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Posts Tagged ‘change’

Joseph and MaryJoseph, a young man from the house of David, was probably like every other soon-to-be husband: nervous, but excited all the same.  That is, until his fiancée came to him with shocking news.  Mary was pregnant, but Joseph was not the father.  The world, as Joseph knew it, had collapsed around him.  He felt betrayed, hurt, angry.  Break the engagement, whispered his pride, and walk away from this woman.

Everything had changed.  Plans were ruined.  Reputation was at stake.  Unchartered territory lay ahead.  At this precarious moment in his life, Joseph had nothing to hang on to… nothing, that is, except the Word of the Lord.

The Word gave Joseph courage.  “Don’t be afraid!”  It was the word that showed Joseph how to be faithful.  “Take Mary as your wife.  She will give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus” (Matthew 1:20-21).

Perhaps, in holding on to the Word, Joseph remembered the experience of his ancestor, Adam.  Perhaps, in a moment of truth and with eyes focused, Joseph could picture Adam standing next to his wife, Eve.  Perhaps, with wisdom only from the Holy Spirit, Joseph recognized the significance of Eve’s creation by God from man’s rib.

God made (literally: “built”) woman using part of man.  With this, He established their relationship within the order of creation.  A rib is structural; it supports.  A rib guards and protects the heart and breath of life, yet it is vulnerable.  Under attack, it can easily be fractured or even broken.  Satan despises the order of creation that God uses to protect the man and woman He so loves.  So, that day in the Garden, Satan set his target and went straight to Adam’s rib.  The man was responsible for using God’s Word to cover his wife, yet he did nothing.  Joseph knew the consequences that followed.

Perhaps, with discernment only from God, Joseph understood that he must not repeat the sin of his ancestor and do to his rib what Adam had done to his.

Perhaps, in remembering what Adam had failed to do, Joseph was given the courage to cover his wife, Mary, and lead her to safety.  Let the village talk!  Adjust carefully-made plans!  Trust the Word of the Lord!  Although it meant leaving his zone of comfort, Joseph did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him to do.  He covered his rib by taking Mary as his wife.  And, when Mary’s child was born, Joseph named Him Jesus.

God wanted Joseph to make a difference – a difference that would impact the world.  But, such a difference could be made only by being faithful.  Such faithfulness required that Joseph leave all that was familiar and put his life and the life of Mary into the hands of God.

Today, when a young man pressures his girlfriend to have sex, he is leaving her physically, emotionally, and spiritually vulnerable.  He has placed his “needs” before hers and, in so doing, left her open to attack.  When a man does not promise to love, cherish, and cover a woman with his name, but simply share living quarters and a bed, he is leaving her open to attack.  When a man fathers a child but does not accept the privilege and responsibility of being a daddy, he is leaving both mother and child uncovered and vulnerable to the world.

But, when a man remembers God and His call to leadership, he is able to make a difference.  A young man who guards his girlfriend’s virtue makes a difference.  A husband who remains true to his wife makes a difference.  A dad who understands the privilege, responsibility, and generational influence of fatherhood makes a difference.  Men of faithfulness have a grand opportunity to defend against chaos and leave a legacy of hope.

Convenience told Joseph to walk away from Mary.  Self-defense told Joseph to think of “number one.”  Pride told Joseph that he could do better.  Fear told Joseph to hide.  But, God told Joseph not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife.

Joseph did what the angel of the Lord commanded.  He covered Mary, his rib, and the unborn Child whose heart beat under her own.  And, after the Baby was born in the most humble of circumstances, Joseph named the Child Jesus.  Through all the frightening days ahead, Joseph remembered the Word of the Lord.  And the Lord did not forget Joseph.  In the midst of danger, the angel of the Lord warned Joseph.  When uncertainty abounded, the angel of the Lord directed Joseph.

It’s true that life wasn’t ever the same for Joseph.  It certainly wasn’t what he had planned.  But, Joseph remembered the Word of the Lord.  And, in doing so, he received courage to do what was asked of him.  Joseph was faithful to cover Mary, his rib.  He raised her Son Jesus in a godly home and took Him to worship.  Some 2000 years later, the Boy who grew to be a Man in the house of a carpenter is still changing lives.

Joseph made a difference.

Copyright 2010

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little girl & thinkerThe following was written by my friend Stacey Harding and included with her family’s Christmas photo.  It is a one-word “sermon” for the Christian life.  Thank you, Stacey, for your faithfulness as a Biblical woman, wife, mother… and friend.

I wonder… what would happen if I forgave others freely as Christ has forgiven me?  (Matthew 18:21-35)

I wonder… what it might be like if I gave up my selfishness and took up a servant’s heart? (Philippians 2:3)

I wonder… what it would be like if I really listened to my daughters and my husband to hear their true needs? (Proverbs 18:13; James 1:12)

I wonder… what could happen if I made great efforts to communicate with love in my voice? (Psalm 35:28)

I wonder… what might be if I spoke in truth and with conviction? (Psalm 37:30; Job 27:4)

I wonder… what would the impact be if I chose to always unite and never divide? (John 17:20-23)

I wonder… what would happen if I imitated Christ instead of the world? (3 John 1:11)

Do you wonder what these verses say?

What are you thinking these days?  What wonders inside of you?  What are you seeking to find?  The only thing that can possibly satisfy the need (your wonder) is what created the need.  This is the meaning of redemption — it creates and satisfies.  There are no other answers, no other opinions, no drugs or drink, no amount of money or security or happiness that will fulfill your soul of wonder and lead you to salvation.  The world lies to you in all things and at all times.  But God calls you to seek Him.  His promises are true and remain for you and for me.  When you wonder, seek His Word.  You will find Him and with repentance gain His forgiveness, love, grace, peace and more!

The time is now!  Seek Him… the Wonderful… our Savior.

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Where are the mentors?  They are us!

They are older women — in age, experience, or spiritual maturity.  Unfortunately, too many of us seem to fear the concept of mentoring.

Yes, we may mentor a child at school.  Yes, we may mentor through a “Big Sister” program.  But, mentoring Biblical womanhood is counter-cultural.  There is strong resistance.  Obstacles stand in the way.  There are two: the younger women and the older woman.

The younger woman is, quite honestly, the least problematic.  Why?  Because younger women naturally resist mentoring.  The younger generation always considers itself more enlightened.  It’s typical for a young woman to consider herself more progressive than her mother or grandmother and, therefore, want to leave “old ways” behind.  Even when a younger woman is willing to learn some things from an older woman, she may still believe (as I’ve been told): “The culture is different than it was when you were my age.”  Well, the culture is always different with every new generation.  But, Truth never changes.

The greater obstacle to mentoring Biblical womanhood is the older woman.  It is the older woman who resists the opportunity to mentor.  Why?  Maybe because we are afraid.  Perhaps we’re afraid to mentor because it means we have to act our age.  Perhaps we’re afraid to mentor because it means re-visiting our past mistakes and becoming vulnerable all over again.  Perhaps we’re afraid to mentor because we fear rejection by younger women.

Some of us might be afraid because we are untrained.  Perhaps no one mentored us with God’s Word.  Perhaps we were led off the good path of life on painful and dangerous detours by older men and women we trusted more than God.  Perhaps a parent, professor, friend or even a pastor that we trusted had been deceived by “silly myths” and passed them on to us.  Out of respect for them, we may feel defensive about what they taught us.  The ideas to which we cling.  But, letting the light of God’s Word illuminate the dark corners of our minds, may we move out of a defensive posture.  Lift up in prayer the person who passed wrong ideas on to us.  Let go of “silly myths” and deception.

I’m a baby-boomer.  Talk about a generation influenced by “silly myths!”  My generation was raised with no boundaries; told to obsess on our bodies; dared to compete with men; and sent to the university where marriage, family, and the church were mocked and boldly dismantled.

The fact is, we can’t mentor if we’re afraid to act our age.  If we don’t want to accept where we’re at in life.  If we’re afraid to re-visit our past and acknowledge our failures.  If we’re afraid of rejection.  In other words, we can’t mentor if it’s all about me.

I can’t mentor if it’s all about me.  My fears.  My inabilities.  My past.  I can’t make a positive difference in my world if it’s all about me.  I can, however, make a life-changing difference if I’m all about God.  God’s Word.  God’s Word in Jesus Christ.  It is God’s Word that tells me who I am and why I exist.  Trusting the Word, I don’t need to fear myself or the world.

As an older woman, I think God wants me to accept my age.  My experiences.  My failures.  My disappointments.  Then, making use of all of these, He wants me to warn.  Train.  Equip the younger women He places in my life.  There is only one thing necessary for me to mentor: His Word.  Trusting God’s Word and using it makes me wise.  Willing.  Confident.  Less focused on self and more focused on others.

The world is not my friend.  Recognizing this, I (and all older women) mentor with the Word of God.  Away from “silly myths.”  Toward hope.

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Much dialogue followed the front page story and photo in my hometown newspaper.  What would one expect after reading the headline: “Mr. & Mr.”?  Discussions have been sane and civil.  No voices raised.  No anger.  Some disagreement, yes.  Concern, yes.  Disappointment, yes.  But,  no hateful words.

Then arrived in my mail a simple but hand-written note from Exodus International.  Exodus is a ministry for those leaving the homosexual lifestyle.  When others ask, “Is there hope?  Is change possible?,” Exodus follows the example of Christ by walking the journey with struggling people.  Exodus doesn’t just speak God’s Word.  It makes use of it.   Over a period of years, I have kept my eye on this organization, watching to see how they treat people.  How they respond to attacks from their opposition.  Who funds them.  Why they continue to exist.  I donate to this ministry, recommend them to others, and offer their resources.  Exodus takes prayer requests from those on their mailing list.  Following the “marriage” of the two young men in my community, I asked the Exodus staff to include these two men in their prayers.

A few days later, I received a hand-written note.  “Dear Linda,” it read, “Thank you so much for your support.  Today in our prayer time, we prayed for the two young men you mentioned in your community.  We will continue to lift you and your family up as well.  God bless!”  It was signed,  “In Christ’s name, Janine.”

Exodus took my prayer request seriously.  They “heard” and responded with a promise to rely not on themselves, but on God.  This personal note was evidence that Exodus takes the struggle of homosexuality seriously.  When this ministry speaks of “hope” and “change,” it speaks not in human terms, but Godly.  Exodus is bold in Jesus’ name because they have evidenced the hope that comes with changed behavior.  Exodus does not shame those they serve, but treats them with a compassion not unlike Jesus who reached out to include those who didn’t seem to fit this or that mold.

Too many people don’t want to believe that change in behavior is possible.  The ministry of Exodus is opposed by gay and lesbian advocacy groups.  But, the stories of men and women who have found hope in changed behavior witness to me of what happens when we stop resisting the Word of Christ and trust Him with our lives.

The media doesn’t sing the praises of Exodus and other ex-gay ministries.  But, if one is really interested in the souls of their neighbors, they might want to visit Exodus.

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A man once asked Jesus, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”  This man, who spent his days studying the Law, was testing Jesus.  Jesus answered, “What is written in the Law?  How do you read it?”  The man responded, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”  Jesus said, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live” (Luke 10:25-29).

But, then the man asked another question.  “Who is my neighbor?”  Was the man implying that some people might not be his neighbor?  Do we think that some people might not be our neighbors?

The Greek root of the word neighbor means “nearby, close.”  It means “whoever happens to be nearby or close at hand” (The Lutheran Study Bible, commentary on Luke 10:29).  But, do we too often fail to see a stranger as our neighbor because we are prejudiced?  Threatened?  Inconvenienced?  Selfish?  Lacking compassion?

To help the man recognize his neighbor, Jesus told the Parable of the Good Samaritan.  A priest and a Levite passed by a fallen, injured man.  Only the Samaritan risked his own life and showed mercy to his fallen “neighbor.”  It is one thing to speak of doing the right thing.  It is another to actually do the right thing.  As Christians, we are challenged to put right thinking into right practice.

Who is my neighbor?  Is it someone in prison?  Is it someone of a different culture or color?  Is it a pregnant teen?  Is it an unborn child?  Is it someone with AIDS?  Is it someone who enters my life at an inconvenient time?  Is it someone whose worldview differs from mine?  What difference would be made in my community if I saw — if we all saw — everyone as “my neighbor”?  If I — we — served everyone as “my neighbor”?

Jesus told the man to be like the Good Samaritan, but this reminded the man of how far he was from being what God wanted him to be.  The same is true for me.  For all of us.  For this reason, I turn to the Cross on Good Friday to remember what Jesus did for me — for the whole world.  Jesus saw my desperate situation — how far I am from being what God wants me to be — and became the Good Samaritan.  He laid down His life for me.  For the world.

He laid down His life for me.  He paid the only sacrifice needed.  Now He asks that I have mercy on my neighbor… all of them.

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Relationships grow when rooted in the love of Christ.  Christ’s love was shown in the doing of a hard thing.  Christ’s love was sacrificial.  We don’t have to sacrifice for our salvation.  Jesus Christ did that on the Cross for us.  It’s done… once and for all.  Believing that, we’re called to live as forgiven people who also forgive others.  In a working marriage, husband and wife are constantly forgiving each other.  A particular “need” or “want” may be sacrificed for the sake of the relationship.  Such sacrifice cannot be measured, but is a fragrant offering to God.

During my lifetime, women have been told they have the right to have their needs met.   A “good” husband is expected to meet those needs.  But, what if he doesn’t?

Time and experience wrapped in God’s Word speak.

“I thought I could change him.”

A friend wasted so many years trying to “fix” her husband.  She pushed, prodded and regularly reminded him of his failures.  In time, she realized that her techniques never worked.  Instead of trying to change him, she asked God for a changed attitude.  Little by little, she learned that it was her job to love her husband and God’s job to change him.  1 Peter 3:1-5 reminds a wife that she can win even an unbelieving husband with respect, pure conduct, and a quiet spirit.

“He doesn’t make me happy.”

A friend admitted that she was very dependent on her husband for her happiness.  She married him because he seemed strong, stable, and confident.  She expected him to take care of her like a good dad would take care of his daughter.  So focused on her own insecurities, she didn’t see that he, too, was sometimes fearful, unsure, and struggling.  One day, she adjusted her prayers.  “Please, dear God, help me be a better wife.”  She welcomed him at the door with a smile.  She asked him about his day.  She left cheerful and encouraging notes on his mirror, by his plate, and inside his boots.  It sounds rather magical, but in choosing her words with care and thinking of little ways to make her husband happy, this wife became more content.  She had a purpose.  She was serving God and He was surprising her with joy.  Joy is a fruit of God’s Spirit (Galatians 5:22).

“I feel more worthless with him than I think I would without him.”

A woman does not get her identity from her husband.  Treasured or abused, her value does not come from man.  Nor does our identity change with the circumstances of life.  Our identity — our value — is sure and certain because of what Jesus Christ did for us.  “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 John 3:1).

“He’s such a disappointment.”

For many years, the wife mourned her marriage.  She was sure that God had made a mistake.  We’re too different, she thought.  This will never work.  Quite unexpectedly, the woman realized she really wasn’t fighting her husband, she was fighting God.  Focusing on her disappointment, she was paralyzed to think or do good.  Over time, she began to zero in on her husband’s strengths and minimize his weaknesses.  Every time he acted in an annoying way, she chose to think about his positive attributes.  She stopped criticizing him to her friends and started speaking well of him.  People of light “encourage one another and build one another up” (1 Thessalonians 4:5, 11).

“He doesn’t seem to care about meeting my needs.”

No matter what the feminists told us, men and women aren’t the same.  Equal, yep.  But, not the same.  So, first of all, men can’t know all of our needs because they don’t think, feel, or communicate like we do.  And, second of all, shame on us for idolizing ourselves!  Are we called to be served, or to serve?  Honestly, who really knows our needs: us… or the One who made us?  A wife of many years put it this way: “I’ve learned that my husband is meeting my greatest needs.  His faithfulness is my security.  His labor provides financial covering and numerous freedoms.  Our shared faith makes us companions even when times are hard.   Does he love me?  Yes.  It is shown in his perseverance (1 Corinthians 13:7).”

“I don’t feel loved.”

Maybe we have the wrong definition of love.  If it’s an emotion, sometimes we’ll feel it and sometimes we won’t.  Love is better defined as the willingness to act for the benefit of another.  Love is being patient, kind, and unselfish (1 Corinthians 13:4-6).  I have found that love is when a husband and wife, in spite of differences, want to be a team.  “Two are better than one” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-11).  This is a world made hard by sin.  When the enemy of life stands at the door ready to devour us, feelings and emotions will provide little defense.  But, real love evidenced by selfless partnership will overpower evil.   “A threefold cord (husband, wife, and Christ) is not quickly broken” (v. 12).

“Everyday, he grows more distant.”

A woman has great power.  She can break or make a man.  She can crush a man’s spirit — with a look or a word — or she can help his spirit soar.  When she emasculates him, brashly or subtly, her dagger slices deep to his masculine core to attack his very personhood.  No wonder it is better for him “to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife” (Proverbs 21:9).  Indeed, “the wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down” (Proverbs 14:1).

Marriage is a hard dance.  Not surprising when we remember that we are sinful people living in a sin-filled world.  Not surprising when we acknowledge that men and women are equal, but different.  Not surprising when we consider our uniqueness as persons.  For this reason, we need the Word of God as our music.  Only then does the dance begin to change. 

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“It is not good,” said the Lord God, “that man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18).

Let’s assume a Biblical understanding of the word “helper.”  A “helper” (Hebrew: ezer) is defined as being an “assistant” or an “ally.”   Perhaps most significantly, it is a description of God Himself.  Before Jesus returned to heaven, He promised His disciples that He would send “another Helper” (John 14:16).  That “Helper” is the Holy Spirit who is described as a “comforter” (Greek: parakletos) or someone who appears on anothers behalf.  Some commentaries speak of the Holy Spirit as an “encourager.”   The Holy Spirit imparts truth.  Builds up.  Strengthens.

I am not demeaned or offended to be a “helper fit for” man.  There is order and purpose to everything that God does.  God is order, the opposite of chaos.  The Holy Spirit is the Third Person of the Trinity — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, yet the three are equal.  The Holy Spirit is not inferior to the Father or the Son, but plays a different role.  Lives are affected through the power of the Spirit’s presence as He helps, comforts, and encourages.

In the created order, woman is not inferior to man but plays a powerfully different role.  Her presence and the way she chooses to use her natural power affects the lives of others.

Will she choose to use this power to discourage or encourage?  To bring pain or comfort?  To tear down or build up?

Man was created to be a good steward over all the earth, a defender of life, a tender covering over his wife, and the mentor of children and grandchildren.  But, he can’t do this by himself.  He needs the Word of God.  After that, he needs a helper.  That helper, said God, is woman.

How a woman helps, especially in her vocation as a wife, is explained by the way in which the first woman was made.  “The rib that the Lord God had taken from the man He made into a woman . . .” (Genesis 2:22).   The Hebrew word for “rib” is commonly used for a structural component related to the side of something.  When speaking of a building, it may mean a pillar or beam.  But, when used in reference to a person, it generally means a “rib bone.”   In the structure of our anatomy, the rib guards the human heart and breath of life.  Martin Luther called his wife, Katie, his “rib.”  I am my husband’s rib.   The rib is a strong bone, but it is also easily fractured or broken, especially when under attack.  Women — and the men that women love — are vulnerable in a sinful world.

In this fallen and difficult world, a woman helps her husband by being a pillar supportive of his personhood and his vocations.  Those vocations, or callings, include his stewardship, fatherhood, employment on behalf of family, and respected place in community.  How does she do this, yet remain fearless in the face of her own vulnerability?

She clings to her identity as God’s creation and the treasure for whom Jesus Christ gave all He had.  This identity never changes, no matter the circumstances.  Some women think their identity is found in being a wife, mother, teacher, musician, care-giver, or friend.  Some find their identity in their appearance, popularity, or health.  All of these vocations and circumstances are in a constant state of change.  Our identity as God’s creation and the treasure of Christ never changes… no matter if our children grow up or we lose our job, best friend, or health.

When a woman trusts her identity in Christ, she is free to use her natural power in positive ways.  She doesn’t have to control the people or circumstances in her life, but can practice self-control for the good of her neighbor.  In a marriage, that neighbor is her husband.  She has the power to make or break or husband; to build up or tear down.

Some women know they have this power.  They make a conscious decision to assume control.  Some women are clueless about this power.  They may slowly and painfully destroy their husbands with cruel and insensitive words and behaviors.  Perhaps, feeling small, they try to build themselves up by tearing their husbands down.  Both kinds of women have the same core problem: Their foundation is unsure.  They have forgotten (or never been taught) their identity in Christ.   There is another woman.  She is keenly aware of the power entrusted to her by God; therefore, she strives to use that power for good.  She knows her identity is sure and certain, no matter the circumstances.  She turns outward from self to others and, in so doing, brings glory to God.

God’s Word in the book of Proverbs speaks of a woman’s power — and choice.   “An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones” (12:4).  “The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down” (14:1).  “A wife’s quarreling is a continual dripping of rain.  House and wealth are inherited from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the Lord” (19:13-14).

The power of a woman — the helper, pillar and rib — is life-affecting and life-changing.  Disciplined, it is awesome.  Undisciplined, it is dangerous.

Will a woman choose to tear down… or build up?  The answer to this question doesn’t only affect men.  It affects children — for generations to come.

This ezerwoman will continue to ponder and think aloud on the journey.  In the meantime, you’re invited to visit Titus 2 for Life.

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