Category Archives: love

(becoming) closer to God through Proverbs 6, part 5c: a heart that devises wicked schemes

Hearts cascading into each other, gradient

As we discussed in the last post, the problems of an unclean heart are major – and we cannot solve them ourselves.  That doesn’t mean our situation is hopeless, however.  There is one (and only one) cure for unclean hearts: God’s love.  Only God is able to transform our selfish hearts into selfless hearts, hearts filled with love for Him and for others.

This week we’ll look at the effects of that transformation.

Some of the effects of this transformation are visible.  When we have God’s love in our hearts, we can see a difference in the way we treat others:

Through [Jesus] you believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.  Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.  For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.  (1 Peter 1:21-23)

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.  (1 Peter 3:15-16)

The verses above show that our clean hearts are often evident in our actions.  We obey God’s truth and show active love for others.  We are prepared to talk to others about our faith – but we do so with gentleness and respect.

In the last post, we discussed the close relationship also between the condition of our hearts and our words – but mostly with a focus on the negative.  In contrast, we see the positive aspects of this relationship when we have God’s love in our heart.  When His love is in our hearts, our words reflect that:

I have set the LORD always before me.
Because he is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices (Psalm 16:8-9a)

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.  (Romans 15:5-7)

And, as these verses, suggest, while we are dependent on God’s grace in all of this, He does not intend for either our hearts or our mouths to be passive in this process.  The Bible regularly encourages its readers to actively employ their hearts and mouths – and all they are – in service to God:

Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  (Ephesians 5:19b-20)

In fact, the Bible teaches that both our hearts and our mouths play a part in our salvation.  Paul writes (referring to a passage from Deuteronomy),

But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,”that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.  (Romans 10:8-10)

And while (as Paul reminds us elsewhere) salvation is a gift from God that we can never earn, we must decide how to respond to God’s gift.  The response God calls us to begins in our hearts – but it cannot end there.  It isn’t just a feeling we get one day, and it’s not a matter of completing a church ritual.  A true belief will affect the way we live.  (As Paul also said, “‘I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds’” (Acts 26:20).)  A heart that truly accepts the love of God will respond with loving words and actions.

Again, please don’t get caught up in rituals here, which vary from culture to culture.  What matters is that our response to God’s gift of salvation changes us inside AND outside.

And of course, the most important part of having God’s love in our hearts is the effect it has on our relationship with Him.  When we have God’s love in our hearts, we are closer to God:

LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary?
Who may live on your holy hill?

He whose walk is blameless
and who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from his heart
and has no slander on his tongue,
who does his neighbor no wrong
and casts no slur on his fellowman,
who despises a vile man
but honors those who fear the LORD,
who keeps his oath
even when it hurts,
who lends his money without usury
and does not accept a bribe against the innocent.

He who does these things
will never be shaken.  (Psalm 15)

As the passage above says, we can dwell with God when our hearts are right with Him.  And it is this relationship with God that provides us with assurance of our status as His beloved children:

Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.  (2 Corinthians 1:21-22)

Furthermore, it is in this loving relationship with God that we find His joy and peace:

Sing to him, sing praise to him;
tell of all his wonderful acts.
Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

Look to the LORD and his strength;
seek his face always.  (1 Chronicles 16:9-11)

But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.  (John 14:26-27)

Clean hearts – hearts transformed by God’s amazing love – are wonderful things.  However, as the last verse suggests, clean hearts can be hard to maintain.  So many things that can dirty our hearts beg for our attention.  Next week we’ll look at the problems our clean hearts face – and the resources God has provided for us in our struggle to keep our hearts clean.

Next Week: a heart that devises wicked schemes, part 4

Last Week: a heart that devises wicked schemes, part 2

Start of the Series: (becoming) closer to God through Proverbs 6

 

Want to read more?

Can your marriage help the next generation?  I think so: why YOUR strong marriage matters to kids that aren’t yours

Is nagging our husbands really a problem?  Why I think it is: How culture is sabotaging our marriages

Feeling overwhelmed by all of your obligations?  Try: the superwoman complex or mary and martha

You know that annoying person you try to avoid?  Yeah, me too….: what to do about annoying people

Ready to ramp up your relationship with God?  Try: Quiet time OR Try: Constant Conversation

Start of the wisdom series: (becoming) wise, part one

Start of the fully submitted series: (becoming) fully submitted

(becoming) closer to God through Proverbs 6, part 5b: a heart that devises wicked schemes

As we discussed last week, all of us have some issues with maintaining a clean heart.  So today we’re going to look at our hearts: where they start, the problems they face (and cause), and what God does (and wants) for our hearts.

Our hearts are naturally wicked.  They are naturally drawn to sin (selfishness), and, apart from God, they will remain in this state.

The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?  (Jeremiah 17:9)

As it is written:
“There is no one righteous, not even one;
there is no one who understands,
no one who seeks God.
All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.”  (Romans 3:10-12)

This problem with our hearts has consequences:

King Rehoboam established himself firmly in Jerusalem and continued as king. He was forty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned seventeen years in Jerusalem, the city the LORD had chosen out of all the tribes of Israel in which to put his Name. His mother’s name was Naamah; she was an Ammonite.  He did evil because he had not set his heart on seeking the LORD.  (2 Chronicles 12:13-14)                                                                                                                                 

King Rehoboam’s heart was not set on seeking God – because of this, he did evil.  We simply cannot be good on our own.  Our goodness comes from setting our hearts on the One who is good.

Having selfish, unclean hearts causes a variety of problems for us and for those around us.  One way we can detect this problem is by recognizing the fruit our unclean hearts produce. 

One type of fruit we produce is our words.  Our hearts and our words have a very close relationship.  When our hearts are unclean, our words often reflect that.

Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers.  The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.  (Luke 6:44-45)

The verse above reminds us that we can often tell by our words if our hearts are unclean.  I’m not talking here about specific “bad words.”  I’m speaking, instead, about whether or not our speech is full of love and directed towards God’s purposes.  We can use lots of very nice-sounding words and be directly opposed to God’s Will.  Likewise, some people whose speech is “rougher” are directly aligned with God’s Will.  I’m talking about motive, tone, purpose, and being aligned with God’s will – not about specific words –because nearly any word can be used to accomplish or oppose God’s purposes, and can come from a selfish or a God-serving heart.  Language is cultural; love and selfishness are not.  Are your words coming from the overflow of good or the overflow of evil in your heart?

While our words can indicate if our heart is clean or unclean, so can our actions.  The verse below reminds us what types of actions spring from an unclean heart.  (For specifics on some of these “fruits,” click on one of the underlined words in the verse.

He went on: “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’  For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and follyAll these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.’” (Mark 7:20-23)

While many times our words and actions indicate the condition of our heart, Scripture also reminds us that not all the fruit of an unclean heart can be seen from the outside.  In fact, some people are able to hide their unclean hearts from the people around them for years.  [“The sins of some men are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them.”  (1 Timothy 5:24)]  Most of us know these people.  They seem like such “good” people, but are later revealed not to be.  We’re surprised because they seemed “good” on the outside.  If you suspect you’re one of these people (that is, if you know you harbor envy, deceit, malice, hatred, etc., in your heart, and you aren’t allowing God to work on you in that area), remember the following: 

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.  But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.  Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil.  (James 3:13-15)

Continuing to deny the truth about your heart will only lead to destruction.  Do not be proud that you have others fooled.  Turn to God in repentance and allow Him to begin His redemptive work.  Remember, even if you’ve fooled those around you, God is not fooled by people who pretend to love Him, but actually have unclean hearts:

The LORD does not look at the things man looks at.   Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.  (1 Samuel16:7b)

We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts.  (1 Thessalonians 2:4b)

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.  (Hebrews 4:12-13)

In addition to leading to problematic words, actions, thoughts, and attitudes towards others, an unclean heart separates us from God – especially unclean hearts that we are not repentant about:

The Lord says:

“These people come near to me with their mouth
and honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.

Their worship of me
is made up only of rules taught by men.  (Isaiah 29:13)

Again: God isn’t fooled by empty rituals or a strict following of church rules.  He sees through our attempts to whitewash our wicked hearts.  And He isn’t impressed by the fact that we say the “right” words in front of the “right” people.  And He certainly isn’t impressed when we try to earn our salvation by following church rules.

The problems of an unclean heart are major – and we cannot solve them ourselves.  That doesn’t mean our situation is hopeless, however.  There is one (and only one) cure for unclean hearts: God’s love.  Only God is able to transform our selfish hearts into selfless hearts, hearts filled with love for Him and for others.

Next week we’ll look more at this transformation.

 

Next Week: a heart that devises wicked schemes, part 3

Last Week: a heart that devises wicked schemes, part 1

Start of the Series: (becoming) closer to God through Proverbs 6

 

Want to read more?

You know that annoying person you try to avoid?  Yeah, me too….: what to do about annoying people

Ready to ramp up your relationship with God?  Try: Quiet time OR Try: Constant Conversation

Feeling overwhelmed by all of your obligations?  Try: the superwoman complex or mary and martha

Can your marriage help the next generation?  I think so: why YOUR strong marriage matters to kids that aren’t yours

Is nagging our husbands really a problem?  Why I think it is: How culture is sabotaging our marriages

Start of the wisdom series: (becoming) wise, part one

Start of the fully submitted series: (becoming) fully submitted

(becoming) closer to God through Proverbs 6, part 4: hands that shed innocent blood

There are six things the LORD hates,
   seven that are detestable to him:
haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
a false witness who pours out lies
and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.  (Proverbs 6:16-19)

Hands that Shed Innocent Blood

Given that murder is the ultimate bloodshed, it’s important to remember John’s words: “Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.”  –1 John 3:15

This is a powerful statement, especially given the Biblical definitions of “love” and “hate.”  The rest of this post will be written with John’s definition of “murder” in mind.

I think the questions about this item can be broken into two categories.  First, do I actively participate in this sin:

1. Do I intentionally harm innocent people?

Do not move an ancient boundary stone or encroach the fields of the fatherless, for their Defender is strong; he will take up their case against you.  (Proverbs 23:10-11)

Remember that God is the Defender of the innocent.  If you’re not the innocent in a given situation, who is your defender?

2. Do I seek to serve myself despite knowing that my actions will hurt others?

A wicked man accepts a bribe in secret to pervert the course of justice.  (Proverbs 17:23)

Are you willing harm others for the right price?  And remember, the “price” isn’t necessarily money.  It could be attention, preferential treatment, accolades, etc.  What is your price?

3. Do I seek to serve myself without considering how this might affect others?

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interest of others. (Philippians 2:3-4)

It’s so easy for us to take action thoughtlessly.  We don’t set out to hurt others, we just don’t care if we do – at least not as much as we care about our own interests.  In the verse above, God asks us to “consider others” and to look “to the interests of others.”  He’s asking us to actively concern ourselves with how our actions affect those around us – and those far away.

The second category of questions deals with passively committing this sin:  Even if I’m not actively shedding innocent blood, am I doing anything to stop those who are?  And am I applying tourniquets to the wounded?  Some questions to consider in this regard:

4. Do I look for ways to help and protect the innocent?

It is not good to punish an innocent man, or to flog officials for their integrity.  (Proverbs 17:26)

Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent — the Lord detests them both.  (Proverbs 17:15)

Seeking to right injustices can seem like an incredibly daunting task – and no one person can take up every worthy cause.  However, we should be asking God what cause(s) He wants us involved in.  (For advice about how to help without becoming overwhelmed by the problems in our world, click here: avoiding the superwoman complex.)

5. Do I look for ways to help those who are hurting?

Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land.  (Proverbs 25:25)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.  (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)

While some people are certainly more gifted at offering comfort to those who are hurting, we’re all capable of genuinely showing an interest in and a concern for other people.  Do you shy away from those opportunities?  Most of us wouldn’t let a man bleed to death, but many of us will watch a man grieve to death.

6. Do I stand up for those who need an advocate?

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.  Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (Proverbs 31:8-9)

As we discussed above, God is the ultimate defender of the innocent — but He wants us to be involved in this work.  In many situations, this means actively opposing their oppressors.  In such cases, there is a temptation to fool ourselves into thinking that we can remain neutral.  We can’t.  In such cases, remaining “neutral” is just a cowardly attempt to abandon the weak to their oppressors without making ourselves look bad.  God is not fooled:

 10 If you falter in times of trouble,
how small is your strength!

 11 Rescue those being led away to death;
hold back those staggering toward slaughter.
12 If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,”
does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who guards your life know it?
Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?  (Proverbs 24:10-12)

God is not neutral in such situations, and when He calls us to advocate for the innocent, He has called us to His side.  We can accept His call or reject it, but we can’t stay neutral.  God has chosen His side.  Which side are you on?

Challenge: This week, go beyond not actively shedding innocent blood, and ask God how you He would have you protect the innocent and bandage the wounded.

Next Week: a heart that devises wicked schemes

Last Week: a lying tongue, part 3c

Start of the Series: (becoming) closer to God through Proverbs 6

Want to read more?

You know that annoying person you try to avoid?  Yeah, me too….: what to do about annoying people

Ready to ramp up your relationship with God?  Try: Quiet time OR Try: Constant Conversation

Feeling overwhelmed by all of your obligations?  Try: the superwoman complex or mary and martha

Can your marriage help the next generation?  I think so: why YOUR strong marriage matters to kids that aren’t yours

Is nagging our husbands really a problem?  Why I think it is: How culture is sabotaging our marriages

Start of the wisdom series: (becoming) wise, part one

Start of the fully submitted series: (becoming) fully submitted

(becoming) closer to God through Proverbs 6, part 3b: a lying tongue (continued)

As we discussed last week, breaking the habit of lying is very important.  However, even for those of us who don’t consistently lie, this occasional sin can still be very damaging.  [To see the list of questions from last week, click here: lying questions.]

First, I think it’s important to recognize the ramifications of lying.  Many of us start out with small lies — lies designed to avoid some small conflict or to get our way in some petty matter or to present our side of some minor disagreement in a slightly better light.  One problem with this is that once people know we lie, they know we’re liars. 

If I know a person will lie about a minor event just to avoid facing a small consequence, I have no reason to believe that person will be honest with me about important issues.  As Jesus said, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much” (Luke 16:10).  And while I still have a responsibility to love that person, I can’t really trust her, and we can only ever be so close.  This is unfortunate when it happens between casual acquaintances, but it’s heartbreaking when it happens between close friends or family members.  When you can’t trust your husband or wife — the person in the world you should be closest to — it’s often much more difficult to trust anyone.  And when children can’t trust their parents, their ability to trust others is often distorted as well.  The ramifications of lying aren’t small.  Even when a lie seems small, the effects are big. 

And lying doesn’t just erode trust; it can also corrupt the character of those around us.  As Proverbs 29:12 reminds us: “If a ruler listens to lies, all his officials become wicked.”  If parents (or others in positions of authority) listen to, believe, and even reward lies, those under their care will be much more likely to lie.  If my students see a classmate lie to me, and see that lying gets him out of trouble, other students may be tempted to lie to me too.  This is one reason why it’s so important for parents and others in positions of authority to be discerning.  It also stands to reason that if those under our care see us lying, they will also be tempted to lie.

And this corrupting of others’ characters is problematic for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that “Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right”  (Proverbs 20:11).  When our lying or acceptance of lies corrupts the character of our children (or others under our authority), their reputations and relationships eventually suffer as well.   This process backs up what we’re told in Proverbs 26:28a: “A lying tongue hates those it hurts.”  When we properly understand “love” as in terms of selfless service, it’s easy to see the hatefulness of our lies – which are almost always told out of selfishness (for self-preservation, self-esteem, etc.).

In the end, lying is sin (selfishness) that puts our (often short-term) desires in front of the best interests of others (often others who have been placed in our care).

The consequences above focus on others.  It’s important, too, to look at what lying does to the liar.  For instance:

The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.  (Proverbs 11:3)

Our lies will eventually catch up to us.  Even if no particular lie has catastrophic consequences, the erosion of trust in our relationships often does – consequences such as divorce, a choice that damages everyone involved in the process.  And lying damages the most important relationship in our lives: our relationship with God.  Sin separates us from God.  With each lie we tell, we take a step away from God.  [Consider how far away your lies have taken you from God.]

Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only for a moment.  (Proverbs 12:19)

A man of perverse heart does not prosper; he whose tongue is deceitful falls into trouble.  (Proverbs 17:20) 

It often doesn’t take too long (in the grand scheme of things) for a lie to be found out, even here on earth.  But even lies that are taken to the grave have extreme eternal consequences – because even lies that fool those around us don’t fool God.  Lies will ultimately cause us to “fall into trouble” with the one who has the power of life and death over us, our ultimate Judge.

“But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.”  (Matthew 12:36)

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.  (2 Corinthians 5:10)

As we discussed in the previous post, one fear liars often have to live with is the fear of being found out.  God assures us in the verses above, we’ve already been found out.  And one day, we’ll have to own up to each lie.  There is no getting out of this, no moment when you’ve finally outrun your lie.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.  (Galatians 6:7-8)

When we fool those around us with our lies (at least temporarily), we often think we’ve gotten away with something.  We haven’t.  God cannot be fooled or mocked.  Our concern for concealing our dishonesty is a mockery to God.  Either we think we’ve gotten one over on God (we haven’t), or we’ve forgotten about His role in this entirely (bad idea).

There is, of course, good news!  The end of the verse above reminds us that when we live in the Spirit (which will produce honesty, among other things), we reap eternal life.  Nothing is better than that!  There are, however, other advantages to telling the truth, even for our lives today.  We’ll look at those next week!

Next Week: a lying tongue, continued again

Last Week: a lying tongue

Start of the Series: (becoming) closer to God through Proverbs 6

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Start of the wisdom series: (becoming) wise, part one

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Start the fully submitted series: (becoming) fully submitted

(becoming) closer to God through Proverbs 6, part 2: haughty eyes

Prestbury war memorial - northern face "G...

"God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Haughty Eyes

Of course the list of things God hates starts here.  Just in case I thought I was going to go into this series of posts feeling pretty proud of my ability to hate the wicked things God hates, I have to start with the one I have the most trouble with.

The first item on the list in Proverbs 6 of seven things God detests is “haughty eyes” – proud eyes, in other words.  The question, then, is this: Are there areas of pride in your life?

Below are some questions that might help us focus on this area.  (And it was helpful to me to really try to answer these as I wrote them.  I didn’t always like the honest answer, but as we’ll talk about in the next post, God also hates dishonesty.  So trying to cover up my pride with dishonesty is probably not a good choice. 🙂 )

1. Do I feel superior to others with regard to intelligence?  Or education?  Or accomplishments?  Or finances?  Or appearance?  Or patience?  Or wisdom?  Or holiness?  Or ……..?  (And am I too proud to see the irony in almost all of this?)

2. Do I look down on others because of these perceived differences?  Do I ever treat others differently because of this?  Am I less likely to associate with people I see as less intelligent, attractive, etc.?  Do I avoid people who look or dress a certain way?  Etc.

3. Do I take pride in my gifts and accomplishments (or the gifts and accomplishments of my husband or children) without remembering to give God the honor and credit and thanks?

4. Do I feel that I “deserve” certain things?  A certain size of house?  Certain clothes?  A certain amount of respect because of my job or wisdom or other gifts and accomplishments?

5. Do I act like I want to help people, but secretly enjoy thinking I’m better than them?

Most of us can answer “yes” to at least one part of one of these 5 questions.  So, if that’s the case, how do we start fixing our haughty eyes?

First, I think it’s important to remember whom we are apart from God: No one.  We are condemned, helpless souls.  With God, though?  We are children of the King.  We are recipients of His blessings.  That’s where we get all of our intelligence, wisdom, holiness, wealth, beauty, patience, and so on.  From God.  Each of these is a blessing that He’s chosen to give us.  And this is true of “the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45).   All blessings come from God – “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17) –  whether or not we decide to acknowledge it.  So, no reason for pride there.  God tells us this in Jeremiah 9:23-24:

            This is what the LORD says:

   “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom
or the strong man boast of his strength
or the rich man boast of his riches,
24 but let him who boasts boast about this:
that he understands and knows me,
that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness,
justice and righteousness on earth,
for in these I delight,”
declares the LORD.

What do we have to boast about?  Knowing God!  And the more we know God, the more we know we don’t have anything else to boast about.  Think you have something else to boast about?  Use that as a motivation to get to know God better!

Paul knew where his pride should be too, when he said in 2 Corinthians 12:9:

But he [God] said to me [Paul], “‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

So there’s another thing we can boast about: God’s strength in our weaknesses.

And Paul wrote in Galatians 6:14:

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

So there’s another thing: the cross.

Finally, in 1 John 2:16, John reminds us where our desire to boast about ourselves comes from:

For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world.

So, to summarize: God hates selfish pride and boasting.  Our desire to boast about ourselves (or our families, etc.) comes from the world, not from God.  The only things we really have to boast about are knowing God, God’s strength in our weakness, and the cross.

So what does this mean for us in our daily lives?  A couple of things:

1. We have to get rid of our selfish boasting.  This doesn’t mean we can never tell our friends that our son scored a goal or our daughter got an “A” or our husband got promoted.  What it does mean is we have to do those things prayerfully.

Before the words come out of your mouth, ask yourself (and God) these two things:

 a. Can I honestly say that I am sharing this information in a way that encourages someone else or brings glory to God?

b. Does God want me to share this information right now?

 Asking these two questions has kept me quiet on numerous occasions.  And it’s HARD.  Boasting is a really natural thing to do.  We want to feel good about ourselves and our families, and we want others to as well.  But whose glory are we seeking in this case?  We should be seeking God’s glory and helping point others to Him.  Does what you’re about to say meet either of those goals?

2. We have to get rid of pride.  Boasting is the outward manifestation of a prideful heart.  Getting rid of boasting is important, but it doesn’t solve our heart issue.  The pride in our hearts (maybe even pride about the fact that we aren’t boastful!) is the real problem.  Remember, “The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

A couple places to start with this:

a. Focus on building others up.  When you’re talking with a friend, for instance, resolve to only ask questions about what she’s talking about, instead of steering the conversation toward yourself.

b. Memorize some of the verses above to defend yourself against the devil when he tempts you to be prideful — and he will.  Don’t let the devil turn a gift or accomplishment God has blessed you with into an occasion for sin!

What have you found that helps you guard your heart against pride?

Read Part 3a of the series: (becoming) closer to God through Proverbs 6, part 3a — a lying tongue

Missed Part One of this series?  Click here: (becoming) closer to God through Proverbs 6, part 1

Want to read more?

Start of the wisdom series: (becoming) wise, part one

Start of the role model series: (becoming) a role model, part one

Start of the stewardship series: (becoming) a good steward

Start of the wife series: (becoming) a godly wife

Start the fully submitted series: (becoming) fully submitted

(becoming) closer to God through Proverbs 6, part 1

There are six things the LORD hates,
   seven that are detestable to him:
haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
a false witness who pours out lies
and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.  (Proverbs 6:16-19)

We’re often reminded by others to love what and whom God loves — orphans, widows, the outcast; justice, mercy, and even love itself.  And, I think, as women, this can play to our natural strengths of nurturing and caring and protecting.  We often have a tendency to see the good in everyone and everything — to allow a wide berth for error, for ourselves and others.  And there are times when this is exactly what we should do — especially where others are concerned.  If God, through Jesus, was not gracious toward our errors, all of us would be on an irreversible path to hell.

There is a danger in our mercy, though.  God, of course, displays mercy perfectly.  We imperfectly mimic.  For all the mercy God shows, He doesn’t let go of justice.  His mercy, in its perfection, doesn’t become a condoning of sin.  But, too often, our rough imitation of God’s mercy turns into just that — a quiet, yet powerful approval of the very things God hates.

So, without letting go of the mercy that is so close to God’s heart (see Micah 6:8 – one of my all-time favorite verses), we have to call sin sin and allow God to strip it from our lives.  This, then, is the second way we get closer to God — not only by loving the things He loves, but also by getting rid of the things in us that He hates.

If our ultimate goal is to know God more intimately, to be always closer to Him, then both are important.  Harboring habits and attributes He hates will affect our closeness with Him.  And this isn’t about the debatables.  As far as I can tell from reading the Bible, our closeness with God doesn’t hinge on whether we’ve been dunked or sprinkled, whether we sing contemporary songs with pounding drums or hymns with an organ.

Similarly, my father-in-law and I don’t actually dislike each other over the fact that we rarely root for the same teams.  (I love the Titans and he’s under the mistaken impression that the Colts are somehow a better team.)  Instead, those differences help make our family, and our interactions, interesting.  At times this type of difference in preferences can even bring us closer.  Good-natured ribbing, the lively conversation during the games, and the fellowship at diners where he has to buy me breakfast when my March Madness pick wins (yet again) all bring us closer.

On the other hand, unreconciled differences on more important matters (like personal values, for instance) are a threat to relationships.  If my father-in-law and I differed in belief about the equality of all people, regardless of race — that would cause a gulf.  If he harbored racism in his heart, we could only ever be so close.  Something that distasteful to me, about something that important, could not help but negatively affect my relationship with Him.

In a similar way, God isn’t likely to fight with us over football teams — but there will be a gulf between us as long as we harbor in our hearts the very things God tells us He detests.

So, using Proverbs 6:16-19 as our starting point, we’re going to look at seven things God detests.  And along the way, we’ll look at other passages to help us see why God hates these things, where they might hide in our own lives, and how we can carve them out of our hearts — which will allow us to fill our hearts and lives more fully each day with God and His love.

This Week’s Challenge: Just glancing at the list, which of these seven things do you think you naturally have the most trouble with?  Spend some time in the next week asking God to help you begin working on that.

Read part two of the series: (becoming) closer to God through Proverbs 6, part 2 (haughty eyes)

Want to read more?

You know that annoying person you try to avoid?  Yeah, me too….: what to do about annoying people

Ready to ramp up your relationship with God?  Try: Quiet time OR Try: Constant Conversation

Feeling overwhelmed by all of your obligations?  Try: the superwoman complex or mary and martha

Can your marriage help the next generation?  I think so: why YOUR strong marriage matters to kids that aren’t yours

Start of the wisdom series: (becoming) wise, part one

Start of the fully submitted series: (becoming) fully submitted

Start of the wife series: (becoming) a godly wife

 

Start of the role model series: (becoming) a role model, part one

 

Start of the Christmas series: (becoming) peaceful

Are you a worrier?  Try this post: (becoming) less of a worrier

 

(becoming) a role model, part 3

English: Detail - Inosculated (self-grafted) c...

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I’ll start this post with a plea: If you are not in a God-centered marriage, please seek out godly counsel.  Your pastor may be able to recommend for a Christian counselor.  (Some churches, like the one my husband and I attend, will even pay for the first few sessions, if you can’t.)  If you are uncomfortable asking your pastor, Focus on the Family has a list of Christian counselors across the United States.  Obviously, they can’t guarantee the quality of each one, but having a vetted list to start with is a good first step.

And please: Seek out a woman who is in a joyful, God-centered marriage.  Talk to her.  Ask her questions.  Ask for advice.  If this woman is truly in a God-centered marriage, she isn’t going to judge you for struggling.  She knows how hard marriage can be.  And she’ll be thrilled to know that the example her marriage is setting is making a difference.  (But be careful who you turn to for this type of discussion and advice.  Read about potential problems here: (becoming) a godly wife: how to welcome Satan into your marriage.)

That said, the rest of this post is aimed at those of you who are in joyful, God-centered marriages — or hope to be soon (either because you’re engaged or because you’re planning to get counseling to move toward such a marriage).

If you do have a joyful, God-centered marriage, you’ve probably encountered this scenario:  Someone who observes your marriage thinks it’s too good to be true.  Thinks surely your husband must be oppressing and brainwashing you into submission.  Thinks surely there’s a problem that you’re just good at hiding.

The first time I encountered a situation like this, I was devastated.  I wanted our marriage to be a beacon of light for people.  I wanted people to notice our marriage was different and be drawn to God because of it.  I was upset that instead she saw our marriage as something negative.  What I didn’t realize then was that the reason this woman thought my husband must be forcing me into submission — that he was somehow treating me like a second-class citizen — was that she had likely never seen a God-centered marriageOur relationship seemed so foreign to her that she assumed something must be very wrong.  I tried to explain our relationship to her, but I don’t think she believed me.  She probably still doesn’t.

The next time I encountered this, I was more ready for it.  I wasn’t devastated.  I didn’t see it as a failure on my part to give an example of a God-centered marriage to someone.  I saw it for what it was: This dear friend really didn’t believe that a marriage could be that joyful.  I tried to explain things as best I could, but I also realized that this was a long-term mission.  She might not believe me now, but she would (hopefully) be in my life long enough to see that it was true: God is a God of joyful marriages.  (And keep in mind the difference between joy and happiness: Happiness comes and goes with circumstances.  Joy does not.  Joy stays.  Joy is a fruit of the Spirit of Christ (Galatians 5:22), and Christ’s joy remains in all circumstances, so long as we remain in Him (John 15:10-12).)

So here is my encouragement to those of you in joyful, Christ-centered marriages: Keep showing your love – God’s love – for one another.  Keep being a shining example that many people find baffling.  Keep giving an answer for the hope that you have (1 Peter 3:15) and encouraging other women in their own marriages with a positive example and a living testimony to the faithfulness of God.

And please, please, try to reach out to this next generation.  You don’t have to lecture them — trust me, they aren’t big fans of that, in the classroom or in “real” life.  Just be open to conversations.  Ask them questions about themselves (they usually love this topic) and watch where God might take the conversation.  (Remember, of course, to always be praying during these conversations.  I often ask God to help me say all and only what He wants me to.  This prayer tends to keep me out of trouble.)

I am often amazed by what students will reveal to me before they even know me.  On the first day of class, I ask them to spend 10 minutes or so writing about who they are.  A lot of them write about their families.  Most of them tell me if their parents are married or divorced.  Many of them will reveal a great deal of anger at one or both parents for abandoning them.  Many will tell me about how devastated they were when their parents got divorced.  Others will tell me about their girlfriends or boyfriends.  Or financial problems.  And I don’t even know these kids.  This is the first day of class.  These are the things that they think describe who they are.  My point is simply this: Talk to the kids in your life.  You might be surprised how much they’re willing share – and how desperate they are for someone to listen.  Especially someone whose life offers them some hope.

Read part one of this series: (becoming) a role model, part one

Read part two of this series: (becoming) a role model, part two

Want to read more?

 

Start of the wife series: (becoming) a godly wife

Start the fully submitted series: (becoming) fully submitted

Have trouble saying no?  Try: (becoming) a good volunteer: the necessity of “no”

Struggle with worry?  Try: (becoming) less of a worrier

Start of the stewardship series: (becoming) a good steward

Start of the wisdom series: (becoming) wise, part one

Start of the Proverbs 6 series: (becoming) closer to God through Proverbs 6

Start of the Christmas series: (becoming) peaceful

 

(becoming) a role model, part 2

Kids playing in the beach in Santa Marta

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Approximately 50% of kids won’t live in an intact family as God designed it – won’t learn the lessons God intended that family to teach.  [After looking at stats from lots of sources, the best data seems to suggest that 1 in 2 children will live in a single-parent home at some point in childhood.  This post isn’t about debating that number; it’s about the fact that a number anywhere near 50% demonstrates a massive problem – and that problem affects a lot of children.]

Of the approximately 50% of children whose parents do not divorce, a much smaller percentage will have a functional intact family, and a far smaller percentage will actually be part of a healthy, happy family. 

And children of divorce (and I am a part of this large population) can tell you all they want about how their parents’ divorce didn’t affect them because they were young when it happened or their parents were civil or everyone was happier this way.  But the subtext of these statements is: I still haven’t processed this.  I’ve never seen a positive example, so I don’t know what I’m missing.  The lessons they’ve internalized to make this feel okay are: Love is an emotion, not an action.  It’s okay to bail on a situation if it gets hard.  These lessons are incredibly damaging – and are made more damaging by the fact that the kids don’t even recognize these lessons.

The new “normal” way to grow up is a travesty, and it’s eating an entire generation from the inside out.

Think about this: Of the adult couples a normal kid knows, how many have marriages that even manage to appear happy?  How many marriages in this child’s world are shining examples of what God designed for marriage?  Very few.  Far more often, I hear kids talk about not wanting to get married because of how miserable marriage makes you or how your girlfriend will stop sleeping with you when she becomes your wife or how when you get married your attentive boyfriend will stop paying attention to you.  These kids haven’t been married.  They aren’t talking about their own experiences.  They’re talking about the experiences they’ve seen in the marriages around them (and the marriages portrayed on TV and in movies).

Another caveat: We’re not taking the easy way out here: blaming the media.  The media would have far less influence on our children if the terrible marriages they saw portrayed on TV were contradicted by what they saw in the marriages around them.  But they aren’t.  The terrible TV marriages confirm what the kids see in the world around them.  Ultimately, we don’t have control over programming.  We do have control over our own marriages.

Of course, most young people still do want to get married.  The problem is actually sadder than that.  Very often what I see in my students is, in a way, worse than not wanting to get married because of how awful all the marriages are around them.  Instead what I see is a sense of resignation.  The idea that they’ll “settle” like everyone around them has.  His wife will nag, but she’ll cook and clean and sometimes the sex will be good.  Her husband will be distant, but he’ll provide a comfortable enough living for the family of 4 she has her heart set on.  The fact that young people have bought into the idea of settling in marriages should break our hearts.  We, as the generation ahead of them, have been such a poor example that they don’t even realize there’s something more.  Something much more amazing that God has in store for them.

Before the next post, think about the kids in your life (your own or just kids you’re close to): How many amazing marriages (marriages that don’t settle) do they see in the lives of the adults around them?  How can you be a more visible example to the kids in your sphere of influence?

Read part three: (becoming) a role model, part three

Click here for part one: (becoming) a role model, part one

Want to read more?

Start of the fully submitted series: (becoming) fully submitted

Start of the wife series: (becoming) a godly wife

Start of the stewardship series: (becoming) a good steward

Start of the wisdom series: (becoming) wise, part one

Start of the Proverbs 6 series: (becoming) closer to God through Proverbs 6

Start of the Christmas series: (becoming) peaceful

Are you a worrier?  Try this post: (becoming) less of a worrier

(becoming) prepared for the season

John 1:1-5

The Word Became Flesh

1In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning.

3Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5The light shines in the darkness,   but the darkness has not understood [or “overcome”] it.

Nehemiah 1:5-7 

5 Then I said:
“O LORD, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and obey his commands, 6 let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s house, have committed against you. 7 We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses.

Matthew 23:23-24

                        23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.  24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

As we welcome the Christmas season, I invite you to prepare to be filled with the light of Jesus – that we might let our light shine before men (Matthew 5:16) and point them to Jesus, the true Light (John 8:12).  While we might not like to think of ourselves as the wicked Israelites or the blind Pharisees mentioned in the verses at the start of this post, we are far too often a combination of the worst qualities of both – wicked while being self-righteous.   In preparation for the powerful ways God can use us during this season, we need to repent of any sins that may hinder our prayers and our witness during this time (1 Peter 3:7; also see Hebrews 12:1).

Although it can be a painful process, verbally confessing and repenting of sins has a two-fold blessing: God graciously offers His forgiveness (1 John 1:9), and when we actually confess them out loud, we’re often less likely to commit them in the future.  Hearing our pride or self-centeredness or jealousy or idol worship called what it is before the God of the universe often opens our eyes to our sinfulness in a more immediate way.

Perhaps you might spend part of your prayer time today focusing on what God may want do through you over the next month.  Ask Him also what is most likely to keep you from being involved in His work this Christmas season: What is most likely to draw your heart away from Him?  What are the weeds that threaten to choke out your fruit?  Busyness, forgetfulness, greed, laziness, anxiety, anger, sadness, loving the trappings of Christmas more than we love the Christ Whom we should be celebrating?  God wants to help with these barriers.  We can’t overcome them on our own.  Once we acknowledge this fact and hand them over to God, we’ll be amazed at the way God can remove barriers – or lift us over them.  Pray that God would deal with your barriers and continually fill you with His Holy Spirit, so that you can be a blessing to others – and a herald of the real joy of the season. 

 

Previous Christmas Post: (becoming) peaceful

Up next (on Friday): (becoming) excited for the season

To read the fully submitted series, click here: (becoming) fully submitted

To read the wife series, click here:(becoming) a godly wife

To learn more about this blog, check out the About page or the first post.

(becoming) peaceful

Proverbs 19:11: A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.

With the traffic, crowds, hustle, and rudeness that we often encounter at stores, malls, parking lots (and in our own houses!), it’s easy to get huffy.  “If everyone would just do things the right way,” I often find myself thinking, “then everything would run more smoothly.”

If that lady would get in the slow lane (since she apparently wants to go 5 miles an hour under the speed limit), then traffic could progress at a normal pace.

If people would actually count to see if they have 15 items before jumping into the express line (instead of counting those 10 boxes of cereal as one item), then the express line could function properly – as an express line!

But, alas.  This isn’t how it works.

Our challenge today: Decide to offer an additional measure of patience to those you encounter today (and preferably this whole season — and our whole lives, for that matter — but let’s start small).

Consider: Is the 3 minutes you’d save if you weren’t behind the slow driver (or if the express line was really an express line) really worth the anxiety and frustration you’re allowing it to create? 

Consider, too, what those people might be experiencing: Might the woman in the express line have a child to pick up at daycare?  Might the slow driver be nervous because she had an accident a couple of weeks ago, and has been overly cautious since?  Consider the stresses that your life doesn’t have, instead of the stresses it does. 

And consider the fact that we’ve all been that person – too slow, a terrible item-counter, etc., at some point.  When we were that person, one of two things happened: Either patience was extended to us – in which case we might not even realize what a blessing that was from someone.  Or we were met with impatience – and we all know that’s not pleasant (and it rarely makes things move any faster, anyway).

So, instead of reacting out of frustration, behave with wisdom, respond with patience.  (This is our part of “everyone just doing things the right way.”)  And, remember, patience isn’t something we can conjure up on our own; it involves remaining in God, and being filled with His patience.  Maybe, with God’s help, you could even throw the “offender” a smile….

 

Up next (on Monday): (becoming) prepared for the season

Want to read more?

Start of the fully submitted series: (becoming) fully submitted

Start of the wife series: (becoming) a godly wife

Start of the stewardship series: (becoming) a good steward

Start of the role model series: (becoming) a role model, part one

Start of the wisdom series: (becoming) wise, part one

Start of the Proverbs 6 series: (becoming) closer to God through Proverbs 6

Start of the Christmas series: (becoming) peaceful

Are you a worrier?  Try this post: (becoming) less of a worrier

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