God Wants Me to Be Happy

September 3, 2010 at 1:36 pm (Announcements, Attitudes) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Or does He?  This is a phrase we’ve encountered often—usually used as a loop-hole to escape obedience—when disobedience sounds like more fun.  It’s a lie.  From multiple angles.  Here are two of our top concerns:

First, our happiness is not God’s primary concern.

Second, disobedience never really makes us happy.

Agree or disagree with either?  We’d love to hear your thoughts.  Weigh in and tell us what you think.

We hope to cover this issue someday—maybe even soon.  In the meanwhile, Mrs. Parunak at Pursuing Titus 2 handled this issue in a pretty straightforward manner in her article “Wouldn’t God Want Me To Be Happy?”  We encourage you to take a look at what she has to say.


Advertisements

Permalink 7 Comments

It’s Your Turn!

March 17, 2010 at 1:08 am (Announcements, Love, Marriage, Purity, Singleness) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

We’ve spent the last week or so sharing purity stories (in case you hadn’t noticed)…each of us has been walking a path that the Lord has used to teach us the price and value of purity.

Lauren shared that purity in our lives reflects our relationship with the Lord–we’re not supposed to daydream about other lovers, but we’re supposed to love the Lord purely!  She also shared that meeting the “perfect” man wasn’t a signal to lay down her arms and give in–it was actually just a stronger call to keep fighting the battle–even protecting her physical purity during her engagement so that she could give herself entirely to her husband on her wedding day!  And as a married woman, she shared that the same love that inspires “keeping” as a single woman, inspires “giving” as a married woman.

Megan shared the power of God’s redeeming love as the basis for all purity.  With that in mind, pride doesn’t lead us to true purity.  She expressed that purity is far more than physical boundaries–that it begins with a pure mind and heart and humility!  She also shared how God’s powerful love can redeem even our mistakes and sanctify them for our growth and use them for our blessing!  As a wife and mother (with a fifth on the way!), a pure mind and heart are no less important now!

Amy shared that an invaluable secret to protecting “chastity” is godly accountability–particularly parents!  Contentment is an act of trust and the foundation for trust is knowing and understanding God’s character–that He is good and gives good gifts.  Even when “Mr. Right” entered her life, the Lord still had growth planned for her!  And even after her marriage, she has learned that contentment is still an act of trust!  The day we trust the Lord is only the beginning of a life of trusting.

Sarah shared the struggle of learning to balance preparation and training to be a godly wife and mother with the commands to guard her heart and keep her daydreams focused on the Lord.  One day she came to her parents.  “For my entire life you have been grooming me to be a wife and mother.   What am I supposed to do, erase 16 years of brainwashing from my head?”  She also shared the struggle of balancing a godly friendship with the teasing of “helpful friends” and her own desires for a godly husband.  She also shared how we can tend to trust “good things” that the Lord provides, instead of simply trusting the Lord.

Ana Marie shared the importance of filling our lives with the right things–nature abhors a vacuum, and where there is nothing, usually there is plenty of room for stumbling!  She shared the value of a tender conscience and also the power of confessing even motives to her father.  She also shared how necessary it is to guard our brothers–hearts and eyes–in worship to the Lord.

Abigail shared the danger of creating “high ideals” that are often founded in pride instead of in scripture–since they set us up for failure!  God doesn’t promise us our ideal–no matter how we behave.  He just commands us to obey Him.  She also shared the importance of understanding that both marriage and singleness are pure–and glorify God when submitted to Him.   And she shared the the call never changes–regardless of circumstances, pressures or temptations.  Purity must start and end in love–love for the Lord first and then love for His people–all of them.

Now it’s your turn!  We want to hear how the Lord has convicted you and how you’ve responded to the call to purity!  Leave your thoughts and/or post a link(s) to your story in the comments below!

Blessings!

Permalink 14 Comments

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.

 

 

 

 

Share this Post

Permalink 1 Comment

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.

Share this Post

Permalink 11 Comments

Root of Rebellion

October 14, 2009 at 9:11 pm (Articles, Attitudes, Godly Living) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Posted by Abigail

root of rebellion

With the great response to “Identity Crisis“, I thought you ladies might enjoy a peep into the past–a look at the literary outcome of my first Identity Crisis, when I was about sixteen.

There it is again: those horrible feelings of rebellion, that I seem completely unable to stifle. The “I don’t care what my parents think, I don’t want to do it!” is back in full force, and I can’t seem to quench my snotty attitude. I love my parents—I really do—but this is more than I can handle! I’m just so sick of obeying!…Why?

In the midst of such feelings the tears come, and in the desperation aroused by my frustration and depression I beg the Lord to show me my sin. Where could I have gone wrong, that such emotions could gain a stronghold in my heart? Am I wrong to blame my parents? Am I wrong to seek my own way?

I want to share with you an answer to my perplexing questions—a cause for my strange feelings of dissatisfaction, the result of these feelings, and a solution to my frustration with my parents. These emotions are not the natural result of my parents’ actions. They are not caused by tyranny, overwork or flustering requests. They are caused by myself—in reality, they are the product of my own imagination.

Let’s begin with the cause. Rebellion starts with dissatisfaction—a dissatisfaction with myself. I am not pleased with who I am. Whether or not my frustrations ring true, I have come to feel that I am inadequate in some way.

I may be dissatisfied:

  • With my appearance—I feel ugly, fat and unattractive. My face is broken out, my hair is straight and limp or frizzy, my nose is too long.
  • With my wardrobe—I feel out of place in modest clothing, my outfits don’t fit well, or they simply do not flatter me. I am frustrated trying to find cute, comfortable, modest clothing that doesn’t look old ladyish and isn’t miles too big; I envy others around me.
  • With my personality—I feel insecure, unconversational and uninteresting, I feel like a dead-beat, a bore. I feel like I simply don’t fit in—anywhere.
  • With my intelligence—I feel stupid and slow. I am a failure: I just don’t have it. Others expect more of me than I can give; others are smarter than I am.
  • With my talents—what talents? I am not actually good at anything. I try, but I simply have no time to work at or practice anything because my parents…whoops! Feeling a little rebellious am I?

Lastly, when I have become entirely dissatisfied with myself, my life, and anything else about me, I become unhappy in my spirit because I am starving it. But what stands in the way of my changing these areas that I feel unsuccessful in? Shall we say my parents, and the fact that I don’t run my own life? I can’t just turn the house topsy-turvy because I wake up in the morning feeling ugly.

And my parents? “Honey, you look fine!”

Ok, so I’m not so pleased with myself. Now let’s move on to step two—link this all together, and explain what the result of disatisfaction is! How in the world do “fat days” affect my obedience to my parents?

I have noticed, that when I am not satisfied with myself, it becomes very difficult for me to believe that anyone else is satisfied with me.

I hear “Honey, you look fine” but I know she is thinking, “Well, you really ought to lose about 10 pounds, and I don’t know what we’ll ever do about your acne! I really wish you would bring your math scores up, and stay on top of your chores, and your attitude stinks. I think you need to get right with the Lord.”

“I already know that, now would you just shut up!” I feel attacked, before my parents even say anything, because in my mind I am already defeated.

I am a failure. I have failed my parents.

I am a loser—a rotten loser. How could anyone like me? How could anyone enjoy spending time with me? Why would anyone want to put up with me?

I can’t do anything right. My family must think me a burden. I’m just a hump on a log, a disgrace to mankind. <sniff>

I haven’t stopped loving my parents. I haven’t lost a desire to do well, to please them, to honor them.

I have merely given up.

I’m beat. Striving for success feels pointless. I can’t please my parents! Why try? I can’t succeed in anything! Why try? I can’t please God! Why try?

And all she said was “You look fine.”

She never expressed any dissatisfaction with me, or anything I had done. I imagined it, and the insecurity washed over me, causing the rebellion spring up.

It’s just not fair! I try to please them—they don’t care! Think of all the things I do, yet I get scolded for the one tiny responsibility that I happen to forget. It never ends—the same jobs over and over again, and nobody ever thanks me, nobody realizes how much I do! I am so sick of trying to be good! I am so sick of myself! I am so sick of this place! I am so sick of everything I do! I am so sick of my family! I just want out of here!

Like a slow burning fuse, the bitterness builds up until I snap.

And everyone stares at me in holy horror.

I can’t help it! I just feel ugly today!

Is it it possible that maybe I can help it? I believe there is a solution, if I will accept it.

But what can I do? I didn’t plan the rebellion. I didn’t want to explode. I don’t even know where these feelings came from! I’ve been submissively trying to cut out my rebellion, haven’t I? I’ve crushed it down every time it tried to rise, haven’t I? I haven’t been trying to nurse resentment, have I? So why in the world can’t I conquer myself?

There is a reason—a good one, even. I can’t cure my problem, because I am attacking the symptom, not the cause. Every time a weed of rebellion popped up, I cut it down. But the root of bitterness and dissatisfaction continued to grow. Rebellion will come up again in other areas, and I can keep cutting it out, but the root will keep growing until it explodes. I need to attack the root, and the first step is locating it.

Thankfully, I now know where the problem lies, due to much prayer and fasting. This doesn’t mean that stamping it out is easy. There are many things about myself that I am unable to change—ever.

  • I will never be taller than God intended me to be. I can’t change the shape of my face, or the build of my figure.
  • Modesty is a must, though my culture makes it very difficult and awkward.
  • My personality is there—it is my identity. I can hone it, but I can never change it.
  • My intelligence has a limit. I can work hard, but I will never be a genius. It just isn’t there.
  • If I just don’t have certain talents, I just don’t have them!
  • I can’t change the unchangeable.

But I can be yielded. I may not be satisfied with myself through the eyes of the world, but I need to remind myself who I am through Christ.

Why would He love me? I can’t see a logical reason, but He does. He sees the future, and he will perfect me…in His time.

Basically, my rebellion boils down to a lack of trust. I am not trusting God to work through my parents. I am not trusting God to complete what He has begun. I am not trusting God to change me. I am not trusting the God who made me.

I simply need to shift my focus from what I can’t do, to what He has done, and the weed will wither and die—from the root up.

The rebel can submit.

Share this Post

Permalink 8 Comments

Someday

March 5, 2009 at 10:55 am (Articles, Attitudes, Family, Friends & Ministry, Godly Living, Singleness, Vignettes) (, , , , , , , , )

Posted by Abigail

someday

I was sixteen years old when my Grandma took me driving and told me I needed to be more aggressive. Five years have passed and this weekend found me pondering her words as I navigated Kansas City to visit her. She’s eighty-two and as far back as I can remember she’s been running a hundred miles and hour serving other people. She spent most of her younger days in a cult one step removed from Mormonism, but she met the Lord not long before my birth. A short time later, she lost her husband. She’s been a widow as long as I’ve been living.

At sixteen or twenty-one, it’s easy to rush forward, hurrying toward the next thing, dreamily planning the future. Marriage, children. How many of us look beyond marriage to a time of being single again? We think of our wedding day as signifying the day in which we have finally arrived, the day when our life is fulfilled. For those newly married brides, a baby is the next thing—the completion to fulfilled life.

When that dream ends, what comes next? When the nest is empty and we’re back to sleeping in a twin bed, then what?

I watch my grandma with pride and amazement. She lives simply, but always busily. She went to a ladies Bible study at a retirement home and took cupcakes and fruit salad. I’m willing to guess that most of the ladies present were younger than she is. She’s held more dying people than I can count, pouring love and tenderness into their last days. She’s sent parts of her carefully stewarded retirement overseas for the spread of the gospel. She studies God’s word and shares it with everyone she can find. She’s helped out young mothers. She eats lunch once a week with a troubled little elementary school girl. She keeps tabs on a destitute nephew. Prays daily for her large family: some know the Lord and some don’t. Offers smiles, encouragement and even rebukes to those she comes into contact with. Shares Jesus when she can.

From the other room I heard her answer the phone when a neighbor lady, another widow, called. After a few minutes, she gently said, “I’d rather not talk about other people like that. It doesn’t really do anyone any good.”

She’s about to have her knee replaced. “That’s just what happens when you get old and your body wears out,” she shrugged. “And I have to make an appointment to get my batteries checked,” she joked about her pacemaker. No bitterness. She laughs easily, teases lovingly and trusts the Lord in everything.

I think of my grandma and I think of Paul’s requirements to Timothy for widows “indeed.” The wife of one man, a reputation for good works, brought up children, shown hospitality, served the saints, assisted those in distress and devoted herself to every good work. His greatest warning was that they be wary of becoming gossips. When he wrote to Titus he said that older women should be teachers of what is good—to the younger women.

It’s natural for young women to think and dream and plan for marriage, to strive to become godly wives and mothers, to look forward to that time. But being a godly wife and mother is not the end in itself. Being a wife and mother is not what fulfills a woman. Even a pagan can be a wife and mother. Serving the Lord, being obedient to Him, loving Him and serving His people—that’s what fulfills a woman, in whatever circumstances she finds herself.

My mind goes back two thousand years to another widow who lived her life serving the Lord. Anna, the daughter of Phanuel grew up in Israel and married, but her happily ever after ended seven years later with the death of her husband. Being a widow in Israel was especially difficult, yet Anna spent her days in the temple, serving the Lord with fasting and prayers, waiting for the Messiah. Then one day, when Anna was eighty-four, a young woman entered the temple with her husband and newborn son and Anna knew that the Lord had finally sent redemption. When I look into my grandma’s smiling eyes, I think I might know what Anna looked like.

Sisters, your whole life will be filled with someday. Someday you will likely be sixteen and driving. Someday you will likely marry. Someday you will likely have a baby. Someday your children will likely grow up and fly away. And then someday, someday you will likely be a widow. Through each someday the Lord wants you to recognize today—this is the day the Lord has made, rejoice and be glad in it.

For twenty-one years I’ve lived as a single woman on one side of marriage. For twenty-one years my grandma has lived as a single woman on the other side of marriage. The call to both of us is the same—serve the Lord.

Permalink 12 Comments

Lessons from Wisdom: The Art of Availability

December 27, 2008 at 9:03 am (Articles, Attitudes, Godly Living, W.O.W.) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Posted by Abigail

art-of-availability

“In the fullness of time, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, that He might redeem those under the law.” (Galatians 4:4) When time was ripe, God sent His Son—born of a woman. A simple virgin from Nazareth. Why? I can’t peer back in history before the visit of God’s messenger, but God reveals His sovereignty in shaping this young woman, throughout her entire life, to be His servant and to give birth to His Son–the perfect Servant and the ransom for mankind.

The Lord’s work in Mary’s heart and life is summed up in her words “Behold, the handmaid of the Lord.” The Lord’s slave. Devoted to Him. At His bidding. Available. God uses those who are available. As the story of Jesus unfolds, Mary’s quiet part in this perfect drama is this: quiet availability to God’s needs. Humble. Pure. A servant.

Behold, the Handmaid of the Lord. (Luke 1:38)

Mary stood on the verge of a Jewish maiden’s ideal future when the angel appeared to her. A Jewish woman’s identity was wrapped up in her marriage—to a good man, a righteous man, a man with a trade, a man of good reputation and good family. As she listened to the angel’s declaration, the Lord revealed to her something not generally understood by the Jewish nation—that the Messiah would be the Son of God. He would not belong to her husband. When Mary bowed her head and expressed her willingness to do whatever the Lord asked, she opened herself up to heartache and loss. She could have lost her entire future. A woman pregnant outside of marriage was an adulteress and could be stoned. A righteous man could not, in good conscience, marry her. Forever she would be looked down upon, ostracized and whispered about. Still, she made herself available to God, trusting His eternal plan for her life—and that of the child she would bear. I remember the day that the realization dawned on me: Mary and I are not so different. The Lord’s call came to me as well—and I have been chosen to carry the truth of God’s Son as well! God seeks those who are available—empty of their own plans and dreams, so that He may fill them with His Spirit and overshadow them with His power!

Mary rose and went to Judah…and greeted Elizabeth. (Luke 1:39-40)

The angel had left Mary with another piece of news—Elizabeth was also miraculously with child. Seeking encouragement and to be an encouragement, Mary rushed to her side and spent the next three months with her. Why? As Elizabeth reached her time to give birth, she must have needed help, encouragement and companionship. Mary made herself available to this godly woman, to help her and to learn from her to be a godly wife—and mother. The Lord has placed in our lives those who are doing His will, seeking His glory. “You should serve each other,” He told His disciples in His last night with them. His desire is to see us become servants, available to encourage, assist and pour out His love to those who love Him.

Joseph rose and took Mary as his wife. (Matthew 1:24)

Even when it seemed that Mary might be abandoned, Almighty God intervened to give Mary a protector and provider. “Don’t be afraid,” the angel told Joseph. Immediately he rose from his bed and took Mary as his wife. What had her feelings been a short time before? About to be divorced by a man she admired—likely loved deeply. Suddenly he was at her door, calling her name to take her as his wife—early. Catching up her covering, she made herself ready. Available to follow his lead, to trust that he was following the Lord’s command, knowing that in following Joseph, she was doing the Lord’s will. When the Lord transferred Mary’s authority to her husband, He also began speaking to her husband and leaving Mary to hear from Him second-hand. Not because Mary was no longer worthy to hear from the Lord, but because the Lord had sheltered her under the authority of a righteous man. Joseph was her God-given head. Joseph stood under God’s authority and Mary trusted Him. Even Jesus spoke of being under the authority of the Father. The Lord places authorities in each of our lives and leads us through them. Our part is to be available to His leading through them—no matter how inconvenient.

Joseph had to travel…and Mary went with him. (Luke 2:4-5)

God had also placed Joseph under authority. No matter how ungodly the Roman empire was, God was in control and was using the decree of Caesar to accomplish His eternal purpose. As Joseph obeyed the decree, Mary made herself available to her husband, to travel with him, to be with him, in spite of the fact that she was about to have a child. Inconvenient is an understatement, I’m sure. With the discomfort of pregnancy–swelling, water retention, constant bladder pressure, dizziness, nausea–traveling the dusty roads from Nazareth the Bethlehem could hardly have been a pleasure trip. Yet Mary went accompanied her man, so fulfilling the words of the prophets of old in her availability to her husband who was also obeying the government.

They found the baby and His mother. (Luke 2:16; Matthew 2:11)

Alone and cold in a foreign town, the middle of the night she gave birth could not have been the time Mary would have chosen for visitors. Yet as she watched her baby, she opened her heart and arms to the smelly shepherds who had come to see God’s good news. Some time later, finally in the privacy of her own home, she was invaded by a crowd of foreign magi. Again she opened her arms and heart and shared Jesus with those seeking Him. God has called each of us to carry the truth of His Son—and to be available to share Him with anyone who seeks Him.

Take the child and His mother and go to Egypt. (Matthew 3:13)

The Lord’s commands don’t always seem convenient, but they should always be treated as urgent. Joseph took God’s commands seriously and immediately obeyed. His instant obedience produced a wild ride for his wife, Mary. But think how strenuous obedience would have become had Mary balked, complained, dawdled or refused. The quick cooperation of a woman who trusts her man to lead her in the Lord is the encouragement and blessing that can empower that man to do whatever the Lord has called him to do. First the move to Egypt and then the move back, turned Mary’s life upside down. As she learned to be a servant, she recognized Joseph’s obedience to the Lord and his desire to protect her and the baby, Jesus and cheerfully made her place by his side.

Didn’t you know I must be about My Father’s business? (Luke 2:49)

When Jesus was a baby, he depended on His mother and she gave Him what she thought He needed—food, sleep, baths. As He grew she had to constantly re-learn the hard fact of service: a devoted servant is attentive to the Master’s desires, wishes and needs. A devoted servant seeks to know the Master. And she learned that Her Son came to be the greatest servant of all–to give, to love, to sacrifice and to pour out His own life for the glory of God, His Master in heaven. From the mouth of her perfect twelve-year-old came this humbling reminder, “Didn’t you know…” Jesus’ first responsibility was to be about His Father’s business. Mary had offered herself available to serve the Lord. Her Divine Son was calling her to know Him. The Lord has called us to know Him as well and to serve Him by learning Who He is and what His desires are. As godly women, He has called us to know the men in our lives, to seek to understand them and the ministry to which God has called each of them and to support them in that ministry–their service to God.

Woman, My time has not yet come. (John 2:4)

When Mary informed Jesus of the lack at the wedding in Cana, His words nearly seemed harsh. Like He was irritably saying, “Leave me alone, Mom” in the very tones that used to earn me a sound spanking. But Jesus’ words are so much different than my bad attitude. His was a straightforward reminder that He did not belong to her. Her ways were not His ways. Often we seek to tell God what to do. We try to point out to Him the way in which He can serve us. Mary took the response, digested it and commanded the servants to do what? To be available. What she was learning, she was teaching. “Do whatever He tells you to do.” Then she was silent. When our heart is available, our attitude ready to do whatever He tells us to do, God can take our water and turn into the wine of life!

My mother and brothers are those who do the will of My Father. (Matthew 12:50)

How difficult it must have been for Mary to loosen her mother’s hold and let her Son be in control of the universe. When she and her sons came seeking Him, His words seemed like rejection. “Who are my mother and my brothers? He who does the will of My Father.” But Jesus was not rejecting Mary as the one who had given birth to Him and nursed Him. He was reminding her what it was she had committed herself to do. “I am the Lord’s handmaid,” she had said. Even the Lord’s mother must learn to trust Him and entrust herself to Him. She had made herself available to serve the Lord. It’s easy to imagine service as doing what I think should be done. What I think is best. What I think will bring God glory. Jesus corrected this misconception with truth: service is doing whatever the Lord asks. Doing whatever He wants. Simply put, obedience. Availability to His needs and requests.

Jesus saw His mother standing nearby. (John 19:26)

From His birth to His death, Mary was available. Even as Jesus hung from the cross, paying for the sins of the world, she stood by, watching and weeping. He saw her and He provided for her care. Did Jesus love His mother? He gave His life to redeem her, to purchase her back from sin and from slavery to the law and to make her a child of God. He bought for her, with His blood, an eternity with Him. Once upon a time, she thought He needed her. Finally she understood that she was lost without Him. As He had once been helpless in her arms, so she was helpless without His intercession. Favored of God—because of Her Son, Jesus.

Mary stored up all these things and pondered them in her heart. (Luke 2:51)

As Mary watched Jesus grow and fulfill God’s purpose in His life, she treasured every moment in her heart, storing it up. Later she shared all she remembered with Luke, the beloved physician, who sought to write a thorough account of all that Jesus began to do and teach. She made herself available to listen, to watch, to remember, to treasure and available to share the precious life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

matthew-23-11

As I studied this woman of wisdom, I wept over her sacrifices—constantly giving up her dreams, her comfort and finally her Son. “I am the Lord’s handmaid,” she had said. “Do to me whatever.” The life of a servant is availability to the Master, always near, always ready, always cheerful, always eager. Long before Gabriel visited Nazareth, God had been at work in Mary’s heart, shaping her into an empty vessel that He could fill. From the day she accepted the Lord’s call to carry the Savior of the world, Mary made herself available to the Lord, available to the authorities He had placed over her, and available to anyone who sought Jesus. Pouring herself out as a sacrifice before the Lord, she found favor. Jesus told His disciples the secret of true greatness, “He who desires to be great, must become servant of all.” (Matthew 23:11)

Read the story:  Behold, the Lord’s Handmaid

Permalink 8 Comments

Six Things God has Taught Me

December 19, 2008 at 12:01 pm (Announcements, Attitudes, Godly Living) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

6-thingsSome time ago we were tagged by Olivia to share six things God has taught us in the past year…forgive us for the delay in posting! We normally don’t do tags, but since this one included both of us and aptly fit into the purpose of our blog, we were delighted to participate! After all, the Lord’s been teaching us much!

From Lauren:

I’ve been married now for a year and three months! It’s been so wonderful to see God’s kindness to us in our marriage! Yahweh has been teaching me so SO much in the past year–most of it being quite practical, a lot of learning from experience. I hope that what God has been teaching me will be of some encouragement to you ladies!

1. I’m not as submissive as I’d like to think! I had plenty of time to practice submission while under my parents’ authority. Sure, I wasn’t perfect, but I thought I’d gotten pretty good at it. Then I entered into married life and began to realize that submitting to my husband (the most wonderful man I know, by the way) was not as easy as I had imagined. Sure, I’d ask his opinion on things, and I’d let him make the big decisions, offering my thoughts and support. But when it came down to little day-to-day things I began to realize that I didn’t want him to infringe on “my time”. So I’ve grown to realize that submission isn’t easy-even when you have an easy-going, not-very-demanding man. God has taught me that I have a lot to learn in this area, and that if I’m not submitting even the little things to my husband’s authority, I’m not being submissive to my God either! I wrote “She who has ears…” earlier this year when God really broke through to me with this lesson!

2. God gave me a glimpse of His compassion. I grew up in the clean suburbs of north Texas. My grandparents are exceptionally healthy. But since I’ve been married and living in Tulsa, in the city, God has brought me face to face with the poverty of the homeless and the despair of an ailing widow. Nathaniel and I have had opportunities to help these folks like we’ve never known before. It has stretched us out of our comfort zones, but it has been so good to begin to understand the compassion of our God and to show it to those in need!

3. I need to renew my mind daily in God’s word. Sometimes a song will pop into my head that I haven’t heard since before I came to know the Lord, the lyrics bombarding me with attitudes and words that I’ve since abandoned. Other times my own heart fills my mind with evil thoughts, bad attitudes. This has served to remind me that I desperately need to renew my mind, as it says in Romans 12-and to do it daily. It’s not about Bible study for the sake of Bible study, as though checking it off my list makes me more spiritual. Rather, my heart is deceitful and my mind wanders, and only by God’s grace and by being drenched in His word can I truly honor Him in my thoughts, words, and deeds. I desperately need God’s word!

4. Prayer and worship should be the heartbeat of my walk with Christ. It seems that of all the spiritual disciplines I can think of, the ones that I tend to neglect the most are prayer and private worship of my Creator-and God has been convicting me about this. Just as I need God’s word to renew my mind, I need to humble myself and pray to God-about everything! And the thing that has perhaps hit me the hardest lately, is that I should take time to praise my Savior each day-not because I feel like it-that doesn’t matter-but because He is WORTHY to be praised. If I fail to praise Him, I have declined to give Him what He is due, I have failed to do what ought to naturally flow from a heart that has been made new and is dependent upon its Creator, Sustainer, and Savior!

5. Now that I’m married, I must still be careful to keep Jesus as the love of my life. Being married to an amazing man is an amazing blessing. But I have to be careful to remember that he is not my groom forever-Jesus is. It’s been helpful for me to recognize the things I admire about Nathaniel, and the way that he loves me as his wife, and then think of how my Jesus loves His bride, the church, the same way (only exponentially greater!). This has helped me to turn praise for my husband (which I give him) into greater praise for my God and Savior as well!

6. If you miss who Jesus is, you miss everything. God sent Jehovah’s Witnesses to my door in late May, and one of them kept coming back to talk with me, bringing another lady with her each time, all the way until early August! I didn’t know much about what they believed-I knew they rejected the deity of Christ, but I though that maybe if they knew that salvation was by grace through faith, some of them might truly be saved, only needing to learn more about Jesus to then believe that He’s God the Son. So for a couple of months I got to ask questions, read their materials, and search the Scriptures (as did the Bereans in Acts 17:11). It was a wonderful challenge and I came to see more clearly from Scripture why we worship Jesus and call upon Him in prayer (the JW’s don’t do either). Well, did they understand salvation by grace? No. In fact, on every point of doctrine their teachings twisted God’s word-from creation and the fall all the way into Revelation, these ladies trusted the publications put out by their organization which twisted God’s truth into lie after lie. When talking with Nathaniel’s family about what I was discussing and sharing with the JW’s, his dad pointed me to John 8:24, where Jesus said to the Jews: “…you shall die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you shall die in your sins.” Truly, if we don’t believe that Jesus is who He and the apostles said He is, we will not know God’s salvation. We will still be in our sins-because, in effect, we’ve rejected Christ and have only accepted a cheap imitation. And we will likely believe a whole bunch of lies if we accept lies about the Person of Jesus Christ. This was shocking to me as I saw it played out in the lives of these ladies-very religious, very “holy”, very devout in trying to make sure they can enter paradise, but oh so lost, still bearing their own sins, believing in a Jesus that cannot save because they have rejected who He really is.

From Abigail:

Interestingly, I just passed the one year anniversary of our move to Arkansas…and the Lord has taught me SO MUCH since then. Some of it I’ve shared with you all, some of it remains buried in the pages of my journal, some of it is schedule for future posts. Selecting only six things will be difficult–He teaches me something new every day! These have been a few of the liberating truths that have hit home to me this year.

1. “No” is not a punishment. It’s often been my habit to pray for a desire I have to be realized, while also praying that the Lord would give me a clear “no” if that desire were not a part of His will.  But like a slinking puppy, I forget that “no” stems from the Lord’s love–His desire for His glory and my joy in glorifying Him–and I feel guilty, ashamed or regretful over having ever desired something to which He had to say “no.” When the Lord gives me a “no” to something I’ve desired, it’s not necessarily because that desire was evil or because I have done evil. Quite simply, it’s because He has something else for me to do. Instead of recoiling or whining, I should cheerfully accept His redirection and stretch out to grow and serve in another way.

2. Emotions are not the enemy. Friends used to ask me if I even had emotions.  Growing up I honestly thought self-control meant ridding myself of all display of emotion–grief, anxiety, embarrassment, anger and even joy.  While being able to mask my emotions has proven a wonderful gift in many of the circumstances I’ve found myself in, trying to suppress them left me devoid of the fulness and joy of the Lord.  God created me with emotions so that I might worship and enjoy Him. There is an appropriate time for every emotion. But worship means bringing my emotions under control of the Spirit so that I may experience fulness of joy and pleasure in the presence of Almighty God.

3. Offending someone is not always a bad thing. I hate to think of hurting someone’s feelings or making someone angry at me.  But being a peacemaker doesn’t mean covering over issues to create an illusion of peace, but exalting the Prince of Peace.  Jesus often offended the Pharisees. God calls me to be at peace with all men, as much as it depends on me. He also calls me to speak the truth in love. I must share the truth in love and leave the Lord to the working whether it will be scandalous or bring a healing breaking. Great grace have the people of God, and nothing will offend them.

4. Love never fails. We live in a battle zone.  The enemy is invisible, not made of flesh and blood, but of intense evil and hatred. Jesus conquered sin and death by power of His love.  Only by His love can we hope to win this war–and by His love the outcome is sure.  Sometimes I feel so weary, so exhausted in trying to learn to love like Jesus and I think I need a break–especially in the privacy of home, where I’m surrounded by people who “know I love them.”  Christ’s love is not the selfish love that demands a paid vacation.  It never goes on vacation. It never takes a break. It always sacrifices itself for the good of others and takes infinite pleasure in watching, unrequitted. Pride cannot coexist with love. I am loved, not because I deserve it, but because Jesus loves infinitely. I love others, not because they deserve it, but because Jesus deserves it infinitely.

5. I am not responsible for results. I am quick to lose sight of God’s work and God’s power and become discouraged when the world doesn’t follow the plan I’ve mapped out.  When people don’t react the way I think they should.  When those I love don’t make the decisions I am certain would be best for them.  When situations run completely out of my control.  Blaming myself, I sink down in depression, certain I have failed and that God is mortally disappointed in me.  What a lie from Satan and perfectly exposing my own pride and self-worth.  I am responsible only for my obedience. To try to take responsibility for results–good or bad–is to usurp God. Jesus has commanded me to control myself, to follow Him and to love. I am not responsible for bringing revival. I am not responsible for the lost being saved. I am not responsible for another’s reaction to me or to Jesus. I am responsible to do whatever He says. In my obedience, He is glorified.

6. God is never angry at me. When I can’t create the results I dream of, or when I’ve drifted in my busyness or discouragement from the depths of relationship with the Lord, I crawl home pleading for quick punishment, viewing God as a despot whose anger must be satisfied before I can be restored to favor.  But God’s wrath WAS satisfied.  It was completely spent on Jesus, my precious Savior.  Being justified by faith, I have peace with God. I could not earn His pleasure, I do not keep His pleasure. I am satisfied with Jesus, because through His intermediacy, God was satisfied with me. And always will be. Praise Jesus!

We’d love to know what things the Lord is teaching you! If you’ve learned something this year, consider yourself tagged!

Blessings,

lauren-and-abigail-sig

Permalink 7 Comments

Lessons from Wisdom:The Art of Trust

December 3, 2008 at 7:00 am (Articles, Attitudes, Godly Living, W.O.W.) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Posted by Abigail

art-of-trust

If I met Rahab on the street, I’d likely pass her by without offering admiration—raised in a foreign country, working to support herself as a prostitute, offering protection to God’s spies through lies and deceit (the only way she knew). Yet the scarlet thread of redemption is woven through her story. She recognized God’s power, His ability, His sovereignty and she cast herself entirely on His mercy. In an epic tale of complete destruction, only Rahab and her family were rescued from God’s certain wrath.

Why?

Not because she was beautiful. Not because she was wealthy. Not because she was intelligent or creative or spoke beautifully. Because she trusted Yahweh. Hebrews 11:31 celebrates her alongside Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses, the heroes of the faith. “By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient…”

In this phrase we see Rahab’s trust demonstrated: obedience. Not just a habit of obedience to anyone—an Ella Enchanted sort of docility—but obedience to the One who commanded her reverence. The essence of obedience begins with fearing Yahweh and understanding His power, His beauty and His worthiness. Because Rahab had heard of the mighty deeds of God Almighty, she welcomed His messengers in peace and offered them shelter to the best of her understanding. This might have seemed a foolish thing to the men of Jericho. The King could have discovered her treachery and strung her from the city wall! But for Rahab, the fear of Yahweh was the beginning of wisdom. Her trust wasn’t simple words. “Yahweh, I trust you. I believe in You.” She began with a declaration of her faith, “Yahweh is God of heaven above and earth below.” But her faith worked its way out through her actions, first in hospitality, then in seeking shelter, in obedience to a command and finally in forsaking her past and embracing God’s ways and God’s people. She acted on her reverence for God and trusted Him to work out the details.

She welcomed the spies in peace. (Hebrews 11:31)

Rahab demonstrated true hospitality—in welcoming strangers. We would do well to learn from her, opening our homes, our resources, our safe-places to those who do the Lord’s work, offering them peace. Jesus says, “Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you’ve done to Me.” Accepting Jesus means accepting His people for fellowship, protection and assistance. Paul said the widow worthy of honor has “shown hospitality” and “washed the saint’s feet.”

Please deliver our lives from death. (Joshua 2:13)

Rahab had heard the Lord deliver His own people from Egypt and had heard how He had sustained them through the wilderness. She had never witnessed His work for herself when she sought His protection. “Faith is the evidence of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” She knew He was able to save her as surely as she knew He was able to give Jericho into the hand of the Israelites. So she stepped out in humility and sought God’s mercy. He gives grace to the humble.

Tie this scarlet cord in your window. (Joshua 2:18)

To obey this command could potentially mark Rahab out for ridicule and danger. At the very least, it might have seemed extraneous. Must she really do something so entirely unusual? Didn’t the spies know where she lived? She obeyed a command to stand out, to mark her house as different, to appear odd. The cord served several purposes—it marked her out to all of God’s people as having received His mercy and it set her apart from the rest of the city. But even greater, it required her to trust and obey. In the end, it was the very cord that saved her. As Hebrews puts it, “All of these gained approval through their faith.” Jesus calls us to obedience as well—not always an obedience that we understand the significance of. Rahab’s obedience is a challenge to us to trust God to have a purpose in every scarlet cord.

Joshua spared Rahab and she has lived among Israel to this very day. (Joshua 6:25)

Without a backward glance, Rahab walked away from her world of wickedness, her life of sin and her heritage of selfishness. When she sought God’s mercy, she sought it with a heart to obey. She joined His people and lived in obedience to His law. Our reaction to God’s mercy should be the same. We have been spared a terrible destruction. We have been bought back from a life of sin and shame and given hope through the scarlet cord of redemption. Someone cares for us, protects us and provides for us. Our reaction should be to seek out what we can do to please Him, and do it with our whole heart! Rahab’s trust in Yahweh left behind her a godly legacy—she was the great-great-grandmother of King David, the trusting poet king, and the ancestor of Christ. Her redemption was a small scarlet thread woven into the heritage of the Redeemer of the world.

god-is-a-shield

Rahab’s trust began with her perception that Yahweh was trustworthy. Because He was trustworthy, she believed that He was able to work through any circumstance and any person for her good. But her trust didn’t end with knowledge. It was not lost in a pile of verbose language. It was living, breathing, active obedience. In the same way, our trust of Yahweh should work its way into our lives. After all, trust is a verb. “Trust in Yahweh and DO GOOD.” (Ps. 37:3)

Read the story:

Rahab the Harlot:A Scarlet Cord of Hope


Permalink 2 Comments

Part Three: Seven Principles for FREEDOM

July 19, 2008 at 3:13 pm (Articles, Godly Living) (, , , )

Posted by Abigail

We all want a solid line, chalked in bright yellow on the pavement. A line to define the difference between obedience and legalism. Between freedom and sin. Once upon a time God drew yellow lines in the sand, but we crossed them anyway. Laws do not keep us from crossing, they only reveal to us that we have crossed. Usually our thoughts have crossed ahead of our feet. Under grace, God has left many lines up to us to draw, with the measuring-stick of holiness to guide us. Always our highest aim should be to glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

“How will my exercise of freedom most bring glory to God?”

Seven important principles line that ruler, to help us determine where our freedoms extend in each circumstance. Is the scripture silent about the issue? No prohibitions? No commands? Let’s run it through a filter of principles for glorifying God.

F. The Fire Principle (1 Corinthians 3:11-15)

When my works come before Jesus, will this be burned away as chaff, or is it something Jesus can reward?

R. The Reputation Principle (1 Corinthians 10:23-29)

Do I seem inconsistent with Christianity to my unsaved neighbor? (“So what? You’re just like us.”)

E. The Evangelism Principle (1 Corinthians 9:1-27)

Does it help or hinder the gospel? Would exercising my liberty allow me to reach farther or would it cause offense or confusion?

E. The Edification Principle (1 Corinthians 14:12, 26)

Does it build up my fellow believers?

D. The Destruction Principle (1 Corinthians 8:7-13)

Instead of simply not building up, could it tear down fellow believers? Could it cause a brother to sin or violate his own conscience?

O. The Obstacle Principle (1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1)

Does it offend anyone? Create an obstacle between them and the Lord? (We’re not talking about conforming to the heavy rules of others—Jesus wasn’t afraid of offending the Pharisees. We’re talking about honoring the convictions of those who might be led into temptation or caused to blaspheme through your actions.)

M. The Master Principle (1 Corinthians 6:12-13)

Yes, it’s permitted, but is it profitable? Yes, it’s allowed, but is it an addiction? Does it compete with Christ for a place in my heart? Does it enslave me, master me, control me or cause me to do its bidding?

Solid lines, painted by someone else, disguise invisible chains. We’re not to be enslaved again to the weak and elemental things of the world. To empty practices. To forms of godliness with no power. Our freedom in Christ is given, not as an opportunity for the flesh, but to allow us to serve one another in love. By understanding and limiting or exercising our liberty, we find an amazing freedom: to fellowship in unity with Christians from other cultures or backgrounds, to be diverse in our manifestation of the Holy Spirit, to reach out to unbelievers in purity and truth, to avoid addictions and sins and to love as Jesus loved.

Liberty isn’t about being lawless—free from all law. It’s about being free from the dominion of sin—free to choose the right thing to do, and to do it.

Disclaimer: Parts of this post have been shamelessly stolen from teachings by my father, Lane.

Part One / Part Two / Part Three

Share this Post

Permalink 4 Comments

Part Two: The Pharisee and the Weak Brother

July 18, 2008 at 2:15 pm (Articles, Godly Living) (, , , )

Posted by Abigail

Every coin has two sides. Legalism is no exception. On the one hand we have the legalist who ties up heavy burdens to place on the backs of others, controlling the lifestyles of others directly. I introduce you to the Pharisee. On the other stands the one who is bowed down by an imagined burden (often placed there by someone else), terrified to move or grow for fear he might step over that line into sin. Please welcome the Weak Brother. I’m not creative enough to have invented these characters on my own—we find them in the pages of scripture.

Meet the Pharisee (2 Timothy 3)

Our most dangerous advocate for extra rules is the Pharisee, who mirrors the Jewish legalists of Jesus’ day. Jesus told them, “You nicely set aside the word of God for the sake of your traditions.” The greatest commandment is to “Love Yahweh with all your heart, soul and mind” and the second is like it, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” In creating rules and regulations that go beyond Scripture, the Pharisee becomes an idolater, more interested in legalities (and his own power through them) than in glorifying the Lord or tending His lambs. Jesus said loving Him equals obeying His commands, but His commands are not burdensome. The Pharisee’s rules are heavy and overbearing, while the Pharisee himself, like an unjust lawyer, is always looking for loopholes to disobey God. (Check out Galatians 2:4 on the issue of circumcision.)

While building laws of the letter, the Pharisee misses the purpose of God’s commands. He reads “Don’t get drunk, for that is wasteful” and forbids the use of any alcohol, while wasting time, resources or health in some other fashion. He won’t be seen with a neighbor who drinks, missing opportunities for the gospel, and he refuses to visit a church that uses wine for communion, shutting out fellowship. She wears skirts to her ankles and pins her hair up underneath a veil, but is loud, obnoxious, flirtatious or rude.

Jesus constantly collided with the Pharisees of His day. Thy rebuked His disciples for picking grain on the Sabbath. “You’re harvesting!” The Sabbath had been created as a day devoted to God—and the disciples were in His presence, learning of Him. Jesus told the Pharisees in no uncertain terms that the silly rules they’d made up to define work were legalistic. By the same legalism they would deprive a sick man of healing on the Sabbath. “Can’t I do good on the Sabbath?” Jesus demanded. Did it tire Him out to heal a man? He was worn out only with the Pharisees endless nitpicking. Did the Pharisees keep the Sabbath holy? Tell me, is plotting the death of the Son of God good or evil?

The Pharisee has a deadly disease of the heart. He wishes to appear godly to others, to gain sway over others, to rule by rules. What’s the cure? Jesus spared nothing in His dealings with them. Let the word of God cut and convict. A tumor like the one festering in a Pharisee’s heart can only be removed by the sharp blade of Jesus’ words.

Meet the Weak Brother (1 Corinthians 8-10)

This form of legalism is simply the surfacing of ignorance, frequently fueled by past experiences or traditions, sometimes aggravated by the Pharisee. Paul tells us the Weak Brother simply doesn’t understand the freedom he has in Christ. He feels safer surrounded by rules that may keep him from temptation, but in his mind, breaking these rules has become a sin. How can he, in good conscience, be free to cross his imagined boundaries?

Paul speaks of meat sacrificed to idols. The Weak Brother of our day recalls his days of Rock and Roll and feels guilty when his toes tap time to Christian Rock. He trembles to think of Christian brothers smoking peace pipes in Turkey. For the man with ghosts in his past, avoiding certain things may be necessary to prevent his stumbling. Who am I to condemn him for choosing a path of abstinence? My part is to uphold him and honor his convictions and avoid causing him to violate his conscience.

The Weak Brother desires to please the Lord, so he creates rules that will keep him from displeasing the Lord. At an appropriate time, show him the truth of liberty in scripture. This form of legalism is more of an allergic reaction: give him a heavy dose of the truth and a washing with the water of the word, frequently, until symptoms subside.

Where Do You Fit In?

Most of the accusations of legalism actually spring from a pricked conscience, convicting of sin or calling to obedience and holiness. For those who simply hold personal convictions or practices to keep them from temptation, who am I to judge the servant of another? To his own Master he stands or falls. The choice to limit Christian liberty is personal—it’s between you and God. The choice to obey is not. God is a particular God. He seeks devotion as evidenced by literal obedience, springing from a heart full of love for Him.

Almost humorously, there are those who become legalistic about avoiding legalism. They grow to worship a definition of legalism, giving it greater importance than obeying the Lord or loving others. “Don’t be legalistic!” they shout, and toss out God’s commands. Beware the deceivers, who use the grace of God as an excuse for licentiousness.

Worried about appearing legalistic to others? First: it is God whom you serve, and those who are serving the world (“believers” or not) will not appreciate your obedience because it convicts them. Second: if you are seeking the Lord and desiring obedience to Him, you’ll find yourself upholding the greater commandments. The Pharisees were legalistic, tithing dill and cumin but neglecting mercy. Legalism can’t abide with love, since its very nature dishonors God and others. Seek the Lord devotedly, study His word diligently, interpret it carefully, apply it faithfully and teach others to do the same and you will stand approved and unashamed at the coming of our Lord.

Part One / Part Two / Part Three

Share this Post

Permalink Leave a Comment

Part One: Let’s Not Be Legalistic

July 17, 2008 at 6:00 pm (Articles, Godly Living) (, , , )

Posted by Abigail

Start living in radical obedience to the word of God and, sooner or later, you’ll find yourself slapped with that infamous label: legalist. Because anything beyond Christian Status Quo is unnecessary. Threatening. Convicting. Legalistic.

“We’re free in Christ,” comes the popular complaint. True that. We are free in Christ. Not from Christ. Liberty does not equal lawlessness (check out Romans chapter six). Our Christian liberty boils down to freedom from three things: sin (both penalty and power, see Romans 3-6), the Mosaic Law (Romans 7:1-6) and nonessentials (Colossians 2:16). Does our freedom mean we have no master? Not at all. Sin is no longer master over me, but I’ve become a slave to righteousness. I’m no longer under the Mosaic Law, instead I’m under grace—the law of love. The commands of Christ are given to be obeyed—no longer in a spirit of fear, leading to slavery, but in a spirit of love, springing from our adoption as sons.

It’s that last freedom—those nonessentials—that seem to be troublesome. Where is the line between many commands of scripture and the nonessentials? When have we crossed from modest to immodest? From pure to impure? From sober to drunk?

The overwhelming fear is that we may become “legalistic” in drawing our lines. That we might build a hedge around the commands of Christ, just as the Pharisees built a hedge around the law. That we might come to enshrine and worship obedience instead of Christ. In our fear, we push aside obedience and seek to worship freely—meaning, freestyle. But God seeks for those who will worship in Spirit and truth.

I couldn’t find any “legalism” terms in my Bible, but what I found was the description of something that expresses neither Spirit or truth. Simply stated, legalism is clinging to law. Expand the thought and it looks something like this: the dangerous habit of creating rules that go beyond Scripture—and claiming they have the same (or greater) authority as Scripture, usually for the purpose of forcing them on others. Often these are personal convictions that are healthy, holy and honorable, as long as they are held in secondary importance. We are commanded to flee temptation. Any guidelines we make for ourselves to help us stay out of the way of stumbling are pure and not to be criticized. We are to be holy as God is holy, not to walk as close to sin as possible in order to prove that we are strong enough to resist it.

Issues arise when our personal convictions become laws that bind us—or others. I try to force my personal convictions on others through my words or actions insinuating that, did they love Jesus, they would come to the same personal convictions. I look down on those with differing convictions as “less spiritual”. My convictions hinder fellowship because I am unwilling to lay them aside for another’s sake, or am unaware that I have the freedom to do so. In this, behold the legalist.

Legalism, like most sins, is a disease of the heart. It’s not the fruit of devoted love for Jesus or radical obedience to His commands. Instead it is a devotion to my own religious zeal. Its root is pride and its fruit is division. But the cure is simple: study God’s word—what it actually says—and obey it. Seek to understand God, His commands, His principles and His desires. Plead for His Spirit’s strength to be like Him. And, above all else, exercise love, which is the perfect bond of unity and will cover a multitude of sins.


Disclaimer: Parts of this post have been loosely adapted from teachings by my father, Lane.

Part One / Part Two / Part Three

Share this Post

Permalink 2 Comments