Things I Want My Daughter to Know: Living By Faith Is Probably the Most Important Thing We’ll Ever Show You

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Not that we do it perfectly, but we are striving to set an example of what it looks like to live your life based upon total faith in God so that you and your brothers see our faith lived out as a witness to how great and faithful God, Himself, is.

Ever since the beginning of our marriage, before we even had kids, we knew we wanted to leave a legacy of faith within the hearts of our children – one that would hopefully extend far beyond our reach to the generations to come.  In the Proverbs 31 series, we looked at specific people from history – particularly the mothers since I am a mother – who by living out their faith in front of their children, were able to have faithful descendants that multiplied enormously in just 100 years time.  We looked at how dramatically this affected our nation by producing so many productive, Christian, members of society.  We connected the family that was tracked with the Parable of the Sower:

“Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”  Matthew 13:8

The Goal of a Christian’s Life Should Be to Be Used By God

We also want you to understand that the goal of a Christian’s life, should be to be used by God.  And when one lives by faith, God uses them more than the average Christian.  This is a topic that would seem controversial, because it sounds so unfair.  But like we learned in my book detailing the virtuous wife of Proverbs 31, women respond differently to God depending on the soil of their hearts.  The good thing is that we control the kind of soil we keep, which represents the way we respond to God asking us to obey Him.

The way you’re currently obey God affects your entire outlook on life, but especially your motivation to develop a strong, courageous kind of faith.

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We also learned that God gives out spiritual gifts and abilities unequally, when we looked at the Parable of the Talents in the Proverbs 31 woman series.  We may be given spiritual gifts unequally, but it is fair in that God doesn’t expect from someone with only the capacity of 1 talent, to give Him a return of 10 when He inspects their efforts.  He expects we do our part with what we are given, but He is not a cruel master or unfair in expecting more from someone who doesn’t have that ability.

That said, there’s something God wishes for all of us to have equally, that will develop a heart of good soil and help us to do incredible things for Him in seen or unseen ways!  It doesn’t take having 10 talents, or even being a Type A Super Go-Getter kind of woman, this is something He desires for all people, and it is the single determining factor that explains how much God will use you in your life to do His work.

I heard a sermon maybe a month ago, which brought all this into a much more concise and understandable reason as to why God does use some people more than others, and how this greatly blesses them, and makes their life far more fulfilling.  This chapter is entirely based upon the thoughts of Chip Ingram, in understanding why God has more favor on, or tends to use some people, more than others.

We want to help you develop into the kind of woman whom God will use much more than just the average woman!  Not only were you prophesied over as an infant, but you come from a long legacy of faith from both your sides of your family.  You’ve come from people who have helped birth Christianity not only in their own families, but even in their communities by becoming Pastors and teachers of God’s Word.

You are related to a man who was even martyred for his faith in God.  Withstanding persecution is in your blood.

And we’re not talking about something grand, although it is possible that God would call you to something like that, it’s much more likely that you will impact His kingdom for good in extremely powerful, but almost unnoticeable ways.

The Most Important Thing to Be Used By God

All it takes to do more than the average Christian, to be used by God, and have more favor and blessings on your life, is faith.

That’s all it is, but it is SO PROFOUND.  This one thing – your faith in God – will determine the entire course of your life.  And I’m not talking about “faith” in that you prescribe to a certain religion (faith) and believe it’s the right one like Catholicism or Orthodox Christians.  But actually having a strong relationship with God where you read His Word every morning, spend lots of time praying to Him and knowing Him through His Word.

We want you to have the kind of faith that is real – believing what God said and ACTING on it in your real life.

For we walk by faith, not by sight.”  2 Cor. 5:7

We want you to see us having the kind of faith where we act on it when we feel like it, and we act on it especially when we don’t feel like it.  You will have this kind of faith, as well.

We act on it when it makes sense, and we act on it when it sounds like the dumbest thing in the world.

Faith is believing God – He commends it, He rewards it, He justifies you by faith.  It is probably the most important thing in your life, Little One, learning how to fully have faith in God and allow that to direct all the rest of your life.  It is probably the single determining factor for how well you will do in your Christian life.

For we walk by faith, not by sight!!

 

He uses people who don’t shrink back when facing insult, persecution, etc.

It’s not enough to just be religious and attend church.  You need to stand your ground for the hard stuff, and take whatever Satan brings on.  Christians who are used by God because they live by faith, will often have to face suffering and public exposure to ridicule, slander, criticism and even if it comes to it – confiscation of their property, imprisonment, and death.

Yes, even though this may not be a popular message (although ironically it is so needed at this time), we’re called to have a strong faith to persevere and endure ALL things for His sake.  Many Christians honestly just don’t have that kind of faith to not shrink back when even just the slightest beginnings of persecution start to affect their lives.

More than that though, God actually expresses displeasure when a believer shrinks back from persecution.  It proves they don’t have faith in Him or pure motivations in how they were serving Him.

And not only are we called to stand strong in the face of persecution (and not shrink back), we’re supposed to endure all these things without complaining.  It’s not wholesome for a Christian to be whining and complaining about their perceived persecutions, and no, asking for prayers during a time of persecution is not whining or complaining (typically).

We’re called to endure persecution, slander, judgment, public ridicule, imprisonment, torture or death, joyfully and confidently, so that we come out in victory through God and bring glory to Him for allowing us to stand and not cringe or shrink back from our persecutors.  In other words, yes, it’s better to die for Christ than to shrink back or complain about being persecuted.  From what I’ve seen, it’s sadly normal to find that Christian women shrink back VERY readily and fast – much to their shame and dishonor of their God.

Hebrews 10:32

Remember the earlier days when, after you had been enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings.

Sometimes you were publicly exposed to taunts and afflictions, and at other times you were companionsof those who were treated that way.  For you sympathized with the prisoners and accepted with joy the confiscation of your possessions, knowing that you yourselves have a better and enduring possession.

So don’t throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.  For you need endurance, so that after you have done God’s will, you may receive what was promised.

“For in yet a very little while, the Coming One will come and not delay.  But My     righteous one will live by faith; and if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him.” (The author is quoting from Habbakuk)

Did you see that?

“But My righteous one will live by faith;

and if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him.”

He’s quoting from Habakkuk here (it’s always been like this – that the righteous live by faith even during times of light or severe persecution).  This is our history, Christian women, God’s Word (both the Old and the New Testament) is timeless.

So now that you have a fuller understanding of the kind of faith that pleases God, you know it’s not for the faint-hearted.  Its not for people who give up or shrink back to just doing the minimum of Christianity so that they’re not persecuted anymore – that is, and has always been, the temptation.  Shrinking back from persecution, as we saw in Scripture, displeases God and brings shame upon the woman who does it.

 

It’s HARD to live by faith

We are slowly facing increasing opposition and the beginnings of actual persecution that will probably get much worse in our lifetime.  Just recently in California, banners and posters were approved to be hung at a popular mall for a normal, run-of-the-mill Christian speaking event for Pastor Greg Laurie.  Enough people complained, and even made threats because the posters showed a Bible, that the mall went back on it’s initial approval and ordered the Christian ads torn down.  Many Christians in California who were in shock over this decision to not allow normal Christian advertisement (which until now, has been allowed for decades), are now calling themselves the “underground church of California.”  

This is a big deal, sweet girl, and we believe it will slowly start spreading to other states.  Opposition to Christian speaking events, or even to Bible studies in your neighborhood, is going to become the norm, and you have to be strong enough to have faith anyway.  You’ll have the burden of teaching your own children to have strong enough faith in their time.  But it’s not enough to just have faith (or rather to say you have faith but hide it or be silent), like we saw in Hebrews 10, you will need to be bold enough to stand firm for your faith, even in the face of harsh punishments.  The good thing about times like what is coming is that persecution often re-ignites the church’s fire.  Many Christians (who don’t have a strong faith to withstand persecution) will simply fall away or “shrink back,” like Hebrews 10 talks about (displeasing God), and the Christians bold enough to keep standing, will end up shaping the backbone of the re-birthed church.  Throughout many times in the Bible we can see this happen with God’s people.  There is always a Remnant, and we can always depend on God, the One who brought us out of Egypt, to be faithful.

Faith can be developed, but it takes having an attitude of humility

The great thing is that even if one has failed in this area, it’s never too late to turn around and start living your life by faith – but it must be now.  That decision to walk boldly following God, needs to be firmly decided in your heart and mind, and then lived out everyday.

The main way to grow a strong faith like this, is to begin every morning with reading God’s Word – giving Him your first fruits.  There is no other way to live by faith if you’re not spending time knowing Him, understanding His commands, and loving that time with Him.  I know it sounds legalistic, but it’s just a logical thing that one cannot live by faith and not be spending regular time reading God’s Word and talking to Him about their life.  If you want a vibrant faith, if you want more favor on your life, to be used more than just your average Christian who merely attends church, but shrinks back at the slightest signs of persecution, then you need to be in His Word daily in order to strengthen you for what you will face.

Hebrews 10:38

“But My righteous one will live by faith; and if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him.”

But we are not those who shrink back and are destroyed, but those who have faith and obtain life.”

So right after we see that shrinking back from persecution makes God Himself have “no pleasure” in us, we also see that the writer of Hebrews is commending them that they are not people who shrink back and are destroyed – but instead are those who have faith (in persecution) and obtain life!

How dramatic that if one “shrinks back” from their persecution, that God says they are “destroyed.”  I don’t think that always has to mean in a physical manner or literal death.  I think being “destroyed” because they’ve shrunk back from persecution is probably a more figurative thing – a total losing of their motivation or purpose in following God (a Christian’s only true purpose).  Shrinking back from persecution and being “destroyed,” could also mean a shipwreck of their faith in a way.  Once they know they’ve utterly failed in pleasing God, what is there to go on for?

Without FAITH it is IMPOSSIBLE to please God

And we must note that these last verses of Hebrews 10, talking about the importance of enduring and not shrinking back, come right before the famous chapter of Hebrews 11, where all the heroes of faith from the Old testament are remembered and honored.  So this was an encouragement leading up to the Hebrews 11 passage, an encouragement to live by faith – because honestly, it is the only thing that will matter in this life.

“But we are NOT those who shrink back and are destroyed, but those who have FAITH and obtain LIFE!”

 

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Things I Want My Daughter to Know: You Were Prophesied Over As an Infant

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Back almost 8 years ago, when we had our first child, we knew immediately we wanted to do a special Baby Blessing that our church offers.  It was so wonderful and so touching to bring our 2 week old baby to be blessed and prayed over in front of the church and with all the members praying for us as a couple and over him!  Very very touching ❤

We did the same with our second baby boy, and it was also so sweet.

But nothing like what I’m about to write to you, sweet girl, has ever happened to us before.

About the time that you were 4 weeks old, I had to return to my doctor to make sure everything was healing well, as is normal for after-birth, c-sections especially.  Your daddy wasn’t able to come due to work, and I had your Grandma watch the boys for me.  It had been a somewhat difficult recovery… I got mastitis within the first week because of how much you were feeding (every hour of the night!), and I had somewhat scary problems with swelling in my lower body.  But by this time, we were set in our little routine and everything was going pretty well.

There was a new, young nurse there helping me, and toward the end of my time with her (and after the doctor had left), she asked me if she could pray over you!  She said she could just tell that we were a Christian family, and I was amazed at how bold her faith was to ask something like that in our secular (harsh-toward-Christians) culture, as well as to be so bold as to actually ask to pray over another person’s baby!  I was so glad for her and accepted her offer of prayer.

I thought it would just be a normal kind of prayer… I guess I didn’t really know what to expect, but this young nurse prayed a powerful prayer of prophesy over you.  I found myself crying during the prayer it was so intense and powerful.  Very very strange.  Again, I’ve never had something like this happen before – to me or any of our children – and I’ve grown up in the church and around very religious, wonderful teachers and mentors throughout my life.  I’ve never experienced anything this strange, and this powerful spiritually.  I knew it was important to remember, and write down for you so that you will know your purpose and stay forever strong and rooted in God.

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The boldness of that young nurses’ faith touched me so deeply in praying over you in that way.  I went in thinking it would just be a normal, run-of-the-mill appointment, and left with my face glowing and wiping away tears from that super-natural experience!  I came away feeling in awe of what God had in store for you, as well as terrified even more so that God expects me to be a mom to such wonderful, wise little children.  You and your brothers are just so different, both your dad and I have noticed this often.

Regardless, we will commit to teaching all of you all of the Word of God continuously.  You will have deep roots.  You will be like the good soil Jesus talked about, that accepts the seed (His Word) and grows and flourishes.

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Your heart is good soil, Little One, never forget that.

Never falter in your faith.  Never lose heart in doing good.  Never be afraid of anything other than having the fear of God, who supports you in your integrity and honesty.  You will watch as He shames and destroys your enemies and false people who come up against you.  You will watch your prayers be answered after you hand certain people over to Satan; them having nightmares and anxiety and great fear because of their terrible deeds.  You will see His Hand over your life in a way most people don’t get to.

Many women will lose heart in doing good, or give way to sins or even idolatry because they care more about pleasing other people, than living for an audience of One.  But you will stand like a lily among thorns.  You will still be standing even when all the others have lost heart and given away to fear, because their faith in God was weak.  Yours will remain strong, because of your deep roots and the faith God will grow in your heart.

We will continue teaching you and your brothers the decree we received from our father Moses:

“Listen Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is One.  Love the LORD with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.  These words I am giving to you today are to be in your heart.  Repeat them to your children.  Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead.  Write them on the door-posts of your house and on your gates.”  Deuteronomy 6:4-9

 

Timothy, my child, I entrust you with this command in keeping with the previous prophecies about youso that by them you may fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and thereby shipwrecked their faith.  Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.” 

1 Timothy 1:18-20

The Proverbs 31 Woman’s Stewardship of Her Talents

“She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies sashes for the merchants.”

Proverbs 31:24

Welcome back if you’re still following this series of posts about the Proverbs 31 woman!  It’s been a lonnng time since the last post, but it’s been good for me to take a break in order to fully process all the things happening regarding the police and violence against them in our country.  I could write many posts just about all the emotions I went through during this time, but I may save that for another lesson series in the future.  For a few more weeks, this blog has the purpose of focusing on what God sees as beautiful, feminine character.  We’re still zeroing-in on the virtues and powerful example of the woman talked about in Proverbs 31.  For all the things that have happened during the course of writing this little series, it has still continued to prevail and change lives.  I’ve had the wonderful experience of getting to hear how God’s used these posts to help open up women’s minds to new ways of looking at what truly matters, and it is so humbling to know that God is using these posts for His purpose in blessing others.

When I was researching for these verses, the image illustrated in my imagination was that of her going about their society, taking her merchandise to the ports in order to sell them to the merchants, walking through the markets buying the food she selectively picks out from them as we saw in verse 14.  She moves through their city, going about doing good for her family, dressed in fine linens and yes, this strange and seemingly worldly choice of extravagant purple.  She is a walking advertisement for the beauty that her hands create!

Let’s dive in fully to the meanings behind this verse.

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She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies sashes for the merchants –

Another look into our virtuous woman’s talented mind for business!  The word, “merchants,” used here, is literally “Cananites,” and it is talking about the Phoenician merchants.

“She delivered these goods to the merchants or traders.  These were Phoenician traders, according to the meaning of the Hebrew word.  Phoenicians were known for their trade and commerce and their skill as a seafaring people. Phoenicia’s two major ports were Tyre and Sidon.

The virtuous woman provided a source of income for her family through her business. “When other women impoverish their husbands by buying, she enriches her husband by selling those valuable commodities for which there is a constant demand” (George Lawson, Commentary on Proverbs, page 567).

“It is only modern pride and laziness which has introduced the idea that it is inconsistent with the dignity of a fine lady to make profit of her own manufactures.  This virtuous woman, although her husband sits among the elders, does not think it a discredit, but an honor to herself, to make fine linen and girdles for sale; and the wise will praise her on account of it” (George Lawson, p. 576).” (2)

These were the same merchants she more than likely bought the purple cloth or garments, or the dye itself, from.  She would take what she was able to afford, and increase it to bless others from the work of her hands!

She used her God-given talents to financially bless her family –

The woman in Proverbs 31 is much like Tabitha in that she makes clothing and looks after the poor and needy as we’ll see in verse 20; however, unlike what we know of Tabitha, she also uses her talents to gain a financial blessing in return.  Let’s look in depth at what it means to use our gifts that God has given us in Matthew 25:14-30.

The Parable of the Talents the Master gives his servants:

14 “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants[a] and entrusted to them his property.

15 To one he gave five talents,[b] to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.

16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more.

17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more.

18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money.

19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’

21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.[c] You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.

22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’

23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’

26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest.

28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance.

But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.

30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

 

What an incredible parable!  And how convicting is it that we should be taking our callings, our gifts – our purpose so seriously.  Historically, a “talent” was actually a large sum of money, however since Jesus loved to teach using parables, this was never really about the money!  Still the comparison is important to understand because of how it relates to us and our relationship with God.

Here is some history regarding the setting of His story:

The outward framework of the parable lies in the Eastern way of dealing with property in the absence of the owner. Two courses were open as an approximation to what we call investment. The more primitive and patriarchal way was for the absentee to make his slaves his agents. They were to till his land and sell the produce, or to use the money which he left with them as capital in trading. In such cases there was, of course, often an understanding that they should receive part of the profits, but being their master’s slaves, there was no formal contract.

The other course was to take advantage of the banking, money-changing, money-lending system, of which the Phoenicians were the inventors, and which at the time was in full operation throughout the Roman empire. The bankers received money on deposit and paid interest on it, and then lent it at a higher percentage, or employed it in trade, or (as did the publicani at Rome) in farming the revenues of a province. This was therefore the natural resource, as investment in stocks or companies is with us, for those who had not energy to engage in business.” (11)

The “talents” represent the gifts God’s given each of us –   

“By the talents here we are to understand gifts or endowments conferred for a spiritual end, powers of body and mind, abilities natural and acquired, health, strength, long life, understanding, judgment, memory, learning, knowledge, eloquence, influence, and authority over others, wealth, privileges, or offices, civil or religious, and indeed every power and advantage of which a good or bad use may be made.” (12)

Jesus’ particular comparison of our gifts with large lump sums of money given to us, spoke to me deeply as I’ve been researching and studying for this post.  It’s as if He wants us to look at what He’s already given us – our specific gifts, artistic abilities, talents, etc. as we would a hundred thousand dollars in the bank.  We often feel so ill-quipped for the task, so wrongly chosen!  But we forget that it’s Him who has already equipped us – if we were able to do it all on our own ability, how would He receive the glory?  Throughout the ages, God has made it His signature move to call people who never thought they’d be the right one for the job.  The surprise of having God call you to do something that you’ve never expected yourself to do is bewildering and even terrifying.  Yet He expects us to use our gifts, skills, abilities, talents, hobbies, passions, and even connections to invest them in different avenues so that we can multiply our return on those investments for His sake!  Everything we do is ultimately done for the glory of God, and can be used to further His Kingdom.  Whatever impact we have in our sphere of influence, He wants us to use it to glorify Him.  Whether it’s teaching children, teaching Bible studies, cooking, drawing, sewing clothes, taking care of little children, taking care of our own families, or painting, God has a unique plan for the gifts He’s given us.

In plain speak, this parable is calling us to take seriously the work we do to further His Kingdom.

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Whatever we do, we must do it well, and to the best of our ability because God is our Master.  It’s not acceptable to hide our talents, to squander the gifts He’s given us.  We will all be called to account at the end of our lives like the servants were, when we’ll have to answer to God for what we chose to do as stewards over our lives.  It’s incredible to think about the fact that we’ve all been given a specific blessing!  No matter who you are, no matter if you’ve realized it or not; God has a specific and glorious work for you to do for His Kingdom!

A warning against comparison –

This doesn’t mean that all our ministries will look the same, we are different parts of the Body of Christ, fitted to do drastically different works and functions.  Whatever your specific work is, be assured that it is precious and valuable in God’s sight.  The servants in the parable were given different amounts of talents, each according to their ability.  This is huge and so important to comprehend!  Some were given more gifts than others, and some less so.  One might be tempted to say that this means God isn’t fair or just – otherwise He would give everyone the same amount to work from.  In my opinion, this parable actually proves how just God is: that He only expects from us what He knows we have the ability to produce!  His fairness comes into play in that He never expected the servant with the one talent to be able to produce 10 like the first did.  He takes into account our weaknesses and humanity.  He takes into account our discipline and proven record of stewardship.  If we’re faithful over a little, He promises to give us more to be responsible for.  This is why we’re not supposed to look at another woman and compare ourselves with what she’s able to accomplish (more or less) than what we’re accomplishing in our lives.  Our focus should be on our own spiritual development and industry of our talents.

I’m curious to know what was really going on in the last servant’s mind.  Was he focusing on how he’d only been given one talent compared to the others? Did he feel disadvantaged?  Ill-equipped?  He said he was afraid of the Master judging him if he didn’t at least preserve what he’d been given stewardship over.  Isn’t that a bit like us when we say to ourselves that we don’t want that extra responsibility?  That extra liability?  When we lack faith in what God’s done for and in us?  That if we dare to step out in faith and teach that class, write that book, start a small business, invite those neighbors over, help when we can meet a need, make that first move toward whatever ministry we’re called into, we don’t even try because we may be judged a failure for it?  That was the main excuse of the last servant, but he paid dearly for it in the end!

Comparison binds us and can prevent us from fulfilling the will of God for our life.  Satan would love for us to compare ourselves to what others are given or able to do, and come up short, discouraged, and ultimately, defeated.  He wants us to have a fear of failure so that we’re never brave enough to even start!  He wants us to be the opposite of what God has planned out for our lives: Unfruitful, unproductive, not letting our lights shine, miserable, and taking longer, more painful routes than needed on our journey.

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The devastation of a missed blessing –

Now that we’ve looked at the possibilities of why the last servant chose to bury his talent rather than use it to produce more for God, let’s focus in on the end goal of why this lesson is important.  When we refuse to act on what we know God’s called us to do, when we run away from His purpose for our life, rather than embrace it whole-heartedly, when we are too insecure that God could or would ever use us, or afraid that He’ll judge us harshly if we fail along the way… we are setting ourselves up for the devastation of a missed blessing!  When we use our gifts to bless our families or the people whom God puts in our path, we are actually receiving a blessing ourselves.

It’s in the giving!

‘Well done, good and faithful servant.  

You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much.

Enter into the joy of your master.

Receiving those words at the end of our life when we’ve completed this marathon race with perseverance, having not given up or given way to fear, are what we’re hoping for.  Setting our eyes on the “prize,” as Paul refers to it, helps us keep our focus and purpose clear, rejecting the weights that would pull us down, make us slower, and distract us from the path of righteousness.

 

The Proverbs 31 woman’s main ministry –

Let’s not forget what we learned about at the beginning of this series:

“Her main ministry is to do her husband good and not evil, if she succeeds at anything else, and yet fails in this area of serving her husband, she has lost everything because she’s failed to maintain the most important relationship on earth that God has given her.”

This again is so beautifully displayed within the Parable of the Talents.  Not everyone will be able to handle extra ministries around their church on top of having toddlers.  Not everyone will be able to manage a full-time business that brings in money to bless her family, and also have babies.  There are some women can do those things and do them well, but it’s my opinion they’ve been blessed with a “talent” that is rather rare, and God knew they would be a good steward over this added responsibility because of their personality type or discipline.  The more normal example to see is productiveness based on the different seasons of life, however we have to keep in mind that our main ministry is to do our husbands good (look back over that chapter if you want to refresh your memory, “good” encompasses a whole lot!).  Simply just managing to be the best wife and mother to your children may be all that you are able to handle at this time, and that is totally ok!  You’re working for God’s approval, not for another woman’s opinion on your life.  If we’re tempted to compare ourselves with someone else able to do more, we have to keep in mind the season of life we’re in, and our own particular strengths and weaknesses.  God doesn’t want to burden us down with expectations that we can’t meet, and He knows what we can and cannot do.  If He had expected the servant with the one talent to produce as much as the servant given 5 talents, our God would be a harsh and cruel Master.  But that’s not how the story goes, He is compassionate and takes into account our natural abilities and gifts when He judges how much we’re able to produce for Him.  A woman with young children may not be able to spend her time volunteering or making substantial money, but she may have just enough time to deeply study God’s word and prepare lessons to teach it to her children.  A woman in the middle of growing her family may not be able to write books and teach a woman’s Bible study, but she may be able to give to those in need when the opportunities come up, or carefully plan out how to bring extra meals when a woman in their church needs assistance.  We all need different amounts of rest and sleep, just like we all have different amounts of discipline and energy.  The most important thing is that we’re working on and cultivating the blessings and gifts God has already given to us, and doing our best to serve Him with them.

Lydia a woman faithful over her talents – 

Let’s look again to another woman from the New Testament, a rather obscure woman like Tabitha, who was yet again, another example of a real life Proverbs 31 woman.  When we looked at Tabitha, we saw a loving, kind woman who spent her time giving herself fully to mission work, and making clothing for the persecuted Christians in need and widows of Joppa.  Lydia at first glance, is so entirely opposite of Tabitha it’s striking.  This is a great example of how becoming a Proverbs 31 woman will look different for each of us, according to the plans God has for us.  It’s not known whether Tabitha was rich or poor, and some scholars have debated either way, however, Lydia, we know, was a very wealthy woman.

According to Acts 16, Lydia was a seller of that same strange, brilliant color we learned about before; the same color that the Proverbs 31 woman dressed herself in: purple.  Placed in the right region at the right time, Lydia was a resident of Thyatira, an ancient Greek city in what we now know of as modern day Turkey.  Thyatira was known for it’s many “guilds,” which were medieval associations of skilled artisans or merchants, and that often had considerable power (13).  Lydia more than likely belonged to one of Thyatira’s most powerful and influential guild, the Dyers Guild.  Because Thyatira’s waters were so perfect for dyeing, the city produced indigo, scarlet, and purple dyes, with the latter making the city famous among the region.

Again we are faced with the strange element of where the spiritual meets the secular world.  The examples of this in the Bible are always important because they teach us how to be in the world, but not of the world.  Having now studied deeply in the last chapter, the sheer status symbol of this color purple, of the wealth and secular usage behind it’s being purchased, sold, or worn, it again reminds us of what truly matters to God.  Lydia was immersed in the secular world of fashion, outward appearance, the arts, brilliant and costly dyes, and great wealth obtained from selling purple.  And yet we’re told that this woman loved God and was capable of opening her heart to him!  Let’s look at the passages to learn more about this woman:

Acts 16:12-15 (NLT)

12 From there we reached Philippi, a major city of that district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. And we stayed there several days.

13 On the Sabbath we went a little way outside the city to a riverbank, where we thought people would be meeting for prayer, and we sat down to speak with some women who had gathered there. 14 One of them was Lydia from Thyatira, a merchant of expensive purple cloth, who worshiped God.

As she listened to us, the Lord opened her heart, and she accepted what Paul was saying.

15 She and her household were baptized, and she asked us to be her guests.

“If you agree that I am a true believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my home.” And she urged us until we agreed.

The impression Lydia made on the missionaries was so welcoming that they actually returned to her house to receive rest after their imprisonment in Philippi for preaching the gospel.  Her gift of hospitality to God’s messengers was greatly needed and appreciated!

Acts 16:40 (NLT)

40 “When Paul and Silas left the prison, they returned to the home of Lydia. There they met with the believers and encouraged them once more. Then they left town.”

Paul also writes to the believers of Philippi (Lydia being one of the prominent women of the church), in his letter written from a jail cell, at the end of his life to the Phillippians.  If you read closely, you can almost hear the affection in his words for the believers:

Philippians 1:3-10

Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, 5 for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

So it is right that I should feel as I do about all of you, for you have a special place in my heart. You share with me the special favor of God, both in my imprisonment and in defending and confirming the truth of the Good News. God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus.

9 I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. 10 For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return.

Lydia’s occupation as a seller of purple might have been a “questionable” calling to the Pharisees, but we can’t deny that her simple yet powerful example has been put in the Bible for our betterment.  Blogger Heather Whidden has a unique perspective on this “unlikely meeting,”

“Consider for a moment how unlikely it is that this meeting even took place to begin with. Lydia, a seller and producer of the much-coveted color purple that can only be afforded by the wealthiest, the Roman elite, crosses paths with Paul, the most influential apostle of Christianity at a river. That’s about as likely as Billy Graham meeting Vera Wang at the local bus station. And yet, this is where God chose to open the door for the gospel to be taken to the hearts of the Roman world and beyond; in the heart of a woman who sold purple.” (14, Emphasis mine)

Because of Lydia’s unique position in society, having influence and access to multiple sellers of the dyes and clothing, as well as her belonging to the Dyer’s Guild, she would be in the perfect place to bring the gospel to people who could spread it even further through their trade.  When the Lord opened her heart after hearing Paul speak at the river, we see that she grew an immediate desire to give the gift of hospitality to the missionaries.

Let’s look at a few things in common between Lydia and our Proverbs 31 woman:

  • They both show the gift of hospitality
  • They are both godly women with whom God is pleased
  • They both are humble and pure in spirit
  • They are both dealers or sellers of the expensive purple cloth
  • They may both be women who wore this purple color in their clothing choices
  • They both use their talents to obtain wealth that they use in turn to bless others
  • They are both good stewards over their talents and skills, being mindful to use them to further God’s Kingdom

Lydia’s work brought in blessings which in turn, blessed the believers of the new church!  God used the rather secular work of one woman, who was being faithful over the stewardship He had given her, to reach many others throughout the region!  Let’s never discount the affect we can have when we choose to be productive servants, and use our gifts and talents for God’s glory to encourage others and bring them closer to His will for them!

Next we’ll be looking at how the Proverbs 31 woman’s proceeds are used to bless not only her family, but also paved the way for her to reach out to the poor (verse 20), and the needy.

 

Interesting/cited Articles –

  1. Adam Clarke Commentary
  2. The Middletown Bible Church
  3. Matthew Poole’s Commentary
  4. Tabitha: A woman who lived for Jesus
  5. Beautiful in God’s Eyes by Elizabeth George
  6. Natural History by (Henry) Pliny the Elder
  7. Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary
  8. Greek Lexicon
  9. The History of Purple Cloth & Fabrics
  10. Hebrew Lexicon
  11. Elicott’s Commentary for English Readers
  12. Benson Commentary
  13. Lydia Bible Gateway
  14. The Power of Purple

Applications will be written into the individual posts during the next few weeks

Undaunted Radiance!

Paul says this is the reason we are more than conquerers in all these things, super-victors, with a joy we would not have, but for the very thing which look as if they are going to overwhelm us.

The surf that distresses the ordinary swimmer produces in the surf-rider the super-joy of going clean through it.  Apply that to our own circumstances, these very things – tribulation, distress, persecution, produce in us the super-joy; they are not things to fight.

We are more than conquerors through Him in all these things, not in spite of them, but in the midst of them.  The saint never knows the joy of the Lord in spite of tribulation, but because of it – “I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation,” says Paul.

Undaunted radiance is not built on anything passing, but on the love of God that nothing can alter.

Oswald Chambers

***

When we go through periods of testing of our faith or character, the trials that can feel so crushing to our spirits, how is it that we can become “more than conquerors” in the midst of them?

The only answer I’ve found, especially recently in my own personal life, is in clinging to God, and abiding in Him daily.  

What about when we bring these things on ourselves?  How does one get over the guilt, the shame of dishonoring Christ’s reputation?

First off, even though the righteous may fall 7 times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes (Proverbs 24:26).

Satan wants to see you depressed, hurting, confused, disenchanted with God and His power in your life.

When you fall, he wants to keep you down there.  His are the mockers who watch your life, and laugh when you stumble or have calamity fall on you.  They, like him, want nothing more than to see you stop, withdraw, and disappear.  “Die a quick death.”

We are all ministers in some way to those God has allowed us to reach, and one of the ways Satan will often attack those who are serious about ministering to others, is through trials.  His end goal is to render you ineffective; to shut you up.

The only letter of recommendation we need is you yourselves.

Your lives are a letter written in our hearts;

everyone can read it and recognize our good work among you.

2 Corinthians 3:2

Great Christians Intentionally do Great Things

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I’ve had a chance to listen to a few sermons from Chip Ingram, a man I used to listen to on my morning drive to work everyday in the car – boy do I ever miss the way he’d show me God’s character in such depth!  Listening to his voice is like hearing an old friend.  He’s recently had a series about Great Christians and specific things they do.  It’s not intended to be legalistic rules or anything, but to give you ideas if you’re serious about deepening your walk with God in this life.

One of the things he’s talked about that great Christians do, is they make great sacrifices.  He gave an example of a couple that were in China, who were doing the dangerous work of spreading the gospel there.  They were found out and the authorities came to their home asking who was the pastor – it was common there to have women actually be pastors.  The wife told them she was the pastor so that her husband (the real pastor) would be spared.  They took her, beat her, and imprisoned her.

When Chip asked the man how he dealt with that – with the anger and rage from knowing his wife had to undergo that kind of punishment, the man responded in a completely surprising way.  He said that when his wife was let go and brought back to him, she wasn’t upset or angry for the treatment she received. Instead she was reflective on what a great honor it was to suffer so much for the gospel of Christ.

I thought that example was such a beautiful picture of a wife loving her husband and God, as well.  Loving him enough to protect him from danger and harm, because of all the good he does for God.

In our everyday lives, sacrifice can seem like it’s impossible to do – especially to that extreme, but even the sacrifices that we choose to make have a great impact on our faith and the people who know us.

I remember going to my Christian school as a young girl, and my parents making sure I knew that the teachers there were making a sacrifice for us and for God by working there instead of at a public school where they would obtain more income.

I also knew that my parents made a great sacrifice financially by sending me to a Christian school.  These sacrifices I saw adult Christians make left a lifelong-lasting impression on me of what people of great faith do for God, for children, and even for strangers.

It taught me that nothing was as important as knowing God and following His will for your life.  It taught me that having that kind of mindset led to altering your life around that instead of money, success, or other earthly temporary pleasures.

***

Another thing that resonated with me that Chip said about great Christians, was that they read great books.  I have to admit, I tend to love books and collect them for our personal library in our house, but I don’t spend as much time as I truly desire in reading them and re-reading them.  This past couple months of 2016, I’ve made it an intentional pursuit to read more great books – and hearing Chip commend this habit made me smile – it’s so true!  In just reading a couple of really great books so far, I’ve been touched deeply on matters of faith and how I display it.

Reading Stepping Heavenward, a book written by Elizabeth Prentiss in the 1880’s, was such an amazing little book!  It’s written in a journal style following a young girl’s life as she becomes a woman, wife, and mother.  There were probably 100 lessons I found from it alone!  Again, such an amazing read if you’re a wife or mother and want to know a true representation of what that means in God’s eyes!

And sweet Oswald Chambers!  Apparently he didn’t write many of his wise sayings down himself, however his wife took it upon herself to write down the great teachings her husband would say.  The devotional collection that is so intense and deeply thought-provoking was collected and written by his wife.  This is so encouraging to me – since I have a husband who has incredible insight into many different things – ideas and great thoughts I would never come up with, but he doesn’t want to waste the very limited free-time he has in writing them down.  Maybe I can help him there (lol)!  Reading through it (it’s designed for every day of the year to have something to read and reflect on), has been wonderful.

If you have any ideas of great books to read, books that have changed your perspective on life or God or were enjoyable, please let me know!  

 

Watching Plants Grow

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I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel like in my spiritual life, I’m just watching plants grow.  I want so badly to do the right thing, to be what God wants me to be, but it amazes me how far off I feel I constantly wander off.

The exciting thing about a new year is all the possibilities to implement any new changes that need to be made.  Looking back on my failures and mishaps in 2015, a year I thought would be a relatively peaceful, quiet year, I’m so grateful for the lessons I’ve learned, but also sad that it took me so long to learn them.

I’ve been reading several books and learning and growing so much!  It’s incredible to be so convicted, work to make changes, but then to feel constantly like one cannot attain that perfection of spirit.  Just as I think I’m making great progress, I find myself sliding back down again and acting in pride or getting irritated by things that are trivial and don’t matter!  It’d be comical if it wasn’t so annoying and sad.

I’m learning that I can’t do this on my own – it’s God who works in us, and in His own time, and that the more I submit myself to His will, the more He works in my spirit to make me into the creature He wants me to be.  In contrast, the more I spin my wheels trying to perfect my own spirit, the more frustrated I’ll grow and discouraged.

So I’ll stop watching plants grow, and trust that He’s doing His work and finishing what He’s started in me nearly 25 years ago.

When You Doubt that God Can Use You

Like I’ve written before, this past few months and year has been quite a spiritual journey for me.  I’ve been faced with many lessons, many of my own faults and shortcomings, and with concrete truths that I had started doubting about God and what He can do.

One of things that was brought up was whether or not God could use a person.  Up until the past few months, having grown up in a Christian church and Christian school for many years, I firmly believed that God could and did use whoever He desired to use.  We were taught that anyone could be used from a young age, and taught that if we let Him, and were open to His will, that is was almost impossible for Him to not use us and our life in some way.

When we became pre-teens and teenagers, we heard the message to not let anyone look down on us because of how young we were, not to be discouraged by people who would discount the gift God’s given us, but to know that God often uses the weak to shame the strong, the “foolish” in the world’s eyes to shame the “wise” and learned.  Our faithful and godly teachers and ministers instilled a confidence in us that was beautiful, because it was confidence and faith in God’s power to use whoever He deemed fit for His purposes, no matter what anyone else thought about it.

But recently, I had been doubting these old truths that I grew up understanding.  I had seen older women discourage younger women from ministering to others, and their reasons seemed right at first because they seemed to make logical sense.  The problem is that, God’s ways often don’t make sense to us.  His ways are higher than our ways, He can see things we can’t as He sees the whole picture and into the hearts of people.

Older women were discouraging younger women from fulfilling a calling to encourage others with their words.  Their excuses ranged from telling the women they were just too young, that they didn’t have enough knowledge or wisdom yet in life, that they haven’t lived through enough years and trials to be able to speak to people with God’s wisdom.

They may not have directly said it, but the message was loud and clear:

God probably won’t use you to encourage other women, in fact, because you aren’t in your 50’s, it’s almost certain He won’t.

This is a lie, and a lie that the Enemy wants us to believe so that we don’t even try to live lives that are bold, that are lived by faith for God in helping and encouraging others.

Why bother encouraging other women if you don’t even think you’re old enough to be doing so?  

Why dare to believe God can use you when you believe that you don’t have the necessary qualifications to even be considered?

The Bible is full of people who God chose to use because they were not well equipped, because they didn’t have the necessary qualifications according to other people.  

***

Why did God choose to use people no one else would have picked for the job?  To shame those who think otherwise, to shame those who arrogantly think they know who and how God works, or who He chooses to use for His work.

Abraham and Sarah were too old to have children and produce a people for God, Jacob was a known liar and the younger brother who technically shouldn’t have received the blessing.  Joseph was the younger son and sold into slavery, thrown into prison, and yet became second to Pharaoh.  Moses was a murderer who didn’t speak well or have the gift of speaking, and Joshua was younger than many of the Israelites he led to the Promised land.  Rahab was a prostitute.  Ruth was from a pagan group of people the Hebrews shunned and wouldn’t even let into their households.  David was the youngest son, and not who the people would have agreed would have made a great king at the time He was called.  Esther dealt with fear, inhibition in her spirit, and doubt that God could use her.  And there are MANY more examples in the Bible of people who were normal sinners, just like you and I, people who didn’t meet the “requirements” of others, and yet were used to do great things because they trusted in God and leaned on Him in their faith.

If you ever want to read a Hall of Fame of faith, just read Hebrews chapter 11.

He chose people who were not what other people would have chosen, to show His glory through the weak, smaller, younger, less accomplished people He so frequently picked to use.  He looked at people’s hearts, and even when everyone else thought God had a strange and flat out wrong pick, His will prevailed and His purposes came to pass.

It was amazing the amount of discouragement I’ve witnessed towards younger women to fulfill their calling in encouraging other single or married women.  I want to do the opposite here, I want to remind you that God can use anyone He wants.

When we discourage others in this way, we are telling them untruths, and therefore not doing the work of God.  When we discourage young women from growing in their calling of encouraging other women, we are discouraging the work of God to continue in their hearts, doesn’t that sound like something the Enemy himself would want?  Are we letting ourselves do HIS work then, instead, when we discourage others from their calling?

As a result, the person that is discouraged by usually someone older, may end up harboring doubts in her heart that God can or would use her.  She may fall into bitterness, anger, or resentment as she sees God using other people instead of her.  She may become spiritually wounded as a result of someone she believes is godly, discouraging her calling, and rendered ineffective for God to use any longer.  Her heart may become so spiritually wounded and discouraged to where she even mocks the fact that God can and often does use other women like her to do a ministry!  She may even believe that what they are doing, is not a ministry.  Planting those seeds of doubt that God can or would ever use her, doubt that she can be used while not in her 50’s to encourage other women, is evil and not godly.  It is the most horrible thing that I’ve actually witnessed here online that I’ve never witnessed anywhere else, that older women actively discouraging younger women to allow themselves to be used by God to encourage others.

***

We are actually all called to encourage one another, and biblically speaking, every believer becomes a type of minister by how they live their life as a witness to others, and in sharing their life experiences.

I’ll never forget when I was 10, I felt a strong, deep calling to be a missionary of some kind.  I had heard a missionary from India speak at our school, and the love for ministering and helping others was planted deeply in my heart.  I wanted God to use me, and my heart was fertile ground for Him to do so.  When I was 12 or 13, I publicly promised myself to be used by God in whatever way He would do so.  At 17, in my junior year, I felt called to be in the ministry (not as a pastor, I don’t believe women should hold that ministry position, but someone working for a ministry or missionary team), and talked with our family pastor about whether or not I could know for sure if this was right and from God.  He assured me that we were all called to be a minister to others the day we became Christian, He assured me that wherever God wanted me, He would use me to minister to other people, that the most important thing for me to do was to be open to His will in my life, and go where He leads me.  This was so encouraging to me and prompted me to read and study everything harder, and be open and very attentive to God’s leading.

I cannot imagine what would have happened to my faith if my pastor had actively discouraged me, telling me that I was too young to minister to others with my life, or that I didn’t have enough experience, or that I had to wait until I was in my fifties and not ovulating anymore to be used by God to encourage other women to love their husbands and children.

You do not have to be a certain age for God to use you.

You do not have to be older, post-menopausal (which can occur in someone’s late-30’s or early 60’s), or a blood-relative to be able to encourage and minister to women if God wants to use you to do this.

There are examples all over our world of women who do not fit these narrow-minded, specific and false “qualifications” for ministering to other women.

You do not have to have experienced every kind of trial for God to use you.

Just recently, I received an email from an amazing woman that has been used to reach 1,000’s of other women through her online ministry.  She assured me that all of our experiences are different, but that sharing them is beneficial and important because it might speak to where a certain woman is in her life at that moment.  Her encouragement was so beautiful, and brought tears to my eyes after what has seemed like months of receiving insults, mocking, and criticism leading me to feel discouraged in being used for God.

Having gone through trials is important and very helpful for producing more empathy, but it’s not something that disqualifies a person from God using them to encourage others who are going through trials.

As I walk and continue to grow spiritually, clinging to God, there will be trials in my life that God will continue to use if I stay open to Him using me, don’t become discouraged, and don’t doubt His power in my or other people’s lives.

And there will be trials in YOUR life, but as you work through those trials, clinging to God, He will be able to use them, sometimes even when you’re going through them, to minister to others, helping them want to draw nearer to God.

Be bold in your faith, stand firm, and don’t let ANYONE tell you that God can or will not use you to encourage others.

Don’t let ANYONE, even if you think they appear godly and wise, to discourage God’s pull on your life to encourage others by placing unbiblical requirements like human boundaries around what they think God uses or does.

Stand firm, cling to God, deal with others (especially your opposition or critics) with kindness and humility, understanding that they are blind or walking in spiritual darkness.

God loves you, and He can use your experiences!

 

Grow Where Planted

Almost 8 1/2 years ago, my husband and I were church hopping – just having fun really, exploring about 4-5 different churches in our city, once we were engaged and planning our wedding, my husband chose what would come to be our home church.  It’s been one of the best decisions we’ve made, and I’m proud that I didn’t pressure him into one of the other churches we were hopping around to.  If he was going to be leading, I knew that he had to make this decision as our spiritual leader, and yes, this meant me giving up one of my favorite churches to attend so that, as a couple, we would follow his lead.

A little background here, the church that was probably my favorite was also admittedly very strange, it was scary to new believers at times because it was heavy on the Spirit, speaking randomly in tongues, wild dancing in the front, prophecies declared at almost anytime… you never knew what was going to happen in a given service.  I didn’t mind… I’m very laid back and the Holy Spirit was so strong there that I would almost always cry during a service.  Before taking my husband there, I gave him an out and let him know that the last girl I tried to take with me (a good, timid Baptist girl from my denomination) was scared out of her mind there and actually wanted to leave mid-service!

My mom was a church hopper… even though we had our home church in our small town, she would frequently take us to other ones that had a certain sermon she wanted us to hear, or to the Messianic church to make sure we stayed in touch with the Jews (my husband and I still go back during special Jewish holidays, it is a wonderful, beautiful congregation of amazing people).  She was the spiritual leader in our family, and so I knew that I wanted to be different in that I would allow my husband to lead me where our family would go.  Through the years we’ve been in our church, it has been amazing to watch and experience how many people we’ve come to love and who love us – we have grown so much here, both spiritually and in our relationships with the church family.

No matter where we are, we are called to Grow Where Planted.  In my study on Esther, I’ve been reflecting on the fact that the story revolves around people who are exiles, foreigners, in an extremely exotic Persian Empire.  They were so out of their “place” here, in fact many had chosen to go home when King Cyrus let the captives go, and yet at the same time, they were exactly where God wanted these Jews to be.  And yet, God expected them to not only survive there, He expected His chosen people to be a positive influence on wherever He had placed them.

“Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you.”

Jeremiah 29-7 God’s instructions to the exiles in captivity

Mordecai, Esther’s older, male cousin who adopted her after her parents (either at the same, or different times) died, and “brought her up,” held a special position of being a man who sat at the King’s gate (Esther 2:19;21).  According to Beth Moore’s study, men who sat at the King’s gate were akin to government employees “who acted as the eyes and ears of their ruler.”

The JPS Bible Commentary on Esther, a book awarded the Prize of the Minister of Science, Culture, and Sport of the State of Israel, for classical literature for the year 5762, takes this historical research even further, asserting that Mordecai was more than likely a member of the King’s secret police during that time.  After the romantic story of Esther and the King falling in love, after the King throws a banquet in her honor, Mordecai discovers, while he sat at the King’s gate, a plot to assassinate the King.

Mordecai was a Jew in a foreign land where just a few generations ago, they were brutally crushed by King Nebuchadnezzar, and forcefully taken there as captives.  And yet, he was one of many who faithfully served the city they remained in.  Instead of going back to rebuild Jerusalem like many Jews did, he (like many others) decided to stay and make a life as a productive, loyal citizen.  He protected and guarded King Xerxes’ life by taking this threat of assassination seriously, and when the threat was investigated (and found to be true), the men were hanged, and Mordecai’s name was written into the Book of Chronicles in the King’s presence.

Sometimes we find ourselves in positions of political unrest or sensitivity, and yet we are called to “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you.”  We are children of God that are citizens of another world, not ourselves of this world, and yet, we are expected to live faithfully and loyally, even going so far as to look out for our rulers’ best interest, even when we disagree with them (Daniel anyone?).

We are in the midst of an election in our city that will affect the police force and fire departments in either a positive or detrimental manner… during this politically sensitive time, many in our city understand the weight of carrying this creed God gave to His people, to “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you,” while many simply do not.

We are faced with a choice of going towards the direction of the possibility of a Baltimore-like existence, or remaining in a somewhat stable environment for our police force.

No matter what is decided, we will grow where planted, as long as God ordains.

Submission… Is it really a dirty word?

trucks

When my husband and I were first married, we had a major problem… we had one car (his truck), and I couldn’t drive it.  It was a manual – a stickshift – something both my parents knew how to drive, but I hadn’t a clue.  My car that I drove while living with my parents and in college had been an automatic, they saw no value in my going out of my way to learn how to drive a stick.  So that first year, my husband took it upon himself to try to teach me how to drive his truck, there was much laughter, some choice words, lots of screaming as the truck seemed to take on a life of it’s own, bucking like a bronco, lunging forward or peeling out only to come to a bracing stop!  It was so wild.

We would practice my driving in the parking lot of a nearby mall where my husband worked security late at night after it had closed.  His security guys would sit and watch the show, laughing at the tragedy.  It took months for me to really understand how to drive his truck, but it was months of flirting, teasing, and moments of near-death experiences (ok… kidding… well, almost) that bonded us through the whole experience.  It was horrible, and yet so fun!  His teaching me how to drive his truck really cemented that we were in this together… for the long haul!

After only a couple of weeks of marriage, I started working down the street from the mall at a bookstore.  There was a man there about my husband’s age that was newly married as well, and had just celebrated his first year anniversary.  They also had a standard car, but his wife refused to let him teach her drive it.  I was surprised and asked him if he wanted me to talk her into it, the whole experience had been difficult, and I still didn’t have it down yet, but I was confident my husband would be able to teach me eventually.  We really had no other choice.  It was either I learn how to drive his truck, or I wouldn’t be able to get groceries on my own, run errands, or take over driving in case of an emergency.

I was confident that he would also be able to teach his wife how to drive their car, and tried to encourage him to get it done like we were doing, but he explained that she wanted nothing to do with it, and that it was no use.  When I met her a few months later, I was dismayed at the way she treated her husband in front of all of us at work.  Emasculated, disrespected, or disregarded are words that don’t even begin to cover what I saw her do to him in less than 5 minutes of watching them interact.  She was flat-out insulting towards him, there was no pretense of sweetness or kindness, even in public in front of his colleagues.  She humiliated him.  For just celebrating their one year anniversary, I couldn’t imagine what the future held for this couple.

This is a dramatic example, I don’t think most wives treat their husbands with such obvious contempt, but I do think that, in the privacy of our homes, women are much more apt to “refuse” to honor our husbands, to submit to them and what they desire for us and our marriage.  Is submission really that big of a deal?  Do wives that are Christian really have to submit to their husbands’ leadership?  Yes, and yes.

Submission is that big of a deal.  Even in the little things.  With every time that we don’t submit or take into account what our husbands want, we insult him.  Yes, insult.  We send him the message that we don’t think he should be our leader, that we don’t think he is mature enough, that we don’t believe in him, he isn’t intelligent enough, trustworthy enough.  Even if we say we believe he is all of these things, when we don’t honor him or try to correct him, we send the subliminal message that we know better – that we should be the leader over him, that he isn’t capable, we undermine his God-given ability to lead.  As long as our husbands aren’t using drugs or alcohol, have untreated mental disorders, or are abusive, submission is crucial to maintaining the fabric of a beautifully woven tapestry that is marriage.  He is the leader God’s given you, and you are the helper God’s given to him, both roles cannot be done without the other, they are equally as valuable, but equally distinctive from one another.

There cannot be two followers, two helpers, there has to naturally be one leader.  And likewise, there cannot be two leaders, that has to naturally be at least one follower, or there will be constant contention and strife as they argue or fight about who has the right to lead and to where.  Just like how we serve God, He alone is our Master, we cannot follow two Masters because they would have different goals, different ideologies or paths.  We would end up following one a little more than the other, so that following them equally would be impossible.  God’s design for one leader, the husband, in marriage is for the purpose of a marriage working smoothly, beautifully, the way He intended it should.

So what does submission really look like?

Submission is letting your husband know that you love him, that you trust his guidance, that you believe in his capability in leading you both in the right direction.  Submission is allowing him to have the final word, even if you disagree, think it could be a bad decision, or dislike his idea.  This does not mean that a wife must stand idly by and let him make, in her opinion, a bad decision without interjecting any of her thoughts; it simply means that she gives the ultimate answer, the final word to him.  Wives are important in helping their husbands in decision-making, their opinions are usually of great value to the men they’re married to, but wives have the responsibility to be led, and to do so in a way that honors her husband, because she honors God.  Making it hard for him to lead her is dishonoring not only him, but God who has set him before her.

Wives really are called to submit to their husbands, it is God’s plan and design for marriage.  When we aren’t trusting our husbands enough to lead us, to submit to their decisions or plans, we are ultimately not trusting God and His leadership.  If we want to obey God, we will make every effort to treat our husbands with respect, and shift our attitudes to that which God wants us to be.

If your husband desires that you learn how to drive standard because that is your only option for driving, and he cannot afford to buy you another car at that moment, honoring him is obeying him, and making every effort to learn how to drive that car.  If your husband desires that you help him get ready for work, make him his lunch so that getting out the door is easier, submission looks like the wife willingly packing his lunch, filling up his water bottle, and ensuring she gets everything ready before he needs to head out the door.  Honoring him cheerfully, giving lovingly.  Letting him know that he is worth it to her, that she looks up to him, even when she would rather not.  If she really wants to let him know how much she loves him, she’ll do a little extra – pack in a couple of his favorite sweets for a surprise, add in a handwritten love note for him to find at work.  Submitting to her husband is doing all of this, even when she’d rather focus on the kids eating their lunches, or take a nap, or “let him make his own sandwich. Submission is having an attitude of love shown in action, through making him his lunch, not because he isn’t capable of doing it himself, but because you think highly enough of him to make his life easier.  

Honoring him means showing him through tangible, everyday actions of sacrifice, the same that he does when he gives up being single, taking on a wife that he will work to support for the rest of his life.  He sacrifices everyday, every year, when uses almost the totality of his paycheck to support his wife and children, gives up his old hobbies and pleasures so that he can work extra hours for that vacation, or be a great dad in the evenings or on the weekends attending soccer games and family functions that are meaningful to his children and his wife.  Marriage is fulfilling, but only when it’s done the way God designed it.

To finish the story of our truck driving escapades, I ended up falling in love with driving stick… the feel of the road, the feel of the car – it was so much better than driving automatic, and I couldn’t imagine going back.  Because I was willing to learn even though it took a few months, we were able to wait on buying another car for the next 3 years of our marriage when we absolutely had to because we had our first son and needed space for a carseat.  I ended up choosing a stick, and we found that for cars, it was actually a couple thousand cheaper.

Trusting him to teach me to drive was a good decision, and one that still brings us joy when we look back on those wild, exhilarating rides in that abandoned parking lot late at night.  My husband often would tell me he thought it was sexy that I could drive his truck… and you know… it kind of is!  🙂

A Testimony of Turning Away From Catholicism

This is a testimony from a woman who turned away from Catholicism upon reading the Bible and realizing that certain truths were present in it that Catholicism neglected to teach (or taught the opposite).  It is her own personal story and is in no way trying to bash Catholics or Catholicism, she is just simply telling her story of how she found salvation.  My husband actually read this story before I did, and compares it almost exactly to his own experiences with Catholicism versus Christianity, so for us, this testimony has a personal aspect to it.

Enjoy 🙂

 

“First, I want to say that I am not trying to “bash” Catholicism in any way – I am simply sharing my own personal story and how the Lord led me to dig deeper into the Bible to learn of its truths and of the great news of salvation through Jesus Christ! I believe there are many Catholics who are true believers, and I would never want to hurt anyone – however, I was once Catholic myself and was totally in the dark about salvation through grace, and that’s why I feel the need to tell the story of my conversion. If you are Catholic and are not sure about your salvation, please take the time to read this! If you are Catholic and you are a “true believer”, saved by the grace of God, then Praise the Lord! Please read my story for what it is – simply my story and how I felt “deceived” by the devil while I was in the Catholic Church.

I grew up in a loving family who attended the Catholic Church regularly. Not just my immediate family, mind you(!) – but my entire family (aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, etc.) was Catholic! I was a regular participant and played the organ at church and also was a leader in the “folk choir” for most of my teenage years. In short – I was as “Catholic” as they come!

I never doubted my faith because I was told to just believe everything the Church taught me without question. The Pope was supreme in his authority, and the priests and nuns were to be treated as “holy” and “special” servants of God who would never teach anything not true. I remember several times, non-Catholic friends of mine would ask me if I was “saved” – I had no idea what that term really meant, but I assumed it was akin to the “Sacrament of Confirmation” in my Church, so I would always say that yes, I was saved. Many friends dropped it at that – never realizing I didn’t know what they were talking about! If you have tried witnessing to a Catholic friend who says they’re saved, please be sure they understand it completely, or you may be losing the chance to bring someone into the kingdom.

I also remember many non-Catholic friends asking me about some of the doctrines, such as purgatory, confession, the Pope, Mary, etc. I always would tell them, “Oh – that’s in the Bible!” – but I had no idea where because we were never taught to read the Bible for ourselves, but rather to simply believe what we were told. I had no idea these teachings were not in the Bible at all – but were actually man-made beliefs that the Catholic Church had made up throughout the years. Many of the teachings they always said came straight from Christ were actually made up as late as the 1950’s! But I defended my Church – I loved my Church and trusted it completely. One time a friend really pressed me about where in the Bible were the teachings about purgatory. I asked the priest about this, and was given the verse where it says something about being thrown into prison and not getting out till you’ve paid the last penny. I remember thinking – “THAT is where you get the whole doctrine of purgatory from??!!” I started having some doubts about that time, but just pushed it to the back of my mind.

When I was 21 years old, I had a special friend (Creg) who was a non-Catholic. He asked me about my salvation, and again I convinced him I was saved. However, the Lord wasn’t going to let me get away that easily this time! I had been reading a magazine from the “Last Days Ministries”, led by Keith and Melody Green, and came across some pamphlets they were offering called “The Catholic Chronicle Series”. I remember thinking, “Oh, great! Finally something about MY church!” I ordered them and was thrilled when they arrived. I thought this would be great to prove my church was okay to my non-Catholic friends.

I remember that evening so well… My best friend, Wanda (also Catholic), and I sat on my bed and started reading the pamphlets excitedly. After a few minutes, we both realized the pamphlets were not “for” the Catholic Church, but rather were explaining the differences between the teachings of the Catholic Church and the Bible. Our initial reaction was, “Oh – they don’t know what they’re talking about!” However, we got out our “Catholic Catechism” book (which contains the teachings of the Catholic Church to educate people interested in becoming Catholic) and my Bible and started to compare them. We took each of the Keith Green pamphlets and looked up every single Bible verse he quoted and then looked the doctrine up in the Catholic Catechism book. I started to feel my heart sink. Could this be true?? Wanda got so nervous and upset that she decided to leave.

So all by myself, I spent the next several hours – until 1 or 2 in the morning – studying, reading, praying, crying, and being very confused. The next day I had planned to go with Creg to an out-of-town meeting about 2 hours away. During the trip, I had the time to tell him what was going on. I started reading the pamphlets to him, and he was amazed. “Catholics really believe THAT?” he’d ask about different doctrines mentioned in the pamphlets. I’d say, “Well – I didn’t realize that’s exactly what they believed, but yes – I guess they do.” You see, I’d been taking the doctrines that didn’t make sense to me and explaining them away by changing what they really meant. For example, the doctrine of Mary and the “Immaculate Conception” – I always assumed this meant Mary conceived JESUS “immaculately” – through the Holy Spirit. In reality, what that teaching says is that MARY herself was born “without sin”. The Bible plainly states that ALL have sinned except for Jesus! Another example is when people would ask me about why we pray to Mary – I’d explain that as being the same as if I were asking a friend to pray for me – that I was just asking Mary to pray for me. However, the doctrine really states that Catholics DO pray to Mary and even that we are to go through Mary in order to “get to Jesus”!! This is totally un-Biblical. The Bible says that there is only one “mediator” between man and God – and that’s Jesus Christ, not Mary, not the “Saints”, not a Pope – no one else.

Creg and I talked about this the whole trip and that evening when we got back to his house, he got his family together to help me understand “true” salvation doctrines. They got out their Bibles and went through everything with me – explaining how Christ’s death at Calvary paid the price for my sins and that because of that, anyone who accepts Him as their Savior is immediately brought into the Christian family and can be assured they’ll go to heaven. I was totally amazed! The Catholic Church taught me that we can never be sure we’re going to heaven – that it was a guessing game, depending on how good or bad we were, and whether we died “with sin on our souls” (meaning without having been to confession since sinning). They explained to me that when Christ died, He took ALL my sins away – past, present, and future – and that God wouldn’t hold them against me any more. There was no way I’d die “with sin on my soul” – because Christ took them away! I was in shock, and quite upset about my Church’s apparent errors, but I was also pretty excited and hopeful.

While we were looking up the Scriptures, we came across one in my Catholic Bible that said, “Unless you do penance, you shall not inherit the kingdom of heaven.” They all were quite shocked and said, “That’s not what that verse says at all! It says, ‘Unless you REPENT, you shall not inherit the kingdom of heaven’!!” “Penance” is a Catholic term, meaning going to confession and then doing what the priest tells you to do to “make up for” your sins. “Repent”, on the other hand, is an internal change that happens when we turn away from our sins and turn back to God. A totally different meaning! Creg was so upset that my Bible had such untruths that he gave me his own personal Bible and told me to read it! And I did!

That whole weekend, I kept my nose in that Bible and read pretty much the whole New Testament. It was like a light-bulb had come on in my head. Words I’d heard many times before now made perfect sense – in this new light of salvation through grace. I felt light and happy and joyous – like I’d found the truth at last – something “real”! I called Creg a few days later and said, “Creg, this is amazing! I feel like a brand-new Christian!” He said, “Jacki, you are a brand-new Christian!” I realized then that while I was following the doctrines of the Catholic Church, I had never really been a “Christian” in the true sense of the word – believing totally in Christ’s sacrifice at Calvary to save me from my sins. I mean – I’d always heard from the Catholic Church that “Christ died for our sins”. But it really had no meaning, if you think about it. If Christ died for our sins – then why were we forced to go to confession, do penance, attend church, follow the other sacraments, etc., etc. – in order to HOPE we were going to make it to heaven? And if Christ paid for our sins, why on earth would we still have to go to purgatory when we die to keep trying to make up for them?? Where did Christ fit into that picture? In reality, His death did me no good according to the Catholic Church – I still had to try to earn my way. But the truth was that His death did everything! There was nothing I could do to add to it. He paid the price in full. I could be assured of my salvation! The Bible even says, “I write these things unto you so that you may know you have eternal life.” You can’t get more plain than that! Something about this made me feel so FREE – and made me want to serve God with all my heart because of what He’d done for me.

The next several days were so exciting for me. I learned about the rapture and how we Christians who are still alive will be taken up to heaven to be with Jesus! I learned what heaven is going to be like through reading the book of Revelation. I never knew any of this was in the Bible! The Catholic Church actually taught that heaven was not a real “place” but rather a “state of mind”! I have to admit, I felt cheated – like the Catholic Church had kept all these marvels from me. I was so happy to have finally found the truth that I started sharing about this with my friends and family. My younger sisters and brother all were anxious to receive God’s “gift of salvation” and all accepted Christ into their hearts as their Savior. That was a precious moment for me.

However, my friend Wanda was another story. She got so angry that I was saying these things about the Catholic Church that she turned her back on me. She said I was “dead” as far as she was concerned. My mother also had major problems with this – she had a very hard time believing that the Church she’d loved for more than 50 years could ever teach anything in error. I was very sad that this came between us, but I knew I had to choose between the Bible and the Church. I chose the Bible.

I was just a week away from moving to Florida to attend college, so I attended the Catholic Church before leaving. I heard words in a totally new light now, though. Words of the “Mass” that I’d heard a thousand times before and had just taken for granted – not even giving a thought to their meaning – now were so obviously anti-Biblical that I knew I couldn’t continue to participate in the Catholic Church once I moved to Florida. I found a wonderful little Bible-believing church that helped me grow spiritually as a Christian. I have never looked back – never once regretted leaving the Catholic Church – never doubted that I did the right thing. I know now that every single belief I have comes straight from the Bible – I’ll never again have to “defend” my beliefs with half-truths and made-up stories.

Shortly after I moved to Florida, my mother pressed me about talking to a priest to try to “straighten myself out”! I told her I would. I made an appointment with a local priest and went with my Bible in hand. He thought he was going to counsel me on the teachings of the Catholic Church. For about 5 minutes, I asked him questions like, “What does the Church teach about Mary?” and “What does the Church teach about Purgatory?” Then I asked the biggie(!) – “Does the Church teach we can know we’re going to heaven?” I’ll never forget what happened next! He just said, “Well…I wouldn’t say we can know we’re going to heaven – we can only hope that we won’t die with sin on our souls.” I knew then that God had opened the door for me to witness to this priest!”

 

If you’d like to read more of Jacki’s testimony, please click here.