Tag Archives: #God

(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 2: haughty eyes

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"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) wise, part 2

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,                                                                      and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. (Proverbs 9:10)

As we discussed last week, the first part of this verse tells us how to start becoming wise.

The second part of this verse: “and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding,” is at once more exciting and more terrifying than the first part.  Lots of people can fear God and have a start at wisdom.  In fact, even the demons shuddered in Jesus’s presence because they knew who He was.  But to gain full understanding, we have to have “knowledge of the Holy One.”  And how do we gain this knowledge of God?  He hasn’t left us in the dark about this.  He’s given us an entire book in which He reveals Himself.  And He’s given us His Holy Spirit — an actual indwelling of God Himself!  God wants us to have this knowledge.  He wants to reveal Himself to us and continue to grow closer to us.

While we’ll never grasp the fullness of God (we’re simply not capable as humans), we can know God, and know Him in a personal and life-changing way.  And I mean really know Him.  Not go to church.  Not serve at church.  Not say memorized prayers.  Not “try to be good.”  Not just pray when we need something.  Not read a devotional occasionally.  I mean really know God.  To know Him as fully as we can.  And this is hard.  There is no easy way to do this.  That’s just the truth.  But it’s worth it, friends; it really is.

And, more important than being worth it, God tells us it’s required: “Rend your hearts, not your garments” (Joel 2:13).  God is asking for an inward change.  He wants to change our hearts; He doesn’t just want to see us go through the motions.  The motions don’t mean a thing without the right heart.  People might only see the rending of our garments – the outward appearance of being a Christian.  But God sees what’s inside.  He knows the condition of our hearts.  And it’s our hearts He wants changed.

There are three things I firmly believe will help people get their hearts right with God and gain “knowledge of the Holy One.”  And, again, it’s not a matter of doing these things to cross them off some list.  The goal of each of these things is to get to know God, to become closer to God – all the time.

1. Daily Bible reading.  This cannot be replaced by devotionals or church classes where things are “explained” to you.  Devotionals and church classes are fine (and it’s important to be in fellowship with other believers), but they are not a time alone with God.  I don’t know how to stress this part enough.  But I promise you it will make a difference.  While I “knew” God in a very “churchy” sense for years, I didn’t really have “knowledge of the Holy One” until I started spending time with just God.  This is something you have to do yourself.  You can’t get it from sitting in church.  (Though sitting in church can, of course, help grow your relationship with God.)  You can’t share someone else’s knowledge of God.  You have to seek this yourself.

2. Daily Prayer.  For-real prayer.  Not rote prayer.  Not prayer that tries to sound “holy.”  Prayer that adores the very real goodness God, confesses our very real sin, gives real thanks for His real gifts, makes real petitions for real needs, and truly seeks after God’s heart.  He has promised us, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).

3. Daily listening.  I think the reason this is so hard and so important is that we can most clearly hear God speak to us when we’re attuned to Him and nothing else.  I think daily listening is something Satan fights mightily against.  He knows how important it is, and he tries to prevent it from happening.  Be ready for that.

I’ll talk more in later posts about specific methods I use for my quiet time, but for now, my challenge to you, if you don’t have a current quiet time with God, is to just start.  Just go before Him with an open heart, faith in His word, and a hunger to hear from Him.  See what He does!

If you already have a daily time with God, then your challenge is to ramp it up in some way.  Has He been working on you to expand it, deepen it, make it more authentic, or otherwise change part of it?  Has He been asking you to do something in your quiet time that you have been resisting?  Perhaps giving up a pet sin, forgiving someone, encouraging someone else in his/her walk?  Remember that your quiet time can’t be all it should be, and cannot progress, until you’re obedient to what He’s already told you.

“‘Why do you call me, “Lord, Lord,” and do not do what I say? I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.’” – Luke 6:46-49

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.” – James 1:22-25

Let me know how it goes!

Want to read more?

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

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

(becoming) a role model, part 3

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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 prayerful volunteer: the necessity of “no”

With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.  –Psalm 18:29

If, as we’ve been discussing, the needs around us are overwhelming and God wants us to use everything we have to serve Him and others, how do we avoid burnout?  How do I not get caught in the Martha trapFor some of you reading this, the willingness to serve God isn’t a problem.  Oftentimes many of us run into a different, though no less dangerous, obstacle to becoming the women God wants us to be: over-committing.

My instinct is to jump at opportunities, to come up with grand plans, basically to embody any number of clichéd warnings: Don’t put the cart before the horse, look before you leap, etc.  I would be a frazzled wreck (or worse), if I hadn’t had someone to remind me of God’s truths and promises in this area.

My husband has been my voice of reason in such instances.  What do you mean it’s not a good idea to volunteer to host 26 Brazilian teenagers for 10 days in our 2 bedroom house?  Why shouldn’t I volunteer to coordinate all Angel Tree gifts for our city when I’m a completely overwhelmed graduate student who won’t even be in town for the two weeks leading up to Christmas?  Why should I rethink committing to do a blog post every day during the Christmas season when we’re traveling and trying to see 879 family members?

My husband hasn’t told me not to do these things; he’s simply reminded me to check with God before I do.  I’ve been amazed by how many times I think I’m doing something for God when I haven’t even checked to see if it’s what He wants me to do. 

While it’s important to remember that with God we can move mountains, we can advance against a troop, we can scale a wall – we have to recognize that first part: with His helpGod doesn’t promise to bless plans He doesn’t make.  He doesn’t promise help for projects He didn’t approve.  In order to claim these promises of help that are all throughout the Bible, we have to be in God’s Will.

This, then, is how we avoid the Martha trap: we take our projects, our plans to God before we start on them.  This can be hard, especially when people want an answer right now and it seems like a good cause and you’re afraid you’ll look lazy or uninvolved or unhelpful or uncaring, etc., if you hesitate — or, worse yet, say no.  When you get concerned about this, think instead of looking unhelpful to God.  (“‘How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?’” John 5:44)  Be concerned about not caring about what He wants.  He knows if the opportunity before you is the best use of your time.  Trust Him with that decision.  If the person asking for your help is also trying to follow God’s will, he/she should understand your need to pray about the commitment before you make it.  But, ultimately, what matters is putting God first – His desires for us, His jobs for us, His opinion of us.

While it seems easier to insult God by not consulting with Him than it does to disappoint someone standing in front of us, we have to consider the damage we’re doing to our relationship with God.  Willfully refusing to do what God has asked us to (“in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight,” Proverbs 3:6) puts us in a dangerous place.  Seeking God’s will, though, puts us right where God wants us – by His side.  A much better place to be – no matter what anyone else might think of us.

I’d encourage you to consult God before each decision – “in all your ways” – even ones that don’t seem “important.”  I think a lot of what we take for granted, because it’s our schedule or routine, can become dangerous stumbling blocks in our walks with God.  What aspects of your regular routine and schedule do you take for granted as things you’re going to do?  Going to work?  Running errands?  Getting the kids dressed?  What if all of these moments were seen as opportunities for God to get and keep us on His right path?  I’m not saying we shouldn’t have defaults.  Should you go to work each day unless God tells you differently?  Yes, of course.  But when was the last time you asked Him?

Consider: Are there troops you’ve tried to advance against or walls you’ve tried to climb without God’s help?  What did you learn from those experiences?  Has God ever asked you to say “no” to something you thought you should say “yes” to?  How did that affect your relationship with God?  With the person you said “no” to?  Has God ever asked you to say “yes” to an opportunity that seemed overwhelming?  How did God help you over that wall?  (Please feel free to share below.)

I pray that as you seek His will more and more, He shows Himself strong enough to lift you over all the troops He sends you against.

 

Want to read more?

Try last Monday’s post: (becoming) a good steward: the superwoman complex

Here’s the start of the stewardship series: (becoming) a good steward: “mine, mine, mine?”

Are you a worrier?  Then you might enjoy this post: (becoming) less of a worrier

Interested in discussions about how to be a godly wife?  Check out the Wife Series: (becoming) a more godly wife: why won’t he . . . . . . ?

Want to go deeper in your walk with Christ?  Click here for the start of the Fully Submitted Series: (becoming) fully submitted

Still basking in the glow of the Christmas season?  Click here for the start of the Christmas Posts: (becoming) peaceful

Want information about this blog?  Check out the About page or the first post.

(becoming) a good steward: the superwoman complex

Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.  –1 Chronicles 29:14b

 I said to the Lord, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.”  –Psalm 16:2

As promised, we’re using the same two verses from last week to continue our discussion this week.  One point of these verses, as we discussed, is to start acknowledging to a new degree that all of our gifts come from God —  and that loving God means using what He’s given us (tangible and intangible) for His glory, not our own. 

But these verses are also making a point about our limitations.  There will always be people you can’t help and needs you can’t meet.  If you spent every second of your time for the rest of your life working non-stop for others, you’d barely make a dent in even the local needs around you. 

Our response to this fact, however, shouldn’t be despair, shouldn’t be to throw up our hands and do nothing since we can’t do it all.  Instead, this fact should bring us to our knees.  We can’t handle all the problems around us, but God never intended us to. 

Oftentimes when we feel overwhelmed it’s either because we’ve taken on more than God wanted us to or because we’ve taken on the wrong things.  The number and scope of the needs around us shouldn’t paralyze us, but it also shouldn’t turn us into misguided Marthas

Instead, we should seek God’s guidance: Where is it, God, that you want to use me?  Maybe you’re not supposed to contribute a coat to this coat drive or give any food to the food pantry this week.  Maybe God is more interested in having you spend more time with your neighbors.  And maybe that’s because He wants you to find out what their materials needs are and help meet them – or maybe it’s because He knows that their real need is having someone to talk to.

I don’t know the specifics about what God wants from you.  But He does.  And I do know that He doesn’t want us making these decisions – in either direction – based on what we feel up to.

The needs around us are overwhelming and our instinct to help is good (and thus from God).  But God promises us His strength to do His will, not our will.  We shouldn’t be surprised when we make our own decisions and then don’t have His strength to meet our commitments.  (Or when we use all our strength to meet these commitments, and then, having used all our patience on others, snap at our kids and our husbands.)

This isn’t to say that what God asks us to do is never overwhelming; I think that, at first, most of what God asks us to do is overwhelming.  If it’s His will, though, He will equip us.  (But that’s a topic for next week!)

For today, ask God what it is He wants you to do with your time, talents, resources (all those things you listed last week).  You might be surprised by the needs He knows about that you never would have thought of!

Read the next post –> (becoming) a prayerful volunteer: the necessity of “no”

 

Want to read more?

Here’s the start of the stewardship series: (becoming) a good steward: “mine, mine, mine?”

Are you a worrier?  Then you might enjoy this post: (becoming) less of a worrier

Interested in discussions about how to be a godly wife?  Check out the Wife Series: (becoming) a more godly wife: why won’t he . . . . . . ?

Want to go deeper in your walk with Christ?  Click here for the start of the Fully Submitted Series: (becoming) fully submitted

Still basking in the glow of the Christmas season?  Click here for the start of the Christmas Posts: (becoming) peaceful

Want information about this blog?  Check out the About page or the first post.

(becoming) a good steward: “mine, mine, mine?”

Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.  –1 Chronicles 29:14b

 I said to the Lord, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.”  –Psalm 16:2

It seems that during the Christmas season, needs present themselves in a more apparent way than throughout most of the year.  Or maybe we’re just more attuned to them.  Probably some of both.  With coat drives, food pantries, Angel Tree, Toys for Tots, Operation Christmas Child, the Salvation Army ringers, and the countless other worthy charities out there, it’s almost a relief when the season is over and we can go back to being a little less attuned to these needs.

One of the reasons all these needs seem so overwhelming is that it seems like no matter how much we give, there’s always someone we’re not helping.  And that’s because there always is someone we’re not helping.  But what should be our response to this as Christians?  Try to hide from the needs around us?  Spend our time feeling overwhelmed and inadequate as we try to meet every need we see?  Neither of these seems right.  Over the next few weeks, we’re going to be looking at being good stewards and prayerful volunteers.  In an attempt to better understand what God wants from us in these areas, we’ll start with the 1 Chronicles and Psalm verses above.

The point of these verses (for the purposes of this discussion, anyway) is two-fold.  The first we’ll get to this week.  The other we’ll tackle next week.

The first point is to start acknowledging (or to continue acknowledging) that everything we have everything comes from God.

Every dollar, every can of food, every scrap of clothing, every car, every minute of our time, every piece of toilet paper or paper towel, every ounce of laundry soap, every hair product, every book, every electronic gadget, every loved one, every academic degree, every talent, every toy, every shoe, every DVD, and every game is a gift from God – and belongs to God.  We’re merely the managers of these things.  We’re not the owners. 

This can be a freeing thought.  If we’re just managers, then our job isn’t to hold on as tightly as possible to “our stuff.”  Instead, our job is to care for God’s stuff (tangible and intangible) in a way that is pleasing to its Owner.  Our focus should not be on how to best use God’s gifts to serve our own needs and desires, but how to best use them for God’s glory and God’s kingdom.

A lovely couple I know put this into action in an interesting way several years ago.  They didn’t have children yet, so they picked boys up from a local boys’ home and drove them to church, took them on outings, etc.  As this couple put it, they had an empty backseat — which they were hoping not to have too much longer.  While they had it, though, they wanted to use it to glorify God.  A backseat.  Not something we usually think of as belonging to God.  But it does.

Consider: What do you have that you don’t usually think of as “belonging to God?”  How might you use it for His glory? 

 

Today, I’d encourage you to take an inventory of the things God has entrusted you to manage.  The list above can help you get started.  It isn’t necessary to write down every individual thing (unless you feel God leading you to) – broader categories should work just fine.

Then, spend some time thinking about — and maybe writing down (if that helps you) — how you most often use those things.  Are most of the things God’s given you to manage used to serve yourself or to serve God and others?

As you go through your week, add things that you notice to your lists.  What do you discover during your week that you hadn’t thought of as belonging to God?  What thing(s) were you surprised to realize you use in a primarily self-serving way?  Or, on the other hand, where were you pleased to see you’re doing well in using some of God’s resources to serve Him and others?

As you make your lists and as you go through your week, pray and ask God if there are any changes He’d like you to make in the way you use the stuff He’s given you to manage (the visible and invisible).  How could God use the things He’s given to you to manage for Him to make an even bigger impact on your relationship with Him and your relationships with the people around you?

Please feel free to share lists or ideas below!

Next week we’ll look at the Superwoman Complex!

Want to read more?

Are you a worrier?  Then you might enjoy Monday’s Post: (becoming) less of a worrier

Interested in discussions about how to be a godly wife?  Check out the Wife Series: (becoming) a more godly wife: why won’t he . . . . . . ?

Want to go deeper in your walk with Christ?  Click here for the start of the Fully Submitted Series: (becoming) fully submitted

Still basking in the glow of the Christmas season?  Click here for the start of the Christmas Posts: (becoming) peaceful

Want information about this blog?  Check out the About page or the first post.

(becoming) less of a worrier

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  –Philippians 4:6

The verse above is one many of us have often heard – and really tried to put into practice.  But how often do we try this before we’ve let our worries take root and grow – even bud, maybe even flourish?  God can, of course, overcome (and even root out) these worries; He’s bigger than any of our problems, even problems we’ve let get out-of-control.  But this process is often painful, and I’d encourage you to not let things get that far.  To rely on a cliché: I’d encourage you to nip your worries in the bud.  Or better yet, nip them in the roots.  Consider how much energy you’d save by letting go of worries as soon as they appear!

And I don’t think we should be flip about this issue: This verse doesn’t make light of our worries the way some people who quote it seem to think it does.  This verse doesn’t tell us to forget about our concerns.  It doesn’t tell us that our concerns are silly or not worth our time.  Instead, it tells us that the God of the Universe is concerned about these things too!  So concerned, in fact, that He’s offered to take them upon Himself.  To attend to them personally.  That, to me, shows that God does care, that He doesn’t take our anxieties lightly.  That He doesn’t think we’re silly or weak for worrying.

I don’t think the sin here is worry popping into our heads.  Worry is going to pop up in our heads as long as we’re concerned about others.  The sin here is holding on to this worry past its initial appearance.  Worry popping into our heads isn’t necessarily something we can control; but dwelling on it, rolling it around in our hearts and our heads – that is something we can control.

Our goal, then, needs to be to roll that worry to God as soon as it appears – to begin immediately speaking with Him, instead of ruminating about it on our own.  Whether we have any control of the situation or not, we ought to give it to God.  In situations when we do have some control, God can show us the best use of that control; He’s the one who knows what we should do, and He can enable us to do it.  In situations when we have no control, why not hand things over to God?  If we can’t do anything about them, it doesn’t seem smart to hold on to them ourselves.

The important thing, in either case, is immediately taking our worry to God, before it can take root and grow.  When we take it to God, our worry doesn’t disappear, and it doesn’t cease to matter – but it is attended to by Someone far more powerful, far better, and far smarter than us.  And this stronger, better, and smarter Person actually wants what’s best for us.  So, if we’re truly worried about a situation or truly concerned about a person, the only thing that makes sense is to hand the situation or the person over to God.  It’s better for the situation or person we’re concerned about (since God can actually help), it’s better for us (since it prevents us from sinning), and it’s better for God (since it frees us up to be used as He wants to use us).  Win-win-win. 

Consider: What do you find yourself worrying about over and over (maybe even though you’ve tried to hand it over to God)?  And how long do you usually worry about something before you try to hand it over to God?  I’d encourage you to set a challenge for yourself: How quickly can you present your worries to God?  And I’m talking here about actually handing them over – not just casually tossing them at Him: “I’m worried, here you go!”  I think such a careless approach often causes our worries to come back since, we haven’t really dealt seriously with them.

Instead, God asks us to have a conversation with Him about our anxieties.  A conversation in which several things happen: petition, thanksgiving, presentation (and, of course, listening throughout).  This isn’t some kind of “no-worry” spell.  God wants to talk with us about our concerns.  Tell God why you’re worried.  Then try telling Him why you don’t trust Him enough to hand over your worries.  I’m not being sarcastic here.  Verbalizing doubt can take away some of its power – and it gives God a chance to speak to you about the doubt you present.  When you verbalize your doubt, you might be able to hear how silly it is.  Or it might not be silly – in which case you might really need to deal with that doubt.  Listen for God to speak to you in either case.  He’s more than able to handle your doubt; give Him a chance to quiet your heart and help you trust Him more fully.

So, there’s the challenge: How quickly can you start your conversation with God when you start worrying?  5 minutes?  2 minutes?  10 seconds?  Post your best time below!

 

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

 

(prayer) warrior (day after) wednesday :)

 

Blue-Red Hearts

Image via Wikipedia

 

Today we have some on-going requests — and some BIG praises!

1. First, is Henley.  Please continue to pray that ALL the disease would leave her body.  Big praise for Henley and her family: If things stay on schedule, then they’ll be able to be home for Christmas!  This has been a major prayer for them, so to see it answered is wonderful!  (Henley’s Website: http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/bravebee)

2. Please continue to pray for Rachel.  Rachel is in her mid-30s has cancer in several areas.  The situation has progressed to the point where they can’t give her any more treatments, so she’s been put on hospice care (the doctors estimate that she may live up to a month).  Please pray for peace and comfort for Rachel, as she is concerned about leaving her husband and their 7-year-old son (who has autism).  Please pray for her husband and son, too, during this incredibly difficult time.  (We know God can perform miracles.  Please pray one for this family.)  Here is a link to Rachel’s CareCalendar: http://carecalendar.org; ID: 38500; Security code: donnyis6.

3. Please also pray for strength, healing, and a reduction of pain for my friend, Garland, who has been fighting bone cancer for almost 4 years now and has recently had some complications.  He has been such a great example of someone who loves God, loves God’s Word, and loves others for so many people throughout his 70+ years.  (Please also pray for his lovely wife, Pat.)

4. Update on Matthew‘s (age 12) heart surgery: The procedure went well and he’s doing well!  Praise God!  (They’ll be replacing the valve in June.)

5. Praise for my friend Erica and the good news on Emersyn!  If you haven’t read Erica’s story, you can do so here: Erica’s website.

 
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