Kindness Counts

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I have been struggling to publish this last lesson in the series, “Daughters and Disciples”.  I’m not really sure why.  I have plenty of valid excuses, but not really good reasons. I decided to go ahead and post tonight due to some gentle pressing by friends and strangers who did not realize what their words and actions were stirring in my heart. 

Several new people have decided to follow this blog even though I haven’t posted in a while.  Thank you! I’m honored that you found what I’ve written to be interesting  enough that you wanted to keep reading more.

Today, a friend challenged me to be more open, to be more vulnerable.  This isn’t the venue we were discussing, but I do know I’ve added something to this lesson that makes me feel quite vulnerable.  It may have something to do with why I’ve been putting off posting it.  And another friend with whom I was sharing some of what’s been heavy on my heart encouraged me as she always does.  I am so blessed to have these two powerful encouragers in my life.  

Then tonight, I attended the small group with these lovely ladies.  Most of them are far wiser than I, but as I listened to some of what was being shared, I realized the theme of vulnerability, of being real, of being honest, was present there, too.  So here goes . . .

The final lesson in the Daughters and Disciples study – Lesson 6

Kind words

The objective here is to gain a better appreciation for how we speak to one another. We all know how difficult it is to maintain self-control over our words, but if we are more aware of the impact of what and how we communicate, we may find it a little easier and develop a habit of using our words for good rather than harm. We may also find ourselves better able to forgive others when their words cut us.

Proverbs 31:25 – 26 (NASB)  Strength and dignity are her clothing,  And she smiles at the future.  She opens her mouth in wisdom, And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.

Discussion Questions

  • What was the result of the TBH (To Be Honest) trend on Facebook from several years ago? (If you participated.) How many of you learned some neat things people thought about you, or hurtful?
  • What are some of the most encouraging things someone has told you? What was the result?
  • Define snarky. Is it really ok to speak in this way?
  • What does it mean to speak with “wisdom and faithful instruction?”
  • When might you have the opportunity to speak this way?

Our lives are filled with relationships, good and bad. These relationships alter our moods, can change the way we think or act, and effect more than just two people. The way we treat and talk to each other has a greater impact than we realize.

The level of jealousy and contempt, the competition for Abraham’s affection, the realization of promises made and misunderstood, all these things served to breed an ugly outcome. One thing that again stands out in this story is that even though it was through Sarah’s lack of faith in the promise that led to the birth of Ishmael through Hagar, God was still there for Hagar and Ishmael even though the covenant promise was meant for Sarah and Isaac. Sarah and Isaac, as well as Hagar and Ishmael, endured hardships due to a lack of faith, and both mothers and sons received blessings from God.

Questions To Consider

  • Can you imagine the little looks, the words, and the gossip whispered in each other’s tents about and by these two women?
  • Do we ever look at each other and judge whether or not we think another has received a blessing we thought we should have for ourselves?
  • Does the impact of what we say have an expiration date? Where it no longer contains any power?
  • Notice how God took care of Hagar and blessed her. What do you think that means?

Why It Matters

The words we use to communicate, how we communicate, and the actions that go with those words have far reaching effects. The book of John opens with, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God, and the Word was with God” (John 1:1). In Hebrews 4:12, the Word of God is described as being sharper than a double edged-sword. We have the love of God in us, and we are living, breathing, and speaking examples of Christ to the world. Our words matter to the ones who hear what we say, whether they are the intended audience or not. Knowing what to say and when to say it is part of being a wise woman. Our words show us the condition of our heart. Pay attention! Learning how to speak with wisdom and kindness takes practice, and all of us mess up. Thank God for His forgiveness and grace.

TBH – So, as I have mentioned previously, I wrote this lesson several years ago. And even though I know I want to be kind, I sometimes mess up in a HUGE way. Not that long after I wrote this lesson, I said something less than flattering to another mom about one of my son’s teammates. I strongly suspect that teammate’s father was listening to what I said. I did not know the father when I said it. Those unkind and critical words came from a place of my own insecurity, and I still regret the likely impact on the father. The family was going through a difficult time dealing with significant illness and eventual loss. There is no way I can take any of it back. My words likely caused more heartache for that dad instead of being an uplifting and encouraging experience when he really needed it. It also reflected poorly on my witness, my son, and altered other relationships in a negative manner. Unfortunately, that is not the only time I said something ignorantly. Another huge mistake was sent in written form with some anger and frustration expressed. I extended an apology right away, but again, I know my words did not reflect the love of Christ. Sometimes, the opportunity to ask for forgiveness is present, and sometimes, the damage remains – with or without forgiveness.

I know that I am careful most of the time. I am certainly more careful since the two examples mentioned here. It grieves me to know that as I try to walk in the light, to be a light, I may have caused others to stumble, to doubt God, to have a lesser opinion of what Christians are like. Oh, I know I won’t be perfect. It’s hard to always know what to say, when to say it, and how to say things in the right way. Basically, if what I want to say is a negative opinion that really doesn’t have a purpose other than to vent frustration, I think it’s better left unsaid. Now, I pray I may continue to choose to follow what I know to be true.

My Story

In middle school and high school, it is a rite of passage to deal with the very issue of mean-spirited comments and thoughtless gossip. I certainly dealt with it. It got so bad for me that I viewed even a compliment as a possible attack. Because of this, I didn’t trust other people for a very long time. I learned to keep people from getting close to me. How can we, who are revered for our beauty, gentleness and nurturing nature, be so mean and vindictive? How much do we internalize and believe well beyond the time and circumstances of those moments? Often, those words are echoed over and over until we believe the lies or let the root of bitterness go deep in our hearts.

It took God’s patient and persistent love to break down the walls I built around myself for protection. In trying to avoid the risk of being hurt, I realized I also created a barrier between God and me. The first time was out of rebellion, and the second time was out of fear. There is nothing more painful to me than to realize I cannot hear or feel God’s presence, especially by my own doing.

Not long ago, a few other moms and I were talking about at what point we realized we needed other women in our lives. Each of us tried living our adult lives by being self-sufficient. Eventually, we had all reached a point in our lives where we realized we needed the help of other women. Opening my heart to other women still leaves me feeling quite vulnerable (It looks like that’s still a work in progress!), but trusting God to help me navigate through the perilous waters of female friendships allows room for Him to work through those relationships – for His good purposes.

It’s not only friend relationships that get tricky. Every relationship is affected by how we speak. This includes our relationships with our siblings, our parents, and our spouses. I love my husband, and it kills me when he lets me know my words have made him feel unloved or less valued. That is not being the kind of blessing, or desperately needed helper, I want to be.

It is through my trying to speak words of love, life and kindness that I realize how much I fail. It is by these failures that I am able to learn where I need more work, and to not let the words of others cut so deeply, especially when I know they may not realize how they sound. Grace abounds.

The Big Question

  • How do you speak to the people in your life?
  • Are you speaking with words of wisdom and kind instruction on your tongue?
  • Who in your life can you practice speaking encouraging words to?
  • Here is a challenge. Either for your parents or siblings – Speak only encouraging and grateful words to them and notice the responses or changes in reactions.
  • Write down the results.

  Dig A Little Deeper

  • The Book of James
  • Proverbs 10:31 (HCSB) The mouth of the righteous produces wisdom,
but a perverse tongue will be cut out.
  • Proverbs 4: 23 (HCSB) Guard your heart above all else, 
for it is the source of life.
  • There are MANY verses throughout Proverbs about anger, gossip, kindness and the right time to speak.

Let kindness be on your tongue!

If you want to leave a comment on this page, I take the time to review any comments before they get posted.  If your comment doesn’t show up right away, I will likely respond by the next day. 

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All These Things

Hello Friends!

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But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Matthew 6:33 (KJV)

This verse was put into a song we often sang growing up.  I remember wondering, “What ‘things’ will be added unto you?

Today’s post is about being a good steward, and money. This is something I feel quite uncomfortable posting about since I still have a lot of growing and trusting to do.

But a quick note about what happened after my last post on work –

So, I was confronted with the reality that I do not know how to maintain a healthy work-home balance. Last Thursday, I stayed up past midnight doing some organization work for my practicum. I completely let that keep me from posting the next lesson. Please forgive my inconsistency. Plus, I realized I have put in almost half the hours needed for my practicum designed to cover a 16 week period within a 4 week period. I obviously need to create a more healthy balance!

Back to today’s lesson –

I’ve been thinking about the struggles I found from the last lesson on work, and the known struggles I have about money. I read what I wrote originally, and I realize that what I wrote is still relevant, but I sense I have an opportunity to be a little more honest and direct about why I struggle so much with this topic. Which brings us back to Matthew 6:33.

If you read Matthew 6:33 in context, you’ll find this is part of the Sermon on the Mount. Starting at Matthew 6:19, Jesus begins talking quite specifically about treasures, money, and anxiety.

Over the course of my life, I have lived with anxiety surrounding not having enough money. There have been times of seemingly insurmountable debt, and times of plenty. Anxiety over income and financial security goes hand in hand with the work balance struggle.

Right now, I am adding to our family’s debt by taking out loans for the school counseling degree. It adds to my anxiety, and my desire to earn my own way to pay for it once I can work. When I used loans to pay for my undergrad debt, I didn’t really trust God regarding finances. I doubted His provision. While I did work for a couple of years, my husband pretty much paid for my school. I am so grateful to him. So, in a way, God provided through my husband. But, we struggled, and it wasn’t easy.

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My incredible husband!

This time, I have made a conscious choice to Seek God first, and His righteousness. I have seen how He has blessed this time for me to be in school, to follow this path that I believe is a calling from God, and to be encouraged to do so by my husband. Through the doubts in my ability to achieve academically, to handle the workload, and the guilt that wants to press in for increasing debt, God has shown Himself faithful through the encouragement of my husband first, my children, the support of friends, and through the ability to get the work done. I am learning to how to turn my anxiety over to God. When I feel anxious, I pray and re-center my thoughts towards the foundation of God’s promises.

I’m still growing and learning. I hope this post leads you to trusting God more, and at least, having a prayerful conversation with Him on this subject.  Like the last post, I added a few thoughts in blue!


Lesson 3 Good Steward/ Wise with Money/ Generous

The objective here is to understand how to handle the money, profits, and blessings earned and gained from our work. We do not work to have money just for our own benefit, for selfish ambition, but to be able to use our resources responsibly. These resources aren’t just in the form of money, but also time, material goods and service to others. Again, we do these things out of love and honor for God and others.

She selects wool and flax
 and works with eager hands. She is like the merchant ships,
 bringing her food from afar. She gets up while it is still night;
 she provides food for her family
 and portions for her female servants. She considers a field and buys it;
 out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously;
 her arms are strong for her tasks. She sees that her trading is profitable,
 and her lamp does not go out at night. In her hand she holds the distaff
 and grasps the spindle with her fingers. She opens her arms to the poor
 and extends her hands to the needy. When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
 for all of them are clothed in scarlet. She makes linen garments and sells them,
 and supplies the merchants with sashes.

Discussion Questions

  • What do you think are the biggest differences in the worldly view of money and God’s view of money?
  • Do you think He cares about how much money we make, or how we spend it?
  • How much debt is OK?
  • Is there something wrong with being wealthy?
  • Do you think poor people have themselves to blame for their poverty?
  • Can someone be too generous or irresponsible with his or her generosity?
  • Is being a good steward only about money?

The Bible has a lot to say about money, how to spend it, how to handle loans and borrowing, and taking care of the poor. Jesus often spoke in parables using the wealthy and servants alike as examples to describe conditions of the heart or what the kingdom of God is like. Proverbs is full of wise financial advice among other topics. In the book, Ecclesiastes, we find a different kind of take on wisdom about money and work. Take a look at this.

  • Ecclesiastes 5: 10 –11, 18 – 20 (HCSB) The one who loves money is never satisfied with money, and whoever loves wealth (is) never (satisfied) with income. This too is futile. When good things increase, the ones who consume them multiply; what, then, is the profit to the owner, except to gaze at them with his eyes? . . .  18 Here is what I have seen to be good: it is appropriate to eat, drink, and experience good in all the labor one does under the sun during the few days of his life God has given him, because that is his reward. God has also given riches and wealth to every man, and He has allowed him to enjoy them, take his reward, and rejoice in his labor. This is a gift of God, for he does not often consider the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with the joy of his heart. 

Questions To Consider (I wrote this while living in a wealthy suburb near Washington, DC. You can adapt the questions according to your circumstances.)

  • How does living in an affluent community affect your ideas of earning and giving?
  • Do you feel pressure to have certain things that other people have, even if you have to borrow to get them?
  • Do you believe your attitude towards money affects your spiritual relationship with Jesus Christ and God, the Father?
  • Have you ever had to trust God to provide when there seemed no way you could do it on your own?

Why It Matters

There is a very specific verse that says, “No one can be a slave of two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot be slaves of God and of money.” Matthew 6:24 (HCSB) If we allow the love of money to take first place in our heart, then we have broken the very first commandment, to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and strength. We find ourselves no longer looking to God to be the one we trust, but instead, we put our trust in money. That is no good. Did you notice in Ecclesiastes where it says to enjoy your work and wealth is a gift of God? If we can enjoy the fruit of our labor without becoming consumed by the appetite for more and more, we can thank God for that is a gift.

My Story

I can tell you this is an area in which I struggle. I am still learning how to trust God with money. In college, I made some irresponsible choices that had far reaching consequences. I am sharing some of the choices I made with the prayer that God uses them to let you learn from my negative examples. Some of my choices came from outside influences, some from ignorance, while others came from weak areas in my own heart like envy, self-centeredness, and impatience.

Some of my mistakes to avoid:

  • Getting a credit card when I didn’t have steady income – and using it.
  • Getting married and having children before our school loans were paid off.
  • Looking at the way others lived, allowing envy to cause discontent.
  • Allowing my financial status to affect my belief in my value to others and God.
  • Having a lack of self-discipline in setting boundaries for expenditures.
  • Forgetting to trust that God will provide. Doubting that God will provide.
  • Thinking that God won’t provide because of my disobedience and lack of trust.

Now I’m in a transition period from being a stay home mom to working outside the home. As I begin to earn more, I see how easy it is to let financial success become my source of security and purpose. It’s easy to think I have control where I don’t and to let the responsibilities of the job squeeze out time with God. It takes trusting God to a new level. It also gives me a new appreciation for my husband’s role as provider for the family, and his fight to keep balance within his own spirit. The verse, “Seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be added unto you,” Matthew 6: 33 has taken on a deeper meaning for me.

(As I mentioned earlier, I find the struggle remains. Since I am currently back in a non-earning position while going through the master’s program with school loans, I am deciding to actively pray and apply Matthew 6:33 to my current situation and the unknown future job and loan repayment. I look forward to seeing how God works through all of this.)

Finally, regarding generosity, when we had so much in the way of expenses, and so little to share, I would look for other ways to practice generosity. Even though my debt amount was large, I still wanted to give. In limited capacities, I had time, possessions, and friendship. I tried to be respectful of the things we did have so I could pass them on while they were still in good shape to others who needed them. Being creatively generous is a way to honor God and to show your gratitude for the things you have. Gratitude helps block the feelings of discontent and envy. It also shows honor to the one who is working and providing. For me, that was and still is my husband, and for you who are not yet earning your own income, it’s your parents. This is all a part of being a good steward and honoring God.

I can sum up my experiences with this: avoid debt, be patient, learn how to be content with what you have, prepare and plan for the future, but don’t forget that God is the one we trust. Watch out for those things that will distract and trap you from benefitting from good, honest work. Guard your heart!

The Big Question

  • How can you seek the kingdom of God first?
  • How is God showing you He knows what you need?
  • Are there things you are doing that keep you from being grateful and content with what you have? 

Dig a Little Deeper (HCSB)

  • Deuteronomy 15:11 For there will never cease to be poor people in the land; that is why I am commanding you, ‘You must willingly open your hand to your afflicted and poor brother in your land.’
  • Proverbs 22:9 A generous person will be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor.
  • Ephesians 4:28 The thief must no longer steal. Instead, he must do honest work with his own hands, so that he has something to share with anyone in need.
  • Romans 12:13 Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality.
  • Matthew 6:33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.
  • Matthew 13: 44 – 45 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure buried in a field, that a man found and reburied. Then in his joy he goes and sells everything he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. When he found one priceless pearl, he went and sold everything he had, and bought it.”
  • Luke 12: 15 He then told them, “Watch out and be on guard against all greed because one’s life is not in the abundance of his possessions.”
  • Luke 16: 19 – 31 Lazarus and The Rich Man
  • Luke 21: 1-4 The Widow’s offering
  • Matthew 6: 19 – 34 Treasure, Heart and Need

Read through Proverbs, the verses about money are plentiful.

For two websites on managing money with a Christian perspective, check out:

http://www.crown.org/   and  https://www.daveramsey.com/

Several years ago, I went on a nature walk as a time of prayerful meditation. This was about the time I was deciding if I was supposed to work full-time, questioning if teaching was really what I was supposed to do, and deciding to trust God with the unknowns in my future. It was a cold, gray, and muddy day. I put on my rubber boots and waded through several icy streams. Looking at the ice on the banks, the clear water flowing by, I felt as if God was saying to me that the ice was kind of like gifts or promises that were being stored until the time was right.

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Money ebbs and flows. Time, like the stream, flows at an unstoppable, sometimes smooth, sometimes rough, pace. Being anxious doesn’t help, because God is in control of it all. I just needed to trust Him, and things would work more smoothly if I did. It’s still kind of scary sometimes, but I choose to be brave.

 

 

Work!

Work only counts as work if there is movement.

That’s the simplified, paraphrased definition that applies to physical science as taught to my third grade students.

Definition+of+Work+In+Physics,+work+means+more+than+something+that+requires+physical+or+mental+effort.

Experience, time, and knowledge can change our understanding. As I read the lesson, I realized how much more there is to add, how many different ways there are to think about what work is and what it means! Purpose, Laziness, Balance, Traditional Family and Career Roles vs. Non-traditional Roles, etc. . . .  All of these I touched on in the original lesson, but each idea can be enriched so much more. 

At the time, I was about to start teaching full-time for the first time after being primarily a stay-at-home mom. When I started this blog a year ago, teaching was something I realized I wasn’t going to be able to do the way I wanted to do, and I was going through some major soul-searching. Today, I am a full-time student starting the practicum part of becoming a school counselor in an office where I am learning what counseling work looks like, feels like, but I don’t get paid for it.

Essentially, my perception of work has changed a bit in the interim. And I need to simplify tonight’s post because I still have a lot of work to do tonight!

 

Maynard Work

So, I’m going to post the original lesson with a few comments and a wrap up at the end –


Lesson 2 – Working Hard

The objective here is to understand that each of us has work we are supposed to do. We rely on God’s provision of the gifts and talents He has given us to use in order to share, to build, and to grow in faith. We should also understand, as we carry out our work, God blesses and encourages the faith of others. Whatever kind of job we may take, if we are working with the knowledge that we are using our skills and talents for the Lord, we can trust that He will “delight” in our service and obedience. We will also respect and appreciate others who are doing different jobs.

  • Proverbs 31:13-19, 27 (NIV) She selects wool and flax
 and works with eager hands. She is like the merchant ships,
 bringing her food from afar. She gets up while it is still night;
 she provides food for her family
 and portions for her female servants. She considers a field and buys it;
 out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously;
 her arms are strong for her tasks. She sees that her trading is profitable,
 and her lamp does not go out at night. In her hand she holds the distaff
 and grasps the spindle with her fingers. 27 She watches over the affairs of her household
 and does not eat the bread of idleness.

Discussion Questions

  • What are some things you have had to work hard to get – grades? – job? – sports? – something else?
  • How did your efforts benefit you? Others?
  • What motivates you to work hard?
  • Do you find it difficult to stay motivated to work hard in any areas?

Personally, I find it tiring just reading all that this proverbial woman did. I struggle a bit with being lazy at times, and working too hard at times. I have to make an effort in keeping things balanced and not give in to selfish ambition or self-centeredness.

Balance is something I lacked while teaching. I missed a lot of my daughter’s senior year of high school. I was trying so hard to do a good job at school and still be available to my family, but I essentially burned out. I stopped going to church, and my prayer life became one of panicked cries for help on a daily and hourly basis. My family was incredibly supportive, but it was too much.

  • Ephesians 2:10 (HCSB) For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.
  • Colossians 3: 17 (HCSB) And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
  • Ephesians 4:28 (HCSB) He must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need.
  • Proverbs 20:13 (HCSB) Don’t love sleep, or you will become poor; open your eyes, and you’ll have enough to eat.

Questions to Consider

  • Do you ever let the efforts of your work consume you to the point of damaging relationships?
  • How do you handle it when the work required of you seems unimportant?
  • Does God only care about our work if it’s for church ministry? Why do you think so?

Why It Matters

Some people think God is only interested in our church activities. If that is what we believe, then we can behave in a way that is contrary to Christ living in us when we aren’t in a church setting, and our testimony and the fullness of Christ’s love in us is not complete. To be a disciple of Christ means we follow His way in all areas of our life. All things are under His authority, including our job, and how we do it. If we have to do work that is mundane and tedious, we can still bring glory to God by doing it with a positive and uncomplaining attitude.

My Story

As you read the following paragraphs, you will see that my concern was primarily with my purpose and my role as a woman. I don’t know that this question has really been answered with any sense of finality, and I don’t know that it ever will. I do know this; I want to be open to growing, learning, and experiencing all that God has for me. I’ve learned to enjoy being surprised and flexible.

While I was in college, I was intent on discovering my place in the world, the church, and God’s plan for me. I decided at an early age that I would become a teacher. I also wanted to stay home to take care of my family when I had kids, but I often felt like there was something more that I could do. Dissatisfaction settled in my heart. While I could see the value of the traditional roles with which I was raised, I was also curious about the restrictions and boundaries placed on women. How much did I agree with the feminist idea that women and men should be treated equally in all situations? Could I stretch what was traditional and still honor God? Did God want me to do something different? Was I limiting myself if I chose to be a wife and stay-home mom? I wanted to explore all this in a way that honored Him. I decided I should start from the beginning of the Bible and read all the way through making notes of whenever women were mentioned and what their roles were. Were they honored? Did they please God? How?

My dad is a carpenter and a preacher. Both of these are very traditional, male roles especially in the area in which I grew up. In kindergarten, they let us use saws, hammers, and nails. I was delighted since my dad didn’t let me use his tools. I loved the feel, smells, sounds, and the creativity of working with my hands and the wood. I told my dad I wanted to be a carpenter like him. He responded with a resounding, “No Way! No daughter of mine will ever work in construction.” Obviously, anything related to carpentry was not going to be supported by my parents. However, as I read through the Bible, I found a place where the Israelites were rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem. Each family was responsible for their part of the wall. One man had several daughters but no sons. Guess who helped build that section of the wall? His daughters! (Nehemiah 3:12) There were female carpenters in the Old Testament! And, they were honoring God with their work. It was notable enough to mention in the Bible. Hmmm.

Dad and me with toolbelt

My dad still wears his tool belt to work every day!  I grew up being proud of my dad’s strength.

I resolved my questions about the female role in this way. God made each of us with unique desires, skills and abilities. Whatever we do, whatever role, whatever work, and whatever relationships we encounter, we should always look to honor God. It is not beneath any woman’s intelligence or capability to stay home to raise her children and support her husband. Not is it wrong for women to use the intelligence and abilities He has given them to be successful in business, science, or even carpentry. As long as we are humble, loving and serving Him, I believe we are living inside His Will and fulfilling His purposes for us. This honors God. Finally, we are not limited to only one role throughout our lives. My time to be a stay-home mom is coming to an end, and I am about to begin teaching full-time. I may never get to become skilled at carpentry, but I have done my best to “build my home” and raise my family with the knowledge and love of God. I am satisfied with that.

There is so much to say and consider about the role of women and work. That is certainly another topic for another time. However, I can’t believe I failed to mention in this section Proverbs 14:1 –“ A wise woman builds her house . . .” It does get more attention in a later lesson.

The Big Question(s)

  • What work do you believe God has given you to do, and how has He uniquely made you for that work?
  • How are you honoring God with the way you do your work?
  • Do you believe and trust that He has prepared you for certain good things for His purposes?

Dig A Little Deeper (All HCSB)

For even more verses, check out this website: http://workmatters.org/resources/workplace_scripture/ 

The specific link inserted here no longer works; however, workmatters.org is an active program with a lot of good information for those wanting to learn how to combine faith in all areas of work. There are resources available for young people who are just starting careers, and those of us with more experience.

Finally, I just have to share that the church I attend is currently doing a series on Kingdom Wisdom, which falls right into the same theme I intended for this Bible study. After the first sermon, True Wisdom, I told Pastor Travis that he was preaching my sermon! Just last week, the Kingdom Wisdom topic was work, and I want to share the link to it here.

Kingdom Wisdom – Work

You know that song, “God is on the Move”? Every time I hear it, I am reminded of the verse that says God is at work even now (John 5:17). His movement is certainly good work!

“God is on the Move” by 7eventh Time Down

 

 

 

Purity

***As an update, my mom’s surgery went very well, and she’s doing great.  She still has a lot to do to adjust to her new situation, but I know she can do all things through Christ who gives her strength!***

A few years ago, I wrote a Bible study I wanted to do with my daughter’s age group. She was nearing the point of graduating high school and about to head to college and adult life. I kept thinking about all the things I had tried to teach her over the years, and I wasn’t sure I had done a good enough job. I wanted to deliberately put together the lessons with scriptural foundation as a sort of reference source, or arsenal of truth that could be brought out when needed. As she was beginning to make a lot of her own adult decisions, I knew some of the battles that she would face – things she would have to deal with on her own. I wanted to do my best to help prepare her with Godly wisdom.

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I am so blessed to be her mom!

 

**Please know this, I created this study from the perspective of my own experience and Bible study. I am not a theologian and do not have a degree in ministry. I pray that as you read and consider the questions, thoughts, and scriptures, you will allow the Holy Spirit to guide you through God’s word. Whether you are younger or older, may you be encouraged and draw closer to God according to His will.

As I considered the themes of each lesson and gathered the scriptures I knew applied, I learned a lot about myself. I found I was challenged in my own spiritual journey even as I was writing from experience. Realizing the lessons I compiled for these young ladies were still just as relevant to my current stage in life, I decided I should look at them again. This is the first time I am revisiting the lessons since then, and I am adapting the lessons for the blog. I know there will be some revising. I also expect fresh insight and applications as I go through them with you.

The lesson themes are: Purity, Value, Hard Work, Money, Beauty, and Kindness. Each lesson was designed for group discussion and private reflection with additional scripture references and questions to think about over a week’s period. Since we’re doing this online, take your time with it. You may share with others if you would like to have your own conversations. Keep a journal if that’s your thing.

I hope you will interact by posting comments. I do read and approve the comments before they are published, so if you submit a comment and there’s no response right away, just know I may need a little time to get to it. I should be able to do so within a day.

So, without further ado, here’s the lesson on Purity!


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Purity in Spirit

The objective here is to understand more fully what it means to have a pure heart, completely dedicated to God. Purity is more than abstaining from sexual behavior outside of marriage. It is more than just being good, which is often hard enough. Our righteousness comes through our faith in Jesus Christ. Our sanctification comes with growing in faith, knowledge and experiences. Having a pure heart comes from being open and willing to follow God’s will through whatever trials will make us stronger.

Proverbs 31: 29 – 31 (NIV) “Many women do noble things,
 but you surpass them all.” Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
 but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Honor her for all that her hands have done,
 and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

Discussion Questions

  • What do you think of when you hear the word, “purity?”
  • What is purification?
  • Who is pure?
  • Describe some things that are refined and the processes that they go through.

If we are all born into sin, how can any of us have a pure heart? That’s the whole point! We can’t – not on our own. We can’t ever be good enough in our own strength. We can’t earn anything, we can’t give enough, we can’t serve enough, and we can’t be kind enough. Our activities do not make us pure. It is only by the grace of God, through His Son, Jesus Christ, that we can come to have a pure heart.

  • Psalm 12:6 (HCSB) The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in an earthen furnace, purified seven times.
  • Titus 3:5 He saved us – not by works of righteousness that we had done, but according to His mercy, through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit.
  • Psalm 51:10 – 12 (HCSB) God, create a clean heart for me and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not banish me from Your presence or take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore the joy of Your salvation to me, and give me a willing spirit.

Questions To Consider

  • Once you accepted Jesus as your savior, were you able to make all the right decisions and avoid sin?
  • Do you get tired of trying to be good?
  • What matters more, what you actually choose to do, or your thoughts and desires?
  • Does God see a difference?

Why It Matters

The distinction between what we do and what is in our heart is significant because our actions originate from what is in our heart and our thoughts. Without a heart that is seeking God, our desire to do the right thing is coming from the strength of our own will. We are constantly in battle between the desires of our flesh and the desires of God’s spirit living in us. Our desire to be able to live in our own strength is at odds with trusting God. You can’t do both. And when temptation comes, we won’t have the ability to withstand it if the strength we are using is from the flesh. The selfish desires won’t stand against other selfish desires. It is our constant dilemma in being Christians. God knows this, and that is why He has given us a way through Jesus Christ, the Scripture, His Holy Spirit, and each other.

Let’s look at this dilemma as recognized in scripture.

Romans 7:14-20 The Message (MSG) I can anticipate the response that is coming: “I know that all God’s commands are spiritual, but I’m not. Isn’t this also your experience?” Yes. I’m full of myself—after all, I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary.

But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.

My Story

Towards the end of my college years, I read a book, Passion and Purity, by Elisabeth Elliot. After reading it, I remember thinking it would have been better if I had read it earlier, like when I was in high school. In it, Elisabeth describes the courtship between her and Jim Elliot, a missionary. They were truly dedicated to waiting for God’s plan and timing to work out in their love for Him and each other. They didn’t know what was going to happen. When I read it, I realized that even though I professed to love God, I didn’t completely trust Him with all parts of my life. I did not have a pure heart.

It has taken a long time for me to understand the things that kept me from trusting God. It has taken a long time to allow spaces for God to show His love for me in different parts of my life. What I’m sharing now is an exercise in that trust and faith. I am giving space for God to use what has been broken in my heart and challenging in my life to encourage and shine a light for you to see how to go forward stronger and more confidently than I did. God has been so patient and gentle with me. I am learning every day how to trust Him more and in more parts of my life. I want you to see it now, at the beginning of your adult choices.

It comes down to this word from me to you. Having a pure heart means you trust God in all areas of your life. Gaining a pure heart means you have to go through trials that will show areas of weakness in which God will renew and strengthen if you let Him. A pure heart means crying out to Him when you are weak, when you mess up, or when you feel lost and alone. Having a pure heart means joy and praise as you worship the One who made you and loves you best – laughing at the days to come. Trust and faith in the certainty of God’s love for you will give you the confidence you need to be a woman as described in Proverbs 31.

Be encouraged, it doesn’t matter if you’ve already made mistakes, those are opportunities for you to let God work in those areas. Step forward with confidence. Be it choosing a college, a career, or a spouse, God is with you wherever you go. His love endures forever. Run to Him, pray and seek Him in everything. Watch as He creates a peaceful, loving, joyful and beautiful spirit in you. You are a daughter of God!

The Big Questions

  • Are you willing to let God create in you a pure heart even though it may sometimes be hard?
  • In what areas do you recognize that you aren’t really trusting God?
  • In what ways has God shown you His faithful love?

Digging A Little Deeper (HCSB)  The following are supporting scripture references that you can look at during the week as you ponder what purity means.

  • The Book Of Ruth – About purity and loyalty
  • Psalm 73 When we see things around us that make us feel foolish for pursuing purity
  • Jeremiah 29:13 When you seek me and find me when you search with all your heart.
  • Matthew 5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.
  • Colossians 3:10 Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his practices and have put on the new man, who is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of his Creator.
  • Acts 15:9 He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith.
  • Hebrews 10:2, 14-17, 22-25 Otherwise, wouldn’t they have stopped being offered, since the worshippers, once purified, would no longer have any consciousness of sins?; For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are sanctified. The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. For after He had said: This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws on their hearts, and I will write them on their minds, He adds: I will never again remember their sins and their lawless acts. 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, our hearts sprinkled (clean) from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water. Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promise dis faithful. And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away form our meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
  • Romans 5:3-5 And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
  • Daniel 12:10 Many will be purified, cleansed, and refined, but the wicked will act wickedly; none of the wicked will understand, but the wise will understand.
  • 1 Peter 1:3-9 You rejoice in this, though now for a short time you have had to be distressed by various trials so that the genuineness of your faith – more valuable than gold, which perishes though refined by fire- may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
  • Philippians 2: 12 – 15 So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who is working in you, (enabling you) both to will and to act for His good purpose. Do everything without grumbling and arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world. Hold firmly the message of life.
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Rights, Right, and Righteous Indignation

I am an idea person. I have all these great big ideas, but I am rarely in a position to actually make many of my ideas happen. And right now, I have this idea, but I’m not really in a position to make it happen.

You see, like many of you, I have been following the current debate over the protests related to “taking a knee” during the National Anthem at the beginning of football games. Personally, the older I get, the more emotional I become when I hear the National Anthem played, especially since I understand what our freedom means after living outside our country. Many people whom I love and know have served in the military, and I love the United States of America.

Because we live in the United States of America, we have unalienable RIGHTS as stated in the Declaration of Independence and specifically in the Bill of Rights, to freedom of expression.

Yet, many people do not think the protests are being done in the RIGHT way. This then leads to RIGHTEOUS indignation by parties on both sides of the issue. And that is not the only issue of disagreement. Every subject seems to bring out strongly expressed opinions.  My heart is so heavy when I see so much mean and hate-filled comments.

But wait, this article is not a political post. And my idea is coming.

See, we have become a nation divided, and there are so many different sides and issues with people engaging in RIGHTEOUS INDIGNATION over the absolute certainty that they are RIGHT and the other side is wrong, that there is no room for grace and mercy in our interactions.

I follow the Proverbs 31 Ministry’s First 5 App, Proverbs 31 First 5 app, and this morning’s devotion was on Lamentations 3:40 – 66. Lamentations is about suffering due to disobedience, and yet, still finding hope. I like to read comments, and I read three that gave me an idea. Darline spoke about moving forward even when things are hard and taking that next step, Diane referenced Elisabeth Eliot’s radio programs and Ms. Eliot’s encouragement to “Do the next thing” when feeling overwhelmed, and Sonja included a prayer asking that we could take a knee to pray and not protest.

So, here’s my idea, or my question. . .

What if we organize some sort of Christian response to pray on our knees for our country and ask for forgiveness?

2 Chronicles 7:14 says, “If my people would humble themselves and pray and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive them and heal their land” (NIV).

Our land is definitely broken, and in our righteous indignation, we are practicing pride. We feel justified to judge and criticize.

In Deuteronomy 6:5, we are given the first commandment, “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” In Matthew 22: 37 – 40, Jesus expands on this while being tested by the Pharisees, “He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most import command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”

As Christians, we are to love God first, and others second.  Yet, it seems expressions and acts of Christ’s love seem to occur more rarely than judgmental and angry statements.  It feels like were being manipulated into a false sense of self-righteousness and defensiveness. Perhaps we have made being RIGHT more important than loving others.

I don’t currently attend any football games, and I don’t know what it would look like to be able to do this without adding to the disrespect to our flag if done during the playing of the National Anthem, but it’s an idea. Maybe it can be done before or after a game. Or maybe at a specific time, like even during halftime. I don’t know. It’s an idea.

What would it mean to have such a public expression of humility and prayer for forgiveness? What would it mean for Christians, and what would it mean for our nation?

Maybe this idea is something someone else knows how to implement. I’m just saying, we aren’t heading in the right direction with all this pride. Let’s continue to pray for one another and treat each other the way we are commanded – with the love of God.

 

Get Your Shine On

It’s been a while.

I’ve missed writing. I mean, non-academic writing.

I didn’t expect to be away this long.

Here’s an update.

I’ve started the 2nd set of classes while still working on the 1st set. There’s a small 3-week overlap. I’ve been reading and writing academic style for the last month and a half. I feel like I have to write with APA style now all the time! Everything must be properly cited APA style.

Just kidding.  Not really.  No, Really!

I’ve also been participating in the last Bible study for the Spring session.

It’s called, All Things New – Bible Study Book: A Study on 2 Corinthians (Living Room) by Kelly Minter. It’s a great follow-up after Entrusted  by Beth Moore. Perfect for Spring.

We’re reading 2 Corinthians, and it’s just as challenging as the previous studies.

Over the past several weeks, there have been things I wanted to share with you.

Today, I share one, with no pictures because I have a research paper to finish and another one to start!

Here’s the main visual I have in mind.

A light is hidden under a basket with a veil on top of that.

That’s what I’ve been like. Any time I’ve moved and kept others at arm’s length. I’ve been hiding. It’s not like I really think I’m a star. Don’t get me wrong.  However, I do have the light of Jesus inside. And, when I am unwilling to get to know people, to make friends, to share, I am hiding His light.

Reading about God’s light reminded me of this verse I shared with my family when my kids were young.

14Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”c Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16as you hold firmly to the word of life. Philipians 2: 14 -16 NIV

It’s related to a verse in Daniel:

New Living Translation
Those who are wise will shine as bright as the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness will shine like the stars forever. Daniel 12:3

So, when my kids, or I, would complain, we would think of this verse.

So, in this Bible study with Kelly Minter, I read these verses already having the others in my mind.

New Living Translation
So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord–who is the Spirit–makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.  2 Corinthians 3:18

Read on . . .

Paul talks about when Moses came down from the mountain with his face glowing from being with the Lord. It scared the people, so he put a veil over his face. Paul compares the glory of Moses receiving the law to the glory of Christ. This same glory shines through us only the glory Moses reflected dimmed over time – ours doesn’t.

But, sometimes, we, or rather, I, hide it.

I blame it on fear, or being too pushy or inappropriate, or just, wanting to stay separated and quiet. If I share something that is so important to me, and it is rejected then I am rejected.

It’s not just sharing the gospel that I hesitate to do. It’s sharing me. For a variety of reasons, I want to stay hidden, and I’ve been convicted. I can no longer keep this light hidden and be who God made me to be.  I have to be willing to let others get to know me, and get to know them.  I can’t do it anymore in the old style, “Let’s be friends, but not too close.”

The Light of the Gospel

1Thereforesince we have this ministry because we were shown mercy,a we do not give up.b 2Insteadwe have renounced shameful secret things, not •walkingc in deceit or distorting God’s message,d but commending ourselves to every person’s conscience in God’s sight by an open display of the truth.e 3But if our gospel is veiledit is veiled to those who are perishing4In their casethe god of this agef has blinded the minds of the unbelievers so they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ,g, h who is the image of God.i 5For we are not proclaiming ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord,j and ourselves as your •slaves because of Jesus6For God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”k has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledgel of God’s glorym in the face of Jesus Christ.  2 Corinthians 4:1 – 6  Holman Christian Standard Bible

So, today, I’m not making this pretty and perfect.  But, I am sharing what’s important to me – what God has impressed on me to do.

And, I haven’t forgotten about you, the ones who are reading this blog.  I’m interested in hearing from you.  Leave a comment about how you let the light of Christ shine.

Together, let’s get our “Shine On!”

A Bookworm’s Battles

This week is the last Bible study meeting for Entrusted .

Last week was my first week of classes for my master’s program in school counseling.

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It’s a little interesting that as we are getting to the end of Entrusted, I am finding it difficult to figure out how to handle the new commitments and the old. I can’t do everything I want to – the blog, the master’s program, the next Bible study, exercise classes, not to mention the responsibilities I have to my family and home.

I’ve been in a battle this week and last.   There have been reminders of difficult experiences, relationships, and habits of mine. I’ve been overwhelmed with doubt, fear, and a general sense of maybe I am misunderstanding what I’m supposed to be doing.

Then, Beth Moore, who always has the kind of homework you need to concentrate and spend time doing, has us do a timeline from birth to present marking specific things about our walk as Christians. It was an exercise following the topic of teachers and mentors in the faith. In being reminded last week of my failings, I was surprised at what I found. By this exercise, I was able to hear God saying to me, “But you, Melissa . . .”

Painful Reminder #1: I moved and still move too much to have a constant present friend and companion other than my husband.  In my youth, I read ALL THE TIME. I often felt alone and unknown. It was my escape. Reading is my thing even now. I do have a few exceptional long-standing friendships, but we still don’t get to be physically present with each other. I miss y’all!

Painful Reminder #2: I have a real issue with time management. Everything I do takes longer than I expect. There is even the challenge of getting to the right place at the right time. There is a particular horror of bringing your daughter to the first birthday party she’s been invited to in a new town, a week late. Or how about driving your husband’s brother and family around looking for that “Apple Festival” two weeks too soon? These are the special issues that keep one from achieving success. I’m supposed to get a master’s?

Painful Reminder #3: Even though I know how to pray, I know scripture, and I know what I’m supposed to do, I really don’t know how to look at life with the expectation of victory. I get through things. I don’t necessarily win things. Grin and bear it. If it’s hard, I must be doing it wrong.

So, here’s what I learned from last week’s homework, and what I am realizing. Maybe you can relate.

First, on the timeline, most of the people who have been influential in my life are people I have never met. They are authors. Of course, I already mentioned some, Beth Moore, C. S. Lewis, Max Lucado, and others. There are many others. Being a bookworm has been a good thing for me. Reading has given me insight and knowledge that I’ve been able to apply when I didn’t have someone to talk to. What a blessing. “But you have resources to share with others because of the time you’ve spent reading. You haven’t been as alone and isolated as you thought you were.”

Second, I do have to be more mindful of time in a practical sense. Can I say, though, that it is very reassuring to know that God doesn’t show up on the wrong weekend. His plans prevail. He doesn’t get lost or overwhelmed. Even if I do mess up, it doesn’t mean I’ve messed up His plan for me. In every move, looking backward, I can see how He’s been with me, guiding me, even in churches where I was there, but not present. “But you have never been out of My reach, neither time, place, or season.”

Third, I’ve come to realize the battles are God’s way of strengthening me. I’m not supposed to go through life’s battles with a feeling of defeat or fear that I misunderstood what I’m supposed to be doing. It is through these battles that I get to see Him be victorious. In those victories, I’m learning how to fight the good fight with confidence. Battles don’t mean I’m doing something wrong, it means I’m being pushed and stretched. I’m through using the wrong form and getting hurt. I’ll take the discipline willingly if it makes me stronger. “But you have already been given victory, every gift for the plan and purpose I have for you through the power of the Holy Spirit.”

This morning, my boot camp instructor and some others were talking about pushing us to our limits. When I started the first week, I felt like I would throw up before we were even half way through. I don’t feel that way now. I’ve gotten stronger. Last week, this little bookworm felt pushed to the limit in spiritual battle. But guess what, now I feel stronger.

So for now, I may have to post only every other week instead of every week. I think I will spend the next several posts sharing with you some of the different books I’ve read with more specific details and reflections. Coming soon, a link to Amazon. This blog is part of what I’m supposed to do.

Holman Christian Standard Bible
Proclaim the message; persist in it whether convenient or not; rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching. 2 Timothy 4:2

And as we press on, here’s a great song to keep going. Steady Me by Hollyn

What is Beautiful?

Lately, there have been so many coincidences in my life; I can say without a doubt God is doing something. It’s exciting, but I still don’t know exactly what it means. Just a quick update – I’m starting classes for my master’s program this week. It’s a real thing now. The Beth Moore study, Entrusted, is incredibly timely for this transition. I’m being shown how God has been putting together all the events and people in my life for His purposes. I’m doing things I didn’t think I could and being more open to new adventures. It’s fun as I discover all kinds of places of His matching and meeting needs in unexpected ways.

Last week’s post was about God’s holiness. I struggled with it because I wanted us to think about the pure goodness, love, and perfection that is God. No matter how I tried to frame it, I couldn’t just make that picture without bringing in my own sin. I did say it’s hard to understand. I’ve been thinking a lot about how we cannot understand it properly because we just aren’t perfectly good, don’t know how to love properly, and are naturally full of selfish desires.

Many of us have had a lot of snow lately. Looking at fresh snow on a sunny day is beautiful and painful. It’s too bright. God’s holiness is like that – pure, clean, beautiful and powerful.  God’s holiness is like His glory.

snowy-field

New Living Translation
His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. Matthew 28:3

New Living Translation
The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven. Hebrews 1:3

I am the one who walks our dogs in the mornings. There have been occasions when I’m the first one out after a snowstorm. It always pains me to break the perfect layer of glittering beauty to let the dogs take care of their business. I always feel regret at having to ruin the pure whiteness with our steps and other remainders. Even if it’s not me, the plows come by, the cars, and everything gets pushed to the side. It all becomes a slushy, ugly, mess. It becomes hard to see the beauty.

We can’t violate God’s holiness. It stays. It’s firm. It can’t be polluted. We can’t step on it and leave our footprints marring the perfect, seamlessness of it. Yet He wants us to be with Him. He knows us. He wants to have a relationship with us. We, who are so NOT holy or pure. He knows we can’t help it. We’re born this way.

I recently shared with my daughter this quote:
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Every time I think of different pieces coming together to create unity, I can’t help but think of God’s plan for us. Jesus Christ, through obedience to God’s will, who is also God, has made a way for us to be with Him. He has given us grace.  Because of grace, we, who are broken and sinful, get to be made whole, made acceptable, through Jesus Christ. It takes our believing in Him through faith.

You can see it in John 13: 31-32:  New Living Translation
As soon as Judas left the room, Jesus said, “The time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory, and God will be glorified because of him. And since God receives glory because of the Son, he will soon give glory to the Son. 

New Living Translation
“Come now, let’s settle this,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool. Isaiah 1:18

English Standard Version
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18

Many of us have experienced some kind of brokenness. At some point, our lives have been shattered, our hearts broken, or we have struggled through pain. The pieces come together through Jesus Christ to create a beautiful masterpiece. What is more different than the holiness of God and the brokenness of mankind?  Yet, He brings them together to create a beautiful kaleidoscope of unity through Christ.

fractal-with-verse

A masterpiece of this magnitude doesn’t take place easily or quickly. It takes planning, time, and endurance with a focused determination. Through His work in us, we get to reflect His glory. This is Amazing Grace!

There are so many songs in my mind I want to share with you reminding me of God’s acts of love. One is “The Broken Beautiful” by Ellie Holcomb.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gpOXrY4BHMA&list=RDgpOXrY4BHMA#t=6

Do you have other songs that express this beauty? Share them with us. I would love to hear from you.

 

 

Not That Big of Deal

We’ve talked a lot here about why we should trust God and His love for us. This time, I want to address the holiness of God, especially in the context of obedience. Merriam Webster defines the word holy as “exalted or worthy of complete devotion as one perfect in goodness and righteousness.”

We learn how to obey and respect authority first from our parents. I think it’s safe to say no one grew up with a holy parent. However, generally speaking, they did their best to teach us right from wrong. When I look back on my childhood, I see significant times when I disobeyed my parents and suffered serious consequences. In most cases, I didn’t think what I was doing was a big deal. For example, there were no laws about seatbelts and car seats when I was young. My brother and I both wanted to sit in the front seat while we went with my dad on some errand. My older brother and I are less than 2 years apart, and we were just a little bit competitive with each other. If he had something, then I had to have it, too. I wanted to be just like him, and I wanted the same privileges he enjoyed.

As we were riding along, I proudly leaned against the seat in the space between my dad and brother, standing so I could see out the window. My joy was disrupted upon hearing my brother telling my dad I should get in the back seat because the door wasn’t shut properly. I reacted as one would expect any strong-willed 3 year-old sibling. Speaking clearly, I told them I wouldn’t get in the back unless my brother had to also. My brother and dad were now both frantically telling me to get in the backseat. I thought a compromise would work better such as sitting down instead. Within a matter of seconds, my dad was reaching over to me, enforcing his command. I yelled, “NO,” pulled away from him, and promptly fell out of the car. Thankfully, my dad had already begun slowing down to pull over. I wasn’t hurt badly, but there were some scratches and bruises. It made such an impression on me; I still remember it to this day. I rebelled and got hurt.

Both my older brother and my dad recognized the danger I didn’t. I was certain I would not fall out of the car, and I had no idea when I pulled away I was that close to the door. I reasoned if my brother could stay in the front without falling out, I could too. I didn’t want to be denied the pleasure and importance of sitting up front.

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How many times has God told us the right way to live,
and we have refused to listen? Perhaps we think this small act of disobedience doesn’t really matter. It’s not that big of a deal. Maybe we rationalize our choices and actions based on what we think is fair. Maybe we just want to have fun and think if it doesn’t hurt anyone else, then we can handle the consequences. For me, that could be sitting on the sofa playing just one more game connecting brightly colored candy. It’s not that big of a deal, until I realize I’ve been playing over an hour, my family has all gone to bed, and I’ve lost that time with them. Or, maybe we think we won’t actually be punished.

 

These thoughts are just the little ways we eventually find ourselves further from God than we realized. To our Holy God, even a little sin matters and separates us from Him. We can’t fully appreciate His perfect goodness and righteousness when we don’t understand it. When I try to fathom what it means that God is holy, and I am not, I feel intimidated. How can I approach the one, true, Holy God when I know how sinful I am? If we stop there, we allow fear to paralyze us. God is Holy, and God is love. It is because of His holy love that He offers grace to us. Remembering this allows us to approach Him with humility and confidence instead of fear. Perfect love drives out fear. (1 John 4:18)

One day, all of us will stand before God – even those who don’t believe in Him now. Remember, God is not dependent on our belief or unbelief. He is real. God will judge each of us. Some will be found righteous and have eternal life, while those who refused His mercy and grace will perish. Our righteousness has nothing to do with our works, but with our faith in the grace He has provided through Jesus Christ.

Below I’ve listed verses for you to read about think about this week. I’ve linked each verse to biblehub.com, where you can see the verse in context or read different translations. These verses are from a list of scriptures used by an organization I’ve been part of called Moms In Prayer. I hope they guide your thoughts this week as you consider God’s holiness.

New Living Translation
No one is holy like the LORD! There is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God. 1 Samuel 2:2

Holman Christian Standard Bible
God, Your way is holy. What god is great like God? Psalm 77:13

New Living Translation
But the LORD of Heaven’s Armies will be exalted by his justice. The holiness of God will be displayed by his righteousness. Isaiah 5:16

New International Version
Who will not fear you, Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.” Revelation 15:4

Exodus 15:11           Psalm 99                    Psalm 111:9              Isaiah 57:15-16

Luke 1:49               Acts 3:13-15            1 Peter 1:15-16           Revelation 4:8

 

 

 

 

 

If You Love Me . . .

 

Last week, I included the verse, John 14:23. “Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” (NIV)

Some of you may be more familiar with the verse that came a little earlier in the chapter, “If you love me, keep my commands.”  John 14:15 (NIV) This is the kind of short, easy verse some of us may have memorized in Sunday School when we were young.

I have trouble with this verse because it sounds conditional. I’ve always been under the impression God’s love is unconditional, so why the ‘if . . . then’ statement? “If you love me” has always struck me as a manipulative phrase. I would never have trusted that coming from anyone without suspecting an ulterior motive was at its core or the person didn’t trust my love for its own sake. Is God trying to manipulate me? Do I have to prove my love to Him? Doesn’t He already know my heart? This just doesn’t seem right. I already know trying to be good doesn’t work.

Remember, if we don’t study scripture in context, we won’t understand it properly. What we have here is the record of a conversation between Jesus Christ and His disciples shortly before his crucifixion. Read the following with a little more context:

15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be[a] in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”

Jesus is explaining to His followers that once He has died, been resurrected, and ascended to heaven, He will send His Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, to remain with them. He will not leave them alone in this world. Rather than a manipulative statement, John 14:15 is actually a cause and effect statement. If the love of Christ is in us, we will keep His commands – because we love Him. Each part of the trinity is at work for the unity of love. Keeping His commands is a direct result of the love of God alive in us. Here’s one more verse, again, just a little bit earlier:

11Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.

In this verse, Jesus says at the very least, His good work is evidence of the Father in Him. By comparison, our keeping the command to love God first, and loving others, is evidence of our knowledge and belief in Jesus Christ. Our obedience comes from the love God Himself gives us and empowers through the Holy Spirit.

There are some conditional statements by God throughout the Bible. Mostly, those have to do with promises. Even the covenant between Abraham and God was dependent on the Israelites keeping their side of the agreement.

Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.” Exodus 19:5 – 6 (NIV)

Much of God’s promises depend on our being faithful or obedient. We make choices. In the Old Testament times, they had the prophets, laws, and sacrifices. Today, we still have the law, which let’s us know of our need for redemption, we have salvation through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and we have the Holy Spirit to help guide us into truth.

God does not need to manipulate us. Manipulation occurs when someone needs to cause another to do something that serves a selfish purpose. God doesn’t need anything from us, and He certainly isn’t selfish.  Think about this:

12if we endure, we will also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He will also deny us; 13if we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.14Remind the believers of these things, charging them before God to avoid quarreling over words; this is in no way profitable, and leads its listeners to ruin. 2 Timothy 2:13 (NLT)

Let me encourage you. I write about this because I want you to trust God’s love for you. I want you to understand the truth. The truth is God is love. Love is patient. So, God is patient. He does know you, and He wants a relationship with you. God is not dependent on any of us. He’s trustworthy. He’s also forgiving. That’s the whole point of the cross. Our obedience is derived out of our love for Him.  Living things grow.  The more our love grows, the deeper relationship we have with Him, and the stronger our desire is to obey Him.  It takes time.  Let it grow!