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Posts Tagged ‘” vulnerability’

This culture seems bent to the will of a liar.   Jesus knows who he is.  Calls him what he is.  “He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him.  When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).

The father of lies comes often to our door.  He doesn’t have to work very hard.  He hisses, we listen.  We listen because he appeals to our selfish desires. “Do this one thing and find happiness.”  Or, “Determine what will make you happy and don’t let anything get in your way.”   Believing the lie, we trip over ourselves to step into God’s place or, if we acknowledge Him at all, declare that He’s not relevant to our happiness.

The liar stood often before a woman named Traudi.  But, to her last breath, she testified that God was not only real, but the very Source of her happiness.  No matter what.  In all circumstances.  Whenever I think of Traudi, I am encouraged in my own battle with the lie.  Traudi taught me that happiness isn’t what we create.  It doesn’t come when our will is done.  Happiness is often a surprise.  What we least expect.  A peace in the midst of a storm.   Traudi appeared to have so little in life, yet so much spilled from hers to others.  If ever I’ve seen anyone’s well replenished in the midst of drought, it was Traudi’s.

Traudi was a young girl in pre-war Austria.  She grew up in a culture that believed it could find happiness if certain people were removed.  She and I once compared The Holocaust to legalized abortion.  I asked, “How could you and your family allow neighbors to be taken away to be murdered?”  Her answer was sobering.  When the lie is told often enough and we believe our happiness is at stake, “we blame those who might steal it away and do whatever we have to do.”

Traudi admitted being mesmerized by a man who used the lie to his advantage.  “I once passed by Adolph Hitler,” Traudi told me.  “When I looked him in the eye, I sensed a certain power.”  An entire culture, in times of vulnerability, can succumb to the power of the lie.  See it as some sort of salvation.  Traudi helped me see what even people who call themselves by God’s name are capable of doing.  Citizens of Traudi’s beloved Austria re-defined what they considered human and turned their backs on helpless neighbors.  Were they so different from the Israelites who failed to trust God and, instead, believed the lie that claimed their firstborn children on the altar of Baal?  Did they offer the blood sacrifice of one life so that another’s might be better.  Richer.  Happier.

The war ended, but Traudi’s trials had just begun.  Austria came under Russian control.  She and other women her age feared abuse at the hands of immoral conquerors.  One day, she met an American soldier who asked her to be his bride.  Traudi imagined a happiness beyond her dreams.  Go to America?  Leave pain and poverty?  “Ja!  Bitte!”  No matter if it meant traveling alone.  Her fiance went ahead to tell his parents about her and prepare a home.  Traudi arrived in New York frightened and without a penney.  No one covered her fare.  No one assisted her.  And, when she found her way to Iowa, she was rejected by her husband’s family.

The lie came frequently to haunt Traudi. Your happiness, it hissed, is dependent on other people.  But, her new American family didn’t like her.  Her husband offered little support or encouragement.  Their only son broke her heart with his foolish choices.  But, I never heard her complain.  To this day, I can’t find anyone else who heard her complain.  There were so many sad things all around her.  But, her well of happiness was never dry.

When cancer invaded her body, she attended to the cares and concerns of others.  Once, walking across the street, she was hit by a car and tossed to near death, but she was the one who brightened the days of her visitors.  When her only grandchild was torn between divorced parents, Traudi devoted herself to full-time mentoring as well as full days earning the family income.  The lie told Traudi to think of herself.  But, The Word reminded her that she didn’t have to.  Her Robe of mercy was secure.

Traudi helped me understand that happiness does not come when we focus on ourselves.  We do not create it, nor do we plan it.  We do not demand it from others.  It comes to us by surprise.  It is, Traudi discovered, all the gifts of the Spirit that come just when we need them.  Love.  Peace.  Patience.  Kindness.  Faithfulness.  Yes, even self-control.

It was my privilege to be mentored by this woman of faith.  She’s gone on ahead to pure happiness, but I am left with her example.  It serves me well.   The lie wants me captive.  But, it didn’t hold Traudi.  And, because of Christ, it can’t hold me.

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An excellent wife who can find?  She is far more precious than jewels.  The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.  She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life (Proverbs 31:10-11)

The Proverbs 31 woman seems to receive lots of praise from both men and women.  But, perhaps the praise is for something different than we think.

The first woman, Eve, fell into sin when she failed to trust God, doubted His Word, and determined for herself what was right and wrong.  This is not the case with the Proverbs 31 woman.   She appears to know her identity as a feminine creature loved and valued by God.  She trusts God and the fruit of that trust is her service to others.  She does all that she does — smart and talented as she is — for her household, her family, her husband — out of love for the Lord.  She does not focus on having her needs met, but on meeting the needs of others.  She does not sit at the “gates” of the community “among the elders;” her husband does (v.23).  She practices self-control because “she opens her mouth with wisdom” (not foolishness) and “the teaching of kindness is on her tongue” (v. 26).

If we cannot praise the first woman, Eve, because she doubted and was deceived, then think about it.  Why can we praise the Proverbs 31 woman?    One of the early church fathers, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, wrote, “You have been enabled to reject the deceitful glory of the world . . . you deserve to be praised for not being deceived.”

So, then, “the heart of her husband trusts in her.”

Eve was tempted by a distortion of truth.  Vulnerable — and not trusting God, she allowed herself to be deceived.  I venture to say that the Proverbs 31 woman, living in a fallen and sinful world, was also tempted by distortions of truth.  But, every time she put her trust in God, she was able to reject the “progressive” trends, lifestyles, and behaviors of the world around her.

In being submissive (remember gals: Jesus is God, yet He was submissive to the Father), a wife can win her husband for the Lord even if he is disobedient to the Word.  It is not a woman’s outer appearance that influences a man so much as it is the “hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious” (1 Peter 3:1-4).  This is how “holy women” who put their hope in God have always adorned themselves (v. 5).

So, then, “the heart of her husband trusts in her.”

Now, it’s time to get personal.  I’m a wife.  I’ve had my “Eve days” and my “Proverbs 31 woman” days.  The prince of darkness likes to see me in conflict.  But, when the Holy Spirit nudges me out of myself to see the men in my life, I recognize their fragility.  My husband and sons, my dad and brother, my brother-in-laws and uncles all know how to tackle the “hard work” of life, make their way through obstacles, and faithfully provide for and cover their families.  But, they often aren’t sure what to do with the relational side.  They may appear strong, but feel weak.  They may seem heartless, but feel wounded.  They may look confidant and even arrogant, but feel like a failure.  The heart of a man needs the “gentle and quiet spirit” of a godly woman.

The Proverbs 31 woman was aware of the feminine influence God had given to her, but she was not deceived into abusing that influence.  I wonder: Could her husband open up to her because he knew she would bring him good not harm?  Could he have confidence in her respect for him even when she disagreed with his leadership?   Could he trust her to act rightly toward him no matter if she was having a good — or bad — day?  Could he depend on her for an encouraging word, even in the midst of difficulty?  I think so.

So, then, “the heart of her husband trusts in her.”

In all of my travels and all of my conversations with both men and women, I hear the same message: Wives need loving affirmation, conversation, and commitment.  Husbands need respect.  They receive this respect in a number of ways including intimacy, companionship, and domestic support and admiration.  The “heart of her husband trusts in her” when she speaks well of him to his children and in the community.  A godly man knows when he’s failing.  When his wife speaks well of him in front of children or friends, he knows she isn’t giving him a pass or letting him off the hook.  What he recognizes and values is her loyalty and “gentle and quiet spirit.”  This encourages him to try harder, to do better.

Well, that’s how I see it.  Anyone reading this may disagree.  That’s o.k.  I’m not calling myself a Proverbs 31 woman because I too often act like Eve.   The struggle within me between deception and truth rages on.  But, I have hope:

Those whose eyes rest on the Savior’s Cross will be renewed and transformed.  Those who trust the Lord will obtain the wisdom needed to oppose deceit.

So… “the heart of her husband trusts in her.”  He praises her, not because of what she does, but because she has been enabled to reject the deceit of the world.

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This nation is slipping.  Morally.  Ethically.  Spiritually.  Silent Christians have a lot to do with it.  But, so do Christians who are mingling with the world.

Andree Seu, writing in WORLD (11-6-10), paraphrases comments made to her by Virginia Rep. Frank Wolf.  With both hands about shoulder-level, roughly 12-inches apart, Rep Wolf explained to Seu that we have “the church” here and “the other world” here.  He posited that this is always a constant distance of separation.  Seu writes,

“Where the thing gets scary, explained Wolf, is that as the world moves toward greater immorality, the church continues to keep the same distance from it.  That is to say, the church is sliding into debauchery along with the world, just at a slower rate.  What is important to note is that this slippage from God is not so easily detected because the gap between church and world remains the same, and so we seem, to ourselves, to be doing OK.”

In the first session of my Titus 2 Retreat, “We Are Vulnerable,” I ask the group to give examples of “silly myths” that lead to “social experiments.”  Believing “silly myths” (i.e. abortion is a woman’s right or two women who love each other should be able to marry) inevitably leads to social experimentation.  Such experimentation is actually tampering with God’s design.  This is never good for a people who want to imagine beyond themselves to new generations.  God’s design brings order and new life.  Experimenting with His design brings chaos and death.

We are vulnerable, I explain during a Titus 2 Retreat, when we profess Jesus Christ as our Lord but wrap Him around silly myths and social experiments.   There is a saying: “We become like the company we keep.”  We become like the world — even though we think we’re keeping a distance — when we begin to mingle (just a little here or a little there).  When we let worldly ideas of spirituality, worship, the roles of men and women, marriage, family, and children weave into Christianity, we’re in trouble.  Truth does not embrace or wrap around worldly ideas.  Truth and the world are opposites.  A lesson from history gives some clarity.

In the Old Testament book of Ezra, we learn that the king of Persia was going to allow the Jewish people to return to Jerusalem.  They had been exiles and captives for a long time.  It’s important to note that only a small number of Jewish exiles wanted to return to their homeland.  Most were unwilling to give up their Babylonian property or lifestyle to go back to their old ways.  So, because there was such a small group of workers, the rebuilding of Jerusalem became more difficult.  There were people in the area who offered their help.  Those people didn’t believe in God and held to a blend of mixed religious beliefs.  It goes without saying that they had motives of their own.  The Jewish people refused the offer of help with their building project.  Why?  1) The task was given exclusively to God’s people; 2) accepting help from non-believers would obligate God’s people to pagan ways; and 3) the potential for corruption in worship was too great if God’s people became aligned with non-believers.  (Ezra 4:3)

A Christian, wanting to be progressive, might think: If I embrace the best parts of a worldly idea, I will be able to move forward the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a modern way.  But, too often, moral-influence flows the opposite direction.  God knows that.  Therefore, He says: Don’t mingle; dig in.  Dig in to the One Who is not of this world (John 18:36).  Jesus says, “I am the Light.” The world is dark (John 1:4-5).  “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).  The world is deceptive and leads to death (John 10:10).  “My peace I give you.” The world offers no such peace.  (John 14:27)  For this reason, St. Paul was inspired to write in Romans 12:2:

Do not be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Don’t mingle.  Dig in.

To mingle with the world is to walk on shifting sand.  For awhile, public opinion might lean one way; then, depending upon anything from the economy to a national crisis, public opinion can suddenly shift the opposite direction.  Andree Seu explains that there is “a little thing called the ‘Overton Window.’  It is the term for an insight by a Joseph P. Overton that at any given point in the stream of a population’s public life there is a ‘window’ that contains or frames a range of opinion that is currently acceptable.  Outside that window lie the ideas considered wacko.  The intriguing thing is that what is ‘acceptable’ and what is ‘wacko’ can (and does) shift.  The window itself moves — and clever and diabolical forces have an interest in moving it.”

What was “radical” yesterday is “acceptable” today.  The unthinkable, notes Andree Seu, can go from “popular” to “policy.”  Remember.  Ideas like abortion, homosexual “marriage,” and euthanasia used to lurk in the shadows of the American landscape.  Not anymore.

I’m an ezer woman who lives in a culture where “evil” is called “good.”  For this reason, I’m compelled to dig heels into the foundation of God’s Word but, at the same time, push forward with weapons of truth.  As ideas and behaviors spiral downward, the one who follows Jesus is called to be intentionally polite.  Kind.  Pure.  This will irritate some and be seen as naive by others.  But, for a neighbor caught momentarily in darkness, the light may shine more brightly.  The Word of Truth, kindly spoken, pulls from shifting sand to solid ground.

There is a model for those who no longer want to mingle but, instead, dig in.  Curious?  I invite you to explore Titus 2 for Life.

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