Thursday, May 28, 2015

Softening the Stony Heart

“They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.” Ephesians 4:18

Darkened to the work of motherhood and the value of children in God’s eyes, our culture is alienated from the life of God because of ignorance and hard hearts. Self sacrifice, the pouring out of one life for another is not what the culture wants to hear or participate in. Many women are taught
from a young age to pursue a path that does not include children or serving others, one that is mostly working towards their own goals. We don’t stop to think about God’s plan from the perspective of living out biblical truths. Children are seen as a roadblock to our goals, to life’s accomplishments and materialism. We’d rather have a life full of vacations, material goods, and a life of relative ease than have to lay ourselves down for the family life, which is the building of God’s kingdom.

Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.” 1 Timothy 2:15

We are saved---sealed for eternal life by accepting Jesus as our Savior. We are also saved by God from this world’s shallowness when we follow His plan and walk in His ways. After we have a child, (if we continue walking closely with God) God wants to grow us in our faith, love, holiness, and self control. In this way we are kept safe and set apart for God. God keeps us from the dangers of materialism, putting a career above our family, and from many temptations that would be thrown at us by refining us in motherhood, and giving us a “kingdom” of our own to build for God, our home and family.

“All your children shall be taught by the Lord,  and great shall be the peace of your children.” Isaiah 54:13

As mothers, there can be many corners of our hearts that are ‘stony.’ Whether from past hurts, wrong beliefs and ideas that are deeply entrenched in our ways of thought, or simply selfish desires and a stubborn heart that fights giving so much of ourselves. For all our children to be taught by the Lord and have great peace, we also must be taught by the Lord and carry His peace in our hearts, into our mothering. We must walk the way ourselves, if our children are to witness the peace of walking in God’s ways. If we allow God to soften our hearts towards our children and towards His heart for us, we are no longer alienated from the life of God by our own ignorance. The life of God begins to fill us, to steady us and give us peace. A peace that, had we followed the path of the world, we would have never known. We would have known ‘false’ happiness that is filled with the fleeting things of the world, satan’s “imitation peace.”

Many times moving away from false peace and towards God’s peace means leaving behind things that hinder us from the freedom of walking with Christ. Being overly concerned with possessions, money, entertainment, shopping and generally keeping up with the world’s ways can be a yolk of bondage for a mother trying to learn the abundance of the life God has for her in her new vocation. To God, motherhood is a holy calling. We must be willing to leave behind that which will hold us back from the importance of the work God has called us to.

The softening of the heart, away from the hard, cutting edges of the world, and towards God and His love is the best gift we can give our children. Surrendering to God’s plan for us, allowing Him to heal our hearts and teach us His ways is a blessing of safety and protection. He brings us into the full life He has for us as give up the false ways we once walked in. We must be committed to having a soft heart and learning God’s commandments for us as mothers.

Prayer: “Lord, teach me your ways. Show me how to throw off all that entangles me from doing the work you have called me to do. Don’t let me be influenced by the enemies promises of a false peace and happiness if I follow the world’s way of motherhood. Show me how to focus on your truths for me and the holy way you want me to walk. Amen”

“Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem!   Praise your God, O Zion! For he strengthens the bars of your gates; he blesses your children within you.” Psalm 147:12

"The best academy, a mother's knee."
- James Russell Lowell

"Since Jesus highly values children, mothers are His servants when they bless their children for Him."
- Art Birch

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Jezebel: A Rebellious Spirit

God setteth the solitary in families: he bringeth out those which are bound with chains: but the rebellious dwell in a dry land.”
~Psalm 68:6

The Bible gives many examples of virtuous women, but it also gives examples of women who rebel against God. Their hearts say “I want to do it my way.”  We are all sinners and will all fall short. Each of us will see parts of our hearts in the woman who struggles to follow God’s way.  As women seeking wisdom as if it is the greatest treasure, we can study and learn from the woman who rebels against God's ways.

“Blessed is the one who finds wisdom,
   and the one who gets understanding,
for the gain from her is better than gain from silver
   and her profit better than gold.
She is more precious than jewels,
   and nothing you desire can compare with her.
Long life is in her right hand;
   in her left hand are riches and honor.
Her ways are ways of pleasantness,
   and all her paths are peace.
She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her;
   those who hold her fast are called blessed.” Proverbs 3:13-18

Jezebel was a pagan woman who was determined that all of Israel would worship her gods. “...he (Ahab) married Jezebel,  the daughter of King Ethbaal of the Sidonians, and he began to worship Baal.” Instead of influencing her husband toward God’s way, she influenced him away from God and towards pagan gods. Jezebel worshipped Baal, and in order to ‘make her happy’ Ahab built a temple and altar for Baal. By her worship of pagan gods, her focus on herself and what she wanted, she denied the true God in her heart and her life bore no fruit. She tried to kill God’s prophets, she ‘framed’ a man to be murdered because he did not do what she wanted, and she influenced her husband and her people away from the one true God.

Even though she worshipped pagan gods and had pagan priests under her control, she also worshipped herself. Her way was better; she was determined that she could have whatever she wanted. Instead of a submissive spirit to God and His way, she had a spirit of rebellion towards self sacrifice and love. She didn’t know it because she was too hard hearted, but she was in rebellion dwelling in a ‘dry land.’ Many times we can be living in our own rebellion, causing us to dwell in a dry land of our own. We are crying out to God asking Him for wisdom, and yet still unwilling to truly turn and follow HIs way. While we are asking God for His mercy and solutions, we are also still turning to ourselves and our own wisdom, because we want our way and we want God’s way all wrapped into one answer.

“Obedience is far better than sacrifice. Listening to him is much better than offering the fat of rams. Rebellion is as bad as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as bad as worshipping idols. So because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you from being king.” 1 Samuel 15:22-23

God desires an attitude of love and obedience. Constant rebellion and stubbornness is compared to witchcraft and idolatry. Why? Because we are idolizing ourselves, and worshipping our own way. When we live in rebellion, our heart begins to harden over time, and slowly we are closing the door to God. Jezebel lived this way and her heart was closed to God. She put emphasis on her fame, fortune, beauty, and control over others. In her heart and mind she had herself as a god, and put herself in God’s place. She wanted to “be” God by taking over the control that was His.

When Jezebel was living, there was no peace. Her spirit of rebellion was so prevalent that she wreaked havoc and damage on individual lives and on her whole kingdom. Jezebel died a gruesome death at the city wall, thrown from a window. The Bible says that before Jezebel was thrown to her death she had “painted her face.” Moments away from death she was still convinced of her own beauty and power.

Jezebel was vain, set herself on a pedestal, was determined to get her own way, and had a rebellious and stubborn spirit dead set on serving herself. She would never think of humbling herself before God, and submitting her heart to be renewed to follow only God’s way. She would have had to have let her ways completely go, and been transformed by the renewing of her mind. She would have had to realize her ‘power’ was not in her beauty, but in a broken and contrite heart, offering a sacrifice of praise to God.

Claiming God’s name while still following our own way, debating whether we worship idols, or worship God and not fully submitting leads us off of God’s path. He offers us mercy and redemption when we are fully willing to follow His way and turn from our own. Unlike Jezebel, we are to adorn ourselves with a trusting heart, a gentle and quiet spirit, be self controlled, pure and kind. We will not point others towards the way of the world, but towards God’s way, by demonstrating the change and transformation in our own hearts. With God’s help, we can let go of our rebellion and stubbornness and allow Him to change us. Studying the word of God for ourselves, spending time in prayer allowing the Holy Spirit to teach and guide us, and being open to learning new ways (the ways of God) and throwing out the old ways brings transformation and freedom. Jezebel followed her own way and lived her whole life in an evil prison of her own making.  Following God’s way will ‘bringeth out those who are bound with chains.’

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
   a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” ~
Psalm 51:17

“For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” ~
2 Corinthians 7:10

“Those who submit like a child do it because they know that the Father wants only the happiness of His children and that only He knows the way. That is the testimony we must have to keep praying like a submissive child, in the good times as well as the times of trouble.” ~ Henry B. Eyring

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Life for the Soul and Our Daily Bread

“Sir,” they said, “give us that bread every day.” Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” ~John 6:34-35

By God’s great mercy and grace, he doesn't leave us to wander around without any spiritual bread. Just as we cannot go without eating or drinking water every day to sustain us, we need Jesus to sustain our souls and awaken us with his bread of life. When we are truly awakened by Jesus and our life is transformed, we no longer thirst or hunger for anything temporary or unsatisfying this world offers us. Our soul has it’s daily bread and hungers no more.

Reading the Bible and allowing God’s word to change us, to sink into our soul and apply it in our lives is a living faith that is sustained on the spiritual food we are offered. The Word of God was given to us to learn from, grow and be a living book. God gives us instruction for righteousness, living a holy life, and even guides us by his word through the most difficult circumstances we face. God’s whisper is heard in our hearts through his word. Many people have accepted Jesus into their hearts, claimed his name as their savior, but have never read the very word of God. WIthout God’s direction for us and our lives through his word, we are still lost.

“But he answered, “It is written,“‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” ~Matthew 4:4

Every word that comes from the mouth of God sustains us. His word helps us to know God in a deeper way, and to live out his commands for us. God’s word is eternal, and as His children He wrote it to guide us throughout all decades and time periods, His word remains unchanging to us. If God came up with a new and updated version of His word to suit the times, we would be left going whichever way the wind blows. God in His infinite wisdom, wrote one unchanging word that we can stand on throughout time. It is our foundation, our rock to build on, and our bread throughout our lifetime.

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16

As we read God’s word and listen to Jesus, absorbing the words and teaching in our hearts, they are cemented into our being and begin to change us. We can draw on them for life, for direction in difficult situations, and begin to be “doers of the word, and not hearers only.”  Daily, in good times and adversities, God’s word is there to nourish our spirits and strengthen us. It never changes and the Holy Spirit always teaches us something new, to feed our need for God and strengthen us for the day. Like a baker in a bakery, making enough bread for all his customers, or a woman baking bread for her family to make sure they are all fed and nourished---God’s word is there for us to be fed and nourished. We don’t have to remain starving for good, pure food, when we have the banquet of God’s word to fill us each day.

Prayer: "Lord, fill me with your living word and give me a heart to hear and eyes to see. Give me the wisdom to live it out in the daily, small acts of life. Show me how to live the word, to breathe it, know it and show others. Amen."

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." John 1:1-5

"For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." Hebrews 4:12