The Sunflower

A warm summer rain drizzles down this morning, fogging up all the windows of our house.  I can barely see through it to my lone sunflower growing, just about to open into a beautiful beacon of joy.

That simple sunflower warms every crevice of my heart.  It makes me think of late summer days and fields overflowing with tiny sunflowers, bouncing and waving as I drive past, windows down, breathing in their scent mingled with that of dry pine…simpler times when I was mostly naive to the hard things of life.

My heart is not so naive now.  Life is full of hard things…within my family, friends, acquaintances, and the world at large.  I fully see now that life is not simple and peaceful like it was when those Flagstaff sunflowers greeted me.  It is broken, messy, and many times, sorrowful.  Yet, even in the broken a sunflower reaches up toward the sun.

God promises His peace, but His peace is not that of an easy life with few bumps in the road.  It is a peace within even when all is tumultuous without.  It is not found in the events and circumstances surrounding us…but in the deepness of our hearts.

This morning as I was reading Numbers 6:24-26, I was struck by how the Amplified version defined God’s peace: “tranquility of heart and life continually“.  God’s peace doesn’t ebb and flow.  It is constant.  In light and darkness…joy and sorrow…always.

When the storms of life beat down, may God’s peace pour over us calming our hearts…always.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with gratitude, make your requests known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will protect your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:6-7

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Dear Single Girl: What The Bible Says About What Matters in a Man

There is nothing sweeter and more innocent than a couple in the blossoming stages of young love.  The other day my 3-year-old asked me why I was smiling so big, and honestly it was because I was reading a text from a friend who is in the throes of it.  She was experiencing what almost every young woman hopes to experience.  Sadly, though, as the years inch ever forward, I still find myself with many, MANY single friends still aching to experience that and marry the “man of their dreams”.

I don’t think their singleness is their “fault” by any means, and I absolutely do not think that marriage is the end-all goal for a woman.  But I do know the growth and happiness it’s brought me, and I know that many of these single women do long for and dream of marriage.  Yet, there seems to be a general pickiness that is throwing road blocks in their path to love and marriage.

Sometimes the pickiness comes from their own high standards and expectations.  Other times, the pickiness stems from their parents and friends having too high of standards for them.  Don’t get me wrong…there’s nothing wrong with having high standards!  Only, sometimes I wonder if these standards are really biblical…and whether these women might be much happier and much less single if they stopped holding fast to man-made “spouse shopping lists” and relied instead on just the Bible.  

Another friend of mine, who is very happily married, shared with me the three things her father and her thought were important in a spouse for her.  In almost every case, if the answer is “yes” to these three things, then there is very little that wouldn’t be able to be worked through.  I think these things are highly biblical and I share them with you today:

1.) Does he love the Lord and have a real relationship with him?

Frankly, I think this one should be an obvious necessity.  Why would you want to be married to someone who didn’t serve your Savior, who will not be a spiritual leader in your home, and who will not be nodded and prodded by the Holy Spirit?

But if you need more convincing than that, look no further than 2 Corinthians 6:14:

Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?” 

If marriage isn’t a yoking together, then I don’t know what is.

But, really, if he’s seeking the Lord first and you’re seeking the Lord first, then what can’t be worked through?

But how do you know he has a real, active relationship with the Lord?

Obviously there are a lot of fakers out there (Josh Duggar, anyone???).  But the Bible is pretty clear how we know the truth from the lie…look at the fruit.

Luke 6:45-45 says:

“For each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush.  The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”

Sometimes a lack of fruit is the sign that something isn’t quite right.  A guy can talk a great talk, and even talk up his Bible reading and memorization…but what fruit is there in his life?  What ministries is he involved in?  Furthermore, does he not just attend a local church, but is an active member in it (Hebrews 10:25, 1 Corinthians 12:12-31)?

Finally, watch for the little signs of fruit.  One of the biggest assurances to my heart of my husband’s salvation is after we’ve had a fight.  I know that the times when I hold my tongue and just pray, he will undoubtedly come back to me and apologize and make things right.  The Holy Spirit is constantly tapping on his shoulder, and he’s listening.

2.) Does he love you?

Again, this seems like an obvious one, but it means so much more than that feeling of being in love that’s a crazy mix of emotions and hormones that people call “being in love”.  That’s usually what starts it, but from there it becomes a daily choice to love and cherish you, no matter what.

But let’s look at what the Bible says.

Ephesians 5:25, 28-33a (and I love these verses in the Amplified):

“Husbands, love your wives [seek the highest good for her and surround her with a caring, unselfish love], just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her…Even so husbands should and are morally obligated to love their own wives as [being in a sense] their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own body, but [instead] he nourishes and protects and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members (parts) of His body. 31 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall be joined [and be faithfully devoted] to his wife, and the two shall become [e]one flesh. 32 This mystery [of two becoming one] is great; but I am speaking with reference to [the relationship of] Christ and the church. 33 However, each man among you [without exception] is to love his wife as his very own self [with behavior worthy of respect and esteem, always seeking the best for her with an attitude of lovingkindness]…”

The Bible doesn’t say, “Husbands, make sure you have an amazing job for your wife.  Husbands, be perfect for your wives.  Husbands, be able to stand on your own two feet without your wife.”  Its merely says love your wives, sacrificing yourself for her daily.

No man can love you perfectly as Christ does, but if he’s genuinely trying and loving you out of a love for Christ, then you’ve got a catch indeed.

3.) Will he take care of you always?

I’m not talking about providing a big house for you and making all of your dreams come true in that area (although that’s not necessarily a bad thing either!).  I’m talking about he will always work hard to provide the necessities plus some for you and your family.  Titus 2:5 says that the older woman are to exhort the younger women to be “keepers at home”.  It would follow, then that a husband is supposed to be able to provide so that his wife can do that.

1 Timothy 5:8 says that:

 “…if anyone does not provide for his own, that is his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

So, obviously there has to be a balance.  He can’t just sit on his rear end all day and expect money to fall off of trees, nor should he expect to be able to provide for all of his families needs by working a minimum wage job his entire life.  Yet, providing isn’t the same thing that most equate it with today.  The Bible says absolutely nothing about a man having to be ambitious, have high aspirations, or have a “good” job.  (Because we all know a “good” job means nothing more than a very well paying one.)

Look closely at other verses in the Bible as well.  The Proverbs 31 woman is bringing in money for her household  (I’m not advocating that every woman has to work, just that her bringing in money didn’t make her husband “lazy” or a “bad provider”).  The Proverbs 31 woman blesses her husband and he gains because of her.  He is lifted up to a place of honor and respect because of her.  My guess is that he wouldn’t be where he was if he didn’t have such an amazing wife standing behind him, helping and supporting him.

There’s also Matthew 6:25-34, that tells us not to worry about what we’ll eat or wear, but to seek first the kingdom of God.  And the qualifications for church elders and overseers in both 1 Timothy 3 and Titus mention that he must not be a lover of money or greedy for gain.  1 Timothy 3:3 says specifically that he “must not be a bully, but gentle”.  How many “successful” men in the world today could be considered “gentle”?  Are we looking for men that are successful in the world’s eyes, or God’s?

Finally, I would add a fourth standard…

4.) Do you love him and want to marry him?

He may be a great guy and he may be crazy about you, but don’t even think about marrying someone unless you feel the same way about him too.  Make sure you know your heart.  Make sure you know that you could honor and respect and love him.

Furthermore, think carefully about whether the dreams and callings in your heart line up with his.  If he feels called to be a missionary in Africa and you feel called to raise a family in your local city, then there’s a problem right there.  Do your God given missions line up?  Can you serve God better together rather than apart?

Think of Priscilla and Aquila in the Bible.  They were an amazing husband and wife team that served the Lord together (how many women in the Bible are mentioned by name alongside their husbands?).  They were a team in occupation (Acts 18:3 says that they were tentmakers), they were a team in their knowledge and proclamation of the Gospel (Acts 18:26), and they were a team in their sacred calling and mission.  Do you feel like you could serve together in that way?    (This article is a really interesting read for more on them.)

So think hard about whether you want to marry him.  Going all the way back to Genesis 24, Rebekah was given the ultimate choice whether she wanted to go and marry Isaac (a man she had never met) or not.  Her parents wanted her to stay longer, but she agreed to go right away.  It was her choice.  Her heart.

Your friends and parents and even the guy you’re dating may love you dearly and want what’s best for you, but they aren’t you.  They don’t know the secret things God has laid on your heart, and they certainly can’t know what’s in your heart.

So don’t marry a guy just because everyone thinks you’re “perfect” for each other.  Don’t marry him even because he’s crazy for you.  Marry him because you love him and want to marry him.  Marry him because you know without a doubt that God is calling you together, for His ultimate glory.

 

 “Then Adam said,

‘This is now bone of my bones,
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man.’

 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.”

Genesis 2:23-241936213_10209013585717488_7295882737241859114_n

Let No One Despise Your Youth

Read Timothy 4:12

“Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” (ESV)

“Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” (KJV)

“Let no one despise or think less of you because of your youth, but be an example (pattern) for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.” (AMP)

Any way you read it, this verse is for the younger members of the church.  My guess is that if you’re a Christian and you’re under a certain age (or were at some point), then you’ve experienced some sort of prejudice due to your age and that you can relate to this verse.  I know I have and I know that it can be frustrating.

The church my husband and I go to is old.  As in, it was started in the 1800s and we have many older people in the church who have been attending this same church their entire lives.  To say traditions run deep would be putting it lightly.  For a young woman in her twenties who’s only been here five years, trying to step up and serve can be…intimidating.

You don’t have to be in a historically old church, however, to relate.  I’ve been in church plants where the young and their ideas and thoughts were pretty much dismissed due to their age and inexperience.  So what’s a young person to do?

Paul told Timothy to combat this reverse ageism by being an example to other believers.  In the Amplified Bible (which is taken from the Greek), he was literally to be a pattern for other believers to follow.  I want to be clear about something: Timothy was young, but he was far from being an immature Christian.  He was able to be an example to others because he was personally growing in his faith, and not using his age as an excuse to be lazy or act foolishly.

Here are the six areas (depending on the version you use) that Paul exhorted Timothy to be an example in:

  1. In Word or Speech. In this modern age, speech goes beyond just what comes out of your mouth.  What are you saying (or even sharing) on social media?  Do you spread gossip or use foul words?  Does what you say, write, or share promote the Gospel or degrade it?
  2. In Conduct or Conversation (the Old English definition of “conversation” literally means “behavior” [Jamieson, 1877]) .  How do you treat others?  Do your actions show maturity or immaturity?  Do you get angry easily?  Are you living in sin?  Does the way you conduct your daily life exude peace, joy, and contentment?
  3. In Love. In the Greek this love is “agape” love, or selfless, self-sacrificial love.  Does Christ’s love overflow out of you?  What about to marginalized people?  Or to those who get under your skin?  Are you more concerned about your desires or “rights”, or about the wants and needs of others?   Is Christ’s love in you lived out in actions?
  4. In Spirit.  Matthew Henry narrowed this down to “in spiritual-mindedness, in spiritual worship,” (1761).  Are you living in the Spirit or in the flesh?
  5. In Faith. When trouble comes, what happens to your faith? Do you trust God in all things.  Do you obey the things He’s called you to even when they don’t make sense or are hard?
  6. In Purity. Purity is about so much more than saving sex for marriage.  It’s about being set apart, untainted by the world.  Are you allowing things into your life (entertainment, people, etc.) that aren’t in line with God’s Word?  Are you letting your desire to fit in with others cloud your judgement and convictions?  Are you crowding out the Holy Spirit?

My Challenge For You Today: Pick one of these things to work on and choose an action step to commit to.  Then pray fervently that God would help you in this area.  Journal about your progress.

Example: I want to work on not gossiping (speech).  When I am tempted to talk about someone behind their back, I will instead choose one true, good thing about this person and I will say it aloud (or write it in on social media).  I will pray that God would keep this in my mind and help me to change my speech.

References:

Henry, M. (1761). An exposition on the Old and New Testament In five volumes. … By Matthew Henry … (The 5th ed.). London: Printed for John Knapton, John Fuller, James Buckland, William Strahan, John Rivington [and 11 others].

Jamieson, R., & Fausset, A. (1877). A commentary, critical and explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments,. Hartford: S.S. Scranton.Westcott,B., & Hort, F. (1881). Commentar Critical and Explanatory of the Whole Bible

Moulton, W., & Geden, A. (1963). A concordance to the Greek Testament, according to the texts of Westcott and Hort, Tischendorf and the English revisers, (4th ed.). Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark.

The True Path to Change

“Yahweh your God is among you,

a Warrior who saves.

He will rejoice over you with gladness.

He will bring you quietness with His love.

He will delight in you with shouts of joy.”

Zephaniah 3:17

Sometimes God puts a verse in front of you and you just can’t shake it.  This verse has been burning on my heart and mind lately.  It appeared first in a Bible study, with the instructions to write it down and meditate on it.  Then it began showing up everywhere. My son’s Bible memory verse CD, a book, a song I used to like.  I began to ask God “why?”.  What did it mean for me?

Lately, other things have been burning on my heart as well.  Thoughts, convictions, prayers.  Presidential candidates to decide between.  Helpless babies being deemed not-yet-human and sold.  “Christian Conservatives” being revealed to be deceptive hypocrites and liars.  Syrian refugees desperately needing help.  Students shooting each other at my Alma Mater.

Then, in the midst of all this, Zephaniah 3:17.  But why?  What did it mean?  And more specifically, what did it mean God wanted from me?

Saturday morning there was quiet at my house for once.  My husband was gone hunting and my children’s chests were rising and falling in much-needed sleep.  I opened my Bible and read all of the words Zephaniah penned…and suddenly it all made sense.

This book?  It is us.  America.  “Land of the Free”…and land of the prideful, self-sufficient, and godless.

“I will completely sweep away everything

from the face of the earth–this is the Lord’s declaration…

those who turn back from following the Lord,

who do not seek the Lord or inquire of Him.”

Zephaniah 1:2,6

We Americans often think we’re special.  We think our nation is perfect.  We boast in ourselves and seek the wisdom of the world, yet if something doesn’t change, our judgement and fall is at hand.

“This is what they get for their pride,

because they have taunted and acted arrogantly

against the people of the Lord of Hosts.”

Zephaniah 3:10

Has anybody watched daytime television lately and see how Christians are treated?

“Woe to the city that is rebellious and defiled,

the oppressive city!

She has not obeyed;

she has not accepted discipline.

She has not trusted in Yahweh;

she has not drawn near to God.

The princes within her are roaring lions;

her judges are wolves of the night,

which leave nothing for morning.

Her prophets are reckless–treacherous men.

Her priests profane the sanctuary;

they do violence to instruction.”

Zephaniah 3:1-4

Our land fits this to a tee.  Yet we Christians aren’t really turning to the Lord either.  We think that by voting for the best man that meets all of our criteria, sharing videos of Planned Parenthood leaders on Facebook, and taking a heavy stance on the gun control issue that we can somehow fix our country.  We seek to legislate and bully change, when the true problem lies in people’s hearts.

To quote my ever-wise mother, “We do not have a gun problem, political problem, Democrat vs. Republican problem, or Obama problem. We have a spiritual problem that can only be addressed by filling the heart with the Holy Spirit of God.”

That’s where the good news comes in: God also offers hope.

“On that day you will not be put to shame

because of everything you have done

in rebelling against Me.

For then I will remove

your proud, arrogant people from among you,

and you will never again be haughty on My holy mountain.

I will leave a meek and humble people among you,

and they will take refuge in the name of Yahweh.”

Zephaniah 3:11-12

Remember how man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart?  Perhaps we’re looking for answers in all the wrong things.  Perhaps instead of pridefully voting for whom we deem to be the best speaker, who would make the best “leader” in the world’s eyes, and who meets all of our “criteria”, we should be voting for someone who is humble and meek, with the Holy Spirit indwelling in them.  Perhaps we’re seeking to change people’s minds through prideful, vindictive Facebook posts instead covering them with prayer and Christ’s love.  Perhaps instead of trying to fix everybody else or win them over with emotion-driven spiritual movements, we should be humbling ourselves, seeking God, and letting Him change our own hearts.

Don’t hear me wrong…we most certainly need revival and change in America.  It’s just that revival and change begin in our own hearts first.  Don’t stop praying.  Don’t stop seeking the Lord.  Don’t stop sharing the gospel.  In fact, pursue these things more than ever.  Let’s just stop trying to fix things through our own knowledge and strength, and instead start humbling ourselves and asking God to change things His way, through people’s hearts.

True hope and change can only come through humbling ourselves and admitting that we can’t…but He can.

zeph