With All Our Minds

I admit I enjoy learning. I liked reading the encyclopedia when I was a child. When I was in college, I once remarked that I could be a professional student. I loved taking classes, and as graduation came, I lamented that I couldn’t get to all of them that I wanted to. But I had a huge college debt already and needed to actually get on with life beyond college.

However, I’ve known women whose eyes glaze over when a pastor or Bible teacher mentions verb tenses or Greek words, things I love because they help me understand the text better. I’ve known some women to fidget, sigh, squirm, and make funny comments during a more academic Sunday School lesson and then become thoroughly engaged listening to a speaker with more froth than substance.

Sometimes these women are gifted in other ways. Some are more outgoing, easily engage with people socially, and are great at making people feel welcome – all things that don’t come naturally to me and that I have to work at.

Just as those of us who are introverted and do not easily begin conversations have to go outside our comfort zones sometimes, so those who are not naturally academically inclined have to go beyond their natural grain sometimes. By “not academically inclined” I don’t mean not smart. There are different kinds of smart, “book smart” being just one of them.

And granted, there are some speakers and writers who overdo the academics with a plethora of multi-syllabled theological terms that only a seminary graduate would know. I’m not talking about that kind of academics. I’m talking about this:

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. Mark 12:30, ESV.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.  Romans 12:2, ESV.

Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:13, KJV. (The ESV renders “gird up the loins of your mind” as “preparing your minds for action.“)

About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. Hebrews 5:11-14, ESV.

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15, NASB.

God doesn’t want to touch just our hearts from His Word, He wants us to use our minds, to engage our brains.

I think one reason that so many spiritual books marketed to women are so shallow, as Aimee Byrd wrote, is that we tend to want to be spoon-fed processed “inspirational” food without having to think too much about it. And, as I wrote recently in regard to doctrine, sometimes we approach the Bible just wanting “something to get me through the day” or something uplifting rather than wanting to study it.

There are times, like when there are young children in the house, or during times of illness or exhaustion, when there is not as much time or our brains aren’t quite as up to exercise as usual.

And we have to be careful to keep things in balance and not become like the Pharisees, who were all academic knowledge and no heart and soul.

But next time we pick up our Bibles or listen to someone preach or teach, let’s seek to be taught, to think, to learn.

Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. Psalm 86:11, ESV.

Put false ways far from me and graciously teach me your law! Psalm 119:29, ESV.

Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end. Psalm 119:33, ESV.

Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments. Psalm 119:66, ESV.

Thy Word is Like a Garden, Lord

Thy Word is like a garden, Lord, with flowers bright and fair;
And every one who seeks may pluck a lovely cluster there.
Thy Word is like a deep, deep mine; and jewels rich and rare
Are hidden in its mighty depths for every searcher there.

Thy Word is like a starry host: a thousand rays of light
Are seen to guide the traveler and make his pathway bright.
Thy Word is like an armory, where soldiers may repair;
And find, for life’s long battle day, all needful weapons there.

O may I love Thy precious Word, may I explore the mine,
May I its fragrant flowers glean, may light upon me shine!
O may I find my armor there! Thy Word my trusty sword,
I’ll learn to fight with every foe the battle of the Lord.

Words: Ed­win Hod­der, The New Sun­day School Hymn Book, 1863

(Sharing With Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Monday)

Mentoring Is More Than Affirmation

Sometimes over the years I have read the question from younger women, “Where are the older, godly, Titus 2 women?”

I’ve also read many sentiments from younger women, especially younger moms, that they don’t want anyone to criticize them or tell them they should be doing anything differently. They just want to be encouraged and told they’re doing a good job.

Granted, older women have a reputation for being critical. We should take great pains to affirm and encourage younger women. We shouldn’t be talking behind our hands to our friends about the younger generation (or anyone else). We need to be open to the fact that many things about Christian womanhood can look different for different people and situations and not insist that everything should be done like we did it 20-40 years ago.

On the other hand, though, is mentoring just about affirmation? Does a classroom teacher or athletic coach or job supervisor only affirm and encourage? Do they not sometimes correct and instruct?

Once I looked up the Greek word translated “teach” in the famous Titus 2 passage about older and younger women. It’s the only time this particular word is used in the NT, and, according to BibleStudyTools.com, it means:

1. restore one to his senses

2. to moderate, control, curb, disciple

3. to hold one to his duty

4. to admonish, to exhort earnestly

Are we actually looking for that kind of interaction with older women?

I know it’s hard sometimes when you get conflicting or thoughtless or inappropriate or “out of touch” advice. Here are some thoughts:

1. Manage your expectations. No one on the planet, even a wise, godly older woman, is going to hit the nail on the head every time. We’re all sinners; we won’t always get it right; we won’t always be available when we should be. We want to be the ideal older woman, but we’ll fail. Your mentors won’t be gurus or fairy godmothers: they’ll be very human. But that’s even better, because we can learn from God’s grace in their mistakes as well as their shining moments.

2. Even though God wants these kinds of relationships, don’t seek them before Him. Seek Him first for any problem, and ask Him to direct you to whom to talk to if that is His will.

3. Attribute the best motives. Once in the mall with our young baby in a stroller, one older lady from our church stopped us and told us he needed to be covered up more so he didn’t get a chill. Just a few minutes later, another older lady from our church told us to uncover him so he wouldn’t get hot and sweaty. It’s easy to want to roll our eyes behind people’s backs sometimes, but tell yourself that they mean well and at least showed an interest.

4. Glean. Sometimes you’ll get different opinions from different older women whom you respect and who both love the Lord. This was hard for me as a young mom until I hit upon the idea of gleaning – kindly listening and then taking from their advice what would best work for our family and leaving the rest.

5. Observe. In every stage and season of my life, God has placed ladies just ahead of me that I have learned much from just by observing.

6. Interact with older ladies, whether going to ladies’ meetings, talking with them at baby showers, asking them over for lunch or dinner, etc. Sometimes older women feel unwanted by the younger: let them know that you do want to know them. Sometimes you can glean a lot just by being around them.

7. You may need to take the initiative and go to an older woman whose advice you would like to receive. Some are reticent because they don’t know how to mentor or they are afraid of offending. Feel free to ask questions. They’re much more willing to share when they know their thoughts are wanted.

8. Don’t be offended. I read a post years ago about a woman who was rebuked in a harsh way by an older lady over a modesty issue. To her credit, the younger woman took it to the Lord and came to believe that the woman was right, even though the woman had gone about it in a totally wrong way. That doesn’t excuse the older woman, but we’re also not excused from something God might be trying to tell us through an imperfect vessel.

9. Don’t be oversensitive. Don’t mistake advice or a suggestion as criticism. Some years ago I was with a younger lady who had just received a gift of a parenting book after her child was born. This was pretty common when I was a young mom, and we welcomed it – we knew we needed all the help we could get. I knew the giver, and she had discussed this book with me once and mentioned that she liked to give it to new moms because it had been such a help to her. But this new mom was hurt, interpreting the gift as an indication that the giver thought she wasn’t going to be a good parent. Likewise, I’ve heard women sound hurt when someone tells them, “You have your hands full!” and take it as a jab for having an active child or more than one child. More often than not it is said by someone who has also had their hands full parenting in the past and who know what younger parents are going through.

10. Don’t assume that you know the motives behind what another woman is saying. Ask questions to clarify if need be.

It’s hard for older women to know how to go about mentoring unless we’re in an actual position of authority (parent, Sunday School teacher, pastor’s wife). Even then it can be touchy. For most of us, in our everyday interactions it wouldn’t go over well to just stop a younger women in her tracks and start “teaching” her. But here are a few considerations:

1. Pray. If there is someone on your heart, pray much before approaching her, pray much about how to approach her, pray much about whether to approach her at all. If someone asks you a question on the spot, send up a quick prayer for wisdom and possibly even ask for time to think and pray about their question and get back to them.

2. It’s generally best not to offer advice unless asked.

3. Even when offering advice, we need to couch it in suggestive rather than authoritarian tones. I often say, “You might think about…” or “Something that helps me is…” rather than “You ought to…”

4. Don’t contradict a woman’s doctor or pediatrician unless a moral issue is involved. Obviously if a woman’s doctor is advocating abortion, we’d want to try to help her see another view. But in just the little everyday parts of child care, I was amazed at how much had changed between what I was taught as a young mother and what my daughter-in-law was instructed to do with my grandson. It’s probably best never to use the phrase, “Back in MY day…”

5. Don’t contradict a woman’s husband unless there are moral, sinful, or abusive issues. If he wants her to work while she wants to stay home, pray with her, possibly suggest ways she can approach him about it, but don’t incite rebellion.

6. Don’t major on the minors. There are so many divisive issues among women: getting married or remaining single; working vs. staying at home; breastfeeding or bottle feeding; home school vs. public school vs. private school, whether to use a pacifier or not, and on and on and on. Most of these are secondary issues that the Bible does not give specific commands or instruction about. You may have specific principles you’ve drawn after much study in the Word. That’s as it should be. “Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind” (Romans 14:5). The whole tenor of Romans 14 is that believers can have differing opinions about even such things as what days to celebrate and what’s permissible to eat without judging each other or having divisive arguments. Take a stand where the Bible does but allow for differences where the Bible does.

7. It’s best to mentor in the context of relationship. Don’t just look at someone as a “project.” Look at them as sisters or daughters in Christ. Have them over, develop a relationship, truly care about the other person. If some kind of advice or a different perspective is needed, it will go over better coming from a loving relationship.

8. Don’t be a busybody. Don’t overstep or go too far.

9. Don’t belittle.

10 Don’t assume. Sometimes when you see part of a situation, you may not understand the whole of it or what has lead up to it. One off reaction might be just one off reaction rather than characteristic of a whole personality. “Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19, ESV).

11. Be careful of your example. Some time ago I was at a table of women at a church event, and the oldest woman at the table started talking about things her husband did. It was all quite funny, but I cringed at the negativity couched in humor. Would he have thought it funny if he had been there? The other women may have chuckled in sympathy, but did they get an example of reverencing their husbands? I’m not saying we have to put on a front and pretend everything is perfect in our homes, but we can present godly ways to deal with conflicts. By contrast, once I was with an older woman at church as she and her husband were preparing for an event for a group they headed up. The woman came into the kitchen looking for something or trying to figure something out, and was not exactly rattled (like I would have been), but pressured in getting everything ready. Her husband came in at that moment with another issue. Her back was to him, and I saw her just close her eyes a moment and then gently answer him. She probably wasn’t even aware that I was there or had observed that moment, but it spoke volumes to me.

12. Don’t be afraid to share your mistakes and what you’ve learned from them.

13. Do encourage that God will give them strength and wisdom, that the “terrible twos” don’t last forever, that they can go through their children’s teen years with their relationship intact, that God is using them and will give them grace in every moment, to keep on instructing and disciplining their children even if it seems nothing is getting through.

14. “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29, ESV.

I’m not saying that older woman should start looking for things to correct and advise on. Rather, I urge them to look for ways to encourage and help younger women. And I urge younger women to look for more than affirmation from older women. Pray over advice, filter it, discuss it with your husband.

Also, these truths apply to more than marriage and motherhood, but that’s my realm, so that’s where my examples come from. Obviously women who are single or who are in the workplace can apply these same principles.

How about you? Have you ever received advice from an older woman that was particularly helpful? What are some other ways older women and younger women can help each other?

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Monday, Woman to Woman Word-filled Wednesday, Tell His Story, Faith on Fire)

Save

Tune My Heart to Sing Your Grace

I’ve always wanted to do a study of music in the Bible – not so much via concordance, but as I go through my usual reading the Bible through, noting what all it has to say about music in context. There are so many rich references to music there: music touches most of us deep in our souls, and it’s meant to! Some day I will.

But  our substitute Sunday School teacher has been going through Isaiah 12 the last couple of weeks. Last week centered mostly on verse 2:

Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation.

I have always loved that not only is He our salvation, He is also our strength; and He doesn’t just give us “grin and bear it” strength, He is also our song.

This week the lesson went on to the rest of the chapter, and one subset of the lesson included verse 5:

Sing unto the Lord; for he hath done excellent things: this is known in all the earth.

Then the teacher shared just a few verses indicating what we’re to sing about. I failed to take notes, but when I had a chance I looked up some of the verses in a concordance. Here is what I found just in the psalms that we can sing about:

God’s righteousness: I will praise the Lord according to his righteousness: and will sing praise to the name of the Lord most high. Psalm 7:17.

His doings: Sing praises to the Lord, which dwelleth in Zion: declare among the people his doings. Psalm9:11.

His bountiful dealings with us: I will sing unto the Lord, because he hath dealt bountifully with me. Psalm 13:6.

His power:  Be thou exalted, Lord, in thine own strength: so will we sing and praise thy power. Psalm 21:13.

His holiness: Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness. Psalm 30:4.

His praises: Sing praises to God, sing praises: sing praises unto our King, sing praises. For God is the King of all the earth: sing ye praises with understanding. Psalm 47:6-7.

His righteousness in forgiveness: Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness. Psalm 51:14.

His mercy: But I will sing of thy power; yea, I will sing aloud of thy mercy in the morning: for thou hast been my defence and refuge in the day of my trouble. Psalm 59:16. I will sing of the mercies of the Lord for ever: with my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations. Psalm 89:1.

His Name: Sing forth the honour of his name: make his praise glorious. Psalm 66:2.

His righteous judgment: O let the nations be glad and sing for joy: for thou shalt judge the people righteously, and govern the nations upon earth. Psalm 67:4.

His truth: I will also praise thee with the psaltery, even thy truth, O my God: unto thee will I sing with the harp, O thou Holy One of Israel. Psalm 71:22.

His wondrous works: Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him: talk ye of all his wondrous works. Psalm 105:2.

What He has done for us: When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, The Lord hath done great things for them. The Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad. Psalm 126: 1-3.

There are so many other aspects of music in the Bible: where people sang (from “the congregation of the saints” [Psalm 149:1] to our own beds [Psalm 149:5]), to whom they sang, situations in which they sang.

Just this brief study makes me want to burst into song!

Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of God’s redeeming love.

Oh that day when freed from sinning
I shall see Thy lovely face
Full arrayed in blood-washed linen
How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry
Bring Thy promises to pass
For I know Thy pow’r will keep me
Till I’m home with Thee at last.

~ Robert Robinson

Related posts:

“Special” Music in the Church
Songs in the Night

(Sharing With Literary Musing Monday, Inspire Me Monday, Faith on Fire)

Save

Why Study Doctrine?

Doctrine can seem like a cold, dry concept, something stuffy theologians fuss over when they should be trying to reach others. We’re more excited by a group study on relationships or parenting or womanhood or just about anything rather than a doctrinal study. We don’t usually approach our time in the Bible or church rubbing our hands eagerly anticipating what doctrine we’ll learn about today. We’re usually looking for help, encouragement, affirmation. We want to feel something. But feelings don’t last. If I get a warm fuzzy spiritual feeling in my devotions, that can dissipate in seconds when someone crosses me or something goes wrong. Winsome sermons and books may inspire me for a short while, but unless there is meat to them, that inspiration won’t last.

But doctrine is vital. You can hardly read a NT epistle without coming across a mention of doctrine and warning against false doctrine. If we think of sound doctrine as a manifestation of God’s truth and character, we can in turn worship Him by knowing and sharing the doctrines of His Word.

A.W. Tozer once wrote that “there is scarcely an error in doctrine or a failure in applying Christian ethics that cannot be traced finally to imperfect and ignoble thoughts about God.”

So what are some advantages to studying right doctrine in the Bible?

Doctrine leads us to true worship. When we don’t worship God for Who He truly is, then we are worshipping a god of our own making, and that is idolatry. Now, of course, all of us are imperfect in our knowledge of Him and are, or should be, ever growing in Him, and He’ll correct our understanding along the way. But that is different from not knowing Him for Who He is due to neglect or misapplication of the Word.

Doctrine increases our intimacy with God. We can’t know Him aright apart from what He has revealed of Himself in His Word. As we learn more of Him, we love Him and worship Him more, and what seemed like “dry doctrine” then does become something that warms and thrills our hearts as the Holy Spirit brings that truth to mind.

Doctrine protects against error and therefore the wrong path. For example, years ago when cult leader David Koresh was in the news, I watched an interview with someone from his compound. I was shocked to hear her say that she was impressed that he knew his Bible so well. Nearly everything he brought from the Bible, he twisted. Knowing doctrine would have kept this person and others from being deceived by him and others like him.

Doctrine bolsters our faith and confidence in God.  Recently I was troubled by a question I had no answer for that cast doubts on God’s character. I still don’t have an answer for it, but I rested on the previously studied truth that He is good, righteous, kind, and merciful.

Doctrine meets our deepest needs at the most basic level. If I am feeling lonely, what most helps except the truth that God is present everywhere, even with me? If I am afraid, what helps most but meditating on God’s power? When a trial comes and people feel forsaken, what most comforts but the precious truth that God will never forsake us? If I am feeling ashamed, sinful, and unworthy, my only help is turning to the only One who can wash away my sin and remind me that I am in Him and beloved by Him.

Doctrine is stabilizing. “So that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Ephesians 4:14, ESV). I’ve known women and read women who do just this, float around with whatever is popular with little discernment. 2 Timothy speaks of “silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” who are “lead captive” by a whole host of wrongdoers in the “perilous last days” (2 Timothy 3:1-7, KJV). By contrast, Titus 2 exhorts us to “speak thou the things which become sound doctrine” (v. 1, KJV).

Doctrine determines deeds. Our beliefs affect our behavior. When a lie seems the only way out of a tough situation, what keeps us from it but the knowledge that it will displease a God whose essence is truth? Even the Titus 2 admonition to older men and women is couched in the context of sound doctrine.

Doctrine honors God. He is the one who determined what sound doctrine us. If we love Him we should want to know what He says and live accordingly. It’s so important to Him, He inspired John to write, “Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works” (1 John 1:10, ESV).

Doctrine is not an end in itself. If it is, then it does become dry and stale. The point of doctrine isn’t to line up our beliefs in neat, orderly systems and leave them there. The point is to know God better, serve Him in the ways He desires, and minister His truth to others.

People concerned about right doctrine can seem pesky and picky, and, true, it’s too easy to be that way. We shouldn’t be nitpicky just to be so. But we should “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15, NASB), and as kindly and gently as possible bring His truth to bear in our conversations and interactions. We have to remember to let our speech be always “with grace” (Col. 4:6) and to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). We don’t need to “pounce” on every comment or reference another person might make, but graciously seek what the Lord might have us say. We also have to distinguish between clear doctrine and those areas where good people can differ or personal preferences.

II Corinthians 3:18: “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (KJV). We “behold Him” through His Word. And, the more we behold Him, the more we are changed into His likeness.

Learning doctrine doesn’t necessarily mean digging up systematic theology books, though some might like to do so. In our everyday reading and Bible study, it means looking for the truth about God when we read. The Bible is so much more than moralistic stories (“Be like Joseph and Daniel; don’t be like Jonah and Judas”). Look at what God is doing in the passage, what we see of His character and wisdom in what He is doing.

So, don’t be dismayed by that word “doctrine.” II Timothy 4: 3-4 says, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” That is a warning to us not to turn away from sound doctrine, but also possibly an admission that sound doctrine needs to be “endured.” Learning doctrine may not always feel warm and fuzzy, but the Holy Spirit will use it in our lives in blessed ways.

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Monday, Wise Woman, Tell His Story, Woman to Woman Word-filled Wednesday, Faith on Fire)

LMMLinkup-Featured-Button-4

When the Message Isn’t For Me

Courtesy offreedigitalphotos.net

(Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

A week or two ago I came across a blog post that got me to thinking about how we respond when a meeting, church service, or even a Bible passage seems to apply to someone other than myself. When there is an ordination service or a Mother’s or Father’s Day message or children’s program, do I skip them because I am not a part of any of that?

I don’t think so. Here’s why:

1. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” II Timothy 3:16-17. It is all profitable for me in some way even if the particular passage doesn’t seem to apply to me.

Some years ago the pastor of the church where we were at the time read a few verses from Exodus with instruction about oxen. He asked, “Do any of you own an ox?” No one raised their hands.

He then asked, “How many of you have even seen an ox?” One or two raised their hands.

“So,” he said, “We should just turn the page and skip this passage, right?” No, we didn’t think so, but what do we do with that passage?

He then brought out several applications from the passage. For instance, someone who owned an ox that was known for trying to push people with its horn was more liable if it injured someone. So if we have, say, a dog with a tendency to bite, we are even more responsible to keep it from people it could hurt. Or, to apply it further, if our tail lights are out on our car, we’re liable if someone crashes into us because they didn’t know we were stopped or slowing down to turn, so it behooves us to keep up with those things.

2. It helps us understand our brothers and sisters in the Lord. I may not be a pastor or a husband or a mother, but the passages that talk about them help me understand their roles, not so I can form a checklist and note when they’re not getting it right, but so that I can pray for them, understand their problems, needs, and temptations, and encourage them. The Bible says the church is the body or Christ, and “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” (I Corinthians 12:26).

3. Their position is under attack. Satan is not omnipresent, but he does get around, and he seeks to undermine everything God calls good. Any role or function within the church, home, or family as designed by God is under attack in some way or another. The blog post I mentioned at the beginning was complaining, in part, that the focus on married women and mothers in some women’s ministries left single ladies out. I do think that is a valid point: not all women are called to be married, not all mothers are able to stay home, and we need to find ways to minister to the whole scope of womanhood. However, there are particular ways marriage and motherhood are being particularly attacked and undermined in the world today, so we need to help support those roles.

4. I can learn something that applies to me even though the particular focus of the passage or sermon is for someone else. Loving one another as Christ loved the church is something that applies to us all, not just husbands, so I can take an illustration that may be particularly about husbands and learn something I need in loving others. Years ago in college we were encouraged to read a particular book about leadership which I gleaned a lot from even though I was not a leader at the time (and still don’t naturally feel inclined to be now).

This is not to say that I should attend every focus group within the church since we’re all part of the body of Christ. Some of those were created to handle specific concerns in a smaller group setting. But when a Bible passage or sermon or ladies’ meeting seems to apply to someone else, there is still much I can learn and benefit from if I have ears to hear and a heart to receive.

(From the archives)

(Sharing with Faith on Fire, Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Monday, Wise Woman, Tell His Story, Woman to Woman Word-filled Wednesday)

The Highest Calling?

Have you ever heard someone say that being a preacher is the highest calling? Or that being a wife and mother is the highest calling for women? I have. But I don’t recall the Bible making those claims.

In my own youth, during invitation times at the end of a service, the call was usually for salvation, surrender, or “full-time” Christian service. The last just seemed like “the ultimate,” the natural progression of someone who wanted to live all out for God. I heard one youth pastor say that even though he knew God could use anyone in any profession, he didn’t like to acknowledge that during an invitation lest it stop the momentum of the invitation geared toward getting people to surrender to God’s call in their lives (as if God’s call depended on momentum and not the Holy Spirit’s working.) I’ve known young women who only wanted to marry a preacher, evangelist, or missionary, as they felt that was the best way to serve the Lord with their lives – even the only way in their minds. I know one mom who strenuously objected to the jaunty little song, “I’m a policeman dressed in blue,” especially the line “No one has a better job than mine” because she wanted her child to aspire higher than that (I always took that line to mean he loved his job.)

There is certainly a hierarchy of leadership and roles within Christendom, with pastors being the leaders in their church. I Corinthians 12:28 says, “And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.” But I don’t think it indicates one calling is more special to God than another. The very next verse goes on to say, “Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?  Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?” No one has all the gifts: the Bible teaches that everyone uses his gift to work together to edify the body of Christ.

In the preparation of the tabernacle, God “called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah: And I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship” in gold, silver, brass, cutting and setting stones, and carving (Exodus 31:1-6). God’s best, highest calling for Bezaleel was this kind of work.

When my youngest was in high school, the pastor of the church associated with the school once brought out the need to train the whole body of Christ, not just those in “full-time” Christian service. He cited an incident in which his good friend, who was his back surgeon, was at a meeting where the speaker urged that everyone should be in gospel ministry, and then ironically spoke to this doctor afterward about needing to make an appointment with him because of some health issues he was having.

Every Christian is called to full-time ministry. No matter what our vocation, we’re called to be fully Christian 100% of the time. That doesn’t mean if someone is a firefighter or banker he should neglect his work to witness or counsel people. The Bible has multiple verses along the lines of “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might” (Ecc. 9:10) and Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ;  Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart;  With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men” (Ephesians 6:5-7). People aren’t going to listen to the words of our testimony if we’re slacking off in our work.

But full-fledged Christians can have a great ministry in whatever line of work they’re in. My husband has been able to talk to people in the course of his work who would never come to church and who would be guarded around a pastor. When we took my father to the hospital in critical condition, it was a blessing to me to see several among the staff who had attended my Christian college.

Likewise, we read or hear some say, or at least seem to indicate, that being a wife and mother is a woman’s highest calling. I think such rhetoric may have sprung up in response to the devaluing of marriage and motherhood over the last several years. But where does that leave single, childless, or empty-nest women?

Lay people, single people, and childless women are not “second class” in the kingdom of God. God has something for each of us to do with the gifts, personality, and life situations He puts us in. God’s highest calling for is unique to each individual.

(Sharing with Inspire me Monday, Literary Musing Monday, Wise Woman, Testimony Tuesday, Tell His Story, Woman to Woman Word-filled Wednesday, Faith on Fire)

Save

Save

Finishing Well

I am reading in Chronicles just now. Though it has a reputation for being pretty dry, it actually has many great truths in it. Chronicles covers the history of the kings of Israel and Judah from the time of Solomon until the Babylonian captivity. Most of the kings were bad, in that they did not follow Jehovah God in the way He prescribed, and many followed idols and false gods instead. Most of the few who did start out well did not finish well. And though “finishing well” is probably not what “the” theme of the book is, it stands out for consideration.

Solomon, for all his wisdom and all the blessings he experienced during his early reign, fell away when his many wives led him to other gods.

“Asa did that which was good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God” (II Chronicles 14:2), was marvelously helped in battle after prayer, took down idols, removed even his own mother from her position because of the image she made. But in later years he sought the help of a pagan king instead of God and even imprisoned the prophet who came to warn him (16:1-10). He ended up with diseased feet for which he did not seek the Lord at all.

“Joash did that which was right in the sight of the LORD all the days of Jehoiada the priest” (24:2), but after Jehoiada died, Joash fell away to the point of killing Jehoaida’s son (24:19-27).

Amaziah “did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, but not with a perfect heart” (25:2). He received great help from the Lord when he did things His way, yet instead of continuing to follow Him, he “he brought the gods of the children of Seir, and set them up to be his gods, and bowed down himself before them, and burned incense unto them.  Wherefore the anger of the LORD was kindled against Amaziah” (25:14-15).

Uzziah, “as long as he sought the LORD, God made him to prosper” (26:5), and “And God helped him against the Philistines” and other enemies, “and his name spread abroad even to the entering in of Egypt; for he strengthened himself exceedingly” (26:7-8). “And his name spread far abroad; for he was marvellously helped, till he was strong. But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction: for he transgressed against the LORD his God, and went into the temple of the LORD to burn incense upon the altar of incense” (26:15-16). The NASB puts it this way: “But when he became strong, his heart was so proud that he acted corruptly, and he was unfaithful to the LORD his God.”

Josiah was one of Judah’s best kings, leading a revival after the book of the law was found during temple repairs, yet he went to battle and “hearkened not unto the words of Necho from the mouth of God” and ended up dying of wounds received in that battle.

Will I forget the things I knew, like Solomon did, and be led away by other loves, or will I keep my first love? Will I forget from whence my help comes, like Asa did, and look for help elsewhere? Will I fall away after my spiritual mentors are gone, like Joash? Do I serve God with a perfect (complete) heart, or am I holding anything back, like Amaziah? Will I be lifted up with pride like Uzziah? Will I neglect to listen to wise counsel from God’s Word, like Josiah?

May I heed the warnings and lessons in these examples. May God save me from these and other failures and help me to keep my eyes on Him and to finish well.

(Adapted from the archives)

(Sharing with Inspire Me Mondays, Literary Musing Monday, Testimony Tuesday, Tell His Story, Wise Woman, Woman to Woman Word-filled Wednesday, Faith on Fire)

Save

Save

Save

Save