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Archive for January, 2010

Viva la Differance

America has become too feminized. The church has also become feminized.  Is this of the image of God that was intended from the beginning?

Masculinity is constantly under attack, and real men must” eat quiche ” and not be afraid to cry. Our culture tells them to be secure enough to get in touch with their feminine side.  Now, Ladies… is this what you *really* want? Your man in an apron?

We are different, and not  only in matters of anatomy. While there are varying degrees, women are created to be more nurturing, emotional and intuitive than men. Man was created to be more rational and objective.  Woman was given to man, initially, as his helpmeet. Eve was to assist, come alongside and encourage Adam to meet his full potential. She didn’t do very well that first week… and since then, we sisters have had a struggle trying to keep our heads on straight about being there for our guy instead of running past him and stealing his thunder. But inside, we would really like to see them do well. To be proud of them. To say, “That’s my guy. He’s amazing.”  And, this is exactly what he needs from us.

Man was created to be the protector and provider. He was also created to *need* a woman to assist him and to respect him. This is why we are commanded to respect our husbands and they are commanded to love their wives (Eph. 5:22-33).  It’s how we are put together.

Eve was taken from Adam. Together, they make the “image of God.”  I have often thought that the picture of the Trinity is well shown by the family, all with the same name and purpose (optimally), but three distinct persons with distinct roles.  The Father who provides and protects, the Mother (like the Holy Spirit) who comes along side and encourages, the Son who makes the Father proud, and whom the mother continually points to in her pride and joy.  There are some real similarities between the Holy Trinity and the ideal family.  But we have fallen. How we have fallen.

Men should accept their God-given uniqueness and role. Women also need to enjoy the masculinity of their men, not try to undermine it, and joyfully accept their own femininity.  Men, tend to be more rational and calm… women the more easily lead and intuitive/emotional. Like the head and the heart.  Together we make an image of God.  Apart, we are always alone. Missing something key for fulfillment.  Loneliness was the one thing that God said wasn’t good in His creation. So, male and female He created them, for each other, for His glory – a complete picture.

There are rare exceptions when God gives a person the gift of being single with joy and fulfillment. In that case, He alone is their completer. But this is not His primary purpose or design.  Life really does work out better when you follow the directions of the Designer. He knows what He’s doing!

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The Hardest Test

Blank agony.

Death stares through his eyes, fear turns him pale, lies make him weak.  And, I can not help.

No words are enough. No promises convince him. He believes the voices and receives the condemnation.  His hands cover his ears when I speak of forgiveness. Dulled eyes stare back, unable to see hope that waits beyond the door.  Yet, until he turns the latch, there is no hope.

Faith is gone.

Hear my prayer, Oh GOD! He cannot pray.  Save him! Reach him with words he can believe in, while there is life left – to save.

Sleepless nights of incoherent words. Tormenting dreams cry out from half-sleep. The claws are digging into his brain, mesmerizing, seductive hate. “This one will not recover. He deserves to die – he has said it himself. There is no redemption left for such a one. No sacrifice. Believe it and die.”

Doubt your doubts, Beloved, and the grip is loosened.  Wonder at the dawn and a light will break!  See arms opened and receive love and forgiveness. I am still here. God is still here.

You are loved. Always.

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Sometimes there is no other way to learn to swim other than jumping in. There are so many things I do, that I am not “qualified” to do.  If I stop to think about it for too long, I will back away – recognizing my own inadequacy. So to combat this, I overprepare. Even when filled with information, I’m still not sure I will deliver it well… especially if I try. So, I’ve found my solution is to fill my mind until it hits “TILT”, then keep in mind the *basic* concept I want to communicate and “wing it”. I just start talking. Usually this works out pretty well.

It works until someone calls on me to show “how it’s done”.  Why don’t you train others to do what you do? You are such an expert!

Oh, really?

If you only knew.  I’ve been faking it, *acting* like I know what I’m doing, until I get there. Somehow, I get there… but I don’t think I could draw you a map.

Maybe I should take up cartography, next.

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A Children’s Story

The glass slipper, fairy dust

enchanted castle, and a prince…

Are these the ingredients

of a timeless tale?

A villian, vile and crafty.

A hunted hero, fallen.

A weeping maiden, pleading.

Are these the dreams

that paint the scenes

of a children’s story?

Or is it the simplicity

of kitten paws and butterflies?

Tell me a tale by firelight

that echoes in my heart

and shines in my eyes!

That is a children’s story.

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Uncovering Grief

There is an amazing grace that comes with a friend walking with you through grief.  Grief is messy, I’m finding out, and very unpredictable. It does not announce itself and can take so many forms. One being obsession or excessive dependence on a particular person. That isn’t a healthy state for a friendship, and will eventually wear it down.

I am thankful tonight for a wise friend who saw my condition, recognized my real need, and covered over my offenses while teaching me to see my condition for what it was.  Dear friend, I think God for you and that grace. You did not throw me away as I became a problem.

Hopefully, I will recognize the opportunity to “pay it forward” when it comes, and give the grace needed to *really* help a friend.

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A Risky Business

Love is a risky business. Whether it be a boyfriend/girlfriend, spouse, sister, child, or dear friend – to really love someone means giving of yourself in a way that hurt can happen. Rejection is a real possibility. The love of God is the only “sure-thing” yet like Aslan, He is not a tame lion, and can be made angry, too.  Yet I know – He will never leave me or forsake me. I am secure in His love. My inclination is to only please others and make them happy with me. Yet, there are times when truth is more important than comfort.  It is then, that love comes to the test.

Moving away from the task-oriented self to open my heart to friends has had an unexpected effect. My heart has become so full and sometimes tied up in knots – concerns, prayers, imaginations, fears, and love so painful it wrings my heart. Yet, it is time for this now. As I have said often, and must now live it, “Life is short. There is no time for small talk”.  In a way – trusting to a friend  things that are very precious to me has burst a dam of emotions that I am not quite sure what to do with.  I feel like a child – not knowing the rules. It is so much safer in “the study”. The mind at the helm, is more secure than the heart.  While I know the heart cannot be trusted, entirely – I have given it little room and it was like an unwatered plant. I want to love fully and live without regrets. Perfect love casts out fear.  This must mean God’s kind of love. I believe that there are different kinds of love… the love for a spouse can have many facets – unconditional agape’ love, erotic love, and friendship… but there is a kind of love I have for my friends that can also be overwhelming. The same is true for the rest of my family.

It is one thing to open one’s mind to another. Rejection on this level is painful, but can be mended fairly soon.

Rejection of my very self, my soul, is only redeemable by Christ, himself. If He did not hold me in His hands, I would have no courage to love others.  Yes, love is a risky business. But it was the business of Jesus.  He said, “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

God, help me to see as you see, and love as you love, without fear and without regret.

Amen.

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The Cost of Sin

We are saved by grace, not by our works. I am so glad, and grateful to the Lord for that. I could never be good enough, even for five minutes! But now that we are saved, does it really make any difference if we do sin? Are there consequences for a believer who sins, or does the forgiveness of Jesus exempt us from them?

The Apostle Paul addressed this question in Romans 6:2 “Shall we who died to sin, continue to live in it?” And, Romans 6:16 – “Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?” Shall we who have been brought out of darkness, continue to walk in it?

Sin is bondage. Whether it is trying in our own ability to reform ourselves (which is pride and self-righteousness) or being drawn back into our old sins, 2 Peter 2:22, “Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.” Sin is independence from God. Doing things our own way. It can form habits of mind that are hard to break, the more we indulge this. We can’t blame our circumstances for our behavior. The apostle Paul went through beatings, false accusations, prison, shipwreck, sickness, loneliness, and martyrdom, yet he called himself an “overcomer”. He focused on Christ and the goal of Heavenly reward, not on the present hardships. No matter what our circumstances are in this world, we can have free hearts (“…if the Son sets you free, you shall be free indeed.” John 8:36) or enslaved hearts (…“slaves to sin, which leads to death “). Once we have been saved, we have the power of God to make a choice for sin or God. It’s up to us.

There are consequences we will face if we choose sin, and we need to be aware of them. Mentioned in the Scriptures above is sin leading to death. But if we have eternal life, what death does this refer to? A literal interpretation would be a shortened physical life. Eph. 6:2-3 says, “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with a promise, “that it may go well with you and that you may live a long time on the earth.” Paul refers to judgment of disregard for the Body of Christ, shown through selfishness and indulgence, leading to death (spoken of as sleep) in 1 Corinthians 11. Other warnings are expressed in 1 Cor. 10. This does not indicate that all illness or trouble is a result of sin, only that sin can lead to these things. God is the judge, and we should examine our own hearts with the help of His Spirit. “Search me Oh God, and know my heart!” Ps. 51

We often speak of the glorious blessings we have in Christ, and we should. To revel in His grace and remember what He did, it is right to worship and praise Him. But we must not be hypocrites. Jesus had no tolerance for that. We also need to honor our Lord by our words and our life. God will not be mocked.

Galatians 6:7-9 “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

“But this I say, He which sows sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which sows bountifully shall reap also bountifully.” 2 Cor. 9:6

A wise father will teach his child to fear doing wrong. A wise child will fear displeasing his father. The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord. In the Ten Commandments, clear warnings are given. One reason we need to be careful not to be disobedient to God is because of the influence on our households.

“I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me”.

Our children are watching and will imitate us. Even if they don’t see what we do, the tendencies of consecutive generations are statistically evident. If a father abuses a child, that child is much more likely to abuse his children. The same is true of alcoholism, etc. The sins of the fathers (and mothers) are passed down to their children and children’s children. This chain can be broken through the power of Christ and our repentance, but it’s best never to forge this chain in the first place.

Another consequence of our sin is, that innocent people suffer as a result. A child of an alcoholic will have fear, loneliness, insecurity and possibly injury. They are likely to make unwise choices as adults because of a wrong view of themselves. A drunk who gets behind the wheel of a car can injure or kill people who were obeying the laws. A gambler robs his family, an adulterer destroys the trust of his wife and may bring disease into the marriage. An angry person blurts out words that wound for a lifetime. These are real consequences. Real pain is caused and the innocent do suffer. Abortion kills the innocent. God hates this. We should also not support those in office who would call such evil, a right.

“Shall the throne of iniquity, which devises evil by law, have fellowship with You? They gather together against the life of the righteous, and condemn innocent blood.” Ps. 94:20-21

If we turn from the poor, the widow and the fatherless (and are selfish) God will not hear us when we cry for help. Prov. 21:13 “If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.”

1 Peter 3:7 “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.”

And, Psalm 66:18 “If I regard iniquity in my heart,The Lord will not hear.”

We can have great confidence to come to the mercy seat of God when we have needs. What a terrible thing to sabotage that privilege! We desperately need God to be there for us. This is a very serious consequence to sin.

We could also irretrievably suffer a loss of our good name and testimony.
Matthew 5:13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.”

This could also cause the unsaved have reason to mock God.
Romans 2:21-24 “…you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

Our sin can give boldness to other believers to sin.
Romans 14:21 “It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.”

Matthew 18: 6-7 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!” By the apostle Peter’s bad example in Galatians 2 – “… And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy”

We could receive discipline from God: Hebrews 12:7 “ If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?”

A life of difficulty –
The way of the wicked is like darkness; They do not know what makes them stumble. Prov. 14:19

A seared conscience, becoming misled and deluded. 1 Timothy 4:1-2 “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron.” Romans 1:21-22 “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools…”

That brings insensitivity to God’s presence Judges 16:20 “And she said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” So he awoke from his sleep, and said, “I will go out as before, at other times, and shake myself free!” But he did not know that the LORD had departed from him.”

Loss of fellowship with other believers “…if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” Matt. 18:17

An open door to the Devil to cause trouble: Don’t let the sun go down on your anger, and don’t give the Devil an opportunity. The thief must no longer steal. Instead, he must do honest work with his own hands, so that he has something to share with anyone in need. Ephesians 4:27-28
Opening any door of opportunity to this enemy (Satan) gives him a foothold, and as he gets more entrance, he has a stronghold. What began as a tendency becomes a habit. What was a habit becomes a spiritual stronghold. Satan knows your weak points and can wrestle you down to defeat if you give him the room. He’s had years of experience and knows how to make you powerless. The key to overcoming him is only total reliance on Jesus Christ. In Christ alone, we are “more than conquerors”. While it is possible, in Christ – to not only be forgiven, but to be free from the power of sin, if we have given “legal ground” for the enemy to mess with us, it will be a struggle to get back to the point of freedom again.

Inability to understand the meat of God’s word. “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?” 1 Corinthians 3:1-3

Expectation – loss of treasure in Heaven. “Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”

2 John 1:8 “Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully.”
& Shame when we stand before God. 1 John 2:28 “And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.”
However, we do not have to walk in sin. We can be obedient and walk in the Spirit (Romans 8). If we stumble, Christ will lift us up. We do not have to walk in darkness (practicing sin) when Jesus died and rose again to give us power to overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil. We can be, and are in Him, “more than conquerors through Him who loved us”. Knowledge of His word and what is available to us in this warfare is essential! Therefore, “Study to show yourself approved, a workman who doesn’t need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 1 Timothy 2:15
“But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation.” Hebrews 6:9
So, what then, is our motivation to live a righteous life? We know that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Ps. 111:10). But do we live our Christian lives out of fear?
Actually, putting ourselves under the law, in order to be good enough doesn’t work. It never has. Jesus has provided a better way. We have received God’s grace and forgiveness based on the work Jesus did. Our love for him is our motivating factor. Perfect love will drive out our fears of not being good enough. He has accepted us because of the merits of Christ, and he loves us deeply. He proved this by His sacrifice. When we know how we are loved, we want to please our Lord. This is the motivation that keeps us in His will, and in the Spirit. This is the overcoming power. The power of the love of God in us.

Just as an earthly father wants his son’s obedience but would prefer devotion with occasional slip-ups to a pragmatic servitude – so our Heavenly father desires relationship with us. He longs to give us the best. When He disciplines us, it is for our good. So our question shouldn’t be, how close can I get to the edge of the pit without falling in, but instead, how close can I get to God?
We are known by our works to the world. We are representatives of Christ here. Works show our testimony and do give glory to God. But it is the heart that God is looking for. If you love the Lord, good works will follow. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.” On these, rest all the other commandments.” Mark 12:30 -31.

J. Clark

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