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Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Live Today!

Some able-bodied people don’t get out much, have many friends or any ministry to others. Frankly, they don’t have much of a life.

The older I get, the more I realize life is to be lived now. We invest in others now. We enjoy life now. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed, so whatever we do today matters.

Yes, there are stages—single, married, small children, children in school (homeschooling or taking them), working, middle age, grandparenting, and old age. Sometimes these stages are mixed up—single moms, working moms, and grandparents who care for their grandchildren, etc. Our lives are complicated, and we need to look for ways to impact our world positively.

I’m talking about legacy.

To many, Ecclesiastes is perhaps one of the most puzzling books of the Bible. Its theme, the vanity of life (under the sun), is so front and center that sometimes we miss the rest of its teaching. Let’s read some of the verses:
  • I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life. And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God (Ecclesiastes 3:12-13).
  • A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one's birth (Ecclesiastes 7:1).
  • Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works. Let thy garments be always white; and let thy head lack no ointment. Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun. Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest (Ecclesiastes 9:7-10).
  • In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good. Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun. Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment Ecclesiastes 11:6-7, 9).
  • Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).

What kind of a legacy are we building with our words and actions—the building blocks of our lives? What will we be remembered for after we’re gone?

Are we:
  • joyous?
  • happy as we work?
  • pure?
  • faithful and joyful in our marriage?
  • diligent workers?
  • planting “seeds” towards future harvests?
  • enjoying the sunshine?
  • conscious that God is watching?
  • respecting God?
  • obeying the Lord’s commandments?
  • mindful that our works will be judged?

Let’s not become so bogged down with the vanity of life—the drudgery of repeated tasks and routines—that we forget to enjoy the sunshine. Let’s leave a legacy of joyful obedience to the will of God. Let’s be conscious that the Lord is watching and that we’ll give account. But, that knowledge should be joyful, too, as He is the one who actually gives us the ability to do His will. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it (1 Thessalonians 5:24).

Enjoy your life today!

Live it with eternity in mind.

Leave a legacy of godliness and truth.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The Wimpy Wife and Proverbs 31

In your mind’s eye, picture the ideal Christian wife. What is she like?

Many of us think she’s this sweetsy cutesy little number, who’s quiet, prudishly modest, and submissive in the extreme. She’s someone we can hardly imagine—and someone we don’t even want to be. She doesn’t seem to have a mind of her own and certainly wouldn’t express her opinions. She’s a servant, hospitable, and she keeps a perfectly clean house, supports her husband in everything, and has a lot of children. But, hint hint, this isn't exactly accurate.

It’s interesting what the Bible has to say about the ideal Christian wife. I like the description—with God’s hearty approval—of the Virtuous Woman in Proverbs 31. What kind of a woman was she?

Let’s look at her in detail.

  • First, we see her worth. Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies. Quality rubies are worth more than diamonds of the same weight. Isn’t it interesting that God uses rubies to describe a virtuous woman?
  • What kind of a relationship does she have with her husband? The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life. Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land. His heart never fears that she will betray him or do him any wrong. He knows he can trust her—with anything. It implies that she builds him up so that he can be a leader of the people.
  • Now, we look at her industry. This lady is an entrepreneur. She is hard-working, giving, and kind. Actually, she tires me out! Day and night, you’ll find her busy. She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands. She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar. She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens. She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard. She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night. She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff. She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy. She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant. She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.
  • How about her clothing? I don’t think you’d call this lady “dowdy.” She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet. She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.
  • She’s strong as a person and physically, too. Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come. She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.
  • How does she speak? She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.
  • What do the people who know her best think about her? Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.
  • What does God think of her? Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all. Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.
  • And, what is her reward on earth? Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates. (All Bible quotations are from Proverbs 31:10-31.)

We’ve learned that God’s ideal woman is:
  • Priceless.
  • Trustworthy.
  • A good woman, whose husband is a respected man.
  • A hard worker.
  • Wise.
  • A provider.
  • A businesswoman.
  • Charitable.
  • Someone who takes care of her own household.
  • Elegant.
  • Strong.
  • Honorable.
  • Joyful.
  • Physically strong.
  • Wise and kind in speech.
  • Praised by her husband and children.
  • Someone who respects God.

I know, as I wrote this list, I did some soul searching. What would God say about me? I don’t know for sure. How do I add up? Some of these areas are not my strong suit. What’s a Christian woman to be like? Strength is mentioned in two contexts. This is no wimpy lady! She’s amazing …

and worth far more than rubies.

God said that.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Feel the Love

Everyone enjoys warm and fuzzy feelings. Much advertising is based on them. You see a moody setting: fireplace, warm colors, people dressed in sweaters, drinking hot chocolate …. It’s especially nice this time of year! It’s cold outside, and nothing is more enticing than Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire after Jack Frost nipped at your nose.* Even if it’s never been your reality, you want that mood. Warmth, laughter, mulled cider, fruity and cinnamony smells, home and hearth.

We crave those same feelings in our relationships. You only have to scroll your favorite social media feed to see couples you know in tight embraces, looking at each other with stars in their eyes. We love it—love and appreciation, passion, warmth—the glow.

We want it for ourselves: a rosy posy always loving relationship. My perfect man. Feel the love! We want our home to be just like those commercials: two people on a fuzzy rug in front of the fireplace, sipping something warm and delicious. We want the passion.

We also crave it with God. We want to experience the ecstasies of Elijah on Mount Carmel. We desire victory in every battle, the feeling of following Miriam with tambourine and song. We want the Holy Spirit to make us feel great. We also want every church service to so fill us that we leave satisfied to overflowing.

But, reality and what we want are two different things.

You may have gotten married in the fall or winter and sipped hot chocolate together by a roaring fire. You may have experienced some incredibly beautiful moments in your marriage. But anyone married a week or more knows that not every moment is film-worthy. There are clothes to wash, dinners to cook, and bathrooms to clean. Sneakers get stinky, and even Mr. Perfect Husband doesn’t always look so good. In fact, most days are normal life. Even in the very best, loving, beautiful marriages, about 90% of the time, both spouses are simply doing life. They are not always on passionate mountaintops. (It would be weird if they were!)

It’s the same way with our spiritual life. Oh yes, we can take gorgeous photos of our devotions, complete with steaming coffee cups, and we can sincerely enjoy our Bible and prayer. But, about 90% of the time, our learning and sharing life with God isn’t filled with warm and fuzzy feelings. About 90% of our church attendance doesn’t exactly produce an “overflowing” experience, either.

When I put my trust in the Lord for salvation, I didn’t feel anything. It wasn’t emotional at all. It was 100% real, but it wasn’t accompanied by fireworks and choruses of angels singing—that I could hear, anyway. Several years later, I remember complaining to my mother about my total lack of feeling in my Christian walk. I knew without a doubt I was saved. I knew by experience that God answered prayer. But, I told my mother it would be nice to feel something. I wanted warm and fuzzy in my spiritual journey. She explained to me that emotions and feelings really don’t matter and that Truth does. Of course, she was right.

Not long afterwards, God gave me an amazing experience as a specific answer to group prayer. It was incredible! I wasn’t alone, so I know I wasn’t making it up. It was all the emotional experience I desired and then some. Afterwards, I knew God did that for me. He let me touch the hem of His garment and actually feel something for the first time in my life. It was a holy thing that He did that evening. None of us will ever forget it, but I think He did it for me—a teen who wanted to feel Him working.

Since then, I’ve had some precious times with the Lord, but nothing like that experience. I have been moved with praise and awe, and I’m often moved to tears in thankfulness for what God has done for me. But, I’ve also learned something:

My relationship with God doesn’t depend on my feelings.

Whether or not I feel anything, God is always with me. Whether or not I have a fantastic experience, God is listening to my prayer. Whether or not I feel full to overflowing in church, God is ministering to me through the Word and fellowship with His people.

I don’t need anything else.

Roll the warm and fuzzy. We know those pictures are staged—and they represent the ten percent, at best. Feelings of ecstasy in our spiritual lives will be very rare. But God never changes. Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He is much better than the best of marriages: always there, always available, always listening, always loving.


*"The Christmas Song," by Bob Wells and Mel Tormé.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Flirting and Harassment: What to Do

It started with the Hollywood bigwig, then Westminster, and now, accusations of sexual harassment are coming out all over. Once someone has the guts to tell on these guys, victims come out of the woodwork. Seriously, some of the complaints are ludicrous. “He wrote me a compliment.” “He touched my knee.” Oh, they really happened, and they were unwanted. True. But seriously? Was this horrific?

So, what is flirting, and what is harassment? How can you tell the difference?

Let’s just talk, okay?

A man in the office compliments a woman on her appearance. She has several options in that moment. She can say, “Thank you,” with a smile—which might encourage the guy. She can also frown at him. Is any other action needed? No, I don’t think so.

Let’s pretend the man goes further with his flirtation. He makes it obvious he wants to take her out and actually asks her. The woman has the options yes or no. Does she want to date this guy? Does she not? She needs to word her answer in very clear language.

Both of these scenarios would be called flirting. I am not sure it’s terrible to compliment someone in the office. It might not be advisable, though. It’s probably best to keep to business behavior in the office. Personal lives can be conducted outside.

Any unwanted touching—any that you’re not comfortable with—should be immediately rebuffed. When the British Member of Parlaiment put his hand on the woman’s knee, she threatened to punch him in the face. Needless to say, he got the message—and he didn’t try anything with her again. It is important to immediately tell the person your opinion about the action and make it stop. If it doesn’t stop, it should be reported to the appropriate person. No one has the right to make unwanted advances.

Harassment is unwanted touching or stalking. It is inappropriate. It is usually also repeated and constant. Harassment should be rebuked and reported—every single time. The victim should go on record to her immediate authority that she does not appreciate this named person’s behavior. (Many states will help with a restraining order for any harassment that makes one feel actually threatened.)

Why does harassment go unreported (or ignored)? It’s because of fear. Usually, it’s a person in authority who picks on someone lower down the scale. The more powerful person takes advantage of an underling, and he thinks he’s invincible and entitled. This happens in almost every business. It’s not just in Hollywood!

It even happens in churches.

What should we do?
  • Keep our eyes open. Is this a threatening situation? Do we feel comfortable or uncomfortable?
  • Is this appropriate? For example, it is never appropriate for a married person to flirt. It’s not appropriate for married people even to compliment the opposite sex—unless there’s a huge age difference—and then, with caution. (For example, I might tell a child who’s all dressed up for church that he looks nice. I would not tell a middle-aged man the same thing, and I would certainly not tell a man my age anything about his appearance, unless he were my brother.)
  • If the flirtation is between two singles, it needs to be pure and sweet, not sexual in nature.
  • Any touching should be as normal between friends, and nothing more. If any unwanted touching happens, we let the other person know in clear terminology it is not appreciated. We also tell a trusted friend about what happened. If the touching is groping, we tell the authorities in the church and police.
  • It is wise to be careful about being anywhere alone with another person. This goes for same sex as well as the opposite sex. You don’t want to put yourself in a situation where you might be falsely accused. You also would not want to be overpowered or assaulted. Always being careful about being alone with others will help you avoid being in a situation where someone could take advantage of you.

If you work outside the home, these are some good rules for your protection:
  1. If you are married, display your spouse’s picture on your desk or at your workplace. Talk positively about your spouse often. Make sure that anyone fishing for possibilities realizes you are simply not available.
  2. If you are single, watch your own behavior. Get rid of any conscious or unconscious come-ons. Make sure you dress modestly and keep to yourself. Make sure you don’t flirt. A smile is fine. Flirting is not. Keep all relationships businesslike.
  3. Do not go into a room alone with another person, unless the door is left open. Avoid being in “hidden” places where someone might trap you. Keep out in the open always. If you feel insecure, ask a coworker to walk with you.
  4. Never have a meal one-on-one with someone of the opposite sex. It might be purely business, but it looks (and feels) like a date. Make it your business policy always to have business lunches or dinners in a threesome.
  5. You might want to invest in one of those pull alarms. If you ever feel threatened, pull the pin. 

If anything ever happens to you—groping, unwanted advances, propositions, harassment, or assault—always, always report it to the authority over you. Write down the date you do that. Make sure it gets reported! If the authority does not deal with the problem and the offender isn’t reprimanded, go higher. Go as high as you need to so that this problem is dealt with.

If you feel harassed, you can go to the police and fill out a report. If you have been assaulted in any way, fill out a police report. Any assault is a crime against your person.

One other thing: be careful what you repeat and what you believe. Anyone can accuse anyone. Make sure you know the facts. Do not spread gossip. If the case is not about you personally, it’s none of your business. Don’t be guilty of spreading news that isn’t helpful. Let the authorities deal with any subject of harassment or assault. The Apostle Paul said about some young women, And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not (1 Timothy 5:13). None of us wants to be guilty of that!

Be aware and cautious.

Jesus said, Behold, I send you forth as sheep 
in the midst of wolves:
be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. 
(Matthew 10:16)