IF gathering 2016

by Pat Riley-Sanderson

I gathered this weekend with women who crossed all boundaries of color, age, culture and even denomination to begin answering the question, what IF we lived, loved, prayed and served like Jesus.  It was called the IF gathering 2016 and we listened, prayed, worshiped and discussed through video presentation of an IF gathering of hundreds of women and our own assembly of Sisters in Christ at my own church, Pinellas Community Church. We began with praise and worship inviting Jesus into our space, lifting our voices in praise, love and awe of his power. We listened as the first speaker reminded us of who Jesus is.  In John 14:6 “Jesus answered I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  The note on this scripture from the NIV study Bible says Jesus is not one way among many, but the only way.  We Sisters in Christ discussed at our table answers to several questions including when did we first invite Jesus into our lives and what did we have to give up to be a child of God and a follower of Jesus. It was illuminated that we may have given up some but that Jesus gives us so much more than what we may have denied ourselves.

We listened to other speakers talk about the love of Jesus.  In John 15:12-13 Jesus says “My command is this: love each other as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus’ love for us is not ordinary, it is exceptional, it is not condescending or obligatory.  And as we demonstrate our love for those who are marginalized – the poor, those in prison, those who are labeled or lost, we may be hated. Jesus says in John 15:18, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.”

And lastly we learned that all of his teachings, who Jesus is , how he loves and serves us, is to redeem and transform us so that we too can be disciples for him. He wants us to be Jesus followers.  In the Great Commission, Jesus tells his 11 disciples who have seen him many times since his death and resurrection, who have witnessed his miracles and heard his word in Matthew 28:19-20, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded…” What IF we as Sisters of Christ took up this mission to live like Jesus and because we know who he is and how he loves and how he hope for us, we are redeemed and transformed. We go then with the Holy Spirit guiding us and one by one we disciple to those who do not know Jesus. one person at a time affecting many nations.


The Syrophoenician Woman – 8 Points for Bible Study

Bible Study February 13, 2016  – Matthew 15:21-28; Mark 7:24-30

1. The woman’s name is not known. Her identity by Matthew says she is a Canaanite.  As there was no country of Canaan at that time, the term may be a Semitic identification of reference by the Jews to the Phoenicians. Mark identifies her as “….a Greek born in Syrian Phoenicia…” (Mark 7:26).

2. Her story is a lesson in faith and love as she came to Jesus and begged him to drive the demon out of her daughter (Mark 7:26).

3. It is evident, that from the answer Jesus gave her; “First let the children eat all they want” (Mark 7:27) all involved understood the tension between the Jews and the Greeks.

4. Love – Jesus said the greatest commandment is: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the Greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40).  Jesus also said in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 list a number of admirable attributes such as, speaking in tongues, the gift of prophecy, faith to move mountains, giving to the poor, suffering martyrdom and being burned at the stake, but concludes that these great accomplishments are nothing without love. The Apostle John says “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:8). However, Reverend Al Green reminds us that love is “Something that can make you do wrong, make you do right, love.” It is a mother’s love in this case, that makes the women risk prejudicial condemnation, to go to a person from a group that despised her people, and seek healing for her daughter. I’m sure this didn’t sit will with the Jews or her people, the Greeks of Syrophoenicia. Love however, conquered all.

5. In her initial call for help, she recognized him as being a direct desendent of King David. “A Canaanite woman from the vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly  from demon-possession.” (Matthew 15:22)

6. Jesus ignored her plea, but she was persistent. “Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” (Matthew 15:23)

7. There seems to be no real answer at why Jesus ignored the woman and spoke to her as he did in Matthew 15:24-26. Was he being witty to let her know he didn’t despise her like other Jews? Was he teaching his disciples a lesson regarding the scope of their ministry in the future? Did Jesus in his humanness have to come to grips with the true mission of his Father, God? Was he testing the woman’s level of faith? Or, was he using the woman as an example of what level faith in the healing power of God produced a response? No one knows the answers, but we know the woman had faith.

8. Faith – Many times the drive of the inward assurance of success outweighs the skill level. This is not to say that the woman didn’t have sufficient language skills to make her point to Jesus. In order to make the attempt, as She “begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter” (Mark 7:26), she had to have great faith that she would succeed. How many know how to solve their problems of life, but don’t have faith to not only take the first step in the right direction, but approach the task with the tenacity of guaranteed success. The Greek word parakaleo indicates an urgent call. Urgent enough that despite what may appear as rudeness from Jesus put him in a witty, seemingly challenging conversation which resulted in her showing him she had faith that be could and would heal her daughter. For, “Then Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is request is granted.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour” (Matthew 15:28).

Study Guide:                                                                                                                                                    Syswerda, Jean E, Women of the Bible, 52 Bible Studies for Individuals and Groups, Zondervan, 1999



The Shulammite Woman – 10 Key Points for Bible Study 11/08/2014

The Song of Songs/The Song of Solomon

1. “Theme: The wisdom writer celebrates the sexual union between a man and a woman as a joyful part of marital  life in God’s good creation.” (3, pg. 1374- Song of Songs Introduction)

2. “It’s unlike anything in the Bible.  For that reason, it should be read differently than any other book in the Bible.  Don’t take it literally.  Don’t search for hidden codes or submerged messages.  Love letters are to be appreciated, not analyzed.” (1, pg. 793)

3.  “You are opening someone else’s shoebox of  letters and reading the correspondence between two people madly in love.” (1, pg. 793)

4.  “Solomon’s Song describes a relationship between a bride and groom.  Solomon and the Shulammite were about to be married in the king’s palace.  The woman was a peasant worker from Shunem, a farming town sixty miles north of Jerusalem.” (1, pg. 794)

5.  “It is the only book in the Bible to have all its contents put into the mouth of speakers, but it is monologue with practically no dialogue.  The speakers are not identified nor are their speeches introduced. The book has certain dramatic characteristics, but it is not drama.” (2, pg.92)

6.  “In its present form it is purely secular in character,  with no apparent theological, religious, or moral attributes.  God never once appears in it.” (2, pg. 92)

7.  The Shulammite Woman: Her character:

“Hers is the only female voice that speaks directly to us in Scripture.  Ruth’s and Esther’s voices, for instance, are mediated by narrators.  The Shulammite woman boldly declares her longing and desire to be united to her lover in marriage.” (5, pg. 150)

8.  “The story of the Shulammite, mysterious as it is, touches our longing to love and be loved.” (4, pg. 269).

9.  “The Jews believed the book was not primarily about individual lovers but about God’s love for his people Israel.  Christians initially read it as a parable of Christ’s love for the church and later as a parable of his love for the individual soul.  Modern commentators tend to view it more literally, as an expression of love between a man and a woman.  They praise its inclusion in the Bible because it celebrates marital love and the sexual expression of that love.  Anyone inclined to believe the Bible teaches a negative view of sex should read this book of Scripture before drawing such a conclusion.” (4, pg. 268)

10.  “Throughout history, intimate love relationships have been shamefully distorted and profaned.  Song of Songs gives God’s picture of the beauty of the relationship.” (5, pg. 153).

1. The Inspirational Study Bible, The Holy Bible, New king James Version, Max Lucado, General Editor, Word Publishing, 1995.

2. The Interpreter’s Bible, In Twelve Volumes, Volume 5, Abingdon Press, 1956

3. The NIV Study Bible, Zondervan, 1995. (All Scriptures)

4. Women of the Bible,  One Year Devotional Study of Women in Scripture, Ann Spangler and Jean E. Syswerda, Zondervan, 2007.

5. Women of the Bible, 52 Bible Studies for Individuals and Groups, Jean E Syswerda, Zondervan, 1999.