What Does a Christian Marriage Look Like?

Part 6 – Love and Respect

Somehow in this age of gender confusion, we have tried to make men and women be exactly alike. Women clamor for equality (sameness) with men. They, we women, want the same pay and treatment and opportunities and expectations on us. Nothing wrong with that. But they/we also want men to be like us: more in touch with their emotions, more nurturing, less aggressive. In all this equality talk there has emerged this unspoken idea that women and men are the same. But I must protest on this one. A simple conversation with my male friends, sons, or husband quickly reveals that there are innate and inherent differences in men and women.

This shouldn’t surprise us. God’s word has it written clearly In black and white that there are differences. Although there are variations in extremes according to personality, women tend to want to be loved and men want to be respected. Our Creator God told us this before our enlightened society tried to make us all unisex.

Ephesians 5:33 instructs us to meet each other’s most important need. It states:

However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. 

In his book Love & Respect Emmerson Eggerichs discusses these differing needs in the sexes and offers ways to live together in ways that offer understanding, respect and love that allows each gender to live to their fullest potential that their Creator made them to be. Upon reading this book several years ago, my husband and I had a discussion. It was more like a “Do you really feel that way?” kind of conversation. I had always assumed that every human in the world wanted to be loved more than anything. But he reinforced Dr. Eggerich’s research with his own anecdotal evidence; he could know I loved him, but if I acted in a way that he felt disrespected it ate away at him even though he was loved.

Ladies, I encourage you, do not expect the men in your life to be like you. Study men. Study their needs and reactions. Ask them their preferences and wishes. Respect them.

So what does a real Christian marriage look like in this respect? I’m afraid far to many of them are like mine was before I read this book – they are well-intentioned, but uninformed and misguided. They go on assumptions that the other spouse has their same needs, but this is not true. Men need our respect.

But ideally, men need us to see them as individuals and see how their personalities and longings and dreams play into the way they want to be treated. Isn’t that what we women want from them –  to be seen for who we are and treated honorably? Men want to be treated well and respected for their contribution to the world whether they work hard physically doing construction, or they seem to play at work coaching, or if they are an esteemed doctor, a truck driver, a hard-working contributor in a gigantic corporation, a craftsman, a journalist, a mechanic, or one of a thousand other things. Whatever they are, wise godly women should seek to give respect to the men in their lives.

Companion Dog

Almost 2 years ago I inherited my “Grand dog” when my daughter moved out of the country. He’s a bouncy ball of fur, and I’m his favorite person.

I didn’t know much about dogs. I had grown up in the generation where you kept a dog out in the yard and tossed scraps to him for food. So my daughter had to educate me on his routine, his commands, his particular food, his immunization schedule, his exercise schedule, all the no-nos about him, and that he was a companion dog. OK. Aren’t all dogs companion dogs? You know, the whole “man’s best friend” thing – that says companion to me. But no. As I read the informative dog book she provided, I found that certain breeds are companion dogs, not lap dogs, or guard dogs, but companion dogs.

dog-3010442_1920As I’ve gotten to know sweet Poppy over the course of this year, I see why he is that type. He loves to be around me. When he wakes up in the morning he lays on my bed until I get ready to go to the kitchen and he follows me. If I’m feeling bad, He snuggles right up against me or climbs up on my side to sleep. If he goes outside, he wants me to sit out on the porch while he lies in the sun or chases squirrels. If I walk out of a room, he follows. He loves for me to play with him. He sits on the bed and watches me fold clothes, follows me to the bathroom, and is up on the couch before I can even get seated. If he’s sitting beside me, I am required to be petting him unless he dozes off. He wants to be with me, to be my companion. He adores me, my touch, my company.

Are we like a companion dog in our relationship with our Heavenly Father? Are we constantly longing for God’s touch on our life? Is our favorite place resting by His side? Do we jump up and follow wherever we see Him go wanting to be in the room with Him?  Do we want to hear His voice and do we run quickly to Him when He speaks? Do we long to have Him with us as we lay beside Him with no agenda? Do we love to soak in the sunlight of His Word?

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May you find yourself becoming God’s companion this year.

The Tabernacle & Me

Each year as I begin again reading through the Genesis, Exodus, and Leviticus, starting my yearly journey through God’s Word, I come to some point in between Exodus and Deuteronomy when I say to myself, “What does this have to do with my life?” (I know that’s self-focused thinking, but that’s what I do.) Generally it’s when I’m reading a long list of “begats,” or numbering of tribes, or detailed descriptions of something unfamiliar to me that I can’t seem to visualize.

This year it happened in Exodus. As I was reading through chapters 35-38, about the construction of the tabernacle and all its furnishings, curtains, and articles, I once again had a what’s-in-it-for-me thought. As I read that particular day, I started asking myself, “How can I apply this?” “What do you want me to learn, Lord?”

And you know what? When we ask, He listens and answers.

I recalled how the tabernacle was the place where God came down to dwell among His people in His Shekinah glory. It was God’s house on earth. I remembered it was Holy and set apart and consecrated. And those thoughts made me think of these New Testament verses:

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? 1 Corinthians 3:16

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” 2 Corinthians 6:16

altar-4003119_1920I began to notice in the Exodus description, the rich materials that were used: the finest woods, rich beautiful fabrics, gold and precious metals and jewels. Not only were the materials the best, the craftsmen were the best at their craft as well. The men called upon to do the metal-work, the weaving, the hand carving and such were all noted to be very skilled “experts” in their area. Even the people themselves were called upon to offer their best gifts to be used in the construction and decoration of the tabernacle. They brought materials from their own personal wealth: jewels and yarn and spices for the incense. Not surprisingly, they brought it willingly; Exodus 35:29 specifies that it was a freewill offering. No one was compelled or taxed or forced; they offered to God things to make a perfect dwelling for Him among them.

So we ask: Father, how do these chapters from Exodus, about the building of the Tabernacle, impact our lives as your temples here on earth?

  1. We offer God our best. Not just our best material possessions – which is a given – but the best job we can do, the best/first of our time, energy, intellect, and passions. In so doing, we seek to become the best, the purest, a worthwhile holy gift to give to Him.
  2. We work heartily at whatever our hand finds to do. (Ecclesiastes 9:10) Seek to learn, organize, prepare, train – to become better, faster, more expert in any area where He gives us a job. I’m not just a mom, I’m creating a home and training these little ones. I’m not just putting words on paper, I’m using my skill to craft winsome and enlightening prose that God will use to touch others. I’m not just a singer, I’m a worshipper leading others to the throne of God. I could go on, but you get the picture. Are we reading up in our area, keeping up with developments, seeking training, honing our skills, doing improvement exercises in order to give our best self to the effort?
  3. We bring gifts to Him. Tithes and offerings and service in His house and to His people. Beautiful, precious gifts, not our leftovers. Intentional gifts that require much of us.
  4. We give willingly from our heart. If I, as a grown adult, am still giving my tithe just because I’m supposed to, I probably have an issue in my heart. As we grow with Him through the years we give to Him out of love. The giving brings joy. Our heart is in it and we desire to give. In fact, we probably even wish we had more to give! Pray: Father, help me want to give out of a willing generous heart. Amen.

So as you go about your day today, remember that You are God’s Temple – a beautiful temple that He is building brick by brick for His glory. Decorate your temple. Take care of what is furnishing your heart. Make yours a finely crafted temple, made of the finest materials, given to Him from a willing heart!

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Discontent with Our Provider

Are you a contented person? Willing to be satisfied with what you have without all the acquiring and manipulating? Or are you, like many of us, one who tries to fill the emptiness, hoping to get enough to be able to be content? What about when you are in those long, lean, tough times; are you able to be content then? Although I’ve walked with the Lord for years, I struggle to dwell contentedly when times are tough and I’m waiting for an answer from the Father.

This past week, a simple story about the Israelites, which we’ve all heard, brought me face to face with my lack of contentedness and lack of faith. Here’s the heart of the story from Numbers chapter 11.

Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the Lord, and when he heard them his anger was aroused. … The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!”…

1. The people complained. God miraculously supplied manna to feed them, but they got tired of it, griped, and looked back longingly to their days of captivity. Sounds like us, huh? Discontent with what we have we begin to gripe and look back to “the good ole days” which were really not that good.

10 Moses heard the people of every family wailing at the entrance to their tents. The Lord became exceedingly angry, and Moses was troubled. 11 He asked the Lord, “Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? 12 Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their ancestors? 13 Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ 14 I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. 15 If this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me—if I have found favor in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin.”

2. Moses, their leader then begins to gripe about his job. Also sounds like us. “Lord, look at these people I work with. I’m fed up. I can’t do this. Just kill me Lord.”

16 The Lord said to Moses: “Bring me seventy of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the tent of meeting, that they may stand there with you. 17 I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take some of the power of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them. They will share the burden of the people with you so that you will not have to carry it alone.

3. God intervenes. He provides 70 reliable men to help Moses so he does not have to bear the load alone. Father God will send us helpers to walk alongside us as well.

18 “Tell the people: ‘Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow, when you will eat meat. The Lord heard you when you wailed, “If only we had meat to eat! We were better off in Egypt!” Now the Lord will give you meat, and you will eat it.19 You will not eat it for just one day, or two days, or five, ten or twenty days, 20 but for a whole month—until it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it—because you have rejected the Lord, who is among you, and have wailed before him, saying, “Why did we ever leave Egypt?”’”

4. The funny interlude from the Lord – at least I think so! I can just hear God saying, “O, so you want meat to eat, do you? I’m gonna give you some meat. so much meat that you will be sick of it.” I’m glad He provides and teaches in kind but memorable ways!

21 But Moses said, “Here I am among six hundred thousand men on foot, and you say, ‘I will give them meat to eat for a whole month!’ 22 Would they have enough if flocks and herds were slaughtered for them? Would they have enough if all the fish in the sea were caught for them?”

5. Moses doubts God. Where in the world was God going to get enough meat for 600,000 people for a month?! They were in a desert. … O wait! … God created all the food in the first place, so hmmm… I guess He could create meat out of nothing…

23 The Lord answered Moses, “Is the Lord’s arm too short? Now you will see whether or not what I say will come true for you.” …

6. “Is the Lord’s arm too short?” – my favorite line of our story. That’s a rhetorical question, and the answer is an implied, definite “No!” The Lord’s arm is totally capable of providing for these children of Israel, and it is also totally capable of providing for our every need today. Luke 1:37 says it this way, “For nothing will be impossible with God.”

7. And as Paul Harvey would say, “Now for the rest of the story.”

31 Now a wind went out from the Lord and drove quail in from the sea. It scattered them up to two cubits deep all around the camp, as far as a day’s walk in any direction. 32 All that day and night and all the next day the people went out and gathered quail. …

8. A wind from the Lord blew in quail from the sea. And not just a little. Quail piled up 1 yard deep for a days journey on each side of the camp. Hard to picture that, huh? I though at first maybe the size of a huge mall and its parking lot, but no, not nearly enough. The World Wide Web tells us that the average healthy person can walk 20-30 miles in 8 hours (a day’s journey would be at least that if not more). Don’t know where you live, but if you’re in the Birmingham, Alabama, area, that is basically from Leeds to Jasper with the midpoint representing the Israelite’s camp! All that area covered with quail a yard deep! Now that is provision, with a little bit of God’s humor, and a little bit of  #theyllrememberthislesson.

Dear ladies, Our God is not only Our Creator, The Lover of Our Soul, Our Savior & Friend, but He is Provider of our every need. We can rest content in our Faithful Lord. He is faithful to us, will we operate in faith towards Him? Will we be content in Him come what may?

I don’t know what you are facing, but the Lord will provide for you! Don’t take my word for it. Take these scriptures to heart and walk forth in faith and contentment.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us. Ephesians 3:20

Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him. Isaiah 64:4

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. Psalm 91:1-4

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. Mark 11:24

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength…. 19 And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:11-13, 19

 Content yourself! Have faith! Trust your Provider! 

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Blessed

I don’t know of a soul on earth who does not want to be blessed. Even the ungodly open arms wide to receive blessings wherever they may come from. So If we were given a formula, a secret, an instruction on how to be blessed, one would think we would listen and follow through. But alas, humans don’t always do the expected or the wise or even the reasonable thing.

But in case you are longing to be blessed and willing to pay attention, may I offer some most obvious wisdom from scripture.

Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers.

Not so the wicked!
    They are like chaff
    that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
    nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

Psalm 1

We have choices in life. With choices come the connected consequences. Make the choice today to not keep company with the wicked. Instead, delight in and meditate upon God’s Word. This choice will yield a flourishing, fruit-bearing life watched over by the Lord. Whereas the opposite choice yields a drying up and destruction.

Be blessed today through your attitudes, actions, and desires. A heart going after God will hunger and thirst for righteousness, and will be meek, merciful, pure, and peace-making among other things. Things that yield blessing. It won’t always feel good. We will be persecuted. Remember, the right way is often difficult.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matthew 5

Seek the Father and His Word and be blessed!

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Erasable Pens

Let me just confess –  I LOVE office supplies! Anybody else?

I can waste money too easily in an office supply or book store, so I avoid going unless I really need something – or have a gift card.

A couple of years back a bibliophile friend of mine who also loves to write, clued me in on a new erasable pen that came in many colors. I was hooked just hearing about them. I went home and ordered a package of the pens based solely upon what I had heard of them. When Amazon Prime delivered, I was not disappointed. They were amazing! I began using them for everything: calendaring, taking notes, journaling, writing letters. You name it. Until…

I had taken notes, with said pens, at a planning meeting for an upcoming event, then headed to Target for some things I needed. I left the notebook on the dash of my car in the Alabama summer sun. After finishing my errands I got home and took out my notebook to follow up on some of the plans. Lo and behold, my notes had disappeared on half the pages! Then I begin to connect the dots, the ink in these pens erased by rubbing with the eraser… rubbing caused heat… the sun in my car was hot… Ugh!

sharpie-4333165_1280I still love the pens. They’re good for calendars and whimsical artwork which sometimes need to be erased. They are not good for my journals or business notes where I want a permanent record of what I write. This got me thinking.

Some things in life need to be written in permanent ink.

Other things need erasable pens.

“Jesus loves me this I know” needs to be written in bold permanent marker across your psyche. So does “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” and “I know the plans I have for you” and “I will never leave you or forsake you.” Permanent reminders about our identity, of how to live, and of how to treat others need to be seared into our brains. Permanently. Lessons learned and wisdom gained through God’s Word applied to life need to be recorded in indelible ink. Every scripture verse and word of Godly wisdom needs to be chiseled in as if in stone.

Sometimes these truths of scripture and lessons learned in our walk with the Lord get erased. Our enemy comes along and steals certain truths from our minds, or blinds us to the spiritual reality temporarily just to thwart God’s work in and through us. We must be diligent about hiding His Word in our hearts systematically, and of following up by reviewing this words! (My weak point is follow up.) We must also realize that we have an enemy who wants to blind us to the truth we know. We must frequently pray that the Lord will not let our mind forget any of the wisdom He has taught us. And each of us need a group of godly “go to” friends who will speak the scripture into our lives when we seem at a loss to retrieve it ourselves.

Other things, those that should be written in erasable ink in our hearts, are our mistakes, our failures, hurtful criticisms of others, wounds from friends, confessed sins, and condemning things from our past. Those things need to be “left on the dash” so to speak, to be erased by the warmth of the Son of God and His love for us. They may not be erased immediately, but under His care they will slowly fade if left in the “Son.” With time we will be able to remember the lessons of the past without the heaps of guilt and regret. I don’t speak of this theoretically, I speak from living and learning this lesson.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. ~ 2 Timothy 3_16 ~In my early 20s, there was what I considered to be a huge sin and failure in my life. (All sin is huge to the Father, you know.) God stopped me in my tracks, rebuked me, corrected me, and set me back on His path when I humbled myself, confessed my sin, and asked for forgiveness. (The 2 Timothy 3:16 principles at work!) For about 10 years after that I struggled with guilt over my failure. It crippled me in many ways. To be broken-hearted over my sin was an appropriate response, but Satan had taken my memory of my failure and broken my spirit and made me define myself by my sin. As God taught me to give my failures to Him and leave my sins in the hands of my Savior, I began to experience God’s grace for me which allowed me to forgive myself and move forward. I began confronting Satan’s condemnation of me with the truth of God’s love and forgiveness of all my sin, using scripture to put my enemy in his place. Just last night my husband said something that triggered the memory of my failure. There was no more guilt and shame attached to the memory, and I was shocked to recall it. I had forgotten it! It has probably been 10 years since I thought about it at all. What had been a consuming regret, had been erased by the grace of God and the constant application of His Word to my situation.

Take some time to think about erasable things that you may be hanging on to, that thing that your enemy keeps bringing to your mind. It may be like mine, a sin that haunts us and controls us even though we have repented and asked for forgiveness. Maybe it’s a comment about our appearance or a judgment from when we were a child, or perhaps that humiliating memory that we won’t let our self forget. It could even be an offense against us that we choose to hang onto that is eating away at us. These things need to be erased. We need to let Scripture and the Holy Spirit work on our hearts and minds so that we can walk in freedom, fulfilling God’s purposes in our lives.

You may say “But these have been written in permanent ink. I’ll never be free of them.” Not to worry. God is omnipotent; He can change permanent ink to erasable ink if we offer it to Him, just like He changed the water into wine in Scripture. So I challenge you, make a decision that you are willing to let these things be erased. Then pray and ask God to begin that erasing process to free you from these negative labels, harmful memories, and controlling thoughts of fear and failure. Begin writing on your mind and heart every day the truths of His Holy Word. You will one day wake up and be so free you will have to be reminded of the past.

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FOMO

Contrary to what you might think, our English language is not static. It is always changing; new words are added because of scientific development as well as societal changes and trends. Within the last few years FOMO came into common use and has been added to our dictionary some time since its origin in or around 2004.

What is FOMO you ask? For those of you my age who may not know, it stands for the fear of missing out. That feeling you get when you hear all your friends got together for a social event you were unaware of, or when you wait to make plans just in case something better comes along.

The term is interesting in itself – an acronym for the phrase that defines it. It is also peculiar in that who ever thought missing out on something would produce fear? This was the line of thinking which brought up the following question: Why is it that there are people we don’t ever care to hang out with, yet when we see them in a gathering with our peers we feel jealous or sad or left out?

This happened recently as I scrolled through a social media account. A picture rolled by of friends gathering. Although none of these were my close friends, somehow I felt left out. What? Why? It made no sense. I don’t even desire to be in a social setting with any of these people. Our values are different. Their humor more cruelly sarcastic than fits my tastes. And the times I’ve been around several of them, I go away feeling somehow sad and like I have been untrue to myself. Do you have acquaintances like that?

men-and-women-standing-infront-of-dining-table-1655329As I contemplated these feelings I realized how deeply the desire to belong, the longing to be a part, and the need for significance runs within each of us. That’s why the drive for success and social acceptance is so prevalent in our society. We all hunger to matter, to be known, to be in community with others.

Isn’t it interesting that God offers us that! Community! Family! When Jesus came to this earth He reconciled us to God, and scripture tells us He gave us the ability to become part of the family of God. The New Testament speaks of God as our Father, us as co-heirs (brothers and sisters) with Jesus, and of treating all believers as family. It’s as if God made us knowing we had this emptiness within us that would one day be termed “FOMO.” Ah surely not, He just created us you know.

What is Jesus’ cure for FOMO and all those left out, I-don’t-fit-in feelings?

Two things. He Himself, our Father, and His church, our family.

I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” Jeremiah 31:3

But now, this is what the Lord says— he who created you, Jacob,  he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” Isaiah 43:1

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:38

…Its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 1 Corinthians 12:25-27

He tells us He loves us, we are His, and we are invited to come to Him. To be a part. When we do come to Him, we find the unconditional love and acceptance and welcoming that we often lack from our human families, and we find that community of belonging.

If we take this to heart it will drive us to a deeper relationship with the Father. If we reject these teachings of His Word, we will find ourselves trying to fill these longings in inappropriate ways to drown out those feelings of FOMO, of lack of acceptance and belonging. So once gain we are left with a choice: to entrust our deepest longings to this unseen Creator of the Universe or to grovel around in the clay with other earthly creations living at the lowest level, covered in filth, and desperate for a Rescuer. What will it be?

Choose wisely. What appears to be meeting our need only meets the surface needs. And what seems it could not possibly be good – to face our desperation and lay ourselves at the feet of or Savior – actually turns out to be the point at which we experience God on a whole new level and find that He is more than enough to meet our deepest longings.

Perhaps FOMO is a term the enemy planted in our hearts to make us feel that God is holding out on us, just as the serpent did with Eve. Perhaps a mind focused on FOMO has no room and no energy to love its neighbor as itself. Perhaps our magnifying lens is focused at the wrong thing: self, not our Savior. Perhaps it’s time to quit buying into this mentality and instead have the mind of Christ. (Philippians 2:5-9)

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“What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.”

                                                                                       – Blaise Pascal, Pensées VII(425)

Search Me, O God

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The beginning of a new calendar year offers a fresh start. Last year’s failures can be stored in the attic with the boxes of Christmas decorations, to be taken out as needed to evaluate and learn from. But self-evaluation is less important than an evaluation from our Creator. Psalm 139 speaks of this evaluation, this searching of our inner man by the Father, a knowing of who we truly are that we cannot control or hide from.

Psalm 139

You have searched me, Lordand you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?

Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 

If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

He sees us, just as He saw Hagar in the desert. He knows us, not just by our appearance or personality traits, but He knows us more intimately and completely that we can even know ourselves. His searching of us is not for evil, but to show us who we are, who He created us to be. He created us so intricately and purposefully!

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

And His thoughts toward us are precious! And He will never leave us or forsake us!

How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand— when I awake, I am still with you.

We may be carrying grudges and seeking vengeance into this new year, but it is time to turn loose of that and turn it over to God to handle.

If only you, God, would slay the wicked! Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty! They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name. Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord, and abhor those who are in rebellion against you? I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies.

Since we now He searches us already and knows us intimately, is it not time to invite Him to search us and reveal our true selves to us? Are we willing to invite His testing of your inner motives? Are we ready to face the the inner muck and offensive ways to get them all cleaned out? Are we ready to humble ourselves to be gently led by Our Shepherd?

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Begin this new year with self-evaluation and goal setting if you desire. But more importantly, pray the prayer of these last two verses and willingly invite exposure of your whole self to the Father’s scrutiny that He may bring to light what needs to be shown and you may therefore follow Him more fully.

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Present, Present, Presents!

As my schedule has whisked me down the river of life this holiday season, I’ve come up against a thought – that I’m still sorting through – but maybe it will help you too.

I was thinking of how busy-ness has seemed to control many of my waking moments lately. Normal things that keep life busy from January through October continue: laundry, dishes, church commitments, doctor/dentist appointments, planning Sunday school lessons, (Yes I’m old! It will always be Sunday school to me no matter what you rename it!) grocery shopping, quiet time with the Lord. Add to that holiday baking, Christmas parties, meal planning and prep for big family gatherings, shopping for presents, wrapping presents, hiding presents… and every minute of every day seems to be taken, leaving me to fall into bed at night. Instead of visions of sugarplums (whatever that is!) I have stressful dreams of all that’s still on my “To Do” list, and I wake up running to see if I can conquer it all.

I find myself so busy planning it all that I’m constantly thinking ahead.

I had a bit of an epiphany at my grandson’s birthday party. (As if holidays weren’t enough, my grandson’s birthday and our anniversary are both within a week of Christmas!) As I sat for a moment in our local kid’s museum watching my grandson and his buddies run from exhibit to exhibit, I got a text. I glanced at it to find a question about  business details for our women’s ministry. I shot off a reply, realized another lady needed to be in the loop, texted her, and several minutes later “woke up” from virtual world to realize none of my crew were nearby.

It was probably only 2-3 minutes that I was zoned out in another world, but I realized in that moment that I had missed a few minutes of my now 9 year-old grandson’s life. It’s not much in the grand scheme of things. He wasn’t hurt with me. His parents and Papa and other adults were there, so he was safe, but I had missed out on precious moments I could never get back. Had he done something brave or cute or novel that I will never have a memory of because I was distracted? I was so busy living for future events that I wasn’t living in the moment. It was then that my wandering thoughts of the last few weeks became crystalized in the word “present.”

God whispered to me. “Be present. It’s not about the presents. Present to me your heart.”

Although that was His short message to me, it came to my heart with intricate insight and depth. Some of it so personal and intimate I ponder it alone, but the other concepts are needed by us all. So I challenge you this holiday season to those 3 things!

1. Be present in your life. The past is gone, never to be recaptured. The future is yet to come and none of our worrying will change it; only our prayers and our obedient submission to carrying out the Lord’s will can affect the future.

Life is a vapor.

Treasure and savor those precious times with family and friends.

Put the phone away.

Save business times for business hours.

2. It’s not about the presents… or the shopping, or the baking, or the decorating, or what others expectations are…. It’s about Jesus! It’s about His great gift of His Son our Saviour. It’s about His love for us, and by extension our love for the people around us. It’s about peace and a heart fully resting in Him for your joy and affirmation and contentment. All your holiday prepping cannot buy you these intangible gifts of the soul.

3. Present your heart to Him. While many things seem urgent during the holidays, only one thing is needed, to sit at Jesus’ feet. To be loved by Him, to learn from Him, and to experience all he has for us. As Jesus reminded Martha of this, we need to be reminded too.

Mary… sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made…. “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:39-42

There is a time for preparation, but are we so caught up in the preparation that we are sacrificing time with our Savior? This Christmas I challenge you to focus on Christ. Spend sweet time at the Savior’s feet. Let Him dictate your calendar and schedule. Enjoy! Savor! Let Him fill your empty heart!

The present day, the present moment in time is God’s gift to us. We may never have another, and we definitely will not have one exactly like this. Therefore, let us live in it and use it wisely – loving and participating and experiencing all He has for us! Live this Christmas as if it were the only Christmas. Celebrate the birth of our Savior and live out all that His life represents. Be that light to a world that needs hope, unconditional love, and the light of Christ in their lives. Give the gift of Jesus!

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Jesus: Hope for a Weary World

O Holy Night, the stars are brightly shining. It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining, ’til He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices. For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

At the beginning of human history, sin came into a perfect world through an act of disobedience by the created toward their Creator. Perfect communion was shattered. Consequences came. But even in the consequences God offered mercy and HOPE. In punishing the serpent God said, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:15) The woman’s offspring would crush the enemy and offer restoration to relationship with Creator God.

Generations waited, hoped, longed for this Redeemer-Restorer to come: Noah, Abraham, Moses, the children of Israel through their centuries of ups and downs, the exiles in Babylon longing for home. They hoped in dark times and in silent times, longing for help in their weary world for hundreds of years. Praying and hoping.

And then the Messiah came! The Light of the World! The Hope of the World! The Restorer – Jesus Christ!

Are you waiting, praying, hoping in darkness? Is the silence of yet-to-be-answered prayer weighing your heart down? Hang on to Hope, your Deliverer is coming! God has heard your weeping. He has a plan. His timetable is not like yours. The enemy knows this and  whispers in your ear, “He’s not going to come through for you.” It’s a lie! Don’t believe it.

silhouette-image-of-person-praying-1615776During those times where God seems silent in your situation, think of your Savior. God was also silent when Jesus asked for the cup to be removed from Him. But God did not remove it; He had a plan for our redemption. Also remember this Old Testament verse: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” ( Deuteronomy 31:6) God WILL NOT leave you. He is working His plan – timing and all – preparing the way for your next step even when you cannot see it. Hold onto Hope!

This Christmas season, cling to Hope in Christ no matter what you face: a court hearing, financial instability, failing health, broken relationships.

God is working on your behalf even if you cannot see it.

When you hold onto faith and hope going to the Father over and over again in prayer, your faith will grow, your spiritual eyes will be opened, your Redeemer will come through for you – in His time. Don’t grow weary waiting. And when you grab hold of Hope and live it out before this weary world, you encourage those around you to Hope as well.

When Jesus came to this earth He didn’t come through a line of perfect people, He came through a lineage of sinners and flawed, ordinary people just like you and me. Despite their sin and imperfections God used them to accomplish His will for the World. We don’t have to be perfect to be used of God either. He has a role for us to play in His Kingdom here on earth. We need to grasp this HOPE of the GOSPEL. Not just for ourselves, but for this weary world. 

This Advent season and in the coming year – as you await the arrival of whatever your heart is longing for… 

  • May you remember the world waiting for the Messiah to come.
  • May you know the HOPE of Jesus Christ
  • May you grasp God’s great love for you
  • May your longing for His 2nd coming and eternal life be greater than any earthly longing you are struggling with
  • May you meet Jesus in a new way through the silent, dark times
  • May healing, redemption, and restoration arrive this year for you!
  • And may you BE A BEARER OF God’s HOPE in the darkness!

In His time, God’s plans and purposes will be accomplished!

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“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. … For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:2 & 6