Tuesday, December 15, 2015

God's Gift

I read this quote for the first time a week or so ago, when a friend posted it on her Facebook wall in honor of St. Nicholas Day.  It really got my attention and so I looked into this St. Nicholas of Myra.  He was an interesting fellow.  The way in which he was made bishop was unique.  One of the wise men in charge of electing a new bishop had a dream in which God told him to choose the first man named Nicholas to enter the chapel for matins the next day.  Nicholas of Myra was the first person named Nicholas to enter for matins that day, and therefore was made bishop.  Another story talks about a famine in Myra.  When several ships carrying grain came into the harbor there, St. Nicholas convinced the sailors to give the people of Myra a measure of grain from each ship.  He told the sailors, who were fearful the missing grain would be found out, that God would make up the difference.  When the ships' cargo was weighed, there was indeed no difference between what they had and what they were supposed to have.  Still another time St. Nicholas petitioned Constantine to lower the taxes for Myra because they were so high that the people were suffering.  Constantine agreed and the people of Myra were again saved from hardship.

So, this interesting long-dead bishop really put Christmas in perspective for me this year.  My husband and I were talking about the gifts we were going to get for our kids this year, and he was talking about how much they already have and how they don't need anything, etc.  I was agreeing with him on those points.  He said something about how they really don't deserve a whole bunch of gifts, and that's where this quote came in.  None of us deserve gifts.  If Christmas were truly merit-based, there wouldn't be a Black Friday or a Cyber Monday because nobody would be buying gifts.

Christmas has become so commercialized.  But more than that, for kids at least, it has become centered on their behavior and how they can earn their gifts each year.  I totally understand motivating kids to be on their best behavior.  I'm all for it.  But in this instance, are we doing our children a disservice by obscuring the real intention behind gift-giving?  Sure, we talk about Jesus being born and we're celebrating his birth after the fashion of the Wise Men, but it should be more than that.  Jesus is no longer a baby in a  manger.  He's the Spotless Lamb who was sacrificed, dead, and then rose again and is alive today.  He was the perfect gift; undeserved, unearned, and in no way related to our own actions.  How much more meaningful is a gift given to someone who has no reason to expect one because they haven't earned it?  It sheds a new light on Christmas for all of us and can be a powerful example for our kids if we'll just help them to understand that they're getting presents from their earthly parents even though their behavior didn't merit favor because in the same way, God their Heavenly Father sent His Perfect Gift to us when we didn't deserve it.

I love this view of gift-giving and it has changed my perspective.  I love giving gifts to others.  It isn't that my gifts are always merit-based, but this way of looking at the gifting tradition is going to make me think about who and why I am giving much more than I have in the past.  It adds depth.  It also makes me think differently about the gifts I receive.  I'm far from perfect and my behavior today alone doesn't merit anything special.  And yet, Jesus still died for me and the Father's Gift still stands.  And that, my friends, is what Christmas is all about.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

She makes her own bedspreads.  She dresses in fine linen and purple gowns.Proverbs 31:22, NLT

Being a Proverbial Wife (or, at least, trying my best to be one) I try to read Proverbs 31 often so that I can keep fresh in my mind exactly what that means.  Today, this verse stood out to me and these are my thoughts on it.
This wife cares what her husband thinks of her.  She wants him to be comfortable, happy, pleased, and she wants him to find pleasure in how she is dressed.  The Proverbial wife wants her bed to be a place of comfort and beauty.  She wants her husband to be able to enjoy his bed.  She makes her own bedspreads because she wants to make sure that they are beautiful and comfortable, pleasing to both her and her husband.  She dresses in fine clothing (which she has probably also made for herself) so that she looks nice.  The Proverbial wife wants to look good for her man!  I’m sure there were times when she schlepped around in her second best clothing, but overall, she cared about how her husband saw her and she cared about what kind of impression she gave others because that also reflected on her husband.
Ladies, we don’t always have to be walking around in heels and pearls, but it is important that we care about our appearance.  Sure, there are days I walk around the house in my pajamas, but they’re pretty rare.  When we’re working outside on the house or the yard I wear appropriate clothing for that too.  But when I’m going to the store, or to the kids’ school, etc., I make sure I’m dressed nicely.  My appearance is a statement about myself and about my husband.  My appearance tells people whether or not I care about myself, my spouse, my home.  If I always walked around in sweats and t-shirts with holes people would think that I was a slob.  You may say that it doesn’t matter what other people think, but in some cases it does and here is why: giving others a bad impression about yourself is disrespectful to your husband.
If you’re like me, you generally always try to cast your spouse in the best possible light to others.  Sure, he has faults, but they aren’t for public discussion.  If I constantly wore shabby clothing, it casts my husband in a shadow of doubt.  People would wonder if my husband just had really low standards because if I look that shabby, what must our home look like?  Most of us want our husbands to be respected in the community.  Ladies, I’m telling you, that depends in part on us!  If we aren’t respectable, why should people respect our husbands?  When people can’t see past our appearance then our testimony is compromised.
The bottom line is that we should put effort into our appearance for the sake of our husbands.  Remember when you were dating, and you’d get dressed with him in mind, and put your makeup on so that he would see you as pretty?  Why should that have changed once married?  Even if you don’t feel like your husband deserves that kind of respect and honor, God still does.  Ultimately, God is our husband; we are the Bride of Christ.  He certainly deserves our best every day.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Which way are you pointing?

I've had this subject rolling around in my mind for several days now, and with the news from Kentucky about Kim Davis, I thought it was time to put my thoughts out there.  In case you aren't aware, dear reader, Kim Davis is a county clerk in Kentucky who was ordered to serve time in jail because she refused to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples.

I really don't know what she expected to happen.  It was not a surprise that she was going to be required to issue same sex marriage licenses.  Here's the thing- if she was opposed to doing this because of her personal belief system, then she should have been looking for a different job.  Or- and this would be my personal preference were I in her situation- she could have used her position as a tool to witness for Jesus.  I understand disagreeing with the gay/lesbian lifestyle.  However, there is a better way to approach people about it which does not require unnecessary martyrdom.  

Here's what I think a lot of Christians fail to realize: we cannot hold non-Christians to a belief system to which they do not ascribe!  Why is it that we expect people who do not have a personal relationship with Jesus to act like they do?  Dear reader, it is hard enough for me to consistently act in a manner befitting a Jesus girl!  I fall short daily!  The difference is that because I have the Holy Spirit convicting me, I can clearly see when I've done wrong and I feel remorse and seek forgiveness.  If someone who doesn't have the Holy Spirit is committing sin, how can we expect them to be convicted of that sin?  It does no good for us as Christians to point out their sin!  It just makes us come across as judgmental hypocrites, because we do fall short and they don't have a concept of grace.

So, what if instead of trying to convict sinners, we instead pointed people to Jesus and let Him do the convicting?  What if we just loved people, no matter their situation, and showed them that there is a better way?  It is not our job to be the Holy Spirit to non-believers.  It is our job to love them, minister to them, and point them to Jesus.  Show them how you live your life.  Show them how you live your relationship with Jesus every day in your marriage, at your job, with your kids, with your friends, and with those who don't know Him.  That's why Jesus said that others would know us by our love.  He never said to make non-believers fall into line.  He often said, instead, to show them The Way.  Show them how to love Jesus, and the rest will fall into place.

I ask you, friend, which way are you pointing?  Are you pointing fingers at others and pointing at what they're doing wrong?  Or are you pointing them instead toward Jesus?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Sound of (Worship) Music

There has been quite a bit of talk lately about modern worship music and whether or not it's good, acceptable, and even biblical.  I've seen judgment on both sides of the line and some of it has gotten pretty ugly.  It's perfectly okay to have an opinion either way; it is never okay to tell someone that the music they use to worship is wrong or somehow less valid than your preference.

There is a wide variety of worship music these days.  I've seen heavy metal bands who use that style to create worship music.  I've seen rock and pop music in worship.  I've seen classical music used and I've seen traditional hymns sung.  While the heavy metal and the old-fashioned hymns aren't my particular choice, I'm sure not going to tell someone who does like those styles that they aren't really worshiping the Lord because they aren't doing it my way.  If your heart is earnestly seeking after God and you're praising His name through whatever type of song you're listening to, then what business do I have telling you that it's not as good as the way I worship?!  It may not be my personal preference, but I have no right to put you down because I don't care for that style of worship music.  That is not showing love and grace towards my fellow believers.

I recently read an article by a pastor who refuses to use modern worship songs in his church because he said they were not theologically sound.  He said that all of the old hymns are theologically sound doctrine and he even said that modern worship songs should not be used in any church, ever.  That really bothered me because many of the modern worship songs we sing at our church are actually scripture straight from the Bible set to music!  Anyone who argues that modern worship music is not theologically sound has obviously not listened to much of it.  As with anything, there are exceptions to the rule and you have to be discerning, but in large part, modern worship music is straight from the Bible.  2 Timothy 3:16 says "All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right" (NLT).  If all scripture is useful for teaching, then that certainly applies to scripture in modern worship songs.

I've heard people say that modern worship songs are too repetitive.  God's Word tells us in Psalm 119:11 that we should put His word in our hearts so that we don't sin against Him.  What better way to memorize scripture than by singing it?  Personally, I have a terrible memory, but when something is set to music I will remember it forever and a day.  Singing scripture is a perfect way for me to put God's word into my heart.  When I'm depressed or anxious I can recall a song quoting scripture much easier than I can recall scripture itself.  So, while modern worship songs may be repetitive in nature, they're beneficial because of it.

Another argument against modern worship songs is that they are too much like going to a rock concert and too much like entertainment rather than worship.  Well, I can tell you this-- if you're not in a worship frame of mind, you won't be able to worship no matter what style of music is playing.  If you're going to church to be entertained like at a concert then you're already going for the wrong reasons.  If you do have trouble worshiping because of the style of music then I would encourage you to find a church where you feel at home and free to worship in your own way.  I love the modern worship songs because I can let go and worship freely.  I've normally got my eyes closed and I'm not even paying attention to the lighting or the words on the screen or what the worship leader is doing.  I'm there to worship God and sing to Him alone.  I don't care what anyone else is doing because I'm too focused on God to notice!

The bottom line is this-- no matter what style of music you choose to use in your worship, focus on Jesus and give grace and love to those who choose a different style than you.  We are all the body of Christ and we should come together in worship, not tear each other apart because of our differences.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

In Loving Service

God recently revealed something to me and I want to share it with y'all.  Maybe it's something you already know, but maybe it will hit you the way it hit me.  I'll never look at serving the same way.

I have a servant's heart- I love to serve people in any capacity; especially my husband because I have such a big love for him.  A servant's heart does not come naturally to everyone.  It isn't necessarily that those of us who aren't naturally servant-hearted are just inherently selfish (although humans as a species are all inherently selfish to varying degrees).  We were all created with different gifts and talents and a servant's heart is just one of those things.  No better, no worse, just different.  And yet, it's a gift we all need to have.  We're supposed to love one another as Jesus loves us, and he is a servant king.  Matthew 25:40 says that whatever we do for the least, we also do for Jesus.  We are his hands and feet in this world and so we all need to have a servant's heart occasionally.

It comes so naturally to me to serve my husband.  I spoil him, but I love to.  I put his shoes on in the morning and take them off at night.  Not because he can't and not even because he asked me to (he didn't).  In fact, it took him quite a while to get used to the fact that I wanted to do that for him.  It's just a small act of loving service that I can perform for him to show him how much I love him.  I'm sure we all do something like that for our spouses because we want to show our love for them.  Well, guess what?  Everything we do for God is done in the same way, with the same purpose; to show God how much we love him!  I have generally looked at serving God as something of a requirement; a duty.  It is those things, but I never have looked at serving God as a way to show him how very much I love him!  I looked at it as obedience, as a duty, as a privilege and an honor, but never as a way to show God that I love him.  Maybe y'all are thinking, "well, duh, Catherine.  Took you long enough."  I totally agree.  It seems so obvious now, but wow, it sure has given me a new outlook.  Now, when I do things like driving for Feed the Flock (a program at our church which provides a hot meal for families in need, twice a week) or singing on praise team at church, or even just helping out a friend in need, I think about how we are supposed to do everything as though we were working for the Lord rather than people (Colossians 3:23) and I realize that the act of being obedient and doing whatever I am doing is showing God that I care about what he wants from me and that I love him enough to be obedient to his word.

Before this revelation, it isn't that I wasn't trying to show my love for Jesus.  I just thought that the only way I was doing it was through worship.  I suppose I was a little caught up in the thought that my obedience was just trying to be good enough for Jesus.  Worthy, somehow, of his immense sacrifice.  My friends, that just ain't ever gon' happen.  I am a sinner and I don't know how to be anything else.  Thank you Jesus that it doesn't matter that I can't live a sin-free life
.  My obedience does not make him love me more or less.  My worship is not the only way I have to show him how grateful I am and how much I love him.  And HE is the one who showed that to me!  What an incredible God we love.  Amen.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A matter of life and death

Our words have power.  I'm sure y'all have heard that a million times before today, but it's true.  I think we don't always realize just how powerful our words are, especially when it comes to our husbands.  Ladies, we have the power to make or break our husbands.  It all comes down to our words.

There are many, many passages in the Bible which talk about the words we speak.  Proverbs 18:21 says "The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences" (NLT).  It's ours to choose whether we bring death or life to our husbands (or to anyone).  I think it is especially important that we are careful with the words we choose to use with our husbands.  (I think we should be careful with our words to everyone, but this post is specifically about marriages today.)  We're so comfortable in our own homes and with our families.  For most of us, our husband is our best friend.  We're comfy and we let our guard down because we are in our own space.  This is a good thing, but it also means that we don't always put the effort in that we should.  We don't think before we speak because we're comfortable.  We say things to our spouses we would never say to a casual acquaintance.  This should not be the case!  Our spouses deserve at least as much respect as the guy in the office next to yours; the teacher in the class next to you; the mom you sit next to at your Mother's Day Out group.  If you wouldn't say it to them, you shouldn't be saying it to your spouse.  Speaking harshly, negatively, disrespectfully to your spouse is a quick way to bring death to your relationship.  That's what the Proverb above says-- your words can bring life or death and if you speak with words of death you'll suffer the consequences.

And not just you, but your husband will suffer the consequences as well.  If you're berating your spouse, he'll start to believe what you say and act accordingly.  Sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy if you will.  If your words are disrespectful towards your husband, especially in public, you're bringing death to your husband.  Proverbs 12:4 says "A worthy wife is a crown for her husband, but a disgraceful woman is like cancer in his bones" (NLT).  Just as cancer can bring death, so do your disrespectful words.  They eat away at your husband until the spirit inside him withers and dies.

On the other hand, if you speak words of life, you lift your husband up!  When you support him and affirm him with your words, you empower your husband to rise above.  If you are affirming your husband and showing him that you place value on him it makes him strive to be worthy of that affirmation.  When you do so publicly it is a wonderful example of how a wife should treat her husband.  You are then "a crown" for your husband rather than a "cancer in his bones."  I would certainly rather be a crown to my husband!  I would never want to bring him death; it hurts my heart to even think about bringing death or pain to my husband.  Some of y'all bring death on a regular basis, and you probably don't realize the extent of the damage you're causing.

Our words are either death or they are life.  I know that I don't want to bring death to my husband and I'm sure y'all don't either.  Start examining what you say more closely; think before you speak, even- maybe especially- when you're comfortable in your setting.  Speak life!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Respecting authority

Let me start by saying that I'm not the most politically-minded person, and I don't follow politics closely, but I do have a working knowledge of the things that go on in our society both locally and nationally.  This entry is not intended to start a big political debate about who's right and who's wrong in our country.  My goal here is to address the way in which we relate to those in positions of authority in our towns, our states, and our nation.

A friend of mine, who is a law enforcement officer, recently pointed something out that really opened my eyes.  He referred to Romans 13 which states in verse 1 that "all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God" (NLT).  If you're like me, you've heard that verse before and it's nothing new.  However, what struck me was the fact that I'd never considered our law enforcement as authorized by God to uphold our laws.  Verse 2 of Romans 13 goes on to say that "anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished" (NLT).  Those who break the law are not just breaking man's laws, they're actually rebelling against God as well.  Our law enforcement officers are placed in their positions by God in order to uphold a system He established.  They deserve our respect, our support, and most of all, our prayers.

Slightly off topic for a moment- I had been wondering why our law enforcement in this country should be under attack the way they have been in recent months.  It didn't make sense to me.  When I heard my friend talk about being placed in authority by God according to Romans 13 it made so much more sense to me that law enforcement would be under attack.  They're under attack because ultimately, by upholding the law, they're doing the Lord's work whether they realize it or not.  Satan is always going to try to bring down those who do the work of the Lord.  I don't know if y'all have been wondering the same thing, but maybe that will help you understand as it did for me.

Back to the main point.  The verses in Romans 13 extend beyond our local law enforcement.  They extend to our city government, our state government, and our national government.  Again, I'm not the greatest political mind, and on the whole I find that I disagree with our president's politics, however, he has been placed in a position of authority over us, by God, (do you really think he'd be president if God didn't will it so?) and therefore we are to be respectful of him.  Much the same way that we are to respect Christ as the head of the church, and our husbands as the head of our home, we are to give respect to Barack Obama as president of the United States.  That doesn't mean we have to agree with the president, like him, or even trust him, but we do have to be respectful.  Ultimately, God is in control and His will is going to be carried out regardless of who is president, governor, or mayor of your town.  Those digs and insults to the president (or other authority figures) you post on Facebook?  It's disrespectful and ultimately rebellious against God.  It does not exemplify the relationship we are supposed to have with our loving Savior.  Being respectful of someone, loving them, and praying for them has nothing to do with the kind of person they are, but rather everything to do with the person we purport to love and serve.