Tuesday, December 22, 2009

From the Archives: Submission - Part 4: The Attitude of the Heart

In this fourth and last post on submission, we will be taking a look at what the attitude of our hearts should be when submitting. The definition ascribed to the word “submitting” by Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language gives a clear description of the heart attitude. Summarized, it states:

Submission is cheerfully yielding one’s will to the will and authority of another accompanied by humble and suppliant behavior without murmuring.

Two different aspects seem to especially stand out: one, that we are to submit cheerfully, and secondly, without murmuring . . .


“In a cheerful manner; with alacrity or willingness; readily; with life, animation or good spirits.”*

How convicting this definition is! By it, we see that when we submit it is to be with joy, willingness, and in a cheerful manner (the opposite of this would be grudgingly with a negative or angry heart.) This type of true cheerfulness and joy comes from abiding in the Lord and walking in obedience to Him as Christ instructed:

My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” (John 15:8-11)

It is not our joy, but His joy shining through us as we submit to our fathers (or husbands) in obedience to our Lord. When thinking of how this cheerfulness and joy would be expressed in our lives, what comes to mind is a smile on the face, a quickness and readiness to fulfill whatever was directed (or whatever we know that he would desire), and a willing heart that is seeking to submit and serve the one whom the Lord has placed over us.

Several verses from Proverbs came to mind while writing this that seemed to relate rather well: 

A joyful heart makes a cheerful face, but when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken.” (Proverbs 15:13).

A wise woman builds her house, but the foolish tears it down with her own hands.” (Proverbs 14:1)

It is better to live in a desert land than with a contentious and vexing woman.” (Proverbs 21:19)

By having a cheerful heart of submission, by not being contentious and vexing, and by building instead of tearing, our Lord will be glorified. The choice is ours to make – will we be ones who build up or tear down? Will we respond with contentiousness and vexation? Or with cheerfulness, love and joy?

Without Murmuring

Murmuring is: “uttering complaints in a low voice or sullen manner; grumbling; complaining”*

Complain is: “to utter expressions of resentment; to murmur; to find fault”*

I am sure that we all have been guilty of these two things at least at some point in our lives! Due to the sin nature of man, complaining and murmuring is a natural part of us. Paul, recognizing this, exhorted for followers of Christ to “Do all things without grumbling or disputing” (Philippians 2:14.) This is what we are to strive for . . . to do “all things” (including submitting) without grumbling or disputing.

Before we can overcome feelings such as these, though, we need to know the root cause of them. For how can we get rid of a noxious weed, without removing the root? It is the same with the negative attributes in our own lives. We need to discover the “root” of the problem so that we can work to remove it. 

So what is the root of a complaining and murmuring heart? It comes from selfishness, and in part, also a lack of trust in the Lord. Selfishness in that we are looking to satisfy our own wants and desires instead of following the exhortation in Philippians to “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;” (Philippians 2:3.) 

This chapter continues with the instruction to have the same attitude as did Christ who being God, humbled Himself to become a man even to the point of dying on the cross as "the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world." (1 John 2:2.) For He who knew no sin was made “to be sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21) that those who believe in Him might have “life in His name” (John 20:31.)

And we are to follow His example of humility; we are to “follow in His steps” (1 Peter 2:21.) We are to submit to our fathers (or husbands) in the same way that Christ submitted to the will of the Father. Cheerfully, willingly, completely and with readiness.

Another aspect that builds the foundation of a cheerful and non-murmuring heart is a resolute trust in the Lord. In His Word, God has given many promises, one of which is that:

“. . . 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)

It is with promises such as this that we can have joy in our circumstances; that we can respond with cheerfulness and love when submitting to our fathers (or husbands.) For the Lord is not a God who is far off, but a God who is near and who has promised to be our help and stronghold as we place our trust in Him. May each one of us rest on His promises relying on Him to give us the strength to submit cheerfully and willingly.

So the next time our fathers (or husbands) request or express their desire for something (such as the things mentioned in Part 3), let’s put a smile on our lips, a song of joy in our hearts, quick and willing hands ready to serve and bless, and a heart ready and willing to follow. Let us, as ladies striving to be obedient to the Lord, adorn ourselves with ornaments of great price that are precious to the Lord . . . let us adorn ourselves, as did the holy women of old, with the beautiful quality of submission.

In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. Your adornment must not be merely external – braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.” (1 Peter 3:1-6)

Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything . . .” (Ephesians 5:22-24)

*All definitions taken from Noah Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language

**I would like to mention again that this series is in no way complete as there are several aspects of this area of submission that I do not yet fully understand, but I hope and pray that what was shared here was a blessing to you!

-Posted by Sarah

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Few Verses from Psalms

"Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, on those who hope for His lovingkindness . . . Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and our shield. For our heart rejoices in Him, because we trust in His holy name . . ." Psalm 33:18, 20-21

"O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! . . . The LORD redeems the soul of His servants, and none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned." Psalm 34: 8 and 22

-Posted by Sarah

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

From the Archives . . . Submission - Part 2: What is it?

Through examining Scripture, we have already determined that submission is something that should be a part of a godly woman’s character. We have also seen who the submissive heart should be directed to . . . fathers if we are unmarried and husbands if we are married.

But what is submission?

The word “submit” as used in Scripture is taken from the Greek word “hupotasso” which means to subordinate; to obey. This word (and its derivatives) is used in reference to relationships such as:

--Believers in subjection to governmental authorities
--Believers in subjection to each other
--Believers in subjection to Christ and God the Father
--Children in subjection to their parents
--Young men to elders

And as used in this discussion:

--Women learning with all submissiveness
--Wives in subjection to husbands (which is also applicable to the daughter-father relationship as was seen in the earlier post on this topic.)

Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament furthers the definition of "submit" by defining it as: “to subject one’s self, to obey; to submit to one’s control; to yield to one’s admonition or advice . . . obey, be subject.”

All of these give a fairly good understanding of what submission is, but when looking up this word (and others similar to it) in Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language, I was blessed and convicted by several of the definitions. To summarize, submission is cheerfully yielding one’s will to the will and authority of another accompanied by humble and suppliant behavior without murmuring.

Yielding the Will

This is the heart of submission, a yielding of one’s will. Within that will are our desires, plans, ideas, likes, dislikes, goals and other such things. We have this idea that these things are ‘ours’, but we must remember, when we repented of our sins and gave ourselves over to Jesus Christ believing in His name, we surrendered all of our rights. We are not our own . . .

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

Because of the beautiful and incomprehensible purchase of ourselves by God through the precious blood of Jesus Christ, we have no rights for they have been relinquished. We are the Lord’s and are to give ourselves for His glory. That should be our heart’s longing and calling to bring glory to His name by living in obedience to Him. It is not our will that we are seeking to satisfy and follow, but the will of the Lord.

In 1 Peter, it is written “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps” (1 Peter 2:21). We have been called to follow Christ and the example that He set for us. When examining the life of Christ, the direction we are to follow is shown to be expressly clear when He declares:

For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” (John 6:38; there are similar verses in John 4:34 and 5:30)

Christ’s whole purpose was to do the will of the Father . . . and so should ours be. So the heart of submission is seen to be a surrendering of our will to do the will of the Father, and then in turn, surrendering it to those whom the Lord has placed in authority over us.

Once we recognize that we are not our own and we have no rights, submission to another comes much more easily. We are no longer fighting to satisfy our own wants and desires, but we are seeking something higher . . . to please the Lord and lovingly submit to and honor the man who is our head. And through submitting to and following the leadership of the men whom the Lord has placed in authority over us, we are in actuality submitting to the Lord.

Examples in Scripture - Esther

There are many practical examples that can be given to illustrate how submission is to be lived out in our lives, and Scripture gives just that. Through reading and studying the accounts of the women who have come before us, there is much that can be learned as Paul in writing to the Romans shares: “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction,” (Romans 14:4a).

An example of this very topic of discussion was found one morning a few weeks ago as I was reading in the book of Esther regarding Esther’s relationship with Mordecai, the man who had taken her in and raised her when her parents had died. Esther had just been taken captive and brought to King Ahasuerus’s harem, when the first indication of her heart in this area is shown:

Esther did not make known her people or her kindred, for Mordecai had instructed her that she should not make them known.” (Esther 2:10)

Here, it is seen that Esther was following the counsel and guidance of the man who was in authority over her. She did not question his direction, seek to circumvent it, nor to outright oppose it . . . she simply followed. Her heart of submission is even further expressed in verse 20 of the same chapter:

“. . . for Esther did what Mordecai told her as she had done when under his care.” (Esther 2:20)

Despite the frightening and difficult circumstances Esther found herself faced with, she continued to respect and submit to Mordecai just as she had when directly under his care. Her deeply founded heart of submission eventually brought her into the King’s court at the very real risk of her life. 

The circumstances that follow are well known—they are basically summarized with Mordecai’s wise instruction, followed by Esther’s submissive obedience.* And this is what brought about the preservation of the lives of many, many people as well as the Jews’ victory over their enemies.

Submission is truly a beautiful attribute of a godly woman . . . a beautiful attribute that we are commanded by God to adorn ourselves with. Much as we may wish it to be, it is not something that just happens instantly. It is grown by dying to self instance by instance and day by day. It is a continual submitting and yielding of the will and desires to our Lord, and then to our fathers or husbands. 

Having a submissive heart is not easy (in fact, it can be very difficult), but as we submit to and yield our will to those whom the Lord has placed as head over us, we will be pleasing in His sight. Remember, just as Christ submitted to the Father, so should we submit to our fathers or husbands . . . cheerfully, humbly, and with love. What joy it must bring to the Lord when women love Him and serve Him within the bounds and guidelines that He has established!

*It is important to note that Esther’s obedience to Mordecai’s instruction does not conflict with the headship or authority of her husband (this is for many reasons; for example, the king had not forbidden Esther from coming into his presence; also, through Esther's words to the king, we see that her heart was humble and submissive before him.)

-Posted by Sarah

Monday, November 9, 2009

From the Archives . . . Submission - Part 1: Why?

As I thought and prayed about what to study and write about next, the Lord kept impressing on my heart the area of submission. And not only that, but for me to also once again reexamine my own life and to seek to continue to grow in this area even more. With that thought in mind, I thought it might be beneficial to revisit a series of articles again (which were originally posted in November/December of last year) in hopes that they will be a blessing and encouragement as we seek to grow in obedience to the Lord by practicing godly submission . . .

In Scripture, there is a specific command given numerous times to women that is not often spoken of, and even less, lived out in the true meaning of the word in the Christian culture of today. Within this specific command, there is a great promise, and by obeying it, wonderful things can come forth. This command is for women to submit to the men whom the Lord has placed in authority and headship over them.

As mentioned, this attribute is spoken of several times in Scripture, but perhaps one of the most beautiful passages that teach it is in 1 Peter (another is found in Ephesians 5:22-33):

In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. Your adornment must not be merely external – braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.” (1 Peter 3:1-6; submission of the wives to their husbands is also taught in Colossians 3:18 and Titus 2:5)

While this passage is directed to wives, the application of it is just as true for us who are not married. In 1 Timothy 2:11-14, it is shown that submission is for all women:

A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived fell into transgression.” (1 Timothy 2:11-14)

In the book of Numbers, the authority and headship of both the husband over the wife and the father over his unmarried daughter are seen. The passage is rather lengthy so it will not be shared here, but I encourage you to read Numbers 30:3-15. 

These verses basically state that if a daughter or a wife makes a vow to the Lord, the vow can either be upheld or negated by the father or the husband; thus showing the authority of the man over the woman. (It is interesting to note, that no other relationship is mentioned in this passage save for the father/daughter and husband/wife relationships [the former being a direct precursor to the latter]).

1 Corinthians 11 illustrates the different roles that the Lord has distinctly established for men and women:

But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:3)

God has set in place an order of headship and authority of: God the head of Christ, Christ the head of man, and man the head of woman. Christ Himself submitted to the will of the Father; so should we, as women, submit to our head which is the man.

This order, of man as head over woman, was created at the beginning of time in the Garden of Eden: “Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper [or helpmeet] suitable for him.’” As we know, the account continues with Eve being fashioned from Adam’s rib—taken from the man and brought to the man as a helper. Not as a leader or a co-equal, but as someone who would aid Adam in his endeavors and the calling that the Lord had given to him.

The commands and order of headship (as well as the specific roles of men and women) established and given by God can be difficult for us to understand, and/or they may even be something that our heart rebels at, or perhaps, passively resists. 

There has been (and no doubt will continue to be!) much debating, discussion and argument against the scriptural teaching of submission . . . it is often said: “But it is cultural!”, “We are all supposed to submit to each other (Ephesians 5:21)”, “This is degrading to the woman!” 

Regardless, and despite the arguments against it, in His word, God has commanded woman (and not just once, but a multitude of times) to submit to the man that He has placed in authority and headship over her, and we are to obey Him. If we choose not to obey, regardless of our argument, we are walking contrary to the very commands of God and by that disobedience, are indicating a lack of love for Him. 1 John 5:3 states:

For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3)

And again in the book of John:

If you love Me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15)

(Note, this does not indicate that we must be perfect in order to love the Lord; the Greek word used for ‘keep’ in the above verses is tereo which means: to guard, to hold fast, to attend to carefully, to observe, etc.; none of which indicate perfection in obedience.)

As women who love the Lord and desire to be obedient to Him, we should be striving to be submissive to those who are in authority over us; namely our fathers if we are unmarried, or our husbands if we are married. For this is pleasing to God and brings Him glory as we seek to follow His commands to have hearts adorned with the beautiful quality of submission.

Coming soon . . . Submission – Part 2: What is it?

This topic of submission is one that is so very broad and deep . . . and it is an area that I am continually learning more about and seeking to develop more in my own life. I have striven to (and continue to!) develop a scriptural understanding of submission, but being a young, unmarried woman, my experience in this area of submission is relatively small, and is not without the potential for misunderstanding and misapplication. With that, I would like to ask those of you who are older, if the Lord should lead, for you to share your understanding of this vital area. Much can be gleaned from the experience and wisdom of you older women!

Also, as an unmarried woman, the focus of this writing is for women in general and not specifically to wives, thus many passages such as Ephesians 5:22-33 will not be specifically expounded upon, but I encourage each one of you to read and examine this passage and others similar to it. And as this area of submission is so vast, what will be shared in this small series will in no way be complete, but my hope and prayer is that it will stir thought and convict the heart to scripturally examine this area of submission.

-Posted by Sarah

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Few Verses to Share . . .

When reading my Bible yesterday morning, a couple of verses stood out to me and spoke to my heart. These are some of my favorite verses and no matter how many times I read them, they never cease to convict me!

"Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect" (Romans 12:1-2.)

May each and every one of us truly seek to present ourselves fully and completely to the Lord as a living and holy sacrifice to Him! And may we seek to not be conformed to this world, but to set our hearts and minds on the things above, walking in His ways and for His glory.

-Posted by Sarah

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"A Charge to Keep I Have"

At a thrift store recently, we came across a hymnal that was published in the 1920's. In it we found many beautiful, old hymns that we had never before heard of, and I hope to share some of these songs over the coming months. 

The one below is one that had a portion of it quoted in a book that I had read, and I had hoped to find the rest of the words and the music to it someday. How surprised and happy I was to find it in the hymnal! The words were convicting as well as encouraging to my heart, and I hope that they are a blessing to you as well . . .

A Charge to Keep I Have

A charge to keep I have,
A God to glorify,
Who gave His Son my soul to save,
And fit it for the sky.

To serve the present age,
My calling to fulfill,
O may it all my pow'rs engage
To do my Master's will.

Arm me with jealous care,
As in Thy sight to live,
And O Thy servant, Lord prepare
A strict account to give.

Help me to watch and pray,
And on Thy grace rely,
Assured Thou'lt not my trust betray,
Nor shall I ever die.

Written by: Charles Wesley

-Posted by Sarah

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Forbearance in Love

This is an area that the Lord has been impressing on my heart as of late which led to examining forbearance more closely. There are so many little things that can arise to negatively provoke us on a daily basis . . . comments made, instances that occur, someone interrupting or ignoring us, slights made against us (whether real or perceived) and the list goes on. 

There are also more significant issues that are true trials and dark valleys to undergo. And all of these can be met with frustration, anger, or hurt; or, they can be responded to with forbearance.

The more I studied ‘forbearance’, the more I discovered the beauty and great blessing of this attribute. As well as the humility that must be in place in order to cultivate it in one’s heart, and the love from the Father that must be burning strong in our hearts to be able to have it become a part of who we are.

Forbearance (translated from the Greek word anecho) is not often directly spoken of in Scripture, but the few passages that do speak of it are powerful. One of these is found in Ephesians 4 . . .

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance [anecho—forbearance] for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3.)

Several important points can be gleaned in this passage. One is that showing forbearance, having it as the attitude of our heart, is to walk in a manner that is worthy of our calling, a manner that is pleasing to the Lord. We can understand then, that if the opposite of forbearance is expressed, it would be displeasing to the Lord, and not worthy of the glorious calling that He has given to us.

But what does the Greek word anecho mean specifically? According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, it has the meaning of “To hold oneself up against, i.e. put up with: - bear with, endure, forbear, suffer.” 

Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language defines ‘forbearance’ as: “The exercise of patience; long suffering; indulgence towards those who injure us; lenity; delay of resentment or punishment.” And lenity is defined as “mildness of temper; softness; tenderness; mercy.”

How convicting are these definitions! When cutting remarks are made to us; when insensitive or unkind words are spoken; when we are ignored; when we receive ill-treatment; when hurtful things are done to us; how should we respond? With patience, long-suffering, tenderness, and mercy. What a beautiful response this would be! A response that would bring glory to the Lord and would be worthy of the calling He has given us! 

Yet how often does such a response spring in our hearts? Our natural man would respond in anger, frustration, bitterness, self-pity, or other similar things. Yet these can be conquered through the power of the Holy Spirit. God, through Christ, has given us the ability to have victory over sin and to walk in obedience to Him. 

But to have this victory, we must submit our hearts to Him and “do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness of God” (Romans 6:13.) As we submit our hearts to the Holy Spirit’s leading, He will guide us and direct us; He will be our strength to have victory over sin.

There is another passage in Scripture that gives a similar exhortation to what was found in Ephesians 4 about forbearance . . .

So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with [anecho] one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity” (Colossians 3:12-14.)

In this verse, we find that forgiveness is closely linked with forbearance. For how could one truly express forbearance from the heart if feelings of ill-will, anger, bitterness or the like remain in one's heart toward the other? While outward actions may persist for a time, eventually the true heart of a person will shine forth. 

One may be able to have the appearance of patient endurance, of forbearing in love, for a time, but if the heart is not in line with these, eventually failure will come and the true heart will be shown. We cannot practice something that is first not a part of who we are, that is not an outpouring of what our heart is. For “out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34). 

What is in our hearts will be expressed in our actions, our words and our attitudes. Even if we give the appearance of forbearing without it first being established in our heart, it will have an emptiness and lack of authenticity that can often be felt or noticed by others; and more importantly, such superficial forbearance is not pleasing in the eyes of the Lord.

Genuine forbearance, however, must first have taken root in the heart, before it can be expressed in our lives to others. But how would this forbearance spring up in our hearts? How do we cultivate it and make it a part of who we are? 

If we go back to the verse from Ephesians, we find that the forbearance is to be “in love.” Love must be the causing factor of forbearance. If true, Christ-like love is what is in our hearts towards others, then there will be fertile ground for forbearance to grow. And as we find in 1 Corinthians 13, “love bears all things . . . endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7).

In the book of 1 John, we find some wonderful and convicting words of encouragement about godly and true love. We find that this love is from God, it has no other source (1 John 7-8, 16); because God so loved us, we are to love one another (1 John 4:11); when we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us (1 John 4:12); we know that He abides in us because He has given us of His Spirit (1 John 4:13)

We know that by abiding in love, we abide in God, and God abides in us (1 John 4:16); through the abiding, love is perfected with us (1 John 4:17); we love, because He first loved us (1 John 4:19); and “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also” (1 John 4:20-21).

Love, true love from God, will arise in our hearts as we abide in Christ. And through that love, forbearance will grow and bear fruit as well. The source for both is Christ, and He will not disappoint or fail to provide the strength and means to do these things. 

So let us abide . . . let us abide in Christ, letting His love grow in our hearts. Let us seek to love even the most difficult of the ones around us. Let us set our minds on higher things, the things of the Lord and pleasing Him, instead of ourselves. Let us strive after and earnestly long for having a forbearance and a love that “endures all things.”

-Posted by Sarah

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Am I a soldier of the cross?

We sang this hymn a few Sundays ago, and the words are both powerful and convicting. It is so often easy to miss opportunities to speak of and boldly stand up for Christ and His Truth with those that we come in contact with. One of the last lines of the song stood out to me particularly . . . "Increase my courage, Lord. I'll bear the toil, endure the pain, supported by Thy Word." What a stirring prayer that is! And God will give us all the strength necessary to stand firmly when we place our trust in Him.

Am I a soldier of the cross? 
A follower of the Lamb? 
And shall I fear to own His cause, 
Or blush to speak His Name? 

Must I be carried to the skies 
On flowery beds of ease, 
While others fought to win the prize, 
And sailed through bloody seas? 

Are there no foes for me to face? 
Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend to grace, 
To help me on to God? 

Sure I must fight if I would reign; 
Increase my courage, Lord.
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain, 
Supported by Thy Word.
-Isaac Watts

-Posted by Leah 

Photo by : Bruno Monginoux www.Landscape-Photo.net

Monday, August 3, 2009

A Precious Promise

"If I take up the wings of the dawn,
if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will lay hold of me."

"If I say, 'Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,
And the light around me will be night,'
Even the darkness is not dark to You,
And the night is as bright as the day . . . "

Psalm 139:9-12

-Posted by Leah

Photos by : Bruno Monginoux

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

His Faithfulness . . .

The below hymn was sung this past Sunday, and the truths that are spoken in it were a blessing to me . . . no matter what circumstances lie around us, no matter how turbulent the times we live, the Lord is indeed faithful. He does not change, nor do the promises that He has made to us in His word fail to hold true. His faithfulness, His truthfulness, and His lovingkindness to us always will remain . . .

Great is Thy Faithfulness

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father!
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not;
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see:
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided - 
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see:
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided - 
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see:
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided - 
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

"Your lovingkindness, O LORD, extends to the heavens, Your faithfulness reaches to the skies. Your righteousness is like the mountains of God; Your judgments are like a great deep. O LORD, You preserve man and beast. How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings . . ." Psalm 36:5-7

-Posted by Sarah

Friday, June 26, 2009

Taking Our Thoughts Captive

As believers in Christ, there are many aspects of ourselves that we are to seek to ‘train’ in righteousness with the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit and the word of God. Aspects such as the words of our tongue, the actions of our hands, and the attitude of our hearts. Exhortation is also given in Scripture on several occasions regarding ones’ thoughts.

Thoughts are powerful things and can often shape, alter, or add to who we are as a person. Some thoughts may never be expressed verbally or in action—they may be something that no other person knows as they can be deeply hidden . . . yet the Lord knows each and every one of our thoughts. 

As the Psalmist declared: “O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down. And are intimately acquainted with all my ways” (Psalm 139:1-3). 

How very true this is! There is nothing about us that is hidden from the Lord . . . He is all-knowing, and He “searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts” (1 Chronicles 28:9).

Each and every day we have a great many thoughts, and the Lord knows each one of them; and these thoughts can either be ones that are pleasing to Him or displeasing to Him. As believers in Christ, it is our responsibility to follow the command to “examine everything” (1 Thessalonians 5:21) to find which of these areas our thoughts fall into. 

Is it a thought that is in accordance with Scripture? Is it contrary to it? Or is it a ‘neutral’ thought? Is it a thought that is in harmony with the fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23)? Or is it a thought that is borne from our sinful and fleshly nature?

As the apostle Paul shared in 2 Corinthians: “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,” (2 Corinthians 10:5). This verse is perhaps one of the most powerful and convicting verses in Scripture in regards to ones’ thoughts, as it leaves no exceptions . . . every thought is being brought captive into obedience to the Lord. 

But, what does it mean to “take captive”? Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language states that ‘captive’ is to “take prisoner; to bring into subjection.” When something is taken captive, it is captured and is at the command and sway of whomever has captured it. Here in this verse, Paul is sharing what he and others are doing, which we should also do ourselves (1 Corinthians 11:1), and that is to strive, with the Lord’s help, to take captive all of our thoughts in obedience to Christ.

This is not an easy thing to do! It seems that thoughts can regularly pop into our minds and we wonder where they could have come from; or, the thoughts may arise from a condition of our hearts (whether they are angry thoughts, impatient ones, etc.). This is why the ‘taking captive’ is spoken of in the present tense as it is something that we must regularly do with all of our thoughts. It is not a one time occurrence, but is to be a continual part of our lives.

Practically speaking, though, how do we do this? Several things come to mind which include: prayer; commitment; reading, studying and applying the word of God to our lives; and seeking to fill and occupy our minds with those things that are pleasing to the Lord. The latter, working in conjunction with the others mentioned, can have a profound impact. 

We must train our minds in how and what to think, and we must put forth effort to transfer our thoughts to the things of heaven as opposed to that which is worldly. As it states in Colossians: “Therefore since you have been raised with Christ, keeping seeking the things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above and not on the things that are on earth for you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:1-2). 

If our minds are set and fixed on the things above, where will ungodly thoughts have a place? Where will they be able to find a stronghold in our life? Again, this “setting our minds” is not a one time occurrence, but it should be a continual practice in our lives. Just as a person cannot run a marathon without training, neither can we set our minds on the things above without training. And in order to run a marathon, consistent practice, work, and time must be given to reach the end goal. This is the same with us with any aspect of our walk with Christ.

A verse in Philippians specifically addresses what types of things we should be thinking about . . .

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” Philippians 4:8

The definitions in Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible of some of the words in Philippians 4:8 help us to gain a better understanding of what is being spoken in this verse . . .

Honorable (semnos) - reverend i.e. venerable, spec. serious

Right (dikaios) - correct, righteous [right with God], by impl. innocent

Pure (hagnos) - free from ceremonial defilement, holy, sacred

Lovely (prosphiles) - pleasing, agreeable

Good repute (euphemos) - well reported of

And in addition to these, anything that is true, of excellence and is worthy of praise.

These are the types of thoughts that as believers in Christ we should seek to dwell upon. These are the types of thoughts that please the Lord; and these are the types of thoughts that if our minds are filled with them, will leave no room for thoughts that are contrary to the word of God.

Ultimately, one of the most important reasons for seeking to set our minds on the things above, to dwell upon those things mentioned in Philippians 4:8, to guard our minds, and to bring our thoughts into subjection to Christ is because of our love for the Lord. 

Several times in Scripture it is said that obedience to Christ will be a result of our love for Him . . . “if you love Me you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15; see also 1 John 5:3). And the first and greatest commandment is this: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind’” (Matthew 22:37). 

Out of love for the Lord and of a desire to please our Father, may each one of us strive to, like Paul, bring “every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” Ephesians 4:22-24

-Posted by Sarah

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A Quote to Share

When reading a book the other evening, I came across the words from a hymn that were quoted in one of the chapters. This was not the first time that I had read these words, yet they still caused me to pause and consider them. They touched my heart and gave encouragement that the trials and affliction that the Lord allows into our lives can indeed work to draw one closer to Him and help one to grow in His ways. I hope that this verse blesses your heart as much as it did mine!

God in Israel sows the seeds
Of affliction, pain, and toil: 
These spring up, and choke the weeds 
Which would else o'erspread the soil: 
Trials make the promise sweet; 
Trials give new life to prayer; 
Trials bring me to his feet, 
Lay me low, and keep me there.

Words by: William Cowper

-Posted by Sarah

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Discretion – An Attribute of Godly Womanhood

As a ring of gold in a swine’s snout so is a beautiful woman who lacks discretion.” Proverbs 11:22

This verse from Proverbs is one of many in Scripture that speak directly to or about women. And in this particular verse, there is a contrast presented between outward beauty and the inward beauty of godly character. 

While physical beauty is what is applauded and sought for by the world today, in the scope of what is true and genuine, it really has no value. Another verse in Proverbs stresses this point greatly:

Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised” (Proverbs 31:30).

According to Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language, ‘vain’ means “empty, worthless; having no substance, value or importance.” And this is the word that is applied to physical beauty . . . it is indeed vain. 

But a woman who fears the Lord and one who is adorned with virtue and godly character, including this discretion, shines with an inward beauty that comes from but one source . . . her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

A physically beautiful woman, however, is likened to a ring of gold in a pig’s snout if she lacks the virtue of discretion. Would the ring of gold stand out as a beautiful object on the swine? As it is dragged through the mud while the pigs wallow, does it shine forth beauty? The answer is, no. This ring of gold is not pleasing and brings no beauty to the pigs . . . and such is a beautiful woman who lacks discretion.

If we look further into this word discretion, we find that the Hebrew word for it, according to The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, simply means “judgment, discretion, discernment.” While judgment is a word that is familiar to most, the words discretion and discernment are not as well-known, nor as well-understood. 

The defining of these words also brings a much deeper and proper understanding to the more common word of judgment. Once again utilizing Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language, we find that discretion and discernment have deep implications . . .

Discernment: The act of discerning; also the power or faculty of the mind, by which it distinguishes one thing from another, as truth from falsehood, virtue from vice; acuteness of judgment; power of perceiving differences of things or ideas, and their relations and tendencies.

Discretion is: Prudence, or knowledge and prudence; that discernment which enables a person to judge critically of what is correct and proper, united with caution; nice discernment and judgment, directed by circumspection, and primarily regarding one’s own conduct.

And since discretion is defined, in part, by the word prudence, we also may benefit from examining that definition also:

Prudence: implies caution in deliberating and consulting on the most suitable means to accomplish valuable purposes, and the exercise of sagacity [quickness or acuteness of discernment] in discerning and selecting them. Prudence differs from wisdom in this, that prudence implies more caution and reserve than wisdom, or is exercised more in foreseeing and avoiding evil, than in devising and executing that which is good. It is sometimes mere caution or circumspection.

Both definitions of discretion and prudence use the word circumspection which means: “Caution; attention to all the facts and circumstances of a case, and to the natural or probable consequences of a measure, with a view to the correct course of conduct or to avoid danger.”

When reading these definitions that aid in defining godly womanhood, we see that there is much wisdom and knowledge involved with them. It is examining situations and ideas to determine truth from error. It is seeing and determining right from wrong. It is judging one’s own actions and words to see if they are according to God’s Word. 

It is not ‘jumping in with both feet’ so to speak, but approaching issues, decisions, and other such things with caution accompanied with “wisdom from above” (James 3:17). And this caution and wisdom is not in human strength, feelings or emotions, or ideas, but must be founded fully and completely upon the word of God to truly be classified as discretion.

Discretion, as with any other godly attribute, comes from the Lord. It is through His working in our lives by the power of the Holy Spirit that discretion can be learned and attained. The Psalmist expressed this truth well when he cried to the Lord entreating Him to “Teach me good discernment and knowledge, for I believe in Your commandments” (Psalm 119:66; the word 'discernment' in this verse is translated from the same Hebrew word from which discretion is translated in Proverbs 11:22).

We see that discretion finds its origin in the Lord . . . it is given by the Lord to those who seek Him. And He has promised “Seek, and you shall find” (Matthew 7:7). Discretion (or discernment) is also learned through the study and application of Scripture, which is God’s word to man. The writer of the book of Hebrews shares a powerful truth while giving a rebuke to those he was writing to:

Concerning him [referring to Christ] we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” Hebrews 5:11-14

What convicting truths are found in these verses! One phrase that particularly stood out to me was “not accustomed to the word of righteousness.” Are we accustomed to, familiar with, and knowledgeable about “the word of righteousness,” God’s word to us? 

Are we practicing God’s word in our lives, practicing His truths, so that our senses are indeed “trained to discern good and evil”? Or are we choosing to remain infants partaking only of milk and not seeking to grow and mature in faith?

It is only through “the word of righteousness” and through the Lord’s working on our hearts as we seek Him, that true discretion will be borne in our hearts and lives as we mature in faith. Discretion is indeed a precious and important attribute for women to spiritually adorn themselves with. 

May each one of us truly take to heart the truths and admonition found in Proverbs 11:22: “As a ring of gold in a swine’s snout so is a beautiful woman who lacks discretion” . . . and may we seek after a true and lasting inward beauty which is not only pleasing to the Lord, but brings glory to Him.

-Posted by Sarah

Friday, May 1, 2009

Fellowship with the Lord

In the last little while, the Lord seems to keep drawing my heart and mind back to a particular area in my walk with Him. Whether it is through songs sung, verses read, or things that others share, this thought, this area, keeps coming to the forefront. 

This area is directly linked with the earlier post on complacency, and it has to do with one’s relationship with the Lord.

As I was reading in 1 John awhile back, a verse that was read caused me to pause and examine it more closely:

Indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son, Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3b).

When looking up the word ‘fellowship’ in our concordance, it was found that it is translated from the Greek word ‘koinonia.’ Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary defines ‘koinonia’ as “communion, fellowship, sharing in common.” 

Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language defines the word ‘fellowship’ as “communion, intimate familiarity.” 

Both definitions use the word ‘communion’ in them . . . this word is better understood by looking at some of its synonyms which include unity and spiritual union. The defining words of “intimate familiarity,” as used by Noah Webster’s dictionary, indicate a very close and deep relationship from the inmost part of ones’ being.

With these definitions, we see that the very word ‘fellowship’ bespeaks relationship; but not just any kind of relationship. Fellowship is deeper than knowledge and richer than acquaintance. It is the very heart (or spirit) of the person in communion with another . . . and in this case, it is with the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.

While not directly related to what is being shared here (believers in Christ growing in their fellowship with the Lord), principles that clearly apply can be found as we look further in 1 John chapter one. In verses 6-7, we find that fellowship has a relation to our walk with Christ. 

It is stated: “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:6-7).

In verse six, we see that walking in darkness would mean one not having fellowship with the Lord. Verse seven contrasts this by saying “but if we walk in the Light . . .” (1 John 1:7). As believers in Christ, we “are Light in the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8) and are exhorted to “walk as children of Light” (Ephesians 5:8). 

And as we walk in the Light, this increases a believer’s fellowship with the Lord. As we grow in Him, seek to love Him more, seek to submit to Him, and come to know Him more and more through study of Scripture and prayer, the fellowship cannot help but to increase, broaden, and deepen. 

The life of a follower of Christ is indeed a journey. We embark on it as infants with just the beginnings of knowing and having this close relationship of fellowship with Christ. With time, study and prayer, combined with a heart that is seeking to submit to the Lord and to grow in Christ, maturation will come through the working of the Holy Spirit. And with this maturation, comes a deepening in this fellowship, this intimate familiarity, with the Lord.

A true and increasing fellowship with the Lord is not something that can come by living in apathy or complacency. It is the same as with any other relationship . . . it takes effort, time and commitment on our part. It is a relationship that grows and develops by walking closely with the Lord; by walking in the Light; by practicing His truth; by drawing close to Him in prayer; by studying and meditating upon His Word; by applying His Word to our lives.

When thinking of this fellowship, thoughts come to mind as to how this fellowship would be in part expressed: When difficulties arise, we run to the Lord in prayer seeking His guidance. When trials enter in, we first go to His word for His wisdom and counsel. In heart-rending or trying circumstances, we trust in the all-knowing and loving God. 

When blessings come, our hearts immediately lift in praise and thanksgiving to the One from Whom those blessings flow. When questions and doubts stir in our minds, we turn to the Lord for true answers and for His strength. 

Intimate fellowship with Christ such as this grows from the heart of one who has their mind “set on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2); from a heart that is tuned to ‘hear’ the Holy Spirit’s guidance and direction. From one whose life is consecrated to God seeking to know Him more, seeking to follow where He leads, and seeking, because of their love for Him, to grow in obedience to Him (John 14:15).

God is near . . . always near and ready to teach, guide and direct us in His ways. He is near to comfort and to give us strength. He is near to bestow upon us the richness of His love, kindness and wisdom. He is there for us to have this true fellowship with Him as we seek His face.

May each and every one of us earnestly desire and seek after growing in this true, abiding and lasting fellowship with the most holy God, the One who has bought and redeemed us through the blood of the Lamb. What joy and blessing can come through having such an intimate and close relationship with the Lord!

-Posted by Sarah