Friday, July 31, 2009
One of the most difficult areas for Christian women can be in the area of friendships.
What is a true friend and how do I find one? What about my non-christian friends, can I keep them? What are good boundaries for friendships? These are just some of the questions I have wrestled with as I have walked with Christ. It is clear we are not to be without friends because God has made us relational people. We get lonely when we have no one to share our lives and experiences with, even on a superficial level. The Bible is full of stories of one relationship after another, many of them friendships between two people or even groups of people. Our Lord was very careful to address every area of our lives in His Word.
Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? Ecclesiastes 4:9-11 (NASB)
What makes a good friendship? One that is centered on the gospel and modeled after the relationship Jesus had with His disciples. Their friendships were developed over a period of years. We sometimes expect too much too quickly from other women. It takes time to be trusted and to trust someone else.
Something that helps build trust is transparency. The Lord was willing to be transparent with his friends, He revealed who He really was to them! If you want to have a friend you must be willing to be yourself, be what you are like, be like yourself. No real friendship will develop if you are hiding yourself, and protecting yourself from being known by other people. I am not saying give details of things that are intimate or intensely personal; not on a beginning friendship level anyway but you have to let people inside your personal space to be a real friend.
You must be honest with your friends. Share your trials and joys and sorrows with them. If you are fearful of doing so, remember the example of Jesus. The Lord Jesus never lied to His friends, He told them hard stuff even when He knew they would not grasp it all. He told them the secrets of their hearts.
We get to know people when we take time to be with them. Jesus knew the 12 so well because they spent all their time together. They ate, slept, prayed, and traveled together. Our modern Twitters, Face Books, e-mails, and text messages are not enough to build a friendship on! If you want to befriend someone, take the physical time to meet with them face to face as often as you can. Especially in our overly busy world, meeting with someone for coffee or lunch really says you value them.
People who desire friendship will have these attributes in quantity. Some of these will come easier to you than others will. If you find you are lacking in an area, then work on it!
More next time!
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Not "stuff" like couches and pillows (those are material things that, while I enjoy them are not what my life is made of) but relationships, some friendships, the ministry God allowed me over the past 5 years, and my way of life. These are but some of the most important things that I hurt over losing.
It seems that daily now, I grieve my Mom's passing to glory in some way. I miss her so!! Something will spark a memory, or a patient at my job will say or do something that will bring the ache roaring back to life. I am not grieving as one who has no hope for I know that as my Redeemer lives so does she! I am grieving for all the life I have left to live without her wise counsel, her loving embrace, the sound of her voice, the smell of her cooking....and oh so much more. I am grieving as a new round of "firsts" is about to begin and this round will take us to January when we will reach the one year mark of our loss.
I am understanding that grieving is exhausting and downright inconvenient! I have told myself for a long, long time now that I have no time to grieve but mysteriously, the grief leaks out the cracks of my heart when I least expect it to. I often find it rolling down my cheeks these days...
This loss is so deep and so permeates my soul right now...and I haven't got time for the pain. In many ways, the reality of what has happened in my life has not yet sunk in. It is still as though I am playing a part and waiting for reality to resume.
I have a new reality now, to go along with all the rest of the changes. It's name is WORK. WORK demands much more of me than I care to give in my flesh, and it is only through steady and steadfast prayer and clinging to Jesus that I am able to do what I do daily.
WORK is being used by God to reveal (alas) even deeper levels of wickedness and idolatry on the golden altars in my heart. Ugly things, like perfectionism and critical spirit/attitudes jump out of nowhere to taunt me. Even my thoughts of, "Gee, I thought I was beyond all this" or, "I thought I was better than that..." reveal to me how very, very far I have yet to travel on this road of being conformed to the image and likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ. I haven't got time to even experience that loss right now, I just admit, confess and move along doggy!
I haven't got time for the pain of grieving the loss of being solely a wife and mom either. I am a house strongly divided within. I deeply miss my role as "Jake's Mom" as it used to be. I carry so much guilt for his being home here over the summer without me.
Sometimes I think that if I ever allowed myself to truly grieve all these losses I might come apart Humpty-Dumpty-like, in such a way that I would not be able to be put together again... and so it is with grief.
I do believe God has me exactly where He wants me; He is a sovereign God. I do believe in His plan for my life, for He promises not to harm me. Inconvenience and sorrow are not the breaking of His promises to me, they are tools that the Lord uses to fulfill His promises.
Lately, many of my posts have been about God's faithfulness and His promises. That is where He has me these days...
There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven—
A time to give birth and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.
A time to kill and a time to heal;
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to weep and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to dance.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-4 (NASB)
I am so ready to dance again.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
We have been asking God for a buyer for our home for almost a year now. It is hard to believe that it has been that long, but it has. We have been praying night and day, without ceasing for a buyer. Both Larry and I say that we have never prayed so long and so hard for anything ever in our lives.
For a while our prayers were bold. We were pounding on the door as the man in this parable did. He was apparently pretty bold and maybe even obnoxious about wanting some bread for his midnight guest. He was not going away for anything without that bread! He was pounding and banging and yelling, "Friend!! Friend!!" He must have woke the entire house, and maybe the neighbors too with his demands for food to feed his unexpected guest. The guy gave it to him, according to the parable, because he was persistent.
I did not waver in my asking. Each day began with me loudly, boldly pounding on the door asking the Lord to bring us a buyer for the house. Some days included shaking the doorknob, kicking the door, and even screaming to be heard. Each night ended with further prayer for the same thing.
I imagine that guy got kind of tired...he must have been tired and maybe a little embarrassed to keep on with it knowing He was bugging the entire house and surrounding people at midnight.
I have been at it a lot longer than he and I am exhausted from the ordeal. Persistence takes energy. I started on my feet, and I am now sitting slumped in a heap on the threshold, my knocks faint and soft. My pleas are a mere whimper now and they often mingle with tears.
God is not hearing anything He did not already know about. He has been aware of this from before the beginning of time. He knows the day and time He will answer us. He knows what He intends to accomplish in us and through us to people we come in contact with so I am confident this too is a part of His plan.
His reasons for the appearance of a delay in answering our prayer are His alone. He is perfect in knowledge and perfect in holiness. There is no malice or evil in His delay, God does not procrastinate.
So today I begin anew- knocking, pounding, begging and pleading for this thing...So much of our earthly reputation depends on it. But is that the most important thing? Far greater and far and away more important is our response to God in this time.
Bitterness and anger could easily come and make their home in our hearts, and it has been something to be aware of and to fight against for sure. We choose persistence in this situation believing that God is accomplishing what He wills to accomplish in us during this time. We choose faith, believing that He will answer us in His time. He is faithful, and He has already enabled us to be faithful as well.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Often she will tell me that her husband is just plain hurtful towards her. He says things that are cruel about her appearance (You are fat, you look old, I am not attracted to you anymore), her intelligence level (you are so stupid, how could I marry someone so dumb, you don't stimulate me intellectually) her "performance" as a wife and or mother (you are a lousy cook, you don't keep the house clean, the kids are picking up your bad habits), and he may even tell you he is embarrassed by you in front of his friends and co-workers.
This is crushing to a woman who has many times poured her life into her marriage and family. I usually find the women to be pleasant, personable, kind and competent. I really can't see why a husband would turn on the woman he promised to love and cherish in this way. These are difficult pieces to pick up. Sometimes, the heart of the woman is smashed in so many little pieces and scattered so far abroad that it is nearly beyond repair.
This is another incidence where I thank God that He is the one who is truly the Counselor. He is the one who binds up the brokenhearted.
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3 (NASB)
If this post finds you in this place today, let me tell you that I understand both personally and as one who has seen many women in this situation. How can I advise you? How can I comfort you?
I would counsel you to soldier on along this very difficult road. God is not ignorant of your situation, nor is He ignoring your plea for relief. Please realize that Jesus Christ is with you in this ordeal. He is participating in your sufferings because you are in Him!
We are often called to suffer for righteous things, and these sufferings make us sacred; they make us holy. Suffering rejection should cause you to cling to Jesus and cry out to Him for help and comfort and the love you so badly want from your husband.
You cannot control your husband, or what he says to you or does to you- but you can control your response to his sinning against you. You can control your tongue and what you say in response to his criticisms. Suffering silently like a whipped puppy does not equal submission dear ladies! If you are criticized, ask yourself before the Lord if there is any truth to what he said to you. If there is, admit it and seek God's help to change it! Tell your husband when he is right in his observations and tell him that you now realize that (whatever he was critical of about you) does not glorify God in your life so you have asked God's help to change that thing.
It is perfectly ok to tell your husband that you don't appreciate his tone or his language or how he said what he said and to ask him to be more aware of that next time.
If you are not sure his criticisms of you are accurate, you will need to get some outside input from someone that knows you well. You must give them the freedom to be very honest with you and accept their opinion graciously. In all this, you must not sin against your husband by gossiping about him or putting him down.
If you conclude he is not accurate in his observation then pray that his heart would change toward you on this issue and try not to do this thing that irritates him- out of love for him and respect for his position as headship in your home.
Now, that being said, I also realize that there are some situations where nothing- and I mean nothing is good or right or acceptable. The husband has simply turned his heart away from his wife and is sticking it out because he is too lazy to divorce her or just hanging around for the kids. In our current financial crisis, many couples are not divorcing because they cannot afford to!
I would urge you to read and re-read 1 and 2 Peter. These two epistles are full of godly wisdom and counsel for people who are suffering under unjust rulers. These letters were written during the persecution of the church by Nero. Nero was crazy and was actually using Christians as human torches for his courtyard...talk about suffering...
I wish I could take the pain away. I wish I could stop the suffering in your lives, but no blog can accurately address such painful issues of the heart. Only the Lord Jesus Christ can soothe those places of deepest hurt and pain. Listen to the words of God...
“Fear not, for you will not be put to shame; And do not feel humiliated, for you will not be disgraced;But you will forget the shame of your youth, And the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more. “For your husband is your Maker, Whose name is the LORD of hosts; And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, Who is called the God of all the earth. “For the LORD has called you, Like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit, Even like a wife of one’s youth when she is rejected,” Says your God. Isaiah 54:4-6 (NASB)
The Lord calls you His own, His bride, His love. He is cradling you, and loving you, and walking with you through this terrible time in your life. He is faithful even though your husband may not be faithful. He is trustworthy even if your husband is not, and He will never, ever leave you nor forsake you.
Run to Him and cling to Him. Stay within His loving embrace.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:8 (NKJV)
And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NKJV)
Grace is sufficient. So many times I hear people say they don’t think they can do it - they can’t bear up under the strain or under the persecution. They tell me how weak they are, and I tell them to rejoice in that weakness! Because then they can really see that it is not them doing it--it is Christ! The grace of God is enough to carry them through!
Grace is sufficient, and it is enough. If it were not enough, God would have made a better provision.
I also have to remind myself that God’s grace will be present in abundance when I need it and not before. I cannot store up grace for a rainy day like I can my pennies; it will be sufficient and not lacking anything in that moment.
For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. Romans 6:14 (NKJV)
I really love this passage of Scripture. When I first realized this, I think I about flew out of my seat!
Romans 6:1 says, “Are we to continue to live as though we are still slaves to sin? How can we who have been freed from sin still live as though we are still owned by it.”
Realizing that grace is in my life changes my perspective on things, people and circumstances.When I view all of life through the lens of God’s grace demonstrated toward me, I have no other alternative than to change how I live.
Some may disagree with my statement because of the issue of free will. My position is that a true believer will change. They just will! No will of man can overcome the power of the living God; some may change slower than others, but all of us will be changed.
When the sinner, through the power of the Holy Spirit, begins to understand the enormity of what grace has done for them, their desire becomes one of change to bring Him glory. If the desire to change is not present, then we will question the validity of the salvation testimony.
When we realize that we are now free from all of the “have to’s” in obeying sin, our perspective on that sin changes immediately.
I have no choice but to conclude that I sin because I like its temporary results; I like the rush, the immediate gratification, and the clandestine feeling that I am getting away with something.
I deceive myself by thinking sin brings me pleasure when in reality it does not - not true pleasure, not pleasure without guilty feelings. This is because always after the immediate gratification comes the immediate understanding that I have taken this wonderful grace and abused it and trampled it carelessly.
This is the realization of grace--the understanding that God has given us this wonderful gift that I surely do not deserve and has not given me all the misery I do deserve. He has brought me into His kingdom as His child and given me the riches of this kingdom, having lifted me out of slavery and misery and given me His inheritance. The realization that these things are true about me and cannot be revoked or taken away by anyone causes me to fall down and worship Him.
It also causes me to live out this worship in life and demonstrate it to others.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
For God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey him and the power to do what pleases him. Philippians 2:13 (NLT)
Heart change is done by the Spirit of God. The process of sanctification is evidence of our salvation. Were it not for the Holy Spirit living inside us, we would have no desire to change our heart or to glorify God. This is very important: God is pleased with us because of Christ, and that does not change. His pleasure rests upon us because His wrath has been satisfied for the sake of Christ.
The “pleasing” of God that is done in the sanctification process is glorifying to His name and Person. It is contained in revealing Christ in us to others and introducing them to the character and Person of Christ through us. This brings much glory to God.
Grace is given to us because it glorifies God to do so, not because we are deserving, special, or worthy. Have you ever thought about what a marvelous thing it is that God chooses to bring Himself glory by saving us?
God demonstrates grace to us because He is holy and cannot tolerate our sinfulness. I am reading a book that contains a chapter about the holiness of God, and the author says that in the Bible you don’t read about the cherubim and seraphim surrounding the throne of God and saying “wonderful, wonderful, wonderful” or “faithful, faithful, faithful.” They say “holy, holy, holy” when speaking of God. He is a holy God and we would be foolish to think that sinfulness on any level is acceptable to God..
Our unholiness demanded a stiff redemptive price--the blood of Christ.
Our unholiness is the reason we need grace unto salvation. We are completely and totally unworthy of what we have received.
It is in seeing our unworthiness that we can begin to have a glimpse of just exactly why we are to demonstrate grace to those who have hurt us so deeply.
In those painful relationships when we show grace to those who don’t deserve it it is important to realize it may not make one bit of difference in how we are treated by them and it may not change any manner of response by the offender
What we will experience is freedom from bitterness. In spite of the rotten way we may continue to be treated, we will see God working in our lives as a result of responding in a Christ-like manner.
When helping others to understand this, make it a goal to help them to get their focus off “self” and onto what God is doing in their heart and life as they step out in faith and obedience to the call of Christ.
Remind yourself often; the goal is not to end the suffering, but to glorify God as you are suffering.
Monday, July 20, 2009
For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. Romans 8:13 (NIV)
The longer we stay in contact with our former way of life and the sin it contained, the more corrupt we will become. We are told to “put off”and “throw off” our former conduct. This implies stripping off, or flinging it far away, as though it were that rotting corpse. Accompanying putting off the old man is being renewed in the spirit of the mind:
Instead, there must be a spiritual renewal of your thoughts and attitudes. Ephesians 4:23 (NLT)
The Word and Spirit supply what is needed to renew the mind (Rom 12:1-2). This is inseparably coupled with changed living and enables us to understand, believe, and obey.
...you have stripped off your old evil nature and all its wicked deeds. In its place you have clothed yourselves with a brand-new nature that is continually being renewed as you learn more and more about Christ, who created this new nature within you. Colossians 3:9b-10 (NLT)
When we become a Christian, God gives us a completely new spiritual and moral capacity that a mind apart from Christ could never achieve (1 Corinthians 2:9-16). The mind is the center of thought, understanding, belief, desire, and motivation. This is why it is critical to begin to renew your mind with His Word.
It is not adequate to just change behavior because what drives the behavior is still the same. Our mind must be retrained to operate biblically so that when we are presented with the same old temptations, we think a new response. Instead of, “If I tell the truth, I am going to be in trouble,” the new thought will become, “Telling the truth is the way I will honor God, even if it means I am disciplined. It is more important to be honest than it is to look good or escape being disciplined.”
We cannot assume that new thinking alone will lead to walking worthy and new living. We must also deal with what is standing in the way of belief and action. Genuine change is more than stopping wrong behavior; there must be repentance which includes an understanding that the actions are not glorifying to God; there must be a change in the manner of life that we live. Genuine repentance is accompanied by a desire to obey. We cannot separate thinking from obedience-they are inseparable.
And remember, it is a message to obey, not just to listen to. If you don’t obey, you are only fooling yourself. For if you just listen and don’t obey, it is like looking at your face in a mirror but doing nothing to improve your appearance. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. James 1:22-24 (NLT)
When Jesus Christ is the ruler of our heart (inner man), our thoughts, understanding, beliefs, desires, and motivations flow from what He wants us to do as seen in His Word. Finally,
You must display a new nature (put on the new self, put on the new man) because you are a new person, created in God’s likeness—righteous, holy, and true. Ephesians 4:24 (NLT) (verse quoted with my additions)
This indicates a change of our entire life-style. Real change begins in our heart and overflows into our lives where Christ is reflected in us.