The Trouble with Edward

November 25, 2009 at 7:11 pm (Articles, Attitudes, Godly Living) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Posted by Abigail

Lauren and I don’t really stay up on trends for several reasons. One is that we simply don’t care, for the most part. The other is that we simply don’t have time, energy, emotion or money to pursue them. But the Twilight trend definitely caught our attention—from the posters in Wal-mart, to the constant advertisements, to the books lying on the coffee-table of the house I clean—we simply haven’t been able to avoid it. In fact, it’s been difficult for me, at least, to resist the luring tug to at least find out more about this sensation and understand exactly what has “bitten” the women of our world. I’ll confess that I picked up and paged through the books as I dusted, and even looked up the story-line on Wikipedia. “What is it,” I wanted to know, “that is so compelling about this unoriginal story?”

This past weekend we were together at my aunt’s house, trying to talk over the TV, when something caught our attention: two women coming out of the “New Moon” premiere. While her friend stood there weeping, one woman shouted, “I would leave my husband for Edward!” Anyone else hear that? For a fictitious character, she would leave her husband. Does that make you get warm fuzzies or what?

This morning when I turned on my computer (for the first time in a week—it’s been nice), I discovered two excellent articles exploring the root issues in the Twilight craze. It’s so nice to know others see the same ominous danger lurking behind Prince Charming’s “perfect” face. Jasmine at Joyfully Home and the Botkin sisters at Visionary Daughters, both share some excellent insights that go beyond the issue of vampires and trading your soul for love.

As Lauren and I read these articles, recalled our own brushes with the “bitten” and discussed the raging controversy, we began to realize that the trouble with Edward isn’t that he’s a vampire. It isn’t even that he doesn’t exist. But the fact that he doesn’t exist points us to the real issue—the trouble with Edward isn’t Edward. It’s us.

Should Edward leave his fictitious realm and woo that woman I saw on TV from her husband, the day would come when she would discover that even perfection leaves her wanting. When she’s having a bad hair day, she’d snarkily respond “Quit staring at me!” and someday she’d want some personal space—“Seriously? You watch me 24/7. Why don’t you ever go do something else?” She’d quickly tire of his protection and provision and begin complaining about how “smothering” he is. If Edward were her husband, she’d soon be ready to leave him for some fictitious character.

How do I know this? Because I’ve seen it. And I’ve done it. Ladies, how often do we leave our perfect Betrothed Bridegroom to pursue some fictitious hero? We spend hours curled up watching a chick-flick, only to go to bed and replay every sensitive word and intonation. But we still are not content. We complain that there is not enough of him—the story ends too soon. Eventually, we pass on to the next fictional character. First it was Prince Charming, then it was Mr. Darcy, now it’s Edward. It’s nothing new. While our Perfect Bridegroom stands forsaken, we pursue cardboard cutouts. Oh, we can shudder at the woman who declares “I’d leave my husband for Edward” but we do the same thing. Is Jesus just not good enough? The problem is not with Jesus—it’s with us.

We devour books like Twilight, complete with the ever-perfect Edward, and we get our Jane Austen fix, or come home with our arms full of Beverly Lewis books or Cinderella stories. Or we scour the internet for true (though slightly idealized) courtship stories. Why? Because we want to escape a life we think is dull. Because we want to imagine the next thing—that will be better than this present thing. We’re bored and we think that being with someone perfect would solve our boredom. We sigh, thinking how happy we could be. Or will be. Or wish we were.

It’s a big, fat, slobbering deception. Why? Because we have Someone perfect. Are we content? He watches us 24/7, but we push Him out of the way. He is jealous of us, but we want to be free to pursue other lovers. He offers us counsel and protection, but we aren’t listening—we have our golden oldie love songs turned up. We flee His presence, forever seeking empty emotional escapes. Sure He’s perfect, but He’s boring.

Being with someone perfect only reveals our own imperfections: we are human, and we are discontented, irritable, irrational, easily distracted, selfish, rude, rebellious, ungrateful, unloving, unholy and bored with divinity.

That’s our attitude toward the perfect Lover.

Why do we think it would be any different with anyone else?

The problem for that woman isn’t her husband. The problem for us isn’t the men in our lives (or the lack of them). The problem certainly isn’t Jesus. And no matter how much we wish we could blame it on fictitious characters, the problem isn’t fiction. Romantic books and movies don’t cause our discontentment and selfishness–our obsession with them is because they appeal to our discontent and selfishness. Our obsession with Edward–or anyone else–is really an obsession with ourselves. The trouble with Edward isn’t Edward. It’s us.

When I mention “courtship stories”, I am in no way attacking those who have shared the way they have come together as one in the Lord. Nor am I suggesting that all details should be made public. A good story includes only those details which further the story’s conclusion. However, each reader should recognize that this literary fact leaves even “true” stories idealized. And we should be aware of our intentions and hearts if we are constantly on the hunt for another courtship story. Are we just looking for another “pure” love story, with which we can get emotionally involved and live vicariously through? Are we measuring the events in our lives to see if they have the “potential” to be a “beautiful courtship story”? When pouring over “love stories” of any kind the temptation is to lose sight of our divine love story and let our hearts run ahead of us with “romanticized” and “idealized” perceptions of men, circumstances and perfection. If we are truly enthralled with hearing “what God hath wrought” we should be at least as eager to pore over the Acts of the Apostles and to hear our brothers’ and sisters’ Christian testimonies and read of gospel breakthroughs in other countries, and we should certainly be delighted with the gospel—the divine wooing of Jesus Christ.

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He Has Also Made Me Fast

November 19, 2009 at 1:27 am (Flowers of Thought) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

flowers-of-thought-2
Ravi Zacharias joined us for the drive to church this morning, with a message from one of the minor prophets on worship—in Spirit and in truth. I listened, wrapped up in his quaint accent and the power of his message, as he shared how worship must be according to God’s truth: intimate, but still reverent. “You call me Father, but where is my honor?” He spoke of the Indian word for father, and pointed out how they never use it without adding a term of respect—like saying, “Papa, sir.” Our relationship with God is the same: He is our loving Father, but we must never forget that He is almighty Creator. Then he began to share a vignette from the life of Eric Liddell. “God has made me for a purpose, but He has also made me fast. When I run, I feel His pleasure.” We worship God by doing everything for His glory, whether it is running—or writing. He doesn’t seek to strip us of our identity and be worshiped by robots. He gives us a new identity in Christ and the power to seek to glorify Him in all that we do. He wants us to use the talents and gifts He has given to each of us to worship Him privately, and to proclaim His excellence to all creation.

Lord, Thou made me for a purpose
To be overwhelmed by worship.
And I see Thy perfect plan
Manifest in who I am.

Prayer and praise are just a start
For the worship of the heart.
Talents that Thou gives are holy
When my life is yielded wholly.

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A Couple More “Blogs Worth a Look”

November 17, 2009 at 1:38 am (Announcements) (, , , , , , , )

Posted by Lauren

There are two blogs I’ve been wanting to highlight for some time. Both have been a great encouragement to me when it comes to godly living and practical homemaking. 🙂

The first is Desiring Virtue, where my friend Jessalyn writes. Here you’ll find GREAT practical tips and encouragement on all kinds of things: from cloth diapering to spending time with the Lord to budgeting and cooking! I absolutely love her blog! Check it out!

The other is Pursuing Titus 2, which contains a plethora of articles and studies on topics related to, you guessed it–being the kind of woman God calls us to be in Titus 2! While I heartily encourage others to enjoy this site, I also want to advise caution for younger readers. This blog deals with some subjects that may not be appropriate for young or unmarried ladies. So, as always, seek your parents’ wisdom and counsel before browsing this blog.

That’s all I have for today! May the Lord bless you as you seek to please Him!

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Fan the Flame

November 13, 2009 at 1:37 am (Articles, Family, Friends & Ministry) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

fan the flame

Posted by Abigail

When we burned large brush piles, my brothers and I used to have contests to see who could get their fire going quickest with only one match.  Have you ever tried to build a fire?  The word “build” describes the process perfectly.  It takes careful insight, thought, preparation, effort and then careful nursing to get the embers blazing brightly.

 

Paul told his son in the faith, Timothy, to fan into flame the gift that had been given him—which appears to be evangelism.  If even a gifted evangelist had to be reminded to put on the heat, we should be encouraged that the work is the Lord’s, just as the glory is His.  I’m embarrassed to confess that I begged the Lord to send me someone else to lead in evangelism, claiming a lack of gifting and my timidity as excuses.  Paul spoke to me when he reminded Timothy that “God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power, love and discipline.”  Sharing the gospel isn’t about having the right personality.  It’s about recognizing that the power comes from the Holy Spirit.  It’s recalling God’s lavish love for us and in dwelling on it, overflowing with His merciful love toward others.  And it’s about disciplining ourselves to obey—by the Holy Spirit’s strength.  The Christian life is hard work.  It’s a battle.  Always.  Any day that I am not fighting, I must realize that I have likely withdrawn to hide.  And any day that I go to battle without seeking the Lord’s strength, I am sure to fail.  Sharing the gospel is certainly no less a battle and it requires discipline.

 

As April, Lauren and I have talked about Christ’s command to “go,” we’ve sought to add fuel to the fire, considering how we can best discipline ourselves to do what we know is right.  Accountability has proven to be a great fuel so far.  It seems that each time April and I are together, the Lord sends an opportunity to one of us, and the other is left excited, to pray and encourage.

 

We’re all agreed that prayer is an important element.  We’re told to pray that God’s kingdom come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Scripture is clear that God is delighted when His eternal message is proclaimed, and He delights to use the simple foolishness of the God who became a man, to save sinners and change lives.  Paul said, “Pray for us that we might speak the word boldly as we ought to speak.”  Often through prayer, I find not that God’s heart was changed, but that mine was changed.  I have to plead for the Lord to give me the agony He suffered for those who walk in ignorance and enmity with Him.

 

Studying God’s word is an absolute necessity.  Constantly I am faced with question after question about God’s character, His goodness, His love, the end of the world, what about so-and-so, sin, God’s purpose in pain and suffering and on and on.  Ladies, sharing the gospel will drive you again and again to dig into God’s word to find the powerful truth that sets souls free.  Perhaps this is even God’s purpose in calling us to share His gospel?  It keeps before our eyes the very mystery by which we were redeemed.  And when you’ve been in God’s word, you’ve been sharpening your sword, and you’ll find that the Holy Spirit takes over and does the fighting.  Time after time I’ve parried a blow with a scripture the Lord mercifully brought back to mind.  Time after time I’ve found the perfect answer later and had to store it away for another opportunity.

 

Meditate on the gospel.  Study the gospel.  Seek to understand Christ, His work, His purpose, His claims and His offer of salvation.  The more you study it, the more you will discover the riches of the glory of the inheritance in Christ.  People can tell if you believe what you say and you will find that each time you share the gospel, you learn something more.

 

Lauren is a homemaker, who has expressed to me that she doesn’t feel like she’s a great conversationalist.  “I can’t put people at ease and relate to them,” she told me once, but her passion for truth often opens opportunities for her.  She can’t bear to hear error spoken of the Lord.  When the Jehovah’s Witnesses knock at the door, she doesn’t feel disgust while peeping through the curtains.  She opens the door and invites them in.  Each time she tells me about another encounter, I shake my head.  I don’t know how she does it.  I remember the time the Mormons came for a presentation in her college dorm and she insisted she wanted to go talk to them.  I felt sick as we rode down the elevator and Lauren began asking the Mormon missionaries hard questions.  Our friend, Emily, sat beside me silently praying the entire time—her priceless contribution to the spiritual battle.

 

April is a gifted encourager and she has always sparked my fire by her simple way of sharing what the Lord has been teaching her–to anyone who will listen.  Someone asks her how she is and she opens up and tells them what she read that morning in Psalms.  Or how the Lord has shown Himself strong in her life.  Or how He has been convicting her of the eminence of eternity and His love for her friends that don’t know him.  Yahweh commanded the people of Israel to tell to their children His mighty deeds so that they might fear Him.  When put on trial, Paul’s defense was always simply his testimony.  Whether a person knows the Lord or not, hearing His power manifested to another can draw them to Him.  April’s words are worship to God, and overflow from a heart in love with Him, preaching to others the reality of His work in her life.

 

I wish I could tell you of some way I take opportunity for the Lord, but I still lack much discipline.  I find when I ask the Lord for opportunities, He gives them abundantly, with people who stop me to ask me questions or need my help.  One day I was almost late picking Papa up from work because a lady was pouring out her heart to me as I stood in her small sewing machine repair shop.  Anxiously, I smiled and nodded, then rushed away.  But Papa put my heart back in place when I told him about it.  He said something like, “If people talk to you, that may be opportunity from the Lord.”  To keep this in mind, I am trying to allow myself extra time running errands, to leave room for eternity.  All too often I find that the urgent edges out the important for priority.

 

Lauren, April and I are all different, and each of us has a different story with the Lord and a different way of sharing what He’s done.  As we’ve talked lately, I’ve realized how the Lord can use each gifting, each personality to share His gospel in a unique way.  Your story is unique, your person is unique—but you are Christ’s.  He is yours.  And He has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power, love and discipline.

April, Lauren and I have all found materials from The Way of the Master and Living Waters tracts to be very helpful in sparking conversations.

 

 

 

 

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Beginning in Jerusalem

November 11, 2009 at 1:32 am (Articles, Godly Living) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

beginning in Jerusalem

Posted by Abigail

Shortly after writing “Gulping Raw Eggs,” April and I stopped to get gas at the Wal-mart station. Who do you suppose was manning the late night counter but the Wal-mart greeter who had stopped me and asked me so many questions about the Lord so long ago? And she had something to tell me. “My Christian birthday is October 23rd!” And she bounced up and down. As we talked, I could tell that, Christian or not, she still needed a lot of truth! For an hour she pelted us with hard questions and we left feeling overwhelmed. At least we know, now, where to find her and we know her mind is still on eternity. Making disciples doesn’t stop with handing out tracts or a quick testimony, or even a great conversation!

Just like modern Christianity encourages lifestyle evangelism, it also encourages relationship evangelism. Relationship evangelism defined as becoming friends with unbelievers and spending time with them “hanging out” and hopefully an opportunity will arise for you to invite them to church. Do we ever consider how our unsaved friends may feel the day they discover they are our “projects?” All this time they thought we were just good ol’ pals and now this new element? And what if they just aren’t interested in spiritual things? Then what happens to the relationship?

The truth is, both thoughts are rooted in powerful truth, but the truth is often lost in the fear of offense. Lifestyle evangelism is important if it means that our lives reflect the gospel and give us opportunity to share it. Live in obedience and be ready to give an explanation for it! Relationship evangelism is important if we recognize that we ought to seek opportunities to develop eternal relationships. Share the gospel with those closest to us and be ready to develop a relationship if there is a response.

When Jesus gathered His followers together before His ascension to the Father, He told them, “All authority has been given to Me. Therefore, as you go, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I’ve commanded you, and I am with you!” He reminded them that the authority came from Him. That as they went out from Him, they were to make disciples—not just share the gospel, but teach them to observe all that Christ commanded. To accomplish this, we must add both lifestyle and relationship into the equation.

It’s a bit daunting to consider, but Christ Himself laid down a battle plan for us. He told His group of faithful followers, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” If you draw a map of this battle plan, you’ll discover something of a target, with Jerusalem in the center. Fanning out from that is the next area of target: Judea. Then Samaria. Then the remotest parts of the earth. Jesus had gathered His followers together in Jerusalem and told them this simple strategy: “Begin where you are.”

When Lauren and Nathaniel first moved to Tulsa, the neighborhood in which they landed wasn’t their ideal location. But as Lauren settled in and began to meet her neighbors, she discovered something: it was her perfect Jerusalem. She had several Hispanic neighbors who were eager to work on their English and help her with her Spanish. And a widow lady next door was a huge encouragement and blessing! Then came the Jehovah’s Witnesses to her door. With a huge grin on her face, she invited them in and began to share the gospel. Without even leaving home, she had a perfect opportunity for evangelism—lifestyle, relationship and simply sharing the gospel. She shared with me recently the exciting story of a neighbor who had moved away. Recently the man contacted Nathaniel to meet him for lunch—and shared how he had met the Lord. “I didn’t even feel like we were good neighbors,” Lauren told me, but this man had wanted them to know because of their outreach to him and his family.

As godly women, I don’t believe the Lord expects us to be heading up missionary journeys like Paul and Silas. He doesn’t expect us to dive into safaris at the furthest corners of the earth—at least not yet. Jim Elliot wrote in his journal, “Wherever you are, be all there.” Wherever you are, that’s your Jerusalem.

Keith Green, who stirred up the church with songs before I was born, wrote, “The world is sleeping in the dark that the church just can’t fight ‘cuz it’s asleep in the light! How can you be so dead, when you’ve been so well-fed? Jesus rose from the dead! And you? You can’t even get out of bed!”

As I challenge you, I challenge myself. Begin in your Jerusalem. Live in light of Christ, yes. Love in light of Christ, absolutely. And be Christ’s witnesses. As I look around me, I know I am surrounded by needy unbelievers–asleep in the darkness. I must live a life that shines like a beacon in the night. And I must stretch out my hands to offer them love and care. And I must tell them why.

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Gulping Raw Eggs

November 9, 2009 at 1:26 am (Articles, Family, Friends & Ministry) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

raw-egg-with-heart-yolk

Posted by Abigail

I had a friend who decided it would be healthy to eat several raw eggs a day.  The first one slid down his throat with a horrible gurgle that made him gag and retch.  But the next one was easier.  He only gagged.  The third one he swallowed quickly and managed to survive.  After that it grew easier and easier.  Then, one day, he stopped eating them.  Just stopped.  Something caught his attention and distracted him and he quit eating raw eggs.

A couple of years ago I prayed something like this:  “Lord, You know I’ve never been outgoing and I’m just not a gifted evangelist.  If I’m to marry, please be preparing a husband for me who has a passionate heart for evangelism—who will lead out in sharing Your truth and make up for my deficiency.”

In His own way of answering prayer before we ask, the Lord turned my request on its head.  He began giving me opportunities to share the gospel.  Not just little open-cracked doors, but people who flung open the door, reached out and grabbed me by my collar to drag the gospel out of me.  A worker stopped me on my way into Wal-mart with a simple, “What a cute skirt!”  I smiled, easily “Well, thanks.”  Her next question, “Are skirts a religion thing for you?”  There’s no escaping that one.  “Not exactly,” I admitted.  “But my dad prefers them, so I wear them to honor him and the Lord Jesus.  Do you believe in Jesus?”  Her questions were relentless.  And she was completely ignorant of the gospel.  Like I said, reached out and grabbed me by my collar.  A waitress in the Waffle house watched me pray with my friend and later commented, “Your headscarf is beautiful.”  Hesitation.  She wanted to ask more.  “I’ve never seen someone wear a scarf like that.  Do you always wear it?”  And I had to explain, “Well, actually, I just love the Lord Jesus and I just try to obey His word.  I wear a head covering while praying in obedience to His teaching about His authority structure—which leads back to His authority.  What do you believe about Jesus?”  Everywhere I went, people began talking to me; stopping me to ask me questions; commenting on this or that.  A Japanese girl approached me in the campus library asking for help connecting her laptop to the internet.  I knew the Lord was handing me another opportunity, but this time I chickened out and tried to stifle my conscience.  “I can never understand the Japanese students!  How could I explain something so foreign to her?”

After that day I realized what had happened and I began to pray for more opportunities to share the gospel.  The Lord showered them on me.  When I was alone in town I would go “fishing” in stores and small flea markets.  Soon it seemed every conversation turned toward Christ’s redemptive work on the cross.  It became almost second-nature.

For me, sharing the gospel was like eating raw eggs.  When the Lord flung open the doors and chided “Forget waiting for someone else to be obedient” I gagged and sputtered, feeling lost and embarrassed and confused.  But the Lord started taking over and it got easier and easier.  Then something happened:  I must have stopped asking for opportunities.  I began to hurry through stores and avoid eye-contact.  My heart wasn’t open to spontaneity and numerous eternal moments passed me by on their way to the check-out.

When my friend realized he’d stopped eating raw eggs, it took him a while to work up the courage to get started again.  And when he did, it was like the first time all over again.  The gagging, the wheezing, the disgust.  Almost worse because he had thought it would be easier this time.

Recently I was reminded of the reality of eternity—an eternity with or without God and His goodness.  Like coals that have lain silent, the burning embers of a passion for the lost are beginning to rekindle.  Again I see souls walking past me in stores, instead of clothes stretched over skeletons.  About a month ago, my friend, April, and I were at the fair, watching a booth for the Crisis pregnancy clinic at which we both volunteer.  After closing up for the evening, we wandered the carnival area, people-watching, our hearts and thoughts wandering the same direction: “fishing.”  The Lord had been working in her heart the same way, reminding her that His precious gospel was not something to be hoarded.  That night, as we sought to open up conversations, I felt like we were chugging raw eggs.  Gagging, gurgling, and choking.  Afterwards I felt horrible.  But the nagging reminder that eternity is just around the corner hovered over both of us.

A few weeks later, we were in the bathrooms at Wal-mart when we bumped into an acquaintance of April’s.  As they spoke, April accepted the heart-challenge the Lord was giving her and gave her friend a tract, expressing that she’d been convicted lately that she should express her love for friends by sharing with them her hope for eternity.  “That was horrible,” she sputtered afterwards.  “I said all the wrong things.”  But that wasn’t the point.  The point is that she was obedient, and as I watched her obedience, the Lord continued to stir in my heart.

Ladies, I’m extending a challenge to you.  Here at Pearls and Diamonds we seek to encourage young women in lives of obedient worship.  Oftentimes we highlight lifestyle, which is an important part of obedience.  We talk about marriage and submission and loving our families and dressing modestly.  Modern Christianity advocates “lifestyle” evangelism.  But lifestyle never saves anyone.  All too often, when I am talking with the young women who come to the pregnancy clinic I hear this message:  “Yes.  I should go to church.  I should be a better person.”  That is the gospel that our lifestyle preaches.  Unbelievers scour the world critically and see “lifestyles”—which they equate with salvation.  But for them to attempt reformation would be fruitless—they lack the empowerment for true obedience.  “Without faith it is impossible to please God.”  And “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.”  The plea continues, “How shall they hear without a proclaimer?”

As I expressed in “Lest We Worship Godliness”, when I’m surrounded by positive peer-pressure, it’s almost easy to live a “holy lifestyle.”  It’s comfortable, for those of us raised in solid families, to talk about homemaking, grocery shopping, baby raising, home schooling and even theology.  Make no mistake, I am quick to agree that the value of woman’s position is preserved through the bearing of children—if they continue in faith and love with a pure heart.  But Paul said our good works are to adorn the gospel—lend it credibility for changing hearts and lives!  And it is the gospel that lends our lives credibility.  What was Christ’s last request before ascending to the Father?  He reminded all His disciples, men and women, of the authority that had been given to Him.  Then He said, literally, “As you go, therefore, make disciples…and I am with you always.”

“As you go…make disciples.”

As you go, open your heart to spontaneity.  Open your heart to purpose to share the only eternal possession you have—Christ.  Pray for openings—in spite of opposition.  The eggs get easier and easier to swallow—unless you stop.  Watch the souls around you traveling their weary way to hell and weep for them, mourn for them, catch hold of them and plead with them!  Do you remember what it is to be lost?  Sometimes I forget, but God’s word is sure to remind me: I was cut off from grace!  We were enemies of God.  Imagine your hope, your joy and your peace with God gone, then look into the eyes of that woman walking past you in the grocery store.  Forget excuses of wasting her time—the message you hoard is eternal!  Paul said he implored men to be reconciled to God!  Through God’s grace you hold the key to the narrow gate: Jesus Himself.

How shall they hear without a proclaimer?

Note:  I do not recommend eating raw eggs, ladies.  I do, however, recommend sharing the gospel.  🙂

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The Skunk Smells His Own Stink

November 5, 2009 at 5:47 pm (A Time to Laugh) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

a-time-to-laugh

A couple of years ago, Abigail was part of a team to teach abstinence in the local schools. Our first day in the local middle school, she and her partner, Christy, looked at each other and wrinkled up their noses. “It smells horrible!” Christy, who was barely pregnant and fighting morning sickness, exclaimed. “It smells like a ton of mothballs!” Abigail blinked. “Mothballs? It smells like a skunk!”

Over the next several days they choked on the foul air that greeted them every time they entered the school, but they kept their thoughts to themselves.

As their last day wrapped up, a teacher from a neighboring classroom stopped by the help with clean up. “Whew,” she remarked. “It will sure be nice when that skunk smell dissipates.”

Abigail looked up quickly from the papers she was gathering . “So it was a skunk?”

“Yeah,” she grimmaced. “A whole family of them moved in under the school. They weren’t too happy to be moved out and let us all know it.”

Abigail glanced at Christy, who was holding her nose and looking sickly. “Christy thought it was mothballs.”

“Oh!” the teacher exclaimed. “That’s because the janitor dumped loads of mothballs in the hall in an attempt to cover the stench!”

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Lest We Worship Godliness

November 2, 2009 at 1:51 am (Articles, Godly Living) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

worship godliness
Posted by Abigail

Most of the words I hear pass in one ear, bypass my brain, and float out the other ear leaving no great impact. My younger sister, Lydia, reminds me of this fact frequently when she says, “Now look at me and tell me what I said.” At the moment I can recap something of the main idea of what she told me, but half an hour later, all has vanished into the dim hallway of horrors which is my memory. But every once in a great while, a sentence, a phrase, an idea will snarl and snag and remain forever lodged in the soil of my mind and a slow germination will take place. Years ago, long before Lauren and Nathaniel had an “and” between their names, long before Lauren and I had breeched the careful gap of unspeakables that was Nathaniel, back when we were in the first flush of infatuation at having found a likeminded girl, she made a very simple statement: “Godliness without God is godlessness.”

The other day I met that phrase again, in the guise of a young woman. She was dressed very modestly, with a sweet expression on her face and a slim, gold wedding band on her finger. “What do you want to do?” I asked when she explained that waitressing was only temporary. “Be a stay-at-home wife and mom. And homeschool.” Yes, she’d been homeschooled, too. And she and her husband were hoping soon to add a baby to their happy home. I beamed, thinking how alike we were—and how rare it is to find another young woman who wants to live a godly lifestyle. So I asked, “Do you serve Jesus?” She smiled and dropped a bomb-shell. “Actually, I’m a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.” Translation: She’s Mormon.

In that one revelation I was reminded of Lauren’s words: “Godliness without God is godlessness.”

That phrase has echoed in my hallway of horrors, casting its shadow over my lurking corners of self-righteousness ever since. As I read and as I write it is easy to become caught up in the rush of religious material, holy living and set-apart lifestyles. It is easy to embrace radical holiness, while neglecting the Holy Spirit who empowers. It is easy to accept the parts of Christianity that are lovely, appealing, and nostalgic—pre-packaged for easy consumption. Especially when surrounded by folks who practice the same things. It is comfortable to settle into a lifestyle of predictability and forget about the war that rages. It’s easy to boil godliness down into a look, an act and an art.

But Christianity isn’t simply a return to history. Clothing isn’t Christian. Lifestyles aren’t Christian. Vocations aren’t Christian. Buildings aren’t Christian. Habits aren’t Christian. Need I continue? People are Christian. Hearts are Christian.

Jesus’ chief complaint against the Israel of His day was not modesty, family values or work ethic. It was this, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of these people—they honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.” Ladies, the truly unique thing about the woman of God is not her lifestyle. Sadly, many religious people ape a godly lifestyle. The truly unique thing about a godly woman is not her dress. Even some of the enemies of the true God subscribe to modesty. The truly unique thing about a woman of God is this: she is a woman of God. She belongs to God. She’s been purchased by the prodigal grace of Christ to walk in newness of life—redeemed to an intimate relationship with God. The Mormon women don’t have that, in spite of their lifestyle. The Muslim women don’t have that, regardless of their modesty. Just because you were homeschooled or you wear dresses or you have long hair doesn’t mean you have that.

The good woman who lives the right lifestyle apart from dependence on God’s grace is just as godless as the woman who shakes her fist at heaven, denies God’s existence and lives to glorify herself. One worships godlessness; the other worships godliness.

Godliness without God is godlessness.

Hebrews tells us, “Without faith it is impossible to please God. For he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of…” of what? Those who homeschool? Those who dress modestly? Those who are at-home wives or daughters? He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. The Samaritan woman brought up the age-old debate of where and how we are to worship God. Jesus responded that God seeks for worshippers who worship in Spirit and truth.

All too often, I retreat into my inner sanctum of self-evaluation, take off my haloed mask of pretense and discover that I am a hypocrite—an actor on the stage of time and history. Like the Greek actors—the hypocrites of old—I hold a mask before my face, recite lines and play a part for all to see. The audience claps, cheers, laughs, weeps. But I am only pretending.

And they smile and nod and say kind things like, “She’s such a godly girl.”

Because I wear the right clothes and do the right things and say the right words and spend time with the right people, write the right articles and uphold the right values and sing the right songs. I live a life of obedience. But ladies, sometimes obedience is easier than submission. And sometimes submission is easier than sacrifice. And sometimes sacrifice is easier than intimacy. Because obedience, submission and sacrifice can sometimes become ingrained habits. But intimacy requires a raw and open heart. And when intimacy fades—it is easier to fabricate a mask from our ingrained habits than it is to pursue the true form.

And on the days when my heart is as distant from God as eternity is from yesterday, no one knows. No one knows except for the Lord and me. Because I look the same and act the same and dress the same.

I have achieved the visual standard of godliness, regardless of my heart condition.

But godliness without God is godlessness!

Do you see what I’m saying? I’m not trashing the importance of wives at home, loving their husbands and children. I’m not seeking to overthrow teachings of modesty. I’m not tearing down marriages and families that are serving and loving each other. I’m just saying that when we elevate these ideals, when we hold them up as standards of godliness, when we focus on peddling results instead of preaching the cause, we create a false religious system. We create idols that should be the outcome of worshipping God. And the world perceives our priorities. I can’t even tell you how many people I have talked to that answer the question “Do you know Jesus?” with “I should start going to church” or “I should try to be a better person.” Godliness, pursued as an end, turns into a dead end–literally.

Every time Paul began to preach a sanctified lifestyle, he had preceeded it with an important message—the gospel! God’s saving and sanctifying work in our lives! How do we live godly? Romans 12 tells us to present our bodies living and holy sacrifices…and not to be conformed to the world by renewing our minds. Paul had spent the previous eleven chapters talking about God’s great redemption and His free gift to all who believe. How do we renew our minds? By worshipping God! By keeping the glory and grace of Yahweh before our eyes. We were redeemed to an intimate relationship with the Holy Creator of the universe! Let’s live like it! Not just outwardly, but pursuing Him, praising Him, seeking Him, worshipping Him…and talking about Him.

Do you know Yahweh? I’m not asking if you look like a Christian. I’m not asking if you live like a Christian. Do you know Yahweh intimately? Do you sit at His feet, listening to the words He says? Do you pour over the love letters He has written you? Do you get so excited you can’t stop talking about Him? As a child of your Abba, remember that the joy in obedience is in sitting in your Father’s lap. As the Bride of Christ, the joy of submission is in depth of intimacy. As lovers of God, let’s love God. As worshippers of God, let’s worship God. In pursuing holiness, let’s pursue the Holy One.

Because godliness without God is godlessness.

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