Thursday, April 30, 2015

A Woman of the World and a Woman of the Word: A Heart Transformation

“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26

In Christ, the deceitful phrases “we are who we are” or “people don’t change” hold no power over us. With the Holy Spirit as our teacher and counselor, it is possible to have a heart change, and be transformed from our old self, values and thought patterns into a renewed person with kingdom values. To be committed to a true heart change we have to search the word of God, listen to his still voice and be willing to let go of many false, tightly held ideas. We have to be committed to hard work, and have a willing and teachable heart. For women who are soaked in the word of God, heart change is evident. They have let go of self, and seek to serve and live in submission to Christ. With God’s help, we can have the adornment of a soft and quiet spirit. We can be full of the ‘good fruits’ of the Word.

“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” James 3:17

For women it can be tempting to walk the popular, accepted way. The popular way looks (falsely so) ‘more fun’, ‘less burdensome’, and requires a lot less giving up of self. There is fun in focusing on ourselves and having the calendar booked up with appointments, hair, nails, social activities, fun things, nights out, spending the money made. But where does this all lead? What is the end of the path? The end of the path is….self. And self leads to nowhere. It is a dead end. (there is nothing wrong with taking care of ourselves reasonably and healthily so that we can be healthy and whole to take care of others, the problem lies in that the main and consuming focus is on self.) Or in buying the world’s lie that we need to ‘have it all’ to really be worthy or that child rearing is menial work best left to others we hire. If we live by the world’s standards, our roots are shallow and will not last, because this world and all it’s false wisdom, ideas and thoughts will pass away. For a woman of the world, the next promotion, bonus, phase of life, bigger house, bigger car, or beauty appointment may be an accomplishment or something to look forward too, but these things are not rooted in truth. It doesn't look bad on the outside, in fact this life looks happy and successful, like something we should all work to attain. What is wrong with it? The world is the master and the god. A heart focused on self becomes prideful and puffed up, hardened by it’s own ways. It becomes a ‘stony heart of flesh.’

“And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” 1 John 2:17

Paul (then known as Saul) was one of the worst persecutors of Christians before he met Christ. He was even present at Stephen’s stoning. He truly believed that Christianity was dangerous to Judaism and probably thought he had a sincere heart. When he met Christ, God showed him his ideals were misguided and couldn't be more wrong. Christ revealed to Paul his own stony heart of flesh, even blinded Paul for three days--- without Christ, Paul was living blindly. After he came to know Christ, all the good qualities about Paul, including his intensity, were used for God’s kingdom. He now had a ‘new heart of flesh’ to see clearly and live a holy life for God. Many times as women we are like Paul. The world’s values we have adopted seem like the ones to follow. We have what we think is a sincere heart yet we are truly blind. We need Christ to open our eyes like he did Paul’s, and show us how to live. God will take our good qualities, and renew and refine us to live for Him. First, we must come to God with a willingness to be transformed. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” Psalm 51:17

A woman of the word is one who lives her life by God’s standards, he is the Master and only One she serves. She is soaked in the word, not in the world, and lives it out consistently whether it is popular or not. Her life is not wrapped up in her activities her social gatherings, new clothes or beauty treatments, but in Jesus, where her identity lies. As she lives for Him, follows Him, lays herself down at his feet, she is following the One who will never pass away. She is living for eternity. She is settled in spirit, because she abides in Christ, and does not worry that all the world offers that is passing by is anything she is missing.

Her life is not frantic and chaotic, but resting at the feet of the One who matters. She takes time to read the word, and then live it and allow it’s eternal truths to transform her. She can see others for who they are in Him, and treat them as His children. They are not to be used for her gain or promotion, but to love and serve. Self is not a god in the heart of a woman of the word. Her heart is softened by coming to a true understanding of the love of Christ, not puffed up or prideful. She can only boast of what Christ has done in her, for it is His power residing in her and apart from Him she can bear no fruit of lasting worth. She recognizes the worlds subtle lies for what they are, and they hold no value to her. She doesn't cling to the world, but to the word of God which is her hope and life, which will never pass away. God has given her a new heart and a new spirit. She lives and invests in that which is lasting, the Kingdom of God.

Prayer: “Lord, I want to be a woman of God with a soft and quiet heart to listen and be changed. Renew my heart and mind by revealing the half truths I have believed and replacing them with your pure and holy truth. Then give me the strength of character and a willingness to let go of old habits to be a doer of the word and enable me to put what I have learned into action. Amen”

“...likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire,  but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.” 1 Timothy 2:9-10

“And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Matthew 22:37

“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” James 4:8

“A godly woman is beyond average because she keeps her word. She honors her vows. She exhibits great faith. She overcomes great obstacles. And she affects her family, her community, even the world.” -Elizabeth George

Mothering in a Pop Culture Society

“Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.” 2 Timothy 2:21

Keeping up with pop culture is time consuming. TV shows, magazines, celebrity gossip, the latest celebrity “news” every day is big business in America. Pop culture can easily become a sort of “idol” to keep up with that adds to our busyness and unsettled hearts. It can distract us and cause our feet to slip off the path of God’s ways.

For tired, busy mothers of young children, escaping into the mindless pop culture can be a relief or coping mechanism. When we fix our minds and hearts on fleeting things of culture, things that will change tomorrow--- we are chasing after the wind. Dissatisfaction and thinking that the ideals of culture will satisfy us can easily begin to take root. Something that seems ‘harmless’ begins to seep in and steal the peace of God from us. Watching our favorite shows or movies isn’t harmful in itself. It starts to become harmful when a bulk of time is ‘wasted’ on keeping up and it causes a neglect of focusing on God’s ways. Focusing on ‘gossip’ about others and trying to keep up with the latest fads and trends, distracts the woman of God from her true mission.  “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” John 10:10

As mothers, fixing our eyes on God’s purposes, spending our time learning His ways and listening to Him, and teaching our children about God leads to the rich and satisfying life of living in His presence. God isn’t fleeting or changing and tomorrow will not be a race to keep up with Him. He won’t make us feel dissatisfaction if we fail to comb our hair, dress in the best trends, or own the latest and greatest of everything. Mother’s are God’s children, and he gives us no command to stress about keeping up with the culture around us. He wants us to keep up with our children, with molding and shaping their hearts, imparting His love and wisdom to them so that we are investing in the Kingdom of God every day.

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Philippians 4:8

When our minds and hearts become focused on gossip and untruth, we become restless and influenced away from God. No longer are we satisfied with what God has provided and the mission he’s put in front of us. Our contentment levels drop and we begin to seek happiness and entertainment as our primary goal. The enemy would like to distract mother’s from their greatest work---raising children for God’s Kingdom, and he will do it in the smallest and most subtle of ways, tricking us into thinking they are harmless.  “Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not.” 1 Timothy 5:13

We can make wise choices about what media we do consume as mothers and then choose to let the rest go. As women of the word, not women of the world, we are living in the freedom of Christ, clothed in his righteousness. We are not slaves to keep up with pop culture, gossip, or anything we are told is worthy of distracting us from our most important work. We can spend our time on things worthy and admirable, walking with Christ, and doing His work. We don’t live in fear of falling behind or keeping up with a culture that does not follow God’s ways and will lead to unfruitfulness. We can abide in Jesus everyday, knowing He will not leave us behind. We can only bear fruit as we abide in Him and commit wholeheartedly to the way of the Lord.

Prayer: “Lord, guard my heart and mind against distractions from the holy work you’ve given me. Give me sharp and discerning eyes to see what I do not need to partake of. Guard me and keep me so my feet do not slip off of your path. Amen.”

“Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.” John 15:4

“...and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you…” 1 Thessalonians 4:11

“The simple believes everything,
   but the prudent gives thought to his steps.” Proverbs 14:15

“Your life is short, your duties many, your assistance great, and your reward sure; therefore faint not, hold on and hold up, in ways of well-doing, and heaven shall make amends for all.” -Thomas Brooks

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Wilderness

“The fining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold: but the Lord trieth the hearts.” Proverbs 17:3

When things are easy and ‘smooth sailing’ in life, we tend to coast through.  Our supposed comfort fools us into thinking there is no need to focus on the purifying work of God in our lives, or removing that which stands in the way of a deeper relationship with Him. God uses our trials to refine our faith, show us His way of life, and desires that we walk with Him through our wilderness. If we genuinely turn our hearts back from mans way to God’s way, we will find meaning and purpose in even the deepest pain.

Seeking God will eventually lead to a life transformation. If we have clung to our own ways, which keep us in bondage, and we turn from them to study God’s word, and commit to removing from our lives that which God asks us to, His transforming peace changes our minds and hearts. Building a close relationship with God as we walk through our trials is not something unattainable. Making a point to spend time in God’s word daily: studying and yet reading it as a living word, a living instruction guide to His children. God’s word is living and active, and He sees the “humble and contrite heart” that seeks Him.  “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” Psalm 51:17

The humble and contrite heart, one that is repentant for seeking one’s own way and has turned his heart to Jesus, is willing to be transformed and changed by God, and willing to give up his own way and now turn to God’s way. A heart that is prideful and not aware of it’s own desperate need for God is not a heart ready to truly accept the changes God will bring. Sometimes we accept Jesus as savior of the world in head knowledge, yet the transforming work that we should accept being done in our lives is fought tooth and nail. Most of the time we do not want to give up old habits, ways of thinking and to simply be seen as different than most people. We are afraid to not be popular. Are we the same as we were before we accepted Christ and understood His sacrifice? Then we have not accepted the transforming work of God in our lives and applied ourselves with diligence and a humble, teachable heart.  “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Romans 12:2

Joseph, being sold into slavery by his own brothers, then thrown into jail, walked through a wilderness of his own. Certainly as a human being he felt doubt, sorrow, and abandonment. Yet, his heart remained faithful and trusting in God. Even in jail, Joseph trusted God and did his best with even the smallest tasks given to him. “The Lord was with him, making everything run smoothly and successfully.” Genesis 39:23  Joseph’s faithfulness eventually led him to favor with Pharaoh, put in charge of the entire land of Egypt, even preventing famine in his land because of his wisdom and humble heart that listened to God. “For he is a man that is obviously filled with the spirit of God.” Genesis 41:38  Joseph’s heart for God, his willingness to not give in to bitterness, spite and depression, resulted in God’s blessing and peace as he walked through his own personal trials. “For he said, God has made me fruitful in this land of my suffering.” Genesis 41:52

Hannah, in deep anguish, walked in her wilderness of childlessness and pain. Determined not to lose hope for a child, “Hannah was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the Lord.” 1 Samuel 1:10  She took her pain to the Lord, instead of becoming angry and resentful or even hopeless. She turned not to her own way, but to God’s way. God heard her humble and contrite heart. “For I have been praying out of great anguish and sorrow.” 1 Samuel 1:16 God blessed Hannah with her son Samuel, and she took her gratitude to God. “My heart rejoices in the Lord! Oh how the Lord has blessed me! Now I have an answer for my enemies, as I delight in your deliverance.” 1 Samuel 2:1

When we turn our heart to God in our trials, our desperation's, our sorrows and brokenness, He is there.  We must have faith and trust in God’s character and not let bitterness, envy, or anger take root in our hearts. We can trust His work even in the deepest pain, that He is not abandoning us but refining us to grow closer to Him, and grow more like Jesus. God loves His children and wants what is best for them, not in material wealth but in soul health. God refines and purifies us to accomplish His purpose in us.

Prayer: “Lord, guide me through my heartache, pain and the testing of my faith through the fire. Refine me and guide me, show my heart how to only walk in your ways. Remove from my life bad habits, patterns of thought and obstacles to seeing you and walking with you. Amen.”

“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials,  so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:6-7

“Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.” Isaiah 48:10

“If I walk with the world, I can't walk with God.” D.L. Moody

“If we are full of pride and conceit and ambition and self-seeking and pleasure
and the world, there is no room for the Spirit of God, and I believe many a
man is praying to God to fill him when he is full already with something else.” D.L. Moody