The Good Wife

 

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In my last post I mentioned how I tried so hard to be a “good wife.” While that may have been a good desire, the problem was I had no idea what that really looked like.  Where was my idea coming from and was it really biblical and what God wanted? Before I continue with the rest of my story, I feel like it is critical to share with you what I now believe to be a good wife.

I grew up in the church and was not a stranger to the word “submissive” or “submission.” The problem was, I did not have a biblical understanding of submission at all. I’ve heard from so many women who have been hurt because of the submission issue. I, too, was one of those women. Because of the way Ephesians 5 was misunderstood, submission became abusive and extremely hurtful in my marriage relationship. I became angry with God and resented that He would set up such a system. It seemed as though God was not an advocate for women, but rather a Father that didn’t care. This became so confusing to me. How could God do this? Why would God do this? I eventually understood that it wasn’t God that had misled so many of us, rather people that misinterpreted Scripture for their own benefit. For me, it was coming from an angry, legalistic culture.

Maybe you can relate because you, too, have been harmed and shut down in the name of submission. Why are we so misled, confused, and angry at the mention of this word? I believe that God created submission to be a good and orderly thing. The problem arises when sinners begin to create their own rules by misquoting and misunderstanding God’s words.

What does Scripture say about submission? I’m sure that many of us have heard or been raised on Ephesians 5:22 – “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord, because the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of the body.” The problem comes when we take Scripture out of context to fit our needs. This one verse has been used to be abusive and hurtful to women, and to put us down as lower than men. God created both man and woman in His image and He does not see one as better than the other. Actually, without God we are both nothing.

Paul is writing to the Christians in the church at Ephesus and starting with chapter three speaks to the Gentiles or the outsiders. Earlier in chapter two Paul tells the Ephesians that “Christ brought all together through His death on the cross. That through Christ they share the same Spirit and have equal access to the Father.” (The Message) The “mystery” of God is that people who have never heard of God and those who have heard of Him all their lives stand on the same ground before God. The Message is available to everyone!

Paul encourages everyone to know that God can do anything – far more than we could ever imagine or guess or request in our wildest dreams! He does this not by pushing us around but by working within us, His Spirit deeply and gently within us. (The Message) Then Paul goes on in chapter 4 and encourages us to be mature and to do the work that God has called us to, and to do it with humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, and quick to keep unity of the Spirit among us.

In verses 17-32 Paul encourages us to live the new life. We are to put away or change our old way of thinking and doing and speak the truth, be angry and not sin, build up one another, remove bitterness, anger, wrath and slander. And we are to be kind and compassionate to one another, forgive one another quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.  Now, here’s the big key!   Starting in chapter five, Scripture tells us to “be imitators of Christ.”  In other words, watch what God does, and then do it. Most importantly God loves you! So, we are to learn to live a life of love, to live our lives in a way that reflects Christ, and to walk in wisdom. Paul then goes on to tell us how to imitate God’s love. In Ephesians 5:21 Scripture says, “submitting to one another in the fear of Christ (or reverence for Christ).” This is the idea of considering other’s needs above ourselves and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

The idea of submitting in Ephesians is not about the order of authority, but the manner in which the operation of authority is governed.  God is not a God of chaos, but of order.  Submission is for the purpose of having order in our homes and lives. As in the military, we each have things we are responsible for, not because one is better, but for the sake of order and accomplishing things in a respectable manner.

One of my favorite authors is Leslie Vernick. In her book, “The Emotionally Destructive Marriage,” she talks about what submission is and is not. Because she has written about headship and submission so beautifully, I do not see any reason to “rewrite” anything on this topic. The following instruction is taken from pages 96-99 of her book.

“Godly headship is seen in the life of Jesus towards His disciples. He did not show headship by using His mighty power and rightful authority over them. Instead, He washed each of the disciples’ dirty feet. Jesus showed His disciples that biblical headship meant sacrificial servanthood. Scripture never describes biblical headship or leadership as entitlement to do what you want, demanding that others do what you want, or permission to get your own way. The correct biblical terms for those characteristics are selfishness and misuse of one’s power and authority.

In John 13:14-15 Jesus instructs His disciples to do as He has done for them. Paul picked up Jesus’s heart on the subject of headship in marriage when he wrote, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for Her” (Ephesians 5:25). The essence of biblical teaching on headship is that if you are the leader, your responsibility is to initiate and model servanthood before anyone else in the family does. As the leader, you’re to show the way. Paul wrote in Colossians 3:19 for “husbands to never treat their wives harshly”, and in 1 Corinthians 13:5 he says, “love does not demand its own way.”

Jesus also modeled submission for us. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed and asked God to take His crucifixion from Him. Jesus dreaded the cross; He wanted God to find an alternate way to save mankind (p. 97). Yet, Jesus submitted Himself when he prayed, “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). Jesus always wanted to do what God wanted, yet in this moment He felt differently. This was the first time Jesus did not want to do what God wanted, but He chose submission to God’s will and His Father’s perfect plan. Jesus was not forced to submit, He chose to.

Biblical submission, therefore, cannot be forced. It can only be done by the one who chooses to submit her (or his) will to another. When we voluntarily give our will to another or to God, it’s called submission; when someone forces our will to be given, it is not biblical submission. The correct terms are intimidation, coercion, and bullying. Submission isn’t necessarily agreement; it’s yielding your will to another for a greater good. The good might be unity in the family (or body of Christ) or honoring and pleasing God. (pg. 98)

Jesus modeled both headship and submission in volunteering for the servant’s place and yielding His will to God. This describes the working together of headship and submission; the husband sacrificially leads his wife in servanthood (through example), and the wife sacrificially yields her will in servanthood (through example). Both are servants of the other and of God. When only one is the servant or the other is the master or god, the marriage isn’t working as God intended.

Since the fall of Adam and Eve, human beings have been vying for power and control over one another (Genesis 3:16). This was not God’s original plan, but rather the result of sin. Biblical headship doesn’t mean you get your way all the time, and submission doesn’t mean you have no voice or choice in the matter. The Scriptures validate the mutuality of marriage and the dignity and value of each individual, no matter who they are. Mutuality of servanthood, submission, and sacrifice is the biblical model for the Trinity and for godly relationships, including marriage. (pg. 99)” (Leslie Vernick, “The Emotionally Destructive Marriage”)

I’m sure you can understand why I respect Leslie Vernick and her writings. She bases everything in Scripture and it makes so much sense and speaks to the heart of God and how He wants us to live. He does not see one person better than another and does not love one over another. We are all sinners in need of a Savior and because of His great love, He provided a perfect Savior. When we abuse and mistreat God’s Word for our benefit, it grieves His heart. He gave us His Son as our example so we would know how to love one another. I pray that we honestly inspect our own hearts and see where we need to allow God to do His work.

Where Do I Begin?

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It is so hard to know where to even begin when talking about my journey with a sex addict.  It feels overwhelming to try and sort through all of the feelings I had and to somehow write something that makes sense. I don’t really remember completely what I said or did in the exact moment that my husband told me. I think I was in such shock and utter disbelief that I did not know what to do.  We had only been married about three years. My first memory is later that night when I was home alone, my husband worked the overnight shift on that day. I was in our little garage apartment in West Palm Beach, Florida with our two little poodles, watching TV as I ironed. I remember the questions pouring into my mind. What does he mean he’s been looking at pornography? He’s married, why would he want to do that? Does that mean I’m not good enough? What am I supposed to do now? Why would he choose to do this? Am I not pretty enough? How am I supposed to compete with these “perfect” women? Does he think about them when we are together?  Do I leave him? No!, I can’t leave, I made a commitment to God, besides, what would our families say? And here I am, ironing his clothes after what he’s just told me!! What’s wrong with me? On and on and on….the questions would flood my mind no matter how hard I tried not to think about it.

 

At this point in my life, I had no idea how to deal with this confession. I was not prepared in my head, heart or soul to even know where to start. We were both Christians and were faithful to our church. We participated in the choir, young adults’ class, Sunday morning and evening services, and I actually worked at the church. None of this made sense to me. In my small understanding, Christians don’t do stuff like this. He was supposed to love and cherish me ‘till death do us part! I was thinking this might need to be sooner than later.

 

I felt too ashamed to say anything to my friends, and I was not about to talk with family! What was I supposed to do? Who can I even talk too? How long have we lived this double life? If people find out about this, will I be the one blamed? For not being a good wife? Is that true? I have tried so hard.

 

I was not aware at the time, but my heart was already developing an ugly darkness I would have never thought possible. I had a relationship with Christ in that I was saved, but I did not know Him as my strength, comforter, helper, forgiver or as a friend to sinners. Right was right, wrong was wrong, and there was no room in between for struggle. Yes, my husband had hurt me and betrayed me, but because of my “beliefs” I was headed down a path that would be just as harmful and hurtful.

 

Please stay with me. I am in no way saying that what my husband was doing was in anyway acceptable and not hurtful. I have just learned that we are all sinners capable of doing things we would never dream possible. We are all longing to be seen and loved by someone, and that we can be and are greatly affected by our childhood experiences and traumas. I think we are sometimes too quick to get rid of someone because they have hurt us without digging deeper into their hearts. My husband is a recovering sex addict and I thank God for that, but this did not happen overnight and it did not happen without a lot of hard work, therapy, humility, forgiveness and a God that loved us both so much that He walked with us every step and over time changed both of our hearts and desires. I believe that God can do anything, no matter how hard it seems to us, but we must be willing to do the hard work and to open our hearts to what He wants.  He will do His part when we do ours.

 

This would have been around 1987 and my husband and I had no idea the journey that would be ahead of us. Around this same time my husband was going to a sleep clinic and therapy, so I’m thinking this will be good.  Hopefully he will be able to get help. In my naivety I’m thinking this should not be something that would take too long and something that could be “fixed”.  Boy was I in for a rude awakening!

 

After a few weeks of the big announcement, life seemed to go on as usual. Of course, I struggled with being sexual with my husband and couldn’t get these thoughts and ideas out of my head. I would comply though because I wanted to be a “good wife.” You know, be submissive and all that goes with that. As I’m writing I can feel my insides cringe because of my complete lack of understanding as far as submission goes and all that I continued to allow because of thinking that was what I was supposed to do. I knew absolutely nothing about boundaries and had no idea how to put what I was feeling into words. Other than, I hate marriage and sex, and I hate you.

 

Week after week we would get into heated arguments about sex. For hours we would argue about submitting, how God created sex, and as the wife it was my duty to be available at any time. I despised these conversations and usually gave in just to end the argument and move on. I tried hard to keep the peace, but that never went very well. I was starting to question a lot of things in our marriage. Was this pornography problem the reason for so many of the hurtful things that had happened between us? Was that why too many times I felt cheap and used after we were together sexually? Was that why he would argue with me for hours and wear me down until I said yes? None of this made sense to me and it certainly didn’t seem like the thing the God I thought I knew would want for either of us.

 

And the truth is, this was not what God had in mind for us. What I was experiencing and hearing was not His idea of submission. What we were experiencing was not His idea of how we were to love one another. What we were experiencing was not God’s desire for our marriage, but somehow He still used the complete disaster of a marriage to change our hearts and our lives. Satan wanted to destroy our marriage, but God, He had a different plan!

 

“For I know the plans I have for you”—this is the Lord’s declaration – “plans for your well-being, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. You will call to me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart. I will be found in you.” Jeremiah 29:11-14a

My Journey with a Sex Addict

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I did not imagine as a little girl or plan my life as an adult to be married to a sex addict.  I was not looking for or in need of such stress.  I grew up in a Christian home, had been in church my whole life and was not the least bit familiar with sex addiction.  I knew what “Playboy” was and had even seen some copies on a table at a home where I babysat as a young teen, but that was about the extinct of my knowledge of pornography.

I can tell you that I have now had a much greater education on pornography and sex addiction.  I know firsthand the pain, shame, despair and devastation pornography can have on a marriage and on a life personally.

I am no expert on sex addiction.  I do not have a degree in counseling, psychology, or psychiatry.  I do not have all the answers to sex addiction.  What I do have, is a twenty-year journey with my husband before things began to change.  I have years of watching him in therapy, groups and eventually training so that he could become sober from this addiction.  I also have those same years of my own personal pain, fears, loneliness, insecurities, disgust, shame, and anger with my husband and God, anger with myself, and tons of self-doubt.  Those twenty years taught me so much about grace, my own sinfulness, love for another, especially in difficult situations, forgiveness and truly believing what God says about me.

This blog is a way for me to express my journey with a sex addict.  A place where I can hopefully encourage other women going through the same thing. A place to give God the glory for the way He has given new hope in a broken marriage. A place to write about two people that were very young, immature, confused and completely misguided by family, friends and sometimes the church. God never gave up on us, even when others may have, and especially in those times when all seemed hopeless to me (probably my husband, too).

My prayer is that as you read my words you will not feel alone.  That you will know someone else understands and gets it.  That you are not crazy or paranoid. That you do matter. Most of all, this is not what God had in mind when He created marriage.  He loves you so much and He hurts when you are hurting.  God wants us as women and wives to be loved, honored, respected, heard and cherished.

God – I pray for any woman that begins reading this to know that she is loved and that she is not alone. I pray for wisdom for her to be able to see what she does not yet see and courage to bring it into the light. Grant a sense of peace in her heart because You love her so deeply and want so much more for her. Help my words to be an encouragement and a voice of hope in the fear and loneliness.  Thank You, God.

Nag, Nag, Nag!

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Nagging. We’ve probably all done it at some point in our life. Scripture has a few things to say about nagging. A nagging wife is referred to as a leaky faucet or an endless dripping on a rainy day.  The Bible also says it is “better to live alone in a tumbledown shack than share a mansion with a nagging spouse.” (Prov. 25:24)  These are some powerful words!

The definition of nagging: “to annoy by persistent faultfinding, complaints, or demands”. Depending on how it is used in a sentence, it can also mean, “to find fault or complain in an irritating, wearisome, or relentless manner.”  For those of us who have ever been nagged at, we can understand both of these definitions with vivid recollection. But, what about when we are the one nagging? Are we able to see the effect it is having on our spouse? Are we able to feel what they feel? I believe the Bible has such powerful descriptions of a nagging wife because it can be so destructive to a relationship. God does not mince words when speaking about a nagging wife!

God tells us to “love our neighbor as ourselves.” Our closest neighbor is our spouse!  Do we nag at ourselves constantly to the point of driving ourselves crazy?? My guess is NO! Yet, we nag our spouses (sometimes our children) to the point where they “would be better living on the corner of the roof or in a shack” than to live with us. This is not what God has for our marriage. He wants our marriage to be glorifying to Him, and to live with nagging is not glorifying.

I don’t know your reason for nagging, but I have a pretty good idea about mine. What is going on in my heart when I find myself nagging? I believe I can break it down into three possibilities: control, anger, and fear.  First control. It is in a woman’s nature to want to control her world. We want to make sure everything is “perfect.”  We control how our home looks, what’s for dinner, how the children behave, and generally speaking, we control most things that go on in our home. This is not all bad. As women, we are usually the predominant caretaker of the home. Many of us do prepare the meals, do the laundry, keep the house clean, care for the children and our husbands, and a thousand other things. The problem arises when we cannot control temperaments, personalities and people in general. The only one that God expects us to control is ourselves, so why do we spend so much time and effort trying to control others? If you have a child that does not like a certain food, no matter how much you think you can change and control that, usually that does not happen. As children are young there are many things we must control, but as they get older, they start living out who they are, and nagging to get them to do something rarely gets the response we want. I have to decide which battles are worth the fight and which ones are not. The battle of the heart is the one I want to focus on.

What happens in our hearts when we cannot control the other person?  What happens when you have no control over what your spouse does or doesn’t do? What happens in our hearts when we ask our spouse to take out the trash and it doesn’t get done? For me, I get angry and believe he doesn’t love me or care about me. That all he thinks about is himself. I can’t count on him to do anything! Maybe, some of this is true. He may not be acting as the man God wants him to be. This is his issue with God, though, not mine! The problem comes when I want to take over God’s job and believe that if I “control” enough, he will change. Most times this does not get the result we want. I know for me, it never did. I tried for twenty years before I finally realized it was never going to work! The more I would nag, the angrier I would get and the more my husband would shut down. It does result in my spouse seeing me as a leaking faucet though!

The second reason I nag is because I am angry. Usually angry because I have asked for something to get done and for whatever the reason, it does not happen. Then, the ugly self-talk, as mentioned earlier, begins and I spiral into an angry, frustrated out-of-control mess!  Of course, I am hurt because of the lack of response I might receive from my spouse, but the anger in my heart does nothing to help me or him. The anger will pull me away from my spouse, start building a wall around my heart, and start shooting holes in my heart towards my spouse.  If this continues over a long period of time, I will begin to dislike and even hate my spouse.

Of course the lack of response from my husband hurts. In order to respond in a Godly way, I must feel the hurt, grieve where things are, and turn to God in order to keep my heart in a good place. God understands that I will be hurt by my spouse at times; just as he will be hurt by me. I married an imperfect man just as he married an imperfect woman. God knows that my spouse will never love me perfectly. He was never meant to. But God does. He loves me unconditionally and wants me to run to Him when I am hurting and fighting anger in my heart. He will listen to every mean thought I have, and still love me and give me wisdom in what to say and do. When I am willing, He will also work in my heart to change the ugly, angry attitude.

The control and anger tie into the third word, fear. When I am afraid, I often feel the need to get bigger (controlling and angry), in order to keep myself safe. When I am disappointed by my spouse and I want to nag him, what am I afraid of? I’m afraid that he doesn’t see me as important enough, that he doesn’t love me enough. I’m afraid that what I may need doesn’t matter. I’m afraid that I will become even more overwhelmed with all I need to do, and we don’t have the money to just call someone every time something needs fixing! Get the picture? It does not take long for fear to consume me and get out of control.

My prayer is that you have a spouse that is willing to hear your anger and fear and be willing to work through things with you. But what happens when you talk with your spouse and things remain the same?  Because I cannot change my spouse, I cannot be guaranteed that things will ever be the way that I would like. It’s like the line in a movie I saw once, “What if this is as good as it gets?” This can be a very hard pill to swallow. I have to remind myself that God is much bigger than my spouse.  The truth is no matter what we are wrestling with, He cares.

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I love the verse in Matthew 10 that tells me that “not one sparrow falls to the ground without your Father’s consent. But even the hairs of your head have all been counted. So, don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Or Matthew 6:26 – “Consider the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they?” In Luke 12 we are asked yet again, “Aren’t you worth more than the birds?”  I can’t even rap my head around the fact that God knows the number of hairs on my head!! I know my husband, children, and grandson and love them so dearly, but I have no idea how many hairs are on their heads! Can you get just a small glimpse of the depth of God’s love? No matter how hurt we are, no matter how angry we may be, and no matter how fearful we may be, the Heavenly Father sees us, hears us, and knows exactly what we need. (“My God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Phil 4:19) Even in tough situations, God is more concerned about our hearts and what is going on inside. He wants us to bring these hurts and disappointments to Him. We can cry our hearts out to Him, whether it be through ugly tears or anger, and He will not leave us. He will meet us right in the messiness of our stuff.

God does not want us to be a nag…..our spouses would prefer that as well! Whenever you feel that urge or desire to nag, try to take a pause and reflect on what is going on in your heart. Why do you feel you need to nag to be heard? Why do you need to nag to get others to do their jobs? Are you trying to control? Are you angry? Are you fearful? Are you really reaping any good benefits from nagging? Nagging seems to come so naturally to women, but God wants so much more for us. He wants peace and joy in our hearts. He wants our hearts to know how to love others even when they hurt us. He wants us to be His Light in our families. He might even want us to set boundaries with others so they can reflect on their own sinful behavior. I do not believe that Christ died on the cross so we could live as nagging, miserable women. He died to set us free from those chains, so we can live full and free in Him. He wants our lives to glorify Him. Thank you, Jesus, that You always provide a better way for us!

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.”    

2 Corinthians 12:9

 

Mission Impossible?

Psalm 73:26 — My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

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Sometimes life can really be confusing and hilarious at the same time. We want so much to be married and have a family. Yet, we are not quite accurate in our idea of how that would play out. Our imagination had things working so much better and everyone being loved and cared for and living “happily ever after.” Imagine my surprise and disappointment when things didn’t go quite like I had imagined! I was dreaming more of “Little House on the Prairie” or “Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman.” (I know this dates me!!) What I came to realize was my life felt more like “Mission Impossible.” Sometimes it seems that God has a sense of humor, yet in His omniscience He knew what I needed better than I. He knew I needed more, not less, because I was very good at doing things in my own power.

Too often my “perception” of the way things should be was so distorted that there was no way my husband or children could ever get it right.  I was focused too much on what was going on externally in my home and missed the internal and eternal.  My heart is a powerful tool and when my heart is in the wrong place, so is everything else. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable — who can understand it?” Whoa!  That really makes me feel better.  My heart is more deceitful than anything else!! And is incurable!  If Scripture stopped there, I would be hopeless.  John 3:16 is the perfect answer to our hopelessness. “For God so loved the world (me) that He gave His one and only Son (Jesus), that whoever (anyone) believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus is our hope for eternity, but also our hope in this life with our families.  Without Jesus we cannot love in a way that offers hope to our husbands, our children, and those around us.  Left to ourselves our hearts are deceitful and incurable.

I want my perception to become like God’s perception.  He has commanded us to “love our neighbor as ourselves.” (Lev. 19:18, Matt. 22:36-40, Lk. 10:25-37, James 2:8) These are just a few verses that tell us to love our neighbor.  Since God mentioned it so many times, I wonder if He wants us to pay attention and obey? He know us so well, and He knows that we need to be reminded over and over. He loved us so much that He sacrificed His only Son.  What am I willing to sacrifice in order to love my family well? I think as wives and mothers we often sacrifice our comfort for the sake of our families. We sacrifice our time, rest, and sadly, sometimes our health. The kind of sacrifice I am speaking of is a sacrifice of the heart. The kind that nailed Jesus to the cross. I can assure you I have never had to sacrifice my life unto death.  It may feel like death sometimes, but I am still here!

So, how do I know if I am loving in the way that God wants me to? Check out 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. Love is patient, kind, not envious, not boastful, not arrogant, not rude. Love is not self-seeking, irritable and does not keep a record of wrongs. Love rejoices in the truth. It bears all things (“covers all things,” burdens of others), believes all things (those things that God says are true), hopes all things (hope in promises of God), endures all things (tribulations, temptations, and persecutions for the sake of Jesus Christ). And finally, love never ends. I have much work to do. I’ve blown it countless times on the very first one, patience!

Too many times my own agenda gets in the way of my loving others.  I don’t want to be bothered because I am in the middle of something.  I have a list a mile long of things I need to get done.  I have given out emotionally and do not want to have to deal with family. I could go on and on.  As I think on these things though, God did not call us to be so busy and to have lists so long that we are unable “to love others as we love ourselves.”  God gave sacrificially and He wants us to do the same.  The truth is, my list never gets shorter no matter how many hours I work on it.  Every day more seems to get added to it.  I have to choose which is more important.  My list of things to do or the people that God has blessed me with to love and care for.  For me it is a purposeful choice to love my husband, children, and grandchildren. Left to myself, too many times, I will choose my list because it is easier and doesn’t require my heart.   Plus, I’ve never had my list argue with me!

To truly love and put others first is not easy.  That is why I need God so desperately.  In my own strength I cannot be the wife, mother or grandmother that God wants me to be.  Without Him I get caught up in my own junk and it flows out onto everyone around me. Yuck! He is the One that changes my heart. He is the One that opens my heart to love others.  He is the One that I want to please and serve.  When I die, my list will still be here, and no one will care if I finished it or not.  When I die, I want my family and those in my life to know they were loved unconditionally by me, and that they knew that love came from God alone and the amazing work He has done and continues to do in my heart.

New Again

Psalm 51:10 says, “God, create a clean heart for me and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

 

My last blog was on the first part of Psalm 51:10. We looked at the word “create.” God is in the business of cutting out or pruning those things in our life that keep us from becoming who He wants us to be.

 

Today we will look at the second part of verse 10. David is asking the Lord to “renew” within him. To renew something means to make it new again.  David knew that he had sinned against God, and he knew that it was the inner person that was the problem. He wanted his entire body to be restored to the Lord. God is the only one that can renew our souls. He will create a “steadfast” (loyal, faithful, unwavering) spirit in us if we are willing to confess our sin, repent to the Lord and ask Him to change and renew our spirits. We need a steadfast spirit so that we will not be sucked in to all of the distractions around us.  Sin is a “spiritual cancer.” In order for us to have a renewed spirit, we must allow God to cut out the infected parts of our soul.

 

In verse 12 of Psalm 51 we read, “Restore the joy of your salvation to me, and sustain me by giving me a willing spirit.” Sin affects our entire being. When we have sinned, it is impossible to have a joyful heart. No matter how hard we may try, there is always that nagging voice inside of us. We cannot have true joy when our hearts are not right before God. The phrase “willing spirit” refers to David’s own spirit, as in verse 10. A “willing spirit” is one that is not in bondage but is free and yielded to the Spirit of God, who ministers to and through our own spirit (Romans 8:14-17). It isn’t enough simply to confess sin and experience God’s cleansing; we must also let Him renew us within so that we will conquer sin and not succumb to temptation. (The Bible Exposition Commentary by Warren W. Wiersbe)

 

God wants nothing more than to forgive us, cleanse us and renew us. Do those things that grieve the Lord also grieve me? Have I become lazy in seeing my sin and asking for God’s mercy and forgiveness? Have I become calloused and acceptable of sin because of society? Father, help me to see my sin as you see it…a complete offense and abhorrence against You. Keep my soul and heart open and tender to those things that break Your heart, and help me to be steadfast in You when I am tempted to do wrong. Lord, I want a spirit that is free in You and not locked up in bondage. Create in me a clean heart and renew in me a steadfast spirit.

Create in Me

pink petaled flowers closeup photo
Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

 

Welcome spring! My favorite time of year.  The dormant trees are bursting with vibrant, green leaves and flowers.  The bulbs in the ground have appeared and are showing their sweet faces.  The birds and wild animals are preparing homes for their young soon to be born.  It seems as though the world around me is waking up from a nice, long nap!

As I was reading this morning and thinking of spring and the gift that it is, I thought, ‘What a beautiful time for us to “wake up” and to ask God for a new and fresh Word.’ Maybe spring is not just a renewal of life in nature, but a wonderful time for a renewal in our spiritual lives as well.

Psalm 51:10 says, “God, create a clean heart for me and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”  The word create, from the Hebrew word “bara”, means “to form by cutting or carving out”, a pruning so to speak.  Just like we have to prune our trees and bushes so they remain healthy and beautiful, so God needs to prune our lives and to cut out those things that are unnecessary and keeping us from relationship with Him.  God is the only One that is capable of “pruning” our lives for His glory.

What are some things that might need pruning in our lives?   Maybe we need to cut out unkind words and actions that have become a part of everyday life. Maybe we have a bad habit or attitude that we know we need to change. Maybe we are once again spending a little too much time on our phones and on social media.  (This is a hard one in todays world!) Do we maybe need to cut out some of the time spent here and use it to spend more time with those that matter, like our kids and husbands?  What about time with God? Is there something that keeps getting in the way of spending time in His Word? Is that something we can adjust or change?

If we want God to create something in us, we need to make sure we are carving out time and cutting out the clutter that keeps our hearts and minds from focusing on Him.  He desires time with us, and He will not let that time go to waste.  Now is the time to open our hearts and ask the Lord “to form” something in our hearts by “cutting out” what He sees as damaged or not growing. Let’s open our hearts so that we will be ready to spring forth with what God wants for us! Let’s enter this spring season with our hearts and minds focused on God and His purposes.

A wonderful devotional I have enjoyed is by Francine Rivers, “Earth Psalms: Reflections on How God Speaks Through Nature”

Following the Leader

Mark 10:21b-22, “…Then, come follow me. But he was dismayed by this demand, and he went away grieving, because he had many possessions.”

I was reading recently in Mark 10 about the rich young ruler.  In verse 21 the Bible tells us that Jesus loved him.  He was pleased with the young ruler because Jesus knew his heart was striving after better things.  Sadly, the young ruler “had many possessions” and was not willing to part with them in order to follow Jesus.  He missed the greatest possession he could have ever had. This young man’s focus was set on earthly things.

 

I began thinking about myself. I am a believer in Christ, unlike the rich young ruler, but there are things Christ may want me to give up in pursuit of Him.  What “possessions” am I not willing to give up in order to follow Jesus?  Maybe it is not so much about material things, but what do I hold on to in my heart? Do I hold on too tightly to ideas and dreams that I may have?  Do I hold on too tightly to situations I “think” I’m in control of?  Where is my heart when I have to give up my time and plans to help someone else?  Where does my heart go when God may ask me to wait?  Do I hold on too tightly to the people that I love?  Do I follow Christ in my insecurities and my fears?

 

In The Bible Exposition Commentary I found this definition of a “disciple.” A disciple is more like an apprentice. A disciple is more than a student who learns lessons by means of lectures and books. He is one who learns by living and working with his teacher in a daily “hands on” experience.  Too many Christians are content to be listeners who gain a lot of knowledge but who have never put that knowledge into practice. In Luke 9:23 Scripture tells us to “take up our cross daily, and follow me.”  These words are an action. It is something I am to do! We are told to “take up and follow daily.”  Notice that this is not a one-time thing.  This is an everyday giving ourselves over to Christ and what He wants for us.

 

I do know from personal experience that nothing or no one can do in my heart what the Holy Spirit can.  Yet, I still struggle with hanging on and not releasing everything to Jesus. Do I really trust Him?  Do I truly believe He has my best interest at heart? My actions often show that I do not.

 

In Proverbs 3 we are encouraged to, “trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; in all your ways know Him, and He will make your paths straight.”  Then the very next verse says, “don’t be wise in your own eyes.” How often do I feel “wise” in my own eyes and forget about Christ?  Do I trust Christ with my whole heart or just the pieces I want to trust to Him? Am I confident in Him to direct my path? Am I confident that He will be there for me? Am I confident that He will provide – in His way, maybe not mine?

 

Sometimes I am like a child when they do not want to hold a parent’s hand thinking they are big enough to walk alone.  The harder the parent grips their little hand, the harder the child pulls away! Lord, I don’t want to get so confident in myself that I believe I know what’s best. I want to daily seek You, and follow You, and bring glory to Your Name. God, help me to trust You with all of my heart, soul, and mind.

Strike Three, You’re Out!

“For we  walk by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7

 

In 2 Kings 13:18-20 is the story of Elisha and Israel’s King Jehoash. Jehoash was not a king devoted to God, however, one commentary I read said that Jehoash could be having a moment of realization that Israel’s only chance is the power of God and not military force. Elisha has Jehoash shoot an arrow through the window in the direction of their enemy the Arameans. He passes this “test” so to speak.  Then Elisha tells Jehoash to, “Strike the ground!” Notice that Elisha did not speak how many times.  When Jehoash struck the ground only three times, Elisha was incredibly angry with him. Then Elisha tells him he should have struck the ground “five or six times”, for then he would have struck down Aram until they were destroyed.

 

Why was Elisha so angry with Jehoash?   Because Jehoash revealed his level of faith and zeal by the extent of his obedience in doing something he did not understand. He lacked faith in God and lacked zeal in committing himself to the task that lay ahead. Since his spiritual senses had been dulled by habitually defying the law of God (2 Kings 13:11), the king failed to garner complete victory over Aram, but God would not fail to keep the promise to strike down Aram three times.[Women’s Evangelical Commentary OT]

 

This passage got me to thinking about my own faith in God.  How strong is my faith and trust?  Do I give up too quickly and miss what God has for me?  What do my actions show about my faith in and zeal for God? It is so easy to tell someone else to pray about a hard situation and to be patient, but what about when I’m the one in the hard situation? Do I have the faith to “strike the ground” believing that God will come through for me, or do I “strike the ground” a few times and quit?  God does not prove His faithfulness by what I consider enough faith. He is about my heart and soul. Do I have a faith and zeal for God in my deepest soul to keep on keeping on until He says enough. I wonder, do I not seek or ask often because I do not believe God will truly come through for me.  Of course, I believe this in my head and hold onto it outwardly.  It’s the internal heart battle that I’m talking about.

 

Jesus tells me in the Gospels to “ask….believing”.  Sometimes I ask, sometimes I do not.  When I do ask though, do I truly believe or am I “believing” with my breath held? Often times I find myself praying and then thinking, “I really hope God comes through on this one!” What?? I’m pretty sure God sees through this! Jesus wants me to trust and believe and to not be anxious for anything. Holding my breath (so to speak) and waiting to see when the next shoe falls is not trust, belief, or faith.  Jesus, forgive my lack of faith and trust in You.  Your faith and love for God sent You to the cross. Jesus, I want my faith to count. Help me to not be like Jehoash and to only “strike the ground 3 times” and be done. Help me to be fearless and courageous and to “strike the ground” as many times as is needed to accomplish Your purpose.

The Journey Begins

“As a deer longs for flowing streams, so I long for you, God. I thirst for God, the living God.” 
Psalm 42:1-2a
beautiful boulders branches creek
Photo by Anton Atanasov on Pexels.com

In Luke 10: 38-42 we read the story of Jesus and His disciples being invited into the home of Martha and Mary. Martha clearly had the gift of hospitality and the means if she just invited 13 more people in for dinner! She has a decent size crowd, so understandably she is going to be busy.  Martha is moving and shaking and looks over to see Mary, her sister, sitting at the feet of Jesus listening to Him teach!  During this time, women were not permitted to sit under teachings by the rabbis in school.  What Mary was doing was not a “normal” occurrence for women. The word for listening means to “hear with attention”.  So, Mary is fully engaged with Jesus and every word that He is speaking.

 

But Martha (vs. 40) was “distracted with all her preparations”. The King James says she, “was cumbered about much serving.”  In the Greek this means being over-occupied about a thing!  Martha wasn’t just being hospitable, she was going overboard. Doing more than she needed to. Jesus tells Martha that she is anxious and bothered about many things that are not important or necessary.  Had she not been doing all the extra things she also would have had time to sit at His feet.

 

I love this story.  It draws me back to what is most important every time I get distracted.  We may not be distracted with preparing a meal for a large group of people, but there are so many distractions in our lives today.  We have difficulty finding time to sit at the feet of Jesus and to soak in His Word, yet, we find time for Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, losing hours of time scrolling on Pinterest, Amazon, E-bay, you name it.  Of course, there’s still TV, emails, and the list can go on and on.  How much different would our lives be if we just took 30 minutes of this time and spent it with God?  What extra things do we do that are not necessary? Our homes can be Pinterest perfect, but God is not looking at our homes, He is looking at our hearts.  He is more concerned that we seek Him every day instead of liking someone’s post.

 

We are like Martha in that we can get distracted easily with things that really don’t matter.  Sadly, they seem so important to us.  We are also like Mary, though, because God created us to desire relationship with Him.  We will never be filled the way He desires for  us to be filled with anything other than Jesus. I challenge you to take some time today fully devoted to Jesus.  It may be hard at first…..even now some days are difficult. My thoughts are everywhere except where they need to be.  I do believe with all of my heart, the more we are faithful to show up, God’s Word will come alive to us! We were created to desire relationship, and the ultimate relationship is with our precious Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He is waiting for you!

 

“Your Word, Lord, is a lamp for my feet and light on my path.” Psalm 119:105