What I Learned from a Grapefruit

There are lessons to be learned in all areas of life. We can learn from classes, books, videos and computers. We can learn from people, animals and even plants, but a piece of fruit? Go figure. I am always amazed at God's ability to speak into my life in the most random ways. Yes, He uses His word, but like so many, I am busy and don't always crack open my Bible. Often, unfortunately, it might be days before I look at the Word of God. However, God still miraculously speaks, even when I am not listening or looking for Him. 

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This morning, I decided to eat the last grapefruit that had been sitting in my fruit basket. I always cut my grapefruit in half and eat the small sections with a grapefruit spoon. I am well acquainted with citrus fruit that goes bad. The outside usually becomes green and fuzzy and a soft indentation begins to appear. The rot is obvious. This one still looked fine, although, I thought it might be a little dried out, as it had been sitting around for a few weeks. This is what appeared when I cut it open. 

Grapefruit - rotten

Tasty, huh?

It was then the analogy hit me like a brick. Here I am a fashion and faith blogger. I put hours into coming up with outfits, thinking up themes for my fashion posts and so on, but when it comes to my faith posts, I am flying by the seat of my pants. Obviously, the fact that I just came up with this post this morning after looking at a rotten grapefruit, drives the point home. The point being this, I can be pretty and put together on the outside, but the inside can be deteriorating without me even being aware of it. 

There are a few points I would like to draw from my moldy citrus example. 

1. Rot often occurs slowly. 

The problem, most often, with sin is that we become comfortable with it. We think that as long as we look like we have it all together, have a positive vibe about us and don't talk about our inner struggles, then our inner struggles won't come to light. We all struggle. We all sin. 

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
— Romans 3:23 (NASB)

I tend to forget that I am a sinner saved by grace. I bask in God's grace and I am thankful for it, but often as Christians when we move further away from our original conversion and initial consciousness of how sin separates us from God, we tend to forget what the cross was all about in the first place. This fading of our roots contributes to the rot that takes place in our hearts. Before we know it, we have allowed ourselves to become involved in activities we once shunned from watching movies with prolific language, violence and sex, to doubts about the origins of our world, to becoming part of the gossip chain. 

2. Rot spoils our taste.

Have you ever bit into something that is rotten? Ewww! It doesn't not taste good! In fact, one little rotten spot can spoil an entire piece of fruit. I will cut off rotten spots on most things like strawberries, peaches or melons, but trying to cut the rot out of an orange or grapefruit usually doesn't work. 

When I allow sin to slowly deteriorate my relationship with God, my usefulness will also deteriorate. 

Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned?
— Luke 14:34 (NASB)

We are supposed to be salt. Salt is meant to season and preserve. When we begin to rot we are unable to season or preserve. In fact, we become less useful in God's plan, because we are less likely to hear His voice prodding us to move. 

3. Rot affects others. 

Our internal decay affects those around us. The rot of unexpressed discontent, anger, grief or sadness, not only affects us, but it affects those we love and interact with. Look at the picture Solomon paints of the husband/wife relationship.

An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, But she who shames him is like rottenness in his bones.
— Proverbs 12:4 (NASB)

Those are pretty tough words to hear. We can become rottenness in our husband's bones, if we are allowing ourselves to deteriorate on the inside. You have probably heard the word toxic in reference to relationships and people. We can become toxic if the rot inside of us is unchecked and takes over. 

4. Rot will be cut away.

As children of God, He will only allow us to continue to deteriorate to a certain point, before He gets out the cutlery and begins removing the rot from our hearts. That process can be very painful. However, if we desire to draw closer to Him, then we need to allow His scalpel to have its way. 

“If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire.
— Matthew 18:8 (NASB)

Jesus was speaking figuratively in this verse, but the point is of prime importance. If we allow something in our lives that not only causes us to stumble and fall, but causes others to fall as well, we need to let the divine surgeon do His work. 

We are beautiful creations of the Almighty God. We are meant to glorify Him and lift others up to Him. Just as a piece of ripe, whole fruit is full of nutrients and good things that bring life and sustenance, we are to be wholly His, rot free, so that we are bringing life and light to those who are perishing. 

Independent or Interdependent?

Today is a national holiday. We have been celebrating the 4th of July since our Founding Fathers declared our country independent of British rule on this date in 1776. While it did not become a Federal holiday until 1941, this declaring of independence has been important to our country and to us as individuals for a long time. Why is being independent such an important concept to us? So important, in fact, that we are willing to go to war and die, to actually maintain it. 

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Pixabay

When we look at the definition of independent we see that it is multi-faceted:

1. Not dependent, as in controlled by or associated with a larger controlling unit.

2, Not requiring or relying on something else; not relying on another's opinions; not bound to a political party.

3. Not requiring or relying on others; free from the necessity of working for a living.

4. Showing a desire for freedom.

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Pixabay

Nobody wants to be controlled by someone else. Having the freedom to come and go as we please, speak as we please, and believe what we want, is primarily important to us. This freedom has been important since the beginning of time. Unfortunately, enslaving people and trying to control them, has also been an opposite ramification of the thirst for freedom. We might think that we are exempt from the mentality that enslaves, so important is the concept of independence to us; however, the drive to be independent can also be the force behind that which enslaves. 

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Wasn't it Hitler that wanted to be independent from the blight of the Jewish people? Weren't the good people of the southern states desirous of independence from hard labor and the harshness of plantation life, which they obtained by enslaving others thought to be less than human? Aren't the men and women who engage in human trafficking looking for independence and release from the pressures of a hurried and stress filled life? When we demand to be right and to have rights, aren't we walking down a path that could lead to the fettering of others' freedoms and rights?

Often, when there are more questions than answers, I turn to the scriptures to get God's perspective on a matter. What does His word say about independence? First, let's take a look at a few of Jesus' thoughts.

I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.
— John 10:11 (NASB)
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Pixabay

Jesus knew who He was and that He was not independent of His people. His greatest desire was and is the care of His sheep. He doesn't say, "I am a shepherd. I take care of sheep." He says, He is the good shepherd and in being good, He is willing to die for the sheep. This is not a relationship of independence, but of complete dependence. We are completely dependent on the good shepherd and as the good shepherd He is well aware that He is bound to His sheep; to watch over them, care for them, look for them when they are wandering and die for them if need be. 

I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me,
— John 10:14 (NASB)

Once again, Jesus established the dependent relationship. He knows us, those who are His own, and His own know Him. 

I am not saying that Jesus is dependent on us. He is God and has no need of dependence on another being, but He has chosen to be in a relationship with us and relationships require a certain amount of dependence. To much independence in a relationship can cause problems resulting from the struggle to be "my own person," rather than working together to be a better couple, family, community, city or nation.

17 For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again.
18 No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.”
— John 10:17-18 (NASB)

Once again, we see Jesus taking the stance of interdependence, not independence. Even in the God-head there is a hierarchy. Jesus submits Himself to God the Father and the Spirit to Jesus Christ. Three almighty beings, completely independent, but completely interdependent. 

11 However, in the Lord, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman.
12 For as the woman originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; and all things originate from God.
— I Corinthians 11:11-12 (NASB)

This passage is found in the context of head coverings and I am not about to muddy the waters in that regard, but the point is we are all dependent on each other. As a Christ follower, I believe in Creation and that, in turn, means I believe that verse 12 is the synopsis of our interdependence. Woman was created from Adam's rib, women birth men, but we all originated from God. 

What, then, does all of this mean when it comes to our freedoms and our desire for independence. As with anything, balance. God intended that we have independent personalities, likes and dislikes, abilities and talents. He did not intend to create a world of identical clones. He also created man with a desire to not see other's suffer at the hands of those who are tyrannical, power driven or only seeking financial gain. We were all created equal, as Abraham Lincoln penned and it is this equality and the ability to live a life with equal opportunities and resources that we are striving for. 

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Pixabay

Today, I am thankful. Thankful that our Founding Fathers, who were not perfect, envisioned a world that could be equal for all. I am also thankful for all the men and women who have served and continue to serve to expand and preserve the freedoms we have. I am also thankful that we are dependent on each other. To be truly independent is to walk a long road very much alone. 

Have a wonderful 4th everyone!

 

Mulling It Over - Part 4

Some time has passed since I worked on this passage in 2 Timothy, but I have the time, so I wanted to get back at it. If you remember we were taking a look at 2 Timothy 2:20-26. You can see the first three parts by clicking on each of the links: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. Here is the passage again as a refresher. 

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20 Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor.
21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.
22 Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
23 But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.
24 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged,
25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth,
26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
— 2 Timothy 2:20-26 (NASB)

Today's verse is quite pertinent in our society where social media dominates our time. Whether you are on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or some other form of social media there is no doubt that these communication avenues are powerful both in a positive and a negative way. 

23 But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.
— 2 Timothy 2:23 (NASB)

As you know, I like to tear the verse apart. 

But refuse...

I think most of you understand the meaning of the word refuse. Words such as decline, refuse, reject, and spurn, all refer to the act of turning away by not accepting, receiving or considering what is being offered. I like the idea of not even considering. How often do we think about accepting an offer?

How many of you get sales emails in your inbox? How many of those do you read? Of those, how many do you actually click on to look at? If you are like me, you often find yourself clicking over to a site to see what new merchandise they have, and what the current sales offer is. Of course, it doesn't end there. I'll often put a few items into my shopping cart before I finally exit the site. Other times, I actually buy the items I put in my cart. I didn't refuse the offer and actually it started with just a consideration of the offer.

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Pixabay

Now lets move on to what it is we are to refuse, or even consider. 

...foolish and ignorant speculations...

I may get into trouble here, but I believe that a high percent of what is posted on many of these social media platforms are foolish and ignorant speculations. It is one thing to talk about what you did today, share an outfit or post a recipe you want to share, but when these platforms become soap boxes for preaching, arguing or spreading hate, I believe we have moved into the arena of foolish and ignorant speculations. 

Let me say at this point, I am not against having discussions about hard topics on social media platforms, but I believe as Christians we have to be extremely careful what we say and how we come across. Topics can quickly escalate from stating the facts to spewing hateful, emotion based opinions. When I think of what our Founding Fathers meant by Freedom of Speech, I do not know that they were thinking of photos sharing body parts or using explicatives like conjunctions to string sentences together. 

Let's take just a moment to look at the words foolish and ignorant.

     foolish - Webster's online dictionary uses phrases like - showing lack of good sense, absurd or       ridiculous, and marked by a loss of composure. 

     ignorant - Webster's defines this word in this way - destitute of knowledge or education, lacking comprehension, unaware, and uninformed.

Do we really want to look foolish and ignorant when we are putting ourselves out there on social media or any other communication platform. Whether you are having a discussion with friends at the local eatery, posting opinions on Facebook or writing a blog, use discretion when choosing your words. Remember words convey a message, both spoken and written. As Christ followers, we want our message to be one of hope, truth and love. 

Finally, 

...knowing that they produce quarrels. 

Isn't it amazing that Paul, who had no knowledge of social media, knew exactly the kinds of exchanges that could take place when we start rambling off our opinions and feelings without using forethought and caution? Obviously, the tendency towards volatile emotions and conversations has been around since Adam and Eve left the garden. We, by the sin nature into which were born, are protectors of our right to be right, even if we are wrong. 

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Pixabay

Why do you think Paul included these words in his letter to Timothy, who was a young man pastoring one of the early Christian churches? I believe it had to do with Paul's God given understanding of the outcome of such behaviors on the church. Dissension, arguments and quarrels will divide and destroy a church. They will divide and destroy a marriage, a family and yes, even a nation.

Let this verse be our standard when speaking or writing, for His glory and the encouragement of others.

Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.
— Colossians 4:6 (NASB)

Seasons Come and Seasons Go

We go through seasons in life, just like the earth goes through seasons as it travels around the sun. Spring, summer, fall and winter, all have their presence on the earth, even though they can look quite different depending on where you live. I follow a few fashion bloggers who are based in Australia and it is winter there. It seems odd to see them talk about enjoying their sweaters and heavier weight outfits, even though their pictures still show sunshine and no snow!

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Pixabay

Seasons in our lives can manifest themselves differently for each person. When you are a young adult, you might be going to college, checking out the party scene and figuring out what you want to do with your life. I wasn't a partier. I was studious, but I also liked to go out to eat with my friends and walk the streets of Chicago down to Lake Short Boulevard and the beach or State Street and the Gold Coast. That season of my life, helped shape who I am. I met my husband during that season and discovered I was more interested in getting married than in becoming a missionary overseas.

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There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven—
2 A time to give birth and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.
3 A time to kill and a time to heal;
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
4 A time to weep and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to dance.
5 A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing.
6 A time to search and a time to give up as lost;
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
7 A time to tear apart and a time to sew together;
A time to be silent and a time to speak.
8 A time to love and a time to hate;
A time for war and a time for peace.
— Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NASB)

After college, my husband and I got married and it wasn't long until we started a family. I wish when I had been in the throes of that season of life, I would have had an older woman come along side of me and tell me, "This is just a season. Before you know it, in the blink of an eye, your children will be grown and gone. Enjoy it while you can." So often when we are in a particular season of life, we think, "When will this be over? When will it get easier?" The problem with that mind set is that we miss so much. 

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Pixabay

The writer of Ecclesiastes was Solomon, considered the wisest king of all time. I think he pretty much summed up the complexity and simplicity of life in those first eight verses of chapter 3. He knew that every season would come to an end and be replaced by another season, which would then be replaced by another season, and so on, and so on.

What season of life do you find yourself in right now? Is is a time of planting or a time of uprooting? Is it a time of laughter or a time of weeping? Or is is a time of being silent or a time of speaking boldly? The inevitability is, the season you now find yourself in will change. How do we handle the seasons we are in and the busyness and difficulties that come with each of those. 

1. Recognize that it is God who changes the seasons.

Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years;
— Genesis 1:14 (NASB)

God, the Creator, is the One who designed the seasons to change. We often think that fall and winter must be a result of the fall, but it says in the above verse that God's intention from the beginning was an earth that changed on a regular basis. So many of us don't like change, but change is a part of God's plan. 

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Pixabay

2. Don't be afraid of the changing seasons.

There is plenty to fear in the world we live in. Watch the news on a regular basis and you'll get a boat load of fodder for an anxiety storm. 

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
— 2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV)

I grew up reading the King James Version of the Bible. I decided to use the New King James Version as it is the one most true to the version I memorized. Many versions use the word timidity instead of fear. I am not a Bible scholar so I am not here to argue which version is closer to a word for word translation. I prefer the word fear, because I feel it is closest to what we feel on a regular basis. 

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Pixabay

I am preaching to the choir here, friends. I regularly have to combat my fears. I don't think that fear is wrong, but I do believe that dwelling there or as Timothy put it, having a "...spirit of fear..." is not what God wants for us. I am sure the numbers of people in our country who are taking anti-anxiety meds is staggering. Yet, what is anxiety but a fear - fear of failure, fear of being alone, fear of death, fear of illness, fear of any and everything you can imagine. 

It is normal to face fear, when the seasons of our lives are changing. It is scary to face an illness like cancer or the death of a spouse or child. It is terrifying to lose your long time job and have to suddenly be out there looking for a new position in a sea of people in their 20's. Yet, God knows these seasons are changing and as the Psalmist realized, we are precious to Him. 

Keep me as the apple of the eye;
Hide me in the shadow of Your wings
— Psalm 17:8 (NASB)

3. Look for beauty in each season.

Every season that comes and goes has something about it that I love. Spring ushers in new growth, returning birds and an explosion of green. Summer abounds with laughing, playing children, a chorus of lawn mowers and the clinking sounds of glasses filled with iced tea and lemonade. Fall, which is perhaps my favorite, throws an amazing party of color and smells during which the trees undress themselves as they prepare for winters' long sleep. Winter, in areas of snow becomes a white backdrop for red sleds and even redder noses and cheeks. 

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Pixabay

Yes, every season has its difficulties. Spring can be full of torrential rains and often the temps don't climb as high as we would like. Summer can be a time of drought and the ebb and flow of crowds vacationing and squeezing in to fairs and summer festivals. Fall brings early darkness and winter seems akin to the time of the dead, especially for those of us with Seasonal Affective Disorder.

However, just as any transition in life brings change we need to focus on all that is lovely and beautiful, even in the sterility of a hospital room or the stifling sadness of a funeral home. Where else in the world can we get 24 hour quality care? The sadness of loss also brings with it the memories of lives journeyed together and moments of love and laughter. A diagnosis of long term illness allows us the opportunity to stand before our Creator and claim the promises He gave us in His word, that He would never leave us or forsake us and that He would give us peace and strength. 

Beauty exists in the form of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and He never changes, no matter what season we are in.

4. Have patience.

Remember what Solomon pointed out in those verses? The seasons change. Our lives are in constant flux. Knowing that God is orchestrating our circumstances allows us to lean back on His strong arms and wait for Him to do what He is going to do. The sooner we realize the reality of this next  two verses, the better. 

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
— Romans 8:28 (NASB)
For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 1:6 (NASB)

God is at work and will never give up on us! Isn't that amazing? It drives me to my knees to realize that the Almighty God who created us from dust, loves that same said dust to the point of sacrificing His only Son, Jesus, so we might be able to have a relationship with Him.

I don't know what season you are in. I hope it is a season of reaping and praising and planting, but if it is a season of tearing apart, war and great weeping, don't forget He is with you. Always and forever. 

Living in the Valley

It has been a few weeks since I wrote a faith post. My husband and I went on a vacation to visit places and people in Wisconsin. It was an enjoyable trip, but I didn't have much time to write. While it is fun and important to get away, the reality is that we live in the ordinary moments of life much more often than in the extraordinary moments. Who doesn't want to live on the mountaintop, but most of us spend the majority of our time trudging through the valley bottom. 

Devil's Lake State Park

Let me say, the valley bottom is not the pristine, green grass, river filled valley. No, it is the valley that runs between two rugged, rocky cliffs and there is no water in sight for miles. Overhead the vultures are constantly circling, waiting for the valley dwellers to stumble and fall so they can begin to feed off their soon to be dead bodies. Not a pretty picture.

When you have no vision from God, no enthusiasm left in your life, and no one watching and encouraging you, it requires the grace of Almighty God to take the next step in your devotion to Him, in the reading and studying of His Word, in your family life, or in your duty to Him. It takes much more of the grace of God, and a much greater awareness of drawing upon Him, to take that next step, than it does to preach the gospel.
— Oswald Chambers - My Utmost for His Highest - March 6th

I love this thought from Oswald Chambers. He says it takes more grace and a more concentrated effort to draw on Him to take the next step in living the ordinary, mundane life, than to preach the gospel. What do you think? Do you agree? 

I have been finding life more and more challenging lately. My energy level is lower, I have physical issues that I never had to deal with before and I am continually reminded, not only of all the things I need to do, but also of all the things I have absolutely no control over. These factors all become part of life in the valley. Living here in the valley becomes a matter of trudging, not running, or skipping or even walking. Every once in a while, it becomes a crawl, a begging on hands and knees with the Master of this land to come and either let it end or bring about some sort of change. It was from this prostrate place that Oswald realized the thoughts he shared in the quote above. It truly does take the grace of the Almighty to take the next step.

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Pixabay

I know, without a doubt, that some of you are in this place. Just like me, you go to bed so exhausted, that you pray God will take you in your sleep, so that you don't have to get up in the morning. Some of you, don't sleep. He doesn't even give you that. But, you do get up in the morning and you start all over again...the walk, the stumble, the crawl. You feel like you could use time away, a retreat, but there is no retreat. You feel like you could use a good, long cry, but you know the tears won't change anything, besides you are too busy, too tired. You feel like you want to run away, to leave everyone and everything behind, just go somewhere and become someone different, but you know that is not the right thing to do and you are just too tired. Day after day, drudgery after drudgery. This is life in our valley.

BUT GOD!

No enthusiasm?

BUT GOD!

No one noticing?

BUT GOD!

No encouragement?

BUT GOD!

Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses;
— 2 Corinthians 6:4 (NIV)
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
— Philippians 4:13 (NASB)
I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not allow your foot to slip;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
4 Behold, He who keeps Israel
Will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord is your keeper;
The Lord is your shade on your right hand.
6 The sun will not smite you by day,
Nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will protect you from all evil;
He will keep your soul.
8 The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in
From this time forth and forever.
— Psalm 121 (NASB)
Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.
— Galatians 6:9 (NASB)

I know life can be overwhelming, but God is not overwhelmed by it. We've heard it before, but I need to hear it again. Peter walked on water, though the stormy waves raged all around, as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus. If you are down and out by life, look up. Jesus will always meet you exactly where you are at. 

Remember, we are all together in this valley. 

 

Pow! Biff! Sock! Crash! Holy Trouble Batman!

I am foregoing my Walking With the Psalmist post for this month in order to bring you another amazing and trouble filled episode of life! If you have been following my blog for a while now, then you know last May, my hubby and I attempted to take a vacation to Maine. We only got as far as Rochester, NY when I gave birth to a kidney stone. Ouch! Not knowing for sure if the kidney stone passed, I ended up spending a night in the hospital and we made our way home, feeling down and discouraged. 

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Pixabay

Fast forward to May of 2018. Here we are again, planning a vacation, this time to my husband's old stomping grounds in various spots around Wisconsin. We were going to camp, hike, and visit with friends and family. Last week, I spent the entire week taking care of my grandson, who came down with whatever the going virus was at the moment for a week long battle with fatigue, fever, runny nose and loss of appetite. Guess who got sick this past Friday? Yup! Me. 

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Pixabay

I did my usual regimen of echinacea tea, Zicam and other supplements to try to quicken the down time and speed up healing. No such luck! Today, I developed a fever, though I think I may have had one earlier. Today, I took my temp and it said, 99.5. Now, as you know that is not a high temp, but it is enough to make one feel pooky and even make my skin hurt. In addition to that I spent the night on the couch, coughing. I have always been a cougher. I had childhood asthma and I still think my bronchial tubes get especially irritated when I am sick. 

We were supposed to leave on vacation Thursday, but I am thinking maybe Friday or Saturday. Ugg! I'm sorry. I feel like I am complaining all the time and I don't mean to. I just feel that real life is happening all around and it is not always pretty or easy. Maybe when you read my stories of woe I will help you realize, you are not alone! We are all struggling through this journey together and I want you to know, I get the hard bits!

So when I started thinking about this post, I couldn't help but think of the old campy Batman and Robin show. Those of you who are my age will remember the silly fight scenes with the cartooned in words, "Pow!" "Biff!" and "Sock!" 

The reality is, my life is more like that colorful show of the the 1960's, than what some people are going through. We know more than one person who is battling cancer, several who already know they aren't going to make it. People struggle with such hurts, illness and pain, that I cannot even begin to imagine, but I understand. Sometimes life just sucks! For reals!

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This morning, when I was standing in the shower, feeling like crud, I turned my eyes to Jesus. I went back to the basics. I confessed my discouragement and frustration, I praised His name, and then I thanked Him. I thanked Him that I had a comfy couch, a blanket and a pillow to spend the night on. I wasn't coughing and shivering in a box in some alley. I thanked Him for the hot water that felt comforting to my tired and achy body. I thanked Him that, although this morning I wasn't able to keep my shopping and lunch date with one of my daughters, I was able to lay on the couch and watch Netflix. 

in everything give thanks. For this is God’s will for you
— I Thessalonians 5:18 (NET)

I can't remind you (and me) of this verse enough! Even when we are getting struck down and beaten on all sides, it is God's will that we give thanks. I would make the distinction that it says, "in everything give thanks," not "give thanks for everything." I have heard people say you should thank God, even for the bad stuff, but I think it is more the case that when we are going through the bad stuff we continue to give thanks. That, my dear sisters, is what will keep us standing and keep us focused on Him. 

I hope that we will still be able to get away in the next few days, but even if we don't, I feel that once again, God is who God is and He is trustworthy. I hope you will find Him trustworthy as well. 

Divine Appointments

We live in a society of planners. Architects design and plan buildings. Engineers design and plan roads and parking lots. Fashion designers plan for the next season always thinking ahead to the next color palette or trend. Even those of us, who would not call ourselves true planners make dentist and doctor appointments, write up grocery lists and plan get togethers with friends. 

Pixabay - checklist

Jerry Jenkins, is the author of a myriad of books including the Left Behind Series and numerous biographies on people ranging from Hank Aaron, to Luis Pulau to Walter Payton. He even assisted Billy Graham with his autobiography, Just As I Am. Jerry also owns and runs The Jerry Jenkins Writer's Guild, of which I am in my second year of membership. I remember one of the first webinars I took from Jerry, where he talked about the difference between two types of writers; the panster and the outliner. Like Jerry himself and another big name author,  Stephen King, I am a panster.  I write my blog and my fiction by the seat of my pants. Where as an outliner has a plan or an outline they follow as they write. Neither one is better than the other, they are just different. There is also a hybrid of writers who combine the elements of both styles of writing. They come up with a loose outline, but fill in details by the seat of their pants. 

Pixabay - typewriter

When we talk about making plans versus living by the seat of our pants, we can see that there are good points and bad points to both ways of approaching life. Planners, usually, get more done, but they are often so rigid in their schedules that they have forgotten how to enjoy the moment. Those who live by the seat of their pants are usually more relaxed and easy going, but often have projects piling up, because they neglect to develop a plan on how to get them finished.

We as Christ followers can often be guilty of both, planning too much and not planning enough. When I was a young mom, trying to figure out marriage, family life and eventually home schooling, I was often impatient and frustrated because I looked at life as a list of things I had to accomplish. This mentality become more pronounced as I home schooled our daughters from kindergarten through high school. I became a list person, which is a planner, if you didn't know! I think it is amusing that I could be a panster as a writer but in every day life, I was a planner. I loved to get a new planner every year as I looked forward to a new year of home schooling. I still love planners, but I'm not quite as rigid in how I used them. 

Pixabay - planner

What does God say in His word about having plans? Let's take a look. 

Commit your works to the Lord And your plans will be established.
— Proverbs 16:3 (NASB)
The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.
— Proverbs 16:9 (NASB)
Many plans are in a man’s heart, But the counsel of the Lord will stand.
— Proverbs 19:21 (NASB)
The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage, But everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty.
— Proverbs 21:5 (NASB)

Obviously, God inspired King Solomon, the author of Proverbs to pen these many verses about planning. It is normal and it is good to have a plan, whether you are talking about retirement or about next week's meals, planning can be beneficial in saving us time, money and frustration. 

Unfortunately, many of us have made plans that didn't work out. We have been disappointed by failed relationships, ruined vacations and the chaos of life that constantly seems to want to get in the way of our well thought out plans. The beauty of being a panster, when it comes to real life is a drastic reduction in stress and pain brought about by waylaid plans. 

A mindset that has recently come about in my own life, is that of divine appointments.

For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.
— Jeremiah 29:11 (NASB)

If I really believe that God is sovereign, and I really believe that He is good, then I must also believe that every bump in the road and every plan that doesn't come to fruition, He already knows about and has a purpose for. How often have you had a plan for your day off and the day draws to a close and you didn't accomplish anything that you had planned? I see those hands our there! In addition to that, how many of you got frustrated because what you had planned got sabotaged by life....a child stays home from school sick, your mother needed your help with the garden, your teenagers and your spouse call saying that won't be home to eat that delicious meal you slaved to prepare....this is the reality of life. The question then becomes, am I supposed to stop planning? Do I just let life fly and go with the flow, like some sort of 1960's flower child, content to sit in the sun and listen to the music?

Pixabay - hippie

Like so many things we talk about, I think the key here is, balance. I think it is important to have plans, but we also need to allow God to do that thing that He does best...orchestrate our lives. Recognize that those speed bumps that come into life are allowed by Him. Everything that comes your way, even the little annoyance and inconveniences, have passed through Him. This is even more pertinent when we are talking about divine appointments. These are those interruptions to our plans that revolve around people. 

Sunday, my Grandson came down with a nasty virus. I am the primary care person when he is out of school, as my daughter, a single mom, has to work a full time job. He comes to my house, when he is home from school. Sunday, I had plans for Monday. I was going to get ahead on my blog, do some writing and try to tackle the laundry. It wasn't going to happen. In fact, here it is Wednesday and the poor guy is still running a low grade temp, so once again, he is home from school. You know what? It's okay. Did my plans get ruined? Not ruined, just adjusted. When I look at life as a series of divine appointments, not only do I have an easier time adjusting to the bumps, but I also keep my focus on the author and finisher of my faith. 

Whether you are a planner or a panster, allowing God to direct your life, day in and day out, gives you the capacity to be less frustrated and more in tune with exactly what He wants you to do. Next time you have a plan and it gets interrupted, ask yourself, could this be one of His divine appointments, then let Him meet you right there. 

What a Little Vine Can Do

Over the weekend, my hubby and I decided to do a little bit of yard work. Sunday was a gorgeous day and cool, so perfect for working out in our yard. My husband put in grape vines shortly after we moved into our house and over the years we have gotten a great mix of Concord, Niagara and a few other types of grapes. Unfortunately, the last few years have been busy and the arbor has fallen into disarray. The end result has been a monster that has taken over much of our yard. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

For those of you who have any sort of vine type plant, you know full well, they have to be pruned. If they are not pruned, they will creep into every tree, up every wall and along every piece of fence they can find. The best word to describe this gradual creeping process is insidious. Don't you love language? There are certain words that just have a sound to them, as if the word itself can bring about the action it is describing. Say it, insidious. Doesn't the sound of it, just sort of creep you out? If it doesn't, it should. 

The word, insidious, is defined by Webster's online dictionary in this way:

1 a : awaiting a chance to entrap : treacherous
b : harmful but enticing : seductive insidious drugs
2 a : having a gradual and cumulative effect : subtle
the insidious pressures of modern life
b : of a disease : developing so gradually as to be well established before becoming apparent

I've included both types of definitions as they all are applicable, but the one I want to focus on for today's post is 2 - b - developing so gradually as to be well established before becoming apparent. When we planted our grape vines, we did not have the intent that they get out of control and become a problem. Our intentions were to prune them and take care of them in such a way that they would bear fruit and be healthy, controlled plants. Over time, unfortunately, these little vines began to develop a life of their own. A busy lifestyle, neglect and forgetfulness kept us from investing in the plants as we should have. Little by little, each year that passed, the vines grew, looking for anything they could latch onto that would propel them higher and longer.

Vines

You can see our small arbor on the other side of the pine trees. The vines in the foreground are part of the shoots the original vines sent out. You can see the way they are climbing into the pine trees, and this was after we had trimmed masses of the vines out. If you don't think that is hard work, my heart was pumping and I was breathing hard from wrestling many of these long vines out of the trees. 

Vines

The above pile was from a few vines we had planted along our garage. Not only were the grape vines taking over, there was some other vine that had joined the mix. What a mess!

Obviously, I am going somewhere with this, so keep reading. 

The grape vines, in an of themselves are not bad. They are plants that God made, meant to bear fruit and bring food and drink to mankind. Grapes are known for their antioxidant benefits and the ones that are not harvested fill the tummies of all sorts of critters from insects to birds and squirrels. Unfortunately, vines, when not pruned regularly can easily get out of control.

There are all sorts of good things that God has given us to enjoy. Food, music, books, exercise, social activities, and learning are all good for us and can help us to grow and develop, not only as human beings, but as followers of Christ. Sometimes, though, even the good things can become like those insidious vines and creep into our lives, taking over in ways we never realized they could, until one day we are tied up, unable to move. Here are a few good things that can take over our lives like those creeping vines. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

1. Cell Phones

Recently, I read an article on cell phone addiction. Yes, apparently this is a real thing, especially for kids. Here's an article to check out, 7 Scary Things You Never Knew About Phone Addiction. Cell phones are wonderful devices and have brought knowledge to our fingertips and made life a little more secure. Parents feel better knowing their teens can get a hold of them, if they are in a situation where they don't feel comfortable, and even I like knowing, that if my car breaks down, I can either call for a tow, or at least call my hubby. However, what begins as a good thing, can often become an insidious problem opening doors to interactions with strangers, bullying or pornography. 

Pixabay - reading/books

2. Entertainment

I'm lumping a number of things into this category: books (especially romance novels), movies, serial TV shows, music and other types of entertainments like gaming and sports. All of these things are enjoyable and relatively harmless things, but when we leave our entertainments unchecked, we can suddenly find ourselves spending too much time and too much money trying to get the next thrill. Not only that, but often one thing leads to another. Our eyes and ears can get immune to seeing and hearing things that are not God glorifying. Over the course of time, we may start watching, listening to or reading things that are not good, even though, to begin with our hobby was quite harmless. 

Pixabay - pizza

3. Food

Hello, all you foodies out there. Food is a wonderful thing, in moderation. You have all probably heard the saying, "Eat to live, don't live to eat." Food is one of those things that we can so easily dismiss as something that becomes insidious, but I am here to tell you it can. You don't have to be overweight to be unhealthy and have an unhealthy relationship with food. There are statistics on things like anorexia and bulimia, Here is a quick sum up of some of those stats. Those are the two obvious eating disorders, but many more of us struggle with food issues without having either of those disorders. 

I personally have always loved my carbs. I love cake, cookies, pie and ice cream. I love chocolate and sweet cereals like Reese's Puffs and Lucky Charms. My addiction to sweets was added to by the Seasonal Affective Disorder, which causes one to crave carbohydrates. Don't even get me started on how much I love pizza. I also enjoy eating out, cooking and baking...can you see where I am going with this? None of those things in moderation is bad, but left unpruned, able to take over, it is a recipe for disaster. 

The last year, I have been having numerous digestive issues. I was diagnosed with irritable bowel a number of years ago, but in the last few months, I would describe my issues as IBS on steroids. I have gone completely off of sweets as well as pulling way back on carbs in general and trying to eat lower fat. I never knew I had it in me, but all I can say is this is a journey God is leading me on and I am trusting Him for the outcome. Just so you don't worry, I do have a doctor's appointment with a gastroenterologist in June, so I can get thoroughly checked out. 

All that to say, that yes, even food can become an insidious vine in our lives, causing us to become bound and enslaved. The entanglement becomes even more tightly wound when you suddenly can't eat the foods you want. Suddenly, all of life revolves around what can I eat or not eat. It's not fun!

Pixabay - wine

4. Alcohol

Some of you might argue with me that alcohol is never good. My husband and I personally do not drink. We have never had alcohol in our house and we do not encourage others to drink. However, I do realize that alcohol is a part of our society and even some physicians acknowledge wine has antioxidant benefits when used in moderation. We did not raise our daughters to drink, but they both do. I know many Christians who have beer in the fridge or a bottle of wine in the cupboard. As with all of these other things, alcohol is not bad, in and of itself, but when it becomes more than just one beer, or one glass, or becomes a source of solace and happiness, then perhaps, the vine is beginning to take over. 

There are many other things that can become like the simple little grape vines that were taking over our yard. Things that are good, when used or done in moderation can become the chains that enslave us and keep us from becoming who God really wants us to be. Be sure you are regularly pruning and checking the vines in your life, so they don't get out of control. 

Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?
— Romans 6:16 (NASB)

 

 

 

Mulling It Over - Part 3

Once again we are walking slowly through a particular portion of scripture. I love to take a small piece, maybe a few chapters, one chapter or in this case, just a few verses and completely devour it, seeing what we can get out of His Word. I always find it fascinating that God can speak to us anew, even from a portion of scripture that we have read over and over. Just like this horse is chewing up that delectable grass, we too can enjoy the delights of God's word. 

 PIxabay

PIxabay

We are looking at 2 Timothy 2:20-26:

20 Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor.
21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.
22 Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
23 But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.
24 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged,
25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth,
26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
— 2 Timothy 2:20-26 (NASB)

If you are just joining me today, you can go back and see the first two posts on: 2 Timothy 2:20 and 2 Timothy 2:21, by clicking on the links. Today we are chewing on verse 22.

22 Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
— 2 Timothy 2:22

This verse is pretty straight forward, but lets take a closer look.

Now flee...

Is there anything more able to get your adrenaline churning, than when someone yells, "Ruuuuuunnnnn"? Think about a few of the movies that have been on the big screen, Star Wars, Indian Jones. The Avengers, or how about the iconic Forrest Gump scene:

This is what Paul is telling us to do. Run as fast as you can away from those things that cause us to sin and turn away from God. We are to flee, like those monsters chasing us are going to eat us alive.

...from youthful lusts....

Paul was writing this letter to a young man, Timothy, who had become a pastor of one of the early churches. He encourages Timothy to flee those youthful lusts, or the things that so commonly grab our attention as young people: improper relationships, money, power, popularity and feeding our appetites are all things that constantly pull at us when we are young. It is sad that so many give in to these distractions, rather than waiting on God and allowing HIm to fill their every need. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

Let me draw this out a bit further. I believe as mature Christians we can also be distracted by many things that are less than God's best for us. Think about the shows you watch, the food you eat, the things you buy. How many of these are done to fulfill our lust. Lust isn't just about sex. It is anything that takes precedent over our relationship with God. Am I saying you can't watch that show you love, or eat that cake or buy that dress? No, but we do need to allow God to monitor our actions and speak truth to us, if these types of things are becoming a problem. For some, moderation is easy, for others, myself included, not so much. Sometimes God has to rip things out of our lives to bring us into line with where He wants us to be. 

...and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace...

I decided to lump all of these characteristics together. These are four things we are to pursue. Behind us are the things we are to flee. In front of us is what we are to pursue. Righteousness or godliness, faith or belief, love and peace. We need to chase after these things as if they are rare butterflies that we are wanting to add to our collection.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

People who enjoy hobbies such as butterfly or bird watching, desire to see species which are rare or very rarely seen. It is their passion, just as a rock climber loves to scale mountains or an artist loves to paint or mold something out of clay. They have a passion about discovering or creating something new. In the same way we are to pursue these specific qualities We are to have a passion about pursuing God. He shouldn't be someone we occasionally think about, but a being we have a living and passionate relationship with. If we are pursuing the characteristics of righteousness, faith, love and peace we will be pursuing the author who created them.

...with those who call on the Lord with a pure heart.

Not only are we to pursue those characteristics, but we are to do it with others who call on the Lord with a pure heart. This seems to encourage us to be in a fellowship with other believers. My husband and I are between churches right now, but we both feel the need to get back into a regular fellowship. It is in the corporate worship and gathering together of like minded people, that we find accountability, stability and the sort of input that encourages growth in our relationship with Christ. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

That being said, let me say, I know what it is like to feel as though the church let you down. Or, to feel like an outsider because of circumstances you had no control over. I get it, and sometimes God will draw us out of the body, to walk a path through a valley, in which we are alone, but I do not believe He intends that we stay there. We need each other, even if only to aggravate each other enough to pursue God with even more passion! Ha, ha.

I hope you are enjoying this study of 2 Timothy 2 and I hope today you will examine your own life and see what God is trying to say to you. Is there something you need to flee? Do you need to have more passion in your pursuit of God, or like us, do you need to get back into a fellowship with other believers? Seek God for wisdom and help. He is always faithful.

Have a great day. 

Walking with the Psalmist

Psalm 13 is a song of David, and a prayer for help in trouble. What I love about the psalms of David are the parallels to my own emotional ups and downs. Let's dive in.

1 How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
2 How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
Having sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?
— Psalm 13:1-2 (NASB)
 Pixabay

Pixabay

Do you ever feel like David? Do you ever wonder where God is? Does it seem as though He has forgotten you or is hiding His face from you? Have you ever felt like you are the only person you can trust? Do you ever have days where all you can feel is sorrow, or maybe you feel nothing at all, simply numb? Have you felt as though a very real, but unseen enemy is out to get you? Or maybe your enemy is something or someone real, like cancer, a hard nosed boss or a bully. 

I have felt this way. The truth is, I think most of us have felt pretty much alone at some point or other in our lives. Sometimes, we carry burdens that we cannot share, which make us feel very alone and like the psalmist we cry out to God, "Where are you?"

3 Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
Enlighten my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,
4 And my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
And my adversaries will rejoice when I am shaken.
— Psalm 13:3-4 (NASB)
 Pixabay

Pixabay

The psalmist asks God to consider his situation. David spent a good portion of his adult life running and hiding from his enemies. I'm pretty sure this song was born out of the frustration and exhaustion of not being able to live a normal life. 

You are probably familiar with the phrase, the new normal. Most often this phrase is used by someone who has encountered a major life change, either a job loss, loss of a loved one, physical limitation or other difficulty that makes life different than it used to be. I used to be able to eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I can't do that anymore. Now life is made up of looking at food labels, cutting my food in half so I don't eat too much and cutting out things I used to enjoy like donuts and ice cream. This is the new normal. 

I do not see anything wrong with asking God to consider us. We are His creation. Consider these verses:

Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds!
— Luke 12:24 (NASB)
 Pixabay

Pixabay

Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.
— Luke 12:27 (NASB)
 Photo credit  Rebecca Trumbull

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull

The one who has every hair on our heads numbered can most certainly be bothered to consider us, when we cry out to Him. 

I think the psalmist was also praying for wisdom, or maybe he was just asking God to help him stay awake and keep vigilant watch for his enemies, lest they overcome him and he sleep the sleep of death. Either way we can ask God for help, whether it be for wisdom, or for physical strength. 

1 I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
— Psalm 121:1-2 (NASB)
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
— Philippians 4:13 (NASB)
But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him
— James 1:5 (NASB)

The last section of Psalm 13 is the upward swing.

5 But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness;
My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
6 I will sing to the Lord,
Because He has dealt bountifully with me.
— Psalm 13:5-6
 Pixabay

Pixabay

There are four actions the psalmist does at the end of this song.

1. He remembers. He is speaking in the past tense, remembering other times the Lord has been faithful.

2. He trusts. He trusted in the Lord's lovingkindness in the past, and no doubt, will do so again. 

3. He rejoices. His heart rejoices in the Lord's salvation. We can derive from this statement, the psalmist has seen the Lord's salvation before. 

4. He sings. What a beautiful ending to a song that starts out at a rather low point. He can sing, because the Lord has dealt bountifully with him. 

What does this mean for you and I? First, I believe it is okay to ask God the tough questions. Where are you, God? How long will you keep quiet and not answer me? How long am I going to have to suffer? When will your deliverance come? God knows our frame. He also knows we don't see the whole picture, so I truly believe He understands and has compassion when we come to Him with our ceaseless questioning. Think about the many times your children or grandchildren come to you asking, why or when? Do you yell at them and tell them to be quiet? (Well, maybe once in a while, ha, ha). More often we answer with kindness and love. 

Secondly, I believe it is also alright to let God know we are at the end of ourselves. Consider and answer me, Lord, is a cry for help and reassurance, not a fist raised in defiance. God knows we hurt, sometimes in the deepest places of our being. There are people who suffer physically with pain we can't even imagine. There are people who hurt mentally or emotionally because of what others have done to them or to their family members. God knows our innermost hurts and struggles. 

Finally, I think the key is to follow the psalmist's example and not stay in that mindset of discouragement. Like him we need to choose to remember what God has done for us. We need to trust in the God whose lovingkindness is everlasting. We can rejoice in His salvation. Not only has He saved us from sin through His son Jesus Christ, but He has saved us from difficulties we cannot begin to imagine. Lastly, sing! Sing like no one is listening. Sing to bring the house down. If it is an age old hymn sing it with gusto. If it is singing along to your favorite Christian band, turn up the volume. 

Following David in his pattern of questioning, admitting and rejoicing we will be able to overcome. 

Seeing Him Who is Unseen

I am sure you have all felt the weight of life pressing in on you at some point or other. Maybe you have been blessed to have not felt it as heavily as others, or maybe you have felt as though life weighs on you like the water pressure at 1000 feet below the surface. My husband and I have had an interesting life. Not that we have done so many amazing things or traveled to so many amazing places. Golly, neither one of us has published a book or won the lottery. If you met us you would probably agree that we are not very exotic, however, we have gone through plenty of tough times together. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

Before we married, we spent a summer in what was then known as Zaire, Africa. We both almost died after contracting cerebral malaria, the most deadly form of that vicious disease. We lived to tell the tale, got married and moved to Ohio, where Mark started working on his PhD. Only a year in, I found out I was pregnant with our first child. We lived in student housing and had no health insurance. God provided a place to live, a little two room shack on a river outside of town with a propane toilet. Piecing together numerous part time jobs, we had, not just one, but two babies in that little home, without health insurance. Our story goes on through various rusty trucks and cars, one of those part time jobs becoming full time and the purchase of the home we currently live in. Over the years we have experienced other heartaches, things that have tested our faith and our limits, not only as individuals, but as a couple. Even now, our hearts are daily burdened by the difficulties of family and loved ones. 

When Moses was born, this was the edict that Pharaoh put forth:

Then the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other was named Puah; and he said, ‘When you are helping the Hebrew women to give birth and see them upon the birthstool, if it is a son, then you shall put him to death; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live.’
— Exodus 1:15-16 (NASB)
 Pixabay

Pixabay

Moses' parents were not about to let their son be killed. Taking no thought for the King's edict they kept their baby boy hidden for three months. When they knew they could no longer hide the child, his mother put him in a basket and set him among the reeds of the Nile river close to where Pharaoh's daughter came to bathe. When she spotted the basket among the reeds she had her maids get it for her. When she saw the child, I have a feeling, she fell in love. She named him Moses and the rest is history. 

Recently I was reading in Hebrews and came across this story in the Hall of Faith, found in Hebrews 11. These three verses stood out to me regarding Moses' character. 

24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter,
25 choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin,
26 considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.
— Hebrews 11:24-26 (NASB)

There are several things we can learn about Moses from these verses. Let's explore. 

 PIxabay

PIxabay

1. He grew up in Pharaoh's house. Moses was by all accounts the child of Pharaoh's daughter. He was called her son, because the verse says that he refused to be called her son. Just think about what sort of childhood he had. He was raised in the center of the Egyptian kingdom. He was exposed not only to the wealth, pleasures and education available to the ruling house, but he was also exposed to the religious teachings of Pharaoh's priests. However, we find that Moses was not influenced by any of these things. 

2. He turned away from his position as an Egyptian to take his place among the Hebrews. I was struck by this. Moses had grown up with access to so much, yet he chose to go back to his roots. The Bible is not clear on how much time, Moses got to spend with his birth mother. However, I am sure during those special times she shared stories with him of the Israelite people and their God. Perhaps it was during these times that a flame began in his heart for his people and the One who would become his God.

3. He was looking to the reward. Do we know that Moses knew who Jesus was? No. Do we know that he knew there was an eternal reward? No. But Moses had a deep inner conviction that there was something and someone, much greater than himself or the Pharaoh of Egypt, ruling the universe. Who knows, but that at night, when the sky was black and the diamonds of the universe sparkled in its expanse that something in him, didn't yearn to believe there was so much more than just the grandeur of Egypt. 

This brings me to verse 27 of Hebrews.

27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen.
— Hebrews 11:27 (NASB)

The morning I read this, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed and discouraged. Life was doing its best to wear me down. From the original story in Exodus we are given a slightly different look at this man called Moses. 

11 Now it came about in those days, when Moses had grown up, that he went out to his brethren and looked on their hard labors; and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren.
12 So he looked this way and that, and when he saw there was no one around, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.
13 He went out the next day, and behold, two Hebrews were fighting with each other; and he said to the offender, “Why are you striking your companion?”
14 But he said, “Who made you a prince or a judge over us? Are you intending to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid and said, “Surely the matter has become known.”
15 When Pharaoh heard of this matter, he tried to kill Moses. But Moses fled from the presence of Pharaoh and settled in the land of Midian, and he sat down by a well.
— Exodus 2:11-15 (NASB)

The man described in Hebrews 11 hardly seems to match the man we find in Exodus. Bare with me, if you will, while I do a bit of comparing and contrasting. 

1. By faith he left Egypt vs. Moses fled from the presence of Pharaoh.

2. Not fearing the wrath of the king vs. Moses was afraid. 

Those of you who are familiar with the Old Testament and the full story of Moses and the exodus of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage, know there is so much more to the story than just these few verses. There begins a long, drawn out and complex relationship between God, Moses and the children of Israel. I am by no means a Bible scholar. My three years at Moody Bible Institute taught me many things, including how to study God's word, but there are still things that baffle me. 

The book of Hebrews paints Moses as a man of faith, fearless and able to endure, but I believe Moses became those things as he walked through the difficulties of life. I'm sure you have heard the idea that some of us are journey people and some of us are destination people. My husband is all about the end goal. I am all about the journey along the way. The fact of the matter is, we are all, by God's design, journey people. We all are walking along in this life, struggling through the hard bits and hoping to enjoy more of the good bits. We don't get to go directly to go, or to jump ahead to the end. It drives me crazy when my husband will read the last few pages of a book, just to see how it ends without reading the entire book....destination mentality. 

Moses became a man of faith, as he grew to know God. He became fearless as he saw God work and overcome. He endured because he saw Him who is unseen. The same is true for us. We become men and women of faith as we grow to know God better. We do that as we struggle on the journey, giving the difficulties over to Him and allowing Him to mold and shape us to be more like Christ. We become fearless as we see God work. We know there is nothing God cannot do. We also know that He doesn't always do the things we would like, because He has a greater purpose. Our fear disappears as we put our complete trust in Him and His goodness. Finally, we can endure because we can see Him who is unseen. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

Today, if you are going through a hard time, try to see God. I mean really see Him. Delve deep into His word. Pray to know Him better. Wait on Him in the quietness. Depend on Him in the chaos. Let Him transform your mind, so that you can see with the eyes of your heart. At that point you will endure as seeing Him who is unseen. 

Battling on our Knees

We usually associate warfare with positions of action, like running, jumping, throwing, piercing, punching and thrusting. Whoever heard of doing battle on your knees? However, that is the position we, as Christ Ones, are to assume when we are fighting spiritually. I use the word, kneel, as a metaphorical position for that of humility before God in prayer. Obviously, we are not always able to kneel, even when our prayers are the most intense. I often pace around my house, when I am in intense prayer, because it keeps me focused. I also pray out loud. 

 PIxabay

PIxabay

Why is our posture before God so important? Humility is defined as being free from pride or arrogance. What does God say about humility?

Thus says the Lord,
’Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool.
Where then is a house you could build for Me?
And where is a place that I may rest?
2 ‘For My hand made all these things,
Thus all these things came into being,’ declares the Lord.
’But to this one I will look,
To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.’
— Isaiah 66:1-2 (NASB)

God is God. There is no one who can out do Him. He is the Creator and we are His creation. How could we even come close to building a place that could house a being like God. Yet, He says that He will look..."To him who is humble and contrite of spirit..." 

Jesus said, 

Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
— Matthew 18:4 (NASB)

I'll come back to that verse in a minute. Read on.

Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: ‘He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us’?
6 But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, ‘God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’
7 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
9 Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom.
10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.
— James 4:5-10 (NASB)

So what exactly does all of this have to do with intercessory prayer? Prayer is work. I sure most of you have experienced the feeling that you need to be praying more, but so often find yourself doing everything, but praying. I know I have. However, God's word tells us to, "pray without ceasing;" (I Thessalonians 5:17). Not all of the time we are to spend praying will be for intercessory prayer, but I believe a large percent of our prayers will be for others. We can all think of people at this moment who need our prayers. We all know someone who is sick, depressed, hurt, dying, suffering a broken marriage, a lost job or a wandering child. 

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Pixabay

In order to pray accurately, we need to know the mind of God with regards to the person we are praying for. We should, at least in theory, desire God's will for the person or people we are praying for, even if it is difficult or painful. God is the one who knows what is best and He is the best at orchestrating life to bring people closer to Him. It seems, however, that many people do not believe in the importance of intercessory prayer. 

And He saw that there was no man,
And was astonished that there was no one to intercede;
— Isaiah 59:16a (NASB)

Why would God be astonished that there was no one to intercede? Because it was obvious to Him that intercessory prayer was a given. It isn't an option. We are supposed to do it and we are supposed to do it on a regular basis. 

Humility, or becoming like a child, allows us to come before God with the right mindset as we intercede. If we are prideful and arrogant, we will be trying to exert our will into the situation, rather than coming into agreement with God on how to pray for those we are led to pray for. I don't like praying, "Lord, whatever it takes..." Yet, isn't that really the mindset we need to have when we come to God in prayer for others? What is our goal? Healing, making things better, hoping it will all go away and everyone will live happily ever after? No! Our goal is the mind of Christ. Our goal is that every person we pray for would turn to Him, knowing He is God and there is no other, (Isaiah 45:22).

Humility in prayer allows us to worship God as we are coming into His presence. Worship gives us the proper perspective, not only of who God is, but who we are before Him. That proper perspective will align our minds and our hearts with how God wants us to pray. 

Worship and intercession must go together; one is impossible without the other. Intercession means raising ourselves up to the point of getting the mind of Christ regarding the person for whom we are praying (see Philippians 2:5). Instead of worshiping God, we recite speeches to God about how prayer is supposed to work. Are we worshiping God or disputing Him when we say, “But God, I just don’t see how you are going to do this”? This is a sure sign that we are not worshiping. When we lose sight of God, we become hard and dogmatic. We throw our petitions at His throne and dictate to Him what we want Him to do. We don’t worship God, nor do we seek to conform our minds to the mind of Christ. And if we are hard toward God, we will become hard toward other people.

Are we worshiping God in a way that will raise us up to where we can take hold of Him, having such intimate contact with Him that we know His mind about the ones for whom we pray? Are we living in a holy relationship with God, or have we become hard and dogmatic?
— Oswald Chambers - My Utmost for His Highest (March 30)
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Pixabay

There are times I have felt absolutely powerless. I knew and still know that I have no control over the choices that other people make. I cannot make the lost turned to Jesus. I cannot heal a sick loved one. I cannot mend a relationship that has gone awry. But, I can battle on my knees. With a mindset of humility and worship, the Lord and I can move mountains. 

Walking with the Psalmist

When we take the time to look at the Psalms we can learn much about human behavior and about God. It is not my intent to look at every single Psalm, but pick and choose ones that have been meaningful to me in my walk with Christ. I grew up in a Christian home and made a commitment to Christ when I was twelve. Ever since I can remember, the Psalms were important to me. I have often felt that they enable the reader to see inside another human being and experience their emotions. While my spouse likes to jokingly call David, an emotional yoyo, many of the Psalms he penned were ones filled with the raw emotion of fear, guilt, anger and joy. 

In Psalm 1 we saw the comparison of the righteous man with the wicked. Today I would like to explore Psalm 8. This Psalm is titled, The Lord's Glory and Man's Dignity. It seems an appropriate header for a song that begins with the line, "O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Thy name in all the earth..." (NASB) I thought this a beautiful Psalm to usher in the season of Spring and the coming of Easter. 

O Lord, our Lord,
How majestic is Your name in all the earth,
Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens!
2 From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength
Because of Your adversaries,
To make the enemy and the revengeful cease.

3 When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained;
4 What is man that You take thought of him,
And the son of man that You care for him?
5 Yet You have made him a little lower than God,
And You crown him with glory and majesty!
6 You make him to rule over the works of Your hands;
You have put all things under his feet,
7 All sheep and oxen,
And also the beasts of the field,
8 The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea,
Whatever passes through the paths of the seas.

9 O Lord, our Lord,
How majestic is Your name in all the earth!
— Psalm 8 (NASB)

As usual, I like to pull the passage apart verse by verse.

Verse 1 

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth,

This verse sets the tone for the passage. David immediately establishes the order of authority. God is Lord. He is our Lord. David also points out, God's name is majestic in all the earth. God is Lord over all people and all the earth. This is completely understood when we believe that God is our creator. The Maker is the One who created it all and because of that He is our Lord. We are His creation. We are not on the same level as Him. 

It is unfortunate in today's world that God's name has become a tool to be used, rather than a name that is honored and glorified. I have heard, even people who claim to be Christians, use God's name in vain. There is a commandment for that remember?

You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.
— Exodus 20:7 (NASB)

God's name is majestic and should be spoken with reverence and love, not flippantly like so many others words in our language. 

Lake Erie, sunset

Who have displayed your splendor above the heavens.

When i first became familiar with this psalm, I thought this was a question. I am much more aware of proper punctuation and grammar now, This would read more smoothly in both the NIV and the ESV - 

You have set your glory
in the heavens.
— Psalm 8:1 b (NIV)
You have set your glory
in the heavens.
— Psalm 8:1 b (ESV)

It is, no doubt, God, who sets the sun and the moon in their places. He dropped each star onto that blanket of blackness like a child playing with glitter glue. He is the one who places the rainbow in the sky and the planets in their orbits. Any sunrise or sunset I am privileged to witness, my mind immediately recites this first verse. 

Verse 2

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Pixabay

From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength

It is fairly common for the Almighty God to use the weak things of this world to overcome the strong. 

But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;
— 1 Corinthians 1:27 (ESV)

Jesus used children to explain the simplicity of getting into heaven. 

Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.”
— Luke 18:17 (NASB)

Because of your adversaries, to make the enemy and the revengeful cease.

God did this, because of His enemy, more specifically Satan. Over 2000 years ago a baby was born and laid in a manger. That baby was the only one who had and still has the capacity to make the enemy and the revengeful cease! 

Verse 3

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars which You have ordained, 

The psalmist had no doubts about who created the world. He wasn't questioning the age of the earth or whether it was created in seven literal days or seven ages, he knew the world was the work of the One whose name was Majestic. He knew the moon and the stars were the work of His fingers. That knowledge made him shudder with humility.

Verse 4

What is man that You take thought of him and the son of man that You care for him?

The psalmist questions this God, whose name is Majestic, and so too should we. Who are we that God would take thought of us or that He would care for us? Yet He does. In fact....

Verse 5

Yet You made him a little lower than God

Whoa! Did you catch that? It doesn't say, He made us like pond scum. Evolutionists would like the world to believe that we came from just that, pond scum. But no! We are made only a little lower than God. How does that make you feel? It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy, but also very humbled. God made us with intentionality to be only a little lower than His majesty! 

And You crown him with glory and majesty!

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Pixabay

How about that? We get to be majestic too! He chooses to crown us with glory and majesty. Wow! That is really all I can say. Wow!

Verse 7 & 8

You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet,

I know there are people who take issue with this idea. I believe we are to treat all of God's creation with respect and dignity. I also believe in managing the creation we have been given and taking care of it, so yes, I eat meat, my husband hunts and we cut the grass. The verse plainly says that all things are subject to us and we are to rule over the works of His hands. That does not mean we are to abuse or misuse. He gave us this responsibility and that is exactly how we should treat it, as a responsibility, not a free for all. 

The psalmist then goes on to list some of the things that are under our rule.

All sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heaven and the fish of the sea, whatever passes through the paths of the seas. 

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Pixabay

I am pretty sure when David penned these words he was thinking back to the story of Creation. He knew that man was made to take care of the earth and rule over it. This was a privilege and a joy. 

Finally, he bookends the psalm by repeating the opening phrase.

Verse 9

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth. 

I think this is a lovely psalm to memorize or at least read over on occasion, especially as the seasons change. The dark, drab, cold months will be giving way to the warm rains, flowers and sunshine of spring and then summer. Let's try to remember how incredibly blessed we are to not only be able to enjoy His creation, but also that our position is meant to be only a little lower than the Creator Himself. That gives us worth, value and hope! 

Have a great day. 

 

 

 

Introvert? Yup!

Hi! My name is Amy and I am an introvert! Are you surprised? Maybe you are an introvert as well. You might be wondering how and why an introvert would have a fashion and faith blog. The faith part of it is a little easier to swallow, at least no one is looking at you. Fashion, however? How do I manage to stand in front of a camera, posing and smiling and not feel like a fake? Believe me, I often do feel that way. 

Hiking - Mohican State Park

I have been an introvert for as long as I can remember. Here is how Webster's online dictionary defines the word:

...one whose personality is characterized by introversion; especially : a reserved or shy person who enjoys spending time alone
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Pixabay

I can remember as a child often hiding behind my mother when people would talk to me. My mother would often push me from out behind her to make me visible to whomever was addressing me. I didn't like people to notice me or talk about me. It is unknown to me why some of us are introverts and some of us are extroverts, though I am confident it is due to God making us one way or the other. I'm sure there have been all sorts of studies and articles on the differences between introverts and extroverts. Here are a few to look at: 

23 Signs You're Secretly an Introvert

What is an Introvert?

While the truth is, one personality type is not better than the other, as an introvert I have often felt the scorn of others because of my shyness. I have been called stuck up, aloof, a prude and other descriptive words that were not kind. I have also skulked away from a conversation or a social situation because my voiced opinions were laughed at, cut down or ignored. I have felt the icy coldness of what I call being invisible

Pixabay - invisible

As an introvert I struggle with the dichotomy of wanting to crawl under a rock and wanting to be noticed and remembered. It is an odd place to stand, as though I am permanently on a tight rope walking between two cliffs. On one side are roaring lions and on the other side are stomping dinosaurs. 

The reality is, I am not stuck up. I struggle socially. It is hard for me to make small talk, especially with people I don't know. When I go to a gathering, even with family, I am often overwhelmed. I am most comfortable in my home with a good book or an escapist type movie. That doesn't mean I don't want friends. It doesn't mean that I don't want to be with other people. It just means that I need more time to think, and refuel. 

Being an introvert who also struggles with Seasonal Affective Disorder is a further conundrum. Not only do I have the normal need for alone time, I also struggle with feeling alone, especially when it is dark and cold. Not only do I need more time to process, I have a harder time with the processing...and cravings for chocolate cake! 

By now you might be wondering what the point of this little post is. My goal is three-fold:

1. To make you aware.

Introverted people are not cold, aloof or mean, they are simply different. They have emotions and feelings that run just as deep as extroverts. They love deeply, worry deeply and might just make fantastic friends. Instead of judging a person to be this or that, try getting to know them. If you see that person standing alone at a party, go introduce yourself and ask lots of questions. Usually, an introvert is just as pleased to talk about themselves and give their opinions as the next person, they just need a little help. Also be understanding if they just want to stay home and read a book rather than go to that concert or other outing with a bunch of friends. Most of us introverts are more one on one or small group types of people. 

2. To remind you.

God created you. He meant for you to be just exactly who you are. I have found that being an introvert often pushes me towards God as i struggle to find my place in a very social world. It has also helped me to be more in tune to His voice when I have alone time. No matter if you are an introvert, an extrovert or somewhere in between, God made you exactly as He wants you to be. I can praise the Creator because:

I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.
— Psalm 139:14 (NASB)

 

3. To encourage you.

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me
— Philippians 4:13 (NASB)

We all have our struggles, but with Christ we are able to do anything. Christ has been my strength when I don't want to go to that social gathering, or start that conversation with my fellow employee, or network with those people at the coffee shop, or put myself out there, when I really would rather find a warm hole to crawl into. He is always there, ready and willing, to help me step out and up.

From Knowledge to Knowing

What is the difference between knowledge and knowing? Webster's online dictionary defines knowledge in this way - "the fact or condition of knowing something with familiarity gained through experience or association..." It can also be defined as, "the sum of what is known, body of knowledge..." The word knowing is defined - "having or reflecting knowledge, information or intelligence."

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Pixabay

From these definitions it would seem to be the case, we can all have some sort of knowledge about many things. I know that two plus two equals four. I also know, water is made up of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. However, knowing two plus two equals four does not mean I know how to do math. Nor does knowing water is made up of hydrogen and oxygen make me hydrated. Knowledge that becomes knowing is a direct result of acting on that knowledge. 

To take knowledge from our heads and make it a part of our lives takes effort. We are not sponges. We do not absorb knowledge and have it make us into a super human computer. We have to do something with the knowledge. Knowing what a number is, and a few, often quoted facts, does not mean we know how to add, subtract, multiply and divide, let alone do more complex functions, like algebraic equations and geometric formulas. To take this step from knowledge to knowing we have to learn. We must sit under the tutelage of one who knows and understands mathematics in order to come to a point of knowing it ourselves. 

water fountain

In a similar fashion, knowing what components make up water, does not give me the hydration so important for life. I must take the water and actually drink it. That is the only way my body will obtain the life giving qualities that water has. 

In our lives as Christians, we come to have a body of knowledge. We know the Bible is God's word. We know from various passages in scripture of God's love, justice and mercy. We also know about Jesus; His birth, life, death, and resurrection. But how to we take knowledge in our spiritual lives and making it knowing?

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Pixabay

Anyone can have knowledge of God. Plug the word God into Google and see what comes up. However, having knowledge of God does not mean you are a person of faith. I have knowledge of Allah, but I am not a Muslim. I have knowledge of Buddha, but I am not a Buddhist. So what takes us from knowledge to knowing, when it comes to faith?  

Belief is not the result of an intellectual act, but the result of an act of my will whereby I deliberately commit myself.
— Oswald Chambers - My Utmost for His Highest - December 22nd

I personally believe that when we do as Oswald says in the above quote, we go from knowledge to knowing. When we apply our will and deliberately commit ourselves to God in a relationship we no longer have knowledge, we know. How does this take place? In a supernatural way, through the Holy Spirit. 

In Biblical times, the word know was associated with sexual intercourse. It implied intimacy. A person who has sex with another in this fashion, goes from knowledge of that person to knowing that person in an intimate way. One of the issues with sex outside the parameters of a committed relationship is the inability to truly know each other. This might partially explain why so many relationships fail. The partners involved have never gone from knowledge of each other to knowing each other. 

The type of knowledge that we want to have of God and of His son Jesus is an intimate one. We want to commit ourselves to Him in a deep, vulnerable way, so that we no longer just know facts and statements made about Him, but the deep inner layers of the Almighty Himself. This is not an intellectual act, other than the thought, "I want to commit myself to God." It is an act of the will, just as much as saying "I do" is an act of the heart. 

For example, read the following verse.

Shout for joy, you heavens;
rejoice, you earth;
burst into song, you mountains!
For the Lord comforts his people
and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.
— Isaiah 49:13 (NIV)

In the midst of chaos, I can read that verse and with the eye roll of a junior higher think, "Yeah, right."

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Pixabay

Or, I can commit my will to believe and suddenly it becomes the firm, heart felt statement of, "Yeah! Right!" Now, I get it. God really does comfort and have compassion. I know, because I know (intimately), that He will comfort and have compassion. I have felt it and I have seen it. 

Do you see what happened there? I went from knowledge to knowing. I committed myself to believe the promises in His word and His response to my commitment was to draw me into the deeper knowing of Himself. 

It is God and His Spirit who take us from knowledge to knowing - knowing Him; His mercy and grace; His long suffering and goodness. Merely reading, gaining knowledge and nodding our heads that we believe does not a believer make. It is our act of the will, our choices day in and day out, moment by moment that move us from rote belief and knowledge to true, heart felt faith; to knowing God. 

Mulling It Over - Part 1

Last year I did a Mulling It Over series on Ephesians 6:10-18. It took me a period of months to dig deeply into that passage on the armor of God. This year I would like to use the same format to dig into a few other passages that are worth chewing on slowly. According to Webster's online dictionary, the word ruminate means to go over in the mind repeatedly, often in a slow, casual fashion or to chew repeatedly for an extended period of time. That is what we are going to do with these passages. 

 Pixabay - this little guy looks like he'll be chewing for a while!

Pixabay - this little guy looks like he'll be chewing for a while!

The books of 1st and 2nd Timothy in the New Testament were letters written by Paul to Timothy, pastor of the church at Ephesus. Timothy had journeyed with Paul on his second and third missionary journeys. The two knew each other and had spent plenty of time working and ministering side by side. Paul's purpose in these letters was to encourage and give practical advice and instruction for the pastor of a church. 

First Timothy presents the most explicit and complete instructions for church leadership and organization in the entire Bible. This includes sections on appropriate conduct in worship gatherings, the qualifications of elders and deacons, and the proper order of church discipline.
— Chuck Swindoll (from Insight for Living Ministries)

With regards to 2 Timothy:

Paul knew that Timothy’s task of keeping the church within the bounds of sound doctrine while encouraging believers to live their lives well for the sake of Christ would be an often thankless and difficult task. Though hardship would come, Paul wanted Timothy to continue in those things he had learned, drawing on the rich heritage of faith that had been passed down to the young pastor, not just from Paul but also from his mother and grandmother
— Chuck Swindoll (from Insight for Living Ministries)

Both letters written to Timothy are worth mulling over, but for the next few months, I want to look at just a few verses from 2 Timothy 2.

20 Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor.
21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.
22 Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
23 But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.
24 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged,
25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth,
26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
— 2 Timothy 2:20-26 (NASB)

 

Let me preface the discussion with a key point:

This was written to the church leadership. This is important to remember when we look at the terminology in the passage. I would add, it is written to any mature Christian, since it is included in the Bible. I added the word mature, because part of this passage talks about teaching and I think it is important that we have Christians who know God's word and not only understand it, but live it in leadership and teaching positions.

All that being said, let's take a look at the first verse:

Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor.
— 2 Timothy 2:20 (NASB)

How can we dissect this verse to squeeze as much out of it as possible? I like to take each phrase and ruminate on it. 

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Pixabay

1. Now in a large house....

I believe the idea Paul  is trying to get across is that the church is a big institution. We are not talking the physical size of each individual church, but the body as a whole. A large house, in Paul's day would have indicated power and wealth. While this is still true today (ever watch that series Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous), there can be instances of large houses that are completely abandoned. 

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Pixabay

2. ...there are not only gold and silver vessels...

This was another clue that Paul was making a comparison to a house of wealth and power. There were people in the church, just as today, who were wealthy. The church has always had a mix of rich, middle class and poor and it is often the rich and middle class who are giving of their surplus to aid those who go without. 

Gold and silver vessels were akin to us bringing out the good silver ware for a holiday dinner, at least that is something my mother used to do. I don't have any good silver ware. It is what it is. Ha, ha. But back in the day, this was an important thing to do when entertaining guests. Cleaning, polishing and making everything comfortable is the way we have chosen to honor the guests brought into our homes for centuries. 

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Pixabay

3. ...but also vessels of wood and earthenware...

Not all vessels are the same. There are gold and silver, those vessels used for special occasions, but there are also vessels of wood and earthenware. Are you following the analogy? Paul is not talking about actual cups and bowls, he is talking about people! All of us are vessels. Some of us are gold and silver. We are flashy and showy. We bring in a crowd or we brighten up a room. Some us us are wood and earthenware. We are stable, consistent and incredibly functional, but we are not recognized beyond that. 

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4. ...and some to honor and some to dishonor...

What exactly does Paul mean in this phrase? Simply put, we are all capable of honoring God, but we are also all capable of dishonoring Him.

Timothy was a young pastor and not everyone in his congregation thought he was up to the task. Rather than encouraging him and trying to work with him, a few of his congregants became obsessed with his age and felt he didn't have enough experience to properly pastor a church. He also had congregants who were involved in some less than savory things, but more on that next month. 

So what can we learn from this one verse today:

1. We are part of His body - the big house.

2. We are all vessels.

3. Not all of us are gold or silver. Some of us are wood or earthenware.

4. We are all capable of honoring or dishonoring God.

I hope and pray that as you read this post you will realize that we are all important in His body, or house - the church. I also hope you will see your worth. It doesn't matter who you are, what you look like or what you do as a job or how much money you make, you are important to the body of Christ. 

Have a great day!

 

 

 

Walking with the Psalmist

Last month I began a discussion on the first song in the book of Psalms in the Old Testament. While we do not know for sure who wrote this psalm, it is clear, by its inclusion in the Scripture, it is important. I explained that Psalm 1 describes two men, a righteous one and a wicked one. Last month I concentrated on the righteous man and found ten characteristics that a righteous man will have. This month, I want to look more closely at the wicked man.

1 How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
3 He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.
4 The wicked are not so,
But they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
6 For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the wicked will perish.
— Psalm 1:1-6 (NASB)
 Pixabay

Pixabay

What sort of characteristics describe the wicked man.

1. They are not like the righteous man.

Verse 4 begins with the phrase, "The wicked are not so." It would logically follow that all of the traits that were listed to describe the righteous man are not traits the wicked man has. In other words this man does not love God's word, they hang out with other's who do not love God's word and they are not firmly rooted in God's law. 

2. They are like chaff.

What exactly is chaff? In this Old Testament context the word chaff was used to describe the outer hulls of seeds and other debris separated from the seed when threshing grain. Before the age of huge farm machinery, threshing was a laborious task done by hand on a threshing floor. The stalks of grain were beaten with a piece of wood called a flail. Chaff is not useful for anything and was thrown away. 

It might seem to us, calling a person chaff, is rather mean, but these words were inspired by a holy and righteous God. The point was to give us a comparison with no doubt involved. Righteous is righteous and wicked is wicked. 

3. They are driven away by the wind.

I think we can derive two ideas from this. First of all, the chaff in the threshing process was often swept up to blow away in the wind. It was meant to be discarded, just as our modern combine separates the chaff from the seed out in the field. Have you ever driven by a field when the combine is working and noticed a cloud of dust flying up in the air? That is not just dirt!

The second idea that came to my mind is, often people who do not know God are driven to and fro by the changing winds of life. They try anything and everything to fill the emptiness that exists inside of them and they most often are looking out for their own interests willing to step on others to feel fulfilled.

Pixabay - judgment

4. The wicked will not stand in the judgment.

The idea of judgment has become the elephant in the room. No one wants to talk about judgment. No one wants to discuss the consequences of sin. How often do you hear a sermon about sin, hell or the anger of a righteous God? Not as often as we used to, I'd venture to say. While I think we need to show love, wait for the right opportunities and reply with gentleness, we also can't stop talking about the idea that God is a holy and perfect God and we are not. That was and still is the reason Jesus became a man, walked on this earth, died on a cross and rose again. If we stop talking about judgment we might as well stop talking about Jesus. 

Jesus Christ is who differentiates us from all other religions. It is His blood that covers a righteous man and it is only His blood that allows the righteous man to stand at the final judgment. The wicked man will not stand because he has not recognized Christ as the way, the truth and the life.

For us to say, "I don't believe in hell or a judgment," is like saying, "Seventeen people didn't get shot at a high school in Florida." Just because it is terrible, doesn't mean our ignoring it or wishing it away makes it any less a reality. 

5. The wicked will not stand in the assembly of the righteous. 

I am not sure in this case whether it is similar to the judgment, they won't be able to, because their wickedness separates them from the righteous, or if it has to do with their own desire. The wicked do not want to stand in the assembly of the righteous. We have churches closing their doors at an alarming rate. For further info on this Dr. Richard Krejcir of churchleadership.org wrote an eye opening article titled Statistics and Reasons for Church Decline. Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis, wrote a book a few years ago titled Already Gone, which addresses the exodus of many young people from the church. If those who would be righteous aren't even staying in the assembly of the righteous, then the wicked certainly won't be drawn to the church. 

 St. Albans Cathedral - England trip 2012

St. Albans Cathedral - England trip 2012

This is just my take on the verse. It is more likely that the wicked won't be able to stand in the assembly of the righteous because of their wickedness. 

6. The wicked will perish.

This isn't a pleasant thought. It might be easy to think of someone like Hitler perishing, because we could easily point out his wickedness, but the scripture is clear:

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
— Romans 3:23 (NASB)
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
— Romans 6:23 (NASB)
that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;
— Romans 10:9 (NASB)

While the standing of the wicked man compared to the righteous man is not pleasant, there is hope. If you are a Christ follower, then you are already familiar with that hope. You are also in a position to help someone who doesn't have that hope. Live your life in Christ out loud, so all the world can see. I leave you with these verses, which I will feature next week on my Mulling It Over column.

23 But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.
24 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged,
25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
— 2 Timothy 2:23-26 (NASB)

Twoo Wuv!

Who can forget the iconic marriage scene from the Princess Bride?

If you have never seen this family friendly movie, be sure to check it out. It is everything we want in a romantic comedy...danger, sword fights, a beautiful couple and plenty of bad guys. It is one of those old fashion love stories where the couple truly lives, happily ever after.

Seeing as it is Valentine's Day, I thought it would be good to talk about twoo wuv, excuse me, I mean true love. Everyone is looking for true love. We all would like to find our soul mate, the one we instantly connect with and with whom we will always feel giddy and excited. Do you remember your first date? How about your first kiss? Weren't those magical memorable moments? And then one day you finally meet that special someone and you know they are the one you want to spend the rest of your life with. You date, get engaged, plan a wedding and get married. This is the beginning of your happily ever after....

 Pixabay

Pixabay

Fast forward five years. Who is this person you married and what did they do with that one you fell so madly and deeply in love with? They leave their clothes on the floor, whiskers in the bathroom sink, the toilet seat up, squeeze the toothpaste the in the middle, and when they finally think to replace the toilet paper roll, they put it on the wrong way. They don't help around the house and you could count on one hand how many diapers they have changed. What happened to true love and the happily ever after?

 Pixabay

Pixabay

The last two weeks, I wrote about The Real Romanceand Why is Love so Hard?  The first dealt with God's love for us and the second spoke more to our perspective on how trying to love in our own power is a very hard thing to do. I looked at 1 Corinthians 13 last week and I would like to take another look, in detail, at a few of those verses this week. Using these as a guide we can define what twoo wuv looks like. 

1. Twoo wuv is patient. 

Love is patient...
— I Corinthians 13:4 (NASB)

Patience is a virtue, as the saying goes, and it is essential in a loving relationship. Patience will cover many of those things that might irritate in a marriage, such as toothpaste tubes and toilet paper placement. If something about your significant other is irritating you, take a deep breath and let it go. 

2. Twoo wuv is kind and is not jealous.

...love is kind and is not jealous;...
— I Corinthians 13:4 (NASB)

I find it interesting that these two things are connected with a conjunction. Kindness is key in a loving relationship, just as is trust. I think it is very hard to be kind without the warm blanket of trust surrounding the relationship. There is no place for jealousy in a relationship. 

3. Twoo wuv does not brag and is not prideful. 

...love does not brag and is not arrogant,...
— I Corinthians 13:4 (NASB)

My husband loves to talk about things he's done in the past, as well as when he does a good thing at work. When we were first married, I often thought this was a matter of boastfulness and pride. I have learned, however, that some families have a tradition of story telling, much like many cultures of the past sharing their conquests and victories. Oral tradition used to be the way to pass on a culture's identity and traditions. 

Bragging and arrogance often go hand in hand. When thrown into a relationship they soon become a source of bitterness and frustration. Let's face it, bragging and pride usually are self serving and being self serving in a marriage doesn't not epitomize true love. 

4. Twoo wuv does not act ugly.

...does not act unbecomingly...
— I Corinthians 13:5 (NASB)

I know all about acting ugly in a marriage. My hubby and I affectionately call our first year of marriage, "the year from hell." Yes indeed! I have always been an emotional person. While the years and menopause have done wonders to temper my emotions, the early years were not pretty. I always had mood swings when it was "that time of the month", but being on the birth control pill contributed to emotional rants that were extremely volatile. My poor spouse must have thought he had married an alien or that a demon had come in when I said the marriage vows and taken over my body. 

Allowing ourselves to be "ugly" to our spouses does not create an environment of trust, nor even one of desire. Acting unbecomingly does not foster true love. 

5. Twoo wuv isn't selfish. 

...it does not seek its own,...
— I Corinthians 13:5 (NASB)

We are all selfish by nature. The Bible, says none of us are righteous and we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God. That sin nature expresses itself in the form of selfishness. If you think about all the bad stuff that happens in a marriage and even in our world we can probably link most, if not all, back to selfishness. 

Selfishness is basically the act or mentality of looking out for ourselves. There is a lot of talk these days about self love, and that is important, however, if self love becomes such a focus that it hurts and offends others, then it becomes selfish love. There is no place in a marriage for this type of love. Unfortunately, so many of us start out marriage thinking about what I am going to get from this other person, rather than being confident in our place with Christ and being a loving and gracious servant. 

6. Twoo wuv doesn't hold a grudge. 

...is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,...
— I Corinthians 13:5 (NASB)

I put these two ideas as one because what causes a person to be provoked is probably going to be the same thing that causes that person to hold a grudge. The word provoke, according to Webster means to arouse a feeling or action, or to incite to anger. If true love is not provoked then it doesn't become angry at the object of its affection. How many times have you gotten angry at your spouse? My husband and I have had to learn this one the hard way, by doing it. Ha, ha. Truly, it is not funny. Provocation and holding a grudge are a death sentence in a marriage. Even if you stick it out, like we have, it is very damaging. 

My husband and I have been married for almost 31 years and we are just now beginning to repent and turn away from these unloving behaviors in our relationship. We have a long way to go, but true love is worth the effort. 

7. Twoo wuv rejoices in the right things.

...does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth...
— I Corinthians 13:6 (NASB)

 What exactly does this mean? Certainly, there are all sorts of ways we or our spouses can be unrighteous. The goal is to not condone the things that we do or that we see in each other that are wrong. God wants us to be righteous and truthful, and even more as a couple, since many of us are examples to our children and grandchildren. 

I have found more recently that both my spouse and I have issues with wrong thinking. Meaning, we do not see ourselves truthfully, as God sees us, but as we think the world sees us, or as we see ourselves as coming up short. This is not good for a marriage. We need to be encouraging one another with the truth as it is written in God's word and rejoice in that beautiful truth. 

8. Twoo wuv is the bomb!

...bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
— I Corinthians 13:7 (NASB)

I love the insistent language in these four actions....bears, believes, hopes and endures. Isn't that just beautiful? True love does all of these things. Each of us have our own burdens in life and many of those come out of our relationships with those we love. But true love is called to bear those things, believe in God being able to work in those situations, hope in things getting better, but enduring if they don't. 

Please don't misunderstand. I believe there are situations where a couple just can't work out their issues and divorce may be the only option. Situations of abuse and infidelity are extremely hard to overcome without a great deal of counsel, and in those, each person has to recognize the problem and be willing to get help. 

9. Twoo wuv doesn't fail.

Love never fails...
— I Corinthians 13:8 (NASB)

The final point is, true love will not fail. That is precisely why, this love must come from a source greater than I. God is that source. It is easy to love when life is exciting and smooth, but the whole point of this passage, was that life can be very difficult and love that only sticks around for the smooth and easy times is not true love. 

I hope and pray that you are experiencing twoo wuv in your relationships. If not, I hope that you know, the One who created and exists as true love will always be there for you, day in and day out. 

 

 

 

Why is Love so Hard?

It seems appropriate to write about love over these next couple of weeks as we approach Valentine's Day. Click on the link and you will see a few interesting facts about this day that comes around every February 14th. How do you celebrate Valentine's Day? Or maybe a better question to ask is , DO you celebrate Valentine's Day?

When I was a young women in my teens and early twenties, I was like anyone. I wanted to be noticed and thought of, especially on the day that had become a symbol of love and romance. We are creatures who desire relationships, whether the romantic kind or those that are purely platonic. We want to feel special to someone. We want to be remembered on those special occasions like birthdays and we want to feel that we have value. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

Last week I touched on the idea of, The Real Romance, being the one we have with the Almighty Creator. He alone, knows our deepest fears, hurts and desires. As much as our significant others care for us, they cannot fully know us like God does. That being said, this week, I wanted to look at love from our perspective. I don't know about you, but I think real love is hard!

If you are a Christ follower, then you are probably familiar with I Corinthians 13. This small chapter in the New Testament has become the defining essay on love. The Bible is full of passages and verses talking about love, from the love of God, to the love of man and all the complications in between. I'd like to break down the 13 verses in this passage into bite sized chunks and chew on them for a bit. 

1 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
2 If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
3 And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.
— 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (NASB)

This letter to the church at Corinth was written by the Apostle Paul. He begins this chapter with a series of actions that, during the time, were probably looked at as special manifestations of faith. Speaking in tongues, prophecy and knowledge, as well as sacrifice of possessions and self, were all looked at as being important actions for Christians to participate in. I am sure, that just as we look at people in our church who give large amounts of money, lead the worship team, work with children, evangelize or preach, as people who are doing good things for the sake of the gospel, the Christians in Paul's time felt similarly towards those who were visibly living out their faith. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

However, Paul adds a condition to each of the actions he has mentioned. Without love, every one of them is meaningless. That seems pretty harsh doesn't it. I mean, we all do things because it is expected, or because it has to be done. Does that mean, when I get to heaven, those things I did out of obligation or pressure will burn up in the fires of judgment? Let's look at the next section.

4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant,
5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,
6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;
7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
— ! Corinthians 13:4-7 (NASB)

Paul goes on to give these amazing characteristics of love: patient, kind, not jealous....This list should certainly make us reexamine whether our love is up to this "gold" standard put forth in the scriptures. We can't really be expected to love others in this way, can we? I mean, who hasn't acted in an unbecoming way. I literally threw things when I got mad, when my children were younger. Not a very becoming example of love. When my spouse and I were at odds it was usually because we were seeking our own. With divorce rampant in our country the characteristic of love enduring all things, hardly seems a reality. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

8 Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.
9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part;
10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.
11 When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.
12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.
13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.
— I Corinthians 13:8-13 (NASB)

As we read on we are suddenly faced with the reality that everything we do is imperfect. The gifts that we have been given will cease. The knowledge that we have will be done away. It also tells us that we don't know everything there is to know. It goes on to say, "...but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away...." This phrase tells me two things. The first is that this life we are now living is not perfect. Ta, da! I bet you didn't know that (insert sarcasm here). The second is that the perfect is coming. Only Christ is perfect and it is only through Him and His shed blood that we enter into that ability to be perfect. 

Paul goes on to make two analogies:

1. The child becomes a man (or woman).

 Photo credit  Rebecca Trumbull

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull

For those of you who have raised or are raising children, you get this. Children think on a different plain than adults do. They speak differently, think differently and reason differently. When we become adults we are expected to behave like adults, not children. That doesn't mean we don't get in touch with our inner child once in a while. This is especially important when you have grandchildren! 

2. The mirror versus reality.

 Photo credit  Rebecca Trumbull

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull

In this second analogy Paul talks about our reflection in a mirror as that which is dim. The reflection is not our real self, it is only an image of ourselves. A reflection is not the real deal. 

These two analogies remind us that we are just children and we don't know everything. Only God knows all. Only God is perfect. It doesn't matter how much we are doing. It doesn't matter what grandiose plans we have. If we are doing these things without the love of God, they are meaningless.

Why is love hard? Because we are trying to do it by reasoning as a child, "If I do this, I'll score points with God." We are looking in a dim mirror and thinking, "I look pretty darn good!" That knowledge and that reasoning are part of what make love hard. Our love is selfish and distorted. 

Only God's love is perfect. It is only by walking with Him in a close personal relationship that we will be able to live a life of true, selfless love. That is the love that will count for eternity.