The Daily Work of the Spirit

Growing up in the church I was familiar with ministry nights. I also grew up experiencing the full gamut of Christian conferences and retreats. These events included extended times of prayer and worship accompanied by serene guitar strums and low lighting. Sensing the presence of the Holy Spirit felt as effortless as the melodies falling softly on my ears. These felt like special times when God would reveal himself to me in my stillness, and the Spirit would convict me of sin and help me set my sights on Christ.

These organized events can be refreshing and beneficial, but I’ve realized I should be seeking ministry from the Holy Spirit at all times. The Spirit’s ministry doesn’t have to be still, quiet, peaceful, and at a scheduled time. The Holy Spirit works in the mundane everyday moments of life — the nitty-gritty daily grind.

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Do Not Fear the Hard Things of Marriage

The picture in my head was clear, the image of a sheep being guided along from the rear by its shepherd. The sheep stayed the course on the straight path by the taps of the staff to its hindquarters. I heard the Lord say: “Do not fear, I will guide you and protect you.”

God was speaking to my heart as I confronted my fears of marriage. I was dating my husband at the time and fear tethered me back from going forward in the relationship. I was afraid of putting myself in a vulnerable position, because it could possibly lead to hurt. I wanted a life devoid of personal pain and heartache. I wanted to take my own hands and shelter my heart, instead of placing it into the hands of my Father…

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Dispelling Our Fear of Submission

Before I was married, I thought fulfilling biblical roles in marriage would look like a paint-by-number picture. My husband and I would both know exactly what to do, and our marriage would take off in the right direction on its own.

Now I see roles in marriage more like an inspired work of art: It takes time, thought, practice, some messy spills, and mental roadblocks. But with each brushstroke applied to the canvas, a picture of colorful beauty begins to take shape. Unlike the hard and clear-cut lines of a paint-by-number picture, the colors on this canvas bleed together in a way where distinction isn’t always obvious, but a glorious harmony emerges.

Before marriage, I also viewed the submissive wife as a shadow which loomed over me as Scrooge’s ghost of Christmas future. In my misconceptions, Ephesians 5 sounded like the rattling of Jacob Marley’s chains. Yet, three things helped me to dispel the fear of submission.

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Adversity Can Drive Our Affections to Christ

I didn’t want to get married. But I knew I was turning away a gift from God. Fear was gripping my heart as I resisted the gift of marriage. I knew it would be hard work and I would get hurt in the process. I thought thinking about marriage in terms of a gift meant adopting a sentimental view: a dozen red roses, date nights, dinner and wine, romantic picnics, and late night pillow talk. Maybe the romanticized view of marriage would elevate my negativity? After five years in my marriage I’m just now learning what that gift actually means.

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Helpers for Unfinished Husbands

My husband recently saw the spectacular Victoria Falls in Zambia. I said my husband because I was not there to witness the beauty and glory of such a sight, although he did text me a photo. I was grateful for the kind gesture, but it did nothing to keep me from longing to be there in person.

I could see sunrays beaming through the upper half of the falls, creating a rainbow in the watery mist. Yet I couldn’t hear the thunderous crashes of the water careening into the ocean below. I couldn’t experience the feelings that well up when our senses are bombarded with wonder like a massive waterfall. I saw a fraction of the majesty on my phone. I love that he sent me the photo, but it was a poor representation of the real thing.

In much the same way, my husband is called to represent the beauty and glory of Jesus Christ in our marriage. But I have to remember he’s just a photo — a representation, an image, a sketch of the real thing. Our husbands have a great and glorious calling to be like Christ for us.

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Give Your Suitor Some Grace

He wasn’t putting himself out there. His indirect attempts at prompting my admissions were not working. I stood firm and resolute. He kept prying.

It was our third date, he was putting the feelers out, and I wasn’t having it. No way would I be the first one to jump in the water. I expected him to directly broach the topic of our relationship with me. I wanted him to tell me his feelings first and initiate an official relationship. Yet we were at a stalemate. The awkward silence swallowed our fun evening as it came to a close.

When we parted ways, I became angry and began to doubt him. “Maybe he’s not the kind of guy I want?” “This isn’t going to work out.” “He’s not leading and initiating like he should.” My harsh judgments were growing like a hard shell around my heart, and I began rejecting him internally. I thought it would end before it had even begun….

Continue reading this post at DesiringGod.org >>

My Solid Rock in Marriage

I almost didn’t marry my husband.

I sat in my cubicle with showering tears and a shiny engagement ring on my finger. That morning on my way to work we had our first fight. My old fears of marriage crept in: loss of control, vulnerability, and the potential for being hurt. Maybe I shouldn’t go through with this. Maybe he’s not who I thought he was. Are these his true colors finally bleeding through?

I was gushing to my boss at work about the heated argument and the apparent pride of my fiancé. My boss patiently listened and said many things that day to me, but one sentence hooked me in. It seemed so simple, but in that moment it was profound. It was a reality of life I hadn’t experienced before this point.

He said, “I can be a very proud man sometimes, but I’m glad my wife still married me.”

To read the rest of this post, head on over to Boundless.org’s blog.

Two ways to be Rich Everyday

There is a show on TLC called Extreme Cheapskates. Each episode shows people using bizarre tactics to save a buck. A few episodes I happened to see awhile back showed cheapskate millionaires as well. They fearfully hoard their wealth in a feeble attempt to control their lives, and in the process they make themselves and others suffer needlessly.

In the same way we can be spiritual cheapskate millionaires. We have abundant riches at our disposal daily, but don’t plunge ourselves into the waters of our inheritance.

Ephesians 1:7-14 says,

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.  In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”

Christ is our rich inheritance, given to us by the Father. He lavished the riches of his grace on us through the gospel. Yet, it didn’t stop on the day when we first believed in him. The riches of his grace are available daily to us. We must not selfishly hoard them. We must use them for ourselves and others.

How do we tap into our spiritual wealth? What does this mean in our daily lives?

1.) Read and Hear Truth

What are you soaking in? Are you soaking in your own personal thoughts, feelings, mood, and emotions? Are you soaking in full daily doses of media and worldly philosophies? If we steep in those things too long without truth we’ll become bitter. If we want our life brew to taste more palatable we need daily doses of truth in our lives.

The first place to find the capital T truth is God’s Word. Yet, we can also find glimpses of truth in creation, art, music, and literature, but they must be informed by the capital T truth. God’s Word is the baseline we look to to judge everything in our lives. When we do this we are delighting in and using the riches God has given us in Christ.

We need to know truth in order to deal with our daily circumstances: a demanding boss, catty co-workers, needy children, and even housework. If we don’t have truth anchoring our lives we will get swept away in whatever current comes our way.

2.) Pray for Help

We all hear about (or know personally) the newfound independence of toddlers. “No, me do it,” can commonly be heard in a household with small children. Are we doing this with our heavenly Father? He has given us his riches in order to help us daily; avail of them through prayer.

If my toddler son gets frustrated with something I tell him to use his words and ask me for help. I tell him to say, “Help, mama!”

It’s that simple. Say to God, “Help, daddy!” And he will help you. You don’t have to say a special prayer with a certain number of words that sound fancy and smart. Just say, “help!” You don’t have, because you don’t ask.

Christ became poor in death, so we could have the riches of life daily. We can now approach his throne of grace with full confidence, and know he will answer any prayer that is aligned with the truth of his Word.

As it says above in Ephesians, the Holy Spirit is the guarantee of our inheritance. We are not left alone without the power of the Spirit’s help. God will deliver on his promise through his Holy Spirit, until we fully acquire possession of our inheritance in heaven.

Weary moms need lots of help, so ask for it daily. Pressures in the workforce can be stressful, so ask for help. Life can be mundane and unsatisfying, so ask for help. We are rich, so let’s use it in our aid.

Through truth and prayer we can put our riches to work daily. We are too easily content with substandard conditions; replacing our royal robes with paupers rags. We’ve been given so much, so let’s not turn our backs on it like the Prodigal Son. Don’t exchange pig slop for the rich food at our Father’s banquet.

Wendy Horger Alsup sums this up well:

“Do not be content to simply read through these thoughts and then tuck them away like a miser. Your spiritual inheritance is useful right now in the issues you face daily in life. Spend your inheritance hour by hour of each day, raising your children, loving your husband, adjusting to co-workers, supporting your roommate, dealing with your family, dealing with your church. Your inheritance in Christ is of infinite value and relevant to what you are facing right now. You will never spend it all.”

Can We Really Have It All?

Feminism tells us ‘we can have it all.’ Is this possible? Even if it is possible, should we have it all?

Feminism after World War Two told women to leave the home and have a career. Now it’s more of a relaxed approach where domestic arts are not frowned upon, and feminists believe in the importance of marriage and motherhood. It’s even trendy now to be domestic. Today it’s cute and desirable to be a woman who bakes bread, knits, and throws Pinterest-worthy birthday parties for her kids.

Now we see the post World War Two career woman married to the domestically cute wife and mother. We have to be both. Do it all and be it all. The social pressure is high to become a one woman juggling act and add one more ball.

We have to race to the top of the corporate ladder as fast as the men, be as successful outside the home as inside the home, still come home and cook healthy meals for our families, help with homework, do house chores, bake cookies, and still find time to be beautiful and skinny. Women keep pressuring women to do it all and be it all. In the feminist quest to be like (or even better) than men we’ve beat up our own sex.

The Juggling Act

Pick up the phone, women, reality is calling and she’s saying you can’t have it all. Well, you can, but something in your life will suffer. Your career might suffer, your marriage might fall apart, your children will not have your full attention, or your health might take a dive. When juggling so much it’s inevitable that something will be subpar. It’s time to stop believing the cultural lie forced on us in our fast-paced society. It’s time to lay down our pride and know we can’t do it all.

Anne-Marie Slaughter says it perfectly in her article, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,”

“All my life, I’d been on the other side of this exchange. I’d been the woman smiling the faintly superior smile while another woman told me she had decided to take some time out or pursue a less competitive career track so that she could spend more time with her family. I’d been the woman congratulating herself on her unswerving commitment to the feminist cause, chatting smugly with her dwindling number of college or law-school friends who had reached and maintained their place on the highest rungs of their profession. I’d been the one telling young women at my lectures that you can have it all and do it all, regardless of what field you are in. Which means I’d been part, albeit unwittingly, of making millions of women feel that they are to blame if they cannot manage to rise up the ladder as fast as men and also have a family and an active home life (and be thin and beautiful to boot).”

In his book, “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less,” Greg Mckeown says:

“The idea that we can have it all and do it all is not new. This myth has been peddled for so long, I believe virtually everyone alive is infected with it. It is sold in advertising. It is championed in corporations…What is new is how especially damaging this myth is today, in a time when choice and expectations have increased exponentially. It results in stressed people trying to cram yet more activities into their already over scheduled lives.”

He goes on to say:

“It’s not just the number of choices that has increased exponentially, it is also the strength and number of outside influences on our decisions that has increased….The larger issue is how our connectedness has increased the strength of social pressure. Today, technology has lowered the barrier for others to share their opinion about what we should be focusing on. It is not just information overload; it is opinion overload.”

The Weariness of it All

It’s time to stop the comparisons, judgements, and pressures among women and slow down. For Christians there is only one opinion that matters: God’s opinion. God views us through his Son, and thereby we are perfect in his sight.

God is also omnipresent (he is everywhere at once.) Just like Adam and Eve, we can still eat the forbidden fruit today and try to be like God. Yet, God knows we are not like him; he knows we are weak and limited. As such, he created sleep for us and commands us to rest.

Our God is the one who said, “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28-30.) There is only one who can do it all. Jesus Christ. He is the one who took our heavy burden of sin away, and exchanged it for his light burden and easy yoke. The good news is that Jesus has already done it all. It’s finished, and now we truly have it all.

Love & Personality

I like personality tests. My analytical mind loves examining and discerning people’s personalities; even my own. I recently took an online personality test and my result was the assertive and stubborn leader found in ESTJ.  One paragraph in my personality type description said this:

“However, ESTJs don’t work alone, and they expect their reliability and work ethic to be reciprocated – people with this personality type meet their promises, and if partners or subordinates jeopardize them through incompetence or laziness, or worse still, dishonesty, they do not hesitate to show their wrath.”

Unfortunately, my husband gets the brunt of my ESTJ personality combined with my sin. So, when he doesn’t do things right, according to my standard, I can be harsh and unloving (or as the paragraph above states, “show my wrath.”)

To Love and to Abide

The above paragraph resonated with me, but didn’t turn to conviction of sin until I was reading 1 John 4:7-21.

Liberally peppered throughout 1 John 3 and 4 are the words abide and abiding. These words are referring to the definition: to remain, continue, stay, dwell, reside, and to continue in a particular condition, attitude or relationship.

Another word that pops up in these two chapters is love. There are also phrases like ‘abiding in God’, ‘God abiding in us’, ‘abiding in love’, ‘loving God’, ‘God loving us’, ‘loving our brothers’, and ‘keeping God’s commandments.’ These individual themes tie together in these two chapters.

When we choose to believe Jesus is the Son of God then God abides in us. We in turn abide in God, and thereby prove God abides in us, by loving God. How do we love God? According to these two chapters, we love God by keeping his commandments and loving others. In fact, the essence of keeping his commandments is through loving God and others.

Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” – Matthew 22:36-40

We Love Because He First Loved us

So, what does this have to do with a personality test and conviction of sin? The fact that I am not good at abiding in love. Abiding in love is harder than I think. It’s not a fuzzy emotional feeling; it’s obedience. It’s nailing my wants, needs, and desires to a tree, so I can be resurrected to a new life of selfless love. I’m the one who dies, so others can live. This is what it looks like to identify with Christ’s death and resurrection (Romans 6:5.) When we abide in him we take on his identity.

For most of us it is easy to love strangers, because we never see them again. But it’s harder to love those closest to us; the ones we experience life with everyday. We are going to have some friction at times with either a spouse, child, roommate or parent, because we see and experience more of each other. When they do something we don’t like we try to conform them into what we want-change them.

Yet, the most loving thing I can do for my husband is ask God to change me. It’s easier asking God to change others rather than asking him to change me. I need to ask him to help me be loving and kind to my husband, and this is possible through God’s Spirit abiding in me. It’s possible, because God first loved me.

“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19