the players need to know the rules in order to advance and score-- and avoid penalties.
the coaches need to know the rules so they can train the players to have great skill in advancing and scoring-- and avoiding penalties.
the referees need to know the rules so that the players can advance and score when they follow the rules. referees also penalize players, coaches, and even deal with spectators who violate the rules.
in the game of life and death, we have a book of rules.
we need to know the rules in order to advance and win, and to train others to advance and win.
we need to know the rules when we are in a position to encourage advancement and penalize wrong-doing. being peace-keepers is unsatisfactory; being truth-keepers is essential.
ultimately, we must all give account to the one who gave the rules.
anyone who has engaged in foul play, even if he arrives at the finish line, will find himself penalized; "depart from me," he will hear, "you went your own way and broke my laws."
anyone who has followed the rules, even in the face of apparent failure, will find himself a winner.
some "through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouth of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. women received bac their dead by resurrection. some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. they were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated-- of whom the world was not worthy-- wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth." (esv)
Lord, remember all of my afflictions and act in my behalf. remember that i want you to live near me. let me be clothed with righteousness. fill my heart with joyful songs. please do not turn me away.
you have not forgotten me. you gave me my request, living with me and within me. you covered me with your salvation. my heart overflows with the jubilant songs which you have given. you have not forgotten us; you have delivered us from our enemies.
Father, i am a child, not better or worse than my friends or my enemies. i will not fuss and fret because i don't understand. i won't pitch a fit because you say, "no." i will be quiet in your lap. i will lean my head on your shoulder and relax. o, children of God, hope in your Maker now and forevermore! amen.
from rock bottom i loudly called to you who made me. Master, hear me! please be attentive to my requests! if you, my Creator, kept track of all my failures, Master, how could i stand? however, i find forgiveness with you and therefore i fear you.
i wait for my Creator; with peaceful confidence i expect him. his word is the solid foundation of my hope.
from deep within me, i vigilantly look for my Master more than the night watchman looks for the dawn. my eager anticipation is greater than the night watchman feels when he waits for the rising sun. o, children of God, be confident in your Creator, because your relationship with him has always been marked by the most profound kindness. he redeems infinitely. he buys his own children from their slavery to willful failure.
i have been mistreated many times beginning when i was young. the truth is, i have been abused many times from my youth until now. my anguish is plowed in deep furrows, in furrows deep and long. the Lord does what is right; he severs the ropes that the wicked used to tie me down.
may everyone who hates God's rule be ashamed and flee. may they shrivel like rootless grass withers before it can grow. please do not allow their influence to prosper; do not allow their rebellion and cruelty to multiply. do not allow anyone to bless them in your name. how can you bless the rebellion of those who oppose your kingdom and your righteousness?
if i try to build my home as a base of power and influence but am not considering God's purpose and work-- what a waste!
if i am alert to every potential evil and try to avoid all conflict but do not look to God for his care-- what wasted effort!
what a waste to get up early and stay up late devising and implementing schemes for success! God gives his beloved ones peaceful rest.
look, children are God's gift to me. my own offspring, a treasure. these little ones will grow to be my ammunition in the battle for truth and right. i am blessed if my arsenal is full of such priceless weaponry. they will face my enemies unashamed and speak to my enemies publicly.
o Lord, if you had not come to help us-- your church exults-- if you had not taken our side, they would have swallowed us alive like a snake swallows its prey or like a lizard snatches an insect. but you delivered us from their desires.
they would have ripped us apart like a wolf rips into a herd of sheep, satisfying their hostility with our pain and anguish. but you came to our rescue.
they wanted to trap us and use us for their own purposes, crushing us to fulfill their own ambitions. but you destroyed their snares and nets, setting us at liberty. you freed us to soar skyward.
you are powerful and wise and loving. you are the Self-existent One, the Maker of heaven and earth.
i was glad, i was glad when they said to me "let us go to God's house."
i looked around and marveled. the congregation of the Lord, as one body, works in unity. each member seeks the glory of God and lovingly serves the others.
this is where God's people meet, delighting to assemble, to raise their hearts in thanks to God, thinking of ways to encourage love and service. their fervency and faithfulness increase as they anticipate the coming of the King.
Lord, grant peace to the assembly of your own. please prosper those who love your congregation. bring peace and prosperity within the walls of our meeting places and within our homes. for the love of my brothers and friends, i ask for peace. for the love of God's household, i will pursue its good.
despicable hireling, when the wolf came into the sheepfold, you took to your heels, rationalizing that it was better for the sheep to be left to deal with the wolf on their own than to see their shepherd engaged in mortal combat with the predator.
i am thankful, but not with that gratitude which is unmingled with sorrow.
i am grateful for encroaching blindness which has moved from the outer boundaries of my peripheral vision to the center. i am thankful with sober gratitude that the cones and rods are falling off the pigment layer of my retina just a little faster than they are replaced. i am thankful that every little cone and every rod is under the complete control of its Creator.
this is his intentional good for me, and i want to receive this gift with courage and trust.
there is a time to grieve and a time to laugh, a time for dancing, a time for mourning. those times come to each of us. but underneath, i have a sense of the goodness of both sorrows and joys.
i am thankful that God has given me a supportive family, compassionate friends, a measure of independence, much healing of physical weakness, awareness of other senses to compensate for the loss of vision.
but these are transitory gifts, and many of them may be lost in time or circumstances-- lost without diminishing what is truly valuable in them.
however, i am more thankful for what cannot be lost. i am thankful because the Lord is my shepherd. he is everything that i need. he nourishes me in green pastures, and leads me by quiet waters. he restores my soul. he leads me in paths of righteousness because of his own good name. even when i walk through the shadowy valley of death, i need not fear anything. i will not be overcome by any evil, because he is with me. i am comforted by the protection of his power. even in the presence of people who hate me-- people who desire to harm me-- he prepares a feast for my soul. my cup of joy overflows. certainly goodness and mercy follow me each and every day i live. and after this, i will live in the house of the Lord forever.
if one of us loves himself more than he loves you, he brings that into the body of believers like an infection.
if one of us loves someone or something more than you, we bring that offense into the midst of our worship.
if one of us uses your name lightly we bring that defilement into your congregation.
if we are unwilling to set aside a day to seek you, a day to delight in you, and we want to seek our own pleasures and despise spending time at your feet, we bring that insincerity into the time we set apart. . . that one hour, those two short hours.
if one speaks dishonorably about his parents, treats them as inferiors, disdains them, then this offense is mingled with our praise.
if one has murderously hated, if one has committed sexual offenses, if one has spoken untruthfully and hurt another, o, Lord, it pollutes our worship.
if one has desired what belongs to his neighbor or his friend, desired his possessions, his relationships, his assets, Lord, you know even the thoughts of our hearts.
our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. thy kingdom come and thy will be done on earth, in our congregation, even as it is done in heaven. give us today our daily bread.
forgive us, o, please forgive us, as we forgive those who offend us.
and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
yours is the kingdom. yours is the power. yours is the glory. forever.
“The great Gardener of the soul--will not, and cannot be disappointed. What He sows--shall flourish in defiance of all opposition! And, if at times it seems to wither--He can and He will revive it!” John Newton
"not with doubting, but with assured consciousness, do i love thee, Lord. thou hast stricken my heart with thy word, and i loved thee. yea, also heaven, and earth, and all that therein is, behold, on every side they bid me love thee; nor cease to say so unto all that they may be without excuse. but more deeply wilt thou have mercy on whom thou wilt have mercy, and have compassion on whom thou hast had compassion: else in deaf ears do the heaven and the earth speak thy praises. but what do i love, when i love thee? not beauty of bodies, nor the fair harmony of time, nor the brightness of the light, so gladsome to our eyes, nor sweet melodies of varied songs, nor the fragrant smell of flowers, and ointments, and spices, not manna and honey, not limbs acceptable to embracements of flesh. none of these i love, when i love my God; and yet i love a kind of light, and melody, and fragrance, and meat, and embracement, when i love my God, the light, melody fragrance meat, embracement of my inner man: where there shineth unto my soul, what space cannot contain, and there soundeth, what time beareth not away, and there smelleth, what breathing disperseth not, and there tasteth, what eating diminisheth not, and the clingeth, what satiety divorceth not. this is it which i love, when i love my God.
"Thou awakest us to delight in Thy praise; for Thou madest us for Thy self, and our heart is restless, until it repose in Thee."
"For who is the Lord but the Lord? or who is God save our God? Most highest, most good, most potent, most omnipotent; most merciful, yet most just; most hidden, yet most present; most beautiful, yet most strong; stable, yet incomprehensible; unchangeable, yet all-changing; never new, never old; all-renewing, and bringing age upon the proud, yet they know it not.; ever working, ever at rest; still gathering, yet nothing lacking; supporting, filling, and overspreading; creating, nourishing, and maturing; seeking, yet having all things. Thou lovest, without passion; art jealous, without anxiety; repentest, but grievest not; art angry, yet serene; changest Thy words, Thy purpose unchanged; receivest again what Thou findest, yet didst never lose; never in need, yet rejoicing in gains; never covetous, yet exacting usury. Thou receivest over and above, that Thou mayest owe, and who hath aught that is not Thine? Thou payest debts, owing nothing; remittest debts, losing nothing.
"Behold, Lord, my heart is before Thee; open Thou the ears thereof, and say to my soul, I am thy salvation."
yesterday my husband read me a quote from an article in "today's christian preacher". the section of the article from which he quoted dealt with the need for a minister to be careful not to leave a ministry too hastily.
i read the article for myself, and here is the gist of the quote, "many times the advice of a small representative group of spiritual leaders can accurately reflect the church's sense of God's will in the matter." however, the author cautions, "care should be taken to make sure the input is not just from a small 'anti-pastor' group of men vocal enough to make it seem that they represent the majority. i feel sure that many a pastor has left his church feeling that most of the people wanted him to leave even though the great majority of the congregation was deeply disappointed by his departure."
the author was john dodd. the creative capitalization is my own.
so there was a spot, red and inflamed, that burned within my soul. it was more than skin deep. it penetrated to the very core of my being.
envy raged as i compared my lot with others'. why do they prosper and succeed, i wondered in frustration, when i am silenced and ignored?
why does he get more prominence? why is she recognized?
as i identified my problem and saw the probable diagnosis --bitter jealousy, selfish ambition, arrogance, self-deception.
i went to the priest for counsel, hoping against hope. but in the quiet moments of solitude i recognized the infection that raged in my soul. i knew the rebellion against God. i saw the uncleanness, the defilement. i despaired. how could i be cured?
the priest looked on me. "you are unclean," he gravely said. something within me tore in grief, and i covered my mouth and the word tore from my heart: "unclean!" and i went through the streets aware of my isolation even when in the midst of the crowd.
but i knew of a Man, they said He had power to cure and to cleanse.
so i went to Him, begging for mercy. and He looked on me with unfathomable compassion.
He healed me with His word, making me pure, peaceable, gentle, reasonable full of mercy, full of goodness, steadfast, unpretentious.
He is the bird slain in the running water, the cedar is His cross, the hyssop is the bitterness of His sufferings for me, the scarlet thread is the spilling of His blood-- but i am the bird set free in the field.
He is the offering for my sin, my guilt, my peace.
to Him i dedicate my entire being-- heart, soul, mind, and strength!
some contracted leprosy, and lived and died in their personal tragedy. families grieved while carrying on with life.
a few contracted leprosy as a sobering lesson, afflicted by God as the consequence of their own stubborn rebellion.
moses' own sister miriam was a leader in Israel during the exodus and during the wanderings. then she criticized her brother because she thought he was taking too much authority and power from her. and she didn't like his wife. God summoned miriam and aaron and moses and visited with them. as His holy presence withdrew, aaron and moses looked with horror at miriam. she was leprous. and though moses interceded, miriam bore her punishment for three days, ostracized and outcast.
centuries later king uzziah was making sweeping reforms in israel, re-establishing the worship of Yahweh and leading the people in a nation-wide revival. he rejoiced in all that was being accomplished. then the thought entered his mind that he would like to lead the people in worship by burning the incense in God's holy temple. but God had designated the priests alone to burn the incense. uzziah took the censor and entered the temple. he was met by a group of priests who forbade him to transgress the boundaries God had given him. uzziah became visibly furious, but before he could respond, God intervened. uzziah became a leper and lived in isolation for the remaining years of his life.
naaman, an assyrian general, was plagued with leprosy. through an israeli captive whom he had enslaved, he learned of a man who served the living God, elisha, who might be able to help him. so he made the trip, and was told to immerse in the jordan, and was miraculously healed. though he desired to give the prophet a generous gift, elisha declined, and naaman went on his way, returning home. but gehazi, elisha's servant, disapproved of elisha's refusal, and following naaman, told him that elisha had some unexpected guests and he needed some of that clothing and some of that money after all. naaman gladly gave him all he desired, and gehazi returned and hid the goods. but God knew, and cursed him and his descendants with leprosy.
centuries more passed. the Son of God came and with His unlimited power cleansed lepers of their disease. all who came to Him, He restored to health and life. oh, the joy they felt as their physical and emotional suffering was alleviated. they went to the priest so he could go through the rituals that would establish their new status in society. they were whole and restored.
and the sacrifices were offered. a bird slain, some cedar, some hyssop, some scarlet string, and bird set free over the field.
if someone had a spot, an infection that went beneath the surface of the skin, he was went to the priest.
the priest examined him and quarantined him.
for a week he sat in isolation with thoughts vacillating between hope and despair as he observed the spot and contemplated his future. would he be an outcast? could he go back to normal life? oh, the everyday burdens and irritations seemed beautiful and welcome! he wondered about God-- did God care? would God heal?
the priest returned. "it is leprosy".
the leper torn his clothes in grief. he covered his mouth and went through the streets. "unclean!" the word tore from his lips expressing fathomless anguish as he left the village, the city that had been his home.
as he sat in isolation his despair turned to acceptance and he wondered about the ritual for the cleansing of a cured leper. the bird slain and the bird set free, the cedar, the hyssop, the scarlet thread. the offerings for sin and guilt and peace. the final rejoicing.
i see that the ancients gained God's approval being assured of their hope and being convinced of the unseen.
i see that abel offered God a better sacrifice by faith. i see that God testifies that he was righteous, and that even though he was murdered by his resentful brother, his reputation is guarded by God. but i cannot focus on abel.
i see that enoch escaped death because he believed that God is who He is, and that He rewards the one who diligently seeks Him. but enoch is not my focus.
i see that noah found favor in God's sight. he believed God's warning about dangers he had never seen. he reverently built an ark, and in so doing condemned the world. but noah's example is not enough.
i see that abraham believed that God would give him the land as promised. and he and sarah believed that God would give them a son as promised. but the story is not about abraham or sarah or isaac.
i hear isaac believing God's promises when he blesses his sons based on who God is and what He said. but isaac was only human.
jacob became israel because he believed God. he worshiped God. but jacob without God is still the manipulator.
joseph believed that God's promise of the land was yet to be fulfilled, so he commanded that when that day came, his mummified bones be carried to the land. but all that remained of joseph on earth was a mummy, a story, a reputation for believing God is who He is.
moses believed that bearing reproach for Christ was more valuable than all the wealth of ancient Egypt. he endured. he saw the Unseen.
rahab lived in bondage until Yahweh delivered her because she believed He is who He is.
so many believed God is who He is, and they suffered many things, and overcame evil with good.
but seeing all these heroic people, i turn my eyes to Jesus. He is the author and finisher of my faith. He endured the cross and despised the shame because of the joy set before Him. i consider Him who endured such hostility of sinners against Himself, and i cannot become weary, i cannot lose heart.
superficial unity when believers unite with unbelievers. what fellowship has light with darkness? such a farce. such artificial unity. such hypocrisy.
superficial separation when believers divide from believers-- by this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. how can you love God, whom you cannot see, if you do not love your brother whom you can see? such a farce. such artificial separation. such hypocrisy.
"walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
"one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling;
"one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all."
true unity exists among those who are in God's Spirit.
the fear of God, we are told in Proverbs, is the beginning of wisdom. i think that the opposite is true; if i do not fear God, i am going to be foolish, and live to regret it--or drive myself insane. Debi Pearl says that "our actions and reactions do indeed reap painful results in this present life as well as in eternity. We live under a law of sowing and reaping that is as certain and unrelenting as death and disease."
that is the reason that we ought to have a huge, healthy respect for the God who made us and the world we live in. if we violate His guidance, we will reap the consequences.
in relation to our marriage relationship, when we violate God's instructions, we damage ourselves, our husbands, and our children. we decrease our influence for the kingdom of God in this world. this is a sobering reality.
i love to think that if i confess my sins, He is faithful and just to forgive my sins and to cleanse me from all unrighteousness (I John 1.9). when He shows me that i have not been respecting my husband as He wants me to, i admit to Him that i was wrong, and i don't try to justify myself by blaming my husband's provoking behavior or my hormones or the bad day i had. He would have helped me to do what i should have done. i rejected His help. He then forgives me. the guilt is gone. but i am so thankful that He not only forgives me, but He also cleanses the desire to do wrong from me! so with His help, i can live a life of victory; graciousness overcomes irritableness, love overcomes resentment, gratitude overcomes self-pity, respect overcomes disdain, peace overcomes restlessness, joy overcomes discontentment.
oh, i'm not perfect yet, but God has helped me become so much better than i used to be that i just can't give up hope that i will be even farther along after 24 more years!
my life had no meaning and i was being ground into nothing by the harsh consequences of my own selfish choices. darkness surrounded me, invaded me, as i learned the unspoken rule by cruel experience: use and be used.
then one day He came into my life. oh, i did not love Him. His light and His purity made me so ashamed, so aware of the filth that covered me. and when, newly aware, i tried to purify myself, i only smeared and worsened the mess.
i resented Him. who did He think He was, coming into my life and increasing my misery?
but He loved me. i do not know why, but He loved me with a pure and unselfish love. i don't know when i realized that He wanted to help me, but time passed before i was willing to humble myself and receive His help.
i was desperate, and finally i wanted a solution.
He took me and washed me. deeply embedded sin stains vanished. the memory of them lingered awhile, then faded as well.
He fed me at His banqueting table, and His love beautified my life. His love beautified me.
i loved attending His love feasts with others whom He had rescued. He walked with me throughout the day and watched over me through the night.
i still love the feasts, and the kinship with the rescued, but i am in a crisis.
He has enemies, fierce and violent. they are armed with flattery and slander and false accusations, and since they can do nothing to Him, they attack those whom He loves.
oh, mercy! mercy!
i love Him so! but the attacks bring back the darkness of the past! they bring the stench of the filth of the past! His enemies consider me as cattle to be butchered! they are wolves, sometimes wolves in sheep's clothing, looking so innocent but having a voracious appetite, ripping, ripping me apart!
peace comes. nothing can separate me from His love. nothing. i will go to the feasts, even in the presence of enemies. He will prepare the table before me. and i will reside with Him in the home He is preparing for me forever.
In the fifth chapter of Created to Be His Help Meet, Debi addresses the question, "How can I possibly be cheerful when my husband is a selfish jerk?" She rightly concludes that our obedience to the Lord is not dependent on our husbands' good behavior. We are accountable to follow His commands no matter what our circumstances. Debi urges her readers to pursue a path of wisdom, which requires God's help.
Repeatedly, the biblical writers urge us to value wisdom above everything else in this world, and they also warn us of the dangers of foolishness.
Two of Solomon's proverbs come to mind:
"The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish one tears it down with her own hands."
"A gracious woman retains honor."
So when my own dear and usually-loving husband has a bad day and, well, acts like a jerk, I still have a choice of whether I'm going to build up or tear down my house. And I have a choice about whether I will be gracious and honored, or be rude and take the consequences.
The internal struggle comes when I have the choice of obeying God or obeying my instincts when it comes to biblical submission. One time I was listening to the local Christian radio station, and heard a Q&A with Elizabeth Elliot. Someone asked, "What is submission?" She laughed sympathetically. Then she explained that men do not ask what submission means, they don't ask what it means to submit themselves to their employers or to the laws. She had only heard this question from women. Then she defined submission to husbands, "Do what he says."
Do you feel the same revolt welling up within you that I feel? You know that Christian women did not invent the idea of wifely submission! It is God's idea, and even though we don't always understand it, it is a wise and loving idea!
I know a group of women that call themselves "the strong-willed women"--and they think they have some unique virtue because of it. I try not to laugh. Is there a woman on the face of the earth that is not strong-willed?
I have also heard two women claim in an injured tone of voice that they are naturally submissive. Having observed each these women, I know that is not true; if her husband tells her to do something she doesn't want to do, she doesn't believe she understood him correctly, and each sweetly does what she thinks he should have wanted her to do.
But true submission is not natural. Submission is not the same thing as agreement; submission happens when agreement is not happening. And Jesus' submission to the Father is our example, though He agreed with the Father, He still was conflicted when He prayed, "If it be possible, let this cup pass from Me. Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours."
Our submission to our husbands is a testimony of two things. In the letter to the Ephesians, we are told that our submission to our own husbands is a picture of the church's submission to the Lord Jesus Christ. In the apostle Peter's first letter, we are told that Christ's submission to the Father is our example for submission to our husbands.
So with a gentle and quiet spirit, with our trust firmly fixed in our God, with the wisdom that God is so willing to give us, we can respond graciously and nobly to whatever God allows.
He could have made Adam and Eve without the ability to sin. but He gave them the opportunity to trust, or not to trust.
He could have given Abraham and Sarah a child--or a whole tribe of children-- in their youth. but He didn't. He gave their faith a chance to grow strong.
He could have sent a little disease-- say, typhoid or yellow fever-- to remove Joseph's brothers before they could sell him into slavery. but He didn't. He gave Joseph a door into great faith and virtue and forgiveness.
He could have hit Goliath with a fatal heart attack or a bolt of lightening before he could intimidate God's men. but He didn't. He gave a young shepherd the opportunity to show his faith by his courage.
He could have made my way easy. but He didn't. He has given me the opportunity to trust, or not to trust. but by His grace, i will overcome evil with good by faith.
weeping may endure for the night, David wrote, but joy comes in the morning.
there is a season for grief, another for dancing.
Job prospers, suffers, and prospers again.
Joseph is enslaved, promoted, imprisoned, and ultimately reigns.
David conquers, flees royal jealousy, refuses to avenge himself, then sees God abase his enemies and exalt him to the promised throne.
Jesus humbles Himself. He heals, serves, teaches. He dies and is buried. but joy comes in the morning with resurrection power!
i follow Him. in green pastures, by still waters, through the valley of the shadow of death, in the presence of my enemies. surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and joy will come in the morning.
In the third chapter of Created to Be His Help Meet, Debi contrasts "a merry heart vs. a poor-me attitude." She explains that a "downcast, unthankful attitude is a dishonor to God."
This has been one of the hardest weeks of my life, and I have cried a lot. This is extremely unusual for me. I seldom cry. In the midst of the distresses that came into my life, I was comforted to remember that Solomon said that "There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven--A time to weep, and a time to laugh; A time to mourn and a time to dance." In the middle of all the distress, the Lord reminded me that I have many things for which I can be thankful. He didn't tell me what they were; that was my assignment. It was hard at first. But in time I have thought of quite a few blessings, any one of which outweighs the burdens that I am bearing right now. God Himself, with His great love for me is at the top of the list. In time I found myself content, even though the circumstances didn't change. The contentment was a gift from God, but one that I had to take the time to unwrap.
Oh, there is a time to grieve. But I don't want to wallow in it. No person or relationship or circumstance is perfect. As Edith Schaeffer wrote, "People throw away what they could have by insisting on perfection which they cannot have, and looking for it where they will never find it." The answer to dealing with imperfection is to learn the grace of contentment and thankfulness.
I love this poem that was submitted by Dillon and Patti Bayes to Good Housekeeping in 1994. They won a cruise for Valentine's Day, if my memory serves me correctly, as a result of winning the contest to which they submitted it.
"We gave. . . when we wanted to receive. We served. . . when we wanted to feast. We shared. . . when we wanted to keep. We listened. . . when we wanted to talk. We submitted. . . when we wanted to reign. We forgave. . . when we wanted to remember. We stayed. . . when we wanted to leave."
That is the foundation and conclusion of contentment.
"O afflicted one, storm-tossed, and not comforted, Behold, I will set your stones in antimony, And your foundations I will lay in sapphires. Moreover, I will make your battlements of rubies, And your gates of crystal, And your entire wall of precious stones. And all your sons will be taught of the LORD, And the well-being of your sons will be great. In righteousness you will be established; You will be far from oppression, for you will not fear; And from terror, for it will not come near you.
If anyone fiercely assails you it will not be from Me. Whoever assails you will fall because of you. Behold, I Myself have created the smith who blows the fire of coals, And brings out a weapon for its work; And I have created the destroyer to ruin. No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper; And every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn.
This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, And their vindication is from Me," declares the LORD.
Debi Pearl heads the chapter with this verse, "The joy of the Lord is my strength." Probably this is the most important statement she could have made. Constant joy simply cannot be manufactured from our determined willpower. Nor can the "joy of the Lord" be dependent on our husbands. Please recall that part of the fruit of the Spirit of God is joy, and understand that He alone can be the source of unfailing joy.
Marriage can be the source of a certain measure of happiness and laughter. But husbands are human and they are sinners. We cannot think that having a good-humored approach to circumstances will cause our husbands to see things our way, or cause them to be more godly and considerate. Rather, we should rejoice in the Lord always, because no matter what our circumstances are, He is greater than both our joys and trials and will be glorified in them.
I say this with caution: sometimes our joy and our merry hearts can be an irritation to our husbands. There is a time for everything, a time to laugh and a time to weep. God has made everything beautiful in His time, and we should obey Him for His pleasure.
That said, I want to say that this chapter grated on me a little the first time (or maybe the first few times) I read it, because Debi kept talking about sickliness being connected with being uncheerful. To make a long story short, I, who was continually sickly, determined to prove that maintaining cheerful thoughts would not improve my health.
Thankfully, I proved Debi right. "The joy of the Lord is my strength," and "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine."
Other passages about God's involvement in my healing: Psalm 103:1-6, Proverbs 3:1-10, and Isaiah 40:28-31.
Shaina at Biblical Homemaking is hosting a discussion on the book Created to Be His Help Meet by Debi Pearl.
God tells us in His Word that He created man and woman, and that He Himself joined them in marriage in the paradise that He created our world to be. Before they ever fell from grace by their disobedience, He brought them together in a pure and beautiful union. In that perfect environment, God designed woman to be man's ideal assistant.
I have wondered what exactly Eve was supposed to help Adam do, and I found the answer in noticing the tasks that God gave Adam before the fall of man. First, man was supposed to rule the earth (Genesis 1:26-28), he was supposed to "multiply and replenish the earth" (Genesis 1:28), and he was supposed to eat of all the plants except the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Genesis 2:16-17).
Later God led Solomon to write these beautiful and comforting words: He who finds a wife finds a good thing, And obtains favor from the LORD.
When God leads a woman into marriage, He is showing a man His favor! Practically, that means that I am a specially designed gift to my husband! While that is a beautiful thought, it brings with it a tremendous responsibility! I am responsible to God for being the gift He intended for me to be to my husband. As Debi said in the heading for chapter one, "A wise woman doesn't take anything for granted. She is thankful to be loved and seeks to make herself more lovely."
That is sobering, but I don't have to do it on my own! He will help me to grow to be more and more what He designed me to be!
So putting this together, I try to see how I can fulfill His design for my husband and our union in our present world that is far from paradise. In the same way He gave Adam a responsibility to fulfill his vocation, a responsibility to father, and a responsibility to obey God; He has given my husband these responsibilities.
As Mark's perfect, God-given helper, I want to do all I can to support him in the vocation God has given him. I want to help him raise children. And I want to encourage him to obey God in all things.
Oh, how I desire for my marriage to be as nearly like that union in paradise that God originally intended for marriage to be!
reality does not follow the script she has prepared. so she tries to delete reality. but all that she can delete are a few words on a computer screen.
she says to you, "i want to be friends with you. but there are two rules. you have to approve of everything i say or do. you cannot say or do anything that i do not approve."
absurd fantasy! does she think she is your god?
but it begs the question, why is your approval so important? if you see her engaging in self-destructive behavior, you cannot express concern? cannot warn of danger?
she feels threatened by disapproval.
how can creature demand unconditional approval? how totally absurd! how impossible!
she also has two rules for God. He will be totally pleased, grateful, and satisfied with any effort at religion that she chooses. He will not be offended at anything she does in between those religious thoughts or acts.
this is a dangerous fantasy.
He created her, and in Him she lives and moves and has her being. He is everywhere around her, and she is totally dependent on Him for her well-being, her talents, her abilities, even the air that she breathes.
and she thinks she can make rules for Him?
she is warned: do not be afraid of mere humans, the worst they can do is kill your body. you need to fear God, who not only can end your human life, but also controls your eternal destiny.
i don't know why my mom decided to do this, but while she was working in the kitchen, she set me on the counter and with determination taught me a Bible verse:
behold, I stand at the door and knock, if any man hear My voice and open the door, I will come in and sup with him and he with Me.
over and over i tried to say it. i didn't really want to work at this. i was tired of sitting up there, and wanted to get down. but i couldn't until i could say the whole thing.
finally i could say it, and off i went, indifferent to the One who was knocking, knocking at my heart's door.
but the seed had been sown.
i became aware of the message of one of the Sunday School songs: one door and only one, and yet its sides are two, inside and outside, on which side are you?
oh, it was just a fun little song with hand motions and a catchy tune. it delighted me.
and as time went on we moved across the country and at a different Sunday School i learned another song: behold, behold, I stand at the door and knock, knock, knock. . . behold, behold, I stand at the door and knock, knock, knock. . . if any boy hear My voice, if any girl hear My voice, and will open, open, open the door I will come in.
another catchy tune with fun hand motions.
and about the same time i received a little card with a long-haired, patient Jesus apparently knocking on the outside of a cottage door.
there were words on the back, but i couldn't read.
it was all a lovely mystery in my child-mind.
then one night moved with jealousy because my parents were all happy because my brother "got saved", i asked what that meant.
my mother took a wordless book and showed me the colors and explained that my heart was all dirty with sin, but Jesus died, and His blood could wash away my sin and make my heart whiter than snow. then when i died, He would take me to heaven.
oh, i opened the door of my heart that night, and Jesus came in!
"Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. For such men are slaves, not of the Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting. For the report of your obedience has reached to all, therefore I am rejoicing over you, but I want you to be wise in what is good, and innocent in what is evil. And the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.
"The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you."
Paul wrote the quoted passage to the church at Rome. But since Scripture is given by the Spirit of God moving men, and it is all profitable for me to receive so that I can grow to think, speak, and act more like the God I so dearly love, I don't brush it off.
God would not have given me this instruction if I weren't going to be around people like this. I need to think about who I know who is like this, and then I need to trust God and His instruction enough to do what He has told me to do.
I ask myself, "Do I know anyone like this?"
I almost close my Bible and go on my way. But I know God better than this after the time we have spent together.
I lay aside the "do I know anyone" and ask instead, "Who do I know that is like this? Who do I know who causes dissension, and raises objections to what the Scripture says? Lord, help me to be fair in my evaluation." Some people come to mind-- people who I want to please, people who I want to impress. "Lord, what is it again that you tell me to do with this people?" I hesitate. He wants me to turn away from them. Avoid them.
Part of me cries out, "You're kidding, right? this is a poetical metaphor? or maybe it only applied to that time and place?" No, it is clear, and it is for me.
There is a short struggle.
"God, I will do it Your way, but You are going to have to help me, because You know this is going to make me look bad. Don't You know about the 'peace at any price' game? You don't play that game? You won't sacrifice truth or justice or mercy in order to gain peace? You must have some reason for this command. I think I need to have my thought-processes changed, because otherwise I am not going to be able to do this.
"How do You see these people--the ones who cause division, the ones who place obstacles in the way of understanding Your teaching?"
Time passes as I reflect on what this Scripture says.
They are slaves, slaves to their appetites, not slaves to Christ. How so? Slaves to an appetite for control? Slaves to an appetite for their own fame? Slaves to an appetite for money? Slaves to an appetite for conflict? Slaves to an appetite for superiority? If this is true, then of course they cannot be slaves of Christ. I can see this clearly now.
"How was it that You said they work? By smooth and flattering speech? Oh, Lord, I have been vulnerable to this smoothness, and I have an appetite for flattery. Please help me to yearn for your approval, and to be indifferent to the approval or disapproval of people."
Time passes in contemplation of how this Scripture will look when it is lived out in my day to day life. "Oh, Lord, by accusing them of flattery, You are warning me that their compliments are insincere-- or if sincere, given only to achieve their own purposes. Lord, are You saying that they are only using me?
"You are saying that with their flattery, they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.
"They are deceiving? They are deceiving the hearts? They are deceiving the hearts of the unsuspecting?
"Oh, Lord, this is ugly. If anyone but You were telling me this, I would be angry. But since it is You, I am afraid-- afraid of straying away from You.
"Please grant me the strength and wisdom to obey you in this. Help me to be wise about what is good, and innocent in what is evil.
"Regardless of how contrary this is to my human way of thinking, I am aware that You are here, and You have brought Your peace. I will trust that You will do as You said, and soon, soon crush Satan under our feet."
i always wondered what it meant. but i think that we are watching the old year end and the new one begin, in joyful unity with our brothers and sisters in the family of God.
so at 7:00 in the evening we gathered for a service. young families and older couples and singles. we lifted our voices in praise to the Lord who brought us through the year. the leader brought his testimony of salvation, highlighted with slides from the time of his conversion. others witnessed of the ways God had cared for them this past year.
we gathered for a late evening meal; homemade noodle soup, cheese and crackers, ginger snaps and pumpkin dip, coffee or hawaiian punch.
sweet fellowship and goodwill abounded as we played different board games. laughter rippled back and forth wherever the young people were. groups gathered, the younger and elder, male and female, more educated and less educated, different races, different social levels believers and unbelievers, brought together for the purpose of exalting Christ.
oh, i understand that not everyone comprehended that purpose-- the small children, the lost.
but the clear evidence of the fruit of the Spirit was glorious to see.
my husband came home early for lunch, and we left for a small town half an hour away for a funeral.
the dear sister who had entered her Father's courts with singing and His gates with praise would have celebrated her 101st birthday had her homegoing delayed nine more days.
one hundred one years of living.
she was placed in the state orphanage along with several of her younger siblings when her mother died.
if i recall correctly, she was seven years old at that time.
life was not easy.
but at some point she came to know Jesus as her Lord and Savior.
she married at the age of fifteen to a man fourteen years her senior. he loved her deeply and tenderly, and they started their family; nine children, six of whom lived to adulthood.
one hundred one years. almost a hundred direct descendants, and then all those who married into the family or were adopted.
her former pastor opened in prayer. five of her granddaughters and greatgranddaughters sang "amazing grace." humble people, heartfelt song.
a grandson read Psalm 23.
a granddaughter arose to give a message from her grandmother.
she spoke quietly but passionately, "grandma told me that when she died, i was not to say anything about her, but only to speak of her Savior. she wants every one of you to know, to consider." the gospel was presented clearly, and an appeal was made to those who had not yet made their peace with God.
my own heart cried out, "Lord, make hearts tender to Your truth!"
some hardened faces softened as they heard their matriarch's desire for them. some hard faces hardened still further. others showed that their hearts vibrated in sympathy with her wishes.
the former pastor arose to give the eulogy. by his own explanation, the dear lady who was now in the home that her Father had prepared for her had been as a mother to him. he also knew her heart, and spent his time presenting the good news of God's plan to redeem mankind one individual at a time. o precious family members, she was concerned about your spiritual needs! please do not turn your back on the Savior!
the granddaughters and greatgranddaughters sang, "how great Thou art!"
people shared their memories.
the congregation sang "God be with you till we meet again."
we took the long drive to the country graveyard. the weather was unseasonably warm, at least twenty degrees rather than temperatures well below zero. still, we all shivered in the sunshine as the final words were said; we are leaving our dear sister's body here, but there is coming a day when this body will be raised a glorious body, (something we can't understand, but yearn to experience). we will be reunited.
after returning to the church, we ate of the bountiful reception meal, visited with family members and the church members who had provided the meal.
God takes our actions seriously. He has big plans, but He doesn’t HAVE to use us to accomplish them. He wants to offer us that joy, but we can skip out on it by choosing our own sin over His blessing. And the sad thing is, we might never know what He wanted to give us. What’s sadder is that maybe we will. --Benjamin Power