Friday, February 28, 2014

Mirroring the God of Comfort

Last week, we took a look at how God comforts his children, even when they are suffering for their own sin.  The Israelites suffered when the Babylonians took them into exile for forty years, and God gave them words of comfort, even though they were exiled because of their idolatry and materialism.  Christians today suffer for their sins too.  Sometimes we experience the discipline of the Lord or the discipline of His church.  Sometimes we just suffer the natural consequences of our sins. It can be difficult to feel compassion for someone who brings suffering on herself, but if our Father is in the comforting business, we should be too. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Whatsoever Opportunities

Individual Bible reading and study are vital in the life of every Christian, but sometimes we need more.  Jesus established a church for many reasons, and one of them is so that we can learn from one another.  A lot of that learning happens in our local congregations, but I've been blessed recently to take advantage of another avenue of learning within the church.  I live close to a local school of preaching and Biblical studies, and the benefits have been great enough to make attending one of the classes the highlight of my week.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Character of God: Mercy

Covenant: The agreement between God and man.  Like a contract, there are requirements and penalties set out on both sides.  Unlike a contract, it is based not on law but on the personal integrity of the two often unequal parties. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

God of all Comfort

When I look at the world today, I see so much pain. Many times the hurt people suffer is a direct or indirect consequence of their own sin.  Divorce runs rampant, and custody battles are a nightmare for parents and children alike.  Cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs wreak havoc on bodies even years after the habit is kicked.  When girls give themselves to guys who later throw them aside, they feel guilt and shame for months. Sometimes it is hard to have compassion on people who are suffering because of their own actions, but the God we serve is the God of comfort, even to people mired in the pain that their sin brings.  

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Gift of Purity: A Book Review

99% of the time the conversations in this blog are perfectly suitable for even the youngest reader to peruse.  However, if your elementary aged child is reading over your shoulder today, you will at very least want to preview this. 

Embarrassing conversations are my forte.  Everyone has to have something they are good at right?  Well, if you need someone to ask a mentally ill adult about anything from his bowel habits, to regular hygiene, to his possible need for Viagra, I'm your girl.  Case work is a great preparation for life as a mother.  Yet to know what to say about sex and when to say it to my daughters still baffles me. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Character of God: Integrity

I love these words from the Sermon on the Mount. "Let your yes be 'I'll try,' and your no, be 'maybe.'

What?  That wasn't right?  Sigh.

All joking aside, I know that I am struggling with real integrity of speech.  In a world where we want to make people happy, where we hate to deal with whiny disappointment (from our coworkers as much as our three year olds), where we want to say yes but in fact we know that adding one more commitment is unlikely or even impossible, it is as hard to say yes as it is to say no.

The 15th Psalm describes integrity this way, 

He who walks uprightly,
And works righteousness,
And speaks the truth in his heart;
I find that last phrase lingers in my mind.  Integrity begins not with the words that come out of our mouths, but the things we tell ourselves in the echoing chambers of our hearts. Words have come out of my mouth, pure deception, though I had no intention to lie.  What happened?  The words I said to them were the words I said to myself, but I was not telling the truth in my heart. Women do this when they over commit.  "Three Valentines day parties to decorate and bring cookies to?  Sure!"  We also do this when we make excuses, "Well, I'm just really busy and it's hard for me to get to stuff."  Sometimes that is absolutely the truth.  Sometimes it's a big fat lie that I'm not only telling you but I'm telling myself too!

Every time I lie to myself and by extension everyone else, every time I say "yes" and don't come through, every time I make excuses I am billowing hot air. When the truth isn't spoken in my heart, no one can trust the words spilling from my mouth.  Yet, I know that in the heart of God there is nothing but truth; when he speaks the world is shaken.

When God intends, things happen.  From his heart, from before the beginning of the world God the Father gave his beloved Son to create a people and purposed his Spirit to indwell them.  The whole of the Bible is the story of how that came to be.  (John 17:24, Ephesians 1:4, Hebrews 9:26, 1 Peter 1:20, Revelation 13:8)

Cluster MACS J0717.5+3745 The story begins and progresses at his word.  When God spoke a word at creation, planets, stars and galaxies came into being.  When he spoke to Abraham a nation was founded.  When he spoke from heaven, Jesus was revealed to all the world as his beloved son. 

Integrity pours out of us when it begins inside of us.  Our words matter deeply, the ones we whisper inside ourselves in the dark and the ones we shout across the house at noon. God's words bear weight and power; ours can too. 

Everybody remembers a moment when someone spoke weighty words to us. Words that meant something because the speaker could be counted on to speak truth in sincerity. I remember being a young teenager and some beloved surrogate grandparents giving that gift to me.  They were proud of the way I was learning Bible and they said that I should really study.  There's a school of preaching where I grew up and they had a program for women.  They offered to pay my way and talked to me seriously about serious study.  The years I spent double majoring in Bible at Harding were deeply influenced by that single conversation.

I never want my words to hurt.  I don't want to disappoint people by not doing what I said I would do.  I don't want to lie to myself or anyone else. I want my words to count; to have influence. But how?  I have to start by speaking the truth in my heart, by learning to control my tongue, and by desiring holiness and integrity more than the short term acceptance of my acquaintances.   


Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Character of God: Patience

I'm an addict.  Oh, I've never been hooked on cigarettes, alcohol, or drugs.  But I'm addicted to sin.  Wrath, laziness, gluttony, these are sins I struggle with on a daily basis.  I know they are wrong, but I find myself enmeshed in them all the time.  Maybe you can't understand why I would lazily read a book all day when there are so many things to do.  On the other hand, maybe you have sins that I don't struggle with at all.  I don't understand how people can spend money they don't have or drink themselves into a stupor.  As sinful humans, we all have sins that we fight against every day, attitudes and actions that we know are wrong, and yet we keep doing them over and over.  God has always had patience with us, even when we stumble on the same wrongs time and again.  He didn't give up on us, and if we are following Him, we cannot give up on others just because we don't understand their particular sin addiction. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Beyond People Pleasing

Sometimes I wish you readers could see the editing that goes on behind the scenes here at Maidservants of Christ. Helene and I edit one another's work, and I've gotten many a chuckle out of our notes to one another. We relentlessly scrutinize word choice, both for connotation and to make sure that we don't sound too nerdy. (I still think "hermeneutic" is worse than "amongst") Recently when reading Helene's post, I saw the phrase "people pleasers" in a list of negative terms (like nag and mean girls). I was taken aback because I thought wanting to please people was a good thing! Although Helene assured me that "people pleaser" is indeed a negative term, I didn't believe her until I read Beyond the Masquerade by Nancy Eichman.   

In this study book Mrs. Eichman deconstructs all the many ways we can be artificial in practicing our Christianity, and how we can work toward being more genuine.  She has a whole chapter on "people-pleasing," and by the end, I could see the negatives side of people pleasing.  I could also feel my toes aching! 

Every chapter of this book had a strong Biblical backbone, and this chapter was no exception.  She used the story of Aaron making the golden calf for the Israelites while Moses was on the mountain as a prime example of a Biblical people pleaser (Exodus 32). With this case in mind, the author described some of the traits of a people pleaser.  It was like looking in a mirror. 

Her first point is that Aaron was a "Conflict Avoider." When Moses came down the mountain, he was angry. Aaron tried to soothe his anger.  I would also point out that the act of making the golden calf in the first place was an attempt to avoid conflict. He didn't want a million plus people angry at him!  I understand where Aaron is coming from.  I hate it when anyone is mad at me; I feel like if someone is angry, it must be because I did something wrong.  If there is a chance someone will get mad if I speak up, I'm more likely to keep quiet, both in a public sphere and in personal relationships.  

While being a lurker on Facebook may be harmless (do I really need to contribute to the endless debates?), silently assenting to sin in my personal relationships can be devastating.  When I let my son get away with defiance because I don't want to hear him throw a fit, when I quietly watch married friends get divorced because I don't want to hurt their already raw feelings, when I don't correct a Sister's erroneous beliefs about the Bible because I don't want to argue, I am being a people pleaser instead of pleasing God. Even worse than silent assent is verbal approval of sin in order to fit in. Boss bashing at work, laughing at a friend's dirty jokes, things I wouldn't normally do and don't approve of seem to happen without thought when I am trying to make people happy.  

Eichman next says that instead of recognizing the problem, the people pleaser often justifies her actions.  That's what Aaron did.  My favorite excuse in the Bible is when Aaron said, "Do not let the anger of my lord burn; you know the people yourself, that they are prone to evil...I said to them, 'Whoever has any gold, let them tear it off.' So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf" (Exodus32:22,24).  They wanted me to do it!  This calf just popped out!  For Aaron, the end result of a happy people justified the means of idolatry, despite the fact that God had already told them not to make images.  So he made excuses. I've made excuses too.  When I've kept silent, I've soothed myself by saying "They wouldn't listen to me anyway. Since I didn't make them mad, I can be there for them later."  I've told myself that I have to listen to the raunchy talk so that I don't look like a prude.  No one wants to be around a stick in the mud.  

Seeing the sin of people pleasing in my life staring at me from the pages of this book was not pleasant, but Mrs. Eichman did more than point out problem areas.  In each chapter, she gave ideas on how to be more genuine and pleasing to God. For me, perhaps the best advice was also the simplest.  "People pleasing is often a self defeating cycle that can only be broken by realizing we have no control over others, only ourselves." Since I'm a recovering control freak, I should probably write this on a card and take it with me wherever I go!

The chapter on people-pleasing was only one of the sections of this book that caused me to take a good hard look at how genuine I really am, and how some of my tendencies are more sinful than I realized.   I would recommend this book to any Christian woman trying to be more authentic in her walk with Christ.  


Beyond the Masquerade is published by Gospel Advocate and is available here.

We were given Beyond the Masquerade for free for the purposes of review.  No compensation was provided, and the opinions given are entirely mine.  

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission

Monday, February 10, 2014

Character of God: Love

Love is a four-letter word.  It stinks when people love you. When they violate all your carefully laid out defenses, storm past your walls and demand, no force you to do what they know you should.  That kind of messy, powerful love is rare in people of any stripe and nearly unheard of in our hyper-independent American culture.

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Character of God: Wisdom

Wisdom.  It's a word that has funny and often inaccurate connotations. We might think of old people, owls, Solomon, teeth, and solemnity.  I've often considered wisdom to involve sage advice given from years of Christian living. However, God's desire for me is to reflect His character every day, not just when I have more years under my belt. There is no doubt that part of the character of God is vast wisdom, but perhaps we should look more closely at what that means.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

God's Game Plan: A Book Review

Honor, courage and commitment.  What do these words remind you of?  Soldiers? Settlers? Police Officers? Football players?  Men.  

We write a blog for women and about women. Sometimes we deal with "girl" stuff like submission, managing your household and being a great wife, but just as often we deal with prayer, grace and looking like Jesus from a woman's point of view.  Every post is aimed at what it means to be a female walking with God.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Character of God

There are many Old Testament stories that I never learned in Bible Class. I'm not sure why.  Maybe cause they're R rated (Amnon and Tamar for instance), or perhaps they just seemed like details. It wasn't until I was in college that I began to see how crucial some of those stories are and how they might inform my own spiritual growth.