What People Think

Continuing in my study of Philippians I didn’t move far from where I was in my last post; in fact, I only made it to the next paragraph!  Paul’s writing is so full of wonderful treasures for us as believers that you can’t escape each passage’s weight and meaning.  In Philippians 1:15-18, I discovered another result of Paul’s enviable contentment in difficult circumstances:  the ability to be unfazed by the opinions of others.

“Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from goodwill.  The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel.  The former proclaim Christ out of rivalry,  not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment.  What then?  Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.”  (Phil. 1:15-18)

As I read this, I was awed by Paul’s unaffected attitude to what other evangelists were doing to spite him.  I was also awed by the gall of those ‘preachers’, whose goal was to afflict Paul by spreading the gospel message without him!  In Paul’s day, and certainly in the present one, there will be people who want to spite us.  They may be other Christians or they may be unbelievers:  The facts are, if one is living biblically, many will turn against her.  It can be hurtful, unsettling, and burdensome to know that others are out to spite us.  How can we gain Paul’s security for our lives, so that ‘what others think’ does not become a factor in our decisions?

Paul recognizes in verse 15 that some preach Christ from rivalry — wanting to show up other Christians with good works or the number of converts — while others speak Christ out of goodwill.  Those who share out of the good of their hearts do it out of love (verse 16) while those who do it out of rivalry wish to inflict pain on their ‘competitors’.   We all have dealt with people who seem to constantly measure themselves against us.  They have an invisible yardstick held to our accomplishments, successes and goals; one which determines their own self-worth.  We can’t let their insecurity determine our own stability, and virtue which Paul evidences in the above passage.

Rather than worrying over the motives of the other evangelists, or fearing that his witness was hindered by the fact that he was in chains, Paul reveals a deep trust in God in verse 18:  “What then?  Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.”  Just as the secret to Paul’s joy was in his focus on the gospel, so this same focus allows him to transcend the opinions and actions of others.  Rather than worrying over them himself, he entrusts them to God — giving thanks, in joy, that the gospel is being spread.  By whom, and in what methods, is irrelevant.

How can we achieve this same disregard for the spiteful opinions of others?  While we should remain conscious of how we represent Christ, and be willing to accept the rebuke of other Christians, concerning ourselves with what others think is a distraction to our ultimate purpose.  Satan would like nothing better than to keep the focus off spreading the gospel and on the destruction of our ‘reputations’.  The truth is, what others think and say can either be proven or disproven by our actions.  Arguing about it just increases their motivation to spite and slander.

Our pride tells us to defend ourselves, to react in anger or indignation.  God commands us to love our enemies, and do good to those who persecute us.  Paul says nothing of the other preachers other than that he is glad the gospel is being spread, even if the motive for spreading it may be misplaced.  This is the attitude we should strive to attain.  This gives us that same blessed freedom that enabled Paul to find joy not only in trial, but in spite of the opinions and thoughts of others.

“Fret not yourself because of evildoers, and be not envious of the wicked, for the evil man has no future; the lamp of the wicked will be put out… Do not say, “I will do to him as he has done to me; I will pay the man back for what he has done.”  (Prov. 24:19-20, 29)

To Think About

  • Do the opinions/thoughts of others cause you worry? Why or why not?
  • What are ways you can find stability in Christ rather than in others’ opinions?
  • How could pride be influencing your decisions, through a focus on your own reputation?

Any Man of Mine

“Do not put your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation…” (Ps. 146:3)

 It seems that everywhere I look I see books on waiting, courtship, dating, and singleness; blogs and posts about it; podcasts and magazines, articles and videos — the list goes on.  It’s a hot topic today.  Our world of fleeting romance is definitely not the ideal.  Yet it seems that as a result of choosing the path of purity we are turning out members of society with the ‘ideal’ as their ultimate focus.  Most of it belongs to the feminine side of the equation.  Some belongs to the masculine side.  With the commitment to purity, it seems that many young people form an idealistic concept of who, when, where and how, and when theses dreams don’t take place quickly, the participating faithfuls begin to lose faith.

High school is far too young for young people to be dabbling in relationships.  This is a fundamental idea that with any rational thought can be perceived as perfectly valid.  But what about afterward?  Why is the homeschool/purity movement producing persons (especially women) whose only real desire is to ‘get married’? 

The problem is not with marriage.  I truly believe that marriage is wonderful and I will be delighted when it happens to me.  Yet I have observed, over and over, young women leaving the nest of homeschool with one purpose alone: to catch a man.  My dear persevering relatives have seen this same tendency in me — although not so much to ‘catch’ one, as simply to throw my dime-a-handful fish pellets in the water and see if any come around. 

Girls will dream of their wedding day, that is a given.  But what about making your life around a wedding day?  Until you reach that time, you will not have a purpose.  No goal except to find a mate.  With any other object this may be attainable — a job, an education, even a home — since these things can be found and earned.  A mate is an entirely different animal… a human.  As time goes on, this human can become a god:  all youth is spent in pursuit of him, much time is spent in dreaming of him, and marriage, a wedding and a mate can become all you ever want out of life.

So what happens… when the wedding is over?  What then?  Wedding days are over by sundown, honeymoons are over in a week, and then there’s the rest of a lifetime to deal with.  Tests and trials much like singleness come — often much more difficult as the family must provide for itself.  What then?

The Ideal Mate suddenly is revealed as a sinning human, as well as are you — despite all the preparation for marriage.  If marriage was your idol before the ring, your eyes are opened wide as you see that it’s not all romance and candles.  All the time spent to attain it may make you wonder if it was well spent at all.  Did you redeem the time of your youth?  Did you make the most of the years you had?

Preparing for marriage is an admirable goal, and I would never say to stop learning to be a homemaker or provider (whichever you may happen to be).  At the same time, if that is your only goal in life it is a low-sighted vision.  While God works mightily through married couples, He can work mightily through anyone who is called by His name.  Those with the freedom of singleness are often more readily available than those that are wed, as with the Apostle Paul:

“Now as a concession, not a command, I say this.  I wish that all were as I myself am.  But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.  To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am…”  (1 Cor. 7:6-7)

Would I like to stay single for a long time?  No.  I want hugs and kisses too.  My mom and dad seem to have a rather fun time with it, and I wouldn’t mind trying it myself with my husband someday.  However, if that becomes my only goal then I am making an idol out of something that is a blessing of God, not God himself.  It is the same with a career or an education — or anything that takes the place of God in our lives.  Yet it often seems that marriage is somehow given a license to take this position in the lives of young people while careers and educations are not, especially to girls.

You may be alarmed by the feministic ring to that last statement, but don’t be; I will tell you what I am for.  I am for young men and women making these years when they are unmarried, without commitments and people to provide for, the years that they fill with learning and moving forward.  These are the years to do things you dream of — not in a selfish way, which the world recommends, but the dreams that God lays on your heart.  Dreams beyond marriage.  Once a woman has children she should be in the home educating them as her God-given position in the family.  But until then, she has work to do either for her husband or for her God.

Marriage can seem like the safe haven that escorts a girl out of her parents’ home into the home of her husband.  She never has to face ‘the world’.  The truth is that we live in the world.  We may not be of it, but we sure better be able to face it.  We had better know what to say and do, how to speak and how to teach — and in these things we can still be all the wife or husband that we need to be.  In fact, we will most likely be better. 

Any man of mine will be worthy of my respect and love because he went out into the world and accomplished the dream God laid on his heart.  He will be my hero because I will see in him a man who took his time and redeemed it, preparing for me by not wasting his time dreaming of me, but working to support me.  And I will do the same:  use these years to their maximum.  So when my man and I meet, our years together will be twice as powerful as our years apart.  That’s my dream, and marriage is a part of it — but marriage isn’t the dream itself. 

Society may be set against marriage, instead being a proponent of the ‘swinging single’ image, but that does not give us the license to take the pendulum the other direction with the idea that marriage is the ‘only way’.  We must strike a balance, with morality as our guide and God as our hope, knowing that our work for Him will be effective whether we have a spouse at our side or not.  When He is in His rightful place, then He can give us those blessings that we desire.

As Time Goes By

It’s hard to believe it is already 2009… I remember last year, as each month flew by, watching it go incredulously.  And now here we are, in a whole new year! 

It’s time for New Year’s resolutions, and I have a couple to share and perhaps keep this time around.  I have noticed on other blogs that women write how they are keeping up on their resolutions; what they have accomplished, how far they have come.  I am so proud of them!  Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for me.  Maybe this time!

I have this thing where I like to start new things on significant dates — like Christmas, my birthday, or the beginning of a month.  I don’t like to start something on, say, September 17th.  So the first of the year is the most important date to start anything, and I am starting a whole new life.

2008 was not a good year in my life, and I knew it as I went through it.  I muddled through it, rather… and while I knew I had to get organized, get together, get with God, I never made time to do it, resulting in an entire year that I can’t look back on with happiness.  I’m not proud of it.  And I know God wasn’t proud of me.  Perhaps that is what hurts most of all… knowing that I disappointed Him in many ways.  Looking back, I see them all clearly.  In that moment, I didn’t really care to look.

As time goes by, we can take that look back and see what we did and evaluate it.  I truly resent doing this because I see my words and actions and cringe.  “Did I really say that?”  “How could I have…!” “That was really, really dumb.”  If I don’t look back, though, I won’t see what I did and learn how to overcome it.  I won’t see the problem, so I won’t look for a solution; I won’t know I have a disease, so I won’t find a cure.

A resolution, in and of itself, doesn’t accomplish anything.  A lot of non-Christians make resolutions, and by sheer willpower accomplish what they hoped:  better fitness, fewer hangovers, or spending more time with the family.  For Christians, there are two facets to our goals/resolutions:  first, they are based on what God desires us to be, not only our personal opinion of what needs to change; and second, we are not on our own accomplishing them.  God will give us strength.

So when I look back at my past year and find what I need to change, I can’t just make a resolution ‘not to do it again’, because I said that hundreds of times and did ‘it’ again!  The first step is to recognize our failures not as ‘mistakes’ but as sins.  The more lightly we view our sins, the less grateful we are for forgiveness — if we even seek it.  We must understand the magnitude of going against the will of God.  We must ask Him to reinstate us to Himself, because sin separates us from Him.  ‘Mistakes’ are accidents.  I don’t know many instances of ‘accidental’ sin. 

In recognizing sin for what it is, we can take the next step, which is to forsake it.  This is where the resolve comes in!  Yet our resolve need not be to make ourselves resist temptation, but to make ourselves trust God when we are tempted.  I didn’t understand this at first.  When we trust God in temptation, we admit to Him that we know He ‘will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear’ and that He ‘will never leave us nor forsake us’.  In this confidence, we can conquer.

It in this way that we make each New Year’s resolution produce real change in our lives.  It’s not on human willpower, but on trust and humility in an almighty God.  Consider also that the enemy will do anything to make us fail.  Too often I write off Satan as a man in a red suit running about with a pitchfork in hand.  He’s much more powerful than a sunburned farmer.  Realizing this helped me to know when he was tempting me, recognize it as such, and turn to the One who is my strength and stronghold.

2009 can be different for me, and it can be different for you as well.  Whatever you may be facing, what trials, heartaches, hardships, obstacles — entrust them.  I have plenty of all of the above.  Holding onto the them only gives me a stomachache.  Surrendering them to Jesus Christ gives me a life worth living — one to be proud of as time goes by.

 

 

 

100th Post

I kind of liked that it is the last day of November and this is my 100th post; it seemed to fit together so nicely.  It would be even better if it were the last day of the year, but I really don’t want to wait a month to arrange that, so the 100th post will have to be today.  I didn’t realize I was close to reaching the centennial until a few weeks ago when I saw that I had 94 posts.  Only six more — and here we are!

The subject of 100….  100 is a lot, when you think about it, but it is also very little.  It depends on how you look at it.  A hundred dollars may be a lot of money for a purse, but it may be very little for a nice winter coat.  A hundred posts may be a lot for me, but that goal was met by others years ago.  Our perceptions of 100 are relative to our experiences and situations.

While it may seem to be a silly analogy, our idea of the number 100 translates into our idea of God.  While one person may perceive 100 to be large, and another small, God can’t be viewed this way.  The number 100 is variable; it’s quantity may not change, but depending on its situation and surroundings it may represent something completely different from another circumstance.  God is not relative.  He is not variable.  His quality and quantity never change. 

If God were a matter of opinion and personal ‘experience’, He couldn’t be God.  God is all powerful, all knowing, all good… He does not change for different situations.  He as Himself is great enough for ANY situation.  He does not make Himself more appealing or relevant as society blows this way and that;  He is the same, His standard is the same, and His love and mercy remain the same. 

So on this little centennial, on this little blog on a great, wide world of the Internet, I want to offer one little thanks to the unchanging, unvariable, ever to be trusted Lord… Jesus Christ.

Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart

There is a song that we used to sing in church called ‘Give Thanks’:

Give thanks with a grateful heart/Give thanks to the Holy One/Give thanks, for He has given Jesus Christ, His Son/Now let the weak say I am strong/Let the poor say I am rich/Because of what the Lord has done/For us… Give thanks…

Perhaps you have heard it.  It is a beautiful song. As always, we celebrated Thanksgiving with my Mom’s family yesterday, and of course we thanked God for getting together, and for all the wonderful food Grandma made, and for the freedom to be together in the first place.  But really, everything we are thankful for comes back to one gift that received — Jesus’ sacrifice.

It is so easy to grow cold — or at least indifferent — to the wonderful gift of salvation that we received.  Those of us who have grown up in Christian homes hear it all day every day, and sometimes it gets ‘old’.  But it shouldn’t be that way.  None of us would be where we are, have the privileges we have, the families we are in, the jobs we are paid for or the blessings we have received if it were not for Christ’s sacrifice, and someone’s submission to His will.  I have seen families where it was the grandfather who was the committed Christian, and his legacy has blessed his children and grandchildren — but the grandchildren have lost the reason for their blessing, taking the material and forgetting the spiritual.  We must never forget the origin of our good gifts — the Lord above.

God’s blessings aren’t only material, either.  They are spiritual as well.  This where I, more than anything, am most thankful; because like the song, I in my weakness can say, “I am strong,” and I in my poverty can say, “I am rich.”  Christ is the source of all these things: my security, my love, my hope, my joy.  We hear a lot of people say, “Without Him I am nothing.” Actually, without Him I am something:  sinful.  We aren’t just not attaining our full potential by being separated from Him, but also being willful and rebellious… ‘nothing’ signifies something of a passive regard for our state without Christ.  Without Him, we aren’t ‘nothing’ — we’re pointless! 

A compass has a point.  It ‘points’ North, and it’s ‘point’ is to guide its owner that direction.  Christ is the needle on the compass of our heart, giving us direction and purpose — giving us a ‘point’ in our life.  Of all things to be thankful for, this is it.  Without Christ as our compass, we spend our life wandering in circles, seeking our own good and pleasure and never being satisfied.  Christ satisfies the deepest needs because He is our deepest need

I give thanks, with a grateful heart, for Him.

The ‘Good’ Kind of Party

When I went downstate to spend a weekend with a friend who was at college, she told me how some other students in her apartment complex were constantly inviting her and her roomate over for ‘a party’.  They never quite defined what ‘party’ meant.  From the thumps, shouts, and raucous laughter my friend rightfully inferred that it was the kind of party she didn’t want to be at.  “Why can’t people just party the GOOD way?!” She exclaimed to me.  “WE know how to party down in godliness!”

This isn’t exactly an astounding, controversial or life-changing topic.  It’s the topic of Fun.  However, fun is a part of life too, and how we go about having it directly affects us and our witness.  How can we have a good time without sacrificing our walk with God?  It’s very possible.  But it comes down to what you want.

The world advertises a specific kind of fun to us, saying that if we aren’t doing these specific things, then truly, we aren’t having fun at all.  The world’s definition of fun is, from a Christian perspective:  “sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft… fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like…” (Galatians 5:19-21).  These things come wrapped up in neat, pretty little packages — like cocktail parties, ‘romantic’ nights out that escalate to greater proportions, clubs and groups that dabble in cults or witchcraft, and ‘harmless’ visits to bars and nightclubs.  To our world, these things are just part of life.  Yet for the Christian, these are representative of the life they left behind. 

For Christian girls and boys, usually homeschooled, doing these things is the last thing on their minds.  It wouldn’t even occur to you to go to a bar, much less to attend a drinking frenzy on a beach somewhere.  For the Christian, the problem comes from compromise.  We can’t just say “I don’t drink” and call it good. Our commitment requires us to go deeper in evaluating what we do and where we go.

I have been invited to parties where they would be drinking.  I have been places where drinking was taking place.  Being in the presence of drinking does not motivate me to join in, but at the same time, if I were endorsing the goings-on with my presence, then perhaps the better choice would be to leave.  This is not simply for my sake, and my reputation, but also for my witness.  People judge Christians by their actions — if we seem to be compromising a life of purity for the sake of a good time, our representation of Christ is sullied.

This post is not about drinking.  Drinking is just one of those widely accepted aspects of our culture that is too often taken too far.  Alcohol in and of itself is not evil:  it is not a ‘demon in a bottle’.  But we must ask ourselves:  who is my God?  Can I give up drinking this at a party even if I look like the stick-in-the-mud?  Can I give up anything so that God is truly God in my life?

It could be drinking; it could be an occultic game; it could be a questionable relationship; it could be gossip — it could be anything that feels like fun!  In that moment we have decision to make.  Do we sacrifice Christ on the crucifix of Good Times, or do we allow Him to reign over every circumstance?  It is perfectly possible to have a wonderful time with friends without turning our backs on the grace of God.  I will discuss how to ‘party down in godliness’ in my next post!

What Friends Are For

“A friend loves at all times.”  (Proverbs 17:17)

That’s a big order.  What kind of person loves at all times?  Well — a friend!  This week I will be posting somewhat regularly on friendship:  what makes a good friend, more on friendships with boys and in a few weeks forward, on what can destroy a friendship from the inside out.  But for today, I am going to be talking about girlfriends — those wonderful, laughable, giggly gals you have in your circle of closest relationships.

The thing about good girlfriends is the fact that they can share in your feelings, understand your mentality, comprehend your situations and support you in trial.  While guy friends are great (we’ll revisit their whole end of the deal at a later date) girl friends are going to be able to identify with you much better than guys.   Men have an entirely different outlook on life than women; they tend to be much more practical, less emotional, and often simplified (not simple!) in their thinking.  Their comprehension of the world is less complex than a woman’s.  For instance, in a romantic relationship the woman might go home after a date evaluating the inflection of the second syllable in ‘Can I see you again?’, while the man may simply go home thinking, “Wow, nice girl.  Glad she accepted another date.  What’s in the fridge?”

So friends that are girls can be a wonderful support to you.  Unfortunately, good friends can be hard to come by.  A ‘good friend’ is not defined by how much she laughs at your jokes or how many times you go out for coffee;  a good friend is defined by her character.  “Do not be deceived:  bad company corrupts good morals.”  (1 Cor. 15:33).  A woman of good character will encourage you to become a better woman yourself; one that lacks spiritual stability or who does not take seriously her walk with God will lead down her path if you spend ‘quality time’ with her.

What are the qualifications for a good friend?  There are several Scripture passages that can point to what she needs to be.  One of them is what I used for my WONDERFUL group of girls and boys here up north:  1 Corinthians 13:4-8.  Since we know a true friend ‘loves at all times’, what does it mean to ‘love’?  According to that passage, love is “patient and kind, love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails.”

A true friend will either possess or be working on these qualities in her own life.  Most likely, it will be a combination of both!  We all struggle with specific temptations and sins.  This is very important to note, because what you require in a friend you must also be.  You know what they say:  “If you wish to have a friend, you need to be one.”  The standard you set for yourself will actually determine which friends you have.  If you are passionate about Christ, there will be people who don’t like you.  But you can bet it won’t be the ones who are passionate about Christ!  The same goes for hobbies and interests — a writer like myself doesn’t have a lot of girlfriends that like to hike.  I have friends that are artsy, intellectual, musical, and literary.  Who you are, what your motivations and interests are, will effect what friends are closest to you.

To check yourself on your Love Gauge, I suggest picking up a Bible and finding that passage in 1 Corinthians.  Read through verses 4-8 replacing your name for the word ‘love’.  Convicting, isn’t it?  Once you have done it, evaluate what you need to work on to be a better friend — and to better glorify Christ.  Meanwhile, perhaps you can find a very close girlfriend to keep you accountable… which gives you an excellent excuse to go out for coffee!!