Wednesday, July 20, 2011


From my post back on 10-5-07
Preparing for an upcoming women's Bible study, I was studying the passage of I Peter 1:13-21. The theme of the passage is holiness. It says,
"Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not confrom to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. but just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: 'Be holy, because I am holy.' Since you call on a Father who judges each man's work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious bloodof Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who
raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in

Holiness. It is a word that seems anything but us. That is because, unfortunately, it is often the case. However, as this passage explains, we should strive to identify with and master the practice of holiness. We have God's example and Spirit to help us. Are we actively seeking such holiness in our lives?

First, we are told, in verse 13, to prepare our minds for action and to control ourselves. This is not an exercise in passivity. We must prepare ourselves by knowing God's will, rules and characteristics. Think of all the tests or sports for which you might have prepared yourself over the years. Hopefully, you did not spend 5 minutes reviewing notes or running laps and think, "I hope I can pray tonight that God will help me in this area and I will succeed tremendously tomorrow." More than likely, you spent hours studying, days training, or even years preparing yourself for an ultimate goal. Not that God can't do it alone, but He asks that we seek Him and run the race in perserverance. Are we putting that kind of effort into attaining holiness?

This sounds hard. It is. It is work, but our hope in our salvation and grace before God's throne should give us joy, motivation and endurance in the midst of the training.  Plus, when we are obediently pursuing righteousness, God is there providing the correct heart, motivation and strength.  The fact our sin is nailed to the cross, paid in full by Christ, and we are a new creation in Him should give us the realization that He will not abandon us in the pursuit of holiness. 

God tells us we can't expect to be holy if we conform to the world. (verse 14) This is such a convicting statement for all of us. We might pride ourselves on not partying, swearing, stretching our credit cards, or cheating on our taxes, but how much of a stranger are you in society? Do you know what characters are on that television show you shouldn't be watching? Do you read gossip magazines or watch media shows on television that might qualify as gossip? What line do you draw when going to or renting a movie? The line should be pure holiness.

You might say, "I can't ever see a movie then! Hollywood doesn't make movies that are holy!" Well, there might be a very, very select few, but, perhaps this means we shouldn't be joining in this practice if we can't be holy in doing it. Believe me, this is a scary thought for me. I love to be a chair potato and watch movies to relax. However, holiness is not about comfort. It is all about sacrificing the pleasures of this world and wanting to please the Father we adore and love.

The verses tell us to fear God. (verse 17) We need to realize that holiness is a command, not a polite, passive request. We also need to recognize God's qualities. Think of the strongest, most mighty thing you can imagine--a gigantic mountain in the Sierras, the roaring ocean, a thunder and lightning storm, a howling hurricane, a screaming tornado, a hissing, spitting volcano of lava and ash, an angry earthquake, a scorching sun, the chasms of the Grand Canyon, or a vast, unexplorable universe. These are God's creation. Think of who He must be in order to speak and create such wonders. We don't fear God enough because we don't take the time to understand His capabilities, His characteristics and qualities. This affects our obedience and urgency when we error in our understanding of who God really is.

What will you do to pursue holiness today? You recognize, if you are a Christian, that Christ painfully poured out His life and rose again, in order that you and I might be reconciled to our mighty Creator. (verses 18-19) Our humble thankfulness and love should spur immediate action. Make a plan with specific details. Cut out that television show, throw away the magazine with gossip that enslaves you, change the conversation when a friend starts disparaging another friend, tell a friend to hold you accountable to not practicing a particular bad habit, and PRAY FOR GOD'S HELP in revealing sin and giving you motivation and strength to change the error into holy behavior.

Be holy because He is holy. He is our precious, all-powerful, loving, righteous, merciful, gracious, perfect, all-knowing, all-present, eternal, unchanging, and HOLY God. Be holy because He asks you to be. That is motivation enough.  In the light of the cross and what He paid for us, the motivation is MORE than enough.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Bible Study Tips

Hebrews 4:12 "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart."

Our church believes that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God.  It is a perfect handbook He has written for us to live godly lives in this present age.  It is full of warnings, promises, hope and encouragement.  The gospel coats all of scripture--we are sinners, separated from God, in need of a flawless, all powerful Savior to pay the perfect penalty for our sin.  Jesus did this, and we have eternal life and forgiveness of sin when we repent of our sinful lives and trust in Christ's work for us on the cross. 

Knowing the Bible is so important, why would I not consider it a priority to be in it every day? 

More than blogging, reading gossip magazines, catching up on my favorite TV show, the Bible will satisfy and equip me for life.  I need to make Bible study a priority.  Not only should I be reading through the Bible, but I should be STUDYING it and meditating on what I am reading--absorb it in thought and learn from it/apply it.

I know that beginning to practically start a consistent Bible study each day can be overwhelming.  Where do I start?  How do I know what it is saying?

My pastor teaches a great acronymn that helps:  TAN.  TAN stands for "then, always and now."  Take any verse or short excerpt from scripture, and you can apply it to TAN.  He recommends you start with a non-narrative, such as the Pauline epistles.  I Peter or Thessalonians are great books for starting this practice.  Try taking only a verse or two each day and going through the entire book over time!  That is completely doable!

First, look at the verse IN CONTEXT.  Read the verses and chapter around it to see what exactly the verse is saying and addressing.  The opening notes on the book of the Bible will be helpful.  A good study Bible is essential for this step.  You can see if this geographical area or church was struggling with suffering, division, or another trial.   After you look at all this, you can write about what the author/verses were saying to the audience THEN.

The A stands for Always.  Now, what eternal truths can we learn from the passage?  You will take any Biblical truths that are throughout the Bible and are present in this passage.  These are truths that would apply at the time the book was written, apply now to you, and will apply always to Christians on earth.

The N stands for Now.  This is the application stage.  Looking at the eternal truth, how can you apply this into your life today?  Make your goal measurable and specific--not vague and unattainable. 

Let's practice.  I Thessalonians 4:13-14 13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. (esv)

T:  The then is that many lost people in that society did not believe in an afterlife. Paul did not want the Thessalonian church to be "ignorant" in this area.  People were dying for their faith and suffering for following the teachings of Christ.  Others taught of the end of existence and the hopelessness of death.  Paul was reminding the Thessalonian church that Christ promised to return, and those Christians who have died are with God already (in spirit) and will come again with Christ when He returns.  Their physical bodies will be resurrected when Christ returns, and they will then have new glorified bodies in Heaven.  He wanted to encourage and remind the Thessalonians of the truths of scripture in light of the false teaching around them.

A:  The always is that Christians have eternal life in Christ.  (Christ died for our sin, conquered death and rose again.  Though we may physically face death, we are immediately with God in spirit when we die, and we will , upon Christ's return, receive a glorified body (like Christ received upon his resurrection) that is perfect and not corrupt.)  We are sad when Christians die and leave our immediate presence, but we have the hope and promise of Heaven, which keeps us from despair and hopeless grief.

N:  The now will be what you want to apply in your life.  Here are examples:  "Mary's Christian mother just died.  I will write her a note today and write down these verses to encourage her." OR "I will write a prayer of Thanksgiving to God for the gift of eternal life and the hope of Heaven." OR "I will share the gospel with my unbelieving neighbor this week.  I want him or her to know that death does not need to be a hopeless ending when one is in Christ."

I hope this post gives you encouragement in your Bible study.  I know a lot of us are off from ministry and organized Bible studies for summer break.  Summer is a great time to try this method in your own personal study.  Leave a comment if you have any questions or if you try this and want to share successes or struggles.  It gets easier and easier as you practice this.  Don't give up!  It is worth the effort and personal discipline!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Women in the Word Wednesday: Jealousy

                                             (David and Goliath)

I was recently reading I Samuel 18 and 19 in my quiet time. I was struck by the differing attitudes and actions of Saul and Jonathan toward David. 

After David kills Goliath, he is thrust into palace life in Israel, serving King Saul in his court. As the crowds praise and recognize David and God grants continual success in whatever he does, Saul increasingly grows a blind hatred toward David.

I Samuel 18:6-9 explains the scene in detail:  "As they were coming home, when David returned from striking down the Philistine, the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with songs of joy, and with musical instruments. And the women sang to one another as they celebrated, 'Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands.'  And Saul was very angry, and this saying displeased him. He said, 'They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed thousands, and what more can he have but the kingdom?' And Saul eyed David from that day on."

In jealousy, Saul assumes David's intentions incorrectly and, no matter how David spares Saul's life or honors him over and over, Saul refuses to see David as anything but a threat to the throne.  He is jealous.

Jonathan, Saul's son, and would be successor to the throne, has quite a different reaction to David's success.  It says his heart was knit to David's, and he became his friend.  I Samuel 18:1 says, "As soon as he (David) had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul."  He says to his jealous father, "Let not the king sin against his servant David, because he has not sinned against you, and because his deeds have brought good to you. For he took his life in his hand and he struck down the Philistine, and the Lord worked a great salvation for all Israel. You saw it, and rejoiced. Why then will you sin against innocent blood by killing David without cause?”   I Samuel 19:4-5

Jonathan witnessed the continual success and popularity of David.  How humbling that must be to the successor to the throne!  However, Jonathan accepts God's will and extended blessing to David.  He rejoices with his friend because he is ruled by love for David and trust in God's plan--a plan for the "great salvation of all Israel."

Saul, on the other hand, is tormented with insecurity, jealousy and hate.  He is concerned only with his own ego and esteem. He spends much time pursuing David and trying to end David's life.

Wikipedia gives this definition, "Jealousy is a secondary emotion and typically refers to the negative thoughts and feelings of insecurity, fear, and anxiety over an anticipated loss of something that the person values, particularly in reference to a human connection." adds that jealousy is "jealous resentment against a rival, a person enjoying success or advantage, etc., or against another's success or advantage itself."

Both of these definitions speak well to the feelings Saul had toward David in these passages.

So how do we apply the eternal truths of this scripture into our own lives?

We need to be honest with ourselves.  We need to search our hearts and locate any seed of jealousy that has taken root.

This is a small example, but one day I was having a bad day.  The kids were whining, I was moody and I was sinning in my attitude.  I opened up Facebook to read status updates.  It seemed as if EVERY person had gotten breakfast in bed, coffee or flowers from their husbands.  Instead of rejoicing that God was being honored in marriages and friends were receiving love from their spouse, my sinful flesh bristled at the fact that I was not having the same experience that particular day (I have a fabulous, loving spouse, by the way. I was just a big, sinning mess that morning).  I got off Facebook full of jealousy, which led to a whole list of other sins in my words and attitude.  Yuck! 

How about you?  Can you identify moments of sinful jealousy?

If you blog, do you rejoice when another friend's craft is featured or given notice or do you first feel angry or resentful at their success?  Are you jealous or discontent when you read blogs that are bigger or more popular than your own?

Christian friends, do you rejoice when a sister in Christ is given a speaking opportunity at church or put in charge of a ministry responsibility that you have always admired?   

Single women, I was single much longer than I wanted to be before I met my husband.  I remember the struggle of hearing another friend had gotten engaged while I waited for the right guy to come along.  Do you have a similar struggle?

What is your reaction when you see someone eating anything they want and remaining skinny, while you are eating next to nothing every day and struggling to lose weight?  How do you feel when you come across a friend who has more material blessings than you?  How do you feel when a friend gets to stay home full time and you are forced to work to provide for your family? 

We need to be honest.  It is a struggle. 

What is the answer?  We need to have our esteem in Christ and not ourselves.  We die to self when we become Christians.  Christ tells us that whoever loses his life, gains it.  As Christians, we recognize this life is temporal and made for us to do God's will, not our own.  We  are promised that we will receive our reward and recognition in Heaven.  Right now, our importance and everything are placed on Christ and glorifying Him. 

Despite whatever popularity, rank or success we get or have taken away, our faith in God's sovereignty and plan for our lives needs to rule our emotions.  When we understand He is in control of every detail, we can be content enough to rejoice over the blessings of others.  Like Paul, we can say we are content in any situation. (Philippians 4:12)

Finally, we need to allow our love for others to help us have a Philippians 2 attitude and consider others better than ourselves. Jonathan loved David more than himself, as evidenced by standing up for him against his father and by helping him to escape though he might possibly be king someday.

In Saul's life, as always, God's plan prevailed.  Saul was killed and the kingdom was given to David.  Saul spent his last years in vain--trying to protect his throne, hating David and pursuing personal glory. 

Jealousy is pointless.  It eats away at our happiness and contentment.  God already has decided what blessings and advantage will go to each person, so fretting with resentment and bitterness is a waste of time. 

Pray for contentment and repent of jealousy you can identify.  Focus on your blessings and own advantages, always point to the amazing gift and grace of the cross, and listen to the leading of the Holy Spirit as you pursue holiness in this area.  Let's be women who follow the example of Jonathan, not Saul.

This post was linked to:

Friday, April 15, 2011


Cherish by thericyip
Ephesians 5:22-24  22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
I was recently listening to an interview with Rebecca St James, and she was talking about meeting her soon to be husband, Jacob.  The reporter asked her how she knew that he was "the one."  She said he was godly.  She was in prayer, the Word and seeking godly counsel, but she also said God confirmed the fact through the way Jacob CHERISHED her.  She knew he was a strong man, and strong in the Lord, because he had the leadership and confidence to love her and treat her the way Jesus loves the church--sacrificial love/cherishing her.

Of course, I wondered if her husband would change.  We all hear, and often experience, that our husbands cherish and adore us more easily in the courting months or years than in the years of marriage following.  It shouldn't change with time, but both husbands and wives try harder when they are trying to win the approval and affection of the other person in the first couple of years.  We are selfish, and it is only with the help of the Holy Spirit and the truths of God's Word in a redeemed person's heart that we can hope to cherish and obey the way we should in marriage.

Being in a marriage ministry, I hear many complaints from women about their spouse:  "My husband doesn't lead like he should."  "My husband doesn't give me compliments or do thoughtful things."  "My husband doesn't spend time with me."  "My husband works too much."  "My husband leaves all the disciplining to me and wants to be the 'fun' dad."  The list goes on.  Most of these comments from wives rotate around the fact the husband does not cherish his wife as Christ does the church.  The husband is being selfish or immature in some area, and he is not living up to his biblical role. 

So how are we to respond?  We know we are imperfect in our role as wives, just as our husbands are imperfect husbands.  Yet we are still called to submit to our spouse as Christ submitted to God.  What is Christ's example?  Well, God crushed Christ on the cross for our sin, and Christ humbly allowed this (Isaiah 53:10).  Are our husbands asking us to submit to anything that horribly painful and hard?  I sincerely doubt it.  True, Christ was submitting to a holy, perfect God, but we are called to submit to our imperfect spouse AS TO THE LORD.  In other words, when we submit to our husband, we are also obeying and submitting to our perfect, holy, sovereign God.  We can trust God's pefect commands and submit with confidence and thankfulness.

Therefore, we are to forgive and love our imperfect spouse and continue to pursue our role as a wife of righteousness.  Despite what your husband is or isn't doing, meditate on what God has asked you to do as a wife and mother and wholeheartedly pursue this!  The time you spend complaining about your spouse or resenting where he fell short could be better spent on prayer, scripture reading and serving.  Have joy in the Lord despite the circumstances around you!  You'll be surprised by how sometimes--not always, but sometimes, as we live in a fallen world-- a joyful and submissive wife results in a loving and cherishing husband, especially if you both are in Christ.

Ask Yourself:
--When was the last time you read Bible verses telling you how to live in your role as a wife?  Do you need a "checkup?"
--When was the last time you asked for forgiveness from your spouse? (without him doing it first)
--Have you recently been sinned against by your spouse and chosen to NOT tell anyone else?  How did     that bless the situation?
--When did you last purposefully encourage and thank your spouse for what he is doing correctly?
--Have you had a positive conversation with your spouse about what makes you feel cherished?  (They can't read our minds . . .).  On the flip side, have you asked your spouse what makes him feel respected and how you can better submit?
--If you are courting, are you, in a time when it is easiest, feeling cherished by the person you are with?  Are you being wise in your relationship choice?  Is this person leading according to scripture?
--How does Christ cherish and sacrificially love the church, and how, in scripture, did Christ submit to the headship of the Father?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sacrificially Loving Your Spouse: Your Words

Here is the last post on the series of sacrificially loving your husband--your words. 

Do you honor your husband when you speak of him to others? Is he thrown under the bus for the sake of a joke, griping, gossip and complaining or, despite what mistakes he might make, do you protect his reputation and build him up in the minds of others? Remember, you have the power to esteem your husband in people’s minds or to make him look silly and foolish. We mistakenly do the latter, and then we wonder why no one looks at our husband for leadership opportunities or come to him for wisdom. We tear down our husband’s reputations just so we can selfishly let off steam.

Instead, be a promoter and recommend your husband. Not only refuse to complain about him in public, but choose to thank him and build him up in front of others. I have a friend who is constantly praising her husband—not in a bragging way—but in a proud, loving way. By the time I am leaving her, I am ALWAYS thinking highly of her spouse. People’s perceptions of your spouse are based greatly on how you present him.

What other practical steps can you take to prefer your spouse with words? Build him up and encourage him with love and gentleness in your speech. Tell your children how blessed they are to have your spouse as a father. When is the last time you told your parents how wonderful your husband is to you? That’s right! So many of us use our moms as a sounding board to gripe about what our spouse did wrong. Stop! Instead, tell her what a sweet father he is or how well he painted that room or how long he worked today to provide for your family. Write a little brag post about your spouse on Facebook. Buy a card for no reason and tell your husband as many things you love about him as years he is old or years you have been married.  Bible verses encourage me, and I send them to my husband when he is in trials to give him encouragement as well.  Scripture is a powerful tool of encouragement and hope that God has given us to use for life and godliness!

Sometimes our lack of words can be an encouragement as well. Instead of complaining or criticizing him about his parking job, his perceived bad driving, his clothes on the floor, the drawer or door he left open, the errand he forgot to run or the obvious “I told you so” staring you both in the face, just close your mouth ladies, love him, and fix whatever needs to be fixed or do whatever he forgot to do without telling him.  Proverbs 25:24 says, "It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife."  In addition, Proverbs 27:15 reminds us that "A continual dripping on a rainy day and a quarrelsome wife are alike."  Proverbs 21:19 adds, "It is better to live in a desert land than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman."  The Bible is clear that an argumentative and negative wife is not going to create a happy marriage or husband.  Who wants to be compared to a desert or an annoying, dismal dripping? 

Rather, look at what Proverbs has to say about the Proverbs 31 woman, an excellent model of godliness and righteousness in her wifely role.  Proverbs 31:26 explains that "She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue."  What a difference from the above wife!  This wife is speaking God's truths and filtering what she says through the fruit of kindness!  This is a wife who is helping her husband and strengthening her marriage.  Proverbs 14:1 says "The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down."  The Proverbs 31 woman is using her words to build up her family and the contentious wife is tearing it apart with one foolish word after another.

What is the pattern of your speech?  When you are speaking directly TO your husband, are you using gentle and encouraging words?  Ephesians 4:29 tells us, "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear."  Is everything you are saying to your husband giving him grace, or are some of your words tearing him down and multiplying sinful attitudes and words in your family?

Using righteous words and taming our tongue is hard, but we are still called to be holy in this particular area.  We must use the help of the Holy Spirit and the truths of scripture to guide us in our speech.  Think of the fruit that will result from righteousness in this area!  Be encouraged and cling to God as we work to honor God through sacrificially loving our spouse!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Humility in Successful Circumstances

I was thinking about Moses today.  I have always admired him, especially in light of Numbers 12:3, which says, "Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth."  Can you imagine God calling you the most humble woman on earth?  Wow!  That would be quite an amazing accolade!

What I haven't before considered, and what makes this even more amazing, is that Moses had every circumstance around him that would create someone who was prideful and egotistic.  You see Moses had grown up in the royal Egyptian household.  Egypt was amazingly powerful at this point in history.  He was part of an important family!  No doubt, he had slaves and people doing whatever he asked.  Think of the type of person that usually comes out of that type of situation--someone very full of himself!

In addition, once Moses has run away from Egypt and started his new life shepherding, God visits Moses and asks HIM to lead the nation of Israel.  Truly stop and think about this now.  Imagine you are royalty or part of the presidential household all the way to adulthood.  Then, imagine that the God of everything chooses YOU to do a tremendously important task.  We get puffed up when church leadership knows our name or when our kids get an academic or sports award.  That is NOTHING compared to what Moses had.  I think there is truth in saying Moses's circumstances might tempt us to be prideful.

Despite these circumstances, not only was Moses humble, but the Bible tell us he was the MOST humble person on earth.  WOW!  That is convicting to me.

This doesn't mean he had a poor view of himself or bad self esteem.  It means he thought of others more and thought of himself less.  He put God first and others before himself.  How often in Exodus we see Moses interceding and praying for the Israelites and family members, even after they have mocked him or slandered him!  He had a Philippians 2 attitude.

Now we know Moses wasn't perfect.  He had a temper issue, and he was human.  However, I would venture to say that we women could learn a lot from Moses about staying humble despite circumstances God allows to flourish or bloom in our lives.

For example, what about our physique?  This week on Facebook, a girl was proud she had lost her baby weight.  This is a good thing!  I was very happy for her!  However, some people commented that she "earned" it by all her hard work to lose weight.  She had worked hard, but here was no mention of God's part in that.  I once had another really mature Christian lady get offended when someone told her God had genetically blessed her with her frame.  She said it was only because she worked out so much that she was the size she was able to be.  It is hard work to keep fit and healthy, but we can never ever take God out of that equation.  Without health, a body that is able to exercise and genetics that allow us to be slim, we wouldn't be that size that we want to be.  Some people, no matter how much they work, will not be that size.  We cannot become prideful in our looks, even if we do sacrifice and work for a smaller size.  In a second, God can cause a circumstance where you gain weight and cannot "work" to keep it off.  Instead of only patting ourselves on the back, we need to point to recognize God and thank Him for the time, energy, health and ability to work out and eat healthy food.  There is a place for a "Good job" to a friend who has been losing weight, but we cannot give ourselves full or even the majority of the credit.  Plus, of course, we need to make sure our motivation is right.  It shouldn't be full of vanity.  It only takes a few years before wrinkles, cellulite and decaying/sick bodies remind us we have NO control over our physical bodies in the end.

This can apply to our kids too.  Moms, it is SO easy to be prideful when our kids do well at something.  We want to tell everyone about it and we beam at that award ceremony or announcement.  However, did we do something great?  Did our kid do this by his own ability?  As Christians, we have to point to Christ and realize, with HUMILITY, that all gains we have been given are His doing and are for HIS glory.  Use the opportunity to recognize God and teach your child that God has given him this talent/ability/or soft heart. 

God gives us the very breath we breathe, the bodies we have were formed by Him, the brains we use are taught and made by our Creator, the opportunities we are given are preordained by God himself, the money we earn is provided by God, and the talents and gifts we have are chosen by God for us to give Him glory. 

What did we do on our own?  Nothing.  We like to boast--it feeds our flesh.  Paul reminds us to only boast for God's glory.  Galatians 6:14  "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world."  He also constantly boasts of others' conduct when they are giving God glory and being obedient to the Word.   

Hmmmm.  Think about this.  Do we boast of others doing great things for God?  Definitely not as much as we should.  We should recognize and encourage those who are excelling in their conduct as a Christian or making great strides at sharing the gospel or doing good works constantly for those in the church. 

Sadly, ladies, we are too busy worried about ourselves and making sure people perceive us well.  We want people to give US pats on the back and give us compliments.  God's plan is the opposite.  We are to POUR ourselves out for His glory and for the benefit of the body of believers. 

Ask Yourself:
In what areas do you find yourself pridefully sinning?  Is it body image, gifts/talents, money, intelligence, job, status, or kid's behavior or talents?  What can you do to take the focus off yourself and onto boasting in God and others' efforts for His kingdom?  Take some time in prayer today to repent of prideful areas and to give thanks to God for any benefitial circumstances He has allowed in your life.  Then, choose 2 or 3 people to whom you can encourage and recognize for their great obedience for the furthering of God's Kingdom.
Finally, meditate on Numbers 12:3 in light of Moses's life circumstances and benefits.  Seek to be a woman who is that humble--emptying herself for God's glory!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Specks, specks everywhere

Gavel & Stryker by KeithBurtis
Matthew 7:3-5 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

Last fall, I was at Disneyland for three days on a family vacation.  We had a wonderful time as a family, and the kids were very blessed by their time at the "happiest place on earth." 

However, one circumstance brought me to deeper thought and spurred me on to write this blog post. 

The second day we were at Disneyland, I was in line with my older son for a roller coaster ride.  Micah was napping in the stroller and Ryan had just had a turn with Carter on the same roller coaster and now waited with sleeping Micah outside.  The line is usually long for this particular ride--at least 20 minutes, but we made our way through it fairly quickly.  When we got to the end, however, we stopped, and it was apparent we'd be standing in that spot for at least 5 minutes.  I decided to grab my phone and check the status of a friend's mother's cancer surgery that morning.  As I was waiting for the status to download, a teenage girl, standing in line with her teenage boyfriend, behind me muttered, "Get off Facebook, get off your phone and pay attention to your son!"  I was shocked!  Carter was happily standing by my side waiting for the ride, and I hadn't done anything to make this person upset.  At first I wasn't sure she was actually that rude to be commenting to me, but she was indeed directing her muttering in my direction. 

My first reaction was to get defensive and mad.  Oh, I was seething--not righteous anger, ladies.  I was a sinning mess.  She had no idea what I was doing on my phone (checking on a surgery), the fact I had been only checking the phone for about 30 seconds as I was parked in a stopped line or that I had been spending a lot of very undivided attention on my son for the past 2 days.  I was thinking, "I CANNOT believe a teenager--obviously not a mom--was judgmentally giving me sarcastic advice on what I'm doing wrong as a parent!"  I turned to look at her, but she giggled with her boyfriend and avoided my eyes.  Sigh.

Christian ladies, there are two important lessons in this story.  Both lessons are extremely difficult to swallow and will take much help from the Holy Spirit.  I am in much need of working on my heart in these areas, which is probably exactly why God allowed my teenage commentator at Disneyland.

Firstly, we need to watch our judgmental and critical attitude toward other women.  We are so good at thinking about what other women do wrong.  "She spends too much time on her appearance.  She needs to spend MORE time on her appearance.  She is materialistic and spends too much money on "stuff."  She needs to discipline her kids.  She needs to give her kids some love and grace.  She needs to have more self control in eating.   She needs to not be doing this activity so much.  She needs to come to Bible study more regularly.  She needs to work less.  She needs to not be such a perfectionist.  She needs to be more positive.  She needs to not be so happy and fake."  You get the idea.  Some of the admonishment MIGHT be valid, but many times it is not.  Plus, we have to be so, so careful of how we are delivering any criticism.

Ladies, the Bible calls us to admonish one another as CHRISTIANS.  We are not to judge non Christians on their behavior.  We are to witness to them and show God's love to them.  God is their judge.  We are to point out sin to a sister in Christ. 

The problem is twofold--we are eager to point out other Christian ladies' shortcomings without examining our own hearts for the same sin first.  This leads to poor deliveries--conversations which are easily recognized as prideful and not seasoned with love  Secondly, we criticize and judge women on areas that are not sinful or in which we have formed an opinion without knowing the entire story. 

When we point out sin in a sister, are we praying about it?  Are we making sure we do not have a log in our eye before we point out her speck?  Are we approaching her in love and gentleness?  Do we seek to help her so she can change or do we just like to think negative thoughts about her sinfulness or gossip about her poor choices? 

Very few of us are judging sisters in Christ correctly.  Like an accident on the side of the road, we crane our necks to see what is falling apart in her life and gape in curiousity as the consequences and aftermath of sin arrive.  Then we metaphorically drive on, clicking our tongues and shaking our heads.  Why aren't we striving to stop, extend her truth and godly counsel with a heaping dose of grace and love?

Secondly, ladies, we are much too quick to criticize women about non-Biblical mandates.  I mentioned a few already.  We may have an opinion about how to school kids, how to discipline with a particular branded method, what kind of foods we should feed our family, how to pick a balance between church service and heart training at home that works for our family, how to diet and eat in a way that shows self control in our particular body, etc.  A different method, balance or habit may work better for a different person. 

We certainly love to be self righteous in areas we are doing well.  When we are serving at church a lot, we tend to pick out those who aren't.  When our kids are doing well with behavior, we quickly spot those who are not.  When we have lost weight or are regularly working out, we look down on those ladies who are picking up that dessert or going up a dress size.  Our flesh wants to pat itself on the back as we put others down.

We are prideful messes that each have a lot of work to do in our own lives.  This doesn't mean we need to ignore the call to encourage other Christians to live holy and blameless lives.  We are running this race together, and we should be working together to please God.  We need to sharply watch our motivation and delivery--always offering any judgment or admonishment with a large and healthy dose of humility and compassion.

The correct response at Disneyland would have been for me to stop and pray for humility for myself and love for that girl.  Assuming she wasn't a Christian, I should have known her comment was just immature and hurting words from the world.  She probably REALLY needs Christ's love, and my heart and mind were not filled with compassion for her in any way, shape or form.  I was too worried about how I had been wronged rather than worrying about her hurting and lost soul.

Plus, I should be thankful to her that it made me stop and think about criticism and how we treat one another as Christian women.  I am so thankful for my Christian friends who BOTH love and encourage me by investing in our friendship and then also take the time to encourage change if they see sin in my life.  If it is done correctly, such Christian friendships are treasures that are valued beyond measure.

Ask yourself:  Have you been judgmental of a Christian woman lately?  It could have been through gossip, simple thoughts, attitude, or a conversation with her directly.  What did you do that was Biblical and good in this instance?  What happened in your approach that was fleshly and selfish?  What practical changes can you make to ensure you are encouraging holiness in others while still examining your own heart and loving others in humility and compassion?  Is there anyone from whom you need to ask forgiveness?

Proverbs 27:17 17  Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Tylenol, Hot Tea and A Sense of Entitlement

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Matthew 5:45  "For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust."

The past few months have been hard.  Illness has hit us with a whollop at our house.  I am currently on my third round of antibiotics, steroids and inhalers, and both boys are just ending a two and a half week battle with RSV.  My long tango with bronchitis has given me pluerisy, which I hadn't really even heard of before now (an infection of the lining of the lungs).  Our bodies are tired, and sleep hasn't been easy.  Our lives are surrounded by Tylenol and hot tea as of late.

I could continue to whine and complain about all that has come with these months of illness, but that is exactly what I hope to stop doing and curtail.  That is a road my flesh can so easily find attractive--the pity party path. 

You see, I know that God allows each circumstance for a Christian's good--for our growth to be perfected and for us to die more to self and live more in line with Him.

Knowing this, I sought God's wisdom during many times of prayer and Bible reading these last few weeks.  I knew it was only in His strength that I could get through this with the correct perspective and grace.  He is faithful to teach me with a lot of patience and mercy.

We often hear about entitlement.  As Christians, (I hope) we hear that we are not entitled to nice things, an easy life, the perfect house, perfect children, and all that the world holds dear on its pedestal of sand. 

However, we cringe a little more when we realize we are not even entitled to what many consider "normal" aspects of life:  like health.  God didn't promise us health in our bodies.  Just look at the child who is born with limitations or differences.  My past couple of months has made this loud and clear in our family.

How can we forget we live in a fallen world that is diseased in every way by our sin?  Our bodies are decaying, broken and dying.  Any "sense" of health and vitality is short lived and certainly won't last.

Wives, when our routines, desires, dreams or hopes are interrupted by sick kids, disease or major health trials, we automatically, in our flesh, want to let everyone know how hard we have it and how we have been given a "raw deal" as of late.

Truly, though, it is, in a Christian's life, a moment to recall the true grace that health is in our lives and how we don't deserve it, but it is still given to so many! 

The baseline we are entitled to is death and separation from God--sickness is the least of it.  We ought to rejoice that our suffering here is but light and temporary compared to the glory we will receive in Christ when we enter Heaven.  For eternity.

I always have loved a saying my pastor tells us from time to time.  People ask him, "Why does God let bad things happen to good people?"  He says the real miracle and wonder is "Why does God let good things happen to bad people (which is all of us, by the way)."  Romans 3:23 "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."

Ask Yourself:  How did you react the last time you went through a fairly large health trial?  Look specifically at your conversations, Facebook posts, tweets, and e-mails.  Were you prone to complain and list your trials, or were you able to be truthful about your circumstances while still giving praise and glory to God for who He is and what He has done in your life?  Were your reactions different than those of your non-Christian friends?  Did you remember to hold fast to the hope that you have?

Remember, God's mercies are new every morning.  Evaluate exactly what it is you are entitled to receive from God, and praise Him that you do not get it.  Work on having an eternal mindset to give you hope in the trials of today.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Love Story for Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day is coming. Most women start dreaming of chocolates, roses and candlelight dinners at the mention of February 14th. Most men start to worry about what special date they can plan and what to give to their beloved in order to live up to the cultural expectations that surround Valentine's Day.

In the world, many women look to their husband or boyfriend to fill their need for love and acceptance. In the women's eyes, the amount of love they are given is measured in gifts, chocolates, steak dinners and bouquets of flowers. This is why women love romantic comedies--they tell the story of a girl who is sacrificially and unendingly loved and adored by a man--with life continuing happily ever after. This is also why every man will, inevitably, fall short. We are imperfect people--both women and men.

It seems many fairy tales tell of a common girl who is loved by the greatest of men--the handsome prince. Blind with love and admiration for her beauty, he looks past her humble status or imperfections--fighting all odds to claim her as his own. Think of the stories of Cinderella or Snow White.

Christian ladies, we don't need to feel disappointed if our husband forgets flowers or our budget doesn't allow for a night out on the town. We are more loved than any Hollywood movie has ever portrayed. Snow White and Cinderella have nothing on us. You see, we personally live in the most wonderful love story ever told.

The God who created us and knows our lowly status and imperfections, loved us enough to send Christ from Heaven to earth to live a perfect life for us and die in payment for OUR sin. He humbled Himself and paid our ransom in order to have a relationship with us. He calls us to Him and loves us unconditionally when we repent of our sin and trust in what Christ has done for us.

I John 3:1a-b says, "See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are."

While Prince Charming grows old, has grumpy days and gets frustrated with his princess, God sees Christ in us, Christians, and loves us with a greater love than mankind has ever known.

Romans 8:38-39 says, "For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Therefore, we don't need to put all our happiness this Valentine's Day into our husbands spending lots of money on us to show us they love us. We can celebrate our marriages, because they are a wonderful gift from God, but we can even more remember to what our marriages symbolize, Christ's love for the church.

Instead of celebrating like the world, sacrificially love like Christ this Valentine's Day. Know that your story does end happily ever after--not in this imperfect world, but eternally in the presence of God. In thanksgiving, love others the way we have been loved.

When we submitted to Christ as our LORD, we were a new creation. We are not selfish, demanding women, but we are thoughtful and giving daughters of Christ.

Ask yourself: How can I sacrificially love my spouse this Valentine's Day? How can we thank God for His perfect example of love on this day we celebrate love? How can I witness to others through my conversations and expectations as February 14th approaches?

We are part of the perfect love story. We are completely loved, for God IS love.

I John 4:7-8 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Sacrificially Loving Your Spouse: Part 4--Actions

We have been reading about how to practically be godly wives in our post series:  Sacrificially Loving Your Spouse.  We started with a lesson on the biblical foundations, and then we have looked at practically serving our spouse through our attitude and our time.  Today, we are going to look at loving our spouse in our actions.

Proverbs 31 is full of wise and loving actions on the part of the excellent wife. She is purposeful in deciding what needs to be done and acting upon it. Verse 16 finds her considering a purchase of a field, verse 13 finds her seeking the materials she needs for clothes, verse 14 tells us she brings food from afar to feed her family. We already pointed out that she is working hard—there is no idleness in her. She is active for her spouse, her kids, the poor, her servants and her maidens. In fact, the whole section on the excellent wife ends with the words, “Give her the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.” She actively works for the good of her spouse, so her dutiful actions bring her reward and good in her life and family.

There are so many creative ways to act preferentially to your spouse. I recently posted this question on Facebook: How do you give preference to your spouse?  As we already discussed under attitude, many women mentioned initiating and responding well to intimacy.  We know and realize intimacy is exceptionally important to our husbands.

There were other examples, though.  Someone wrote sweet notes on her husband's lunch napkin, one heated his towel in the dryer while he was showering, another clipped coupons for bagels at his favorite shop, others bought his favorite foods every week at the store, one simply served him his dinner plate BEFORE she served her children theirs, and one lady gave her husband a backrub or footrub and did not expect one in return. Try making your husband’s favorite dinner and light candles—even when the kids are there. Fold his shirts the way he likes them folded. It sounds silly, but Ryan has a specific way he likes me to fold his T-shirts. I have never been good at folding clothes, but I do it. I fold them the way he likes, though it takes extra time and thoughtfulness, because I love him and he asked me to fold them this way. It is important to him.  Clean the area of the house he likes to see spotless.  Our husbands each have that area they like to see dust and clutter free.  It might be their desk, nightstand or the couch, but having that area clean gives them a place of sanctuary and order.

Instead of dressing in the newest trends to compete with the girls, dress the way he likes to see you dressed, and do your hair the way he likes your hair.  We are married and need to make sure we care about our husband's preferences more than we care about making sure we look as hip and trendy as our girlfriends.

You can prefer your spouse with your specific gifts and talents too. Those of you who cook well, make your husband’s favorite meals and foods. If he likes to eat food you hate to cook, make it anyway. If you are a talented writer, write down cards, notes of encouragement and praise for your husband. If you are a Creative Memory gal, make a special book highlighting your marriage and blessed times with your spouse. Perhaps you are great at organizing.  With his permission, organize your spouse’s closet, car, office or junk drawer. If you are an encourager, have your husband be the first person you look to encourage each day. If you are a teacher or leader at church, ask your husband for insight and help into the lessons you are giving. Include him in your ministry and still seek his leadership, even if you are leading a ministry solely for women. Think about how you can creatively use your resources and gifts for the purpose of blessing your husband and giving him preference in your marriage and home.

Do all of this without expecting thanks or anything in return. You see, if we do all these things and expect something in return, we aren’t preferring anyone but ourselves.

There is a cute little story about a little boy and his mom. One day the mom saw a little slip of paper on her nightstand. It was a little bill from her young son that said: Being good—50 cents. Doing chores—10 cents. The mom smiled at his childishness and the next day slipped him 60 cents and a slip of paper back. It said: Nursing you through colic--nothing. Hugging you when you are hurt—nothing. Making your breakfasts, lunches and dinners—nothing. Taking you to and from school every day—nothing. Serving you and loving you sacrificially—nothing. You see this mom was illustrating to her son the idea of sacrificial love and honor. We can be like that son—not handing our spouse a tangible bill for our services, but holding expectations and demands in our heart and mind. This should not be. Love and Prefer your spouse sacrificially like Christ loved, not expectantly.

We have only one area left to discuss in our next post in this series:  our words.  I'm praying for my readers as you and I work through these areas of godliness.