Think On These Things

Whoever gives thought to the word will discover good,

and blessed is he who trusts in the LORD.

The wise of heart is called discerning,

and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.

Good sense is a fountain of life to him who has it,

but the instruction of fools is folly.

The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious

and adds persuasiveness to his lips.

Gracious words are like a honeycomb,

sweetness to the soul and health to the body.

Proverbs 16: 20-24

Grow Up, Child Of Mine

We live in a world that extends childhood too far on one end by shirking responsibility and shortens it to much on the other by pushing children into a hyper sexualized behave like an adult world they are not ready for.

The response oftentimes to the too soon extreme is the battle cry, “Let them be children!” and while I certainly do not argue or disagree with that sentiment I want to address it from a slightly different perspective. Usually when we say “just let them be kids” we are only focusing on those things like the overly suggestive clothing, social media usage, and boy/girl relationship issues while still neglecting the teaching of responsibility at the other end of the spectrum.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately mainly because my Claire, the baby of the family, turns thirteen today and it’s weird to have my last one entering into those teenage years. There is a definite sense of the closing of one era in the life of our family.

Here, in no particular order, are some things I have been thinking about with regard to this topic.

Grow up, child of mine.

Give thought to the woman you want to be and practice today becoming her.

Grow up, child of mine.

Set aside silliness and learn what joy and contentment look like. It’s the difference between cotton candy and a four course meal. Only one of those will nourish your soul.

Grow up, child of mine.

Forsake foolishness and pursue wisdom, she is indeed your sister. Wisdom will keep you safe from the damaging effects of bad decisions and foolish choices.

Grow up, child of mine.

Reject the world’s idea of beauty and find out what God says is beautiful and be that. It’s two very different things, one of which fades and becomes less and less and one that becomes more glorious over time.

Grow up, child of mine.

Don’t mistake sarcasm for wit. Let your words be apples of gold in settings of silver. Relying on sarcasm all the time only makes you dull and unkind.

Grow up, child of mine.

Be willing to slow down and wait for the right things at the right time. Your enjoyment and pleasure in good things is directly connected to your maturity and ability to appreciate it.

Grow up, child of mine.

Put aside doing only the easy things and choose the hard things. It will make you strong and able to handle with grace and dignity the difficult things that come to us all in life.

Grow up, child of mine.

Put away laziness. Laziness will ultimately create more work for yourself and will also cause much dissension with those around you who are adversely affected by your idleness.

Grow up, child of mine.

Learn to not take yourself too seriously. It will make you much more pleasant to be around if you are able to laugh at yourself.

Grow up, child of mine.

Value the things and people that have come before you. Nothing that is now existed without the help and assistance of the past.

Grow up, child of mine.

Embrace the truth that while everything is lawful not everything is needful. Just because you can does not mean you should.

Grow up, child of mine.

Own your sin and mistakes. It is not always someone else’s fault. Remember that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.

Grown up, child of mine.

Be quick to forgive and always assume the best of others. Don’t expect something from others that you are unwilling to give.

Grow up, child of mine.

Choose to love others more than yourself. A self-centered person exhausts those around them rather than being a source of comfort and rest.

Grow up, child of mine.

Seek knowledge more than entertainment. There is untold value in feeding your soul.

Grow up, child of mine.

For in this way you may be an example to others in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.

Grow up, daughter of mine.

For you are called to be a polished corner stone cut for the structure of the palace, made to be a pillar that will support and uplift the house that God is building for His name out of living stones.

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. 

~Hebrews 13:20–21

Happy birthday, sweet Claire.

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Gleanings from Galatians

Yesterday the Bible Reading Challenge had me reading the entire letter of Galatians which sounds like a lot but it’s six relatively short chapters that are just jammed packed with rich truth. As usual, no matter how many times I have read something before there is always something to glean…sometimes not even brand new truths but something that just adds to the fullness of my understanding. Here are a few gems and the ponderings they produced.

Chapter 1:15-16 ~

But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult anyone.

Paul goes on to say he actually waited three years before returning to Jerusalem to meet Cephas and it would be another fourteen years before he would return and really get into the thick of things with the other Apostles and believers.

My take home was a gentle reminder to not blurt out every thought and rush off willy nilly and get busy but to take some time and stew on what God is doing and what He would have me do.

Chapter 2:11–14

But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.  For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.  But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” 

Emphasis is mine and I cannot tell you how heavy that landed on me. If we are living lives that look no different than the unbelieving neighbor beside us then how can we dare ask them to live any differently and why should they?

Everything we do should be different because everything we do is done to the glory of God and with an eternal purpose. Our marriages, our child rearing, the way we are educated and educating, the life we live must be lived in such a way that Christ is revealed. I mean at first glance we may look the same but as we enter into relationships with people, as they get to know us, they ought to become curious about why we seem just a bit different, why there is something they may not quite be able to put their finger on but they know we aren’t the same. It will be something about the means to the end of disciplining our children, the way we love and honor each other, the way our Sabbath is enjoyed, the way we handle our money, the way we forgive, the way we deal with stress, the way we help others. There should be a thousand different ways we live out our ordinary lives that will show we believe Christ is King over all.

Chapter 4:9

But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be know by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?

Just a good solid reminder to keep guard over my thoughts and not allow old habits and ways of thinking to creep in.

Chapter 5

Seriously, the whole chapter. But this little verse…

If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.

Have you ever been out of step with someone you were supposed to be in step with? Stumbling around and so clumsy. It’s not easy to fix without coming to a complete stop and starting again. So that is my prayer; when I realize I am out of step then I want to stop what I am doing and get in step with the Spirit. I don’t want to fumble around tripping over myself trying to make our steps align. I just want to match my stride with His.

Chapter  6:1–3

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 

It is so very easy to have a higher opinion of ourselves than we ought, isn’t it? I don’t think we deliberately set out to think better of ourselves than other people but it is just so much easier to assess those over there, to make judgement calls on their behaviors and actions. Assumptions are second nature to us, assuming that we would never ever do what so and so has done but shifting their sins through our perspectives and coming to a conclusion that we know their story.

In I Corinthians 10 we are told take to heed when we think we are standing lest we fall and then moving in to chapter six of Galatians we are told to restore a fallen brother with a spirit of gentleness lest we be tempted. That spirit of gentleness only comes through the humility of understanding the darkness of our own sin, of using God’s perspective on sin as opposed to our own sliding scale of right and wrong.

For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Oh Lord may I put pride far from me!

Chapter 6:9

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 

And lastly, this little gem. Don’t give up but keep persevering in the faith, keep loving each other, keep doing the right thing even when it seems that no one else is or no one is benefitting from it or seems grateful for it.

Serve each other. Love one another. Seek forgiveness. Forgive each other. Encourage. Laugh with the one who laughs and weep with the one who weeps. Do all the things you can do for the good of those around you and don’t stop, keep loving them in thought and deed. God promises to grow something that gives an eternal harvest when we stay faithful in this way.

Chapter 6:16

And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. 

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Think On These Things

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

In you, O LORD, do I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
in your righteousness deliver me!

Incline your ear to me;
rescue me speedily!
Be a rock of refuge for me,
a strong fortress to save me! 

                                                                                                                                         ~ Psalm 31:1-2

 

Change The World

Years ago our oldest daughter went through a hard situation. It was a difficult moment at the time but with the clarity of hindsight it has taken on it’s proper size. This quote from Elizabeth Elliot perfectly suits that period in her life,“God never withholds from His child that which His love and wisdom call good. God’s refusals are always merciful — “severe mercies” at times but mercies all the same. God never denies us our hearts desire except to give us something better.”

That deviation from the expected was the ground that God used to grow her into the woman she is now. In a world (she’s an emergency room nurse)  where it can be an every man for himself kind of place she is earning a reputation as a hard worker, willing to help and pitch in, with a pleasant attitude. She is faithful to the life God has given her and she lives it with joy and contentment.

Sometime last year, before her graduation and having her own place and all the adulting she is now doing, Rob and I ran into some people we hadn’t seen in a while and as is often the case we were catching up on children and life stuff. I remarked that I hoped Sarah would take a job locally and stay close. I was actually smacked on the arm and chastised for such a thing. Didn’t I know that God hadn’t given her to us to stay put? She needed to “go and make disciples”.

Rob, sensing my discomfort I think, chimed in that our prayer was that she would be faithful to make disciples and be a faithful servant right here. Without missing a beat we were told that our prayer was too small.

Too small.

TOO SMALL.

As if that kind of faithfulness and obedience is only good enough until the real opportunity to be faithful shows up and involves packing a suitcase.

As if what we’re really made for and made to do are out there in the future somewhere and is the only thing that counts and we are just tinkering around with these smaller lesser things until God finally gives us the BIG stuff, the stuff that really counts and makes us something more than than just the ordinary person in the church pew beside us.

I loved this paragraph from Rachel Jankovic’s book You Who,

“But contentment and gratitude, some of the very smallest seeds, grow some of the biggest trees. These are some of the wildest forces for change in this world. Contentment says to God, “Where You put me, I will honor You. Where You send me, I will go. Where You are, I will be glad.” Gratitude says to God that you accept what He has given you to do, and you will do it, not grudgingly, but with joy.”

Oh my goodness, I love that! Be content wherever you are. If He chooses to send you somewhere then with great joy pack your bags and go. But do not serve Him with any less joy if he keeps you right where you are.

It is no small thing to glorify God in the ordinary everyday. God can, and does, do marvelous things with the simple common things of our life.

Little things offered to God are used to do big things. Five loaves of bread and two little fish were transformed into a feast that literally feed thousands. What do you think God will do with your obedience in joyfully doing what He has given you to do right now, right where you are, no matter how ordinary it may seem?

That kind joyful obedience will literally change the world whether you are in the same town you have always been in or your feet are covered with the dust of some far away land.

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Think On These Things

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.

For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.

Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.

For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

~2 Corinthians 4:7-18

 

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Think On These Things

By insolence comes nothing but strife,

but with those who take advice is wisdom.

Wealth gained hastily will dwindle,

but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick,

but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.

Whoever despises the word brings destruction on himself,

but he who revers the commandment will be rewarded.

The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life,

that one may turn away f rom the snares of death.

 ~Proverbs 13: 10-14

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Christian Contentment

I have a friend that for ten years, had been the embodiment of all that a godly friend should be. She was not just the hands and feet of Christ to me, but the heart and mind of Christ. She was, and continues to be, Truth to me and for me.

A few years ago her husband’s job moved her away. When she told me they were moving to another state I immediately cried. For three days my heart just ached. I was sort of praying and sort of bemoaning her move when I realized I sounded like I was mourning her death. Like she was gone forever and never again would I be able to see her.

God granted some insight into that moment for me and showed me how foolish, indeed how ungrateful I was behaving. Was it a sad thing that my friend would not be here close by? Yes. But my goodness, I have face timed with another friend that was living in Japan! Susan would only be five hours away…we have phones, and we can text, email and even slap a stamp on an envelop and as old fashioned as it may be, mail letters to each other.

Is it sad that I do not see her everyday as we drop off and pick up our children from school or have the occasional breakfast together? Yes. But not only have I been given the gift of her friendship but I live in a time of great technology that will allow us to continue our friendship almost undisturbed.

The whole situation with my friend showed me how spoiled I am to some very simple and convenient aspects of my life.

It’s like complaining about what a pain doing laundry is when I am doing it in the comfort of my cooled or heated home and basically tossing clothes from one machine into another. I’m not outside washing them by hand and hanging them on the line to dry. And I have so much laundry because God has been abundant in His provision for my family. Of course I have a lot of laundry…He has granted me five children!

Later today I will do my grocery shopping. Normally I can begrudge the process of picking food up off the shelf, placing it into the buggy, going to a register, unloading all the groceries, picking up bags of groceries and putting them back into the buggy so I can go out to my car and unload them from the buggy just so that I can get home and unload them from the car and carry them into my house and take everything out of the bags and put it all away.

But to complain would seem to despise the gift of having not only plenty of food to eat but the ability to go to a store and get a buggy full of groceries so my family can eat in the first place.

It would show a heart that is ungrateful. It is the same with my laundry and my friend moving away and any number of ways I could so easily find to complain. It’s easy to find things to complain about.  I love this quote from Nancy Wilson’s book Learning Contentment,  “Discontent requires no learning, no teaching, and no practice because we are born wanting things, and we are born knowing how to grumble, murmur, and complain.”

It takes work and effort to fight against complaining and being ungrateful. But the more we practice being grateful the easier it becomes. And the really great thing about it? It’s hard for others to stay grumpy and whiny when faced with a person who genuinely practices contentment and being grateful. We are drawn to happy people and we enjoy being around them.

Going into a new week with these thoughts fresh in my mind I am reminded of the old hymn This Is My Father’s World.

This is my father’s world.

Why should my heart be sad?

The Lord is king, let the heavens ring.

God reigns, let the earth be glad.

The writer of that hymn, Presbyterian minister Maltbie Davenport Babcock, also wrote this gem of wisdom:

We are not here to play, to dream, to drift,

We have hard work to do, and loads to lift, 

Shun not the struggle; face it;

Tis God’s gift.

So whatever hard work you have to face this day or the next be encouraged to look for the good of God’s providence in it. Even in the muck and mire He is King.

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Think On These Things

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved

you.

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for

his friends.

You are my friends if you do what I command you.

No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what

his master is doing;

but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I

have made known to you.

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you

should go and bear much fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that

whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.

These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

~John 15: 12-17

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Think On These Things

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside still waters.

He restores my soul.

He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil,

for you are with me;

your rod and your staff,

they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;

you anoint my head with oil;

my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,

And I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

~Psalm 23