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Trusting Him Who Never Fails

Our Lord is so gracious to us. We’re nothing more than poor wretched souls, wayward in our desires, inward in our passions, loving the world, others, and self more than we love Him, the Maker and Giver of life. He is patient with us far beyond anything we should expect from One so mighty, but He continues on because He is Love, He is Mercy, He is gentleness manifested. His mercy is new every morning, even on those mornings that we have trouble seeing it.

Sometimes, in a believer’s life, everything and then more will go wrong. We get on pathway from which there is no return, no U-turns, no undoing the damage constantly being done. Sometimes when we’re on such a pathway, praying, trying, doing all that we can do and more to the end of our strength, our faith can waver. It can, but it shouldn’t. The One who died for us is also the One who said He would never leave us nor forsake us–even when we are on the darkest of paths, even when we wander through desert places, even in the midst of stormy seas, He is there, loving us, protecting us, guiding us. Even when we do not see Him.

This I know, and I know it well. I know it because the Word of God tells me, and you, so. God’s Word can never fail and He who wrote it never fails, either. He is always constant and true. But I also know it on a personal level. I’ve seen God act in the midst of my fears, in the hardest of trials, in the darkest of nights, and during those times I’ve felt His comfort, experienced His healing love, seen His hand of goodness guiding, saving, and providing. Sometimes His provision isn’t actually what we seek or desire. Sometimes, in fact, in our humanness, it is the exact opposite of what we would want. We want sunny days, God provides the darkest of nights. We want a smooth pathway, God provides a stony overgrown trail. We want friends, family, fellow Christians who will love us, God provides a family such as Joseph’s and friends such as Judas. Yet, we should trust Him, for He always knows best.

Sometimes we must move out of the academic, away from what we believe to living out what we believe, to embracing our beliefs, letting them define us, even in the darkest of nights. Over the last decade, my family has known many an overgrown trail, many a dark night, much betrayal, much sorrow, and so many heart breaks that they truly aren’t calculable. Recently, we’ve entered another time of trial, one that has the potential to cause much more sorrow. Things went wrong, then another, and another, and to top it all, we’re accused by some we love of failing to act. They don’t know the endless prayers, the desperate-to-the-end-of-our-strength-effort, the trying when we were far too tired to try. But the Lord knows, and somehow, someway, He will see us through. He will either provide or He will be our Provision through times of deep want. He will be glorified by our struggles through strengthening our faith or He will be glorified as He acts wondrously to do what we cannot do ourselves. Even if the worst happens, He is worthy. So I will praise Him and, if you are in a time of deep sorrow, I encourage you to consider His innate worthiness and praise Him.

Soli Deo gloria!

Is obedience in wearing headcoverings a salvation issue?

I said in a recent post that, while I believe headcoverings are mandated in Scripture and, because of that, the command for a woman to cover her head in a worship service is still in effect, that I do not believe headcoverings are a salvation issue. I stand by this because of grace.

None of us obey the Lord perfectly. All of us who are followers of the Way are on a journey towards spiritual wholeness. The more we know, the more the Lord holds us responsible for. When we are first reborn, we are mere babes in Christ needing the milk of the Word. As we grow and mature, we move on to the meat of the Word, thus the more we are responsible for in the eyes of the Lord.

Churches haven’t taught that women are required by the Lord to wear headcoverings for a long time. As women’s lib moved in, headcoverings and other forms of obedience and submission moved out. Today, only a fraction of church leaders believe headcoverings are important for women to wear in worship. It isn’t taught in most of our homes, it’s not instructed in most seminaries, it’s not addressed in pulpits, and most Christian writers, teachers or bloggers never address it. Pray tell, how are we supposed to know that we are supposed to be wearing them?

However that seems to be changing and headcoverings in worship is a growing trend. That’s good news, indeed. But if we bring headcoverings back while at the same time we ignore the poor in our midst, we continue to dress immodestly at the beach, we are arrogant, rude, selfish or lazy in our homes or in our places of business, what good is it really doing us? There is no magic pill we can swallow that will make us more holy. There also isn’t a magic practice we can add to our lives to prove to God and to the world that we are His. It’s all about the heart–loving God, His Word, His people, more than we love ourselves. If we do that, then obedience in all forms will follow.

There’s another thing: If I cover my head in worship, all the while looking around me at all of the other women who don’t cover and I feel superior to them for my supposed advanced spiritual understanding, then I’ve missed the mark entirely. It’s not about the headcovering, it’s about the heart.

Everything we do as Christians is about our heart. The more we love God, the more we will want to love Him. The more we’ll long to understand His Word, know what He desires and demands of us, know where His heart on this or any matter is. Then we’ll set about obeying joyfully. The thing is, this side of heaven, we’ll never fully arrive at our destination. No matter how much I might want to fully obey Him, I never will. There will always be some part of me that is messing up.

None of this is to say that we ought to embrace disobedience. Far from it. We ought to run from disobedience like we’re running from the devil himself. If we find ourselves toying with disobedience, we’re in big trouble somewhere and we’d better get on our knees and start repenting.

So are headcoverings mandated in Scripture? I believe so, yes. The language in 1 Corinthians 11 seems pretty straightforward to me, and the fact that the Apostle Paul ties wearing them to the creation order pretty much cements the command in my mind. There are many who disagree with me, including some bible believing pastors with whom I agree with on just about everything else. But still I believe they are mandated because of the language of the text. I don’t believe that here some 2,000 years after Christ, we just suddenly became smarter than all of our brethren who have gone before us and somehow managed to discover some meaning in the text that in nearly 2,000 years none of them ever found. That just doesn’t make sense.

But it doesn’t make sense that it alone out of everything is a salvation issue. I see one salvation issue in Scripture: believing that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that He died for my sins and was resurrected the third day. Everything else is growing in faith, in knowledge and in obedience. Everything that is included in “everything else” is important: the kind of person we are, the way we live, what we believe, how we act and so on. It’s all important. If you ask me if we have come to realize that something is commanded by God that we are refusing to obey, is that a salvation issue then I’d have to say that you might want to get in the Word and pray and ask God to search you to see why you are failing to desire to obey Him. Failure to want to obey the Lord in any area is pretty important and pretty telling of one’s spiritual state.

Proof of salvation is that we grow in knowledge of and obedience to His Word. The more we study and learn, we more we are required to grow in our knowledge, and the more we’ll become like Christ. If we are not doing this, then that is the most important issue of all. So we must examine ourselves constantly: Do we love the Lord more than anything? Do we love our neighbors as ourselves? If we do, we’re growing in grace. If we aren’t (and arrogance about being a headcovering woman among women who don’t is a mighty telling issue), we have problems.

Romans 8: 28 things

Moments tick by as I cry out to the Lord. The room is dark as post-midnight hours waltz across the night. Soon morning will come: with it, will there be answers? Or simply more questions?

I have an amazing life, on the one hand. First and foremost, God saved me when I didn’t deserve to be saved; nothing can compare to the blessings of His grace. But there’s more: I am the mother of nine of the most wonderfully beautifully amazing children ever. And I’m here, still doing, still living, when doctors never believed I would be. I am blessed to be a homemaker and to be able to take care of my family. I enjoy endlessly trying out new recipes on my family–I love to cook, they love to eat, so it works. I homeschool my children so I have the great blessing of watching them grow up and watching them grow in grace, in truth, and in knowledge. I love truth and I love words so I write with a passion to combine the two. I have co-authored a book, and have been blessed to see that its impact on others has been a good one. I rescue animals and collect strays and I’ll keep on doing that as long as I can. Dogs and cats just make me happy. I’m blessed in so many ways. I really and truly am.

On the other hand, there’s the rest of the story, the parts few know about, parts from my childhood, torn from my parent’s choices, broken into pieces by my own bad decisions and those of others around me. There’s the painful rotting brokenness that just keeps getting more broken with each passing moment. Things I have no control over but nonetheless impacts me. Things that daily breaks my heart. Things that have forever changed who I am, who my family is, and what’s in store for us. Things that only God can change. Roman 8: 28 things. Sometimes I pull out a part and share it, but then I always feel the need to pull it back in and tuck it away. Such ugliness shouldn’t be seen–at least, that’s how it feels. But I’m compelled to share these things, at least in part. There’s so many lessons to be garnered from the pain. When the Gospel shines through the broken places, the beauty is beyond breathtaking. God’s grace, poured into the brokenness, never fails to bring me to tears.

So the questions continue but I’m crying out to God, day and night, day after day, night after night, seeking the answers. How do I proceed? How do I process such blessings when they are intricately tied together with such pain? How do I know what to share, what not to? How do I most honor the Lord for His mercy towards me?

Romans 8: 28 is one of my favorite verses. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

I’m counting on that. Meanwhile, I’m still calling out for answers.

Modesty: a godly woman’s influence

Ladies, your example to your daughters and to the other ladies of the church is so important. Your life is observed, your profession to Christ is measured, you devotion either questioned or applauded.

Everything about you influences the younger women, and those young in faith. The way you speak, what you speak about, either leads them to Christ or away from Him. The things you love, how you spend your time, either influences younger women to be in the world but not of the world or influences them to be in the world and OF the world.

Your devotion to the Word of God, to studying it, honoring it, obeying it, memorizing it, will either point the way to the Lord or point the way to hell. The time you spend in prayer, not just interceding for others but simply praising God, either makes others hungry for His presence or makes prayer seem all the more boring. The way you serve, the way you love, the way you respect your husband and guide your children tells the younger generation what you really believe about what the Bible has to say about womanhood, about marriage, about family. Your influence cannot be underestimated.

As it is in everything else, so it is in your manner of dress: you wield such influence by the way you choose to clothe yourselves. If you go into a church service immodestly dressed, it will be noticed, and, doubt it not, it will be emulated. If you are a poor example in this, you may just be un-doing what another mother tried so hard to do. Many a young lady, not yet converted or very young in the faith, is watching you to see how you live, how you dress, how you act. They judge what Christ says, who God is, by what they see you do. If you, by your dedication to worldly fashions, to ostentatious designs, or to immodest dress, influence them for evil, you will not be held innocent by the Lord.

Immodesty crept into the church inch-by-inch because those who should have spoken up, didn’t. It’s time to change that. You can be one who helps it to change. You and I say we believe truth. Now let our words, and our actions, prove that we do.

Faith, Forgiveness, and Abusers

Somewhere around 2,000 years ago, the Son of God died on a cross. Bereft of friends, beaten until unrecognizable, He climbed that hill, laid down and stretched out His arms. Lifted up on the cross, hung between two thieves, He called out to God to forgive His murderers.

Jesus did what no one else could have done. He was not only God, He was also Man. Fully both, born of a virgin so that He escaped the stain of original sin, He lived a perfect, holy, righteous life that fulfilled completely the holy Law of God. Thus, He was able to lay down His life for sinners, because He never sinned. He never failed. Not even once.

He didn’t fail on the cross, either. The cross wasn’t an afterthought of God’s. It wasn’t His second plan. It was His plan from the beginning. His Son would die so that sinful men might live. Trading His heavenly Home for our lowly earthly one, He, by dying, took on our sins, so that we, through faith, by grace, might take on His righteousness. Then, on the third day, He rose again, defeating death, and sealing Satan’s fate. There’s never been a more beautiful expression of love and sacrifice.

In agony, Jesus called out to His Father, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23: 34, KJV). He willingly forgave those who beat, tortured, and murdered Him, just as He now willingly forgives those who come to Him in faith, believing Him to be the Son of God.

He forgave them. He forgave me.

Forgiveness is a beautiful thing. When God forgives, all guilt is wiped away and He chooses not to remember the sin. When God looks at the redeemed, He doesn’t see them in their sin. He doesn’t remember them as liars, thieves, adulterers, blasphemers; no, He sees them as perfect, pure, and clothed in the holy righteousness of His Son.

We forgive because we have been forgiven.

If  you are a child of God, you must forgive your enemies, just as I must forgive mine. Luke 6: 27, 28, But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. So we must, because God says so. And because He has forgiven us so much.

But we’re not God. And try as we might, we are going to remember that which has happened to us. We shouldn’t dwell on it, mull it over, and harbor bitterness. If we say we forgive, yet we do those things, we’re fooling ourselves. We’ve not forgiven anyone. But we will remember, because we’re human. And that’s alright. By remembering, but not dwelling on it, we enable ourselves to set boundaries, to protect ourselves.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean you become a doormat, it doesn’t mean that what happened to you is alright, it doesn’t mean you pretend it never happened, and it doesn’t mean that your abuser shouldn’t be held accountable or that you should be quiet about what you endured. It is good to tell the truth about what you endured; it is also good to see that he can no longer hurt you. That might mean that he is arrested, or that you get away and stay away from your abuser. It is not only okay to do those things, it is good to do them.

What forgiveness means is that we give up our right to vengeance. God will deal with our abusers. If he ever fully repents, and turns back from his sin to walk in newness of life, he will be fully forgiven of God, just as all other sinners who come seeking forgiveness. That doesn’t mean you should trust a profession of faith immediately, that you should go back to him, or invite him into your life in anyway. Many abusers claim to have “found God” but most abusers will remain just that: abusers. Most abusers never really repent, never change, never even really care that they are abusers. Most of them will never really “find God”. Just because they say they’ve been saved, doesn’t mean that they have. They might be using you. Again. So forgive, give up your right to vengeance, but be wise. Don’t trust immediately, even if he claims he’s been saved. If he says he’s a Christian, wait, and watch for growth. No growth means he’s not saved, and he doesn’t deserve your trust, now or ever.

Forgiving also doesn’t mean that your abuser shouldn’t have to face the consequences of his actions in light of the law. It doesn’t mean you pretend it never happened. It doesn’t mean that the abuse is just gone, forgotten, and he’s getting off scott-free. Leave him to face his sins and failures, and you move on. Forgiving honors God, helps you heal, and gives you freedom.

You forgive, not because your abuser deserves it; he doesn’t. You forgive because of what Jesus did on that cross nearly 2,000 years ago. Because of the price the Son of God paid to rescue you. Because of the terrible guilt we all have, and because, if we are Christians, we’ve been forgiven of that guilt. You and I might have been abused, but that doesn’t make us holy. Only the blood of Christ can do that. And He offers that to us. If you know Him, rejoice in the freedom you have in Him. If you don’t, He invites you to come.

Revelation 22: 17, And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.

(This article was written for my blog for those who have been abused, https://abusedchristianwife.wordpress.com/)

Soli Deo gloria!

Broken for God’s Glory

God breaks us for our own good and for His glory. Scriptures are resplendent with stories of God breaking His people in order to purify them. This breaking isn’t the kind of breaking we do to one another. Far too often, people will break us (and we might, them) for our own pleasure, betterment and so on. God is not like this. His breaking of His people is for divine purposes, purposes planned before the beginning of time.

The stories of Job, Moses, David, Jacob, Joseph, Paul, and others, teach us how our very good God works in the lives of sinful men in order to purify them for their own good, for His glory, and for His everlasting purposes. But God never breaks us to leave us broken. He breaks us to heal us. The only true healing available is through His Son, Jesus. Jesus was made sin for us, and punished for our sins, so that we could live, so that His righteousness might be ours.

Isaiah 53: 5, But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

Are you hurting today? Maybe, like me, you have been hurting for a very long time. Sometimes that happens, even to the redeemed. Life isn’t rosy and perfect just because we’ve been saved. Often, in fact, once we have been redeemed and transformed through Christ, our life circumstances are transformed, too (often in ways that are painful). While we’re growing in Christ-likeness, our lives are often getting more difficult. No true Christian escapes persecution from the world, and no true Christian escapes the devil’s arrows.

For some of us, though, pain has been a way of life. From the beginning of our lives, due to circumstances of our birth, circumstances planned and executed by the Lord Himself, some of us struggle. For some, they never end. I know that kind of pain. It’s not something I like to share, not fully, because, honestly, the events of my life are so incredibly unbelievable. Spoken aloud or written down, it sounds more like a dime-store novel than truth. But truth they are. And it’s my life, planned by God, so there’s a reason. And there’s a reason for your suffering, too.

So we’re going to hurt, somehow, somewhere, someway. Sadly, we can’t always trust those around us. And, sometimes, even those we ought to be able to trust the most, end up betraying us. We certainly can’t always trust ourselves. But God? Him we can trust. The Lord is trustworthy always and in all ways, no matter what. Even when we struggle. Even when He breaks us.

Do you know Him? The God who redeems your life? The God who will, in His time, in His way, break you for your own good and for His glory, but who never leaves you broken, but heals you so His truth, His love, shines through you? Do you know Him, this Lord, who will lead you in rocky places, always protecting and guiding you, even carrying you, along the long and dusty roads? Do you know Him, this Jesus who died for sinners? If you don’t, I invite you to come, learn of Him, and repent of your sins and receive the gift of everlasting life. If you do, I invite you to trust Him, though the way might be hard, and the night might be black, for He is the true Light. He is going before you, and is ever with you, and He will, in the right way, through the right set of circumstances, redeem your life here to make you useful to yourself, to others, and to Him, and, in the end, He will lead you Home.

Soli Deo gloria!

Uncomfortable Christianity

When Jesus walked this earth, most of the folks surrounding Him didn’t truly understand His mission. They came to Him for healing, they came to Him for comfort, they came to Him because they thought He was the one who would save them from the Romans. One man even came to Him to have Him settle a dispute between himself and his brother (see Luke 12: 13, 14). Few came to Him determined to obey Him and follow Him as Lord. What was true then is still true today.

Turn on a television set on any Sunday morning and you will see scores of so-called preachers teaching us that Christianity is meant to make us comfortable, healthy, wealthy and wise. Don’t you believe them. God the Father didn’t send His precious Son down to earth to be crushed by Himself as penalty for mankind’s sins just so that He could make us comfortable. Matthew 16: 24 states, “Then Jesus said to His disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” These are not easy, comfortable words. These words would have shocked and frightened the hearers. Who ever heard such a thing? Command your followers to take up an instrument of execution and then follow You? Living in the time and place that they did, Jesus’ listeners knew all too well what crosses were for and that’s why this was such shocking teaching. They realized that He was commanding an all-out complete devotion irrespective of the survival of the follower.

Today, we see crosses as pretty little things to wear around our necks or as adornments for our churches. Even rock and rap stars wear them (although devoid of any real spiritual meaning). We put them on plaques on our walls and set them on our desks. They dangle from key-chains and decorate our tee-shirts. Seeing them all the time as we do, it’s easy to forget the real history behind them. It was bloody. It was destructive. It meant death. A cross, properly understood, still means death.

Comfortable Christianity? No, there is no such thing. Jesus died to offer salvation to His followers. His disciples died to preach the Word. Countless martyrs throughout the years have died to proclaim, protect and defend the Gospel. They are dying still. Last century saw a major upswing in the volume of martyrs. According to The New Persecuted: Inquiries Into Anti-Christian Intolerance in the New Century of Martyrs by Antonio Socci over 70,000,000 people have died as martyrs for claiming faith in Christ since the first century. That’s shocking enough. What’s even more shocking is that, according to his research, over 45,000,000 of those died in the last century. Comfortable?  Hardly.

Jesus meant it when He said that we are to take up our cross and follow Him. It isn’t comfortable. It was never meant to be comfortable. In Matthew 10: 34-36, Jesus said, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I come not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be those of his own household.” Jesus then goes on to say that if we love anyone more than Him, we are not worthy of Him. He then adds, in verses 38-39, “And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.”

Following Jesus was never meant to be comfortable. It was never meant to provide you with a life of ease and luxury. It isn’t about finding a place to park in a crowded lot (via Joel Osteen), being financially secure (via many) or having great sex (as far too many preachers now are teaching). Following Jesus was and is about dying to yourself, to sin and to this world and living only unto Him. Comfortable? No. Magnificent and worth any cost? Absolutely!

 

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