ROOTED AND SECURE

Last week, I was in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan doing a great deal of hiking and being reminded that the Lord is the perfect artist who creates beautiful scenery.  I had the privilege of eating lunch, sitting on a rock in the Porcupine Mountains, overlooking the Lake of the Clouds.  My almond butter sandwich tasted much better as I looked at my surroundings.  In the Lord’s artistry there are beautiful rocks, trees, lakes, rivers, creeks, and waterfalls.  What a joy to be able to walk the trails and enjoy his creation!  On occasion, there are unusual things that meet you on the trail.  The picture I’ve included in this blog is just that-an unusual thing.

As I looked at this, I began to think about what was being shown to me.  The life of a follower of Christ was being displayed right before my eyes.  Let me develop my thought process for you.  I hope that you will be encouraged.

“The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”  Psalm 18:2

The rock in the picture represents the Lord.  It’s large and not easily moved.  We are too weak to push it over or pick it up.  It’s secure in where it stands.  The Lord provides security for all who will trust in him.  We know that he always has our best interest in mind and is sovereign over all of life’s circumstances.  All growth can take place with confidence in the one to whom we are connected.  The Lord, our rock, provides the protection we need on a day to day basis.  We can rejoice in the fact that our life is built on the rock.

We are not always reaching for the sun as we grow.  There are times when life gets hard.  The circumstances that hit us are hard to bear.  We may be facing a physical ailment, financial problems, death in the family, car problems, disobedient children, or aging parents.  All of these are hard circumstances but the rock on which our life is built is harder.  We need to hang on to the rock in order to make it through.  Notice how the tree on top of the rock has wrapped a root around the rock and buried itself in the ground.  This is how we should hang on to our Lord, the rock, when times are hard.  We must reach around him and he’ll provide the strength we need in the same way the soil provides more nourishment for the tree.

“…that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ…”  Ephesians 3:17b-19a

We need the nourishment of the love of Christ.  When our roots are deep in that love, it gives us the strength to love others.  Love should flow naturally from each and every follower of Christ.  We also receive nourishment from the love of our fellow believers as they come along side us to care for us.  Without love, our growth will be stunted!  We need to hang onto the rock, rooted in the love of Christ and the church.

If we were to just look at this picture, we might think the tree doesn’t have much of a chance to survive; but God made a way for its survival.  God always makes a way for each one of us to survive in this world.  His goal for us is that we seek to please him each day, seeking to look more like Christ.  We can’t give up in the face of discouragement, pain, or sorrow.  Remember our roots run deep in the love of Christ!  When times are hard, hang onto the rock.  We know that he is immovable, unshakeable, and unstoppable!

Keep your eyes open to see the Lord’s artistry!  You never know how he will use it to reveal to you more about himself.

 

UNHELPFUL HELPERS – PART 4 Finger Pointing Frieda

Many of us are guilty of being a finger pointer when it comes to trials in someone else’s life.  We want be the bearer of the answers as to why the trial is happening.  As someone shares with us, we’re looking for sin patterns that have contributed to the trial.  Why? So we can point our finger and feel a bit superior to the one who is suffering.  This is a wrong pattern of thinking which assumes all trials are caused by sin.

Finger Pointing Frieda

Frieda has a nose for sin in others.  She’s always looking for those who don’t measure up to where she believes they should be.  This happens more when a person is in the midst of a trial and shares with her.  Frieda is certain that she would handle the trial differently.  She is also sure the trial is a result of sin in the person’s life. As she listens, she feels it is her job to point out the sin and call the person to repent.

“I’m sure that’s terrible but it wouldn’t have happened if you had just trusted God.”

“God has allowed this in your life to get your attention because of your sin.”

“What do you expect to happen when you continue to _____________?”

“I can see this is your fault for not following God as you should.”

The person who has Frieda as a comforter is not being comforted.  Can you see how these types of statements point the finger back at the sufferer? All the discomfort felt is the fault of the sufferer.  Is that the way we are to respond?  The answer is no, because Jesus, when confronted with an adulterous woman by the scribes and Pharisees, answered their charges by reminding them of their own sins.

“…Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone…” John 8:7b

 

Humble Harriet

Harriet understands sin.  She knows that sin has consequences, but she also knows that suffering is not always the result of the person’s sin.  Harriet will listen carefully to the one who is suffering in the trial and sort out how to help the person find hope and comfort.  There is no hope for someone who keeps getting a finger pointed at them.  She is humble enough to remember that she is a sinner saved by the blood of Jesus.  Harriet doesn’t feel the finger of God pointing to her in her sin but knows Jesus stands in her place.  This is so hopeful and she wants to share this hope with others.

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:  The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will hope in him.”  Lamentations 3:21-24

What is most important for helping a person going through a trial is to bring them to the point of having hope in God.  Harriet hears the whole story and can see that there is sin, but knows that this is not the time to address the sin.  It is the time to give hope in the Lord who loves with a steadfast love.  She spends time talking about God and his character rather than finger pointing at sin.  As the person hears and begins to get some hope and perspective, there will come a time to address the areas of sin in her life.  Harriet knows it will take time and is willing to spend the time listening and encouraging so that hope is evident in the person’s life.  After that the Holy Spirit may have already revealed the sin in the person’s life which needs to addressed and if not, Harriet can bring it up with grace.

 “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” Proverbs 18:13

 

What about us?

As followers of Christ, we have the opportunity to come along side our brothers and sisters to help in their time of need.  We must do so humbly, with great expectation in what the Lord can accomplish in their lives and ours.  There are so many times we fail to help because, quite frankly, we get in the way.  Our pride and arrogance wants to be the savior in the situation, but we have to remember there is only ONE SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST.  We are called to point others to him for their hope and help.  Are we willing to let go of what we think we know in order to direct others to what they need to know?  May God give us the grace to see ourselves as we really are, totally dependent on him.  Then and only then will we be the helpers God desires us to be.

“I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  Galatians 2:20

 

UNHELPFUL HELPERS – PART 3 Spiritualizing Samantha

When we go through trials, we want to find the right kind of help.  As followers of Christ, we want to have help from someone who is a mature believer.  This is a good thing because we should seek help from someone who can point us to the scriptures.  The problem is, even a mature believer can be unhelpful by using the scriptures too trivially or taking them out of context.  We must be careful with the scriptures in order to be helpful to others.

Spiritualizing Samantha

Samantha loves to help people.  She feels she knows the scriptures well enough to be able to come along side another and give hope.  As she listens to the one who needs help, her mind is racing.  She is thinking of a verse or something about God that she can impart to the one needing help.  Samantha wants to appear as if she has all the answers to the problems of the world, or at least look impressive to her friend.  The thing is, she really thinks she is helping.  After all, isn’t the Bible the place to go for help?  Some of the things Samantha may say are actually true but not actually helpful.

“God works all things out for good.”

“Rejoice in the Lord always!”

“God is Sovereign.”

“God is faithful.”

Every one of the statements above are true but when someone is hurting greatly, they are not always helpful.  It becomes very flippant in a difficult situation for someone to say, “Oh well, God is sovereign.”  That is not helpful to the one who is hurting.  These truths can certainly be used but there has to be more.  To make these statements and then smile as if everything is going to be okay doesn’t make things okay.

Humble Harriet

Harriet know these truths about God and she know scriptures to back them up.  However, this is not where Harriet begins.  She starts with entering into the upset the trial has caused her friend.  She remembers how Jesus entered into the grief of the people over Lazarus’ death.  Jesus wept even though he knew he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead.  He entered into the pain and suffering of Mary, Martha, and the others who were walking with him on the way to the tomb.  We can’t be any help until we enter into the suffering.

Harriet reaches for her friend’s hand and holds it as she listens to the pain she is going through.  She may just hold her friend and pray for her.  Harriet is building a bridge of trust with her friend which will lead to being able to share the truths of God with her.  There will be more acceptance of these truths because the suffering one knows she is loved.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:15

It is easier to rejoice with someone than to weep with them, but we are called to do both.  If we humble ourselves to enter into the suffering, then our minds are not consumed with trying to have the right answers.  Instead, we will find ourselves loving our friend well.

In conclusion, we are to study the scriptures to build up our knowledge of God, not for the purpose of being puffed up about what we know.  The more we know about God, the more we’ll realize how compassionate and gentle he is.  The truth is we should imitate him in ALL of our life which would include the help we give to others.  Don’t use the word of God trivially or flippantly! Use it for the good and comfort of others!

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.  And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”  Ephesians 5:1-2

 

 

 

UNHELPFUL HELPERS – PART 2 SYMPATHIZING SALLY

Trials in our lives are opportunities for us to be helped by others.  Then when others go through trials, it is our opportunity to help them.  But how do we do that in a way that is beneficial for the sufferer?  Sometimes what we think is help is really no help at all.  Our help can end up being hurtful, dismissive, or accusatory.  This is because of our tendency to be focused on ourselves more than others. We saw this with Fixer Felicia who was more concerned about her part in fixing the problem than really bringing comfort.  Now let’s look at another whose help is not really help at all.

Sympathizing Sally

Sally loves to be in the know about people who are in the midst of trials.  She wants to hear the stories so she can share them at prayer meeting.  Sally’s goal is not really to help, but to gain knowledge.  When she has this knowledge she makes her own conclusions about what the person should have done to prevent the trial.  The words she gives to the one suffering are not very meaningful and certainly not helpful.

“I’m so sorry for you.  Thank you for sharing.”

“Thank you for sharing.  I love you but I’ve got to go.”

“Awwww you poor thing.”

Sally gives no words of comfort or help.  In fact, she doesn’t even stay long enough to show if she cares or not.  The only time she’ll remember what is going on in this person’s life will be at the next prayer meeting.  Do we take the time to comfort?  Do we respond with truth and help from the Word?  Do we spread the person’s trial at prayer meeting so that others will think we are in the know?  Is being in the know more important to us than really helping our friend?

Humble Harriet

Harriet listens to a person’s problems with compassion.  Compassion is a word that means sympathy with a desire to help.  We should sympathize but, that sympathy should drive us to help.  Harriet will be very in tune with her friend by keeping eye contact, holding her hand, and seeking to pray as she listens.  She wants to be able to share with her friend in order to give her hope.  It’s not about Harriet being able to share at a prayer meeting but about sharing hope to the person in need.

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”  Romans 5:1-2

Harriet is humble and relies on the grace of God in her efforts to give hope to her friend.  There is hope in knowing who God is.  She wants to give her friend hope by telling her about the grace God has for her in this circumstance.  Harriet shares how followers of Christ are standing in God’s grace which helps in the situation.

There is a confidentiality Harriet displays when it comes to her friend’s situation.  She doesn’t desire to spread the word about what she knows but rather desires to only speak of it with her friend and in prayer to God.  Harriet knows that she doesn’t always handle things the right way and wouldn’t want others to know.  This knowledge keeps her from spreading things about others.

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”  Matthew 9:36

Jesus is our example of compassion.  His heart was compassionate even to those who were not his followers.  The compassion he had marked his entire ministry here on this earth.  As followers of Christ, we are to seek to be like him.  Let’s take the time to go beyond sympathy to compassion.  Then we will have a desire to help the one hurting.

UNHELPFUL HELPERS – PART 1

Trials are a part of life all of us.  We will struggle in this life because of sin.  When Adam and Eve sinned, it changed everything for the future of mankind.  Their choice has led to sickness, rejection, sorrow, sin, and death for each of us.  As followers of Christ, we look to each other for help and comfort as we face trials in this world.  We need to know how to respond in a way that’s pleasing to the Lord, promotes the gospel, and brings comfort to those who are in need.  In this blog we will begin to explore the unhelpful helpers along with the helpful alternative.

FIXER FELICIA

Felicia loves to be a part of someone’s suffering because she knows she can fix it.  As she listens to someone in need, she is calculating how she can solve the problem.  She sees herself as wise which reveals the pride she has in her own opinions.  Felicia may interrupt the speaker in order to get her thoughts out in the open.  She will use the following phrases.

“If you would just…” 

 “Listen, you need to…”  

 “This has happened to me before and I…”

“I don’t understand how you got this far.  Why didn’t you…”

“You need to be more like me and …”

Do you recognize any of these statements?  Are you a fixer?  It is so easy to think that we have all the right answers to problems.  We feel good about ourselves and consider the sharing of our opinion to be helpful.  But is it?  As a fixer, we fall into the trap of thinking there’s only one solution to a problem.  Of course, it’s our solution.  A fixer has a way of making the person going through suffering feel like she is inferior because she didn’t think of the same solutions.  The bottom line is the fixer is unhelpful because she is more concerned about her solutions than the person struggling.

“When pride come, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.” Proverbs 11:2

HUMBLE HARRIET

Harriet is a helper who actually is helpful to those who are suffering.  Harriet listens well.  She focuses on the words that are being shared with her in compassion.  Her heart is filled with compassion which is the driving force for her help.  She wants to not only hear the words but seek to understand the emotions behind the words.  It is her goal to understand the pain her friend is feeling and to respond in love.

The most important thing Harriet knows is that it isn’t her job to fix her friend’s situation.  It is her job to walk alongside her and give comfort.  Harriet knows that God is the great physician who is the only one who can fix anything.  She prays and seeks his wisdom in order to walk well with her friend in need.  Harriet remembers when God has taken her through a hard time and how his love and care was a comfort for her.  This is what she shares with her friend, not how Harriet has answers, but how God walks with her in the difficulty.

Harriet knows that she’s not perfect.  She realizes that she has problems too and needs God’s answers just as much as her friend.  This keeps her from thinking more highly of herself than she ought.  In knowing this, she wants what’s best for her friend but doesn’t need to receive any credit for her help.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”  2 Corinthians 1:3-4

We need to be humble helpful helpers.  Are there areas of pride you need to work on in order to be humble before God and your friends?  Humility comes with wisdom, not ours but God’s.  Let’s seek to be helpful helpers by offering the comfort God has given us to others in need.

 

 

WOMEN IN STEP – PART SIX

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience…” Galatians 5:22a

 “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.”  Galatians 5:25

I was looking through my blogs and noticed that I didn’t complete this series on “Women in Step”.  This could be because I’m forgetful which is true but more likely it’s because of what the next step is…PATIENCE!  This is the word we all shy away from because it’s so hard to practice.  We live in a microwave-internet society which loves the fast forward button on the remote.  This should not, however, affect our walk as followers of Christ.  Let’s tackle this step of patience by looking at the definition, what God’s patience looks like, and the call for us to be patient with all men.

Patience is in the top 1% of lookup and is the 233rd most popular word on the Merriam-Webster website.  This tells us that the whole world is concerned with this attribute of patience.  Here is the definition of patience. “Bearing pain or trials calmly or without complaint, steadfast despite opposition or difficulty and not hasty”.  The definition gives us a tall order to fill in life as we walk by the Spirit.  Our tendencies are not to wait for anything, but rather to act in our own arrogance, moving forward, trying to control, or pushing others to follow our prideful spirit.  These steps don’t end well in the best of situations.  Most of the time, we will face the consequences of our lack of patience along the way.  God’s patience is displayed for us in the scriptures and we need to learn from him.

“Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.  For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.” Isaiah 30:18

God is patient with grace.  In this chapter of Isaiah, Judah has forsaken the Lord and yet God is still gracious to his people.  He waits.  He judges perfectly at the perfect time and with the perfect discipline.  God never rushes to get it done but waits for the best time to extend grace.  He is patient with grace for us as well.  He is God and he never changes so it will be the perfect time when he grants us grace, justice, mercy and discipline.  He is patient to do this to get our attention firmly on him.  It would be great if we would take his lead and be patient regardless of the circumstances.  The scriptures teach us to whom we are to be patient.

“And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” 1 Thessalonians 5:14

Can you believe we are to be patient with all men?  That’s what Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonica.  This is a huge command to follow.  We are to have patience regardless of the characteristics displayed by others such as idleness, faintheartedness, and weakness.  Our patience doesn’t depend on the other person but should flow out of our hearts toward them.  This requires the work of the Spirit in our lives.  We certainly can’t do this on our own.  The fruit of the Spirit is patience.  We need to let go of our selfishness and allow the Spirit to display the fruit in us.  The big question, is so why don’t we practice patience?

Let’s take a look at the microwave-internet society in which we live.  The result of this society is “I want what I want when I want it”.  Our wants drive us so much of the time, and wants are not patient.  They are demanding.  It’s this attitude which prevents us from moving forward in patience.  Notice the words “moving forward”. Patience doesn’t mean stillness.  There are times to be still as you wait, but more often than not, you can keep moving as you’re following God in patience.  The answers may not be in front of your face but you can trust God anyway.  Is this hard?  Yes.  Should we pray for patience?  This is a question we need to answer.  There are those who claim that praying for patience is bad because God will give us a trial or hardship in order to teach us patience.  The truth is, as followers of Christ, we have the fruit of patience available to us.  The Holy Spirit indwells us and patience is part of the fruit.  We need to display it even when it’s hard to do.  Praying for God to help us allow the Spirit to put patience on display is a great prayer.

Let’s practice patience!  Let’s walk by the Spirit!  Let’s imitate God!

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.”  Ephesians 5:1

 

HOW MUCH? HOW LONG?

We wake up every morning knowing we have to meet the day with eyes wide open.  The day can be fully planned in the way we would like it to proceed.   However, with just one phone call, one e-mail, one encounter, or one situation the plan can fall apart quickly.  When this happens it leaves us stunned, out of breath, confused, angry, or in an emotional heap.  It’s hard to face a different day than what we had planned.  It’s hard to face the happenings we didn’t plan to face.  In reality, life is hard and sometimes it just keeps getting harder.  What do we do when we don’t see an end to the hardness of our days?

One thing we want to do is fix it and make our life easier.  We’ll go to great lengths to bring about peace.  The problem is, we can’t always fix the problem.  We are not God!  That is not an easy thing to swallow when we buy into things like, “God helps those who help themselves.”  What a lie!  There is nothing we can do to earn God’s favor; otherwise it wouldn’t be called favor.  Sometimes we can fix a piece or a part of our lives only to see another area fall apart.  The truth is, there is only one God and He has our back.  He knows where we are and what is going on in our lives.  As His children, we know that He is with us all the time.  What a comfort that is, as we realize we are not the fixers of life.

If we can’t fix it, then we, at least, just want the trouble to stop.  Sometimes we feel like the clown who keeps getting hit with the pie in the face.  More and more life situations land on us, leaving us messy and unsure of what to do.

“I am weary with my moaning every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping.  My eye wastes away because of grief; it grows weak because of all my foes.”  Psalm 6:6-7

If you have been in a position where there seems to be one pie after another hitting you in the face, then you can relate with David in the quote above.  There are times when we don’t have any answers and all we can do is grieve the situation.  We can present it to the Lord who comforts us in our grief. How many pies are too many for us to handle?  One is too many on our own.  We can’t handle life apart from God.  He can handle it all; so, we cry out to Him and trust Him to handle it for us.  The trouble may not stop but we can know that in it God is walking with us.

If we can’t stop it, then perhaps we can just know the ending date of this turmoil.  It would be nice to know when life will return to a “normal” setting.  David struggled with the same thing. “My soul also is greatly troubled.  But you, O Lord—how long?” Psalm 6:3  It’s okay to ask the Lord how long this situation will be around, but there’s no guarantee that you’ll find out.  Even though we don’t know how long, we must live each day with our eyes on God.  There will be struggles but we can have peace in the struggle as we realize who God is and that He is up to something.  God always wants what’s best for us and that is our conformity to Jesus.  Sometimes that is done through gentleness and sometimes there is more pressure applied in our lives.  God meets us where we are with pie on our faces and a faraway look in our eyes that says, “I’m trying to figure this thing out.”  We have to remember that we don’t always have the answers nor will we always receive the answers to our problems.  It is the time to trust the only one who can wipe away our tears for all time.

What do we do?  Where do we go?  How can we handle one more difficulty?  Jesus took time to speak to His disciples before He was arrested to prepare them for what was ahead.  “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation.  But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33  There’s the hope.  Do you see it? Jesus has overcome the world through His death and resurrection.  If we know Jesus, then this world is not our home.  We have a better one coming with no more trouble.

How much?  How long?  We may have no answers for those questions, but we need to keep our eyes open and face the day with all it holds.  When we look, we will see God walking with us and working through the situation.  He will bring us hope and comfort because that’s what He does!

CHATTER VERSUS THE GOSPEL

Social media is full of chatter and many opinions.  In the realm of Christianity there is much chatter about gender roles and women in the church.  People take sides in these issues and write their opinions, arguments or come-backs to someone else’s opinions or arguments.  There is so much time spent in circling the wagons around these issues that we lose the gospel in the battle.

Are there issues in the church to be discussed concerning gender roles and women?  Yes, absolutely.  My point is that the amount of time and energy spent on these issues would be better served spent in promoting the gospel.  When we spend too much time on issues, the issues take a greater place in our thinking than the gospel.  We can’t live this life well without our thinking being saturated with the gospel daily.  The issues of the day will change but the gospel is eternal.  If we put our thoughts and efforts on the eternal, these issues will be and can be discussed from a different perspective.

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”  Colossians 3:1-2

The gospel is defined by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 as being the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Those of us who have been called to believe this gospel have been made into new creations.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17  God makes us new in that we are no longer bound by sin but are now free to not sin as Christ lives in us.  This is our new identity.  We become followers of Christ and with Paul can say, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21 

Our identity in Christ should be the engine that drives all we do in our lives.  It affects our understanding of issues.  This driving force is strengthened in us when we take the time to study the Word of God and put the principles into practice.  As we do this then everything we speak of has the gospel driving it. This is the road of progressive sanctification.  We are to put-off old habits of sin and put-on righteous deeds.  This is a lifelong process for all of us.  As we walk this road, we should focus on our identity so that we grow to be more like Christ.

The truth is we focus elsewhere on a daily basis.  We are more focused on what we want or issues we think are unjust than on who we are in Christ.  We focus on what we want in our lives not on what God desires in our lives.  The focus that we have has to be the lens of the gospel.  If it isn’t then we spend more time on issues and opinions than on truth.  The gospel is truth and whatever we discuss should be run through that grid.  The truth is issues don’t save only the gospel saves.

Our chatter should be about Jesus and what He has done to set us free from sin.  This is truth and not opinion.  Jesus changes things in our lives even our opinions.  He can lead us in a way that brings Him glory and is for our good.  Remember when Jesus spoke with Martha.  She was so concerned about her service and need for help.  She was accusing Jesus of not caring because her sister, Mary, was sitting at his feet.  But Jesus said to her, “…Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary, Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”  Luke 10:41-42  Do you see the focus?  The focus was to be Jesus.  It is the same today with so many opinions about so many issues.  We need to get back to the gospel and make the focus Jesus.

What is the gospel message for women?  Believe in Christ, love God and love others.  Life is more about God and others than about me.  Are we spending enough time pursuing this gospel?  Can we discuss issues of gender roles and women in the church?  Yes, but not without the gospel being the driving engine.  When the issue becomes my soap box, then I need to look down because I’m standing on my idol. What’s the problem?  The idol won’t hold me up, only Jesus can do that.

 

DOES THE BIBLE REALLY SAY?

Are there sayings you hear often which are attributed to the Bible?  Things we assume God has instructed us to do?  And yet, they are not really written in the Bible for our instruction.  Even though they aren’t there, we will stand by these sayings for life.  There are many, but we will look at only two in this blog.  I think these are said more than any others.  As we check out what the Bible really has to say about these issues, we will find the hope we need for living life for God’s glory.

  1. God won’t give you anything you can’t handle!

We love this phrase because not only does it give us assurance that life won’t be too hard for us, but it elevates us to the position of handler!  There are those who use this to believe that the situations in their lives were given to them by God because they could handle them.  Wow!  Could we be any more me-centered?  The verse that is used for this is 1 Corinthians 10:13.

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.  God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide a way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

This verse is not me-centered, but God-centered.  The temptation or trial we may face is not unique.  It is common; so, we will never face anything that is a surprise to God.  The next phrase shows us the God-centeredness of the verse:  “God is faithful.”  It is God who is faithful to provide a way for us to endure the trial we are facing.  It’s not our strength or our ability.  We are not prepared for most of what we face in this life, but God is.  He will always be faithful to us during the trials.  There are two other verses we can cling to as we go through trials.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4

“…I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5b

These verses remind us God walks through the trials with us, and we are never alone.  So, is it me who handles the trials, or God?  It is God who can handle everything we face.  He will walk with us, granting us grace and wisdom as we depend on him to get us through the trial.  The hope is not that I’m all that, but that God is all that!  We need to remember that as we face the many trials we will face in this life.

  1. God helps those who help themselves.

The origin of this saying goes back to the ancient Greeks, but was rephrased by Benjamin Franklin in Poor Richard’s Almanac.  It became very popular after that and was applied to situations as if it was from the Bible.  It is not in the Bible!  In fact, the Bible says the opposite of this concerning us.  It’s more like, “God helps those who can’t help themselves.”  Let’s look at a few examples.

 “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Romans 5:6, 8

Do you see the description of us in this passage?  Weak, ungodly, and sinners are the words used to describe us.  These words are not very complementary.  It doesn’t sound like we could help ourselves in this state, does it?

“For by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”            Ephesians 2:8-9

There was no way to work for our salvation because even the faith we have to believe is a gift from God.  He helps us because we can’t help ourselves.  We are driven by our sinful nature and deceive ourselves into thinking we are “something” when we’re not!

“Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.”  Proverbs 28:26

The Bible is clear that trusting in ourselves is foolish.  To walk in wisdom means that we know from where our help comes.  God is the help we need for everyday life.  This doesn’t mean that we are lazy and expect God to live our life for us.  It means we put into practice what God has already shown us is wise and trust him daily to help us.  We can’t even follow the practical teachings of the Bible without the help of God.

Where’s the hope?  The hope is in the truth that God can handle anything we face and will walk with us through all trials.  The hope is the help he will give us in every trial.  God is our hope.  May we not rely on sayings the world has created but on God who is over and above them all.  He is the truth!  Let’s believe him!

Why I Read Worthy by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Eric Schumacher Twice!

When this book made its way onto the market, I was excited.  Elyse Fitzpatrick is one of my favorite authors which means I check out everything she writes.  Because I work in women’s ministry in a local church, I was very curious to see how the value of women would be developed.  My curiosity was also peaked because of the co-authorship with Eric Schumacher.  Could a man and a woman work together to produce a book to explain the value of women in the Bible?  The answer to that is a resounding “YES”!

The first time I read this book straight through without marking any words or pages.  I just read it for the pure enjoyment of reading it.  It was a joy to read as Elyse and Eric walked through the Bible siting the way God valued women.  They took the time to explore the value of women in creation, fall, God’s promises, Israel’s history, Jesus’ life and death, and today in the church.  It was evident each of these areas were written from deep conviction and study. The reading was delightful, but I knew I needed to read it again in order to really remember and apply the truths within the book.

In my second reading, I noted many valuable truths about God and how he views women.

“…God created humanity in stereo.” Page 26  What a wonderful truth presented by Eric concerning creation!  You need to hear both sides of the music when listening in stereo for it to really be complete and make sense.  Both channels, male and female, are important to God and necessary to work together for the glory of God.

“The woman is not an animal to be subdued, domesticated, used, or ruled over.” Page 35  This is a great way to describe woman’s position as helper.  It’s a position for which she is created. She doesn’t need to be trained for it like an animal.  God has created her for this position.

“When we use the presence or actions of women to excuse the immoral actions of men, we follow Adam in the mistreatment of women.  In essence we’re saying, ‘If it weren’t for women, I would never sin.’” Page 52  This is something we must take seriously.  A woman can’t make a man sin or vice versa.  We choose sin based on our own sinful desires.  This book reminds us of many songs in the world today that make women the cause of man’s sin.  We need to be careful not to fall into this trap of blame shifting whether man or woman.

“It tells us that Jesus welcomes audacious faith.  It tells us that we can presume upon his love and press into his goodness without fear of his censure.” Page 96  This quote comes after a look at the unclean woman who dared to touch Jesus.  He responded by healing her, and calling her daughter. Jesus was not turned off by this unclean woman.  He didn’t turn away. Israel’s law didn’t keep him from welcoming this unclean woman.  What a wonderful message to women!  No matter where we come from or what we’ve done, Jesus welcomes us as we approach him in faith.

“Women, you are free to discern what kind of vocation the Lord is calling you to and he will use you as you work in wisdom for his glory.”  Page 135  There are so many options for women today concerning career.  God has gifted women in different ways but the key is that the gifting is used for his glory.  It is good to not be extra biblical when it comes to careers for women.  Not every woman will be a wife or a mother.  Some will choose other ways of life to follow.  The key is all for God’s glory.

“Women and men together began making disciples and teaching the Word of truth; they were ambassadors for God.”  Page 195  I love this reminder that we are to work alongside each other as men and women for the gospel.  This is how the church should operate today, with men and women working as a team to promote the gospel to the world.

“Women are to see themselves as worthy, not because they’ve accomplished great things, or because they are married and have well-ordered homes, but rather because they are created in the image of God, redeemed by the Son, and gifted to fulfill his commission.”  Page 213  This is a valuable truth about who we are as women and from whom our worth is derived.

These are only a few of the nuggets I gleaned from this book.  The promotion of our identity not being our gender but our status in Christ is huge!  There is so much to be encouraged from in this book, that I’m going to be taking our Women’s Ministry Team through it this coming year.  We will discuss it slowly and hopefully will be drawn closer to God by its content.  So yes, I will be reading it a third time and I know that I’ll find more gems to encourage me to follow hard after Christ as the woman he’s created me to be.