July 31, 2014
This evening I received one of the most edifying emails I’ve ever gotten. It’s from someone I hear from very rarely, maybe about once every other year, and who I do not think reads my blog, so she would not have known that my post yesterday spoke about the importance of building one another up. Maybe she does read it, I don’t know, but either way, it was incredibly kind of her to write what she did. I hope she doesn’t mind (as I’m leaving her name anonymous), but I just have to share, and save here for myself, these words which brought happy tears to my eyes. In fact, each time I read it, I get a lump in my throat. Maybe it’s because I loved her and cared about her very much (and still do) and truly feared for her about the other man she was engaged to. Hearing how well and happy her life has been, and still is, makes me deeply grateful to the Lord.
It certainly is a big encouragement and blessing when we get to hear that our efforts and/or counsel has affected another for good. It makes us glad that we ourselves listened to the Lord as He taught us and as He led us to do, or speak, or give, or go, or help in whatever way we did.
Here is her precious email to me:
I was just thinking about you this morning and wanted to thank you for intervening in my life at a critical time years ago when I was blinded in a bad relationship. Talking to you was really the turning point for me and I am so thankful to you and to God that I walked away from that relationship and that I have been blessed with a wonderful husband and great marriage for the past 8 years.
I frequently think about the conversation we had and just wanted you to know that all these years later, I still remember what you said and I am so thankful God used you in my life. It really saved me. Thank you, Rachel!
I hope you are doing well!
You are a blessing. Keep up the good work serving HIM!
July 30, 2014
God’s Word commands us to seek peace with everyone –to pursue it, strive for it, and do our best to achieve it. (Rom. 14:19 // Heb. 12:14 // 1 Peter 3:11) We are to follow after the way of peace by doing and speaking those things which edify, encourage, and benefit others (Rom. 14:19 // Eph. 4:29), working to please not ourselves but them, while in gentleness, in humble Christ-likeness, and with consideration concerning what is appropriate, build them up. (Rom. 15:1,2 // 1 Cor. 10:33 // Phil. 2:1-8)
Our speech should be seasoned with salt in that we present the Truth wisely and graciously, and as that which is favorable and beneficial. (Col. 4:6) This means that even if we must rebuke someone, we are to do so as courteously as possible, seeking their good, not our own. (1 Cor. 10:24) Living in harmony with all people is our goal (1 Peter 3:8), but this is achieved only as we conduct ourselves with sympathy, love, and unassertiveness (same verse), and as we refuse to retaliate, but instead to bless. (v. 9) Of course if we are repeatedly rebuffed or mistreated, then the most peaceful thing to do is to politely end that relationship.
Scripture’s commands about pursuing harmony does not mean, however, that we should neglect to expose wrong-doing and false doctrine. We should (Eph. 5:11), but only as we “speak the truth in love.” (4:15) This means we do so void of selfish ambition and arrogance (Phil. 2:3), and that we are always very careful to treat others as better than ourselves (same verse) while considering, in humility and sensitivity, their level of faith. (v. 4 // Rom. ch. 14 // Gal. 6:1)
Who of us would not like to see good days? (1 Peter 3:10) Then we must keep our speech and our actions wise, controlled, edifying, and error-free. (same verse // Eph. 4:29 // Ja. ch. 3) In this way we are truly striving to live in peace and harmony with all people (Rom. 14:19 // Heb. 12:14 // 1 Peter 3:11) and are thereby proving ourselves to be the children of God. (Mt. 5:9)
July 29, 2014
Yesterday my post was about maintaining relationships God’s way and how we should be humble, kind, and patient in the face of disagreements with those whose fellowship we have valued while within God’s will. However, this maintenance is not to be confused with the (likely) necessity to end relationships that have proved hazardous. Relationships that produce continued negativity, accusations, lies, condescension, mistreatment, or abuse should, in fact, be ended if possible (1 Cor. 7:20,21 & 15:33 // 2 Cor. 6:14-18), unless the Lord has told us to remain (which He does sometimes command –1 Peter 2:18,19). Provoking one another to anger and devouring each other is never godliness.
There is a difference between disagreement and mistreatment. There is a difference between disagreement and disrespect. There is a difference between disagreement and abuse. Disagreement between those in relationship is allowed, and is actually normal between two people who have two different brains. God Himself allows us, in using the gift of freedom He has given us, to reason, wrestle, and even disagree with Him as we petition Him or while we are asking Him to clarify His words or rationale to us. (Gen. 32:24-32 // Ex. 32:9-14 // Isa. 1:18 // Ezek. 4:15 // Mt. 15:21-28 & 18:23-27 // Luke 18:1-8) We can, and must, do this in great reverence, for disagreement does not equate with disrespect, nor should it ever.
Looking past the faults of others, or instead calling them to account, is sensitive stuff, and in whichever action we take, we must be led by the Spirit of the Lord. The Lord has given us His Word and His Spirit, and He has tutored us in Wisdom. Therefore, through all three (which are really One and the Same), and by having learned through the experiences God has caused or allowed us to walk in, we make our choices.
What if a wife continues to flirt with other men? What if a husband frequently strikes his wife or children in anger? What if a boyfriend engages in pornography? What if a girlfriend makes violent threats? What if a teenager keeps breaking curfew? What if a parent demeans a child’s abilities? What if a family member resorts to meltdowns when upset? What if a boss often yells and says harsh or even untrue statements toward or about employees? What if a family member breaks dishes, screams or swears when angry, gets drunk most weekends, won’t answer phone calls in a timely manner, keeps other relationships a secret, or refuses to comply with reasonable household rules? Should a person maintain relationships with those who resort to such behaviors? How about with those whose behaviors are less abusive but which still cross the line of respect?
Love is not the gauge with which to determine whether or not to maintain a relationship, for although true love is tough as well as tender, people often think that softness and tolerance is the definition of true love; thus loving thoughts can actually confuse us. Therefore it is God’s Wisdom, God’s counsel, which we must be ultimately led by. For though love is great –greater than even faith and hope (1 Cor. 13:13)– Wisdom, we are told, is supreme. (Pr. 4:7)
So how do we make correct choices regarding relationships? We use God’s Word (the whole counsel of it, not just bits of it), we use God’s Spirit (His counsel as well as His power), and we use God’s Wisdom –the Wisdom which God has already tutored us and grown us in, as we have, time and again, utilized His Spirit in putting into practice His Word.
July 28, 2014
I was talking to an acquaintance of mine, a teenager, a couple of days ago, and she mentioned that she and her boyfriend had broken up due to an argument. When I asked if she still likes the guy, she said she does and that they are trying to work / talk things out. I gave her a suggestion then, based on her stated desire to continue a healthy relationship with the boy, and it really, I believe, is good advice that I myself, and everyone, should keep in mind.
The basics of my advice was that relationships take work, effort, understanding, and empathy from both sides, and that we should all remember that this is so. For though the truth of this is obvious, we still sometimes tend to forget. Sometimes it seems that we take a good relationship for granted and then get careless or lazy when a glitch stops the lovely flow of fellowship. But is it wise or Christ-like to just “throw in the towel” quickly? It’s not. This is the way of the world, and especially the way of the modern world –with all the array of choices now available for attaining conversation, relationship, and (supposed) friendship –weak, disingenuous, and uncommitted though they be. “At first sign of difficulty, annoyance, or disagreement, toss such a relationship to the ditch and move on.” Such is the slogan of the modern world.
But is this God’s way? It’s not. God never treats people like that. Instead, He woos, He waits, He speaks gently, and then He waits some more. Only if a person persists in deliberate rejection of Him does He, after much patience, leave that person to his foolishly chosen destiny.
So, I mentioned to the teen that she should maybe suggest to her guy friend that they decide together to not talk, for maybe a month, about the issue that they had so sharply disagreed about. Furthermore, to decide to look at each other’s good points, enjoy each other while avoiding those actions or words that caused the problem, and let love, affection, and honor soften the hard feelings. Then, after a few weeks of (hopefully) a peaceful, happy friendship, the issue could more easily and respectfully be discussed, though sometimes the issue, I told her, will have already by then, dissolved itself. Surprisingly, this girl responded that she liked my suggestion and would try it.
Looking past the faults of others, especially those whom we have loved for a while and who have shown that they love God and His Word, should be a practice of ours that we hold to with humility. (Rom. 12:10,16,18) “For it is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good” (Gal. 4:18), but sometimes being zealous for one’s viewpoint (whether or not that viewpoint is false or correct) can defeat the work God has been doing in many lives. (Rom. ch. 14) Sometimes, maybe often, insisting upon one’s own way or repeatedly pressuring others to view an issue the way we see it –even if ours may truly be the best choice or what is correct– is to walk in sin. The main sin is pride (Gal. 5:26), for pride is what makes us criticize others whom we think lack insight, what makes us think we see things correctly like no one else, and which makes us, in the name of what is right and true, act upset, even angry, unbending, condescending, impatient, and confrontational, when others do not cater to our wishes or agree with our convictions. Thus pride brings in all sorts of other sins, including self-righteousness and hypocrisy. And with these beams growing in one’s eye, the insistent person only increases in his blindness.
None of us is perfect every day and all the time. We hopefully strive to be –doing so by listening intently to the Spirit of God who is in us so that we press closer and closer to our goal– but if we were already irreversibly perfect in knowledge and behavior, we would not need to rely continually on the Spirit’s help. Therefore, because we know this, we should be very careful about sounding our viewpoints with an air of arrogant insistence. We should be very careful in thinking that we have it all figured out, that our method is the best for everyone, and that our conviction or way is 100% soundproof. Moreover, we should be very careful about twisting others’ words, putting words in their mouths, attaching beliefs to them they do not actually adhere to, making false accusations of any kind, or using untruths to support our view.
God has a way of humbling us if we refuse to humble ourselves. And life has a way of bringing sorrow and aloneness to those who berate others for views those others maintain, especially when those others have sat quietly, studiously, and submissively under the tutelage of the Spirit. For though there is a time to end relationships that shouldn’t be, there is more often a time to humble oneself, show others honor and respect, and reconsider one’s own viewpoint under the Voice of the Lord. In other words, it should be a priority to first get the beam out of one’s own eye so that the facts of a matter can be seen clearly by each person involved.
In this way valuable relationships that the Lord wills to continue because they are beneficial both to us and to others’ eternities, will not end due to foolishness, stubbornness, pride, or any other sin.
July 27, 2014
If we love the Lord, if we trust in His Name, His Word, and His Promises… if we believe what He says and rely on Him… if we listen to His Spirit, obey Him, and keep our gaze straight on Jesus… then we will walk strong through even the darkest valleys of life. We will walk with peace and confidence. We will walk contented and be willing to wait calmly on our Shepherd, be eager to learn what He is teaching us through it, and be anticipating with joy whatever it is He is taking us to on the other side.
But it’s not merely about what is on the other side. It is also –and very much so– about what is happening within the pain. It’s a lot. And it is wonderful for those who can endure with patience, those who can keep faith, those who can look around and rejoice in the huge blessings God is giving amid the trial, the suffering, the wait.
Then later, when it is all over and we are at rest, and we are fine, and we didn’t die, and life is orderly and normal again, we will not have to look back on the dark valley and wish we had enjoyed it more. For we will have enjoyed it! We will have appreciated each difficult step, and especially because with each one, we felt our Savior’s hands lifting us. We felt His presence in that extra-special way… so tangibly. And what about His precious, beautiful, comforting Voice, and all the priceless Truths we learned from Him? Sure, we’re quite a bit older now, and we have the battle scars, but are we not wiser? Isn’t the immaturity, the quick temper, the self-centeredness almost completely refined out? Hopefully.
So, if we’re facing what looks like another dark valley up ahead, we should not fear or be upset. Instead we should remember… remember all the miracles God performed for us in those valleys of the past… all those immeasurably valuable experiences supplied to us while we journeyed through… all that time of sweet, sweet fellowship with the Awesome God of the universe… and all the unexpected joys He bestowed on us that made the pain pale in comparison.
If we can trust as we’ve been doing, and keep the faith and not be anxious, and remember the great rewards we received by remaining calm and thankful and obedient, then we will approach and step into the next dark valley with peace and joy, savor our walk within it, and watch patiently for God to do wonders. Again.
July 26, 2014
Let’s ask ourselves some questions with Ps. ch. 119 in mind:
~~How excited would I be if I received a large sum of money and a mansion on beautiful acreage? Verse 14 shows me that I should be just as exuberant about following God’s statutes as anyone would be about receiving great riches.
~~Do I neglect reading God’s Word with the excuse of being too busy, yet make time for that which I prioritize? Verse 16 shows me this should not be.
~~Have I chosen the way of Truth and is my heart dedicated to it? Verse 30 shows me this should be the case.
~~Do my eyes spend time viewing or reading worthless things? Verse 37 lets me know that this would take me away from living real Life.
~~Do I feel indignation toward those who forsake God’s laws and thus act wickedly? Verse 53 teaches me that this should be my attitude.
~~Have I been whole-heartedly seeking close fellowship with the Lord? Verse 58 encourages me to do so.
~~Am I instant about obeying God’s commands? Verse 60 reminds me of this importance.
~~Am I asking the Lord to teach me knowledge and good judgement? Verse 66 shows me that I should be asking.
~~Do I keep God’s precepts even if arrogant people are smearing me with lies? Verses 67-72 teach me to remain calm and trusting while understanding that God uses all affliction to train me to better follow His precious laws.
We could go on with the questions from this amazing chapter. But for now, let’s go back and think how each one of us would answer each question. And let’s take time to listen concerning how God would answer them for us as we ask His opinion.
Are there any areas needing improvement? If so, we’d best get to work on them.
July 25, 2014
The Lord is so good! And all who trust in Him, all who believe His Word, all who call out to Him for help, will be helped! We will be strengthened, and we will be given wisdom and direction. We will be given comfort and deliverance, as well as protection from that harm that is headed our way. Oh, that men would praise God’s name and thank Him for His wonderful mercies toward us!
It is our praise that paves the way for the Lord to do miracles on our behalf. Petitioning God in reverence and faith moves mountains, yes, but it is our praises and exaltations, our worship and thanksgiving which we lift up to the Lord that makes the enemy realize our faith, lose his confidence, lose his grip, and makes him flee. With the enemy gone, the Lord is able to work freely, for this (our partnership with God in battle) is the way He has ordained things to be. Whether it is a dangerous predicament, a hard heart, or a clear instruction about a situation –whatever it is that we are needing help with, praising God does wonders.
This morning I woke up with that impression I don’t like –that one that nudges me to do spiritual battle by fasting (often just fasting coffee) along with praising God (which I do like to do). I felt like it had something to do with my uncle’s motorhome that he, his wife, and my parents would be traveling in on their way to a reunion with relatives two hours away. Well, I know it sounds crazy, but fasting coffee (and I only drink one cup a day) is very hard for me (though this is the only year in about the last five that I haven’t fasted it at least once a week). I guess my body is a bit addicted even to that little bit (unfortunately). But anyway, not knowing if it was truly the Lord impressing me, I still said, “Oh Lord, please let me drink coffee this morning. I’ve got so much to do today and don’t want to deal with any low energy or headache. I’ll battle by praising You a lot.” The Lord seemed to say okay, but to be sure to really do the battle-praising. So I did. And it was a precious time with the Lord. Especially when I also looked up verses in my memory book –the one I used last year in memorizing 1-5 verses every day. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I reminisced about the many times God delivered me, comforted me, and strengthened me as I battled a huge evil all of 2013.
Well, so about the motorhome… Yea, my mom called mid-afternoon and told me that just as they were turning into the campground, the motorhome, being too big to make the turn properly, almost turned over. Thankfully it didn’t, but it did go into the ditch, and she was asking me to pray and to call her favorite prayer-partner to pray. Well, it took my uncle’s grandsons and others about four hours to get it (and the van it was pulling) out of the wedged position. What a relief. I mean, the whole reunion could’ve been ruined, for no one else could drive into the campground with that big thing blocking the driveway and sticking out into the main road. Probably a year from now the story might be funny, but it wasn’t funny today, for there was also the added danger that the big thing would tip over onto those trying to get it unstuck.
But, like I said, God is very good. And He is so good, that He gives us warnings, He gives us impressions, He gives us faith, and He gives us weapons by which to fight evil, to fight error, to fight confusion, to fight sin, and to fight a specific assignment from the evil one. Every day we must be attuned to God’s voice to obey whatever He may be saying, and no day should go by where we let our guard down against evil. There is a time to rest from certain battles, or to quit battling something because it has already been won, but there is never a time to rest from having an open ear and an open heart to hear God. If we do rest from these, it would be foolish and dangerous –for us and for others– and we may end up extremely sorry we took such a rest.
God is good. God is compassionate. Because He is so, He therefore expects us to be listening to everything He has to say to us. Like when He commands us to do battle by praising Him, even when we, ourselves, don’t see any danger around.