The End of All Things Is At Hand

February 14, 2011 at 1:40 am (Announcements, Articles, Attitudes, Godly Living, Worship) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Posted by Abigail

At sweet sixteen, my Shadow and I decided to start a business, catering tea parties.  We’d grown up hosting them and it was high time to cash in our experience and make our etiquette pay for itself.  “Tea by Two” we called our party hosting, and drew out menus, business cards, flyers and wrote up advertisements.  We collected dishes and hats, tried out recipes and bought up ingredients.

You might think I’m going to say the venture flopped.

It didn’t.  It took off before we’d gotten in the cockpit!  Without even advertising, we landed several parties in less than a month, with requests to go out of town for more.  We turned over all our investments and pocketed a tidy little sum each.  It looked like we were gearing up for a roaring business.

Then something happened.

You might think I’m going to say that the venture crashed.

It didn’t.  But my Shadow came to me and said, “Um…I can’t keep up with this.  I hate to do this…but can I bail before this thing is flying too high?”

I was relieved.

We were sixteen.  Still trying to wrap up school and keep up with serving our families.  Neither of us had our own car.  Neither of us really wanted to dive into filing self-employment taxes.  We didn’t really want to travel very far for parties.  We were borrowing my family’s kitchen and freezer space.  We really only did it for the fun of having a little side deal.  And, we discovered, the pressure of performing made the tea parties not quite the same as the ones we’d hosted for friends.  After a few, it was okay to put that in our file of things that we could do in the future.

Folks seemed surprised when we relegated the project to “good memories”, deposited our earnings in the bank, gave away our dishes and hats and moved on.

But sometimes we have to lay aside even good things or things that are going well and refocus on priorities.

This blog has been a bit like my catering experience.

See, Lauren and I had become such good friends and, after she and Nathaniel got married, we talked so much about women’s issues and what we were learning—and how it was really the same, married or single—that we got excited.  First, we were going to write a book.  But book writing was a bit more intense than we were really shooting for.  That’s how we settled on a blog.

I don’t think either of us expected it to take off quite like it did.  We’re nobodies.  We don’t have famous dads or husbands.  We’re not really a part of many of the conservative movements.  We didn’t really even know there were other girls out there like us online.

Then came the dilemma.  Should we actually work this blog and try to go big?  After all, blogging is a platform to voice the things we think are true.  We were beginning to get advertisement requests, giveaway offers, reposting requests, awards, listings and even guest writing requests.  And of course, the inevitable mountains of spam as well as a few nay-sayers.  As we began to look around the web at other websites, we began to understand just how seriously blogging could be taken.

Slowly we began to be a little disturbed by how many girls there were online—and how much time was spent online—and how much girls were being influenced by online teachers whom they had never even met.  Including us.

We’d always agreed to keep the blog low priority.  I suppose some can call it ministry, but our primary ministry will always be to our families and to the folks God has placed in our sphere of natural contact.

As time has passed, Lauren now has, not only a big man to take care of, but also a little man to train and teach in the ways of the Lord.  She’s developing relationships with a great church body and trying to outreach to neighbors.  She’s been fine-tuning budgeting and homemaking skills and learning to balance time.  The internet can sure knock a hole in good time management!  And now she’s discovered a new blessing and responsibility, due in September.

So when she told me she needed to stop blogging, it was a relief.  For me, handling the webmastering had been complicated, since I’ve never actually had reliable internet.  Aside from difficult, it also made me feel guilty.  It seemed like, if we were going to blog, and people were going to read it, it needed to be done well.  Plus, we both appreciate presentation.  You know, new content, nice layout, domain name.  The works.  And I didn’t have time or accessibility for “the works.”  For both Lauren and I, we discovered that blogging began to suck the life out of our private relationship with the Lord.  If we discovered something in scripture or were convicted about an area we needed to grow in or if something rankled us or if we learned a powerful lesson or walked through a hard time, we felt compelled to share.  Like we were withholding something valuable from ladies who depended on us.  It became difficult just to worship humbly before the Lord, because others were watching.  And we became increasingly aware that, well, neither of us really need to be putting ourselves forth as teachers right now.

We’re both young women.  With lots of life to live and people to serve.  And things to learn.  And it’s lovely to share what God is doing and teaching us, but our priorities still have to be our families and those whom God has placed in our natural sphere of contact:  those who know us and see our lives, who can encourage us and grow with us and teach us and hold us accountable to practice what we preach.

And we encourage you to make those your priorities as well.

Yes, we’re bailing before this thing is flying too high.

From Lauren:

First I’d like to apologize that this post didn’t make it up a couple of months ago.  And I would cite this as just one of the many reasons I am glad to be saying good bye to blogging.  I have a lot to learn about time management (among other things)!  And, in truth, it was about six months ago that I first talked to my husband and then Abigail about quitting.  What prompted me?  Well, I read Jasmine’s good-bye post on her blog where she described the upcoming release of her new book and her excitement over all the things she would be free from and free to do once she stopped blogging.  Strangely, I found myself feeling jealous—no, not of her having a book published (that had me quite excited!), but of the freedom she expressed.  I took a walk and wrestled with what I was feeling and took it to the Lord in prayer.  It seemed quite clear that blogging was getting in the way of the things that I really needed to focus on.  And with Nathaniel and Abigail in support of the decision, I pulled away.  And what a time of refreshing it has been!  Since I am less focused on an audience, my God has made very, very clear what He wants to accomplish in my heart—and let me tell you, there’s a lot of work to be done!  His word is indeed a mirror that shows us what we really are, and His good Spirit highlights the messes He wants to deal with, accomplishing His good purpose!

And, of course, as Abigail mentioned, finding out Nathaniel and I are having another little blessing, and being currently swamped with morning sickness, taxes, and a host of other things…I have no regrets.  J  Well, except for all the unfinished series and anticipated articles that never were written…but I trust you all will forgive me and rejoice in what the Lord is doing with us now.  Maybe we will write a book one day.  😉  Blessings to you ladies who have joined us on this journey.  Your thoughts and encouragement have been much appreciated!

From Abigail:

Friends often accused me of being content.  But I declare myself innocent of the accusation!  The facts are, I rarely wept the deadly tears of the unmarried simply because I had other dreams that plagued me more than marriage.  Dreams that seemed undefined, but still powerful, hopelessly far from fulfillment and even, at times, irreconcilable with my convictions.  Sometimes I fought with myself over whether or not they were even godly.  I wrestled these dreams into a slumbering state of contentment over and over and over again.  This summer they came to life with more ferocity than ever.  In frustration, I cried out to the Lord, “You gave me these passions.  Now what am I supposed to do with them?”  Many of you have made the same demand.  Some of you face the paradox of the “godly desire” that is still unfulfilled.  For many, it is marriage.  For some it is missions.  For others it is motherhood.  For some it is just more.  Disatisfaction is a necessary part of growth.  But of this I am certain—that desires are not godly or ungodly in themselves.  Because we can worship “godly desires” by desiring them more than God.  And anything that takes precedence over God is certainly ungodly.  Godly desires are desires that are made to bow, yielded, to pay homage to God, to His Word and to His timing.  And when they are prostrate before the King, they may be pursued, time and truth permitting, as a pursuit of Yahweh Himself.  Since deciding to “exit” the blogging world, I’ve been trying to focus my pursuits.  The pathway has been very up and down!  And I begin to see how truly God is a God of creativity and ingenuity and that He abundantly bestows both as we make our way through a transient life.  I’m thankful for the ways that He’s been shaping my character, strengthening my backbone and stretching me—whether it’s finally studying medical stuff or navigating the real-estate market or negotiating services and compensation or—as of the past week—nannying a handful of children.

Once upon a time, before there was Pearls and Diamonds, I kept a personal blog.  Perhaps you will find me there.

We hope you will live your moments in light of God’s redemptive sacrifice of His Son, the Holy Spirit’s powerful filling and the eminent return of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!  To Him be the glory both now and forever, amen!

Blessings,

Advertisements

Permalink 5 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

Confessions of an Idealist

March 15, 2010 at 1:25 am (Godly Living, Love, Marriage, Purity, Singleness) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Abigail’s Story

My Papa calls me a precocious child—and dramatic.  Add to that an aura of idealism and you have a recipe for trauma.  At least I can keep a secret.  Few know that I was once engaged.  After that, I took a vow of celibacy.

In Which I Tell of My Engagement, Such as it Was

It lasted an entire afternoon.  I was three years old.  His name was Colby and he lived a couple of doors down.  We were engaged, he said, reaching out to hold my hand.  It seemed like an interesting game—whatever “engaged” meant.  When my older brother began teasing me, I discovered that PDA equals humiliation.

In Which I Came to Dread Being a Heart-breaker

Almost as soon as I could speak, my Papa taught me to recite Ephesians 6:1 and explained to me that pleasing my parents was pleasing the Lord.  I might have been six when we visited an elderly aunt.  “What a pretty little girl!” she exclaimed, in elderly-aunt fashion.  “She will be a heart-breaker!”  My parents hastened to say something like, “Oh, no, that’s not what we have in mind at all!”  Their exact words are long gone, but I understood that heart-breaker was not among their goals for me.

In Which I Explain Why Romance Is Embarrassing

I was the girl who closed her eyes during the movie kiss.  When another neighbor boy tried to coax a kiss from me, I declined.  If holding hands earned teasing, I wasn’t about to risk the song “Abi and Colin sitting in a tree…”

Since my early childhood, I have kept myself to myself—my thoughts, my hands, my struggles.  I was always distinctly aware of my privacy and personal space, often excluding my own family.  Secret-keeping, while often masquerading as purity, was simply my method of self-preservation.  I’m introverted.  Intimacy equals vulnerability.  I hate feeling vulnerable.  As I grew and matured, I began stuffing my drama and emotions into a mental closet—to save embarrassment.

My observations of “romance” are deeply engraved in my childhood memories.  Girls acted like giggling goof-balls, said stupid things, tripped over nothing, turned red constantly and whispered secrets to their friends—who announced them to the boy in question.  Boys stole my headband, pestered me, bumped into me, told dumb jokes, invaded my privacy and acted generally obnoxious.  I resented their “immaturity.”  When the preacher’s son made a big ruckus out of sitting by me in Sunday school every week, I took up the matter with his father.  Friends told me, “He likes you” and adults consoled “He’s just sweet on you.”  If that was “sweet” I’d just go sit in the corner with the lemons.

My favorite fairy tale was a version of the Little Mermaid that concluded with the poor mermaid alone, broken-hearted and voiceless after unsuccessfully seeking the prince at whom she’d flung her heart.  Given the circumstances and her disobedience to her father, it seemed a realistic and appropriate ending.  The moral?  Romance is the perfect way to ruin a perfectly good life.

In Which I Decide to Fight Back

I was nine when we attended a small-town barbeque.  My brothers and I joined a group of kids on a squeaky merry-go-round.  Suddenly the boy seated beside me asked my name.  Duly answered, he wanted my age, my grade, and where I was from.  This impromptu interrogation concluded, he turned to his friend and announced, “I got me a pretty lady.”  My ears pricked, curiously.  “I asked her name,” he continued, proudly, “her age, her grade, where she’s from and bingo!  I got me a pretty lady.”  “You ain’t got nothing,” I thought bitterly to myself.  Arrogance!  He hadn’t even asked me!  My brothers thought it was hilarious.  Pondering the event later, it seemed so ludicrous, so stupid, that was almost funny.  I made a decision: if boys were going to be stupid and drag me into it, then I would make them look as stupid as possible.

And I got very good at it.

By the time I was twelve or thirteen, I’d mastered the art of humiliation.  One day after church, a visiting boy began furiously flirting with my buddy and me.  “He’s hitting on your sister,” a friend whispered to my older brother, Nathaniel.  “Just watch,” Nathaniel chuckled.  “It will be funny.”  In an act of deceptive kindness, I boosted the boy onto a trash barrel and into a tree where he perched happily, blowing me kisses.  Then I grabbed the trash barrel and rolled it away, leaving him stranded.  The audience erupted in laughter.  I never paid attention to how he got himself down.

In Which I Accept a Challenge

Before I hit thirteen, my Papa introduced us to the “Bold Christian Youth” seminar by a father and teacher named Jonathan Lindvall.  Lindvall’s message sprang from Paul’s exhortation to Timothy to be an example to the believers—in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity.  He spent three sessions on the topic of purity, delving far beyond the basics of sexual purity and into the issue of emotional purity.  He introduced me to the concept of defrauding: taking something that doesn’t belong to you.  He shared the simple story of how he had met and married his wife, Connie, with his parent’s guidance and her parent’s blessing.  The simplicity, the sincerity and the utter lack of gush appealed to me and I was sold, lock, stock and barrel.

The concept appealed to me for several reasons:  First, it was clearly pleasing to my parents and to the Lord. Second, it made sense.  It didn’t waste time and energy.  And people didn’t get hurt.  (Right?)  Third, it was rather non-threatening to my personality and comfort zone.

I now had a Biblical foundation for battlements to guard body, heart, mind and emotions.  But as I developed my battle-plan and the rules that would protect my borders, I discovered that not everyone was on my team.  In fact, most of the boys I knew seemed like traitorous spies, intent on crossing boundaries at every opportunity.  I remember feeling entirely invaded when one guy friend chased me down and picked me up.  Instead of coming to my aid, several others just laughed (probably because they thought the “smart-mouthed girl” was getting what she deserved.)  With renewed energy and a misplaced zeal, I responded with down-right cruelty.  You pinch my knee, I stab you with a safety pin.  You repeat the offense, I repeat the punishment.  You mess with my hair, I slug you.  You flirt with me, I verbally tear you into sniveling shreds.  I resented any intrusion into my place of concealment and looked suspiciously on any act of kindness.  If I were kind in return, people might think I returned the sentiment.  So I loaded up with sarcasm, cynicism and subtle insults and fired at will.

My parents pulled me aside one day and explained to my horrified ears that “picking on” boys could actually be interpreted as flirtation—it was giving them special attention.  All this time, my efforts to ward off the enemy might have been drawing fire?

I withdrew.  I quit teasing, quit talking to boys, quit making eye-contact.

Chuckling, my parents exhorted me to be kind, to be friendly, but to avoid teasing, insults and “singling out” and to be honest and straightforward about boundaries.

In Which I Discover that Boys Can Be Friends

My mid-teens found me and my brother and involved in a homeschool speech and debate league.  The environment stimulated my mind and brought me out of my shell to look around.  The guys I met behaved like men (well, for the most part) and treated me with respect and friendship.  Most of them were solid believers with strong convictions and when I expressed my convictions and boundaries, they responded with sensitivity and respect.  “I don’t give hugs,” I explained and they quickly apologized.  They became my brothers.  Soon I was developing many friendships that had depth and substance and seemed non-threatening.

Unwittingly, I dropped my guard.

But as my circle of “safe” boy friends grew, something horrible happened.

In Which “Safe” Becomes the Enemy

I had my first crush.

I’d never really liked a boy.  Sometimes, in my early teens, I’d admired a godly young man (usually much older than I), but there was little reason to like anyone.  I was a Papa’s girl with two brothers close to my age.  If there were to be any praises, teasing, affection, drama, conversation, competition, antagonism, attention or good advice, they had it covered.  I’ve heard it said that crushes are a natural part of a adolescence.  So are pimples, but they’re still disgusting.  So when the first crush came, I was aghast.  The world had fallen, my heart had betrayed me, I had lost all vestiges of purity.

As soon as I discovered my heart’s betrayal, I gathered together my forces and declared war on my unsuspecting crush.  Mentally, I shot slime balls into his person and character until he simply wasn’t worth liking.  I focused on his faults, his weaknesses, his annoyances.  Bingo.  He was history.

After all, I wasn’t getting married.  Which made liking a guy the token failure of my purity standard.

See, as the Biblical call to purity had echoed across my heart, I’d felt a powerful desire to be an example to the believers.  If I was to be an example of purity, wouldn’t the best and clearest way be to prove that a woman could be entirely devoted to Christ for her whole life?  Marriage had never been paramount among my desires (remember, I had an intimacy issue).  Now my dramatic side embraced the concept of singleness—serving the Lord perhaps in work with orphans or the inner city.  After all, in a situation like that, singleness could be a decided asset.

Between the conviction that I would stay single for the glory of God and my fault-finding tactic, I survived rather splendidly.

In Which I Finally Grasp Marriage

My family was holed up in a cabin at a family camp in the Ozarks the summer I turned seventeen.  I’d spent the week watching my parents as they waded through some rough issues.  One night, as they sat whispering on their bed, I lay in the bunk above them and finally understood.  Marriage was beautiful.  Across the wooden panels of the cabin ceiling paraded the powerful wooing of Christ toward His church and the picture that a godly marriage could portray of Christ’s love and the church’s obedience.  It was a picture so sadly lacking in the culture I’d witnessed (even the Christian culture) that I suddenly understood the divine calling to live it out.  Marriage had always seemed fine for those who desired it, but I’d reasoned that singleness was better.  As I lay there, sleepless, I grasped for the first time that a pure marriage was just as powerful an example as pure singleness.  Both were from the Lord and both brought Him glory.

In Which I Vow to Remain Single

This revelation did not negate the value I placed on singleness.  Paul’s teaching on the freedom a single woman has to single-mindedly serve the Lord still hangs prominently in my heart.  But the revelation did make the single-mindedness a bit more difficult and I felt like I was battling towering odds.  My grandmas had made bets with my brother that I would be married at 18 and I ranked top on friends lists of “who will marry first.”  My obstinate determination not to marry had guarded my heart for so long, but with my growing appreciation for marriage, I began to feel exposed.  I’d been convicted of my cruelty in tearing guys down to avoid liking them and abandoned it for a more Biblical approach of kindness.  As I approached the magical age of eighteen, the romantic suggestions increased exponentially.  Now I actually thought marriage was cool?  With all of my self-defense mechanisms crumbling and my ammo tossed to the winds of the past, how could I ever stand guard over my heart?

Feeling vulnerable, I dug a trench.  I took a vow of celibacy.

In Which I Learn to Focus

My “vow” was really just a year-long commitment.  I promised the Lord that I would devote myself entirely to His service, refusing to consider marriage, but focusing on knowing and loving Him passionately.

I don’t recommend taking vows like this, but the Lord mercifully used the promise for good in my life.  I developed disciplines of taking every thought captive, ignoring “boy attention” and refocusing my thoughts to the Lord.  My spirit flourished and I fell so entirely in love with the Lord that year that I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I could be single forever—and He would be God Almighty, my Betrothed.

In Which I Lose My Last Defense

During this time of focus, I’d leaned heavily on one last defense:  the art of evasion.  Like a timid hare, a single threat of romantic interest would send me scampering to hiding.  “Um…Charlie’s here,” my Mom announced as a guy I’d been kind to in the library turned up on our doorstep.  “I’m not!” I cried, and fled out the back door.

One day my dad gently explained to me that avoidance could also be a form of “singling out”—giving special treatment to certain guys.

In Which My Ideal Goes the Way of All Fairy Tales

I passed my eighteenth birthday, leaving my year-long vow behind, and my heart wavered again toward marriage.  I passionately desired to be a shining example of emotional purity and I pleaded with the Lord that I would be neither distracted nor a distraction.  I’d watched Nathaniel and Lauren struggle through four years of distractions and determined to guard myself well against a similar story.  My ideal had always been simple and practical—something that permitted me to be entirely oblivious until it suddenly became obvious that I could better serve the Lord married and married to Mr. X.  The end.  No drama.  No romance.  No struggle.  No distractions.  Let’s all just be sensible, can we?

But I’d overlooked a fundamental problem:  oblivion was never included in my many faults.

Over the next several years, my ideal broke into a thousand pieces.  You know how Cinderella wore glass slippers?  In real life, no one wears glass slippers.  My ideal was like a glass slipper—beautiful in theory, but unable to stand the pressures of real life.  Being pursued several times didn’t fit my ideal any better than struggling for four years—both were distractions.  We’re taught not to view every young man as a potential suitor, but what happens when it’s not my mindset I’m battling?  What happens when, like Amy or Sarah or Lauren, a girl thinks she might have met Mr. Right?  Or when a young man is pursuing in an upright manner?  Or when others are trying to “help”?  I wasn’t the only one lacking oblivion.  People asked nosey questions, made nosey suggestions, tried facilitate my “happily ever after,” pushed me, pulled me, poked me and prodded me until I felt like the weepy girl who’d been forced to center-stage.  I was anxious, nauseated, confused, disillusioned and battling resentment.  How was I supposed to guard my heart when it was constantly under attack?  I felt like my reputation was being dragged through the dirt as I was quizzed about one guy after another.  Did people think I just bounced from one guy to the next like that?  Did they think I didn’t uphold my own standards?  What was I supposed to say?  Or do?  I was convinced that to intentionally encourage, where I did not have the blessing of my parents as well as wisdom and my own conscience, was cheating!  As I struggled with distractions, I felt like I was failing my own purity ideals and I was haunted by the words “heart breaker.”  I just wanted the drama to stop!  This romance stuff wasn’t just embarrassing—it was a nightmare!  My dramatic, precocious nature was ready to build a tower with no door or vanish into a nunnery.

Slowly I understood that I couldn’t survive on my own—I was helpless, weak and confused.  I felt so stripped of my privacy and defenses that I was willing to open myself to intimacy with my parents.   And with my heart feeling as crushed as my ideals, I was driven to scripture to see what the Lord truly expected of me.  I’d always assumed distractions were bad, but “bad” things drove me to my parents and to the scriptures for anything to which I could cling.  I found that the purity battle is won, not on the defensive, but on the offensive.  I was trying not to “fall in love.”  Instead I should love.  The purity standard never changed, regardless of my circumstances.  I should love the Lord first, using everything that entered my mind to turn my thoughts toward Him.  When tempted to be distracted, to worry, to consider, I should springboard into praise, worship, truth, trust.  I should love my brothers—regardless of appearances or intentions.  I should seek my brother’s good, seek to turn their minds to the Lord, seek to treat them with kindness without showing favoritism, seek to encourage them.  I should love all my neighbors equally—even those who are prying into my heart.  I should extend grace to those who may not share or understand my ideals.  And I should seek my parent’s accountability and guidance.  I won’t pretend it wasn’t painful, but Christ’s sacrificial love drove Him to endure unfathomable suffering–trusting that He was doing right.  It is His love that controls us and enables us to lay down our lives for others.

From the ashes of my nightmare rose a powerful call to purity and love.

In Which I Share the Moral of the Story

This time you get the moral before the end of the story!  After all, I’m still living, and until I meet Jesus there is no “happily ever after.”

Looking back, I have no regrets regarding sexual purity—well, except perhaps holding hands during my “engagement.”  But until recently, I’d been ashamed of my emotional purity struggle as an overwhelming failure–a complete waste of time, energy and emotion.  I had completely failed all my own ideals.  What was the purpose?  I’d been intensely grateful to the Lord’s grace and to my parent’s wisdom in protecting me from any relationships, but it seemed like a battle I should never have had to fight.

Then I experienced a failed courtship—through the eyes of a friend.  As I wept with her over her broken heart and ideals, I understood God’s healing power.  Another friend recently married—the only guy who’d ever been interested in her.  “How nice,” I thought, but she shared that she had often felt discouraged and undesirable.  As I listened I understood that each person’s struggle will seem hard to them—“bad” to them.  “Hard things” are life and “bad things” happen, but God promises to redeem them for our good.    In fact, God never promises us our ideal—no matter how well we behave.  He just commands us to obey His word—to love Him and His people as worship.

Purity isn’t about ideals or rules that I make up—it’s about obedience to God’s word!  My actions and attitudes must flow, not from pride in my high ideals, but in recognition of my weakness!   I am forgiven for mistakes in my past, I am not to guess at the future and I am to live today in worship of Almighty God.  It’s encouraging to be reminded that I am not responsible for circumstances or results—I’m just responsible to obey the Lord and love my brothers. You don’t have to be strong to win the purity battle, you just have to depend fully on the Lord and His grace.  May the grace of our Lord be with you!

Permalink 7 Comments

Part Six: Love and Today

March 8, 2010 at 1:00 am (Articles, Attitudes, Godly Living, Love, Marriage, Purity, Singleness, Worship) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Posted by Abigail

I can look back on the past 20 years of my life with entire confidence that, when it comes to love, I’ve been an overwhelming failure.  Praise the Lord, His love never fails, and it stretches to mercifully cover my short-comings.

God’s commands for purity are not for yesterday.  Certainly there are consequences to our poor choices and we should do our best to rectify our mistakes, but the past is a part of something the Lord has bought back and promised to redeem for our good.  He is in the business of using even bad things for His glory and our good.  That is the power of God’s redeeming agape love.

Today we are commanded to seek to love purely—the Lord first and our neighbor as our self.  It’s not something that just happens–it’s a battle.  The command to “keep” our heart bears connotations of surviving a siege.  As long as we are fighting, we can overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.  A purity battle fought is not a purity battle lost.  We lose the battles when we stop seeking the Lord, when we give up, when we sit down and give in to temptation or greed or discontentment—in any form or appearance.

I don’t intend to impose law, but to lift up the Lord.  “The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” (1 Timothy 1:5)  My challenge to you is the same I extend to myself:  Pursue the Lord!  Flee youthful lusts, but pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace with those that call on God from a pure heart.  This is worship.

Permalink 3 Comments

Part Two: Love and My Heart

March 4, 2010 at 1:46 am (Articles, Attitudes, Godly Living, Love, Marriage, Purity, Singleness, Worship) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Posted by Abigail

The Valentine’s Day just past left me with plenty of fodder for the mental camel I’ve been feeding. Over and over again were the expressions of devotion “You have my heart!” or the pleas “Be mine.” Giving and exchanging of heart-shaped candy and heart-covered cards left impressions of hearts popping out of the heads of every couple I passed. Modern music speaks much of the heart, but the father in Proverbs had some thoughts on the issue, as well. He warned his son of the dangers of impurity, encouraged him to be faithful to the wife of his youth and exhorted “Keep your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)

Proverbs describes temptations not unlike our own and speaks of the wisdom of “keeping” what the world would tempt us to give.

>Keep:

The Hebrew word translated “keep” has a lot more depth to it than four letters might imply. It means a conglomeration of watching, maintaining, guarding, protecting, preserving, even concealing or surviving a siege (mostly negative connotation). The word is nearly identical in purpose to the command given in the Garden of Eden, when Adam was placed in the garden to cultivate and “keep” it. (Genesis 2:15) *

Just what was Adam’s task? To keep the soil soft, healthy, bearing good fruit. To protect it from weeds. To cultivate healthy, fruit-bearing plants. Why? To bring God glory.

The Creation story tells us that man and woman were created in God’s image and when we skip to the end we see God’s purpose. “Thou hast created all things and for Thy pleasure they existed and were created.” (Revelation 4:11) God created you a unique woman, in His image, to bring Him glory. You belong to Him, heart, soul, mind and body.

The heart of the matter

To keep, to guard, to maintain, to protect our heart, we’ve got to understand to Whom it belongs. The answer is not “to ourselves.” The answer is not “to our husband (wherever he is and whenever God wills to reveal him to us, etc, etc).” When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus responded, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind…” (Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27) Over and over, Yahweh complained of Israel’s unfaithfulness. “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.” (Isaiah 29:13) He described the worship issue in graphic language as adultery. In the New Testament, Paul describes our bodies as God’s temples and explains that purity is a worship issue. (1 Corinthians 6:19) “Lust, covetousness, impurity, greed…which amounts to idolatry.” (Colossians 3:5)

God commanded us to love Him. We failed. We chose other gods, other lovers, other things. That’s the story of scripture. Adam and Eve failed to love the Lord with their hearts, minds and souls—instead they sought to know good and evil experientially, they sought knowledge elsewhere and the fellowship between man and God was destroyed. This was the relationship that you and I inherited at birth: enmity with God. But God was never surprised and He was willing to offer His redeeming love to buy us back from slavery to the other things we had pursued. Hosea pictures for us the power of redemption as he buys back his adulterous wife. God demonstrated His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners—enemies of God—He gave His own precious Son to buy us back.

Why am I recounting the gospel story for you? Because when God bought you back, He made you a new creature, able to have intimate fellowship with Him. By the Holy Spirit’s power you are able to love God. “We love Him because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) God created you once, and you belong to Him. Then He bought you back by redeeming love. Is there any question that you belong to Him?

You shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart. The world will never have an accurate view of love because the world does not know God.

The Idols We Serve

Why did Hosea’s wife keep fleeing him and returning to her life of sin and degradation? Didn’t she have exactly what so many Christian girls long for today? A godly, compassionate husband and several beautiful children? Still her heart wandered to fields that did not belong to her, and where her heart wandered, her feet followed. Discontentment, we call it.

Lust. Greed. Covetousness.

God calls it “idolatry.”

The idols of Israel’s unfaithfulness were made of wood, gold and stone—materials that God had created, that were good, that served a purpose–in fact, materials that were used to build His own temple. It wasn’t the materials that caused the idolatry. It was the hearts of the people that sought for something they could touch and feel to complete them. In a similar way, romance, marriage and motherhood are not evil. They have been created by God and are holy—when surrendered to Him. But whenever we pursue, worship or serve our desires—even godly desires—we allow them to usurp the place that only Yahweh can fill.

Discontentment, we call it.

God calls it “idolatry.”

Pursue the dream-giver

You’ve seen the young woman everyone says is “glowing.” She’s the one “in love,” the one everyone watches with whispers and chuckles. Her every thought is to please her lover. She talks about him constantly. She talks to him every chance she gets. She can’t wait to be with him and when she is, her eyes are fixed on his face. She’s like a garden soaking up the spring rain and flourishing. Hosea, the faithful husband, proclaims the Lord’s faithfulness and the refreshment found in His presence. “Let us know, let us press on to know the Lord. His going forth is as certain as the dawn and He will come to us like the spring rain watering the earth.” (Hosea 6:3)

Your heart is like a parched garden—it longs for fulfillment. Your Divine Lover created you to respond to His offer of divine love. Scripture says He jealously desires the spirit that He has made to dwell within us. (James 4:5) The Father in Proverbs says the heart must be diligently kept for from it flows the springs of life. The Father seeks worshipers, Jesus told the Samaritan woman, and He promised her springs of living water—welling up inside of her to eternal life. (John 4:14) Press on to know the Lord and He will come to you—bringing refreshment, bringing life.

In God’s economy, giving is keeping. If you lose your life for Christ, you will gain it for eternity. If you give to the poor, the Lord will repay you. If you want to keep your heart, you must pour it before the Lord. Paul wrote to the Philippians not to be anxious, but to pour everything with prayer and petition and thanksgiving at the feet of Christ. “And,” he promised, “the peace of God that surpasses all comprehension will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7) If you pour your heart, your grief, your struggles, your pain, yourself out in extravagant worship, you will find it guarded, protected and healed. You will find it softened, growing with good things. You will keep your heart. For God’s glory.

Purity and worship

Whenever anxiety enters, when other things vie for your attention, when your biological clock is ticking so loudly it is waking the neighbors or when that godly young man gives a good answer at Bible study, you must keep your heart. You must know it, you must guard it, you must conceal it, you must cultivate it. It’s not that desires are ungodly, but even godly desires must find a place in the kingdom of God. Jesus encouraged His followers to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:25-34) The Father knows what you need before you ask. Above all else, He knows you need Him.

Seize every distraction as a redirection to focus on the Lord. Take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. Seek the Lord.

Jesus blessed the pure in heart. “They shall see God,” He said. (Matthew 5:18) He accepted into His service women at whom others looked askance. Others saw only the scars of the past. Jesus probed into hearts and found them washed clean, restored and redeemed through the prodigal grace of God. ** When a woman of shady reputation poured a vial of expensive perfume over the feet of the Lord, she was pouring out her heart, despite the cold condemnation of those witnessing the act. But Jesus accepted this extravagant worship with the words, “he who is forgiven much, loves much.” (Luke 7:36-50) As forgiven women, let us never forget to love much. Purity is a heart attitude that springs from devotion to Christ.

A “kept” heart is a heart that has chosen the best part—the place at Jesus’ feet.

Part One:  Love and Purity

Part Two:  Love and My Heart

Part Three:  Love and My Brother

Part Four:  Love and Marriage

Part Five:  Love and Matchmaking

Part Six:  Love and Today

* A few interesting uses of the Hebrew words translated “keep/guard”: Gen. 3:24; Gen. 17:10; Gen. 28:15; Gen. 30:31; Ex. 12:25; Ex. 15:26; Ex. 20:6; Ex. 23:20; Lev. 18:26; Num. 6:24; Deu. 5:1; Ps. 12:7; Ps. 25:10; Ps. 34:13; Ps. 78:7; Ps. 89:28; Ps. 91:11; Ps. 105:41 (contains both words); Ps. 119 (uses both interchangeably, repeatedly); Ps. 127:1 (same word used for “keep” and “watchman”); Proverbs; Ecc. 3:6; Is. 26:3; Is. 27:3; Jer. 3:5; Ez. 20:19; Dan. 9:4; Hos. 12:6; Mic. 7:5; Nah. 2:11; Mal. 2:7

** Prodigal (adjective): 1. wastefully or recklessly extravagant. 2. giving or yielding profusely; lavishly abundant. The “prodigal son” was wastefully and recklessly extravagant with his inheritance—an evil thing. Mary of Bethany was lavishly abundant with her worship—a pure thing. God is prodigal with the grace He bestows on us—extravagant, profuse and lavishly abundant. Praise Him!

Permalink 6 Comments

Idols Ashes

February 27, 2010 at 1:00 am (Flowers of Thought) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

flowers-of-thought-2

Here I am again, building a funeral pyre on which to sacrifice a vision.  Like the pilgrims of so long ago, I leave a trail of graves behind me as I travel—each one where I have buried a hope, a dream, a goal, a plan, a love.  The only eternal unchangeable in life is Yahweh.  And that is as it should be.

I have been restless.  I have been discontent.  I have fashioned for myself that which I thought would finish or fulfill me.  Like the idols that see not, hear not, taste not, save not, my dreams demand my devotion, yet offer nothing in return.  I bow before them.  I kiss them.  I plead with them.  I dance in delight as I look at them.

I think of Israel’s discontent while waiting for Moses on Mount Sinai.  For themselves they built a splendid golden calf–the picture of their unfaithfulness.  Always discontent is unholy, for it denies that Yahweh is all.  Always that elusive image of supposed fulfillment or security must be torn down, must be ground to ashes, must be burned on the altar in worship to Yahweh.

Lord, through shadow lands Thou leads me
Bitter waters dost Thou feed me.
Idol’s ashes now distilling
Make Thy water pure and filling.

Seems I’ve seen this place before,
Thou hast washed me clean and pure
In this same bitterness and sorrow.
Thou must wash anew, tomorrow.

Share this Post

Permalink 1 Comment

Women of Wisdom: The Art of Worship

February 24, 2010 at 1:00 am (Articles, Attitudes, W.O.W., Worship) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Posted by Abigail

Once upon a time, a Samaritan woman asked Jesus the question that had divided the Jews and Samaritans for centuries.  “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews say Jerusalem is the place where we ought to worship.”  Jesus’ answer was revolutionary to the religious systems of both the Samaritans and the Jews.  “An hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.”  (John 4:7-38)

The hour was coming when true worshipers would worship at Jesus’ feet.

The story of Mary of Bethany is so sparse that many have tried to piece together her background from the airy fantasies of vivid imaginations.  But the Lord has providentially given us all that we have in His word—and all that we need to understand Mary’s love for the Lord—who had loved her first.  In each of her three appearances in scripture we read of her worshiping the Lord—in spirit and truth.

Her worship wasn’t the empty religion of her day, but was completely focused, notably quiet, evidently un-aware of her audience, forgetful of cultural protocol, and entirely extravagant.  In fact, it often earned her the ridicule of all but One.

“Mary was listening to the Lord’s words, seated at His feet.”  (Luke 10:39)

When the Master first visited the home which Mary shared with her sister Martha, He began to teach.  Mary’s heart opened to the divine words and she sat, unaware of her sister’s bustling and angry scowls, soaking up the words of Jesus.  She recognized that His words were life and she was lost in His presence.  Worshiping.  When her sister approached the Master with her frustrated demand, Mary made no excuses.  She didn’t have to.  Jesus longed for listeners.  Even at His transfiguration God sent a voice from heaven and reminded His closest disciples to “listen to Him.”  “Mary has chosen the good part,” He told Martha.  “It will not be taken from her.”

Jesus has promised us His presence, He has given us His word.  Mary’s worship was in her delight of God’s presence and His word.  Spirit and truth.  This is the worship God seeks.  David recognized that God did not seek sacrifices, but contrite hearts.  The apostles proclaimed that Yahweh did not dwell in temples made with human hands—His temple is the body of those who believe.  When the Jewish temple was destroyed and an end was put to sacrifices, the Christians recognized that the final sacrifice had been offered at the cross and an end had been made to formula religion.  God seeks for worshipers who worship not in Jerusalem, or on “this mountain”, but in spirit and truth.  Focused on His word, longing for His presence.

And those who worship the Lord have chosen the good part—which can never be taken away.  No circumstance can separate us from Christ, in whom is demonstrated the love of God.

“When Mary came where Jesus was, she fell at His feet…weeping…”  (John 11:32)

Mary’s beloved brother Lazarus had died.  Jesus had not come as quickly as the sisters might have hoped, and the last enemy had taken its captive.  As the sisters mourned, they must have mourned that Jesus had not been present—to prevent their brother’s death.  What they did not know was that Jesus had delayed.  Even the pain they were experiencing would be redeemed for the glory of God.

As soon as Mary heard that Jesus was asking for her, she rose so abruptly that she caused a stir.  And as soon as she saw Jesus, she flung herself at His feet, unaware of those who looked on.  Only once in the narrative of her interaction with the Lord does she speak.  “Lord,” she said, expressing her grief, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  Her worship extended to her grief, pressed through her pain, and inspired her to throw herself at the feet of Almighty God.  She had longed for His presence and now she grieved in it.  It hurts, her actions said.  It hurts, but I worship you.  Her worship moved Jesus.  He had known this was a difficult thing—sometimes the Lord must permit pain, grief and sorrow for His glory.  But it is never a delight to Him to see a child’s pain, and He ached with Mary.  He ached to see the pain and sorrow that sin and death cause and He longed to show her His power over sin and death—a foretaste of the great struggle which He had come to wage.

Sin and death bring pain, but we can be comforted with Mary and Martha by the resurrection on the last day.  And we can be comforted in knowing that Jesus is also grieved by sin and death.  To fall at His feet weeping, expressing our pain and confusion is worship—in spirit and truth.  It hurts, but He is still God.  He will redeem our pain for His glory.

“Mary therefore…anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair…”  (John 12:3)

A year’s wages worth of perfume were poured at the feet of Jesus in an act of extravagant worship.  I’ve heard many speculations on this perfume and how it came into Mary’s possession.  Some have constructed a colorful past for this quiet woman—after all, who would have expensive perfume, but a harlot?  And why would she be a grown woman, still living with her brother and sister?  Others have suggested that Mary’s parents had died, since she and her siblings now formed a family unit of their own.  A common practice of the time was to invest money in spices or perfumes which could be resold later.  This prized perfume, they contend, was Mary’s sole inheritance.  Others suggest Mary was a widow and this was the last vestige of her past marriage which she carried with her when she returned to her childhood home.  Still others suggest it was her dowry, something she had treasured for the day she would be joined to a husband.  As she poured it at the Lord’s feet, she was expressing her love and devotion to Him as Her bridegroom.

Frankly, scripture leaves us entirely in the dark as to Mary’s past and future.  All we know is the immense value of her offering and Jesus’ acceptance of her gift.  Is the Holy Spirit telling us that it’s not important?  Whether this offering embodied her past of sin or her future hopes, her treasured memories or simply her security and stability, it was likely the largest part of her possessions and she poured it over the feet of the Lord.  Some have suggested that Mary’s act of letting down her hair was considered immodest or suggestive.  But as Mary wiped the Lord’s feet, this lowly act of service could hardly have been considered indecent or impure.  Rather, completely oblivious to the opinions of others, she was humbling herself at the feet of her Savior and pouring out her entire being—possessions, self, heart.  She gave herself entirely in response to the gift He had promised her.

I have often wondered, based on the words of Jesus to those who criticized Mary for her extravagant worship, if she truly did understand what His disciples did not.  Certainly, Mary had chosen the good part—listening to Jesus—while some of His disciples had to be reminded to listen.  Had she grasped His insistence that He would suffer and die in Jerusalem?  Did she realize that this was her only opportunity to embalm Him?  To offer her last expressions of love to the One who loved her soul?

When she was criticized again Mary held her breath, like David who said, “I am like a dumb man.  I utter no defense, for the Lord is my defense.”

“Leave her alone,” the Lord rebuked her attacker.  Once again Mary had chosen the good part.  “She did it to anoint my body for burial.”  And it would not be taken from her.

The Lord seeks for true worshipers.  He delights and desires that we pour everything at His feet—our time, our mind, our heart, our sorrow, our confusion, our possessions, our past, our present, our future, our hopes, our dreams, our memories, ourselves.  He wants it all.  And when we give it all, we find we have chosen the good part: our joyful eternity doing exactly what we were created to do—worship God in spirit and truth.  And it will never be taken away.

Read Mary’s Story:  At Jesus’ Feet

Share this Post

Permalink 3 Comments

Women of Wisdom: At Jesus’ Feet

February 23, 2010 at 1:00 am (Articles, Attitudes, W.O.W., Worship) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Posted by Abigail

(Taken from Luke 10:38-42; John 11:1-46; John 12:1-8)

Once upon a time a quiet, little Jewish girl grew up in the hill country of Bethany, near the Holy City, Jerusalem.  Every Sabbath, as she grew from childhood to womanhood, Mary heard the sacred writings of Moses and the Prophets and listened breathlessly to the promise of a Messiah.  She listened quietly as her sister, Martha, and her brother, Lazarus, debated the time of the Messiah’s coming and speculated on His reign.  The hearts of the Jewish people drooped under the yoke of Rome.  Had Yahweh forsaken them?  Once He had led His people out of slavery in Egypt, yet every Passover the shadow of the Roman governor stretched across the meal of lamb and herbs.  And once He had rescued His people from certain death in Babylon, yet every Purim, the celebration was clouded by the echo of the Latin language in their streets.  His temple stood newly renovated and spectacular on the Holy Hill, yet often on the way to Jerusalem, the outlines of cruel Roman crosses could be seen outside the city proclaiming death to any who disobeyed the iron fist of Rome.  Each time Mary passed a Roman soldier, the symbol of her people’s oppression, she prayed that Yahweh would send the deliverer.  She prayed.  She hoped.  She believed.

Then, one day, she fell in love.

She’d heard the stories.  “He’s a prophet!” many exclaimed as His miracles were recounted.  He’d healed the sick, given sight to the blind, strength to the lame.  He’d fed thousands from a few loaves.  He’d taught with authority that challenged the hypocritical chief priests.  “Could He be–?”  Mary heard hope in the voices that had long sounded dry and weary.  In spite of the militant speculations as to this Prophet’s designs, Mary’s thoughts lingered on the women.  Many of the chief priests and rabbis wouldn’t even speak to their own wives in public, yet this Teacher reached out to heal women who were sick and suffering and even enslaved to evil spirits.  And afterwards He accepted these women’s ministrations as they sought to repay Him for the gift of a second chance.  This man was unlike any of the Rabbis she had seen and unlike any of the Messiahs she had been taught to pray for.

And this Rabbi had just entered her home as a guest.  As soon as Mary’s eyes met His, she was overwhelmed.  Lacking the pomp and circumstance of an important person, He dressed simply with a homespun mantle draped over His shoulders, road-stained with dusty feet.  He was surrounded by eager, clamoring men, yet His eyes held determination and peace.  So many voices making so much racket, yet only One voice seemed to matter.  He had so much to teach, so much to express.  And there was so little time.  How could she ever learn it all?  He was so holy; Mary felt if she could sit in His presence long enough, she would be completely washed clean, inside and out, shining like a pure star in the heavens.

Suddenly a voice at her elbow startled her.  “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone?”  Mary had hardly realized that she had settled onto the floor at Jesus’ feet, her eyes on her folded hands, soaking in every word.  He told such simple stories with such profound meaning.  But of course Martha had been stressed, bustling here and there, her home full of men—important men, if they traveled with the Rabbi.  Jesus looked at Martha and Mary watched His face as her sister continued without giving the Master a chance to answer.  “Tell her to help me.”

Jesus’ answer was gentle, yet firm.  “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only a few things are necessary, really only one.  Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

Though He spoke to her sister, Mary grasped His words about her and clung to them.  She had chosen the good part.  She had chosen Jesus.  He would not be taken away from her.

Even when Jesus left to continue His ministry across the region of Judea, Mary pondered His teachings and clung to His promise that the good part would not be taken from her.  She knew that Jesus was not like other men, nor even like other Rabbis.  She knew that He loved her—yet not in the way of a home and children.  She knew that He didn’t belong to her, and yet, in a small way, He did.  And she had given herself completely to Him.  As He traveled the region, she listened breathlessly to the accounts that trickled back of His miracles, His growing popularity and His increasing clashes with the Pharisees and Sadducees.  “He is the Messiah,” people declared.  Then came the shocking news:  Jesus had declared His oneness with God.  “Blasphemy!” cried the Jews and tried to stone Him, but He eluded their grasp and left that region.

Mary’s heart was troubled.  Didn’t they listen to Him?  Didn’t they understand His words?  Didn’t they realize that Jesus’ words were life?  What He spoke must be truth.

But her troubled thoughts were interrupted by a greater trouble.  Her brother, Lazarus, fell deathly ill.  “What shall we do?” the sisters whispered to each other as they gazed at their feeble and delirious brother.  Jesus had healed countless strangers, would He come and heal their beloved brother?  “God gives Him whatever He asks,” Martha asserted, in faith.  A faithful friend, another disciple of Jesus, was dispatched immediately to carry the word to Jesus:  “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.”  Careful not to demand His presence, the sisters wondered if it would be safe for Him to come.

Then came the waiting.  The praying.  The hoping.  The believing that Jesus would do what was right.  What passed through Mary’s mind as she watched her brother’s suffering, unable to offer more than love, wondering why the Lord delayed?  Was it because Judea had rejected Him?  Could it be unsafe for the Master to come to Bethany, since He had just escaped a stoning?  Did Mary struggle against feelings of abandonment?  Jesus had promised that the good part would never be taken from her, yet He delayed coming when she needed Him most.  And even as Jesus delayed, Lazarus weakened, faded and passed on.

Jesus had healed others.  Many others.  “If He had been here, our brother would not have died,” Martha whispered, clasping Mary in her arms their brother was laid in a tomb and a stone rolled to cover the doorway.  Mary nodded as her sister offered the comfort of those who hoped in Yahweh: “He will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”  Then they went home.

The next several days passed as a blur, friends and fellow mourners coming and going, whispering, offering consolations.  Mary thought only of Jesus.  Why hadn’t He come?  She didn’t understand.  She knew Jesus loved her.  She knew Jesus loved Lazarus.  “If only He had been here,” she mulled it over and over in her head.  “If only He had been here, my brother would not have died.”  Once He had defended her and said she had chosen the good part—the place at His feet.  She wanted to be there, now.  Life seemed so clear and simple when she sat at His feet.

“Mary,” her sister was at her elbow, shielding her face with her shawl to give them some privacy.  “Mary, the Teacher is here and is calling for you.”

All her thoughts, her questions, her tears fled as she heard the words.  Quickly she bounded to her feet and was out the door, following her sister’s directions to find Jesus.  Mary didn’t notice the Jews following her, supposing that she went to the tomb to weep.  Why would she go to the tomb to weep?  A cold stone could not hear her cry; a sepulcher was not the good part.

Then she saw Him.  He was standing just where Martha had left Him, His eyes fixed on her, seeing her before she came.  A choke filled her throat and the tears welled up, blinding her eyes as she stumbled and sank down at the Master’s feet.  “Lord,” she wept, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

She could sense the grief in Jesus’ tone as He turned from her and asked, “Where have you laid him?”  Several voices answered, “Lord, come and see.”

Then Jesus wept.

Whispers.  “Behold how He loved him.”

Other whispers.  “Could not this man who opened the eyes of the blind have kept this man from dying?”

Of course He could have.  If He had been there–

Mary’s tears flowed freely, unchecked, washing the pain, the agony, the questions, the confusion down into the abyss of things long passed.  Jesus was weeping with her.  He loved her.  He was aching for her.  She looked up into His face and saw there that same peace, that same determination.  He had more to teach her.  She stood and followed Him to the tomb.

The stone lay firmly against the mouth of the tomb, but Jesus raised His arm and said, “Remove the stone.”

“Lord,” Martha’s voice was quiet, concerned, anxious, “by this time there will be a stench for he has been dead four days.”

Jesus turned and looked her directly in the face, His voice gentle but firm.  “Did I not say to you, if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

Mary’s heart was hammering in her chest.  What was Jesus about to do?  The glory of God?  What had He told Martha?  Mary’s mind raced over all the miracles of Jesus, her heart filling with a trembling hope.  Hadn’t Martha said, “God gives Him whatever He asks for”?

As the stone was rolled away, Mary watched Jesus raise His eyes to heaven.  He took a deep breath and called out, “Father, I that You that You that You hear Me!  And I know that You hear Me always, but because of the people standing around I said it, that they may believe that You sent Me.”

Mary’s hands trembled as her mind echoed, “I do believe!”

Then Jesus’ voice rang out against the stones, “Lazarus, come forth!”

And there he was, bound hand and foot with the linen wrappings, but walking slowly from the entrance of the tomb.  Alive.

“Unbind him,” Jesus commanded.  “And let him go.”

The event caused quite a stir.  Friends and neighbors wanted to know what had happened, and the word spread quickly, and lingered long after Jesus had left for the wilderness, once more avoiding the Jews.  Mary replayed the days, moment by moment, searching them out, trying to understand, thanking Yahweh for her brother.  And she pondered the words Martha had related to her.  “He told me, ‘I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die.  Do you believe?”  Martha had expressed the cry of her own heart, “Yes, Lord, I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.”

This Christ was so different from what they had all expected.  The Jews had been hoping for a conquering king, but the Christ Mary knew was a servant, a Teacher who wept and a Great Physician.  He had conquered blindness, lameness, deafness—and now death.  And He had conquered her heart.

It was almost Passover when the Lord returned to Bethany.  Again Martha was serving, busy and bustling, but without complaint.  Lazarus sat with Jesus, gladly acting the part of host.  Mary had been carefully watching the Lord’s face—it still held the peace and determination, but also seemed marked by a quiet sadness in spite the noise and excitement.  Some of His words held a strange sense of expectation, though He said little. In the folds of her shawl, Mary held her prized possession—a pound of pure nard, a perfume worth a year’s wages—waiting for her opportunity.  Finally she approached and knelt again by those beloved feet.  She didn’t notice the silence that settled or the surprised eyes fixed on her as she began to pour the perfume over Jesus’ feet, rubbing away the road-dust with her hair.  This was not just the good part, this was the best part.  Being at Jesus’ feet, pouring herself at His feet, worshiping.

“Why was this perfume not sold and the money given to the poor?” the scornful voice broke through Mary’s consciousness.

Condemned, again, she knelt, waiting Christ’s reply.

“Leave her alone, in order that she may keep the custom of anointing for the day of My burial.  For the poor you have with you always, but you do not always have Me.”

As the fragrance of the nard wafted around her, Mary’s heart grew heavy.  She would not always have Jesus?  He would be buried?  Hadn’t He promised that the good part would not be taken from her?  He was the good part.  The best part.  The only part.

Around her, the conversation continued, Judas sullen after his rebuke.  Jesus eyes lingered on Mary’s face, a tender sadness in them.  Anointed for His burial.  Jesus would die.

But deep inside, a tiny flame of hope flickered.  Lazarus had died, too.

The next several days were laced with the greatest pathos the world has ever seen as the Lamb of God was led to slaughter.  God turned His back on His own Son, leaving the Son to weep alone, sweating blood in His agony.  Women clustered around the foot of the cross, watching this innocent man-God bear their sin and God the Father’s wrath.  Was Mary with them, at the foot of Christ’s cross?  Then it was finished.  But the end was the beginning.  On the first day of the week, the women hurried to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus, but they were too late.  Was Mary with them that early morning?  She had already anointed the Lord.  When Jesus had raised Lazarus, He had said, “Father, I know that You hear Me.”  When Christ hung on the cross, pleading for the sins of the world, He was heard.  He knew He was heard, but for the sake of those on earth, God proved it in the same way He had with Lazarus.  When the women came to the tomb, the stone had been rolled away and Jesus had come forth, alive.

Whether or not Mary was present at the death and resurrection of Jesus, she certainly must have heard and understood the power of this conquering King.  He had not only triumphed over death—but also over that which caused death, over sin.  And in His promise that those who believe in Him should live eternally, she heard her happily ever after.  The good part would not be taken from her.  At the resurrection at the last day, she would be raised, to live forever, sitting at the feet of Jesus, worshiping.

Lessons from Wisdom:  The Art of Worship

Share this Post

Permalink 3 Comments

What Makes a Husband Jealous?

February 17, 2010 at 1:20 am (His Perspective, Love, Marriage, Purity, Singleness) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

“You shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart, soul and mind,” Yahweh charged Israel in His greatest commandment, but the hearts of the people turned away to foreign gods and their minds strayed to sin and self.  “You have committed adultery against Me,” Yahweh warned.  “I am a jealous God.”  Through the prophet Ezekiel, Yahweh graphically described Israel’s adultery, painting a revolting picture of lewdness and impurity.

To the church of Corinth, Paul wrote as God’s emissary, “I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin.”  (2 Corinthians 11:2)

The adultery Yahweh charged Israel with was in giving to another god what rightly belonged to Him—heart, soul and mind in worship.  Paul’s jealous guard over the purity of the bride of Christ was to preserve their minds in the purity and simplicity of devotion to Christ.  Devotion–the minds of believers rightly belong to Christ.  We tend to think of jealousy as an evil, but Paul speaks of a godly jealousy.  God’s jealousy was over what rightly belonged to Him.  Paul was jealous on behalf of Christ, over what rightly belonged to Him.

As I worked over the post dealing with God’s Will: Your Sanctification, I came head to head with the issue of defrauding—cheating, taking what rightly belongs to another.  With the words “The Lord is the avenger,” I was reminded of the jealous husband’s test in Numbers 5—and the curse upon the woman who had “gone astray into uncleanness.” As I pondered, I began to wonder what would be rightly considered a husband’s?  Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 7 that the wife’s body belongs to her husband, and his body belongs to her.  Wouldn’t it be godly then for a husband and wife to be jealous over each other’s bodies?  What else might they be jealous over?  Each other’s emotions?  Devotion?  Time?  Affection?  Attention?  I’d often considered purity in relationships, but I’d never before thought of it in terms of what would make a husband jealous.  The traditional wedding vows proclaim to “forsake all others, clinging only to you.”  I began to consider the implications of Paul’s words to the churches of his day regarding purity and marriage.  Marriage should not be sought in lustful passion, as the pagans, but in set-apartness and honor.  He warned us not to go beyond and defraud—because God is the avenger.  This warning suggests that, even if no one else ever knows that we have “cheated”—gone beyond what was rightly ours—God knows and we will reap the consequences in our lives and hearts.

Ladies, what I’m proposing is that we carefully consider what rightfully belongs to God as the first step in purity.  “Love Yahweh your God with all your heart, soul and mind.  Worship and serve Yahweh only.”  And we carefully guard and preserve that for Yahweh only.  That we consider what rightfully belongs to those around us.  “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  A sacrificial love, based on Christ’s love for us, offered without thought of gain.  This, too, is worship of God.  And, in purity, that we consider what rightfully belongs only to a husband.  Even if we never marry, there are some things that no one is authorized to claim outside of a marriage covenant.  I propose that we jealously protect and preserve this until such a time as, covenanted in marriage, we can freely and purely pour it out in worship to God.  God is the avenger, because our purity is an integral part of our worship of Him.

These thoughts in mind, Lauren and I constructed a survey to try and help us understand what things would make a husband jealous.  We created a series of hypothetical questions, based on many of the debates/teachings we’d heard regarding “purity” boundaries, placed those situations into a marriage scenario and surveyed 50 men from very different backgrounds and denominations–single men, dating men, courting men, engaged men, married men and men with daughters our ages—without giving an explanation for our questions.  We wanted unbiased feelings from a range of perspectives.  We reasoned that those things which provoked jealousy in a husband are likely to be good indicators of what rightly belongs to a husband only—and therefore what we should be jealously guarding from any man to whom we are not married.

We’ll admit that we were surprised by the clarity the results seemed to cast on “grey areas.”  We’re talking about activities that many youth pastors would advocate as still “chaste” and would leave a “True Love Waits” pledge unbroken.  Many of the men expressed that they were deeply disturbed in considering their wife engaging in many of these activities—few thought “jealous” even covered their feelings on the topic.  God used graphic word-imagery to express Israel’s adultery–to inspire our horror and disgust.  We’ve tried to be as discreet as possible in dealing with these issues, but this is a serious affair.  Impurity should provoke our horror and disgust.  We’re sharing the results with you and we encourage you to consider carefully guarding what these men express as provoking jealousy.  In the areas that are expressed as depending on circumstances, prayerfully, carefully let your actions be guarded by love—focus on the Lord first and what will bring Him glory and then pursue sacrificial love toward your neighbor–what will cause them to focus on the Lord.  The excellent wife does her husband good and not evil all the days of her life, and his heart trusts in her.

See the survey results here:

What Makes a Husband Jealous:  The Survey

Share this Post

Permalink 9 Comments

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

Diminishing God?

March 4, 2009 at 6:57 am (Food for Thought) (, , , , )

food-for-thought

Chew on this…

A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell. ~C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

…and tell us what you think.

thess-5

Permalink 1 Comment

What you worship

January 12, 2009 at 1:18 pm (Food for Thought) (, , , , , , , )

food-for-thought

Chew on this…

A person will worship something, have no doubt about that. We may think our tribute is paid in secret in the dark recesses of our hearts, but it will out. That which dominates our imaginations and our thoughts will determine our lives, and our character. Therefore, it behooves us to be careful what we worship, for what we are worshipping we are becoming.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

…and tell us what you think.

thess-5

Permalink 8 Comments

A Prayer at Christmas

December 25, 2008 at 7:17 am (Poetry) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

christmas-prayer

by Abigail

The Christmas season’s come this year,
Its beauty bringing hope and cheer
To friends and family far and near,
And prayer of joy for those held dear.
Reflect our hearts upon Your love
And cause our praise to rise above.
Descend upon us like a dove.
We thank You for Your Son beloved.
Our hearts unite in one accord
To praise our everlasting Lord:
The One whom angel hosts adored-
The Incarnation-Ageless Word.
While gaiety around us cease
Come to our hearts, O Prince of Peace,
And give us tongue and grant us lease
To worship You with full release.
The Masterpiece Your hands had made
Was born in Bethlehem-a babe.
The greatest gift that one e’er gave
Was love that laid Him in the grave!
We ponder at this season’s door
On life that lasts forevermore,
Yet willingly it’s glories pour
Into the vat of mercy’s store.
What wonder, God would stoop to call
The creatures chained by Adam’s fall:
A brand-new Man to reach us all-
What greater grace could us befall?
It is too much for words to say,
For all the heavens pass away
Before the Power we sing today
Could weaken, die or fade away.
So guide our thoughts to think on You
The Light, the Life, the Way, the Truth,
The King to Whom all glory’s due;
Our blessings great, our trials few.
This gift of Christ is all we need.
And for Your loved, lost lambs we plead:
That they would find the Truth, indeed,
And in Your restful pastures feed.
Your holy love should us ignite
To shine as beacons in the night-
As stars that shared their sparkling light
To lend the seekers guide and sight.
Let not our mirth be frivolous,
But all our words be aimed to bless,
Unveiling all the loveliness
Of Christ, the Savior’s, holiness.

Copyright 2003

Permalink 1 Comment

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

Wasted Emotion

November 24, 2008 at 7:43 am (Articles, Attitudes, Godly Living) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Posted by Abigail

Christmas was fast approaching as my friend, Lauryn, and I soaked in the hot tub and dived into one of our typical sort-it-out conversations—this time about emotions. Because we are both very definitely women, and we both very definitely have them. By the time our skin had wrinkled like a soggy walrus we’d concluded that God created us with emotions—in order to worship and enjoy Him. A few days ago, we sat on my bed discussing this nagging issue once again—this time focusing in especially on anxiety, an emotion we find plaguing us both. Because every season in life carries uncertainty. Tomorrow has worries. Over the past several months the Lord has been working in my heart and understanding to reveal to me how anxious I am and how dishonoring to Him my anxiety is.

“Be careful how you walk,” Paul told the Ephesian believers. “Make the most of your time. Don’t get drunk, that’s wasteful.” (Check out Ephesians 5:15-21) Recognizing the wastefulness of getting drunk—or wasted—isn’t particularly foreign or counter-culture. But the point of Paul’s message is so much more than the cry of a teetotaler. “Don’t be wasteful,” he warns us. I find myself glibly pointing out wasted money, wasted time and wasted energy, the whole time spilling out emotional energy that was meant to be poured at the feet of Jesus. My emotions are a stewardship I find much more daunting. The Lord has blessed me with an abundance of emotional energy. What am I supposed to do with it? Paul offers the solution. “Don’t be wasteful, but be filled with the Spirit!”

Solomon speaks in Ecclesiastes of a time for everything: for sorrow, for joy, for death, for life, for love, for hate. My heart flooded with truth when I discovered that there is a time for anxiety. David was anxious because of his sin. When we are at enmity with God, cut off from His mercy, lost to His grace, we ought to be anxious. We ought to worry. We ought to be terrified and afraid. But perfect love casts out fear, and when we have such evidence of love as Christ’s death for us, we find the cure for anxiety in the words of Jesus Himself. “Don’t be anxious about your life…all these things the pagans chase after…You seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness.” He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, will He not also along with Him, graciously give us all things? In Jesus we have everything pertaining to life and godliness.

Jesus redirects us to pursue God’s kingdom. Paul redirects us to gratitude. “Sing! Rejoice! Give thanks!” Look at what the Lord has done for us! He saved us, not on the basis of works we’ve done. We needn’t be anxious about our works! He provides for the birds of the air. He died for us! Won’t He supply all our needs? We needn’t be anxious about our needs. He chose us from before the foundation of the world, that we might walk in Him. He is the beginning and the end. We needn’t worry about the future! Who can bring a charge against us? Jesus is the judge who justifies! We needn’t worry about our salvation. We are secure in Christ. Sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. We have the Spirit. We needn’t waste any more energy on anxiety. God is in control. And we are blessed to be His stewards.

do-not-be-anxious

“What do you do when you’re anxious?” Lauryn and I asked each other. When our hearts start pounding, our thoughts start racing and the emotions seem beyond our control, we’re learning to guide them back to the truth, by the Spirit. We sing. We thank. We pray. We rehearse God’s works. We remember His grace. We cling to His promises. Sometimes we weep. Always we grow.

And always the Lord proves faithful. Always He is in control. Always, through His mercy and peace we survive. We more than survive–we overwhelmingly conquer.

Listen to Lauryn’s original song, “Do Not Be Anxious”. Enjoy!

Permalink 8 Comments