Coffee Talk 2015: Week 15 {Be Thankful? You Can’t Be Serious! Part 3}

Damsels in Distress
Biblical Solutions for Problems with the World
Be Thankful? You Can’t Be Serious! Part 3
Trials by Brittany Cady

coffee talk online edition pictureHave you ever had someone tell you that you are a positive person? The real truth about me is something totally different. I am a doubter; I am often an anxious mess, and I am tempted to judge others or compare myself to them so that I feel better about myself. Sounds pretty negative, right? Praise God that He’s saved me from my sins, and so I am called to put off the old and put on the new. Through many trials, God has taught me not to look around me for comfort, but to Him. By His grace, He has changed some of my sinful patterns and taught me how to search for His mercies in the midst of trials, and praise Him for them. Many New Age spiritualists talk about an attitude of gratitude and to some extent the pretense is true: if you give thanks for the positives in the situation, the negative parts about it can seem less important. The problem with that theory is that there is no foundation for gratitude. However, the Christian has that foundation; “God demonstrates His own love to us in this: while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

That is just the beginning too. If I only glance at the chapter of Ephesians in my Bible, I am reminded of all the truths that were faithfully explained to us by Pastor Matt in the past year. In chapter one alone we see that God “has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph 1:3); “He predestined us to adoption as sons” (Eph 1:5); “we have redemption through His blood for the forgiveness of our trespasses” (Eph 1:7); we “were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise” (Eph 1:14); and that’s just to name a few. We have riches in Christ! If we will open His word and read about the things He’s lavished on us, we would not lack a long list to prayerfully thank our kind and gracious Father for.

If you’re feeling particularly pitiful and letting your mind take you to the what-ifs and the whys (which are both places you do not belong going!!!) might I suggest that you take some time searching the scriptures for things to be thankful for? Would you discipline yourself to keep a running list so that when you are not feeling like giving thanks you would have a record to spend time praising God for? This will help you start to change the attitude of your heart. During the times of my life that have been particularly tumultuous, I have learned to determine early in the morning of each new day to be watching for the things that God would have me give Him thanks for. When I started my day with my eyes wide open, looking for His mercies, I found them everywhere. When I started my days looking at my trial and worrying, it was no surprise that I found little to give thanks for.

In the last year, I’ve had many chances to put the lessons I’ve learned earlier in my life to the test. Last winter we found out we were expecting again, and after 2 ultrasounds seeing our baby wiggle around and look perfectly healthy, I miscarried the baby at 14 weeks. I spent a lot of time fighting off the whys and the what ifs. We have a friend who was also pregnant at the same time. I watched her pregnancy progress, and while I rejoiced with her at the birth of her baby, it was a hard thing too. Seeing pictures of him, and hearing stories about him constantly brought me to those ugly what ifs.

This trial didn’t have a clean end like the leukemia or the craniosynostosis. I am still learning to persevere in the fight for joy and thankfulness. I miscarried another baby last September, and another this April. I will not pretend that I didn’t ever ask why. I did. But it was a waste of breath. I didn’t receive any answers and I didn’t deserve any. I will not pretend that I still don’t find myself wondering what my babies would have been like and what my family would have looked like if they’d have lived. I am a human and my perspective is so far from heavenly.

In the end, your thoughts do not have control over you. God does! You have a choice: you can submit to His tender hand and take your thoughts captive. The peace that passes understanding comes when we choose to ask for His grace and then obey, submit, and remember His promises and kindnesses towards you. For me, that means preaching to myself, out loud if necessary: “You are saved from the sins that enslaved you and had you headed straight for Hell. You are adopted by the King of the Universe, you are His daughter!! You have a husband who is alive, who was as good as dead 7 years ago. You have three beautiful children, none of whom you deserve, two of whom no one expected to ever come. You live in America, and do not know what it’s like to be hungry or thirsty, or to want in any way. If you didn’t live in America, your husband would be dead and you would at best have one child. You are forgiven for all your doubt, all your worry, and all your self-pity. You are richly, deeply, and unconditionally loved by God.” We have so very much to be thankful for!”

Coffee Talk 2015: Week 14 {Be Thankful? You Can’t Be Serious! Part 2}

Biblical Solutions for Problems with the World
Be Thankful? You Can’t Be Serious!
Trials, Part 2 (Part 1 Here)
By Brittany Cady

coffee talk online edition pictureI am 32 years old and often feel like my adult life has been spent working towards my doctorate in Navigating Trials. When I was 25 and had my first baby, who was 5 weeks old, my husband Tim was diagnosed with APL, a rare form of Leukemia. After the initial diagnosis the doctor came into his room and the first thing she said to us was, “if Tim survives the weekend, we will start chemo on Monday.” We were also told that first day that Tim would be sterile after his treatments. I didn’t hear much else of what she had to say, to be honest. Tim had three CT scans that weekend to check for brain bleeds and we spent many hours just crying and confessing that our faith was weak, but that we wanted to honor our Father.

Tim was in the hospital for a little over a month and both of us had literally hundreds of chances to share of the hope we have in Jesus Christ. A lady carrying a baby up and down the oncology floor of the hospital is an unusual sight, and Tim being only 27 was an anomaly on the floor too. We saw firsthand how God shows us His tender mercies through the love and provision of our brothers and sisters. Tim got transferred into isolation and I couldn’t bring Ben to the hospital. People from our church PicMonkey Collageand our old church, Temple Baptist, came forward, and there was only one day of 30-some that I wasn’t able to go to the hospital. God had given me such a sweet and easy little baby and there were many times that Ben was one of God’s ways of telling us not to despair or give up. What a gift he’s been to us!

Tim had many physical trials over the next year. There were many “close calls” and those were the cause of many worries for me. I spent many nights lying awake wondering if Tim would be alive when I woke the next morning. Every milestone Ben reached reminded me of the grim prospect of not having any more babies. I frequently got carried away with fear. Those things were real problems, but they were not at all framed by thankfulness. Instead of spending my hours worrying, I could’ve been giving thanks. I could’ve thanked God for another day with my beloved husband, a day I didn’t deserve and hadn’t earned. I could’ve thanked God for a beautiful son, and praised God for his companionship and precious little life. It was in these dark days of my life that I learned that thankfulness is not something that comes naturally in hard times. Thankfulness is a fruit of what’s in our hearts; we have to fight for it, and beg God to help us to be thankful even when our circumstances are telling us otherwise.

While Tim was still undergoing treatment and Ben was only 8 months old, we found out that we were expecting our second child. I still weep at the thought of God’s kindness towards us in this. It was totally unexpected! As far as we know, none of those who’ve been treated with the type of chemo that Tim had have been able to have children naturally afterward. We truly know that our second and third kids are complete miracles from the hand of our merciful God. We were not guaranteed them, and yet we are blessed to be alive, to be able to enjoy them, teach them, and parent them every day.

Elijah came along, Tim was mostly done with treatment, and we were able to rejoice in the prospect of being parents again. Elijah is our miracle, and I cannot even begin to count the number of times that we’ve been able to tell others about the great things that God can do. He is not confined by doctor’s predictions or medical protocols.

When Elijah was about 6 months old, Tim’s blood work looked a little strange, and we were sent reeling again, wondering what God’s plans were for our future. I listened to my fears and began to wonder what it would be like to be a widow with two boys under 2! Looking back, we spent a lot less time despairing in this trial than we had during the last. Because of God’s kindness in all the lessons He’d taught us in the previous trials, we found things to be thankful for and chose to rejoice in them, and fought to leave our worries at the feet of our Savior. We had many friends praying with us and carrying our burden with us. After three weeks of waiting and worrying, Tim’s blood work finally started to return to normal on its own (the doctor had no explanation for this). Our first reaction was to weep with the relief and to praise the Lord again for His undeserved kindness to us. I continued to be able to be married to the man I loved, and he’d be able to continue to be a father to our two sweet boys.

PicMonkey CollageLife settled down for a time, but when Elijah was 14 months old he was diagnosed with Craniosynostosis, a condition where the joints in a baby’s skull close prematurely. The only option to fix this was a surgical cranial restructuring. Getting the news of the surgical treatment options sent me spiraling into a wave of doubt. I can remember thinking, “really God?! How can you give us this now? I can’t handle another huge life trial right now. I still haven’t recovered from the last one!”  How quickly I had forgotten the lessons that God kindly and patiently had taught me previously! It took some time, lots of prayer, repenting and confessing my weakness, and many hours pouring over the passages in scripture that had brought me hope in the past. When it came time for Elijah’s surgery we were content with our circumstances. We had been graciously given another open-ended chance to speak of God’s kindness towards us, and to preach the gospel in places and to people that we’d have had no other contact with if it weren’t for our son’s birth defect.

In the end, we have learned not to be surprised or wonder why when life gets hard and the trials rain down. In the past, I foolishly assumed that since we’d already been through some major life trials that we’d somehow filled our quota and would only have smaller trials in the future. “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world,” John 16:33.  It’s a guarantee; we are going to have troubles. But a posture of thankfulness is a God honoring way to look at your trials. We have so very much to be thankful for. God sent His Son and purchased our redemption. We don’t suffer in vain! We know that our God has purpose for us in all of life’s circumstances. If we look for His mercies in the midst of our trials, then we can sing of them for all to hear!

Join me next week as I share a few more ways to fight for joy and thankfulness in the midst of a more on-going struggle.

Coffee Talk 2015: Week 13 {Be Thankful? You Can’t Be Serious!, Part 1}

Be Thankful? You Can’t Be Serious!
Trials, Part 1
By Brittany Cady

coffee talk online edition pictureDo you find it hard to give thanks in the middle of trials? This concept from 1 Thessalonians 5:18 “in everything, give thanks” has often been one of the most perplexing to me. Because I’ve walked through some major trials in the last seven years, I’ve had to struggle to make sense of this topic, that while perplexing is also clearly a command to us no matter what situation we find ourselves in.

In this chapter, Martha suggests a few principles about trials from scripture that are essential to understand if we desire to look at them rightly. The first is that “God is sovereign” (p 162). Although this concept is not new, for most of us it continues to be a struggle to fully understand and accept. We like to be in control, we like to make plans, and we like having a say in our own futures. However, since God is utterly sovereign, then we ought to submit to HIS will for us by God’s grace. Our trials force us to take a real look at ourselves and ask: do I trust Him and what He is doing? Or, do I think my own plans are better than His? God makes all our appointments with trials in His sovereignty. The question is: do we trust His hand and want His glory and purposes to reign more than our own ease and comfort? Are we thankful that He’s in control and knows what He’s doing, or do we secretly wish we had the reins?

Another principle Martha suggests is that when we become more like God, we are in fact also glorifying Him.  She mentions that God’s tests have purpose in our lives. She also uses the analogy of the vinedresser who prunes his plants so that they will bear more fruit. An encouragement from this is that “the pain from God’s pruning will fade as the fruit of righteousness flowers for all to see,” (p 164). When we come out on the other side of a trial, there is real comfort in the sustaining love of God as we look back and see how He has brought us through, and what He has taught us.

Many people have spoken on the topic of suffering and trials, but the most profound for me has been Joni Eareckson Tada. She’s got a lot of experience! One passage that she has shared is from 1 Peter 4:1-2: “Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.” This verse is not saying that if we suffer we will be perfect. It is saying that our Master, Jesus Christ, when he was on earth, suffered in a way not one of us can even begin to imagine. Because of this, we should be prepared to suffer (not necessarily only physically), and in our suffering remember that God is using it to perfect us, to mature us, and to conform us into His image, so that we might live for the will of God.

I don’t know about you, but I want that! I want to live my time allotted on this earth for the will of God and not for the lusts of men, and the way to do that is to endure and learn from “momentary light affliction” (2 Cor. 4:17). Praise God that He doesn’t leave us where we are, but loves us enough to grow us, prune us, and make us more and more into the image of His beloved Son, Jesus Christ!

In conclusion, perhaps some of the words from “Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken” will encourage you on your pilgrim way, as they have encouraged me.

Go, then, earthly fame and treasure,
Come disaster, scorn and pain.
In Thy service, pain is pleasure,
With Thy favor, loss is gain.

I have called Thee Abba Father,
I have stayed my heart on Thee.
Storms may howl and clouds may gather;
All must work for good to me.

Soul, then know thy full salvation.
Rise ov’r sin and fear and care.
Joy to find in every station,
Something still to do or bear.

Think what Spirit dwells within thee!
Think what Father’s smiles are thine!
Think that Jesus died to win thee!
Child of Heaven, canst thou repine?

Next week I’ll share some of the practical ways I’ve learned to give thanks to God in the midst of trials.

Coffee Talk 2015: Week 12 {Role of Women in the Church, Part 2}

Coffee Talk 2015
Damsels in Distress

Role of Women in the Church – Part 2
By: Gaila Roper

coffee talk online edition pictureLast week we covered Godgiven foundations for personal salvation, growth and ministry. We covered the ‘creative order’ concept and how men and women were uniquely created and gifted to serve. This week we will address how the Apostle Paul taught the Corinthian church an authority structure that originated in creation, and how that would play out in ministry within the local church.

In I Cor. 11:3, 7-9, 11-12, …”Paul made it clear that the wife is under authority of her husband, and the husband is under the authority of Christ.” (Martha again) That would mean woman was created for man’s sake, the glory of man, and under the man’s headship.  The woman was under the authority of man, man under the authority of Christ, and Christ under the authority of God. Within this authority structure are other key passages such as I Cor. 14:34-35, about women keeping silent in the church and I Tim. 2:9-5 where Paul instructs Timothy to teach this structure to a church in chaos. By addressing God’s original intent in creation order that Adam was created first and then Eve as a helper and companion to him, Paul pointed out God’s order of authority was preeminent over personal motives. The Corinthian churches’ misuse of showy gifts, voicing of opinions, and creating confusion, even to the point of immodest adornment, revealed hearts more interested in self glory than God’s creation order. A woman was not to have authority over a man or to teach men.  That would include being a pastor, holding an elder position and not teaching Bible doctrine to men. (Note the above verses).

Is my heart overly concerned with the restrictions rather than the privileges? Can I be contented with the things fitting for sound doctrine, such as being temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance?  Do I “encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored?” (Titus 2:1-7) As we learn to do this, it will be a proving ground for later, when we as older women in the church seek out the younger women and are a great source of encouragement and blessing.  Yet even greater than this wonderful ministry will be the honor we bring to the Lord by our loving obedience to His word.

Have we considered what is precious to God in our role of being a woman of faith? Do I seek from His word rather than this ‘present age’ what He really values? I know one thing, He highly values the “hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.” (I Peter 3:1-6) Personally, I talk too much. It’s better to be content and not dispute His dealings with me.

Do you put your hope in God and learn not to be frightened with what God intends for your life?  How can I, in my little circle of influence, “proclaim the excellencies of Him?” (I Peter 2:9)  

Coffee Talk 2015: Week 11 {Role of Women in the Church, Part 1}

Week 11
Coffee Talk 2015
Damsels in Distress
By: Gaila Roper

coffee talk online edition pictureMartha Peace summarizes our topic of The Role of Women In the Church with the Scripture passage in Romans 9:19-21: “You will say to me then, ‘Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?’ On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, ‘Why did you make me like this,’ will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?”

God has authority over His creation; that is clear from His Word. We know that His purposes are good, acceptable and perfect, as well as wise, loving, and completely sovereign. (Romans 12:2) As His child, my only response is worship, thankfulness and humility from a heart of obedient service focused on His glory, not mine. Service to God is a privilege. Since He is my Creator, Redeemer, and loving Savior, where else will I go but to Him to make sure I am pleasing to Him.

There is a God-given basis within Scripture to follow in our service to God, specifically to women. It starts with the need to be “born again.” (John 3:15) God gives us a new heart to believe and trust in Him, when we previously were dead in our sins. He does a work of faith, repentance and cleansing from within. The Holy Spirit does this supernatural change of heart so that now we desire Him and want to grow in our knowledge of Him. We must gain a knowledge of doctrine from Scripture (1 Peter 2:2). We will desire to walk a consistent Christian life (Eph. 4:14) and begin to discover and use our God given Spiritual gifts (Eph. 4:11-13).  As we mature, especially later in life, we pour ourselves into younger women,”to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands…” (Titus 2:4-5) All of these are done with the chief purpose of proclaiming His excellencies. (1 Peter 2:9)

As we learn more of Scripture and begin living our lives for His glory, we should seek to serve Him with our spiritual gifts within the guidelines of Scripture.  For just as we learn and grow in Scripture, we must also follow in obedience to them. We should be knowledgeable about the key Scriptures concerning God’s role for women in the church.  Both men and women were created in God’s image and given rule over the earth. (Gen. 1:26) They were also created uniquely man and woman.  Adam was created first and then Eve as a companion and helper. (Gen. 2:7,18)  Eve was given a different role than Adam and after the fall, (Gen. 3:1-6) God’s judgment to Eve was that her desire would now be to overtake (control) her husband, yet Adam would rule over her. (Gen.3:16)  Because of the presence of sin, there was now a ‘power play’ in their roles, as Martha puts it.

Next week, we will see how this ‘power play’ worked out in the Corinthian church where Paul addressed various heart attitudes that were contrary to Scripture.

Coffee Talk 2015: Week 10 {Feminist Influence Part 2}

Damsels in Distress
Biblical Solutions for Problems with the World
But What If I like to Have My Ears Tickled?
The Feminist Influence
By Liz Roeder

“See to it that no one takes you captive
by philosophy and empty deceit,
according to human tradition,
according to the elemental spirits of the world,
and not according to Christ.”
(Colossians 2:8)

In part one of this blog, Martha stated that our challenge is to understand how we have been influenced by feminism and how we must change. Most importantly, Martha says only the Scriptures can guide us through the confusing maze of the influence of feminist thinking. (Page 140)

coffee talk online edition pictureAs you can see, the feminist philosophy flies in the face of Christianity.  It’s all about “me”–my needs, my significance, my rights, my worth, my full development, and my identity. (Page 142)  Betty Friedan was heavily influenced by the teachings of Sigmund Freud and Abraham Maslow, both avowed atheists. In 1975 Freidan was named “Humanist of the Year.” She did not have a Christian world view but was looking at life through the lens of humanism. (Page 136)

So how can we, living in this time and culture, change our thinking? With the help of the Holy Spirit and by God’s grace, as we study the Scriptures and mature in our understanding of godly thinking and beliefs, we will become more discerning about the wrong ways we have been influenced. Hebrews 5:14 states that our senses will be “trained to discern good and evil.” (Page 143)

God’s Word says that we are not victims; we are creatures created in His image for the purpose of proclaiming His excellencies. (1 Peter 2:9)  Our identity comes from our relationship and oneness with Christ. Martha states that “our responsibility as God’s creature is to glorify Him and serve Him as He desires. This is often in the biblical role of wife and mother. Whether we ever marry or not, we are to use the spiritual gifts God has given us and use them within the Scriptural role of a woman.” (Page 141)  We shouldn’t be having an identity crisis as Betty did because we are a child of the King!  What more could we ask for?

In God’s eyes, we are not inferior to men but equal. (Galatians 3:28) He has given us different roles and a “chain of authority” for our good and protection, and because it’s God’s plan for us, it is good!  We are to respect and be submissive to those in authority over us; whether it is our husband, pastor & church leaders, boss, police, or politicians– as long as they do not cause us to sin. God gave us His Word to help guide and direct us in these areas. Personally, the book of Ephesians has been a great help to me and others I have discipled.

Lastly, as Christians, we should be living our lives “others” focused. Our example is Christ as He came to this earth as a servant. “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” Philippians 2:5-7

Martha ends the chapter by giving us an example of what feminism tells us versus what Scripture says and how we can change our thinking:

The feminist belief tells us, “Perhaps it is only a sick or immature society that chooses to make women ‘housewives,’ not people. Perhaps it is only sick or immature men and women, unwilling to face the great challenges of society; who can retreat for long, without unbearable distress, into that thing-ridden house and make it the end of life itself.” (Quoted from The Feminine Mystique)

Martha says: We have been influenced by believing “we deserve better than this!”

How Scripture tells us we are to change: “Instead of dwelling on what I deserve, I should be thinking that I am to serve The Lord graciously, however He chooses. Part, but not all, of how I am to serve the Lord is by taking care of my family. What a privilege it is to spend my days training my children and caring for our greatest earthly asset, our house.”

So ladies, how have you been influenced by feminism (whether you realize it or not)?

How will you change your thinking and behavior?

What Scriptures proclaim who you are in Christ?

Coffee Talk 2015: Week 9 {Feminist Influence}

Damsels in Distress
Biblical Solutions for Problems with the World
But What If I like to Have My Ears Tickled?
The Feminist Influence
by Liz Roeder

coffee talk online edition pictureAs a child growing up in the 1960’s, one of my favorite television shows was Leave it to Beaver. It was about a traditional family: the dad, Mr. Cleaver, was head of the home; the mom, June Cleaver, was a housewife who happily did her housework wearing a dress and pearls; and their 2 sons, Beaver and Wally were your typical mischievous brothers. It was a stereotypical picture of the family at the time.

Changes were on the horizon. In 1963, the feminist movement was starting to gain some momentum when Betty Friedan published her book, The Feminine Mystique. The feminist movement began more than 100 years earlier primarily embracing voting rights and equality for husbands and wives in property ownership, but Betty had her own agenda. She was a mom and wife who was “frustrated with existing only for and through her husband and children.” She believed that a woman’s mature identity would not be achieved through marriage and motherhood but through her own achievements in education and career.

Martha explains how Betty Friedan believed that women who stayed home and cared for their families never quite became all they could be; they were repressed and seen as victims in a male-dominated society. Men became “chauvinist pigs” and women were either “doormats or freedom fighters.” Betty believed there was inequality between women and men. Now there was some truth to this as far as women not receiving the same pay nor being treated equally as men in the workplace. But Betty took it a step further as her philosophy tickled the ears of women who perceived themselves as being taken advantage of and repressed. Betty was searching for the meaning of life and having an identity crisis.

During this time, everyone was reading The Feminine Mystique; it was the talk of television, newspapers, and women’s magazines. Feminism also started to infiltrate the church. Freidan’s philosophy helped to intimidate men into sinful passivity in their God-given role as the leader in the family (page 136). Women started questioning and disrespecting men’s authority including their husband’s; they were discontent with their roles as wives, mothers and homemakers, and also questioned their roles within the church. In the 1990’s, the acceptance of abortion and homosexuality became issues that we are still dealing with today.

Martha states that we’ve all been influenced by feminism-it’s all around us and no one has been spared. When this philosophy causes us to have an unbiblical value system, it becomes sinful and deceptive. Because many of these influences are subtle, our challenge is to understand how we have been influenced and how we must change.

In the process of writing this blog, I had to do a self-examination to see how I’ve been influenced. I grew up in the 1960’s and 70’s which was a time of rebellion in so many ways: there were demonstrations against the Vietnam War, rebellion against society and the “establishment” with the hippie movement (I was a “wannabe” hippie) and the NOW feminist movement. I find myself to have a heart attitude that at times wants to be independent, self serving, and not always obedient to the authorities in my life including being in submission to my husband. I regularly have to fight against my fleshly desires.

So, how do we “break free” of this feminist thinking? Join me for part two of this blog next week as Martha gives us some biblical solutions to this problem.

Coffee Talk 2015: Week 8 {Legalism}

Biblical Solutions for Problems with Ourselves
I Just Love Rules, Don’t You?
Legalism
By Brittany Cady

coffee talk online edition pictureWhen I read the title of this chapter, I knew it would speak to me. When I read the pages of scripture, I don’t see myself in the naïve disciples, the forgetful Israelites, or the idol worshiping Gentiles. I see myself and hear my words whenever I read about the Pharisees. I knew this about myself from an early age. In fact, I can remember reading Luke 18:11 where the Pharisee is praying and thanking God that he isn’t like that sinner sitting with him in the temple. I actually wondered what was wrong with that; isn’t it good to be washed and clean and free from “obvious” sin? The problem is that my rule loving heart has always just been a big fat distraction from the real problem: my sin.

In recent weeks, Pastor Matt has been faithfully and clearly teaching us the true nature of our sin and just how overwhelming and strong it is. Legalism makes light of sin and whispers in our ears that we are not that bad if we haven’t murdered, or stolen, or committed adultery. Legalism tells us that if we follow the rules (maybe the Ten Commandments or maybe the rules we’ve made up for ourselves) then we’ll earn favor with God. Unfortunately, the enemy uses legalism to deceive us and make us complacent. Suddenly, we stop examining the motives of our heart, and forget how much pride, selfishness, and idolatry can live there. In our comfortable legalism, we forget the debt we owe and the price that Jesus paid for us. One of Martha’s main points about legalism is that “because of man’s nature and propensity to sin, he wants to make the Christian life workable in the flesh,” p 121.

Another point about legalism that Martha also makes is that many of us misinterpret the object of the Old Testament narratives when we walk away with rules to obey instead of principles to follow. She says on page 123, “Have standards, and base them on biblical principles, but do not elevate them to a ‘thus said the Lord’ level.” An example of this can be seen in the story of Gideon. At one point in his journey, Gideon decides to put out a fleece to make God confirm again what He already had said. In this story, we should not surmise that God wants us to put out a fleece (or look for a “sign”) every time we have a decision to make. Instead, there are several principles we can take away like the importance of obedience to what God says the first time. Another is that our God is merciful (He gave Gideon a sign to confirm what He already said, which He didn’t have to do. God showed Gideon mercy in his doubt) and there are likely others.  The key to remember is that these narratives are telling us what happened, not necessarily what we should do in similar circumstances.

In the end, the very best weapon I have to fight against the tendency towards being a Pharisee is the gospel. Matthew 9:12 tells us that the healthy don’t need a physician, but the sick do, and verse 13 goes on to tell us that “I [Jesus] did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Preaching the gospel truth of our utter sinfulness and lack of any quality deserving of salvation will remind us of our need for a Savior. The songs we sing at church preach the gospel truths back at us while we sing. A favorite song of mine which fights my legalistic heart is Not In Me. The verses combat my natural desire to fight sin with rules, and remind me of the utter foolishness in even attempting to!

 
      No list of sins I have not done, no list of virtues I pursue
      No list of those I am not like, can earn myself a place with you.
            O God be merciful to me! I am a sinner through and though.
            My only hope of righteousness is not in me, but only you.
      No humble dress, no fervent prayer, no lifted hands, no tearful song,
      No recitation of the truth can justify a single wrong.
            My righteousness is Jesus’ life. My debt was paid by Jesus’ death.
            My weary load was born by Him, and He alone can give me rest.
      No separation from the world, no work I do, no gift I give,
      Can cleanse my conscience, cleanse my hands, I cannot cause my soul to live!
            But Jesus died and rose again. The pow’r of death is overthrown.
            My God is merciful to me, and merciful in Christ alone!

Questions:
What tools have you learned to use to fight legalism in your own heart?
What is one way that legalism has tricked you into thinking you’re not that bad?

When You Don’t Feel Forgiven

Not feeling forgiven is a common problem; some struggle with this feeling more than others. Many things can influence this feeling, but it is nothing more than a feeling, a feeling that is not based on truth for those who belong to Jesus. This feeling, because it isn’t true, should be fought, should be replaced with truth. The following should help those with this feeling to put off the untrue and replace it with the truth.

First, we have to be women who know the Word of God, then we have to believe His Word. We can’t be held captive by our feelings we must put our hope in truth. I know that our feelings are sometimes very strong, and to make matters worse, Satan condemns us. But we have to fight to remember our Father’s truth.

We can’t just take these feelings and forget them without examining ourselves. We have to prayerfully ask if there is any sin that we’re not seeing and confessing. Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.” If you’re like me, most your sin looks like yelling at your kids, disrespecting and not submitting to your husband, etc. Most of us aren’t running a crack business from our homes but sin is sin and all of which needs to be confessed and repented.

The good news is that this is why Jesus came here. He came, suffered horribly, becoming human, subjecting Himself to His creation, Mary, Joseph, governing authorities, and so forth. He listened as those He came to serve vehemently criticized Him, calling Him a blasphemer for saying that He was the Son of God. He was horribly tortured, humiliated, and subjected to what may be the worst death known to man. All so that His people could be forgiven, reconciled to God, brought into His family, while showing humanity His Father’s love.

This means that His children are forgiven. When we turned from our sin and trusted in Him alone for salvation and forgiveness of sin we were justified in God’s sight. He paid the price for our sin, all of it. He says that we must go to Him and confess, 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Second, we must repent. We must devise a plan to stop sinning. We must turn from our sin to the living God and follow Him, glorifying Him.  John 14:15, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” We will fail, sometimes time after time. But, then we go back to Him, we confess again, and He forgives us and cleanses us from all unrighteousness!

This amazing God we serve not only forgives us but cleanses us from all unrighteousness! Thinking about that blows my mind. We know that He is righteous and just, we know that He hates sin, and yet He chooses to not look at our sin once it’s been confessed. He chooses to see us as clean and righteous because of what Jesus has done for us. Jesus took our punishment so that we could be forgiven and looked upon by God as righteous. Take a long look at these verses:

Psalm 103:3-4, “Who pardons all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases; Who redeems your life from the pit, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion.”

Psalm 103:12, “As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.”

Isaiah 38:17, “Lo, for my own welfare I had great bitterness; It is You who has kept my soul from the pit of nothingness, For You have cast all my sins behind Your back.

Isaiah 43:25, “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, And I will not remember your sins.

Now, obey Philippines 4:6-8, dwell on truth, thank your immensely loving Father for giving you the greatest gift ever. Reject feelings that aren’t based on truth, refuse to listen to Satan’s accusations if you are His. If you aren’t, what are you waiting for? Accept His gift of forgiveness and serve Him, follow the Creator of the heavens and earth, with joy.

A few more verses to dwell on:
2 Corinthians 5:21
Ephesians 1:7-8
Hebrews 4:14-16

John Piper – “Remember, we do not battle unforgiven sin but forgiven sin.”

Coffee Talk 2015: Week 7 {Vanity}

Biblical Solutions for Problems with Ourselves
Who Is the Fairest of Them All?
Vanity
By Christie Ballewske

coffee talk online edition pictureI think all of our mothers have told us, “Honey, it’s what’s on the inside that’s important.” But when you’re the only skinny, flat chested, braces wearing 12 year old girl on the playground who got a rubber shoe scraped up the front of her never before shaved leg, right in front of Stephanie P (for perfect), you just can’t believe that the outside doesn’t  matter.  At 12 years old I felt the weight of vanity, and I feel it today. The truth is that without Christ being the lover of our souls, the inside doesn’t really matter at all, and sadly, it becomes about the outside.

Martha writes, “Something that is vain is futile, worthless, useless, amounts to nothing, and is a mere breath. Obviously, pursuing vanity (the love of beauty in this case) is a colossal waste of time!” She goes on to say, “Any woman over the age of 50 will tell you that it’s a losing battle.”  As I read that, I was taken back a few years ago when I began to understand what women meant when they’d say, “gravity takes over.” My body started to rebel, which prompted a dear friend to speak a revelation to me: “Christie”, she said with much wisdom, “when we’re 80, we’re all gonna be wrinkled.” That made me feel better after having 3 children, remembering that all those “Stephanies” had it coming. Haha! Seriously though, I know what my friend was getting at–it was the same thing that my mother meant when she referred to my “inside.” What she was really talking about was the hidden person of my heart. I thought, “When I’m 80 and wrinkly, what will be left?”

My husband read this verse to me minutes before he proposed and Martha also references it:

“Your adornment must not be merely external… but let it be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.”  -1 Peter 3:4

She also quotes Proverbs 31:30 that says,

“Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain (fleeting), but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.”

Martha then sums up that section with a memory of her mother who was not known for her looks, rather her patience and kindness. I can only draw the same conclusion that both my mother and dear friend, both whom I desire to model after, though very beautiful outwardly, are not known for an extravagant outer appearance but rather their fear of God and faithfulness to Him even in the face of defeat. To me, that is beautiful and something to pant after desperately. To God, it is nothing short of precious.

It would be nice to look 20 again, but to actually be 20? I would not trade the maturity that has come from experience, for that “dreamy body” if I were the ugliest sight on the planet! I’m able to look back with gratefulness and see the wonderful things God has done. We seem to notice every dark circle, every wrinkle, every varicose vein, and especially a pound or two. However, often we give little thought to our spiritual eyesight improving as our eyes become better fixed on Jesus as we age with grace.

Like an ugly wart, the love of beauty continues to surface in Christian women every day. Everywhere we go the world is whispering lies to us; and if we aren’t careful, we’ll buy into them, sometimes without even realizing it. If we are not purposeful to train our minds to think properly about beauty, we might find ourselves pining away for the love of a beauty that is unattainable.  The biblical solution is that we must turn our lust for our beauty into a passion for God.  We must desire to make much of Him and let every wrinkle of time tell of His greatness over all of our years, whether it be 20 or 50 or 80! May we be like wine and grow sweeter as we age, unlike many who are old and like milk have grown sour.