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Passion: Any emotion, as hate, love or fear. Intense emotional excitement. The object of any strong desire. Strong and barely controllable emotion.

In moments of desiring to be close to God I craved the rising sound of strong emotions I have seen or heard in others. I wanted passion for God. Wanted to be like it. Desired it. Felt myself inadequate beside it. Found myself not quite matching up. Strived in the midst of defeat after feelings of great excitement.

I have been drawn to the siren’s song of emotion, of experiencing emotion, and thought myself in need of it.

Until one day I failed to obtain it, despite every effort to pray and meditate and pursue…and one day, for one season, my excitement was gone. And I wrestled. Oh, how my soul wrestled! I wrestled with doubt, with insecurity, with wondering. Did I really love God? Did I really love his Word? Have I done something wrong? Have I not prayed enough? Read enough? Served enough? And on. And on.

And it was during this time when I realized, that this failure to experience the passionate emotion for serving and loving and giving and following God, was not what this life was about. And THAT, is when my soul learned this word:

Zeal: Strong interest or devotion. Intense enthusiasm; fervor. A strong feeling or enthusiasm that makes someone very eager or very determined to do something.

Ah, zeal! To be consumed with zeal for the Lord and his truth! The Psalmists speak of zeal for God’s house and God’s truth, amidst those who reject his Word (Ps 119:139, Ps 69:9). The Psalmists stand up for truth, they are determined to hold fast to truth, and they are zealous to obey God’s Word despite any season and any circumstance and any surrounding.

Oh, to be resolute! To be determined! To be devoted to boldly obeying God’s Word no matter the cost. To obey and trust him, even when feelings and emotions are absent. To believe that his commands are worthy to be followed, worthy to be believed, and worthy to be stood upon! To be earnest, to be diligent, and to be persevering!

Now this, I thought, this is what I want to be! This is something I can hold to! Let passion and emotion come as it may, flying over my head and missing me completely, or sweetly landing on my cheeks through my tears with smiles. I want to be one who is devoted to the Word, resolved to obey it, earnest about submitting to it, and steadfastly persevering to pursue it. I want zeal for the Lord to consume me. I want to be utterly determined to stand for the truth that Christ himself zealously, obediently, determinedly, resolutely, bore the intensity of emotion that passions can stir in the human heart, as he hung on the cross enduring shame, suffering, and wrath. My Christ suffered passionately for me, in order that I might live zealously for him.

For us, there is wisdom in understanding emotions and passions are reality but not always Truth. And there is freedom in believing that Truth is a reality that can be clung to with great determination, through all circumstances, in every life stage, despite emotions, no matter what.

I am looking for those who are determined, resolute, and earnest about obeying Christ. Those who are willing to persevere during dry seasons, during hard seasons, during sad seasons, during glad seasons, during happy and joyful and abundant seasons. I want to walk zealously with you. Will you walk zealously with me?

who should do the dishes?

There seems to be a focus on “work” as of late. At least in my world there is; there are sermons about it, books about it, and blogs about it. In our little circle, we praise God for the good truths he encourages us with in this area.

In the midst of the encouragement these sermons, books and blogs bring, though, there can also be cause for pride, self-righteousness, comparison, criticalness…I could go on…and it has to do with, of all things, the dishes.

Who should do the dishes, I hear? Where do the dishes fit in to work, I read? Many praises to the man who finds time to schedule dishes in to his work day, I hear! Many praises to the woman who brings this ‘issue’ to light, I see!

I hear these questions from women, and I wonder about what’s really going on in the heart.

I once heard a leader in our church tell us that he helped his wife with the dishes. At the time, I felt embarrassment and shame, because my husband didn’t help me with the dishes at all. I thought to myself, if he truly loves me, if he truly loves God, if he truly wants to serve his family, he should be helping me with the dishes like this person.

Comparison. Judgment. Condemnation. Criticalness. All these things grew in my heart towards my husband with a simple snap of my fingers.

The result? I quickly connived of the best scenario to bring this topic up to my husband. My mind was full of manipulating circumstances, planning the kindest of conversation, and a desire to control his actions and his heart’s condition to his “betterment.” My opinion and desire in this matter seemed logical and spiritual and, of course, best. I knew where he needed to grow, I knew how he should serve, and I knew that he needed to hear from me. I knew, I knew, I knew…

In essence, it was all about me. What will others think? And by golly, I am entitled to help! I do all the laundry and clean the house and make the food, bathe the baby, and he should be helping with the dishes!

In thinking this way, I was virtually unconcerned with what he thought. What he did all day. Where he felt the freedom to serve. What he thought his strengths and his weaknesses were. What he thought my strengths and weaknesses were. I neglected to take into account the tasks and duties and chores of husband and father he already performed.

In my gumption to conform him to my will I was unconcerned with his motives in serving. I didn’t care if my coercion would result in his heart being a heart serving out of force and sugary sweet badgering. I didn’t think about how his heart would likely be dwelling in a condition of negativity, resentment and unwillingness. I cared about my ideas, what would serve me best, and what would look best to others. I was self-righteous.

What shame! What tragedy! The human heart can be so very deceitful, above all things. It can be so self-absorbed and love so little those dearest to it. And the consequence for husbands can be a heart full of defeat, thinking and feeling that they have failed us and our expectations very badly, indeed.

But thanks be to God! Who rescues us from this wretched body of death, who shows us of these deceiving ways, and brings us the light of his Son and illuminates with brilliancy the shame and tragedy of this way of thinking. Through the cross our God brings us close to the light, and gives us pleasant places where we plant ourselves in his firm soil of truth to grow.

So the question remains: who should do this ‘work’ of the dishes?

My answer for women is this: I don’t know. But I have a question for you in return: what is your motive behind this question? Is it to make your family look spiritual? Is it to save face before other wives? Is it to make your opinions known? Is it to make sure your work is well known, well-spoken of, not neglected, not forgotten? Is it to make every effort to defend your role? Is it to make your name known?

Certainly there is a time and place to address concerns and needs with our husbands, to share responsibility, and to express our feelings and opinions. Ladies, by all means, allow and encourage your men to help with the dishes! But as you do it, take care of your own heart. Let’s not be women who are eager to be in the spotlight of our churches, or circles of friends, or homes. Rather, let’s be more like Christ, even in these small matters. Let’s humble ourselves, let’s be selfless, let’s not be demanding, let’s not pursue selfish ambition in this matter of dishes (or the laundry, or picking up socks, or whatever it may be for your family). Let’s take on the form of a servant, as Christ did, that God might highly exalt us. Let’s be blameless and innocent, well-known as being children of God who shine as light! Let’s hold fast to the word of life when we are tempted to grumble and complain about the dishes being undone, and know that we can be glad and rejoice that Christ has died for just such a time as this, to take care of our hearts’ complaints in the dailiness of life, to empower us to pray through these times, and to pour out wisdom and discernment for these moments upon his children who ask for it.

Do not fret, be not anxious, but present all your requests to God, who promises to hear you from heaven and care for you. He has given you everything you need for life and godliness in this life; he will give you and your husband everything you need for working heartedly, as unto him, even with those dishes.

I signed my daughter up for her first running race. When I told her about it, she was worried about winning. “Mommy, do you win the races you do?” “No, I’ve never won any of my races, Maddie. I don’t do it to win; I just do it for fun. Because I enjoy it, I have fun when I’m running.”

This has been on my mind since, and I’ve thought, is this all I run for? Because it’s fun? Because I enjoy it? Hasn’t God taught me much about my faith and hasn’t he shown me much about the motives of my heart, the priorities in my life, and the glory that he alone must and shall receive in all my slow running efforts? Lord forgive me for keeping my mouth shut about his goodness and his glory in that moment with her.

This morning, the two of us went out to “practice running.” She chattered away about a fly and the birds she heard and anything else that came to her mind. She did well, I was proud of her. She didn’t complain once (!!), and towards the end of our run, I encouraged her with the kinds of truths I should have done before. “God can teach us a lot through running, Maddie. He teaches us about perseverance and endurance. Remember how we learned that he wants us to run to him in prayer? We can learn to keep running to him in prayer and in the Word as we learn how to run with our legs. We learn to keep going, we learn to endure, and we learn to keep running. Thank you God, for our strong legs so that we can keep running! Teach us to run to you!”

And as we finished, I said to her, “Way to go Maddie! You did it! You persevered and endured to the end!” She had a big smile on her face.

It made me think, might this be the kind of thing we teach our children? Whether we run, swim, or cycle, whether we play basketball, soccer, tennis or golf…might the disciplines we learn in these activities translate into biblical exhortations for our children? Because, if we assume they’ll know how to glorify God in these ventures, we assume wrong.

And what about us? What do they see in us as they watch us? What motives do they see? What words do they hear? Is it all about losing weight? Being great? Looking great? Winning? Staying healthy? And, is this all it’s really about for us? Those are all valid reasons but for the believer, is it all it can be about?

This is what the world would tell us. But God has given several reminders in his Word that his people are not to think like the world thinks. We are to think differently, to believe differently, and to be motivated differently.

For the believer, physical training is good but it is secondary. For the believer, we are to love God first with all our mind, soul, and strength.

Our children will see our priorities. Christian, do you seek your exercise more than his Word? What, believer, is your daily priority? How do you honor God with your motives in exercise?

If we are to exalt Christ in our own minds, if we are to work as unto the Lord in all matters, if we are to proclaim Christ in this life, surely we must do this in our exercise, too. We can’t leave it out. How can we teach our children to thank God for food in our bellies, sweet friends, and good daddies, and ignore the state of their hearts towards their physical activities? When we sign them up for dance, soccer, swimming, tennis…do we even mention how God can be honored in these activities? Teaching them to be healthy, to develop good skills, and to relate to others is good. But translating it through the lense of the gospel is best.

When we say exercise keeps us healthy and strong…let’s say it keeps us healthy and strong so that we are physically able to serve the Lord; legs ready, hands prepared and minds alert to do the task when it comes.

When we say it develops good skills and disciplines…let’s say it does so in order to prepare us for the work God has for us and to ready us to enter his Kingdom; endurance, perseverance, commitment, focus.

When we say it nurtures friendships and teaches us to work as a team…let’s say it gives us every opportunity for God to grow us in Christ-likeness; bearing spiritual fruit in our hearts, as we learn patience, faithfulness, kindness, and love.

Let’s not think like the world thinks about exercise. For those of us who want this to be a priority in our own lives and in the lives of our children…whether we do it “for fun” or whether we do it “to lose weight,” let’s be silent ourselves for a moment before the Lord, and search our own hearts. Let’s allow God to reveal how little we may have prioritized him in these things, how we may have demonstrated to our children worldly perspectives in these areas, and repent. Our children are watching us, learning from us, and following our examples. Let’s make a commitment to put prayer and the Word first in our life, exercise second, and let God teach us how to teach our children the same.

 

an evidence of maturity

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;

fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 1:7

My husband and I just began reading through Proverbs together today. After a few observations upon the text, our conversation went something like this:

I never want to be in a place where I despise wisdom and instruction, and become a fool…Sometimes I think I’m a fool in little ways, maybe not in the grand, bigger direction of my life, but in daily things. Like…the way I respond to someone who gives me instruction.

I am amazed at two of my friends, Leah and Mackenzie. They are two of the most teachable people I know in moments of “confrontation.” I have seen this about each of them for years. How many times have I asked them questions? Held them accountable? Taught them something that maybe they didn’t really want to know in the first place? Offered my unsolicited opinions? How many times? How many? It feels like countless times, to me.

These two women in my life demonstrate a much greater level of spiritual maturity in times of “personal confrontation” than I seem to in similar circumstances. I think, these two friends of mine, how often have they asked me? Held me? Taught me? Offered to me? Or perhaps better phrased to suit my meaning, how often have I let them?

In those moments of addressing sin, wrong perceptions, or false perspectives, I have to be careful. Me, who “discerns” and “picks up” on things, can pretty easily cross the line of acting with wisdom, and step easily into foolishness. Me, who may view myself as “mature” in those moments of addressing “issues,” and as being one who “doesn’t let things go left unspoken,” at times can really be quite immature. Self-righteousness has a way of creeping up even in the midst of obedience.

I wonder, if there is ever a lack of people around us – wise, discerning, grace-filled and loving people – letting us know about our own misconceptions and sin, and if it seems that we never grieve anyone or wrong anyone ever… if this actually reveals a place of immaturity? Perhaps pride has creeped in unawares. Perhaps people see some unteachableness in our hearts, some self-righteousness in our attitudes. Perhaps we have given ourselves and others a false perception of our own maturity. I wonder this, about myself, mostly.

And, these thoughts lead me to wonder also, are we quick to go to others and confess our sin because we really are convicted? Or because we want to “beat them to punch” so to speak, before they have a chance to confront us? Are we confessing out of self-righteous motives? Wanting to avoid dealing with the pride we must fight, and those feelings of defending and justifying our actions if someone corrected us? Is it a way of making sure others know our “rightness” in our right decisions and our “obedience” in our obedience? I admit to you I see these schemes in my own heart at times.

Ah, but glory be to God, these ponderings of the heart cause me to cry! Glory be to God who gives us people of wisdom, people who know prudence, people who have insight and understanding! Because when we are confronted with sin, when others teach us, when there are those who may have a correction or recommendation for us, it is opportunity to not be a fool who despises wisdom and instruction. It is opportunity to grow in righteousness and humility, and it is opportunity to grow in the fear of the Lord. All glory, we can cry, to the one who saw our self-righteous, foolish ways, and provided his Son to die for this need, too.

My son, if you receive my words…you will

understand the fear of the LORD

and find the knowledge of God.

Proverbs 2:1, 5

 

in hope i believe

May it be said of me, then, that…

In hope Jane believed against hope (against overwhelming odds, against her sin, against her circumstances) that she should become a wholehearted, steadfast, resolute, pure and holy daughter of the living God of hope and be delivered day by day from the entanglements and stumblings of sin for all her days here on earth, just as she had been told, “It is for freedom you have been set free!”

She did not weaken in faith when she considered herself and the weakness of her own body, speech, appearance, and personality which were all just as good as dead anyways (since she was quiet and tearful and hunched over and introverted and slow to argue and quick to be opinionated and stubborn and impatient and prideful). Or when she considered the circumstances of her life (her husband’s schedule, her child’s school, her only child, her “stuff”, her husband’s “stuff”, her rental home, her lack of funds, her not very clean house, her books stacked on floors, her pots and dishes stacked on floors, her very normal and not very dramatic yet very traumatizing in her own mind life).

No unbelief made her waver concerning the promise of God (though it was there at times!), but (instead) she grew strong in her faith (she did not allow unbelief to take over) as she gave glory to God (this is what kept her eyes off of unbelief and doubt and caused her faith to increase with great strength), fully convinced (more and more and more) that God was able to do what he had promised.

That is why her faith will be ‘counted to her as righteousness.’ Because she believes in him who raised from the dead Jesus her Lord, who was delivered up for her trespasses and raised for her justification!

Therefore! Since she has been justified by faith, she has peace with God through her Lord Jesus Christ. Through him she has also obtained access by faith in this grace in which she stands, and she rejoices in hope of the glory of God.

Not only that, but she rejoices in her sufferings (those trials and circumstances and all those silly things listed), because she knows that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.

And hope does not put her to shame, no! Because God’s love has been poured into her heart through the Holy Spirit who has been given to her. For while she was still so, so, so weak (failing every day, unable to keep up with the Jones’, unable to always be nice, unable to be very compassionate, unable to give generously, unable to keep judging and blaming attitudes at bay), Christ died for her. God showed his love for her, that while she was still a sinner (reckless, unloving, wanting to remain unloving, wanting to be right), Christ died for her!

May it be said of me, then, that I am one who rejoices.

May it be said of me…and may it be said of you.

(taken from Romans 4:18 – 5:11)

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