Construction Zone: Illumination

By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures. Proverbs 24:3-4

The focus of our women’s ministry this year “Rooms Full of Riches,” is based on the verse above from Proverbs. The purpose is to equip us to build our lives and homes on Biblical wisdom, understanding, and knowledge. In our winter session we dug into the wisdom of Proverbs, applying God’s Word to building our homes and lives. (In fact, that concentrated study on home-building is what prompted this series of “Construction Zone” blogs.) So, if you are reading this and find yourself desperate for wisdom and instruction in your day-to-day life, the collection of wise truths from the book of Proverbs will most likely have something to illumine your situation. scripture tells us in the book of Psalms that His word is a lamp for our feet and a light on our path. (119:105) dark_street_195913

According to dictionary.com, a proverb, in general, is “a saying popularly known and repeated, usually expressing simply and concretely, though often metaphorically, a truth based on common sense or the practical experience of humankind.” The book of Proverbs from scripture does just that, it expresses God’s truths simply and concretely. And since we Believers accept God’s Word as The Truth, sayings from the book of Proverbs carry much more weight than secular proverbs we hear in life, such as “A friend in need is a friend indeed.”

The introductory words of the book of Proverbs explain its purpose this way: 

The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: for gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight; for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to those who are simple, knowledge and discretion to the young— let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance— for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. Proverbs 1:1-7

 

I want to gain wisdom. I need wisdom. Life is hard, and sometimes I just don’t know what to do. I need insight and understanding. I want to receive instruction for how to know what is right and to help me figure out how to live in this fallen world. Don’t you? And I want the real stuff – real wisdom – not the “wisdom” we get from well-meaning acquaintances telling us what we want to hear that’s not necessarily the truth. Wisdom that will help me dig out from under my junk and really deal with life instead of adding more confusion or complications, that’s what I want. You know what I mean?

Currently, I’m reading through Beth Moore’s Portraits of Devotion each morning this year, and this verse from the book of Proverbs popped up:

light_lamp_196504For a command is a lamp, teaching is a light, and corrective discipline is the way to life. Proverbs 6:23 HCSB

That’s what I want: instruction that lights my way as I journey through life. The kind of wisdom that comes from scripture and is lived out in those obedient to His Word. We can have that wisdom! How? James 1:5 tells us that if we lack wisdom, we should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault. If we do that wisdom will be given to us. Have we asked for wisdom lately? Or are you like me? Are you more apt to ask God to rubber stamp your opinion of what you wish would be done in a situation? If we get to the point we really want what’s best more than we want our way, all we have to do is ask, because “The Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” (Proverbs 2:6)

Have you ever prayed, “Lord just write it out on a sign and tell me what to do?” I have. But I’ve never had a real billboard show up with it spelled out for me like my friend Amy has. What I have experienced most often is one of those Proverbs 6:23 flashlights shining on a dark, scary path and illuminating only about 3 steps in front of me at the most. But guess what? When I take those three steps, the illumination spreads on ahead of me to show the next 3 just like our verse above talks about! And it doesn’t just shine light for that path, but it teaches me and corrects me so that the next time I’m on a dark path I’ll remember the lessons learned and walk through that path with more peace and strength. So maybe it’s best for me NOT to get a road sign. Maybe I learn more how to live. Then it’s not just a temproary fix, but a teaching, growing experience.

dark-forest-landscape-1.jpgI’ll never forget one particular family trip to Virginia. We had left Alabama in the wee hours of the morning and found ourselves exiting the interstate at dusk. Darkness came on us quickly as we drove up the winding road to the cabin we had reserved online. There were other cabins along the deserted road, but they were spaced far apart on mountain peaks just off the Blue Ridge Parkway. By the time we reached the gated, dirt road to our cabin it was near 9pm and pitch black. My husband jumped out, unlocked and jumped right back in the car, the thought of bears and rattlesnakes unspoken between us so as not to alarm the kids. A mile of steep, bumpy clay “driveway” and we were at our destination. No lights. No moon. 4 kids. Luggage. The unknown. The fears. We managed to get all of us, and items necessary for the night, into the cabin and collapse into bed within the hour.

Next morning, we awoke to the sun streaming in. The cabin was delightful. The view was amazing. The fears were gone. Nothing had changed about the cabin and its surroundings, except that it was now illuminated by glorious sunlight. That week was one of our best vacations ever. The funny thing is, after days full of vacation fun, every night we came back to our home-away-from-home about 9pm – in the dark! But guess what! It wasn’t scary any more. Once the dark road had been illuminated, the fear was removed.

As you travel through dark times of life, seek illumination from God’s Word. Proverbs is a good place to start. The book of Psalms works too. The Gospels, Paul’s letters, it all brings light to our life. It instructs. It illumines. It reassures. We are reminded of Jesus the Light of the World, who has conquered darkness.

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Tax Day

As we in America file our taxes today, I’m reminded of a story in the bible of Jesus’ encounter with a tax collector.

It’s summed up in a cute little kids’ song that goes something like this

Zaccheus was a wee little man and a wee little man was he.
He climbed up in the sycamore tree for the savior he wanted to see.
And as the Savior passed that way He looked up in the tree,
And He said, “Zaccheus you come down.
For I’m going to your house today.”

How often have we felt like the wee little man – the unimportant, unwanted, or left out one? We may feel despised for the job we do, the past we have, or the choices we’ve made. We see ourselves as unacceptable in the society. We believe we’re judged by those eyes looking at us everywhere we go, even church sometimes.

If we take time to think about the words of the song or to read this story from scripture, the heart-touching part of this simple story shines through.

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zaccheus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

IMG_8499Zaccheus’ innate curiosity led Him to encounter Jesus. You too have been given a personality with certain traits and God will use those to lead you to encounter Jesus.

Zaccheus’ height may have felt like a handicap at times, especially in a crowd like this where he wanted to see what was going on. Father God already had the tree growing there that Zaccheus needed – God had made a way for Zach to come to Jesus even with whatever perceived handicap or weakness he had. And God has already made a way for you as well.

When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.

Ole Zach didn’t have to seek out Jesus, Jesus sought out Zach and ended up right at his tree. And what was Zach’s response? He was glad! He jumped down at once because he was ready to welcome Jesus. Are we glad when Jesus meets us? Do we see Jesus as a desired guest coming to our house or as a hard task-master critiquing our every failure?

All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”

Others talked. And they will. Others will talk about us when we begin hanging out with Jesus. “Doesn’t Jesus know who she used to be?”

But Zaccheus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

Zaccheus’ heart was changed forever when he encountered Jesus. Though he had most likely been a greedy, money-focused person (and we know that because of the reputation and requirements for how tax collectors conducted their business during those times), Jesus changed him. Money was no longer his focus. Jesus Gave him a new heart, a heart of generosity and repentance.

Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:1-10

Zaccheus experienced salvation that can come only through Jesus. Jesus came to seek and save the lost. He sought out and saved ole Zach. And He is seeking you and your loved ones who do not know Him. He seeks to find us and rescue us and pull us out of our old life of walking in darkness to a new life walking in the light of His love.

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Construction Zone: Is Your Plumbing Working?

Stepping in my basement door I was greeted with a “splash.” It stopped me dead in my tracks. That had never happened before. Our oatmeal colored Berber carpet looked like a layer of sand under an inch of water, as if a wave were retreating along the shoreline. If you’ve had the misfortune of finding yourself in a similar situation, you no doubt understand the importance of properly working, well maintained plumbing in your home. When plumbing is working correctly we never notice it, and we take it for granted. But faulty plumbing is noticed with alarm and taken seriously.

Piping in our homes has flow coming in and flow going out. It is designed to be a channel  for water to come in, be used, and then leave. Spiritually we are designed to operate similarly. Just like empty pipes would be useless, our lives devoid of the Spirit flowing through us would be of little use in God’s kingdom. We are designed with a capacity for the Holy Spirit to come in and fill us. But just like the piping in our house, we are also meant to have the filling of the Spirit pass through us in ways that are useful and effective in the lives of the world around us.

Spirit input. We should be constantly seeking more of the Spirit’s filling. A steady intake of the Word of God each day and seeking His heart through prayer keeps us constantly being filled. It prepares us to let the fruit of the spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control – flow through us whenever and wherever.

mixer-tap-413745_1280Quenching the Spirit. We’re instructed in 1 Thessalonians 5:19 to not quench the Spirit. If we are seeking to be a part of God’s kingdom coming here on earth and His will being done in society around us we must be aware to nurture His Spirit within us, to listen to it and obey it and not to quench it. Quenching the Spirit in our metaphor is very much like cutting off the water supply valve to your whole house. You leave yourself unprepared and empty of the very thing you need the most.

Outflow of the Spirit. When we turn on a water faucet in our house we expect the water to flow out. In our lives, we expect the Spirit to flow through us in all his varied and glorious ways. Acts 4:31 tells us of those who were filled with the Spirit and spoke the Word boldly. In other places in the New Testament we see a variety of other things coming from those filled with the Spirit: wisdom, faith in the face of imminent death, healing, ministering to needs, and an outflowing of many other gifts of the Spirit. Are we so filled up with Him that the Spirit’s power is able to flow through us at a moment’s notice just as water would flow when we turn on a faucet?

In Genesis 12:2-3 God told Abraham, “I will bless you;… and you will be a blessing… and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” We too are blessed to be a blessing. The blessings of that Spirit that flow into us are meant for us, but they are also meant for others. We are not to be a stopped up pipe. We are to allow the Holy Spirit’s power to flow freely into us and out of us. John 7:37- 39 puts it pretty plainly:

On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

There is a thirsty world all around us. People are in desperate need of a drink of the living water we possess. Is your plumbing working? Is the living water flowing from within you? Or have your pipes backed up? Be a conduit of the myriad of gifts the Spirit has to offer the world around you. Allow the fresh, living water of life to flow forth wherever you go.

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Construction Zone: Studs

Studs.

Yep, you read it correctly.

No. Not a horse, nor the handsome guy in anatomy class, but the two-by-fours within your walls.

My husband is a fantastic handyman who has saved us many a repair bill through the years. I find paying in Yankee dimes much preferrable to ruining our budget by paying an exorbitant bill from our checking account for home or car repairs.

My husband is also quite the kidder. His favorite handyman joke when working with walls or hanging pictures for me involves a stud-finder. In case you don’t know, a stud-finder is a large matchbox sized, battery operated gadget that can detect boards within a wall so a person will know where to hang heavy objects. As you move it across the wall it beeps when it senses the more dense area where a stud is located. My Sweetheart’s joke is to sweep his stud-finder around him and finally across his body, and at that moment hit the test button which causes it to beep. He does this with a flirtatious grin, and of course I reward him with a quick kiss and “That’s my stud!” or laughter and eye rolls, depending on my mood. Even after years of this same joke, it never ceases to bring joy to our days.

post-2232962_1280Through all our years of marriage I’ve learned many things about studs that I did not know as a young bride of 21. I knew there were boards within the walls of buildings. And I knew they were needed to support the roof. But that’s about all I knew those many years ago.

Since then I’ve learned that studs have to be at the right distance apart to make a structure strong and stable. Studs need to be placed “16 inches on center” for THE best stiff, strong wall. This doesn’t mean there are 16 inches in between the studs, but that measuring from the center of one board to the center of the next will give you 16 inches. Some buildings don’t measure up to this standard. Older homes, or ones constructed by someone on the cheap or in a haphazard way may yield other results. Twenty-four inch centers is common, but not nearly as strong.

Secondly, I learned that studs need to be certain dimensions, not just any ole board will do. Two-by-fours are the standard stud size. That means that when they are cut, they are 2 inches thick and 4 inches wide. After that they are kiln dried which causes them to shrink as the moisture evaporates. Then they are further reduced in size when they are planed to make them a uniform size for building (usually about 1 1/2 by 3 1/2 inches).

wood-690402_1280I also learned that studs are usually made of particular kinds of wood. Softwood is generally used behind the walls for construction projects, whereas hardwoods are used for the beautiful furniture and embellishments we see in the rooms of our homes. Softwoods are generally coniferous trees such as pine and cedar, those that grow quickly and do not lose their leaves in the fall. While hardwoods are deciduous trees, like oaks, which lose their leaves. Softwood is preferred because it is easier to saw, plane, bore, and nail because of the structure within the wood, and I wonder, if not possibly because it grows more quickly and trees can be replaced within a few years rather than decades.

So how does our woodworking lesson relate to life?

1 – The unseen supports inside us are very important. I may look like a happy-go-lucky, got-it-all-together kind of woman on a random Sunday morning where your local God-fearing congregation is meeting. But on the inside I may be a sinful mess, a doubting mess, a fearful mess, a depressed mess, a burdened mess, a prideful mess, or any of a number of other messes. You don’t see the real me. Only God does. And I don’t see the real you. I’ve learned through years of walking with the Lord that the scriptural principle is, what’s on the inside is going to eventually come out. We are to be more inwardly concerned with pleasing God than pleasing people.

A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. Matthew 12:35 KJV

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10 NIV

2 – Your internal “studs” must be made of the right stuff. This is obvious. Heaven knows those cardboard houses I built as a kid couldn’t even withstand one rainy day. Yet we try building our inner man based on popularity, acceptance, the world’s opinions, and even our own feeble human wisdom. Softwood such as this won’t work for a stable life. While soft wood may be best for building physical structures, we want to build our spiritual homes on the hard truths of the Word of God. God’s words from scripture, when taken in daily and applied to building our lives and homes, will build in us the character, faith, submissiveness, patience, love, and a host of other things that are required to live a life of love as Christ commands us in the New Testament. When we seek Jesus first and follow His commands we are building with the right materials.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 NIV

For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 1 Corinthians 3:11-13 NIV

wood-877368_12803 – Your “studs” need to be the right size. If I tried using a 1×4 within the walls of my home I would find them collapsing under the weight of the roof. If I used 1/4 inch plywood it would be even worse. If I cut my studs too short, I’d find myself having to duck my head when I entered my home. We would never do that, and would consider it shoddy work if a builder we hired did such a thing. However, we frequently build this way in spiritual matters. We take shortcuts and don’t measure up. We grasp onto one verse and use it as a proof-text for what we believe. We ignore the harder teachings of scripture because they are too challenging, they convict us too much, or because we haven’t read enough of His word to know better. We need to be students of the Word on a daily, methodical journey to learn all we can of God’s ways and the nature of the world through His Word. Anything short of observing the full counsel of the Word of God, is taking shortcuts and not measuring up in our building materials.

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. Matthew 7:24 NIV

Those [seeds] on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. Luke 8:13 NIV

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15 NIV

I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word. Psalm 119:15-16 NIV

4 – “Studs” need to be on at least 16 inch centers. We may be firmly grounded in scriptures about “honor your parents” or “thou shall not covet” or “for God so loved the world” or other basics we’ve been taught since childhood. These are not unimportant, but they are few and far between as far as strong support for our spiritual house goes. These represent lives built on 24 inch centers or worse. As we’ve grown physically older, have we matured spiritually too? Have we studied His Word deeply and participated in Bible studies and classes that have added deeper truths and more complex theology to our walls? Have we gotten to know the Father personally from His word rather than just religiously? Have we added teachings on spiritual gifts, grace, wisdom, and other matters to our lives? The deeper teachings of God’s word grow us stronger. With each new revelation from the Word of Truth we add more studs to our walls constructing stronger Godly houses with numerous 16 inch center studs.

Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. 1 Peter 2:1-3 NIV

Though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. Hebrews 5:12-13 NIV

So as we evaluate our spiritual house, I must ask – If I run a spiritual stud-finder across you, will it beep or will you have to mash the test button? Will it be just one, or many studs, spaced closely, offering strong support, cut to the right dimensions, and made of appropriate materials?

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7 Years and 1 Ziplock Bag of Sand

IMG_5498by guest blogger Kelly Archer

During our recent move, these glasses were one of the last things to be packed.

I had been planning on literally holding them in my hands while someone drove me to the new house so that no piece of sand would be displaced. These glasses are such an important symbol of our marriage and I did not want the sand to be spilled or altered in any way. As noted in scripture, “…what God has joined together, let no man separate.” (Matthew 19:6) My earthly eyes did not want to change the way the sand had fallen into the glass from our wedding ceremony, because I felt like it would alter our covenant. (I know, I know… it’s just sand.)

After putting Scarlett to bed one night before the move, I walked into the kitchen to find a ziplock bag of our sand and the three glasses, freshly washed, and crystal clear.

IMG_5497I stood there with tears in my eyes… to which Nick replied…

“I meant to have it back in the glass before you noticed.”

Part of me was so mad. The other part of me was laughing, because it is totally something Nick would do. Did the glasses need to be cleaned from dust and fingerprints? Yes. But I planned to do it my way and clean the top of the glasses, not literally pour the sand out!

Yes, I know, the easiest and safest way to pack would be the way Nick did, with the glasses wrapped in bubble wrap.

I share all of this to say, this is an earthly thing that will one day be gone. One day there will be a new heaven and a new Earth. I’m so thankful our marriage is based on the foundation of Jesus Christ, not on a glass of sand. I pray that God continues to bless our marriage and that together we continue to serve and advance His kingdom.

I’m not perfect, neither is Nick, and neither is our marriage. But, with daily prayer and continually placing the other first (which is not always easy), our marriage is rewarding in so many ways. I’m so thankful for a Godly man to lead me and our family! It’s been a wonderful 7 years full of ups and downs, and best of all becoming parents to not one, but two girls! I wouldn’t change a thing. I love you, Nick. Thank you for being the best, for working hard, for taking care of me and Scarlett, and for being the best trip planner and the best cook, among many other things!

Epilogue

Nick setup a repeat, very sweet, sand ceremony tonight, and the glasses have been put in their new place. ☺️

I can’t wait to see what God has planned for us for the next 50+ years. ❤️

Happy 7th Anniversary! #myprincecharming #7years

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Lessons From a Child

by guest author Laura Nixon

“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” ‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭16:9‬ ‭

vintage-1892082_1280.pngSo my kiddo started a new ‘game’ lately. When I’m walking, he puts his head against my back and follows right behind me. My EVERY move. I go left, he goes left. I go right, he goes right. I go faster or slower, he goes faster or slower. He can’t see around me so he’s trusting my every move to be his next step. Sounds like loads of fun, right?! My thoughts too. Until I started realizing that this is exactly how God wants us to be with Him. Relentless faith. Following so closely and trusting His every move. Not looking at what’s around us, or what obstacles may come, or even the outcome, but following His every step. Having our eyes fixed on Him. Or in this case, our heads.

“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Galatians 5:25

When Jesus called each of the disciples, He went to them, right where they were, and said, “Follow me.” (John 1:43, Matthew 4:19, 9:9). He didn’t tell them where they were going. He wanted them to trust Him enough to lay down their lives and follow Him. Not one time did Jesus lay everything out for them, or tell them the plans for their future. He simply said, “Follow me.”

Jesus tells us this very same thing today. “Follow me.”

couple-follow-me-friendship-7707As much as we want to know our future or what’s next, Jesus doesn’t lay out a plan of our entire life for us and then tell us to decide if we want it or not. He simply says, “Follow me.” He wants us to let Him be our eyes and our shield as we take refuge in Him. He wants us to have relentless faith, trusting Him enough to lay down our lives to follow Him, keeping our eyes fixed on Him, taking one step of obedience at a time, and trusting Him with the outcome. Letting HIM direct our paths, as we follow every step He takes. He may not take us on the paths we thought, or even the roads we chose, but we can be sure of this, He will never leave us nor forsake us. And, He will ALWAYS work things out for the good of those who love Him and are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

So, we have a choice to make. Whether it’s starting a relationship with Him, making Him the Lord of your life. Or, whether it’s obeying  Him day by day, minute by minute. But our Father is saying to us, “Follow me.” Do we trust Him enough to do it?

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” ‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭3:5-6‬ ‭

“Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.” ‭‭John‬ ‭1:38-39‬ ‭

“The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” ‭‭John‬ ‭1:43‬ ‭

“And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ Immediately they left their nets and followed him.” Matthew‬ ‭4:19-20‬ ‭

“As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.” Matthew‬ ‭9:9‬ ‭

“It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy‬ ‭31:8‬ ‭

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans‬ ‭8:28‬ ‭

Construction Zone: The Foundation

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” 1 Peter 2:4-6

As we continue our series “Construction Zone,” we can’t move forward without taking a look at our foundation. Everyone who’s ever built a house or even seen one built is aware of the great time and measuring and care that goes into laying the foundation. It is no different with our spiritual house than it is with physical structures; we must carefully lay our foundation to have a strong house. As 1 Peter 2 reminds us, we are living stones being built up into a spiritual house, and Ephesians 2:20 tells us that Jesus Christ himself is the chief cornerstone.

You’re most likely familiar with the term “cornerstone.” Before the advent of poured cement, the cornerstone was that perfectly strong, perfectly hewn, and perfectly positioned boulder that was laid in the dug out earth to give strength and accuracy to the new structure being built. Jesus is that for us. He is our cornerstone in building our spiritual house that makes it a strong and well-built home.

As we construct our spiritual lives, we have to ask ourself first, “Am I built on the best cornerstone?” Some of us have built our lives on lesser cornerstones of family or a certain person or religion or even the unstable mud of money and possessions. Early on those things may have seemed to us as a teenager or young adult as The Thing that architecture-building-grass-280235would make our life perfect. And newly built structures all look equally perfect at the moment. Only after years of living on a faulty foundation do we find our lives looking like the leaning tower of Pisa or crumbling in shambles and having to be torn down and painfully started all over from scratch so to speak. An examination today of what your life is built upon will save you pain and confusion in the future. It’s better to find the termites early, by accident, than years later when the destruction is irreparable.

If we answered that above question with a firm, “Yes. My life is built on the Chief Cornerstone,” then the next question is, “How are you continuing to build?”

Jesus tells us a story about a couple of builders in Matthew chapter 7. You’ve probably all heard it and maybe even sung a little song about it as a kid, but have you thought about the application of it to your life? Here’s the story:

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” Matthew 7:24-27

Ladies, even if we acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Chief Cornerstone in our lives, we still have work to do. There is more to be built. The first choice is our choice of the foundation onto which we allow this cornerstone to rest. Is your Chief Cornerstone brick-215779_1280surrounded by the strong rock of hearing and obeying God’s Word or by the shifting sand of disobedience and lack of commitment to His Word? The rock of a heart that is committed to obey will choose to obey in the toughest storms and darkest hours of life. But the wishy-washy heart of those who hear God’s word and do not do them will lead to an unstable foundation that will shift and wash away when storms arise and times get tough, thus leaving an unstable home and life.

We tell our children, “Choices have consequences.” They do. Even for us as adults. Spend some time with your Father this morning and allow your “foundation specialist” to diagnose what is going on out of sight just below your floor. It may be time for some needed repairs before your structure crashes down around you. Build your foundation wisely!

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Happy Valentines Day to Every Woman!

On this day that celebrates romantic love we women can find ourselves sad, depressed, and feeling left out or “less than enough.” If we don’t proactively handle our thoughts as Philippians 4:8 tells us to, we may find ourselves flooded with feelings of loneliness, disappointment, and grief over what is not. Not there, not the way we wish it were, not perfect.

So today I tell you honestly: You are loved! You are enough! You are beautiful! You are treasured and adored! You Father in Heaven has a good plan for your life!

Instead of looking at romantic love today, let’s look at real love.

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13

Instead of looking forward with expectations of what you want to get, look with generosity to what you will give today.

Instead of focusing on what you expect to happen, give up those expectations and make a plan to shower love on friends or family or co-workers.

Instead of looking back with guilt or regret or a sense of loss, look forward to what your Father will make of your life in the days and weeks ahead.

Instead of desiring to get the roses, give the roses.

Instead of looking at what love you don’t feel you have today, look to The One who loves you just the way you are and His love that you do have this very moment.

 

Construction Zone: Edify

The last several months our ladies ministry has prepared for a year-long study that focuses on building our homes and lives God’s way. We’ve started off in the book of Proverbs seeking to grasp what is revealed there about wisdom, understanding, and knowledge. At the same time, my discipleship group was finishing up an in-depth study of First Thessalonians.

As I was studying through 1 Thessalonians 5, I came upon verse 11. In the English Standard Version it reads:

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”

Encouraging verse. Easy to glance over and tell yourself, “Oh I do that. I’m pretty encouraging.”

But the focus of the study that day was to do 4 things to gain more insight. To

1) observe 1 Thess. 5,

2) ask questions about it,

3) find cross references, and

4) use some Bible tools (concordance, dictionary, atlas, etc.) to find deeper meaning.

So I started with step one and began observing and asking questions about the scripture. My thinking followed a winding course that yielded some neat conclusions.

“Encourage” and “build up” sounded the same to me. You encourage someone to build them up, right? So I looked it up in a couple of other versions to see if it would shed some light on the meaning. And the KJV of verse 11 read –

“Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.”

Edify? Hmmm. Does that mean the same as encourage? I thought. I’d heard the word edify in church but had never really had it firmly defined in my mind. Surely it didn’t mean the same as encourage, because then Paul would be saying, “Encourage each other and encourage each other.” That sounded redundant. But sometimes scripture repeats something for emphasis, maybe it was just that.

As I reached for a dictionary, I was reminded of the word edifice (like a big building). I wondered if the terms were connected or were from the same root word. 

I looked up the words edifice and edify in some online dictionaries. Edifice did indeed refer to a large imposing structure, concrete or abstract, and to a complex system of beliefs.

For the word edify the primary definition was an expected one: “to instruct and improve especially in moral and religious knowledge : uplift : enlighten: inform.” Its synonyms included, educate, illumine, inspire, and nurture, among others. 

But then the second definition, listed as an archaic definition, really grabbed my attention.

  1. archaic a: build b: establish

architecture-build-building-209266It comes from the Latin noun aedes, meaning “house”or “temple,” which is the root of aedificare, a verb meaning “to erect a house.”

Wow! How neat. My other study is on Homebuilders, and here in a random verse in 1 Thess. 5, God is bringing up the idea of building again.

So naturally I did a quick word study. I looked up the word in a Strong’s concordance and a Greek lexicon that told the original Greek meaning. (If you are unsure how to study your Bible in this way check out previous articles here and here.) The Greek word was Oikodomeō, which reminded me of a yogurt, however, the lexicon I was consulting defined it this way:

(a) usually signifies “to build,” whether literally, or figuratively;

(b) is used metaphorically, in the sense of “edifying,” promoting the spiritual growth and development of character of believers, by teaching or by example, suggesting such spiritual progress as the result of patient labor.

Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance defined it as: to be a house-builder, i.e. construct or (figuratively) confirm, and went on to further say…

a. properly, to build (up from the foundation): to build upon a foundation laid by others, to carry on instruction begun by others. (Luke 11:48)

b. contextually equivalent to restore by building, to rebuild, repair.

c. metaphorically, Since both a Christian church and individual Christians are likened to a building or temple in which God or the Holy Spirit dwells,  the erection of which temple will not be completely finished till the return of Christ from heaven, those who, by action, instruction, exhortation, comfort, promote the Christian wisdom of others and help them to live a correspondent life are regarded as taking part in the erection of that building… .

It’s the same word that’s used in Matthew 7:24 about the wise man who built his house upon the rock, and in Matthew 26:61 when two men claimed that Jesus said he was able to tear the temple down and rebuild it in three days, as well as in Mark 12:1 where it talked about a man building a tower. All of these uses of the Biblical word edify were about physical structures.

The huge revelation in that moment was that in God’s eyes we are building each other! Just as the builders across the street from me are putting together a house, you and I have a part in helping each other become a spiritually strong well-built house. We help build character and habits, spiritual understanding and homes and marriages! We are built up by others throughout our lives and in turn have a role in building others’ foundations on Christ. We need each other – we don’t need to be Lone Rangers!

Isn’t it amazing that our Creator gifts us with the ability to procreate and to be creative in our lives just as He is? Our wonderful Counselor allows us to counsel and encourage others. Christ Jesus calls us to be imitators of him, “little Christs,” Christians, living out life as He modeled it. And God the architect and builder spoken of in Hebrews 11:10, allows us to participate in that aspect of Himself as well! We get to build, to edify, alongside Him! Isn’t it amazing?

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(Dictionary definitions are from Merriam-Webster.)

A Day of Remembrance

As we remember Martin Luther King, Jr. today, my favorite quote of his springs to mind.

“The end of life is not to be happy, nor to achieve pleasure and avoid pain, but to do the will of God, come what may.”

What a very important concept to grasp. Life readily lures us to seek to achieve happiness, pursue pleasure, and lead a life focused on self and our own desires. We do anything we can to escape pain, whether it’s pills for physical pain, or hobbies, distractions and trips to escape the emotional pains. Comfort at all costs seems to be society’s mantra.

How different our lives would be if “To do the will of God, come what may,” became our guiding principle of life!

Today as you remember Rev. King and are thankful for all he contributed to our world, let’s not reduce him to a secular hero. He was a man of God, and his faith led him to take the steps he did. Let’s do likewise and allow God’s will to be our driving motivation.

church-348806_1280Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” Hebrews 13:20-21