Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Motherhood and the Gospel

 By: Rebekah Hargraves


Photo Courtesy Of: Zach Lucero


"All of us have become like something unclean, and all our righteous acts are like a polluted garment; all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities carry us away like the wind." ~Isaiah 4:6


"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." ~1 John 1:9


As we continue chatting together this week about the mommy wars, the second thing I discovered when I began to put the pieces together between the mommy wars and the adverse effect they were having on The Church was the realization of just how much the mommy wars cause us to ignore and sometimes even blaspheme the gospel. 

At first glance, this may seem a little over the top, but I have found it to be true. As we saw yesterday, when we get all caught up in the mommy wars, we get busy comparing other women to our own man-made standards of what godly motherhood or “correct” mothering is. We say someone is a "good" mother because she vaccinates. Or because she does not vaccinate. But, what does God’s Word say?

The gospel, as set forth in the Bible, unequivocally states that we are all, by nature, equally fallen sinners (Is. 64:6, Rom. 3:10-18), but that when we place our faith in Jesus to save us, we are instantly cleansed from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). We are made perfect in God’s eyes (Hebrews 10:14) and have God’s righteousness forevermore fully imputed to our account (Rom. 4:5, Gal. 3, 2 Cor. 5:21). As believers, there is nothing that we can do that would ever cause God to love or accept us more or less. Nothing can make us more or less perfect in His sight or cause Him to remove His righteousness from us. 

Granted, we should follow true biblical teachings on the topic of motherhood and seek to live in godly ways. But being faithful to do so does not make us better than the mother who doesn't. If this is biblically true when we are talking about actual Scriptural commands, then it is for sure true when we’re talking about non-Scriptural, secondary issues. For example, whether or not we co-sleep has nothing to do with how God views us as moms! We do not get a thumbs up from Him if we do co-sleep and a thumbs down if we do not.

Therefore, we should not allow these secondary, non-gospel issues to affect how we view ourselves or our fellow mamas. The best thing we can do for ourselves, as well as for other moms, is keep our eyes on Christ and on the good news of the gospel’s implications for our everyday lives.

Monday, January 18, 2021

The Mirror of Truth


 By: Joanne Viola


 

I am not sure if it is a “girl” thing, but I know that as a little girl, I loved fairy tales. I have watched as each of our granddaughters have come to love princesses as well. Perhaps there is something in us females that has been wired to believe in fairy tales. We all want to live one, that is for sure.

Let me take you to a scene from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs":

"Once upon a time there lived a lovely little princess named Snow White. Her vain and wicked stepmother, the Queen, feared that some day Snow White’s beauty would surpass her own. So she dressed the little princess in rags and forced her to work as a scullery maid. Each day the vain queen consulted her magic mirror, “Magic Mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all?”… and as long as the mirror answered, “You are the fairest of them all,” Snow White was safe from the Queen’s cruel jealousy."

The Queen longed for the mirror to always respond that it was she, who was the fairest. Mirrors have a way of telling us things. Some we want to know – like when we look attractive. Some we may want to overlook – like some new wrinkles showing up. But a mirror will always speak.

Today I’m thinking about another mirror –

But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for one he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.
(James 1:22-24 NASB)

God’s Word is also a mirror. In reading His Word, we see ourselves in the truth of His Word. We see exactly how we are to live our lives. When we hear and do not do what His Word tells us, we are exactly like the one who would see themselves in a mirror and not remember what they looked like. We are told further …

“But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.”
(James 1: 25, NASB)

When we see ourselves through the filter of His Word, apply it, change, obey it – then we find freedom. It is there that we are blessed.

James uses the analogy of a mirror to show us that if we just “glance at the Word without corrective action”, it is of little use. 

“The sense here is of an intense looking into Scripture for the purpose of self-change. The exercise is one of careful attention to learn what is wrong & to discern what ought to be done to correct it.”  (from the New American Commentary on James page 96)

The Queen’s downfall, in the story of Snow White, occurred when the mirror told her the truth, a truth that she did now want to hear. That truth was that there was something lacking in her – gentle grace. Rather than taking that truth and applying it to her life, she was filled with anger and hatred. And so her downfall began.

Today may we not only hear the Word but apply it to our lives. May we allow His truth to change us. I read this quote somewhere, and it is a good motto to live by:

“Apply yourself to the Word,
so you may be able to apply the Word to your life.” 

 

**This is an edited post from 2012 which I had written.

Photo by Luis Villasmil on Unsplash


Sunday, January 17, 2021

What Is Humility?

 by Elizabeth Stewart

He leads the humble in what is right, and the humble He teaches His way. 
Psalm 25:9 AMPC

What is humility? It can often be seen as a weak and wimpy character trait, but in my opinion, it's one of the most powerful, godly traits we can have. Humility is, at its root, truly understanding our utter need and dependence on God. When we have this understanding then we realize we never have a reason to think of ourselves as better than someone else. We realize that all that we have and all that we are is due to God's grace in our lives, not because of some inherent worthiness on our part.

Humility is something we choose, not something we ask God for. His Word instructs us to humble ourselves under His mighty hand, and He will exalt us in due time. So humility is the opposite of self-promotion. It is trusting God to promote you if and when it's His time. Wow, that's convicting me even as I type the words. Our culture tells us that we must fight for our rights, promote ourselves and shove others out of the way so that we can climb the ladder if we want to succeed.Yet, in God's upside down kingdom, we go lower to get higher.

I sure want to God to lead me in the right way, in His way. Yet too often,  I choose the way of pride and refuse to be easily led. Like a toddler I say, "I'll do it myself", in essence wanting to go my own way instead of God's. Humility lets God lead. It is trusting in and submitting to God's leadership.

I don't think we can just make a one time lifetime decision and declare, "I choose to be humble!" as if  that's all there is to it. I think that humility is a moment by moment choice in life's various situations and circumstances.
-I chose to focus on others instead of drawing attention to myself.
-I chose to congratulate someone when they are getting the promotion I wish I had.
-I chose to serve when I'd rather be served.
-I chose to listen when I'd rather give my opinion.
-I chose to give when I'd rather spend on myself.
-I choose God's way even when it's not convenient or isn't popular with others.

I have so much to learn and so much room to grow when it comes to choosing humility in my own life, but it's never too late to start, right in this moment, and then in the next, and the next, and the next. 

Friday, January 15, 2021

How to Face Hard Transitions With Faith

 




Here in the United States, our country is going through a huge transition of power. The transition is harder than any of us imagined it would be. It's caused me to think about what the Bible tells us about how to face hard transitions with faith.

James, the brother of Jesus, is known for his bold approach to telling the truth. I think we can learn much from his words, written around 2,000 years ago, here in our day. I want to lead you through a guided meditation of James 4:1-12 NIV today, so we can all learn how to face the hard transitions in our life with faith, instead of strife.

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? vs. 1

James tells us that our sinful nature continually causes problems for us. It can really cause problems when we face transitions. Ask yourself and God: Am I acting out of selfishness during this transition, or am I acting with selflessness?

You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. vs. 2

We can be at our very worst during life's hard transitions. But with God's help, we can choose a better way. We can have the peace that passes all understanding when we ask God for help.

When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. vs. 3

God warns us here not to ask for things out of our selfishness. We need to seek his will, read his word, and gain godly counsel in our times of transition, so we'll have our hearts in the right place when we ask.

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. vs. 4

In your time of transition, are you aligning yourself more closely with worldliness than godliness? If so, you distance yourself from God. Ask God to come near to you as a friend instead.

Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? vs. 5

There's an invitation here - a love letter. God wants us to be his friends because he loves us, and has placed his Spirit in us as his followers. This is a reason to pause and praise God right now.

But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” vs. 6

God gives us grace, a priceless gift we can never repay. Yet we can show our gratitude for this gift by choosing to be humble, teachable and open in our times of transition, rather than proud in our own opinions.

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. vs. 7

We are each in a spiritual battle every day. The devil sees our times of transition as key opportunities to bring us down. Will you choose to submit to God instead, resisting the devil with the spiritual armor listed in Ephesians 6?

Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. vs. 8

This is one of the most hopeful promises in the Bible. As we draw near to God in worship, prayer, praise, Bible study and Christian meditation, he will draw near to us in love. We must also meet him daily in confession and repentance, asking him to clean us through Jesus' sacrifice to set us back on the path of righteousness.

Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. vs. 9

In context, this verse tells us it's good to see our sinful natures in a sober light. We need to be honest and contrite, opening our hearts to the Holy Spirit's searching. He will show us where we need to change, and lead us into a better way.

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. vs. 10

See the hopeful promise in this verse? When we do the hard work of humbling ourselves, even in the hardest transitions of life, God will lift us up. He will carry us, give us victory in the spiritual realm, and help us see our situation from a heavenly perspective instead of an earthly one.

Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. vs. 11

Unfortunately, slander is running rampant in our culture right now, especially online. Make sure you are not slandering others in your words, whether online or in-person. Remember the old saying: If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all. 

There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor? vs. 12

Also remember that God is the only perfect Judge of what is going on in our culture and in your hard transition, and he will perfectly sort it out in the end. Refrain from judging others and commit to trusting God instead.

I pray that this guided meditation of James 4:1-12 challenges and strengthens you in your faith today. May God give you guidance, wisdom and peace in the transitions you face. Don't forget to pray that the Prince of Peace will reign over your transition and in the transitions we are facing in our culture.

Want more peace through Christian meditation? Check out my book, Transforming Your Thought Life: Christian Meditation in Focus, HERE!


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Have a blessed weekend!


Photo from Canva.com






Thursday, January 14, 2021

Be an Encourager


By: Shari A. Miller

"Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing." 1 Thessalonians 5:11

We've all have spiritual gifts. Just to name a few: some of us are teachers and preachers, some have been given the gifts of knowledge and understanding, while some have the gift of encouragement.


The gift of encouragement, is the gift that I feel the Lord has blessed me with. I have heard Him speak to me at various times throughout my life telling me to be an encourager. For me this was predominantly seen as the Lord allowed me to be a social worker for 11 years of my life. I loved to work with homeless families and let them know that more than anything Jesus loved them. I wanted to let them know that God would always be walking by their side as they moved forward in rebuilding their lives.

Well, now here I am, no longer a social worker, but rather someone who spends her days working full time fighting cancer. But God is not finished with my journey as an encourager. When I first was told that I had cancer, God told me that this journey had to mean something. As I trusted God, and walked this journey with Him, I knew that he wanted me to encourage everyone I met along the way. Whether it be my doctor, my chemo nurses, the x-ray techs, or other patients, to the best of my ability I was going to show them  the light of Jesus living through me. I was going to let them know that they could get through their life's journey with the Son lighting their way. In high school I had a saying on my closet door that I wrote ...

"A light in the world for You I'll be an image, a reflection of the love you've shown me."

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven." Matthew 5:16

A lot of time has passed since I was a social worker, and since I was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer, ten years to be exact. Now here we are in the year 2021, our present looks very different from our past. It seems as if society has split in two. We're facing a pandemic, job loss, financial crisis, and political unrest the likes we've never seen before. Being in prayer with my Savior is how I spend most of my time getting through these difficult days. I pray for things to change and especially pray that the division in this land would stop and people would focus on God. Prayer is such an important way that we can encourage others around us.

In these days, it can be so easy to become a keyboard warrior and become swallowed up in the commotion of life and say things we shouldn't. People can be so convicted in their beliefs that they sometimes tend to overlook what really matters. As Christians, the most important thing to keep in mind is to develop a Christlike speech that builds up and edifies believers around us, even those whom we do not agree with. 

 "Let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, as fits the occasion, that it may benefit those who listen."  Ephesians 4:29

As believers in Christ during these difficult times we need to encourage one another and use our speech to build each other up. With our humanistic, worldly passions, sometimes we can be quick to overreact and respond negatively to those who do not agree with us. However, when we take a Christlike stance to love the people who disagree with us, we can achieve a greater sense of unity overall.

I know we are not living in an easy time. Let's turn to God as we face these hard days and ask Him how we can be an encourager in the the army of Christ, We need to listen for His reply and follow through on His leading. I've found many a times that when I take my eyes off of self and focus on others, my whole outlook changes for the better. Won't you join me as we become encouragers for Christ?