Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tipping the Scales in Favor of Spiritual Growth

Proverbs 31:30 "Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised"

The other day, I was lamenting the fact that, due to having a 4 and 1 year old, most of my mornings find me running out the door with wet hair and "mom" clothes. If I were honest, though, the fact I consistently appear less dazzling doesn't mean I still don't desire to be put together, have those cute outfits and perfectly coiffed hair.
Ladies, we all spend inordinate amounts of time on our appearance. You might shake your head no and insist you've never been one for makeup and clothes, but there are various facets of taking care of your appearance. Where do you spend your time: shopping for clothes, getting fresh makeup, painting your nails, going to hair appointments and styling your hair, pouring over fashion magazines, dieting, exercising, or even just unconsciously sizing up other women on what they are wearing or how they look? Even if this is all in balance and vanity is not a sin issue, we all must admit we enjoy looking nice.
However, as Christian women, what is more important--our exterior appearance or our inward character? Did you spend as much time in the Word or studying godliness as you did doing ANY or all of the above today? If we are honest, many women fall short of spending as much time on inward sanctification as they do on making their outward appearance beautiful.
We definitely need to take care of the bodies God gave us and look attractive for our husbands, but this pales in comparison to our need to pursue holiness before our Creator.
I thought of a silly illustration: Imagine I buy my husband a work shirt so he can look nice at work. I want him to look put together at his meetings and to be thought of as a professional by his bosses. What if he started obsessing about the shirt instead of his actual work? He suddenly spent inordinate amounts of time ironing, washing, resewing buttons, and smoothing his shirt. He even suddenly started working less on projects at work because he wanted to spend more time taking care of his precious shirt at work. What? That is just silliness and completely misusing the gift I gave him! In fact, it is taking away from the exact purpose of my gift--to be a professional, hard worker!
That is what we are doing to a degree when we take the gift of our bodies and spend inordinate amounts of time on fleshly desires rather than on the spiritual needs and purposes that God gives us. Our over-focus on the gift and not adequately doing our spiritual jobs is silly and misplaced.
In addition, as Proverbs 31:30 reminds us, when we become overly interested in staying beautiful and physically perfect, we are bound to be disappointed. As my pastor says, we are all bananas. We are unripe for days on end, beautiful and "perfect" in appearance for what seems a couple of hours, and rotting, ugly fruit going downhill for the remainder of our earthly time. The beauty fades, but time invested in sanctification and holiness will never be wasted or wane.
Ladies, don't necessarily stop spending time getting ready and put together each morning (though we can all double check how much of our time that encompasses), but make sure that your number one time and mind-set priority is delving into the Word of God and pursuing ways to do God's will for you.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Don't Worry, Be Holy

Matthew 6: 33-34
"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."
Recently, Pastor Philip De Courcy came to our church and shared a story from Corrie Ten Boom, a Christian who lived in Holland and concentration camps during World War II. Corrie tells a story of when she was a little girl and told her father she was afraid to die. Her father smiled at her and asked her something like this, "Corrie, when you take the train with me, at what point do I hand you your ticket?" "Right before we get on the train, papa" she answered. "God is the same way. He gives us the grace to face trials at the time that we require it--not long before or after. He gives us the grace right when we need it. When He calls you to death, He will then give you the grace to face it." (my summary of the conversation)
Christ speaks to us about a similar topic in Matthew 6: 33-34. He reminds us that we need only to deal with the trials of the day we are facing. The future is not in our control and we are not to worry about it. Are we to be wise, plan and be mindful of God's will for our plans? Yes! However, the topic and emphasis here is worry. We know from many passages in the Bible that anxiety and worry are wrong. Philippians 4:6 says, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, with prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." This passage leaves no wiggle room for excuses--do not worry about ANYTHING.
As women, we are experts at worry, aren't we? We worry about our kids--where will they go to school? Who will be their teacher? Will they have friends? Are they getting sick? We worry about our husbands--Are they doing well at work? Will they get the house project done without trouble? Are they giving us/the kids enough attention? We worry about ourselves--Do we look as thin as we would like? Did we make a good impression on that person? Will our doctor's appointment go well and will we stay healthy? We worry about where we live. We worry about the economy. We worry about money. We worry about health. We worry, worry, worry. When our emotions run awry and sinful, the Bible should always be our first stop to calm our nerves and shed light on the truths that are deafened by our anxious thoughts.
God makes it clear that He is with us and gives us tools to face today with holiness. Our main tool, in fact, is to seek His kingdom and righteousness. When we are grounded in Him and Biblical truth, we are prepared for trials we face. However, so often we try to take the controls, solve the problem and slip some Bible study or prayer in the little crumbs of time throughout the day. In effect, we are starving ourselves from the Biblical knowledge and godly wisdom we need to receive peace in our turmoil and valleys. Our lack of a proper Biblical foundation leads to worry, and the cyclical problem continues.
We must choose to purposefully repent of worry, stop doing the "what if" games in our mind, and to take the day we are facing and weigh it in the truth and light of God's Word as problems arise. Yes, we will have trouble. Read the end of Matthew 6:34 carefully. Christ says, "Each day has enough trouble of its own." God knows life isn't easy. He is aware of the difficulties we have. He doesn't promise to take trials away and make life easy, breezy and beautiful. We live in the cursed world of Genesis 3. He won't necessarily heal that disease or mend that relationship. However, He will give us the truths to give us peace and faith in those trials. Philippians 4:7 is not quoted as often as 4:6, but it says, "And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Despite our circumstances, we will find peace, joy, hope, and trust. It is beyond understanding, but He will give this to us when we seek Him and rely on Him each day. Even though the trial remains, we only have to deal with today, and His grace is more than enough to succeed.

Ladies, he won't always solve the trial or take the pain away, but He will comfort and encourage us with truth and peace as we face what He allows, as He conforms His Christian daughters into the image of Christ. Let's not worry or be anxious about tomorrow. Let's face today with confidence that, if we seek Him and His righteousness, He will provide all we need to get through today. His grace is enough.