husband for the first time, summed up the experience of women in China in the 1800’s, according to Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.   In this book  Lisa See brings to light the reality of life for a female in that society:  No value, no rights, raised for a husband’s family, enduring the years of footbinding torture and subsequent crippling, totally dependent on the desires of her parents/brothers/husband/mother-in-law.  She had no purpose—except to bear a son– and no hope.

These words, sadly, have been echoed across countless generations and cultures.  In many places a woman has a place in life only if she becomes the mother of a son.  In some African nations female genital cutting is still practiced, creating unimagined agony for preteen girls and sentencing them to a lifetime of pain.  In Southeast Asia and many other places children are sold—often by their poverty-stricken parents—as sex slaves.

Frightening Statistics

In Half the Sky, Pulitzer Prize winning authors Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn horrify us with statistics like this:

“Thirty-nine thousand baby girls die annually in China because parents don’t give them the same  medical care and attention that boys receive.”

“In India, a ‘bride burning’—to punish a woman for an inadequate dowry or to eliminate her so a man can remarry—takes place approximately once every two hours.”

They go on to talk of kerosene dousing and acid burning, of 2 million girls disappearing  every year because of gender discrimination.   One journal stated, “Women are not dying because of untreatable diseases.  They are dying because societies have yet to make the decision that their lives are worth saving.”

Centuries of ‘Worthless Daughters’

Trafficked girls

This is not new.  It didn’t begin 200 years ago in China.  It has gone on for centuries:  Mothers raise “worthless daughters.”  When I hear, see, think about such things, I can barely contain my emotions.   Horror, anger, frustration, indignation.  How can this be?  How can it continue?  We must do something!

Someone has done something. One person has made a difference.  His name is Jesus.  Wherever the message of Jesus has been received, the status of woman has been raised.  In the film Magdalena, a telling of the story of Jesus by Mary Magdalene, I was overwhelmed by the tenderness with which Jesus addressed women—in a culture where a man would not even acknowledge a woman.

Yet even in those lands where Jesus has gone, where things are not as bad as they once were, many women still believe they are worthless, or at least worth less.  Even today, women struggle to grasp their value.  To understand that God has a given them a high calling.

Desired and Treasured

Jesus calls women many things, but never worthless. He calls each one:  Desired. Treasured.  His joy.  A reflection of Him.  An ezer—strong warrior helper.  For a purpose.  To be His partner in building His kingdom.  He assures us the Father had grand intentions in creating women.

So why do so many women still suffer physically and emotionally, marginalized and meaningless, not experiencing those good purposes for which God created them?

Who Will Do Something?

I find my heart crying, Who will do something?  The Lord has clearly responded:  You are doing something—the most important something.  You and many sisters are introducing women to that one who values and treasures them, who made them with tender love and powerful intentions and high calling.  When they know Jesus, they can begin to discover that they are not worthless.

And some among us are/will be the ones who will take up the cry:  We must do something.  We must raise our voices, get involved, right wrongs,  alleviate suffering.  We must work to set our sisters free, from slavery, from poverty, from torture, from abuse, from worthlessness.

Together, we and they will discover that we are of indescribable worth.

(A starting place could be to read Half the Sky, which is filled with many disturbing stories of atrocities and wrongs, but also tells of hopeful solutions and actions that can turn things around.  And then read Half the Church, Carolyn Custis James’ call to the church to stand in the gap, to proclaim by word and action that women matter and women can make a difference.)

C2011 Judy Douglass

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