Category Archives: Making choices

Rise Up, My Love (289): Sharing Finances…Takes Trust as Well as Love

Song of Solomon 8:12 “My vineyard, which is mine, is before me: thou, O Solomon, must have a thousand, and those that keep the fruit thereof two hundred.” After explaining how the profit structure worked in the vineyards, the bride reveals her marvelous heart of devotion and love for her husband. First, she makes a point of the fact that she owns her own vineyard: “My vineyard, which is mine, is before me.” (In other words, she owns her own vineyard and can do whatever she wants with it.) But then—instead of keeping the profits—she insists on giving Solomon the entire profit that she would normally receive for herself, as well as generously paying those farmers who tended her vineyard.   Wow! Talk about amazing love and active faith! Pause to reflect for a few minutes on what this might mean for a husband and wife, and what this might model for us as the bride of Christ. As wives, do we show such devotion to our husbands that we freely entrust to them the benefits from our material possessions? (Before you get too excited husbands…two questions for you to consider: Are you so financially responsible that your wife does not feel compelled to try to provide for her own future? Do you exercise such unselfish love and wisdom in your financial decisions that your wife would want to entrust the management of her money to you?) If you can’t trust your prospective spouse with your money, then please don’t marry that person, because there are many areas that will mean even more to you than money! The ability to trust each other is absolutely critical to the stability of marriage.

To give what is ours to another always requires a great commitment of faith, love, and devotion. God calls us to give ourselves up to him completely. We respond to him out of love, but by faith we are also assured that he loves us even better than we love ourselves and will care for us even better than we can care for ourselves. It’s a win-win situation, and so it is also for the wife whose husband is truly loving her as Christ loves his bride (us).   As wives are to model the bride in her relationship to Christ, so we should ideally cast all our cares upon our husband (even our financial cares). Does that sound scary? I have a dear friend who married when she was almost forty, only finding “Mr. Right” some years after her father had died and left her a very large inheritance. When she married, she wondered whether or not to make a prenuptial agreement with her husband that would keep her inheritance strictly in her control (which had been her father’s desire, in order to protect his daughter from the possibility of marrying an unscrupulous man).

However, as an act of faith in her fiancé, and in the spirit of two becoming one, she chose to share everything with him. Do you think she made a noble choice? I do. We inherit “all spiritual blessings” in Christ (Ephesians 1:3). He gave everything and shares everything. In fact, the goal of Christ’s earthly life was to redeem a people who would become one with him and share his glory (John 17).

Christ gave all and desires all. In the spirit of displaying our love for Christ, we should give all and share all with our spouse as well. Two are to become one, as a picture on earth of what heaven will be like. Somehow…although we still struggle…it seems like it should be easy to have a perfect relationship with Christ, because he is the perfect “husband,” and everything we have came from him anyway. To whatever extent we and our mates are selfish instead of Christlike, to that extent it becomes more difficult to lay down our lives for one another, but this is exactly what God calls us to do.

On this earth, the husband and wife come together bringing completely independent and often very different gifts. However, the calling to love, give, and serve remains unchanged, so be very sure the person you marry is Mr. or Miss Right (not that they are perfect, but that they are truly the right person God wants for you). If you’re not sure, pray about it until you feel peace from the Lord one way or the other: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5).

Next to getting saved, marrying in the will and peace of God is the most important, life defining decision you’ll ever make! Of course, even the best marriages have some tough times. (Have you heard the joke that Mr.-Miss Right’s first name is “Always”?) Despite the difficulties, however, marriage provides an opportunity for the longest, most intimate, most satisfying relationship available on earth, so I hope if you’ve never been married, you may yet find your spouse of a lifetime!

 

Movies, Movies Everywhere, But Nary a Movie to Watch?!

Do you enjoy movies? Almost everybody loves stories, and even for those of us battle workaholism, a thought-provoking story portrayed well through film is about the perfect way to end the day after all possibility of productivity has ceased. However, it’s challenging to find movies that meet our personal standards for what we consider worthwhile, isn’t it? Personally, I like movies that teach me something and make me think as well as being entertaining…and please—without sex, violence, or profanity! For this blog, I try to review only movies that I can recommend without reservation, but I often try several before finding one that I really think is worth writing home to mother about. Does that happen to you as well? Over the past months, I’ve watched a bunch, and I keep thinking of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s line in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner:
“Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.”

On the other hand, I’ve watched a bunch that I can recommend partially, so I thought it might be time to share a few that are good…but with reservations.  The Post is one of the best movies from 2017, I think. It stars Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, and is directed by Steven Spielberg, so you know the acting is great. *The Post is based on a true story about our country’s first female publisher, Katherine Graham, and her gruff but great editor, who get The Washington Post embroiled in a battle against with the U.S. government for the freedom to uncover information about the Vietnam War that had been concealed by four presidents.  The language is deplorable at times, but there is no sex or violence, and it’s a story that I’m glad has been made public. I just wish movie makers left out contemptible language, whether or not it was actually spoken. There are ways of expressing anger and frustration without being profane or crass.*Only the Brave (7.7, PG-13, 2017) is based on the amazing true story of Granite Mountain Hot Shot firefighters and their attempt to save a city in Arizona from a wildfire.  It has an excellent message of valor and the struggle to overcome bad backgrounds, but the language is terrible and the end so shocking that I’ve had a little PTSD ever since. However, if you know or love a fire-fighter, this might be one to consider.                                  (I would not recommend it for children.)*The Heart of Man is a 2017, 8.7 IMDb, PG-13 docudrama with stunning cinematography that envisions the story of the prodigal son for modern times and includes interviews with such men as William Paul Young, the author of The Shack The movie deals with dark secrets of the hearts, such as abuse, adultery, pornography, addictions, and how some found their way out through experiencing the love of God for them. Although I highly recommend this for adults, the themes are so deep and difficult that I would only recommend it for young people who who have been exposed to sexual abuse or are struggling with the issues of brokenness, identity, shame, guilt, or suicide.(For an interview with William Paul Young on understanding childhood sexual abuse, here’s a link:    http://goodguyswag.com/heart-of-man/

*The Masked Saint is a 2016, PG-13 story, and is very unusual.            It’s based on true story of a professional wrestler for 10  years  who becomes a pastor of a struggling Baptist church in Michigan, where he helps the community both as a pastor and as a vigilante protector of those who need help from crime.       Although the tale is true, and the moral of the story is clear and positive,  there are so many scenes with professional wrestling violence that Alan kept shielding my eyes (he knows I hate violence), and I couldn’t reconcile pro wrestling or vigilantism with my understanding of the way Christ taught us to live, but it was an interesting story of one couple’s journey to figure out how to use their gifts for good, and it has definitely provoked me to thought!Well, that’s probably more movies than I’ve discussed in two months, but I’ll try to come up with a few that I can unreservedly recommend in the next two months! Meanwhile, Happy Summering to you as we look forward to the end of the school year and the beginning of June coming soon. May the Lord help us all to grow in grace!

Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him” (Proverbs 30:5).

(Photo of Coleridge from the National Portrait Gallery of London, England)

Are You a Follower or a Leader?

Are you a leader or follower by nature? Do you think one is better than the other? American culture puts a high premium on being a leader, but this isn’t what Jesus taught, as Joe Stowell reminds us in his book, Following Christ. God calls us first and foremost to be Christ-followers, not leaders! In truth, I don’t think any of us make good leaders until we’ve learned to become good followers.

Joe is the president of Cornerstone University, where six of our seven kids began their college training, and I think this book is spot on! Ever hear of “Wrong Way Reigels”? He was the University of California center who became infamous for scoring a touchdown. . .at the wrong end of the football field during the 1929 Rose Bowl! His team lost to Georgia Tech by one point, and Joe points out that Reigels’s problem was living by “instinct without direction,” which is an issue for each of us.

Perhaps the most crucial of all life’s questions is: Do we want to be the master of our own fate and the captain of our own soul, as the poet William Ernest Henley wrote, or would we rather follow the guidance of a higher being (God!) who is infinite in his knowledge and wisdom, capable of accomplishing his will, loves us more than we love ourselves, and has our good (and that of all people) and his glory as his game plan?

The only hitch is, we have to surrender to Christ, and most of us are either afraid to trust him because we’re not sure he’s really God, or we don’t believe He truly loves us and has our best interests at heart, or we don’t want to share our “glory” with God! By nature, most of us find it hard to believe that God really loves us more than we love ourselves. We are also proud and resent the idea of giving God the glory. We’d rather seize control of our own destiny and bring glory to ourselves, so at strategic crossroads, even Christ-followers often fail to obey, even though we know good and well what we ought to do. If we want to be true Christ-followers, then we need to commit to obeying Christ even when it seems impossibly hard (and probably is, apart from God’s grace and strength).   We’ve each been given one life to live. . .one challenging but glorious adventure. For those who do not believe in God, or have chosen to take a position of being agnostic, they must default either to being their own leader or following some earthly leader, but I would rather be a follower of Christ. Because, as Joe Stowell points out, having “the real, risen, transcendent, ever-present resident Christ to relate to me in the very depths of my being apart from the inherent trappings of visibility is an advantage with which no earthly relationship can compare.”

Amen! There is no Best Friend Forever who was with us at the day of our birth, can abide with us forever, and loves us with an everlasting love. God alone, in the person of Christ’s Holy Spirit, offers to indwell us and provide guidance, purpose, abundance of joy, and life eternal. Besides all this, there’s another wonderful promise attached to being a true Christ-follower: “If you continue in my word, then are you my disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make  you free” (John 8:31-32). Being a Christ follower offers us true freedom and can lead us out of the prisons we’ve made for ourselves.

One of my favorite books as a child was Follow My Leader, a story about a teenage boy who is accidentally blinded by a friend’s carelessness and has to find a way out of the hatred that poisons his soul as a result. If you find yourself feeling imprisoned by hatred or embroiled in sin, My Leader (Jesus) can help you find your way out! Don’t believe me? Well, it’s not about me, it’s about God, and He’s the one who made these promises: “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not” (Jeremiah 33:3). Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29).

Will you join me and the multitude of pilgrims who’ve become Christ-followers?

Good Friday: Practicing the Resurrection Principle

Are you anxious about some challenge in your life? Good Friday is the perfect time to remember the Resurrection Principle, which a friend shared with me from Reader’s Digest. By the way, do you ever read Reader’s Digest? My parents subscribed when I was a child, but I didn’t even know it was still in existence until I looked it up today on Wikipedia and read that it’s the largest paid circulation magazine in the world. So, maybe you’ve read all about the Resurrection Principle already, but if not, let me pass along what my friend suggested: “Prayerfully wait three days before becoming anxious about any problem, because most of the time, the problem will be resolved.”

At first I thought, “What? Usually only the most insignificant issues are resolved in three days unless it’s good news about a test or something.” As I considered the challenges in my life that tend to make me anxious, I felt like almost all of them are long-term, on-going difficulties which are out of my control and often take years to resolve. However, it occurred to me that Christ rose again after three days, and that’s the most significant resolution of any problem in the world!

So, like leprous Naaman in 2 Kings 5, I decided to try the Resurrection Principle and see what happened. I found that prayerfully waiting three days rarely brought a clear resolution that chased the clouds away and left me with no further need for faith or dependence on the Lord. However, as I practiced praying earnestly for three days before freaking out, I discovered that most problems were resolved in this way: I learned to lay them down at the feet of Jesus and find peace. It is completely worthwhile to follow 1 Peter 5:7, “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.

Does God love us? Yes. Does God have the power to help us? Yes. Will God answer our prayers in a way that makes us more like Christ and brings glory to Himself? Yes. “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).If you’re struggling with anxiety this Good Friday, why not start practicing the Resurrection Principle? Develop the habit of praying earnestly for three days before you allow yourself to give in to anxious thoughts. Hopefully, this will keep you from jumping on the anxiety roller coaster at all, and perhaps you, like me, will more often be able to find a sense of serenity and rest even in the midst of life’s battles, knowing that God loves us, hears us, and will answer our prayers! Let’s allow the resurrection power and ministry of Christ to flood our souls with light in the darkness, transforming us from anxious souls into spiritual beings.

The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him” (Lamentations 3:25).

Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord” (Psalm 27:14).

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).

(Thanks to Bob Hardee for the two photos with scripture verses imprinted on them!)



How Do You Feel About All the Infringements on Your Privacy?

I love the internet bringing the world to my doorstep, but I really don’t like it invading my bedroom, do you? Am I the only person who notices my computer coming on in the middle of the night or who finds it unsettling to have Siri interrupt my conversations? Do you, like me, get frustrated with all the breaches in security and privacy on the net? My Facebook account was hacked recently …or at least someone was able to set up a fake account using my photos and information to solicit for other connections (to hack as well). I’m beginning to feel a little like the King of Syria from the story in 2 Kings 6, where he thought some enemy was spying on him and reporting everything he whispered in his bedroom to the King of Israel.

In my case, if it’s just the American government spying on all of us, then I don’t actually feel like it’s an “enemy,” but whatever happened to the sanctity of home? I’ve been slowly trying to make the emotional adjustment to the realization that everything I ever say or write is recorded, and I try to imagine that I’m relatively safe since I’m trying my best to live a moral, law-abiding life. But, what if America’s government begins persecuting Christians? In at least 68 countries around the world, the governments restrict, persecute, or at least don’t protect the religious freedom of Christians. If America changes radically enough, then I will be in big trouble, because my faith in Christ and love for God are woven into the woof and warp of everything I say and write. The day may come when I will become a lawbreaker because I worship God!

While pondering this issue the other day and feeling a little distressed, I began meditating on Luke 12 (which I’ve written out below) and found myself greatly encouraged and comforted, so I wanted to share what I read with you. If you feel alarmed because everything you write and every call you make is being recorded somewhere here on earth, take heart! It’s always been recorded in heaven anyway, along with every thought!

Our job is to be pure and faithful followers of Christ. If the world sees what’s going on, so much the better! If we are persecuted for our faith, that shouldn’t surprise us. If lifting up the name of Jesus and testifying to the goodness of God gets us killed, then that’s a price worth paying, because some silent observer may be drawn to God through what we share. Be faithful! “Thou, God, seest me.”

He began to say unto his disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known. Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.

“And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him. Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.

Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God: But he that denieth me before men shall be denied before the angels of God. And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven.

“And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say: For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say.” (Luke 12:1-12).

Abiding in the Vine Isn’t Always Easy

We have a lovely fireplace entwined by philodendron vines in the corner of our bedroom. This is both a luxury and a safety measure, since our propane heater has an electric starter, so whenever we lose our electricity, we also lose our heat (which happens occasionally during blizzards, ice storms, and electrical storms). Philodendrons are among the world’s most hardy plants, and so I was saddened to see that one of the vines was beginning to wilt badly. I realized (too late) that, although the vines had survived our blazing fireplace, one of the vines couldn’t take the heat emanating from our water baseboard heater. Too much direct heat from a secondary source was killing it.

I identify with that hardy but fragile vine! God calls us to abide in Him, but sometimes it’s almost impossible to abide the heat from a secondary source. I also hope my life isn’t blasting heat in a way that damages other tender vines!

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.  I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned…If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love” (John 15:4-6,10).

Rise Up, My Love (272): How to Help Someone Who Strays

Song of Solomon 8:6 “Jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire…” For any of you reading this, I expose my own sins and errors—not so that you will condemn me (God chastened me severely!)—but so that you might avoid my mistakes. The right response to having my conscience violated would have been to totally sever my connections with this young man, because he was not living in submission to God.

Although your heart (like mine) may desire to see all men come to repentance and be restored to fellowship in the spirit of Galatians 6:1, if you find that a friend is starting to violate your boundaries, drop the friendship immediately! Let God be God in their life. You cannot “rescue” such a person, and you will fail if you try. Dropping a friendship is the strongest statement you can make, and it is also the most helpful thing you can do—believe it or not! It is especially helpful if you are able to do it in love, clearly articulating your grief and reasoning, because that conveys to the friend, “I care about you, but if you want our relationship to be restored, you must restore your relationship with God first, and you must learn to respect my boundaries and needs.”

This does not include married “friends.” Once you’re married, you have become half of a unit and giving up on your relationship will damage rather than help your spouse (and yourself, as painful as remaining in an unhappy marriage is). “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Mark 10:9).

However, do not let someone drown you. Jesus is the lifeguard, and he is on duty! If someone you love dearly is entangled in a web of sin, cry out to God for help in unceasing, intercessory prayer, but do not compromise yourself in an effort to untangle that person. As Bob Jones (president of my alma mater) used to say to us in chapel, “It’s never right to do wrong in order to get a chance to do right.” But, what can you do? Look again at Galatians 6:1. “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.”

Notice that this is a group—not an individual—effort. What is the appropriate way to deal with a friend who is falling away from Christ and has offended you? Read Matthew 18:15-17. #1. Confront him personally, as friend to friend. If that doesn’t work, #2. Go with several friends and confront him. If that doesn’t work, #3. Treat him like an unbeliever. Ephesians 5:11 warns, “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” Even Paul gave up on professing Christians who were living in disobedience (see I Timothy 1:20).

Don’t be afraid to “let go and let God” take over. He is able. Have you entrusted yourself to him? You can entrust others to him also, even if they are rejecting him! It’s funny how we learn things for ourselves and then struggle in understanding how to apply the same principles in our relationship with those we love! I have seen a number of parents live godly, separated lives themselves but struggle when it threatens to separate them from their children. Is God less able to care for their children than he is able to care for them? Many do not have the faith to actually break fellowship with a rebellious adult son or daughter, choosing a compromising friendship over standing with God against open sin.

This is not love and actually aids Satan in his destructive plans. We need to understand that there are few things in this world as the powerful as the separation from, and the disapproval of, those we love. Frankly, I have never known of such an unhappy, compromising alliance to have a happy ending, although God is very merciful, so it has doubtless happened. God’s call is for us to take an unswerving stand with him against those who rebel against him.

It takes tremendous faith and courage, but God will honor those who honor him, and I can tell you one true story where the parents stood with God and it turned out right. I have dear friends who had three wonderful sons. The middle son, during his late teens, fell in love with a somewhat older woman and decided to marry her even though she was an unbeliever and divorced. For the sake of the story, I will call him Will. The parents and two brothers reasoned with Will through the Scriptures and prayed with many tears, but all their pleading fell on deaf ears, and he was more determined than ever to go through with his plans.

When the family saw that Will simply could not be persuaded, they sat down as a family and told him that although they would always love him, they could not fellowship with him as long as he was intent on pursuing a marriage with this unbelieving divorcee because they felt he was resisting God’s will according to the standard of “be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 6:14), and “whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery” (Matthew 5:32), leaving them no option but to “come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord” (2 Corinthians 6:17).

The next months seemed like years to that dear family, especially the mom. They loved Will deeply and anguished…perhaps more than he did…over the separation. I don’t know what happened, or why, but I do know that eventually Will gave up his girlfriend, and now—twenty-five years later—he’s married to a sweet Christian woman who is a joy to the whole family. I’m certain that Will is happy today because God worked in response to the faithful love and fervent prayers of his family, but I also think that somewhere along the way Will realized that his God and his family meant more to him than his girlfriend, and he decided that separation from them was more painful than losing his girlfriend’s affection. Our closest companions will always have the greatest influence. Be sure to always be there for your family…but always stand with God for good!