Great Gain

…Godliness with contentment is great gain.

1 Timothy 6:6

Do I believe that? Do I believe contentment is profitable when mixed with godliness?

I’m not sure. Going to church never made me rich. Avoiding the urge to want more than I’ve got has sometimes squelched my dreams.

Should I believe what God’s Word says? Well, if I’m going to make the Bible my creed (that standard to which I align my life in word and deeds), then, yes.

Let’s investigate the equation closely.

Godliness [2150] eusebeia: godliness, piety – comes from 2095 + 4576 (well, well done! + to worship, be devout, God-fearing)

Contentment [841] autarkeia – contentment, having all of one’s needs, sufficiency – comes from 846+714 (him/herself +to be content, satisfied)

Gain [4200] porismos – means of gain; from 4198 (to come, go, travel)

The order in the verse is important. Well done all the time reverent worship + being satisfied with myself (who God made me to be) = forward motion, going places.

I’ve never seen the equation worked successfully backwards (i.e. going places + being satisfied with myself = well done worship) The jury is still out on using this equation for living… algebraically.

However, working it from the beginning to the end always works. Fearing God and bowing my knees to His Superior Awesomeness consistently + recognizing who I am, how I’ve messed up, allowing Him and his mercy to bring me to 100% functionality to the satisfaction of us both = a propelling force to be reckoned with. I always end up someplace other than where I’ve been and happy about it.

So if my goal is economic growth from godliness, the padding of my wallet with “resources”, then I am setting myself up for disappointment. Paul describes this group of people as:

  • conceited
  • understanding nothing
  • having a morbid interest in
    • controversial questions
    • disputes about words
      • Out of which arise
        • envy
        • strife
        • abusive language
        • evil suspicions
        • constant friction between men

That is so not where I want my life to be! It’s easy to get there though so I’m careful as I listen to what people say about God’s word.

In this same passage ( verse 5), certain men think that godliness is a means to financial gain. After bludgeoning their character, he tells Timothy that it really is a means to gain… great gain. IF you put contentment into its proper place in the equation you end up much better off.

While I LOVE word studies, I do not in any way desire to argue about them. Instead, I hope that by considering what the words really are and what is really being said that we would all have better access to the truth.

Truth sets us free.

Freedom is a great place to travel to. Amen?

May gainful travel be yours in Christ Jesus and may He give you joy in the journey. Amen.

Mercy + Truth

In preparation for my next book chapter, I was looking at the word “truth” ( Strong’s number 571 – faithfulness, reliability, trustworthiness, truth…what conforms to reality in contrast to what is false). Gotta love keeping it real, right? :)

Through my searching, a word combo kept popping up; truth was combined with mercy 15 times. Usually, Bible study veterans say repeated words are worth consideration. I think 15 times is practically yelling, “PAY Attention!” Lord willing, we will.

In each of these word combos, the word for mercy is Strong’s word # 2617 – hesed. Of the 26 times this word is used as loving kindness, we can add at least three more to this mercytruth word combo. 18 times God says mercy is combined with reliable reality.

Sweet deal! Uh…not so much.

Mercy always get me in trouble. I can think of situations where showing kindness, going the extra mile, etc. has only cost me, not profited me. Too much of that one-way relational kindness stuff has the effect of discouraging kindness – in me at any rate. I’m a firm believer that givers need to be given to.

Ah, but mercy doesn’t mean what I thought it did.

Mercy is defined in this word combo as unfailing love, loyal love, devotion, and kindness. That is a special kindness. Handing this type of kindness to just anyone would be inappropriate. Loyalty is both earned and exclusive by an act of choosing. Devotion is willfully and thoughtfully ongoing bringing the emotion of love into every action. This mercy is a treasure not to be taken or to be given lightly.

This last defining tidbit of mercy is what caught my attention; #2617 Mercy is often based on a prior relationship, especially a covenant relationship. This is important to me..and to you… because being kind is exhausting and expensive. Investing this type of all-the-time relationship with everyone is relational bankruptcy waiting to happen. Knowing we can focus our resources and streamline our efforts to include only those with whom we have a committed relationship takes a lot of the burden… the heaviness of being kind … away and frees us up not to be fake about it either. That IS a sweet deal.

One act of kindness or loyalty is a stepping stone. You can get to the next one only after having first stepped on the one before it. They are sequential and in my mind’s eye I expect them to be reasonably set distances apart. I also often expect them to be well suited to my footfall. (not always the case but I still hold out for it)These stones across the water bridge one part of life to another. Acts of relationship are based on prior relational acts. Bad ones and good ones. Remember that reality-is-truth thing?

If we look at our relational journey as stepping stones across a brook, (the analogy falls apart so don’t think too hard.) Some of us hop delightedly along until we discover a stone is missing. At that moment in this hop-along-bridge, some important relational mercy-truth event just isn’t there. Life and time stand still.

We grieve over it. We stare longingly at the other side thinking to ourselves that the far bank is hopelessly outside our capability so we give up ever reaching it. More grief. We look at the water and begin viewing it every bit as formidable an obstacle as the great wall of China. (Perceptions can get crazy…amen?) Putting our feet in the water is not an option for all the imagined slippery footing beneath the crystal sheen of rippling current racing past; fear has begun to cripple our legitimate crossing.

Notice again, that this mercy is, by definition, restricted. While it might show up in any relationship, it predominantly works within covenant relationships. Focus is such a blessing. Covenant relationships are ones that are legally binding: God with the nation of Israel, Israel with the Levites and the temple, a husband with his wife, etc.

Some of my pathway’s bridges have missing stones. Human loyalty and devotion however cherished, are not always reliable and legally binding contracts get broken all the time but God’s mercy endures forever. The reality that God’s mercy is a forever kind of deal is repeated 38 times. Shall we pay attention? Please, please do.

If God’s loyalty and devotion to his children is reliable and certain (mercy + truth), then our anxiety about his mercy vanishes. Certainty wages war with anxiety and wins every time. Having annihilated anxiety, we enjoy a greater sense of awareness and calm with which to proceed.

So we look up. We hop.

Sometimes with one foot on a stone and the other outstretched reaching for the next. Sometimes by gaining enough momentum and height to plant two feet on a stone. Sometimes we stop on a particular stone to adjust our balance with arms and hands unconsciously working the air around us. Sometimes another hand grabs ours and lifts us to the next one.

Stones go missing for all kinds of reasons. There are two ways to cope: 1. get and place another stone, 2. have somebody help you get to the next stone.

If we find that a stone is missing, we can call on the Name of the Merciful One and He will carry each person across to the next stone. Other helpers might be found and might not but the LORD’s mercy endures…forever.

God likes to help people who call on his name. Perhaps He even enjoys our delight when we reach the other side and turn round to share the success with him before skipping off through the woods to our next grand, exclusive mercy-truth adventure.

Does God Listen?

Does God listen to His people? …To you? …To me?

Sometimes I swear he listens to my thoughts. There I am going about my day thinking to myself something … not bowing my head, not on my knees, not stretched out on the floor, not covered in sackcloth and ashes, not reciting liturgy, not fasting for any amount of time. Not doing any of that high sounding, on-purpose stuff that we often associate with talking to God …but He’s listening.

For example, last night. As a matter of habit I read the Bible daily. Yesterday I was reading in the book of Matthew, “So do not worry, saying ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your Heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you as well.”

I was in the part of my day when I begin to think about preparing our evening meal. I hadn’t gone shopping this week. OK, I have the meat;Into the crock pot that goes. I have the veggies – no salad fixings but I have carrots and broccoli and potatoes – so I’ll boil those. Today I am making unleavened bread so even though I don’t have yeast, I don’t need it. What I don’t really have that I need is juice. But I continued on with my day not doing anything about it.

My pregnant daughter who has been craving broccoli walks in the door a few hours later toting our grandson cheerfully proclaiming, “Ryker and I thought we’d contribute to the juice tonight.”

Ahhh LORD GOD…. how you do listen and in your great mercy show loving kindness to us all.

Listening with God goes both ways; We listen to him, He listens to us.

I was taught that God always listens to any person who calls on His name. Is that true?  Let’s find out.

This two way listening can be broken. Sometimes we break it but sometimes God breaks it.

44 You have covered Yourself with a cloud
So that no prayer can pass through. Lamentations 3:44 (NASB)

When God breaks His connection with us, it is a serious thing. Here is a list of things that broke the listening relationship He had with His people in the Bible. If you click on the links and read the passages, you can learn along with me. Please do. 

  • When they did not trust Him  ( I kind of think God was looking forward to fighting for them with great displays like He fought for them in Egypt but they got in the way because they were afraid they could not accomplish the task on their own. Duh. God knew that. Their job was to not be afraid and move forward.
  • When they regarded sin in their heart  That word ‘regard’ is Strong’s word #7200 rā’â. To see, look view, realize, know, consider, to be selected / to become visible, appear, to show oneself/ to be seen/ to cause to see, show/ to be shown/ to look at each other, meet with. It is a general word for visual perception.If you keep the wrong things in front of your visual cortex for extended periods of time getting to know them pretty well, that blocks your listening relationship with your Creator. Makes sense to me.And another thing about this is when Ikeep bringing up past wrongs that God has already dealt with, he not only plugs his ears but my quality of life suffers a downward spiral– May this not be true in your life or mine but may fruitful qualities be yours in abundance.
  • When God gives you an answer (and you need to make sure it is really Him) then do what he says. Not doing what God says ensures He will stop listening to you The “I” in this passage refers to “wisdom”. The wisdom we seek is wisdom from God and indeed all wisdom sprouts forth from Him.
  • Along the same lines we have this passage

    He who turns away his ear from listening to the law, Even his prayer is an abomination. Proverbs 28:9 (NASB)
    Keep in mind this listening is a hear it, obey it kind of deal.
  • How husbands treat their wives  matters if they want God to listen to them.
  • If they treated God badly (idolatry, breaking the covenant) He refused to listen to their crys for help
  • The prophet was disallowed to pray for those among God’s chosen who treated God badly. Their awful fate was already decided  If you are petitioning God on behalf of someone who considers themselves to be a part of God’s family yet who treats God badly and your prayers seem blocked, realign your prayers with God’s promises.
  • When they lied , saying God had forsaken them and didn’t see them, and chose to honor idols in the place He chose for His Name not even loud cries in his ears would convince Him to listen. When God’s people corrupt their worship of Him and teach others to do the same, He hates it. This would be a HUGE mistake for anyone in the house of God.
  • When the celebrations He instituted among them became worthless offerings  The way out of that mess is in verses 16 and 17. Turn your life around. Every life is valuable – people... animals....  This was all part of what God told Noah and in verse 15 of Isaiah 1 God calls them to account.
  • How you treat people around you makes God either smile or turn his face away.  I have trouble hearing someone if my face is turned away from them. Apparently so does God.

I was taught that God always listens to any person who calls on His name. After reading these passages, I’ve concluded that is just not the case.

Why is this important?

Healing.

Both for the Jew  and for the Gentile?  

You decide.

Epic Champions

The public spectacle of the cross during the feast of Passover was epic.

Deliverance from oppression was on everyone’s mind. Their champion was put to death.

How deflating is that?!

Jesus died.

All seemed lost. Despair wove its lethal tentacles through their very core. Hope for the people seemed to die with him. They were caving in, one broken heart after the other, to their perceived reality of Roman rule. With no Messiah from God it seemed like the only option…not pleasant but at least it was real.

So they ranted against their …uh…mistake.

He saved others but he cannot save himself… Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down… come down from the cross and we will believe you… Mark 15:25-39

Was it / Is it a mistake to trust in Jesus?

Some of the people of the Exodus got stuck in a similar frame of mind when Pharaoh not only refused to let them go to worship God in the wilderness BUT he made it his mission to make life harder for them. “…You are lazy. That’s why you want to worship God…” Offended with such a lie, the mistreatment and the even more difficult situation they now faced, they also ranted against their …uh..mistake.

19 The foremen of the sons of Israel saw that they were in trouble [a]because they were told, “You must not reduce[b]your daily amount of bricks.” 20 When they left Pharaoh’s presence, they met Moses and Aaron as they were [c]waiting for them. 21 They said to them, “May the Lord look upon you and judge you, for you have made [d]us odious in Pharaoh’s sight and in the sight of his servants, to put a sword in their hand to kill us.” Exodus 5:19-21 (NASB)

Was it a mistake to follow Moses?

Freedom seemed like a pipe dream. Hopes got dashed. Tempers flared. Life got harder.

Does it still work that way? I think so.

My guess is that they began to see God as an enemy for not making their lives easier. 

Was it a mistake to follow Moses out of Egypt? No.

Was it / Is it a mistake to trust in Jesus unto salvation? No.

God never promised us easy. He promised us rest. There is a huge difference.

28 “Come to Me, all [a]who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is [b]easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (NASB)

It’s still a yoke. It’s still a burden. Just not an oppressive one.

There is still work to do. There are still spectacular things to witness.

 12 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father
John 14:12  (NASB)

Life does not get easier when you decide to live according to God’s way. It may actually get more difficult. If you persevere it may also be beyond epic into the realm of spectacular splendor.

May the LORD make it so in your life and in mine. Amen.

He Remains the Same: Reliable

If something never changes, it remains the same.

If the unchangeable remains the same no matter what, everything else must realign in relation to it.

For every earthy thing I think up to be an example of something remaining the same, I immediately think up something that can budge it a little:

Brick walls: Dynamite

Mountains: Earthquakes

Bulkheads: Hurricanes

We rely on immovable objects to get our bearings. When those objects get busted, we are adrift with loss, floundering as we try to find our own way.

This is not the case when following Jesus Christ– honestly. He determines  the way we go. He is absolutely unchangeable. When railed upon by whatever force, he is not the one busted, the one(s) coming against him are. There is comfort for the floundering in this; they can get their bearings when aligning themselves with him.

 Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or [r]shifting shadow.

James 1:17 (NASB)

Who God was when He created the stars, He was when He made you. He continues to be the same when He walks with you today as He does until the end of time. The LORD is the LORD. Jesus is Jesus. He is trustworthy, true, and reliable because of who he is. We can test him and he remains the same … always.

This is important for those of us who have suffered from abandonment – physical, emotional or both. Trusting God is a gargantuan prospect. Indeed, trusting anyone is a huge deal. Like the people who followed Moses out of Egypt so very long ago, our first line of defense is to try to align our relationships for our own sense of stability and like them we long for sameness… things already known regardless of reality:

Take their comments in Exodus 32 as an example:

Now when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people assembled about Aaron and said to him, “Come, make us[a]a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.”

Everything was up for grabs when they decided they would wait no longer. But it is just as big a mistake for us as it was for them:

Then the Lord spoke to Moses, “Go [c]down at once, for your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them. They have made for themselves a molten calf, and have worshiped it and have sacrificed to it and said, ‘[d]This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!’” The Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, they are [e]an obstinate people. 10 Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation.”

People are fickle though not all of them. Sorting out who to trust is hard work. We need to trust God. God is reliable all the time. Easy-Peasy. No oppressive work in it.

Let’s follow God’s reliability in other passages. 

Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who [a]is to come, the Almighty.” Revelation 1:7-9 (NASB)

I am so glad God is always all mighty, aren’t you?

10 “I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem,[a]the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn.11 In that day there will be great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the [b]plain of [c]Megiddo. 12 The land will mourn, every family by itself; the family of the house of David by itself and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself and their wives by themselves; 13 the family of the house of Levi by itself and their wives by themselves; the family of the Shimeites by itself and their wives by themselves; 14 all the families that remain, every family by itself and their wives by themselves. Zechariah 12:10-14 (NASB)

Don’t miss the connection here. … the Pierced One (that’s Jesus, FYI), the tribes in mourning. In chapter 13 we see that the Almighty is there.

ON that day… a cleansing fountain opens to the house of David

On that day… the LORD banishes the name of idols, they will be remembered no more

On that day… the LORD Almighty removes both the prophet and the spirit of impurity from the land

On that day… Alignment with the Truth  means more than family – Zechariah 13:1-3

Wow.

Fear concerning the unreliable, whether things or people, is out of place in the Christ-following experience because God, the Almighty, the Lord Jesus Christ, is who he says he is … reliable – time and time again. Amen.

Reality: The Essential Course

Dad told me the story of his leaving.

“I kept thinking things would get better but they never did. One night when I came home, I decided I would either go in and kill her or I would keep going and never come back. I drove around the block a couple more times then drove away.”

I asked Dad why he never came back. “My heart would never carry me home.” That was a healthy choice for him.

He had no idea what storms of loss that choice would create in his children. Divorce? That was only one loss. Leaving three infants in the care of a woman he had decided was enough “off kilter” to entertain serious thoughts of killing her…..and in reality continues to suffer mentally and physically; that choice was a doozy. Our loss…catastrophic and ongoing.

Looking back on it always takes me to a dark place. Sometimes another person’s darkness hovers nearby and I inadvertently catch a piece that takes me back into the same darkness… like one Sunday in the church foyer.

“It’s not like I’m bitter or anything,”mumbled my friend sitting along the wall in the church lobby. “She’s [my mother’s] just not a very nice person.”

Statements of reality do not equate resentment or emotion of any kind. They are facts.

I recognize that dark place. That place where relationships that are supposed to be a certain way just aren’t. That place where reality just is … the way a submerged reef lies innocently in the path of unwary sailors who venture too close to shore.

Bitter? My ears perked up as my thoughts went back to the mother who raised me.

Another window into my dark place came years ago when my own step mother and dad were talking with me in my kitchen. I forget the remark I made but my step-mom’s response was “ How can you talk like that! She’s your mother!”

To which I replied, “She’s my mother, but that doesn’t change reality.”

While her response was gobsmacked, my Dad’s eyes glowed with some kind of long awaited happiness, “ You finally understand.”

Reality is the worthier course. Alignment to it is not optional or whimsical. It is essential.

One boat plots a course based on the underwater terrain and the depth of water they can safely traverse. Another lacks knowledge of the waterways without regard for the reality of their situation to their own peril.

Who would you rather be?

We raise our glasses to toast those sailors triumphantly reaching their home port, and reflect on premature death escaped at least this time:

Once Again, We Have Failed to Die!’

After listening to my church friend, I felt the need to protect my heart against being bitter…again. To read once again the channel chart as it were.

Bitterness. I had to look that one up. People throw it around like a dart trying to chart courses for others in a dark place without consideration for the reality of their situation…to their peril. So here it is:

bit·ter·ness Google definition

ˈbidərnəs/ noun

1.

sharpness of taste; lack of sweetness.


2
.

anger and disappointment at being treated unfairly; resentment.

Given that first definition, and Job 34:3 

“For the ear tests words
As the palate tastes food.

think about all the foods that taste sharp…

  • cheddar cheese
  • certain sauvignon blanc wines
  • certain herbs

These are bitter.

Then think on the sharp words  you’ve heard recently.

Now the sweet ones.

How did you respond? Which course did you take?

Here’s another definition (a depth chart notation) worth looking at:

Strong’s concordance word # 4751 – māra – bitter, bitterness : ranging from merely disagreeable to the taste to being poisonous; by extension: anxiety, despair

If I speak my anxiety or despair to anyone but the LORD, they are negatively effected in their spirit. Indeed, so am I.

If I speak graciously to anyone – even to the LORD – listeners are positively affected. So am I. Yes, I’m talking about talking graciously to ourselves as well as to others. The turn about in countenance is amazing.

Sweet and bitter both have their place in the culinary spectrum as well as the spectrum of language. Either one out of balance presents a problem.

Being sweet always sounded obnoxious to me but I’d rather be sweet than be toxic….uh..favorably flavorful than bitter.

I’d rather be traveling by a chart with true depth soundings, traveling safely and enjoyably than traveling full of distress and foolishly place myself in danger.

By these marks, then, how we talk about our past makes a difference in our present. Just a thought to travel by.

Can A Woman Be Saved?

 But women will be saved  through child bearing — if they continue in faith, love, and holiness with propriety . 1 Timothy 2:15

I shared this passage at Bible study within the context of another issue…namely, the condition of Adam and Eve at the time they chose to disobey God. 1 Timothy 2:11-15.

One dear lady blurted out,  “Does that mean that women who cannot bear children are not saved?!”

Uh-oh. However steeped in emotion, it is a logical question.

What I wanted was to take her “…but-I-CAN’T-have-children…” pain away. Wafting through the corridors of my mind was the sentiment, “Does God really say THAT?” Brought up short by the Serpent’s words to Eve, I confess, I wished it said something else.  Changing God’s word comes with a heavy penalty so I opted out of that real quick.   We cannot pick and choose truth nor amend it when it doesn’t feel cozy. No amount of wanting can change reality. So…

“I did not write it.” Were the words that sprang unchecked from my lips. Yet there it was. The battle to understand what God really said… the truth he intended …had begun.

What does this text really say? What doesn’t it say? …and what on earth are we supposed to do with reality according to God?

Women shall be saved. That is comforting. What kind of “saved”? Strong’s Exhaustive concordance records nine different words all translated, “saved”.

The word used here is [Strong’s #4982]–sozo– to save, rescue, deliver; to heal; by extension: to be in right relationship with God, with the implication that the condition before salvation was one of grave danger or distress.

The offer: Being healed is available. That is to say, we are not healthy at one point but now can be brought into right relationship with God (be made healthy) from “grave danger” (that condition we are saved from). The idea is that one could die from said threat which is certainly distressful. Contextually the text suggests that the danger of death experienced is the very same one Eve got herself into by listening to the Serpent, eating the fruit and making Adam complicit in her error.

I say offer because we have that “IF” qualifier tagging along in the text.

IF a woman continues in faith, love, and holiness with propriety she will be saved through childbearing [strong’s #5042:- childbearing …from 5088 – to give birth, bear ; produce + #1096 – to come into existence, be born; to be, become, happen; (used in certain contexts to introduce a new section or paragraph in Hebrew narrative style “and it came to pass”] . #5042 is only used as “childbearing”  once and that is in 1 Timothy 2:15.

Right standing with God is conditional for us women. Whether the issue is longevity (continuing in) or methodology (with propriety), being saved through child-bearing is a difficult teaching.

Note that the woman is responsible for both the longevity and the methodology not the act of saving.

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and [a]that not of yourselves,it is the gift of God;  

Ephesians 2:8 (NASB)

(That’s the same word for saved in both texts…#4982 – right standing with God)

For the moment let’s concentrate on what we are responsible for.

Faith:  [Strong’s #4102] faithfulness, belief and trust –this trust carries with it the implication that actions based on that trust may follow. Essentially this is a loyalty, being true and trust worthy as we rely on the Mighty One throughout the day …everyday.

Love:  [Strong’s# 26 ]The active love of God for his son and his people; The active love his people are to have for God, each other and even enemies. Love is active; real love does things.

Holiness: [Strong’s # 4997] Sanctification (the state of being sanctified- to make something holy, to give official acceptance or approval to something; the state of growing in Divine grace as a result of Christian commitment after baptism or conversion.) Holy (in moral quality), consecrated (ceremonially acceptable to God).

This is definitely an on going thing. We say that life is a process, a journey. Here it is a growing. As we repeatedly choose good actions, good alliances, good whatever, we grow. That is, we change over time in a positive way. Picture the upward growth of a grapevine, make that vine a symbol of a woman and you see what kind of growth we’re looking at. Better yet, you see what type of growth we women are supposed to emulate.

Continuing on in these things is our job. Vines repeat their actions towards fruitfulness season after season.

How do we get the job done?

With propriety:  appropriateness, reasonableness, mental soundness. This word comes from one that means to be in a right state of mind, to have sober judgment; to be self-controlled.

What I get from this word is that we should live life doing what is right, able to defend our choice, exercise effective boundaries and do everything on purpose. Sounds great but it is extremely difficult for broken people like me to accomplish on our own. No wonder Paul gives Titus the formula for successful women!

Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may[a]encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children,to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.  Titus 2:3-5 (NASB)

Now let’s tackle the saving bit. Women are saved (see above definition) through child bearing.

The text might say actually giving birth saves but elsewhere the Scripture declares,

Jesus *said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.  John 14:6 (NASB)

I know some women who have children and are brazenly opposed to God and other women who have no children who are dear and  seek the LORD. Some godly women remain barren for most of their lives and then have children (Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel are examples).  Other godly women give a new meaning to the word “fertile” and have lots of children…deep sigh.

A word of caution: It is possible to over think this. As to who is saved and who is not,  only God knows. Rest assured he definitely does. Make sure we do what it is we are responsible for and leave the rest in his capable hands.

19 Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness.” 2 Timothy 2:19 (NASB)

And we might want to pray for the barren women we know. Isaac did and God gave Rebekah twins.

 

Looking at Wrong Rightly

When things go wrong…when wrong happens, what do we do?

For my own part, when I loose my watch, have searched for days and still can’t find it — this counts for one wrong thing — I experience life somewhat off balance.

Off balance progresses to heavy-hearted and lethargic when a series of unfortunate events converge. The idea that all my effort is misspent battles to be the queen of my thoughts. Totally not true by the way but that doesn’t stop her from trying to sabotage living life.

Lethargy can quickly become oppression as I give in to a focus on wrongs in me, to me, in others and to others.

What if God opens my eyes …essentially making me watch and/or experience prolonged and various wrongdoing? What if my whole world gets turned upside down?

You know …that time when each cell in your body screams at God that maybe his ways are not quite right … the right He claims to be.

Habukkuk voiced just such complaints to the LORD.  Their conversation won’t take long to read.  Begin here.  More than the loss of a watch, the prophet looked at his own people and saw justice perverted, violence, strife and conflict everywhere. He cried out to God and it seemed like God did not care because no matter what the prophet said no action from God was observed. Sound familiar?

God answers by showing Habakkuk a picture of life beyond his own experience and asking  the prophet to look on life, God’s actions and character rightly. Then he was told to wait for it. Wait for everything the LORD had planned to occur.

God flips his view from a focus on all the wrong things, people and places to  peeking through heaven’s vantage point. The community must give up its bad ways due to a conqueror. The conqueror must give up his bad ways due to God’s direct and potent anger. Even nature gets in on the action.

When things go wrong, we need to wait — to exercise our faith in our living and fully capable LORD. We need to remember His deeds are an exercise of his everlasting power not just a one time deal. We need to witness…to observe that God works all the angles to accomplish His goals.

Good and bad, right and wrong… these mean something to God. He cares very deeply about them and about us.

When things go horribly wrong, God fights for His children even though we may not see it now. We will see it. Of this Habukkuk was certain. This certainty brought him through all the rough times, gave him strength to wait patiently for God to deliver him and enabled him to rejoice through it all.

May  looking at wrongs rightly (through God’s eyes) and patient endurance mixed with joy be God’s gift to you who are troubled in these troubling times. Amen.

Grief and Loss

Grief is a multifaceted response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone or something that has died, to which a bond or affection was formed. Although conventionally focused on the emotional response to loss, it also has physical, cognitive, behavioral, social, spiritual, and philosophical dimensions.

That’s the Google definition….my own is a bit less clinical.

My heart wails. My body takes longer to move. My head throbs. 

In these times of global this and national that, even those who don’t posses personal grief are exposed to some form of grief on a daily basis through TV sitcoms and cop shows, internet communications, charity ads, local news broadcasts of wars and politicians and community tragedies, etc. All this exposure makes its mark on our generation. While our specific losses are different ( loss of a spouse is different than loss of a child, etc), there are aspects of grief that are similar across a wide range of loss.

When I lost three family members in four months the most helpful article I read was from a Jewish organization recounting the “What-to-do” issues surrounding multiple deaths experienced from terror attacks.

Things I found helpful were these:

  • It’s OK not to be happy. That sounds obvious, doesn’t it?If someone is throwing a party – even someone you know and love – the best option is to politely decline attendance. That happened to me. I was invited to a wedding shower, a baby shower and other events… I said no. While I missed out on those social connections, possible new connections and all the “fun” of those events, it was awesome not to force a smile.
    Later, when the desire for company outweighed my desire to stay at home, I did accept an invitation to a birthday party. I tried to force happiness. It did not go well and I wish I’d never gone.
    Advice tested: Don’t go out to parties while grieving. Limit the scope of social activities for awhile.
  • Let yourself experience grief. Deal with the effects of grief in all your parts (heart, mind, spirit, and body) as waves going through you. Grief ebbs and flows. Go with it.
  • Grief ignored will pop up when you least expect it demanding your full attention. Being ambushed by grieving is no fun. Nobody knows why you’re having a meltdown. Those who want to help can’t and those who need you or depend on you, you will be unavailable for. Better to manage grief than to let it manage you.
  • Grief does effect our physical well being so use your body in grief management. Express your grief in a positive physical way. One suggestion was the practice of tearing a funeral scarf which I facilitated at one of the three family funerals. It was a healthy, healing event.
  • Turn your thoughts to God as Supreme Judge. Hand him the job of sorting out motives, situations, personalities, regrets, vengeance, wrongs and rights. Then grant him the honor of deciding the verdict…passing sentence if need be. Not your job. Don’t take on the extra burden of it.
  • Prolonged grieving is not good, nor is it healthy. Designate a period of time. 30 days to one year are benchmarks used by many. The important thing is to allow yourself to grieve completely. Grief has a beginning, a middle and an ending.
  • Open your heart to the reality that it is not your grief alone. Grief has ripples. What affects you effects those around you. Incidentally, those people have also suffered loss and need to process it.

Death and loss happen.

How are we going to deal with it?

Laugh? Finding a sense of humor about it all is actually very freeing. Like the time the mortician told us we couldn’t mail my Dad anywhere. Seriously!? Then we started thinking about where we might send him… hilarious. Please use the comment section to share your grieving humor.

Cry? Tears can heal such deep wounds. But crying at your core causes such headaches! …and runny noses. Just being practical: Ibuprofen and Kleenex are a good idea.

Talk? We should talk about grief openly before it visits because grief comes to us all. The best option is to prepare for it, not be blindsided by it.

As you consider grieving, please consider this; God grieves too. In fact it is one of the ways we are reminded that we have been made in his image. Note: the word ‘grieved’ in Genesis 6:6 is Strong’s #6087…the same word used in Genesis 3:16 translated as “… in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children…” Eve grieves during childbirth; God grieves over pervasive wickedness.

Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved [a]in His heart. The Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the[b]sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.                                     Genesis 6:5-8 (NASB)

Here we have an ending and a new beginning. A grieving God providing a way out of the grief, a way through the cleansing from grief and the hope of better things to come.

May the way ahead of you bring the light of God’s favor and may you experience refreshing new life in his presence. Amen.

I Train, God Trains

She turned her head away heaving a great sigh that exhaled, “ohhhhh….Reconciliation”.

What!? I stared at her across the table and I longed to come back with, “Oh no it’s NOT!” but I kept silent. I had the urge to define ‘reconciliation’ but I didn’t do that either.

People need to hear these stories. People are leaving [the church] because they don’t feel cared for.”

No. I don’t want to slander anyone.”

You haven’t slandered anyone today…in what you just told me.”

Well, Hallelujah! 

I shouldn’t tell these stories – not completely anyway. These stories, –snapshots really – included characters, that hurt me so deeply and treated me and my family so recklessly. Reconcile? Death is a type of reconciliation….

 I have watched words wreak havoc in church…the church of the walking wounded. Thinking about participating in that nauseates me.

On the flip side, speaking with a focus on meeting needs is much better. Love covers over a multitude of sins, amen?  It doesn’t have to be my love that covers it. God’s love can cover it.

Letting God do and say things through me sounds easy but it’s not. The temptation to feel vindicated by humanity is very strong. The temptation to be in some way superior … to have all the answers… to get it right… these make their ugly appearances too.

Praise God! God shuts my mouth. Heaven help me when I open it.

I believe Paul called this the war between the spirit and the flesh. War is what it is – a bloody battle of strategy, will, stamina and resources.

22 For I joyfully concur with the law of God [a]in the inner man, 23 but I see a different law in [b]the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner [c]of the law of sin which is in my members.                                                                                                                          Romans 7:22-23 (NASB)

So what do I do that might be helpful to someone in the same tight space? Good question. I train myself.

I train myself to look at those problem people as God’s servants not mine.  If those who wronged me worked for me, they would be punished. They would be corrected in as harsh a way as is viably effective to change their behavior (that does not change hearts by the way). 

But since they, those other church-goers, are God’s servants, they are his problem. Leaving room for God’s wrath is something that is so beneficial to the wronged as well as the wrongdoer. It sets us free to move forward. 

Another thing I have trained myself to do that promotes peace in the family of God is the practice of handing God my ‘sense of justice’ and my ‘hurt’. With my sense of justice verbalized in his presence I feel a camaraderie with him that knits us closer because he is Just and I have been made in His image. With my sense of hurt expressed in His presence  I am washed with his inexpressibly deep love for me.

In close proximity to the conversation above I was granted an opportunity to share these concepts with a young musician at our Wednesday music practice.

So,” he snaps his fingers,”And just like that you give it to God. Every time you have bad thoughts about people you just…”

I wanted to tell him I was perfect… Yep. Got it mastered!

Nope. …Can’t claim that.

How I wish I could.

The very next day I was tested. All day I was thinking about these people who had wronged me or  with whom I disagreed …family members, church people, work associates….. I was stuck in this dark loop-de-loop.

Nothing got done.

My body felt weak.

Long about late afternoon I get this thought, So you trained yourself to…. what was that exactly? Yeah. Not getting that.

Crap! You’re right. Father, God, please clean me up and bring me into line with your word. Help me to get better at this. Please…. I need you.

I thought I was out of the woods, cleaned up and ready to go. I was ready to enjoy life.

Up next – battle three.

Late night chat. I’m tired and talking too much. I want to be the one receiving care and all of a sudden out of my mouth pours deep struggles and heartache.

BOOM. My spirit fell, shell-shocked. I had been defeated…again. Face-planted in blood-stained mud trying to get a glance at what just happened.

I wasn’t battle ready in that moment. My thoughts got me and out they came. My sense of justice became a brainstorm session. My hurt became just another story. I stopped thinking of speaking according to my listener’s need like I am supposed to do. The armor provided by the LORD was nowhere to be seen. (Guess I forgot to put it on – oops.) 

The conclusion of the matter is that I am not the only one training myself.  God trains me. My fingers. My hands, my mouth, my stories, my life…. God is training me. This post is a good picture of what God-training looks like in real life.

If you are being trained by God and it seems horrible, hang in there.

11 All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

Hebrews 12:11(NASB)