Things I Want My Daughter to Know: You Will Have Deep Roots to Withstand Persecution

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Strength and honor are her clothing,

and she can laugh at the time to come.”

Proverbs 31:25

I keep referring to the series I wrote on the Proverbs 31 woman a couple of years ago, because I just can’t get over the messages I discovered when creating the book for our family.  This verse in particular, just shows the incredible amount of boldness of faith this kind of attitude requires!

Its hard for me to put this topic into words, but I feel it’s necessary in encouraging not only my daughter and women of my own family, but all spiritual daughters and sisters doing a good work for God.  This kind of boldness of faith, this kind of staying focused, it requires you as a woman to not be disturbed or shaken, even in extremely hard and difficult times.  It amazes me, the strength behind that kind of woman.  How I so long to become a woman that strong in the Lord – like Sarah who obeyed and  had “no fear.”   I want the ability to look at something that may seem to be too much to deal with, have the wisdom to put things into perspective, and to look at things with a degree of humor and mirth!

This is something that every person who takes a stand for God must grow through to spiritual maturity over.  It’s what Paul described when he talked about how he persevered, having full confidence in the Lord’s giving him competence (excellent ability to minister) in his ministry, and was able to endure some of the harshest forms of persecution.

From Paul:

“We have this kind of confidence toward God through Christ: not that we are competent in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our competence is from God.  He has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit produces life.” 2 Cor. 3:4-6

Our confidence in God reinforces our competence to be ministers of His Spirit through reaching His people.  It’s interesting to me, how many times Paul talks about not giving up.  He endured so many afflictions, it is incredible how he soldiered on in his calling.  We must emulate him and his reliance on God for his strength and perseverance, or we will lose our influence by giving way to fear or discouragement.

Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not give up.  Instead we have renounced shameful secret things, not walking in deceit or distorting God’s message, but in God’s sight we commend ourselves to every person’s conscience by an open display of the truth.

So again, he says, “we do not give up.”  It must have been extremely tempting to give up doing the very hard, but very necessary and good things he was doing.  We have to keep in mind that his entire physical and mental being was subject to hardships and persecution that’s hard to imagine.  He suffered not only physical beatings and shipwrecks (three!) where his life was endangered, but also the psychological trauma or continued and relentless persecution, extreme criticism, and slander and false accusation from powerful religious leaders of his day.  We shouldn’t underestimate how much he went through, and the cost it was to him, as well as the great reward he received personally and spiritually, for doing so much for the Kingdom of Heaven.

And Paul also says that he and his followers commend themselves “to every person’s conscience by an open display of the truth,” – you can’t do that unless you are completely 100% open with people, and therefore, opening yourself up to extremely harsh criticism, persecution, and being hated like Paul was.  Some of it will be right!  Most of it may not be, but it’s very important to have like-minded believers, mentors, family members even, willing to criticize you to hold you accountable to continuing on in your goal and keeping on the course.

***

Let’s go back to the Proverbs 31 woman again for a moment.  We know she doesn’t easily give way to fear because of another verse as well:

“She has no fear for her household when it snows, for all in her household are doubly clothed.”

Proverbs 31:21

We are instructed that she had “no fear” for her household because she not only was doing what she needed to do to provide for it (making their clothing and extra bed coverings vs. 22, never being idle but carefully watching over all the activities of her household vs. 27) but she was also relying FULLY on God for her provision.

It’s not talked about very much in our modern churches, but usually in the Bible (except for a few instances) fear is actually a sin.  In most cases, giving way to fear was shameful because it revealed a lack of trust and faith in God.  Even when you look at how many times the Bible commands us not to fear, it’s over 365 times, and “fear” itself is spoken of over 500 times in the Bible.  Fearing man is also a great sin; we are supposed to live for an audience of One.  Remember how Sarah was praised in the New Testament by Paul… for not giving way to fear but persevering by Abraham’s side in obedience.

In fact, we are supposed to view our trials with joy!! (James 1:2-4).  We are supposed to view it as being effective and attaining the same treatment that the prophets of old received.  Having an attitude of a victim or “poor me, I’m being ‘harassed’!!!” is not godly and doesn’t produce anything good in you or anyone else.  Acting like a coward is never good… for a man or a woman.

“She is clothed with strength and dignity,

she can laugh at the time to come.”

*

“Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.”

So we are to view trials and persecutions as good for us ultimately!  Because we know that God will work all things according to His will, for the good of those called to Him (Romans 8:28).  We have to view it not as cowardly women who give up too soon, but as women “clothed with strength and dignity,” who do not give way to fear or playing the victim, but instead choose to view it as a purifying process of discipline, meant to develop us into further maturity and completeness!

That change in mindset, amazes me so much!  It’s the difference between cowardly resentfulness or pride in expecting to be above even the prophets or Jesus Himself in how you’re treated, to humility and gratefulness for the opportunity to grow deeper and bolder in your faith.

***

The Virtuous Woman has Mirth

I’ve written another post specifically talking about the second phrase of this verse, that she “can laugh at the days to come,” and how it means the ability to have mirth.

You can read the entire post if you’d like, it’s short but full of the different facets of what that quality of character implies for a woman.

It doesn’t mean not ever feeling the depth of tragedy in a family, or mourning, but it does mean to keep things in perspective with a healthy attitude of what truly matters in eternity, so that we’re not rattled by hardships and trials or even persecution here on earth.

Again, the only way to have this attitude is to be continually focused on God and His opinion of us and rely on Him to set all things right when He sees fit to do so.

Women of WEAK (Selfish) Faith vs. The Proverbs 31 Woman-

There’s a big difference between the way human nature prompts us to react when hard times come, compared to how the Proverbs 31 woman was said to respond.  Women who have a weak faith and get scared off too easily, typically are focusing on the wrong things altogether, and not keeping their eyes on Jesus for their strength and peace

The Bible says that women like this, those who put their trust in people and lose sight of how powerful God is even in hard times, are actually cursed womenThey end up “living in a salt land where no one lives,” completely lose their influence over others for good, because they’re swayed by fear of people, rather than in fully trusting in the Lord.

Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind, who makes human flesh his strength and turns his heart from the Lord.

He will be like a juniper in the Arabah; he cannot see when good comes but dwells in the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land where no one lives.

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence indeed is the Lord.

He will be like a tree planted by water; it sends its roots out toward a stream, it doesn’t fear when heat comes and its foliage remains green.

It will not worry in a year of drought or cease producing fruit.

I, the Lord, examine the mind, 

I test the heart 

to give each according to his way, according to what his actions deserve.

Jeremiah 17:5-8,10

See these two examples contrasted together?  One woman is cursed and loses their influence altogether, because she sinned against the Lord by giving way to fear in hard times.  The other is blessed because the Lord is her strength; she doesn’t worry or fear when hard times come, and her “foliage remains green.”  Her confidence is in the Lord, she has deep roots that she sends out toward a stream.  She “doesn’t worry in a year of drought or cease producing fruit,” which means she continues in the work God has for her, producing fruit in her life and in the lives of others.

When we start to take our eyes off of God and His goodness and promises for us, we falter in our faith like Peter did when he tried to walk on water, but then was scared when he saw the terror of the waves around him.  If we allow ourselves to be like that, we’ll get scared, and end up not finishing what we said we’d start.

We want to have the kind of faith Paul described when he talked about keeping his eyes on the prize and running the race with endurance… not giving up even though he had tremendous hardships and beatings and shipwrecks, or giving in, even though he also had tremendous temptation to after going through so many trials and tribulations!

I’m even reminded here of Hebrews 11 where it talks about the heroes of faith in the past.  But remembering that passage would be remiss, if I forgot to include the very next passage of Hebrews 12, and how the entire purpose of Hebrews 11 (reminding us of those great heroes of faith) was to encourage us today to think about them as a “cloud of witnesses” encouraging us on to be bold like they were.

“Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily entangles us, and run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.

For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, so that you won’t grow weary and lose heart.  In struggling against sin, you have no yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.  And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons:

‘My son, do not take the Lord’s discipline lightly,

or faint when you are reproved by Him;

for the Lord disciplines the one He loves,

and punishes every son whom He receives.’

Endure it then, as discipline: God is dealing with you as sons.  …

No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful.  Later on, however, it yields the fruit of peace and righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Therefore strengthen your tired hands and weakened knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but healed instead.”

Hebrews 12:1-7; 11-12

One of the main reasons why I’ve continued writing even though I’ve come under attack or harassment (even to the point of fellow Christian women supposedly on “our side” calling for Child Protective Services to get involved and possibly take my children away based on false accusations), repeatedly throughout the years, is because I’ve been encouraged by reading Paul’s descriptions of staying the course, even though no one was in his corner at the time, or came to his defense when his enemies were opposing him verbally.

I want to be like the woman who has the deep roots, so that when the “heat” comes, she’s able to suffer it but with endurance and perseverance, allowing it to better her character over time.  Her foliage remains green even when other plants (with lesser root systems) get scorched by the sun, or wither away completely.  She still bears good fruit even while enduring difficulty or painful times of suffering, all because her confidence is in the Lord, and she continually trusts that He will give her competence through working in her.

Again, let me encourage you from Paul’s own words about what he went through.  To me, it is a very great reminder to not be so proud, that I believe that I should be spared things even Jesus went through and did so with grace:

“We give no opportunity for stumbling to anyone, so taht the ministry will not be blamed.  But in everything, as God’s ministers, we commend ourselves:

by great endurance,

by afflictions, by hardship,

by pressures,

by beatings, by imprisonments,

by riots, by labors,

by sleepless nights,

by times of hunger,

by purity, by knowledge,

by patience, by kindness,

by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love,

by the message of truth, by the power of God;

through weapons of righteousness on the right hand and the left,

through glory and dishonor,

through slander and good report;

labeled as “deceivers” yet we speak truth,

labeled as “unknown” yet we are recognized;

as dying and yet look – we still live;

as being chastened yet not killed;

as grieving yet always rejoicing;

as poor yet enriching many through our work;

as having nothing yet possessing everything.

You are not limited by us, but you are limited by your own affections (emotions).”

2 Cor. 6:3-10;12

If you’re a young woman reading this, remember, this is not only for my own daughter’s benefit, but to also benefit you.  Like Paul said, you are not limited by outside factors when being called to endure, instead you are limited by your own emotions and lack of faith and strength to endure and run the race and fight the good fight.

She sees her situation through open eyes:

A big part of being able to endure like this, is having a clear picture or clear mindset of what the end result is.  It’s also being aware of Whose you are, and how supported you are.  You can only “see” that when you are in step with the Holy Spirit and allowing Him to reveal these things to you through Scripture (and being poured into daily, like I referenced before).

Again, let’s look at how Paul stayed the course… what was his secret?

“Therefore we do not give up; even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day.

For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory.

So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen for what is seen is only temporary, but what is unseen is eternal and forever-lasting.”

2 Cor. 4:16-18

His secret… his ability to persevere with such BOLD and lasting faith through so many ridiculous hardships, is:

  1. Being renewed in his inner person, day by day (again, what I talked about here)
  2. He knows this is only a “momentary light affliction” and that it is producing in them an “absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory!”
  3. He chooses not to focus on what is seen, but focuses on what is unseen

It’s that simple really.  It’s what I’ve been trying to say for years now here on this blog as I was going through my own trials and false accusations and harassment and threats to have my children taken away based on false accusations to CPS, or get my husband fired (and lose our sole income) etc.  How could I have endured all of that for so many years if it wasn’t God supporting me and me going to Him daily for crucially needed spiritual renewal?

Something I heard a couple of years ago that helped me through those times of pressure and being slandered and falsely accused, was the story of Elisha when he was about to be attacked by the King of Aram’s army.  He was with his servant, and his servant wasn’t able to see the “unseen” like Elisha was – and therefore, his servant lacked the courage that Elisha had.

 

“When the servant of the man osup and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked.

“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.”

Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”

2 Kings 6:15-17

Hopefully this rather long post sinks in deep to your heart, Little One.  May you never fear man, but always put your hope and trust in the Lord, who will sustain you while you pass through the fire or the waters, and who will develop your faith into this kind of bold faith that lasts through your lifetime.

May you be like Paul, and focus not on what is seen (that may be admittedly terrifying), but on what is unseen, and remember the “cloud of witnesses,” surrounding you, encouraging you to run the race with perseverance.  We do not fight this fight alone.  The entire mass of heroes of faith are hoping that you will persevere and not give up.

Reread all these Scriptures as often as you need to, to give you the ability to keep on pressing on.  The Word of the Lord is your strength, as well as the joy it is to experience these things like the prophets of old did.

You will have victory if you persevere and do not grow weary doing good, for the Bible says that you will reap your reward in the proper time.

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, a man will reap what he sows…  So we must not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up.”  Galatians 6:7,9

By this I know that You delight in me:  my enemy does not shout in triumph over me!  You supported me because of my integrity and set me in Your presence forever.”  Pslam 41:11-12

 

 

 

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Giving God Your First Fruits – Early Morning Quiet Times

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About two years ago I wrote a very long – probably too long  – post centered on Proverbs 31:15, which was part of an even longer series that became a book now in our living room, on the virtuous Proverbs 31 woman.

“She rises while it is still night;
    she provides food for her family
    and makes portions for her female servants.”

To me it was such a beautiful verse, like each verse in that short passage is!  BUT… it actually was one of the posts that got a lot of interesting negative posts & comments from a few sites, as even fellow Christian women tried to accuse me of being “malicious,” a “shill,” or a Pharisee “tying heavy burdens onto the backs of wives,” while myself not being able to do what I wrote about.

Here’s Elspeth’s comment back then accusing me of such, from here:

“On seeing your husband off: It’s another one of those issues where our goals can be out of step with what our husbands require. Just yesterday I was scrambling around, behind schedule, not getting it done at the pace I wanted. My husband, who is used to- and fully comfortable with- being waited on said to me, “You know, I can iron my own shirt and pack my lunch today. Chill out.”

And we don’t even have any toddlers underfoot. I have a hard time believing that other husbands are not understanding, patient, and willing to assist their wives when they are doing the best they can while living on less sleep and chasing toddlers. I am reminded of something Jesus said to the Pharisees as it relates to all the things a wife is supposed to do perfectly with no rest and little relief:

They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. Matt 23:4″

***

I ended up taking the series down, but the post may be available in the wayback machine for looking up.  I do remember taking great pains in that post and in the comments to tell women to do what one’s husband wants his wife to do.  There was even a female commenter who asked us (my husband and I) if this verse was to be applied to her, since she worked overnight as a nurse, and we both told her it’s whatever her husband wanted.  It’s the principle behind each verse that matters.

But also I didn’t skirt around all the research that shows that being an early riser is actually a very beneficial thing, and may be connected to why it was mentioned in the Proverbs 31 passage as being something the virtuous woman would make a habit.  Study after study has seemed to prove the this principle in the Bible is correct – that being an early riser, being prepared for the day ahead or spending time with God in the morning – really does help in all kinds of ways in benefiting one’s life.

Here’s an excerpt from that post from my paper version:

“In taking the time to look through each of these verses, it has really amazed me how beautiful this woman’s character is.  Everything she does is motivated by the desire in her heart to be a woman of God, to love her husband, and to care for those who are in her life.  In verse 15, it’s like we get to peer through her window, and watch how she quietly contributes to her household management through the efforts of something simple, and yet profound, her morning routine.   …

When writing this post, I found myself wondering if there really were any benefits to waking up early, aside from just getting a head start on the day, or some quiet time in before your children are up.  Those are great things to pursue!  But I’ve often heard and thought  myself, that quiet time could be done even in the evening if that suited a person’s schedule better, and that it doesn’t take waking up at 5am in order to get a “head start” on the day – some women would much prefer to wake up only 30 minutes before they have to leave, and even more prefer to sleep until their children wake them up.  We like to equalize everyone’s preferences or lifestyle in order to not offend people, but what I found was that there really are some great advantages that come with early rising, that we’ll miss out if we choose to sleep in!

The early riser increases their productivity –

Waking up early shows our virtuous woman values productivity, which is a cornerstone to leading a successful life or even business venture.  When interviewing over 200 of the most highly successful people of the world, Forbes Magazine was surprised how many focused on their morning routines as being their “secret” to success.    … [examples cited in the post]

Not only does nurturing your mind in the morning with prayer and Scripture reading give you inspiration for the day, just the practice of waking early can give you more control and motivation in your life.  According to a Journal of Applied Social Psychology study in 2009, early risers were more likely to confidently assert things like: “I spend time identifying long-range goals for myself,” and “I feel in charge of making things happen,” (2).  They don’t find themselves living a life of constant crises and urgent situations, but feel a healthy assurance of some control of what happens.  This same study found that “morning people are more likely to anticipate problems and minimize them.”  When we wake up early and have time to think and plan in solitude, we find ourselves foreseeing possibilities that may crop up during the day (or week).”

I then rambled on for a few more pages about Stephen Covey’s book, 7 Habits of Highly Successful People where he breaks down time management into a quadrant, then I wrote on the importance of getting enough sleep (sticking to a good bedtime), the effects on health and weight related to sleep schedules, the importance of discipline in our lives, how oversleep actually contributed to depression in women, etc.  Again… it was probably too long, the whole post was more like a “chapter,” but I did try to cover multiple aspects of why the verse made sense logically, even in our modern day culture.

I even found research studies that followed students and their daily habits, which showed that early risers earned a full point higher on their GPAs (3.5’s compared to 2.5’s), than those students who called themselves “night owls” (5).  Rising early – the principle at least of taking care of what needs to be taken care of and preparing for the day ahead – I do believe it is part of having a “Spirit of Excellence,” where we consciously decide to do the best at whatever it is God has given us to do.  Sleeping late – sleeping in – if it’s a part of our daily routine, may not have the same mental and psychological effects, and therefore have different life results.

Rising Early … with babies?

Throughout the years of our marriage, even with having multiple children – babies nursing at all times of the night, I still find that waking up early (5am or 5:30am) to spend that quiet time with God is so crucial to my faith longterm – and it impacts my entire day!  I’m just not the same without it.  He literally changes my perspective and helps me deal with the day ahead with a much better attitude.  I’m definitely not perfect or always want to follow through with this goal.  There are some times when I’m not able to get up early, but I do notice a difference in my heart and attitude if I miss a couple of days in a row.  I need God all day, but especially in the early mornings before anyone else has woken up, so that I can spend time alone with Him and reading and studying His Word.

There’s also the principle of giving God your “first fruits.”  For anyone who has ever seriously studied the Bible, it’s apparent that God wants our best – and yes, that usually means we are required to sacrifice in order to give it to Him.  He wants our “first fruits.”

The first 10% of your pay (the normal tithe), the firstborn of your children (an Old Testament Jewish custom), the first day of the week devoted to Him (the Sabbath), even the first of the people’s grain (their food) was to be given to the Lord – before they were allowed to harvest anything for themselves!  It makes total sense that a woman’s early morning time should probably be first devoted to God, no matter when she wakes up. 🙂

In fact, Jesus Himself spent time alone with His Father early in the morning.  There’s something just very mysterious about that early morning time that even I can’t put my finger on.

 “AND IN THE MORNING, RISING UP A GREAT WHILE BEFORE DAY, HE WENT OUT, AND DEPARTED INTO A SOLITARY PLACE, AND THERE PRAYED.” — MARK 1:35

It’s not that I’m trying to be a Pharisee.  It’s more that I find simple beauty in the verse, “she rises while it is still night to prepare food for her household….”  The beautiful sacrifice she gives, the caring for others first, the being a good steward of her time and of running a household.  It simply touches my soul.  And yes!  I do try to do this in my daily life!

Giving God the first of my day, everyday, it has given me immense blessings over the years.  It’s kept my faith strong, even when I felt weak.  It’s given me courage and fortitude, even when I felt afraid or exhausted.  He has been my Rock in some of the most trying times!  I really don’t think my faith would have persevered the way it’s done without prioritizing that time with Him in the morning to replenish my spirit.  There have been countless times that I woke up with a desire to read His Word, but with heavy emotions in my heart, and I came away with gladness, praise and joy!  I’ve found the meaning of “The Joy of the Lord is my Strength.”  This is part of why I believe that God leaves these choices up to us in deepening our faith and growing spiritually.

He fills my cup – He makes it overflow (Psalm 23)… it’s better than even coffee!

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From His Word, I draw my strength in the mornings, before I have to do anything else.

Stephanie

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
    he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

Psalm 23

Related Reading:

Bible Verses for Spring!

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This little guy – every Spring – he builds a little nest inside the edge of our house where it opens somewhat to the attic with his mate.  And then he sits in this tree, always in the same spot for years now, and chirps and chirps and chirps to his little hearts’ content!

I saw him again for the first time in months and ran back inside to grab my camera and take this shot.  I adore him, and I talk to him (and probably look like a crazy lady LOL) and he stops his incessant chirping to look down and cock his head at me (likely wondering why this crazy woman tries to talk to him) and we have a moment 😀 .

He’s just so handsome!  Look at his perfectly designed, defiant and proud little bird-face!  He may be small and fluffy, but he is stout at heart I assure you!

Anyway… we always seem to have the same birds each year, at least, I think they may be the same ones.  There’s the sparrow family who produce babies under the edge of our roof, always in the same spot, there’s the red bird (cardinal) and his mate, who two years ago I caught a shot of them “kissing” as they fed each other from our makeshift feeders.

However this year I discovered a new little one when I was out early gardening.  It’s a male mocking bird – and oh what a songbird he is!

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Springtime. ❤  Here are some verses I found that stood out to me recently when savoring this season:

“The heavens declare the GLORY of God, and the skies above proclaim the work of His hands!”

Psalm 19:1

***

 

For behold, the winter is past;
the rain is over and gone.
12 The flowers appear on the earth,
the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtledove
is heard in our land.
13 The fig tree ripens its figs,
and the vines are in blossom;
they give forth fragrance.
Arise, my love, my beautiful one,
and come away.”

Song of Solomon 2:11-13

***

“Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.”

James 5:7

***

Spring Rain Free Printable 1

It always fascinates me how the cycle of the new life occurs and grows so suddenly from what seems like deadness or barrenness around it.  Each year I remember the music from The Secret Garden (1993), when everything is coming alive again, and baby animals are being born.  It’s just so beautiful.

I grew up in the country, on land that was wild and breathtakingly beautiful to my childlike eyes.  I used to pretend I was inside my own secret garden 🙂 it was heavenly.

This is the song I hear in my head every Spring, though.  I’d love for you readers to listen to it.

It still gets me every year… the intricate beauty and joy of those notes!

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Stephanie

Overcome Evil with Good & Romans 12:19

This will be another post on the things my husband and I talked about this weekend on our long drives.  Although it’s a not really a “feel good,” romantic post, I thought it was a good spiritual growth topic to cover here.

How do you overcome evil with good, especially when someone has done something truly evil against you or someone you love?

How do you deal with Christians like that – true believers who engage in character defamation, spreading slander about you or your family, or worse, who make false accusations against you or your family members, and then go on to feel zero guilt over it?  So disturbing right?  And rightfully angering.

I’ve learned the hard way that it’s much better to trust that God will be your Defender against such people, that He will help “set the record straight” when the time is right for things to be exposed.  And I do believe things are always eventually exposed.  It may take a long time, but God is a just God, and He brings to light that which people would want to be kept in darkness.  You can be sure He doesn’t let evil doers get away with evil acts.  Even more so His own children (Christians), as the Bible warns He punishes those He loves… because it’s the right thing for Him to do.

It’s good to trust God knows what He’s doing.  I personally find so much peace in resting on that promise.  And if you’re going through persecution for speaking truth, you can also rest on the promise that you are suffering through something that will ultimately be a blessing to you.

 

      11“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 

12“Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

To me, this is a beautiful promise… we have hope through persecution, and can trust that God will deal justly with those who do insult us, slander us, and falsely accuse us of all kinds of evil.

It’s God’s job, ultimately, and it’s our job to trust He does right by us.

When we run around and try to “correct” any and every person who is mocking or insulting or even spreading falsehoods about us (which I definitely tried to do in the past… unsuccessfully), we’re more concerned about “people-pleasing,” and protecting our reputation than in trusting God.  I don’t think it’s always wrong to try to confront someone falsely accusing you of something, but in trying to, you take on the risk of being more tempted to sin.  So in my opinion it’s best to stand back and allow God to deal with ALL of it, I’ve found it’s much easier to have peace that way – which is what He would want. 

I have found I am able to trust that not only will He provide protection (and He has, God is so faithful!), but He also gives us the promise that He repays and takes vengeance for us.  As unChristian as that sounds, it’s right there in the Bible for a reason (probably to scare people away from doing evil):

“Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place to wrath: for it is written,

‘Vengeance is Mine; I will repay,’

said the Lord.”

Romans 12:19

Some commentary from Barne’s Notes on this passage and verse:

“For it is written – Deuteronomy 32:35.

Vengeance is mine – That is, it belongs to me (God) to inflict revenge. This expression implies that it is “improper” for people to interfere with that which properly belongs to God. When we are angry, and attempt to avenge ourselves, we should remember, therefore, that we are infringing on the prerogatives of the Almighty.

I will repay … – This is said in substance, though not in so many words, in Deuteronomy 32:35-36. Its design is to assure us that those who deserve to be punished, shall be; and that, therefore, the business of revenge may be safely left in the hands of God. Though “we” should not do it, yet if it ought to be done, it will be done. This assurance will sustain us, not in the “desire” that our enemy shall be punished, but in the belief that “God” will take the matter into his own hands; that he can administer it better than we can; and that if our enemy “ought” to be punished, he will be. “We,” therefore, should leave it all with God. That God will vindicate his people, is clearly and abundantly proved in 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10Revelation 6:9-11Deuteronomy 32:40-43.

The part that my husband assured me of this weekend was so comforting to know.  That if someone does need to be punished, God will do it in His own time (or maybe He already has and you just didn’t witness it).  We don’t need to worry about infecting our souls with the poison of bitterness or hatred – although is it ever tempting to feel those feelings when you see someone get away with evil against someone you love!
My husband said that when someone gives in with actions to those toxic emotions and desiring revenge on their enemies, it affects them and makes them stoop to the same level – even disqualifying their witness.  It’s ok to desire justice, even through a legal system if need be, but it’s not good to take pleasure in seeing someone suffer more than they deserve.  Which is why it’s best to leave vengeance up to God – only He can truly understand “how much” punishment is deserved for someone who has wronged you.  There’s no way we could make that call, although I think it’s totally human (and biblical – think David in Psalm 109 where he asks for God to destroy his enemies in the cruelest of ways possible) to have those feelings.

My husband had me read some verses this weekend along these lines while in the car, and it was so good to hear his opinion on my questions.

One of the passages was David asking God to make his enemies ashamed and disgraced for what they’d done to him.  It’s so comforting to know how human King David was 🙂  I totally relate to his passage of desiring to see enemies be disgraced and ashamed of their actions.  It’s nice to know that he felt those feelings toward his enemies, and yet He was called a man after God’s own heart.  God doesn’t seem to hold our humanity against us regarding our strong emotions, ❤ but He loves us too much to let us stay in those emotions to the point where they would destroy us (and others).

Which brings me to the second passage my husband had me read with him 🙂 which was Jesus’ thoughts on loving our enemies:

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor(fellow man) and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, [n]love [that is, unselfishly seek the best or higher good for] your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may [show yourselves to] be the children of your Father who is in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on those who are evil and on those who are good, and makes the rain fall on the righteous [those who are morally upright] and the unrighteous [the unrepentant, those who oppose Him]. 46 For if you love[only] those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do that? 47 And if you greet only your brothers [wishing them God’s blessing and peace], what more [than others] are you doing? Do not even the Gentiles [who do not know the Lord] do that?48 You, therefore, will be perfect [growing into spiritual maturity both in mind and character, actively integrating godly values into your daily life], as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

I seriously laughed at how these two passages seem so at odds with each other… and told my husband outright that I much preferred David’s response! 😀  I knew of both of them, but it’s always wonderful to hear my husband explain these things and talk it over him candidly. ❤

They do seem at odds… one calling for your enemies to be ashamed and disgraced for how they’ve treated you, and the next claiming that if you don’t also love them, you haven’t achieved spiritual maturity.  In reality, the second passage also lines up with overcoming evil with good in Romans 12:14-21.

14 Bless those who persecute you [who cause you harm or hardship]; bless and do not curse [them]. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice [sharing others’ joy], and weep with those who weep [sharing others’ grief]. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty [conceited, self-important, exclusive], but associate with humble people [those with a realistic self-view]. Do not overestimate yourself. 17 Never repay anyone evil for evil. Take thought for what is right and gracious and proper in the sight of everyone. 18 If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave the way open for God’s wrath [and His judicial righteousness]; for it is written [in Scripture], “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.20 But if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for by doing this you will heap [e]burning coals on his head.”21 Do not be overcome and conquered by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

It ALL makes sense when you view it through trusting God to be the ultimate Judge and Avenger of wrongs.

We are supposed to be able to overcome someone’s evil toward us that may have truly harmed us by not allowing their actions to destroy our peace and love in our own lives.  The only way to do that is to be able to FULLY rely on God that He will repay, that we can be kind to them (which heaps burning coals on their head), and understand they are in God’s hands and that we don’t have to concern ourselves with their punishment.

He is just, and like He said… He will repay.

Stephanie

 

Things I Want My Daughter to Know: Your Beauty Will Fade & That Will Be Beautiful

growing old together

I just caught up with Lori Alexander’s post on beauty fading from a Christian (Proverbs 31 wife) perspective.  You can find it here (it’s great)!

cute

I do think about aging quite a bit, to me it’s nice, but I’m also aware that maybe it hasn’t really “hit” me yet.  When I’m sleep deprived, which is more often than not these days 🙂 , I DO feel like the Crypt Keeper lol.  But when our baby girl actually goes the full night sleeping (very rare), I wake up and feel fresh again.

But I’m getting older, there’s no mistaking that.

To me, aging is a privilege.

“Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained by living a godly life.”

Proverbs 16:31

elderly

Seeing my husband get older is actually quite sexy!  I love knowing we’re “growing old together.”  It’s very fulfilling in a way that’s hard to describe.

Seeing elderly couples who you know, are actually still in love, touches my heart!

elderly love

I think I’m lucky I married a man who is a dreamer ❤ and together we regularly talk about our plans for when we’re older.  The hopefulness of grandchildren, where we’ll take them, how much we’ll just enjoy having (hopefully) a lot of family around us during the holidays.  The real test of our parenting and relationship with our children will be when they’re finally adults and whether or not they want to spend time with us.  Our oldest son has brought up pretty often that he loves being with us and will be devastated when he moves out – I’m sure he won’t be as devastated when he becomes that age 🙂 , and I do assure him he’ll be “ready,” but at least right now, he tears up and says how much he loves living with us.  Everyone gets older whether they want to or not… as sad as it seems, at least it brings new chapters in life to explore as adventures.  I’d rather embrace these things than run away screaming from them.

asian

But even with saying all that, we still look pretty young – which is good and bad.

Just today a woman at the playground I was at with my children was talking to me, then suddenly actually asked me out of the blue, how old I was lol!  This does happen sometimes, and I don’t get it… it’s a little strange to ask a complete stranger how old they are in my book!  But I told her, and she was surprised and said how it was because I look so young and yet I have 3 kids.  She told me I don’t look older than 25.  A couple of months ago an elderly woman with her grand-daughter saw me grocery shopping alone, wearing my husband’s high school football shirt (where her grand-daughter just graduated), and thought I was probably from her graduating class!  When I told her how we’d been married 10 years, and had 3 kids, her mouth literally fell open.  Still shocked, she told me I looked 18.

I do sometimes wonder if the very cushy life I’ve lived, being married to a good man, having his babies and being able to stay home with them, has led to me still look younger than I would have if I had chosen a different path.  We definitely don’t have much stress aside from his job and some financial tightness of me not working.  But overall, we both feel very comfortable and happy – we have so many blessings we feel guilt over them at times.

But this is something I want my daughter to know and understand.  Even when you beauty does fade, and you start to really show your age (whenever that magically happens), I want her to enjoy it.

Part of enjoying it is enjoying (like Lori A. said in her post linked at the beginning) the relationships you’ve built up over the years with your husband and children.

I do think a large part of why I’m not afraid of growing older is because I feel so secure in the life we live together.  The Bible does say perfect love casts out fear.  My husband’s love for me, his enjoyment of growing older together with me, is probably the source of the happiness I can feel when I imagine being a grandmother myself.

It’s like the ultimate reward for a life well-lived.

Stephanie

Criticism & Being a Stumbling Block

stumbling block

A couple of years ago, one of my mentors told me that you’re never more tempted to sin, than when you’ve been sinned against.

I think it makes a good quote deserving of all caps…

 

YOU’RE NEVER MORE TEMPTED TO SIN,

THAN WHEN YOU’VE BEEN SINNED AGAINST

 

I went to her after I had gone through a time when I was being criticized by a woman running a gossip/slander blog that has now since become private.  Every post I made, this woman found a way to turn it into something to mock… right down to attacking my husband and children.  Other women, even Christian ones I looked up to previously, jumped in on the mocking and gossip, and it was weird to see that even the supposedly Christian ones were doing this.  It lasted for a good half a year before I confronted her at her blog source, only to have the confrontation end in more pain and frustration.  Talking about it being sin with other people was labeled as “gossip.”  It was a very interesting time as I tried to figure out how to handle slander (being called a whore, slut and a bitch by a Christian man) as well as this being tailed for half the year by this Christian woman.  What was even stranger were the other Christian women who regularly commented on these posts mocking what I was writing, yet they couldn’t see they were doing anything wrong.

It’s really sad that we humans operate this way, myself totally and thoroughly included.  It’s part of our “normal” sin nature, but it’s so ugly and harmful, I surprise even myself with how easily I can give in to this temptation.  And rest assured, I’m talking about myself here, having a sin nature is not fun.  It is kind of shocking how bad we can be when we’re not actively guarding our mouths and minds and spirits.  It reminds me of Paul in Romans 7:18-22, where he wanted so badly to do good, but would sometimes find himself backsliding into the flesh behaviors that he hated in himself.

18For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 19For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. 20But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.

21I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. 22For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, 23but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. 24Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 25Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.

I think it’s crucial to be honest that everyone has these feelings and temptations from time to time, even a man as godly as Paul.  I believe that, ultimately, it’s how we choose to deal with the temptations that matters in the long-run.  We have to strive to be like Paul and avoid and flee temptation, repent when we do give in to sin, and then allow for enough grace for ourselves and others when or if we backslide.

Last week I was wondering why someone would focus so much energy on giving in to sinful temptations… specifically, the temptation to engage in destructive criticism about another person (aka: Gossip & Slander).  I did an experiment to try to get someone engaging in it to see what they looked like, and to understand it within myself.  I succeeded in making them understand how bad it looked, the experiment definitely worked.  Overall, it was enlightening… and scary at how once you start (even if you think you’re only going so far) it can quickly go down hill.

I think I’ve found the answer… the root of why criticism can lead to being a stumbling block, and it comes from this quote at the beginning of the post that was told to me by my mentor:  “You’re never more tempted to sin than when you’re sinned against.”

 

Being a Stumbling Block through Criticism

stumbling man cartoon illustration

Romans 14 has always fascinated me.  I’ve written on it before, here , but I wanted to look at it again from a different perspective.

There used to be a pretty benign young woman who commented fairly frequently here.  I always had a feeling that she was trying to get me to change my views on each post I made – she was always so full of constructive criticism and gave it out freely.  Everything about me was up for criticism from this young woman – from the way I dressed to my diet and breastfeeding.  A lot of it was good, and I’d take it and make necessary changes, or try to see if I was getting it truly wrong, but overtime, it started to feel more like purposeful fault-finding or destructive criticism, and I felt myself changing inside toward her as well.

It got to the point where I would find myself starting to see flaws in her posts and arguments, whereas I’d never argued with her before over her writing.  And instead of minding my own business (something I’ve written about before!), I’d feel rightful in pointing them out to her publicly – in a “constructive” way like she did though 😉 .  I knew it was probably not the right thing to do, even if I couched it in “constructive criticism“… it’s a little much to be “correcting” someone all the time so why was she doing this?  I justified my fault-finding habit at her blog by telling myself that well, SHE was doing it to me, so why can’t I do it back to her?  Let’s just say being criticized by her nearly every week affected me lol.  I actually still try not to go to her blog because all I see are the flaws and faults in her biblical arguments.  It’s amazing how the way we act toward others has so much power over the way they in turn feel tempted to deal with us.

Why are humans like this?

I think Romans 14 holds the key to this.  Criticism, especially over issues that don’t really matter that much, make us become stumbling blocks.

“Therefore let us stop criticizing one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.”  (vs 13)

Why does the Bible warn us that criticism can be a “stumbling block” to other believers?  I think the answer is that when it’s not done in love, or even when it’s done over and over again in a constructive way, it’s actually sinning against the person you’re criticizing or leading them to exasperation with you.  So when you SIN against that person, you’re TEMPTING them to sin back.  Or if you’re trying to just constantly correct someone on their convictions (which Romans 14 tells us blatantly not to), you’re going to make them tempted to view you negatively.  This is especially true if you’ve been overly harsh or engaged in sinful destructive criticism, you’ve just become a stumbling block for that person, making it harder for them in their spiritual walk.

stumbling block2

Wow, right?  Pretty scary how criticism, even when we think it should be “constructive,” can be so hurtful and harmful to our Christian brothers and sisters in damaging their walks with God.

Pretty serious stuff.  Now that I carried out my own psyche experiment on this topic, I think I understand even more so just how important this post was in the past.

Instead of being a stumbling block, why not become a stepping stone to helping build others up on their spiritual journies?  I’m talking to my own inclinations here 😉

stumbling block3

Good food for thought.

Stephanie

 

RELATED —

Staying Focus: Don’t Let Anyone Look Down on You Because You Are Young

How Can We Know That We’ve Truly Consecrated Ourselves to Him?

In January, I embarked on a journey to read a few enlightening books on past Christians’ spiritual thoughts and books on spiritual journeys.  One such book was Stepping Heavenward, by Mrs. E. Prentiss, a book that is written in a journal style following a 16 year old girl’s spiritual journey into womanhood, and finally, old age.  It was such a fascinating little book, with a multitude of great timeless lessons to learn regarding faith, marriage, and the role of a wife and mother.

It was like a breath of fresh air to dive into this timeless wisdom written in the 1800’s.

I bought this little book at the promptings of Mrs. Sharon White, author of the Legacy of Home blog, grandmother, and daughter of a revival preacher.  She has on her site a complimentary study guide to go with this book, written by herself!  I encourage every young woman to read this book if they are wondering about the role of a wife or mother, or wondering about the impact faith can have on their life.  

I am saving it to present to the next girl in our family,

be that a daughter or grand-daughter, this is one of those rare books that will be passed down in

our family legacy.

Here is just one excerpt where the minister is writing to the young girl about her progression in faith that I found quite wonderful:

***

“Now He never leaves His work incomplete, and He will gradually lead you into clear and open vision if you will allow Him to do it.  I say gradually, because I believe this to be His usual method, while I do not deny that there are cases where light suddenly bursts in like a flood.  To return to the blind man.  When Jesus found that his cure was not complete, He put His hands again upon his eyes and made him look up; and he was restored and saw every man clearly.  Now this must be done for you; and in order to have it done, you must go to Christ Himself, not to one of His servants.

Make your complaint, tell Him how obscure everything still looks to you, and beg Him to complete your cure.  He may see fit to try your faith and patience by delaying this completion; but meanwhile you are safe in His presence, and while led by His hand, He will excuse the mistake you make and pity your falls.  But you will imagine that it is best that He should at once enable you to see clearly.  If it is, you may be sure He will do it.  He never makes mistakes.  But He often deals far differently with His disciples.  He lets them grope their way in the dark until they fully learn how blind they are, how helpless, how absolutely in need of Him.

What His methods will be with you I cannot foretell.   But you may be sure that He never works in an arbitrary way.  He has a reason for everything He does.  You may not understand why He leads you now in this way and now in that, but you may, nay, you must believe that perfection is stamped on His every act.  …

Many persons never get beyond this point (of making their whole business to study their own case to see whether they are really in a state of grace).  They spend their whole time in asking the question:

Do I love the Lord or no?  Am I His or am I not?

I beg you, my dear child, if you are doing this aimless, useless work, to stop short at once.  Life is too precious to spend in a treadmill.  Having been pardoned by your God and Savior, the next thing you have to do is to show your gratitude for this infinite favor by consecrating your self entirely to Him, body, soul, and spirit.  …

And now if you ask how you may know that you have truly consecrated yourself to Him, I reply, observe every indication of His will concerning you, no matter how trivial, and see whether you at once close in with that will.  Lay down this principle as a law – God does nothing arbitrary.  If He takes away your health, for instance, it is because He has some reason for doing so; and this is true of everything you value; and if you have real faith in Him, you will not insist on knowing the reason.  If you find in the course of daily events, that your self-consecration was not perfect – that is, that your will revolts at His will – do not be discouraged, but fly to your Savior and stay in His presence till you obtain the spirit in which He cried in His hour of anguish, “Father, if Thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will but Thine be done” (Luke 22:42).  Every time you do this it will be easier to do it; every such consent to suffer will bring you nearer and nearer to Him; and in this nearness to Him you will find such peace such blessed, sweet peace as will make your life infinitely happy, no matter what may be its mere outside conditions.  

Just think, my dear Katy, of the honor and the joy of having your will one with the Divine will and so becoming changed into Christ’s image from glory to glory!  …

You can will to choose for your associates those who are most devout and holy.

You can will to read books that will stimulate your in your Christian life rather than those that merely amuse.

You can will to use every means of grace appointed by God.

You can will to spend much time in prayer without regard to your frame at the moment.

You can will to prefer a religion of principle to one of mere feeling; in other words, to obey the will of God when no comfortable glow of emotion accompanies your obedience.

You cannot will to possess the spirit of Christ; that must come as His gift; but you can choose to study His life and to imitate it.  This will infallibly lead to such self-denying work as visiting the poor, nursing the sick, giving of your time and money to the needy and the like.”

Why is Attractiveness in Marriage Important?

Commenter Object of Contempt made a great observation about romance, passionate love, and attraction in marriage being interrelated:

I think, however, that it is part of the vows to do what you can to maintain passionate love. Being attractive is part of that. I also think it is possible to make yourself be in love with someone (having done it myself). There are limits, of course.Romance and passion are often dismissed in christian teaching about marriage, just like attractiveness and beauty are. I suspect this is partially the cause for the attractiveness issue.

His concern that Christian teachings throw out or dismiss the importance of romance & passion, or attractiveness & beauty in marriage are well-founded.  I’ve written before in Men Need an Attractive Wife, that:

Christianity sometimes overstates the importance of inner beauty, making outward care for the appearance to look like materialism and vanity. 

“Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain [or fleeting], but a woman who fears the Lord she shall be praised.” Proverbs 31:30

If you take the time to really learn about the Proverbs 31 woman, she does not sound like a woman who let herself go after marriage.  She made beautiful clothes for her family using expensive dyes that were usually reserved for royalty or nobility.  She worked from early morning until late at night – and her husband sat with important men, bragging about her, do you think he would’ve bragged about her had she just let her appearance go?  Obviously, she cared about what her husband liked as far as her appearance and presentation.

Taking care of your appearance, exercising and making sure you look your best as a woman is not selfish, in fact, if you’re married, it’s selfish not to.”

Christians do tend to, like Object of Contempt pointed out, act like outer attractiveness is “optional,” and that inner beauty is the only thing that is righteous to work toward.  He wondered if there was any proof that taking care of attractiveness, especially for a woman, was important to God.

I’m so glad someone asked this question, and I’ll do my best to give my own opinion here, but I’d really love for other people who may be reading this who feel they have a greater understanding of this complicated issue to add their thoughts in the comments (please 🙂 ).  So without further ado, this is just one woman’s thoughts and advice, take it for what you will….

 

From Object of Contempt:

“And among Christian blogs, then I find many more posts that make it all about the inner beauty, and tear it (outer beauty) all down. These posts quote Peter and sound more spiritual and biblical, but I think they distort the truth by focusing on one verse.
How would someone show that God thinks visual attractiveness is important? How would someone show that God thinks passionate love is important? Does a woman have a perspective that needs a particular approach for it to be heard?”

I answered his comment below, but would like to expand on some of these concepts now that I have time:

“It really is a balance, but it’s true that the issue is complex – what matters to God. On one hand, when it comes down to it, He loves people right where they are – and every person, no matter what they look like, matter to Him and has great personal value! If a Christian is living their life, and haven’t grown in a certain area, He still loves them and values them.

But on the other hand, God does want us to be growing spiritually and becoming more complete/mature people, and a part of spiritual growth that Christians tend to overlook is how they are taking care of themselves physically.

Making themselves attractive, enjoying that process, nourishing the passionate love and attraction in their marriage are all holy and spiritual pursuits! God wants us to have life and life abundantly – Scripture even states that the reason He died was so that we can have complete joy – joy in it’s completeness. It is very hard to have that kind of abundant life and complete joy when a woman isn’t taking care of her health and fitness, creating a passionate marriage, and flourishing in attraction between her and her mate.

So God does care about those things in the long run, but they are of lesser importance compared to a person’s salvation and having “inner beauty” – which is character and integrity.

Those things always matter more to God, because they are who a person really is, and beauty eventually fades.

In my opinion, real beauty goes beyond skin deep, and is easily seen in the way a woman radiates joy and beauty from within, which has the power to change her outer appearance and have people drawn to her.”

_____________________________________________________

A major part of spiritual growth that Christians tend to overlook is how they are presenting themselves physically, how they are taking care of the body that God gave them.  We are stewards of our body, and although God ultimately cares more about our salvation and character growth and integrity, He does expect us to take great care over the body we’ve been given so that we can effectively do His will in our life.  If we are running our bodies down, filling them up with too much food and not enough exercise, becoming overweight or underweight, we won’t have the physical or mental strength to do many of the spiritual tasks we’re called to do.  Even spiritual things require a well-rested, well-taken care of body, otherwise our emotions (due usually to exhaustion or over-extension) tend to take over and we react out of shortened tempers, grouchiness, and feeling horrible.  When a woman isn’t taking care of herself physically, it often has mental and spiritual ramifications that negatively affect her ability to minister to others God has put in her path, namely her husband and her children.

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

Part of “honoring God with our bodies,” is taking care of them, and presenting them well.

When a woman is married, taking care of her appearance is important because it’s usually important to her husband.  He was more than likely first attracted to her because of her appearance, not her personality… this isn’t to say that he didn’t come to appreciate her personality later on and love her more for it, but Christians throwing out the importance of her attractiveness in catching her husband is clearly short-sighted.  Most single women who find husbands give some thought and devotion to their outward beauty and attractiveness, so it makes sense that the tools they used to catch a husband, should also be used regularly in keeping their husband during their marriage.

What I would want to tell a woman who has set herself as Object of Contempt put it, “against being attractive,” is that this isn’t about trying to change her into someone she isn’t or has never been!  This is about a heart issue of wanting to pursue having a good marriage, caring about her husband’s visual needs of wanting to see her at her attractive, personal best, and doing what she should to create a romantic and passionate marriage!

A good guideline is to look at one’s wedding pictures, aside from normal aging, how far off are you from looking the way you did when you made your vows to do everything you could to make a marriage work?

We as women, usually take care of ourselves very well when single and as a result, we reap the benefits of our men lavishing their attention and romantic efforts on us.  A major part of marriage is learning to work together as a team, caring for each other’s needs, and understanding that our actions are forever now tied to the fate of another person – we are responsible for them to a certain extent, and should live our life caring about how our actions affect them in their own life.  If we clearly do not care about how attracted our husbands are to us, if we let ourselves go and demand he love us for “ourselves,” we are expecting him to feel the same romance and passion toward us as he did when we made efforts we aren’t making anymore.  Of course he may still love us deeply, but God created men to be extremely visual, and if we don’t look appealing to our husband, if our appearance is negatively impacting the level of attraction he feels for us, then something needs to be changed on our part.

Loving our husbands means we care deeply about what he needs.  

Sex and affection are critical to men, it is the way God’s designed them to be able to feel emotionally and spiritually close to us!

If we’ve let ourselves go and are no longer making any effort to be attractive to them or have a good sex life, or be affectionate with them, we are causing them to live in a state of emotional and spiritual torment.

This is serious, sisters, holding on to our “right” to be against being attractive for our husbands is selfish and only causes damage to our marriage, and damages the hearts of our husbands.  It’s putting up a stumbling block in his way to experiencing closeness and intimacy with us – emotionally, spiritually, as well as physically.  

It should remain obvious then, that if we care about our husband’s well-being, if we care about his needs and God-given desires, then we will also care about nourishing a passionate, romantic marriage, and staying attractive to our men.

 

Related: A Woman’s Attractiveness Reflects on Her Husband’s Appeal, Talent, and Ability

Men Need an Attractive Wife

Single Women: You Have the Power in Attracting a Man – Unleash It!

 

Staying Focus: Video Lesson

Back in the beginning of October, I wrote a post about what God had been convicting me of in August and September of this year.  I was encouraged to try to do a video series about what God’s been teaching me, there is something great about getting to hear tone of voice and see a person’s disposition that I believe was missing from my writing.  Writing and words can seem so harsh, and that’s not what I desire to convey here – a harsh message of truth without the love and encouragement of Christ.

 

Bible verses mentioned in video:

“Set your mind and keep focused habitually on the things above (the heavenly things), not things that are on the earth (which have only temporal value).”  Colossians 3:2 (AMP)

“Blessed [fortunate, prosperous, and favored by God] is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked [following their advice and example],

Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit [down to rest] in the seat of [b]scoffers (ridiculers).

But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And on His law [His precepts and teachings] he [habitually] meditates day and night.
 
And he will be like a tree firmly planted [and fed] by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season;
Its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers [and comes to maturity].

 
The wicked [those who live in disobedience to God’s law] are not so,
But they are like the chaff [worthless and without substance] which the wind blows away.
 
Therefore the wicked will not stand [unpunished] in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
 
For the Lord knows and fully approves the way of the righteous,
But the way of the wicked shall perish.”  Psalm 1:1-5 (AMP)

Let your eyes look directly ahead [toward the path of moral courage]
And let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you [toward the path of integrity].”  Proverbs 4:25 (AMP)

“For those who are living according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh [which gratify the body], but those who are living according to the Spirit, [set their minds on] the things of the Spirit [His will and purpose].”  Romans 8:5 (AMP)

“Finally, believers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable andworthy of respect, whatever is right and confirmed by God’s word, whatever is pure and wholesome, whatever is lovely andbrings peace, whatever is admirable and of good repute; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, thinkcontinually on these things [center your mind on them, and implant them in your heart].”  Philippians 4:8 (AMP)

“You will keep in perfect and constant peace the one whose mind is steadfast [that is, committed and focused on You—in both inclination and character],

Because he trusts and takes refuge in You [with hope and confident expectation].”  Isaiah 26:3 (AMP)

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you [who are willing to learn] with My eye upon you.”  Psalm 32:8 (AMP)

The [intrinsically] good woman ( text says man) produces what is good and honorable and moral out of the good treasure[stored] in his heart; and the [intrinsically] evil woman (man)produces what is wicked and depraved out of the evil [in his heart]; for her mouth speaks from the overflow of her heart.”  Luke 6:45 (AMP)

How blessed and favored by God are those whose way is blameless [those with personal integrity, the upright, the guileless],
Who walk in the law [and who are guided by the precepts and revealed will] of the Lord.”  Psalm 119:1 (AMP)

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!