“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.” – Isaiah 55:8. If I had gotten my way, I would have gone a different direction in life. I’m so glad God is in charge.
Ladies, I’m going to be vulnerable today and completely honest with you: I’ve never really liked women. They’ve always annoyed me like no other creature on this planet. Since the days of middle school pettiness to high school flakes to adult gossips and superficiality, women bother me. So when God began pushing me to minister to and teach other women, I pushed back. They were not the group I wanted to hang with.
Many of the women’s ministries I had been involved with in the past were mostly what I would call “huff and fluff”. They huffed a little about God’s Word and then added in the fluff to appeal to their flesh. They would look at a few verses and then hastily apply it to their lives. Always trying to reassure the fragile female ego that they are beautiful, loved and “okay”. This did nothing for me. I knew the sin in my life was not beautiful, I didn’t understand what love was and I certainly did not feel “okay”. I longed for something more.
I tried to avoid women’s groups most of my life. Then God began to push. He pushed me with his Word and by using persistent believers he placed in my life (if you don’t have pushy godly friends in your life, you need some). The suggestions of others surprised me and I heard myself say more than once, loud and clear, “But, I don’t like women!” I said it to others and I said it to God. However, God always gets his way…this woman who did not like women’s groups found herself at the front of one.
I have been ministering to women in one form or another for several years now. The heart-journey God has taken me on in this area has been amazing, but one of the most important things he has shown me is this: I do not really dislike women. What!?! You may think this is silly, but this came as a great shock to me and I’ve only realized it in the last few years. Here is the truth of the matter: it is easy to dislike someone until God calls you to love them.
What I do dislike in women is the sin they display. The attributes of pettiness, superficiality, gossiping, interest in material possessions and self-indulgence are all sins women fall prey to easily (myself included!). These are what were turning me off of my own gender and what I was allowing to cloud my view of them. I was not seeing them for what they were - women in desperate need of the qualities of Jesus Christ. If they were saved, they didn’t know how to act like it. If they were not saved, Jesus was their only hope. How could I let my distaste for sins (that I often displayed myself) get in my way of showing them the truth found in God’s Word? I repent of this attitude I held for so long.
Now the other side of this is vital! It doesn’t end with simply not disliking women. It goes further because it has to. I can now honestly say that I love women and I love ministering to women. Why? For the treasure involved. Little else in all of creation is more beautiful than a godly woman. If you want to see something rare and spectacular, find a woman who fears the Lord above all else in her life. Find a woman who is humble and eager to serve. Who fills her marriage with grace, trains up her children in scripture and is an encourager to those around her. Find a woman who is diligent in her work and whose mouth is full of wisdom and solid counsel. A woman whose strength is found in her gentle nature and quiet spirit. Find a woman called by God and devoted to following after her Savior, Jesus Christ.
This is the woman God declares praise-worthy (wow!) in Proverbs 31: “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” A woman like this is said to be “far more precious than jewels” (Proverbs 31:10), “the crown of her husband” (Proverbs 14:4) and possessing a beauty that is “precious to God” (1 Peter 3:4). I agree, a godly woman is a treasure beyond measure and brings great glory to her God. This is what I want to help women display more of in their lives.
The women in the fluffy studies from years ago were in desperate need of understanding more about Jesus. They needed deep biblical guidance, not craft time and pretty centerpieces. Women of today are no different. They need to be shown the riches that are found in Jesus alone. It is in him we find our value…in ourselves…and in each other. I will minister to women for the rest of my life, whether formally or informally. God has taught me to love them and now I can do nothing else.
My husband is not my ideal man. Now before you get upset with me, hear me out. He is certainly the right man for me; God picked him out and ordained that we be together. Knowing this, there is no one I would rather be married to. Who am I to disagree with God? Though, sadly, I did exactly that for many years. That is until God got my eyesight fixed and focused me on himself instead.
Phil has blessed me immensely and we are better together than we are apart. Together we display the gospel more fully and beautifully than we could separately. However, Phil cannot do many things for me. He cannot love me perfectly, he cannot keep me from anxiety, he cannot change my heart and he cannot keep me from harm or physical illness. Above all this, he cannot save me. Phil has never forgiven my sins by dying on a cross for me nor would it be sufficient if he did.
Too often we wives look to our husbands for what is impossible for them to give. It’s like asking for water out of a hose hooked up to an oil well. We want them to satisfy our deepest longings for relationship, trust, and perfect - full of grace - unconditional love. They can give small doses of these through the power of the Holy Spirit (if they are a Christian man), but only God can fully provide all of these qualities in a pure and eternal way. He displayed this in the sacrifice of his only son. Put simply, our deepest needs, longings and desires can only find fulfillment in Jesus Christ.
We love our husbands but should not look to them to provide only what God can give us. We are joyful not because our husband finally gives us a compliment, but because of being part of God’s chosen family. We are peaceful not because our husband provides well for us financially, but because God tells us we are eternally secure in him and no one can ever snatch us out of his hand.
I cannot under-emphasize the importance of understanding and living this out in your marriage. If I trust Phil for what only God can provide, I will be disappointed over and over again. I will be a miserable person married to a miserable man reminded of his constant failings. If I instead look to God alone to identify with and find my worth as his child, I find treasure. I am a woman at peace, secure and joyful, happily married to a man who I love dearly and thank God for. With both of us being sinners, it makes no sense that we could perfectly satisfy each other, we can only look to holy perfection for that.
So Ladies, find perfect love in the one who loves you perfectly. Be secure in Christ and who you are in him, then love your husband well. I leave you with something I read recently in the Bible that felt just like a love letter being written to me from the love of my life, Jesus Christ. Notice in these verses he loves us by telling us of his greatness and ability to care for us perfectly. He makes no room for another savior, he alone saves. Reflect on these words today; read them as if they are meant for you because, if you are his… they are.
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I give Egypt as your ransom,
Cush and Seba in exchange for you.
Because you are precious in my eyes,
and honored, and I love you,
I give men in return for you,
peoples in exchange for your life.
I, I am the Lord,
and besides me there is no savior.
- Isaiah 43:1-4, 11
Do you love your children? The answer is not as obvious as you might think. Sometimes we have great emotions and tender thoughts toward our children, but is that really love?
In Titus 2:3-5 Paul gives a significant list of what the older women of the Church should be teaching the younger women. Included in this list is the command to teach the young women to love their children:
It may seem odd that someone would need to teach us to love our own children; doesn’t that come “naturally” the moment they are placed in your arms after birth? Well, in some ways, yes it does. In other (very significant) ways we really need to be reminded what it means to truly love our children - thus the command in Titus 2.
Loving our children can mean cuddles and words of encouragement. It can also mean discipline and allowing pain to occur. It can mean giving or withholding; gentleness or a hard line. All of these can be expressions of love from a parent to a child.
What is the single most important way to love your child? Tell them about Jesus. Tell them about who love is and why there can be no love without Jesus. Read through the book of 1 John with them, especially Chapter 4, which contains lines like:
If you hate your children, then withhold this from them. And understand if you do this, you cannot love them, it is impossible. Only those who actually love their children will introduce them to Christ. “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:8.
With this knowledge we should SHOWER our children with true love; sharing with them the knowledge of who God is. Love them as much as possible by teaching them more about him and reading his Word to them.
Train them up in love to love him who is Love.
No material gift, “quality time”, or spoiling holds a candle to the eternal significance of this vital information. Do not withhold it, lavish it on them as the Father has on us “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” 1 John 3:1.
If your heart has been claimed by God, this is pure and simple obedience:
Soak your children (and all children you love) in experiencing and learning God’s designs, plans, promises, commands, and his justice, grace and mercy. Teach these attributes diligently to your children as commanded. There is nothing greater! Mothers, I enCOURAGE you to LOVE your children!
It was one of those days… the kind where everything was out of control. The boys were either being wildly excited and loud or fighting like wildcats and even louder. Every inch of progress I would make seemed to get erased within 10 minutes by the two whirlwinds behind me. There was a reason their Grandmother called them Hurricane Peyton and Tornado Troy.
Although “chaos” would have adequately described my kitchen, I had still managed to get a decent supper on the table by the time Phil got home. My dear hubby could sense my mood as he tried to help get the table ready (yes, good Spidey senses do slowly develop as a husband matures, thank you Lord!). He tread lightly around me, trying not to do or say anything that might accidentally spark my shortened fuse.
I finally plopped the last dish on the table and sat down in a huff, feeling quite flustered and exhausted from the long day. Phil began to pray and while I breathed in Jesus (recall that blog?) I tried to remind myself that those praying with me at that moment were really gifts from God (wow is he a creative gift-giver, and with a mighty unique sense of humor I might add).
As soon as our heads lifted and our eyes cracked open, my youngest, Troy, stood up out of his chair and grabbed a huge forkful of fettucine, dripping with Alfredo sauce. He held it as far above his head as his arm could reach and slowly began to lower the long swaying strands of pasta toward his big mouth, making wild growling sounds like a hungry wolf about to eat his prey.
Suddenly the twisted wad of pasta slipped off the end of his fork and smacked him in the center of his face before falling and managing to hit his shirt, the chair and finally the floor. For the first time all day the whole house was silent. Everyone, fully aware of Mom’s strained mood, turned to me in obvious anticipation of what my reaction would be. I could see the fear in their eyes.
In my own mind (as we super-powered moms can do) I quickly assessed the fallout this attention-seeking antic would cause: the cleanup of the floor and the chair and the son, the stain removal from the shirt and the added laundry, the cost of the food he just wasted, and how this child obviously needs better discipline! Would this be the final blow that caused me to (justifiably) erupt…???
Ahh… what the heck… I burst out laughing. Seeing that fettucine bop him in the face and the look of surprise in his eyes was too much. It was seriously funny, and I let loose laughing like a crazy woman. After everyone realized I was not going to freak out, they laughed hard too. The laughs continued and from that moment on the whole tone of the evening changed.
It was a split second decision to love instead of be angry; to share joy instead of more angst. I don’t always make good choices in moments like this, but this one taught me a good lesson. Sometime you just need to SHOCK your kids with undeserved grace. It helps them and you at the same time. It is a powerful reminder of the utterly undeserved gracious gift of God that we are given in Jesus Christ. What a truly shocking reality that is.
“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8.
The love of our Father God should blow us away. He never runs out and is always generous. We should love others the same way, always being full of grace. “And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” John 1:16.
I challenge you to find ways to shock others with this type of grace. The next time someone wrongs you, forgive them right away. When your husband puts his foot in his mouth… again (those Spidey senses don’t always kick in quick enough), don’t pout and act hurt, decide to laugh, roll your eyes and love him anyway.
And every once in a while, give those kids a break and shock them with CRAZY grace! When they know they have done wrong or made a bad decision, grab them, hug them, and tell them you love them and forgive them because God has forgiven you for all of the wrong you have done. Let them feel a small portion of the release and freedom that the power of grace provides.
When the opportunity arises, I enCOURAGE you to make a split second decision to love.
“One-anothering” is a catchy phrase that I thought I had cleverly made up in my mind all by myself until I did an internet search just now to see what popped up. Apparently I am not the first to think of these words, there are books, Bible studies, articles and sermons on this very phrase. So even though I may not be as clever as I originally thought, I still love the term and what it means to the body of Christ.
What is one anothering? I want to answer this using God’s words; it will become clear very quickly:
If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. – John 13:14
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. – John 13:34
Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. – Galatians 6:2
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. – Ephesians 4:32
Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. – Ephesians 5:21
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom… – Colossians 3:16
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. – 1 Thessalonians 5:11
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, - Hebrews 10:24
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. – James 5:16
Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. – 1 Peter 4:9
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. – 1 John 4:11
Are you getting the picture? This is just a small sampling of what the Bible contains. One-anothering is us, as the body of Christ, being obedient and acting on God’s instructions on how to treat and care for other members of the body of Christ.
Jesus was faithful in giving us instruction on how to treat each other and being our perfect example in how to do this. Jesus taught, healed, loved, rebuked, washed the feet of and prayed for those he loved. We need to be busy doing these same things.
God has blessed each of us with special spiritual gifts in order to use them to continue to build up the Body. If you read the Bible it will be easy to see that there are to be no “loner” Christians in this world. We were made to be dependent on each other and to be united together for the glory of God (see Philippians 2:1-4)
We are responsible for each other and must be active in caring for each other in order for us to continue to “hold fast our confession” (Hebrews 4:14). Have you ever sat in a church service or Bible study and looked around at your brothers and sisters in Christ and thought, “I am accountable to God for these people.”? I’m hoping now you will, because you are.
God has ordained this beautiful interdependence within the body of Christ, allowing us each to use our God-given abilities to help each other. This is the means by which God has decided that his people be taken care of, by his people. Yes, it is a mighty calling indeed. This is one ministry that every believer needs to be active in.
I have the privilege of getting to do some serious one-anothering in Guatemala in just over a week. The language and geographical location may be different, but God’s commands stay true and perfect. I will be loving, encouraging, teaching, praying with and figuratively washing the feet of the body of Christ in Guatemala. This will be done in homes with dirt floors, schools with hungry children and churches with joyful brothers and sisters. I can’t wait.
We will also be doing much one-anothering within our own team. We will get continual opportunities to practice encouragement, submission, forgiving, and the act of bearing each other’s burdens and joys. This will be easy and enjoyable at times and at others terrifically difficult, but always done in love and with Christ in mind and heart.
Ladies, be found faithful in your ministry of one-anothering, enCOURAGE others in the body of Christ for the glory of God.
This Sunday we celebrate Easter. We will attend egg hunts, church services, and family gatherings. These events are fine, but do we realize the true immensity of what we are celebrating?
Easter is a holy holiday commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ from death to life, but how many of us are living as if he is still dead? Do our lives reflect the power of his triumph over sin and death?
This man who was called Jesus lived on this same earth nearly 2000 years ago. He was sinless and perfect because he truly was the Son of God. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14.
He fulfilled the prophesies of the Old Testament, he was the waited for Messiah. He came to love and to show us how to love. He healed, taught and proclaimed the coming Kingdom of God. Yet the more he loved the more he was hated by the religious rulers of the time. They cared more for their rules, traditions and order than for the truth.
They tried many times to capture Jesus, but he evaded them because it was not yet his hour. Finally, the time had come. Jesus had been eating with his disciples in the upper room, teaching them, washing their feet and preparing them for what was to take place. Jesus led them to the garden of Gethsemane to pray. What did he pray for? For himself, for his disciples, and for you and me. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ you were on his lips that night, read John chapter 17.
The mob came for him, a band of soldiers and officers of the priests ready for a fight carrying “lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, ‘Whom do you seek?’” John 18:3-4. When told they were there for Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus replied, “’I am he,’ they drew back and fell to the ground.” John 18:7. This detachment of trained soldiers with swords in hand could not even stand in the presence of this holy man Jesus, the power of his word was too much for them to even stay on their feet.
Jesus gave himself up in obedience to the mission given him by his Father. They bound the Son of God and led him off to be judged. After a bogus trial where he was actually found innocent, the Pharisees stirred up the crowd to demand his crucifixion. Pilate finally relented, valuing his physical life over his eternal one.
Jesus suffered greatly as he was ridiculed, tortured, whipped and finally raised above the crowd upon a cross. Held to rough wood by large metal stakes driven through his flesh. He hung, he bled, he died. Why? For you. “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” - Isaiah 53:5
There was no other way. Sin has to be paid for, the price is death. We sin, we die, separated from a holy God forever who cannot tolerate sin in his presence. What hope do we have then? Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Jesus is our hope, our only way (John 14:6). Jesus stepped in to take our place and died for us. A sinless, perfect sacrifice bearing the wrath of God against the sin of the people, our sin. That was his mission on earth, to pay your penalty and redeem you to be his own.
The lifeless body of Christ was laid in a tomb and sealed, but nothing has power over God. Not soldiers, ropes, a cross, or a sealed tomb. Jesus rose from the dead on the third day just as he told his followers he would. He defeated death and remains alive today and forever.
This is why we celebrate; we have hope of eternal life through Jesus if we accept what he did for us on the cross and fully surrender to his kingship in our lives. This event of death and resurrection was witnessed by hundreds and is recorded in all four gospels: Matthew 27 and 28, Mark 15 and 16, Luke 23 and 24 and John 19 and 20. Don’t take my word for it, read it for yourself. Read it to your children!
The tomb is still empty today; don’t live as if Jesus is still there. He remains alive and is seated at the right hand of his Father God (Luke 22:69). Are you living as if Jesus is King and has full authority? If we belong to God, our lives should reflect this truth.
Happy Easter, I enCOURAGE you to truly celebrate Jesus this weekend. We can be full of hope because the tomb is completely empty!
Ladies, please let me know if you have ever experienced one of these days (if you haven’t just keep quiet). I sat down at the computer to write a blog but forgot my Bible. As I went to grab it I saw cleaning supplies left out and remembered that I had started to clean the bathroom but only got halfway done. I better get that done, but I should shower first. After I showered I remembered I needed to switch the clothes in the washer to the dryer. I get to the laundry room and realize I never started the washer because it wasn’t a full load yet. So I went to the boys’ room to get dirty cloths and see that I still needed to hang up the clean clothes I left there earlier. After finishing, I remembered I really had to get that blog done. So I sat down at the computer but forgot my Bible. As I went to grab it I saw cleaning supplies left out and remembered that I had started to clean the… wait a minute…
So here I sit, feeling like I have been running crazy today and I still have only a half clean bathroom (which may be better than a half dirty bathroom depending on how you see things), a washer full of dirty clothes and a blog still needing done.
Some days I wonder… is this how it starts? That slow decline of brain functioning they talk about on the radio? Where is that Sudoku book I had around here? When is the last time I did a crossword puzzle? OR… has all my Diet Pepsi drinking finally caught up to me? Did the aspartame turn my brain to Swiss cheese like Tristan Miles always told me it would?
Its scatter brained days like this that keep me truly thankful that I have a Heavenly Father that has everything under control. He never forgets to feed the sparrows, stock the snow reserves or cue the sun for its rising. Nothing is beyond his capabilities or grasp. God always accomplishes what he sets out to do each and every day. There is nothing left at the end of his “to do list” ever.
I praise God that he is forever perfect and his goodness never ends. God never changes. What comfort I take in that! He is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). There is no need for God to change, you can’t improve on perfection. You can never add to or take away from it; otherwise it would not have been perfect in the first place.
The word I love to read in the Bible is “steadfast”. It appears 219 times in the ESV Bible according to my search on biblegateway.com. 132 of those times are in the Psalms, which is where I have been reading it morning after morning as I study that book of the Bible.
202 times out of the 219 it is connected to the word “love”. Here are a few instances:
Psalms 63:3, “Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.”
Psalms 59:16, “I will sing of your strength; I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning. For you have been a fortress and a refuge in the day of my distress.”
Psalms 100:8, “For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.”
My heart rejoices every time I come across that word. I love serving a God that is steadfast. I looked up the definition and here are the words I found: firmly loyal, constant, unswerving, fixed, unchanging, and unmovable. How awesome is that? Yes! Those words describe my God and his love for me! Woo Hoo!
So on days like this when I feel a little out of sorts and wonder about the soundness of my mind, I breathe deep and praise a God that is constant and unmovable. He doesn’t experience forgetfulness or have senior moments. He never doubts, worries or struggles. “He upholds the universe by the word of his power,” (Hebrews 1:3). This does not tire him or wear him out even a little. He is fully and eternally sufficient to handle all he plans to do. That includes loving you with his steadfast, unswerving, fixed and unchanging love. He had it written down 219 times so you would understand it.
I must wrap this blog up now (just remembered I turned my hot iron on two hours ago to do my hair). Ladies, take comfort in knowing no matter how crazy or scattered we feel, we serve a God that is infinitely secure. He is deep and still, perfect and unchanging. He is steadfast. I enCOURAGE you to place your scattered mind and heart in his hands today. Trust in him to be your rock and solid footing always!
When I was a little girl there was a jewelry store in Westdale Mall in Cedar Rapids that had a large glass bowl full of little red, circular pins. These pins had the words, “You are Loved!” written in white on them. They were free for the taking and I often grabbed a few out and pinned one to my shirt to wear and gave the others out to family or friends.
Now, I realize that this was a marketing ploy to sell more jewelry and attract customers in to their store (not penniless kids like me) but I just couldn’t resist that message of love. I believe all of us long to feel truly loved and loved forever.
As we near Valentine’s Day, I want you to feel loved. No, let me change that. I want you to understand that you are already very loved. And if you have Christ, you have been marked with an irrevocable seal far better than any little pin on your shirt that I could ever give you.
The Bible tells us Christians that we are loved thousands of times in thousands of ways. The entire Bible is truly a love story written for us from beginning to end. It is a story of being lost, empty and without hope until a Savior finds us, fills us and promises to keep us with him forever. The love we receive is undeserved, unfathomable, and irrevocable.
The love found in the Bible can be summed up in one name – Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ is God’s love manifested in flesh and sent to save the unlovables of this world - us. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13). “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8).
The only way to ever have love or feel loved is to have Jesus Christ. There is no separating the two. God is love, he doesn’t contain love or just show love, he IS love. “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8).
The only way to love others is to share Christ with them. You may offer a hungry person something to eat, but if it is not done with the love of Christ it is worthless. That person will still die of starvation, a spiritual starvation. Offer them tangible bread to eat and the Bread of Life so that they will never hunger again (John 6:35). That’s how you love others, you show them Jesus.
I told you this is a forever love and it is. Romans 8:38 &39 – “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Nope, once you have Christ, nothing separates the two of you ever again. That’s a secure relationship!
If you feel this is all “old news”, you know Jesus loves you and died in order to save you and yet you don’t feel he really knows you or is near you, let me introduce you to Psalms 139. Read it, I mean it, go read it right now! You will see just how intimately God knows you.
God’s promises are rock solid, but I can’t believe them for you, you have to trust them for yourself. Allow his love to soak into your life and satisfy you fully.
Now here is one of the awesome parts… we have been permanently marked as belonging to God forever. Think of it as a permanent “I am Loved!” pin on you. This promise is found in Ephesians 1:13 & 14, “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”
You may not be able to see it but you are walking around with a big seal on your body saying you are the eternal possession of the eternal King of Glory. Wow, talk about being loved! That’s you my friend. Rejoice in the love of God that is written all over you forever.