Choosing Faith

Isaiah 55:8-9 (NKJV)

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.

In carrying over from Earl’s thoughts yesterday, I find myself in a bit of a waiting game with the Lord.  I’m under tremendous pressure to accomplish something at work involving an outside company by a certain date.   The ball is in the other company’s court and has been since Friday and absolutely nothing has happened since then.  In my schedule of things that need to happen by certain dates – a.k.a. “my thoughts and my ways” (see verse 8) – they are completely behind schedule and no matter how much I try, I can’t get them to get moving.

Clearly, I need His help with these circumstances admittedly beyond my control.   My plans are not His plans.  My thoughts are not His thoughts.

Hebrews 11:1-3  (NKJV)

11 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony.

By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.

…the worlds were framed by the word of God.”  He is in control.  I am not.  I guess this is where faith kicks in..  Rephrase – I guess this is where I choose faith.

Ephesians 6:10-18  (The Message)

A Fight to the Finish

10-12 And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.

13-18 Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.

The New King James Version says in v11 “… and having done all, to stand.”  I’ve done all I can do.  Now I stand.  I chose faith.  I choose faith in God and all that He is and all that He has proven to be.  I choose to have faith in the character of Him who never changes.  I’m choosing faith.

Declared Holy

“What does it mean to be holy?” This is the question we were basing our study and ensuing conversation on. I had spent some time during the week scouring my bible program and had pulled some pretty interesting (to me) ideas, definitions, and scriptures on the word “holy” and “holiness”… but it wasn’t until we began sharing and discussing for a half hour or so, that one of my friends made a comment similar to, “… sometimes we forget who we are…” (Read more by clicking the title…)

On most Saturday mornings of late, I meet with my buddies to open The Word and discuss what we’d been studying the previous week.  This week’s topic was “Holiness.”

“What does it mean to be holy?”  This is the question we were basing our study and ensuing conversation on.  I had spent some time during the week scouring my bible program and had pulled some pretty interesting (to me) ideas, definitions, and scriptures on the word “holy” and “holiness”… but it wasn’t until we began sharing and discussing for a half hour or so, that one of my friends made a comment similar to, “… sometimes we forget who we are…”  The implication being we forget who we are in Christ.  This thought stayed in the forefront of my mind as we began going down a particular thread of discussion.

Leviticus 11:44-45 For I am the LORD your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy. Neither shall you defile yourselves with any creeping thing that creeps on the earth. 45 For I am the LORD who brings you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy. (emphasis added)

Leviticus 20:7-8 Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy (emphasis added). for I am the LORD your God. 8 And you shall keep My statutes, and perform them: I am the LORD who sanctifies you.

These were verses that kicked off our discussion and the week’s study.  Interestingly enough, both passages use “consecrate” and one uses “sanctifies.” Both of those words are very, very similar to the word “holiness” – from the New Bible Dictionary:

“Sanctification is one of several possible English translations of qdš, hagios and their cognates. See *HOLINESS for usage. Context alone determines whether the translation should be holy, holiness, holy one, saints, consecrate, consecration, sanctify or sanctification. Even in individual passages translators do not always agree. Its broad meaning is the process by which an entity is brought into relationship with or attains the likeness of the holy.”

I began to wonder if God was declaring part of his name – who he is – when he said “… for I am holy.”  What if when God identifies himself as “… the LORD who sanctifies you,” he was in fact restating his holiness (see the definition of sanctification again).  What if he was stating it, like we state our names?

Then, like a flood, connections, ideas, and thoughts hit me – saturating my mind like an overfilled sponge.  I simply could not write fast enough in my journal or quite explain my thoughts to my buddies during our discussion.   This is my exploration of those connections and thoughts…

First family picture after adoption
First picture of Megan, Jordan, and Nick as "Shoemakers"

In December 2004, my wife and I adopted 3 kids from Penza, Russia.  This doubled our children overnight.  The Russian kids were from two different orphanages – one ten year-old boy from Orphanage #3 and a brother and sister, ages 15 and 14 respectively, from Orphanage #1 – yes, they were quite creative with the names of the Orphanages in Penza.  On our adoption date, I remember sitting in the courtroom, waiting for the finality of what was more than a year in the making: filling out paperwork, filing paperwork, authorizing paperwork, and re-working, re-filing, re-authorizing paperwork.  It all culminated when the Judge declared that our adoption was complete and that these three children were mine and Dawn’s.  They were declared to be Shoemakers.  My now embellished memory is the Judge striking his gavel on the desk transferring my name, ‘Shoemaker’, to those unrelated, orphaned kids.  With that single declaration, they forever became part of my family, my heritage, my namesakes, and became Shoemakers…

Isn’t the transference of my name, Shoemaker, to those children in the courtroom that day, exactly what happens when we become “adopted” into God’s family through Jesus Christ?

We are adopted into God’s family as children of God.  God who?  God with many names, one of which is Holy.

Galatians 4:4-7 4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born  of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

Romans 8:15-16 “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,”

I am Holy,” God declares (Lev 11:45) and “... the LORD who sanctifies you…” (Lev 20:8).  “You are my child!” God declares as he strikes down his gavel.  Forever, we are “Holy” because we are God’s… just as Nick, Megan, and Jordan are “Shoemakers” and no longer Mordashov. Mordashova, or Savenkov.

We are holy and there is nothing we can do to change it.  You may be saying, “God is very specific about what holy actions and characteristics are in Scripture.” I agree 100%.  I believe God puts those in there to teach us what it means to be Holy, not to define the requirements to attain holiness.

Over the first year (and beyond), we had to teach Nick, Megan, and Jordan what it meant to be a “Shoemaker.”  I wrote a letter and translated it into Russian very early in our parenting them that explained what carrying my name meant.  What behavior was acceptable and what what not.  What I began to teach them was drastically different than what they had learned in the orphanages where they grew up.  It was not an easy process.  Nick and Megan had spent 10 years in the orphanages, from ages 5 and 4 through ages 15 and 14.  There was a lot of behavior and attitude and character to work on and it took time.  There were many occasions they did not exhibit what was “Shoemaker” approved.  Whenever they exhibited those characteristics, actions, words, or attitudes that were not congruent with being a “Shoemaker”, it didn’t make them any less a Shoemaker – it just meant there was still more work and learning to do.   It was, and is, a continual process of changing to be WHAT THEY ARE… SHOEMAKERS.

Is that any different in our lives with respect to holiness?  God calls us – and better yet – DECLARES us to be holy.  In Genesis 1, God says “… let there be light…” and spoke light into being where it did not exist.  In Leviticus 11:45 God says “… you shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.”  What if God is declaring holiness into our lives and speaking holiness into being where it did not exist?  I believe He is declaring us holy – because we are his and he is holy.  It’s our responsibility to learn what that practically looks like.

Remember our definition of sanctification?  It basically means “holiness.”  The last line and main idea of sanctification (holiness) is “… the process by which an entity is brought into relationship with or attains the likeness of the holy.”  How are we brought into that likeness?  We read it in Gal 4:6 & 7 “… God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts… therefore you are no longer a slave but a son…”

God puts his Spirit in us.  This enables us to live – AND CHANGE – to “… attain the likeness of the holy.”  This is a permanent thing – just like my kids will forever be a Shoemaker – we will forever be God’s and therefore holy.

Ephesians 1:13-14 ” In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

So where does that leave me?  I simply have to receive that I am who He says I am.  Easy to say, not so easy in practice.  Leads to a whole other discussion of who I’m listening to… but that’s another post.

Running After Papa…

 

 

The Ministry of Worship

Why do I worship? It’s my life-sentence.

As many of you know, I’ve been on the worship team at my current church for several years and was on the worship team for 9 years at the church before that. At our current church, being on the worship team is a fairly demanding endeavor and when you’re “on” for the weekend, it literally can consume 6+ hours on Saturday and 4+ hours on Sunday, not to mention the required practice before and any mid-week commitments of 1-2 hours each.

I say that because I’ve often been asked how I can make such a time consuming commitment with 4 active teens, and while “it’s my passion” suffices for most people, I found something in yesterday’s reading that really anchored it for me.

1 Chronicles 6:31-32 (NKJV)
‎31 Now these are the men whom David appointed over the service of song in the house of the Lord, after the ark came to rest. 32 They were ministering with music before the dwelling place of the tabernacle of meeting, until Solomon had built the house of the Lord in Jerusalem, and they served in their office according to their order.

Interesting words here translated as “served“, “office“, “order” and “song” in v32.

“served” – amad – 308 of the 521 references are translated as “stood” or “stand” and the implication is the same as in Ephesians 6:13-14 “when you’ve done all you can do to stand, stand therefore…” What is the implication of this service called worship? It is persistent and enduring…

“office” – abodah – “‎1 labour, service. 1a labour, work. 1b labour (of servant or slave). 1c labour, service (of captives or subjects). 1d service (of God).”

I love this! A labour of service of captives or subjects – what a fitting description of our condition! We are forever captives of the love of God who sacrificed himself to save us. We are subjects to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

“order” – mishpat – the implication of this word is that of a sentence mandated by a Judge. A legal remedy or decision. An edict handed down by a greater authority.

“song” – sir – ‎1 song, i.e., music including lyrics and instrumental elements (Ps 28:7); 2 singing, i.e., the act. of using the voice in a melodic and rhythmic manner, usually expressing verbal content (2Ch 23:18); 3 musical instrument, i.e., an object of any kind that produces a musical sound (1Ch 15:16; 16:42; 2Ch 5:13; 7:6; 23:13; 34:12; Ne 12:36; Am 6:5+);

1 Chronicles 6:48 goes on to state that these men were called from the Levites – so it is part of the Levitical calling. The word translated as “brethren” means “of the same father or tribe.”

So what is the ministry of worship?

The Ministry of Worship is a persistent, enduring, edict of service to our Conqueror and King – for we are voluntarily both captives and loved subjects to Him – to sing and play instruments in expression to who He is and what He has done and is doing and will do.

Why do I worship? It’s my life-sentence.

Running After Papa…

Breathing

Today I had a great run.

It was a great run for a couple of reasons.  1. Physically, it was a really consistent pace with virtually no stops.  2. God really showed up, or should I say, I really listened well today.

You see, my typical M.O. for running it so watch my pace and try to keep a brisk clip going based on the pace (minutes per mile).  But today I strapped on the heart monitor and decided to run based on a consistent heart rate, paying no attention to how fast I was running other than how fast my heart beat and how hard I was breathing.

I noticed something on the way “back” (I run an “out and back” loop most days) today.  If I focused on my breathing and intentionally inhaled in deeper, through my nose, for three steps and exhaled consistently through my mouth, for 3 steps, I could lower my heartbeat by 5-7 beats per minute.

It was hard to maintain.  It was not natural.  It took effort.  But it worked.

I tend to think of running posture as something that just “happens” naturally.  But today showed me that when I focus on it, I am able to override “natural.”  Physiologically, when I run with my head held high, looking forward, and my shoulders high and tall, then my chest has the best possible opportunity to fully expand allowing more oxygen-rich air to come into my lungs.  As I focus on taking longer, deeper breaths, I get more “good” air in.  I also have to focus on exhaling “bad” air out, intentionally trying to empty my lungs of oxygen depleted air to make room for more O2-rich air. I tend to notice that inhaling is not something I naturally focus on.

As I get tired, I naturally begin to let my shoulders “sag” and my back to slightly hunch over which keeps my lungs from expanding as much and keeps more of the oxygen-depleted air in my lungs.  This results in my heart working harder – to the tune of 5-7 beats a minute – based on today’s run.

If you’ve read my blogs long, you know that I believe most physical observations have a spiritual connotation.

The idea of spiritually breathing is not a new one.  It is simply the practice of Exhaling (Confession) and Inhaling (being filled with the Holy Spirit).

1 John 1:9 tells us that if we confess our sins, God is faithful to forgive our sins.  This is the process of getting all the “oxygen-depleted” air out of our lungs.  Sin keeps us from staying in step with the Lord and can hamper our walk with the Lord due to fear, or the inability to hear Him clearly.

Paul writes in Ephesians 5:18 to be filled with the Holy Spirit.  That literally translates to “keep on being filled” indicating that it’s not a one-time event… kinda like breathing in.  Again, this is not something I naturally focus on.  My natural self tends to lean to the “one-time event” versus a continual focus to “keep on being filled.”

Today I had a great run.

Running After Papa…

Eternity Is

Have you ever thought about eternity?  What does eternity actually mean?  How do you define it?

A couple of times this last weekend, Papa has brought up the thought through two totally unrelated speakers at two totally unrelated events.  At both places, within 1 day of each other, two speakers – both of whom I know are incredibly Godly and right hearing men of God – said almost the exact same thing.

The thought for me is based in something like this:  “Because God created time, He is not bound by it.  God knows every detail of the past, every detail of the present and every detail of the future, all the time.”

If you let your mind wander down that thought for a little while, you might snap a synapse or two – like I have.  This is so incredibly hard to comprehend because we, as humans, are 100% bound by sequential time.

As I’ve mulled over three comments from these two men for the last few days, I’ve come away with three primary – and life changing thoughts:

First thought from David Terry:

Ephesians 1:4 says that God “… chose us before the creation of the world…” (NIV).  It is possible that before there time is when God chose me, chose you, chose us.  When he put together His team, he said,  “Let’s see… I’ll take Abraham, Issac, Jacob, David, (insert your favorite OT hero), Paul, Barnabas, Peter, John, Aquila and Prescilla, Billy Graham, Martin Luther, and (insert YOUR name here)…  Yep, that’s who I want on my team.”  Does that blow your mind?

My takeaway: God chose me for His team.  Am I playing  or sitting on the bench?

Second thought from Marcus Brecheen:

Because God isn’t bound by time and knows everything about our past, present and future, He is able to speak into us words of life that can (if he desires) reveal the future to us, but more so He can reinterpret the past and redefine our present situation. (Thank you Pastor Marcus for this insight!)  This might come through reading, through prayer, through a word from a friend or a stranger.  It might come in worship.  It might come in a sermon. 

My takeaway: God is speaking to us so much more than we are listening to Him.

Third thought from David Terry:

I am never more eternal than I am right now.  Eternity doesn’t begin when I die.  God chose me before the world was created.  He knew me then.  He knows me now.  He’ll know me forever. 

My takeaway:  Eternity doesn’t begin.  Eternity isIf I’m living in eternity right now, is what I’m doing – right now – eternal? Ahh!  That IS the question and a good measure of my life activities.  “Is what I’m doing right now making a difference for eternity?”

Running After Papa…

Fear God… nothing else…

Exodus 20:18-21 (NKJV) 18 Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off. 19 Then they said to Moses, “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.”
20 And Moses said to the people, “Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.” 21 So the people stood afar off, but Moses drew near the thick darkness where God was.

God’s really working on me in His holiness and what the fear of the Lord means, and in the process, I’ve gotten really ticked at how the enemy has taken everything that God has created – remember that God created everything for good – and twisted it into some sort of shackle to restrain, control, and manipulate mankind with.

There have been times during my children’s lives that they have expressed a fear of something, be it a roller coaster or a bully or a new situation, and I almost always respond with the same thing. “Fear God and nothing else.” I don’t mean that as a trite quip  just to satisfy giving them some sort of response, I want that repetitive statement to sink deep into the core of who they are and resonate within their spirit. I want it to sink deep into the core of who I am and resonate within my spirit too! It’s just as much for me as it is for them. I struggle with fear for them as much as any parent who loves their children.

Here were the Israelites who feared that God would kill them right after they had seen all the miracles God performed to free them from their bondage and slavery.  He chose them.  He saved them.  Yet, they feared He would kill them because they witnessed his amazing power, majesty and glory on the mountain.  He gave clear instruction on what was going to happen and how to prepare and respond to it (see Exodus 19), yet they still walked in fear.  They walked the wrong kind of fear of the Lord, the kind of fear that cripples and paralyzes us in our journey with and toward God.  Holy Fear is a fear of respect and humility – knowing that God can AND has every right to zap me off the face of the earth.  I deserve nothing that He affords me.  That is Holy fear.  Holy fear is NOT being afraid to enter into his presence or approach his throne if you are a believer (Eph 3:12, Heb 4:6, 1 John 5:14).

They were living a picture of Psalms 23.  Verse 6 says “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”  Interesting word in that verse is the Hebrew word hesed which means “a love or affection that is steadfast based on a prior relationship.”

For Israel, it was based on the promise and relationship God made with Abraham, Issac and Jacob.  For you and me it’s based on the prior relationship God the Father has with God the Son (Jesus).  His redemptive power through my submission to His lordship is the basis of God’s hesed in my life.

Fear God… nothing else.

Running After Papa…

Blisters (Eph 6:15)

God showed me that I don’t have to be anyone else….

14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;  (italics added) Ephesians 6:14-15, NKJV

I run.  I have for several years now.  I don’t really run because I like running, although I do enjoy the benefits and the feeling after a good long run.  I started running in order to get some discipline in my life, so I decided to train for a marathon.  Fast forward a few years.  I got really lazy in my training and only did the long runs one year and…. as you might guess… injured my heel which has plagued me with planar fasciitis for over a year.  Fast forward again.  About a year ago, I started changing my running style to take all the impact out of my running by going to more of a “barefoot style” running – simply put, I land on the ball of my foot and then let my heel touch before springing off my foot for the next step.  This style takes a while to build up stamina and strength in your calves as they do A LOT more work.

Last year, I purchased a pair of shoes called Vibram Five Fingers which are basically gloves for your feet with “fingers” for your toes and all.  They have zero support and are basically a sole for your foot so you can run barefoot style without gettting cut up or bruised from rocks and stuff in the road.

I say all that to say this.  Yesterday, I ran too far in my shoes and I got serious blisters on both feet.  I had been running about 2-2.25 miles in the Vibrams and then I would change into my running shoes and run 2 or 3 more miles.  That is my normal M.O.  That is what I do and how I build up endurance.

Yesterday, I tried to run 4 miles in my Vibrams.  This is NOT me.  At 3.3 miles, my feet were so hot (where the blisters are now brilliantly showing themselves) that I took my shoes off and walked the rest of the way home barefoot… in the grass… gingerly.

On the way home, Papa brought to mind Eph 6:15.  The NIV version sayswith your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. When I asked how this all fit together, He showed me:

Don’t give the opposition a second thought. Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master. Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy. Keep a clear conscience before God so that when people throw mud at you, none of it will stick. They’ll end up realizing that they’re the ones who need a bath. It’s better to suffer for doing good, if that’s what God wants, than to be punished for doing bad.  (I Peter 3:14-17, The Message)

and

I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.  (Psalms  139:14, NKJV)

What God showed me in that I don’t have to be anyone else.  While I can look to others who are farther along this life of transformation; those I consider spiritual giants; those heroes of the faith;  I am NOT to strive to be like them. God made me to be me.  According to the Ephesians passage, I am to know and understand and live in Truth and Righteousness.  This brings all glory to God.  But I don’t have to wear anyone else’s shoes.  When I do, I get blisters, they rub my feet wrong.  They slow down my pace.   I just have to be me (crucified) in Him.  If I try to be someone else, I am not living the 1 Peter passage.  I won’t “Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why I’m living the way…” I am.  I praise him for make me just like I am.  I am free to be me in Him.  That’s how I’ll be most effective for His purposes and to give him all the glory and praise that He is due.

Running After Papa…

Husband 101 – Part 5

I started this yesterday – and posted it to Running After Papa – but I added more as I mulled over the passages again.  I may later post something on my continued journey through Romans.  If you want to read Parts 1-4 of this series, its at http://runningafterpapa.blogspot.com.  Part 1 starts in October 2008.

Ephesians 5:25 ESV Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,

This will be the final post in this series.  I want to explore a couple of words in this verse that have changed the way I understand and respond to this verse.  The first word is “as” and is used “… as Christ…”  This little word delivers a big meaning for me.  Look at how Strong’s defines it:

1 according as;  1A just as, even as; 1B in proportion as, in the degree that.

Look at 1B, “in proportion as“, or “in the degree that.”  Just inserting it into the verse changes it.  “… love your wives, in proportion as Christ loved the church…”

The second word is “gave.”  The idea of the word here is to give into the hands of another.  Its the same idea behind the word betray.  Inserting this thought into the verse would render it something like this.  “… and gave himself into the hands of another for her,…”

Interesting thought.  It just implies giving up ones self.  We know Christ gave himself to be beaten, scourged, ridiculed, and crucified, but he also gave of himself, 24×7.  When Jesus goes off to pray, it’s always in the wee hours of the morning.  I wonder if that’s because that was the only time he had for himself, because he gave his life away… literally.  He gave every moment of his life away.

Dr. Benjamin B. Phillips of Southwestern Theological Seminary wrote this in his Practical Theology class Spring 2007:

As recipients of God’s love we are expected to love (Matthew 5:44-48).   An example of this is in marriage. Husbands are to love their wives like Christ love the church. (Eph. 5:25). The word love in this instance is agape, which means seeking the highest good for another person. This love is revealed in the death and resurrection to life in Jesus Christ (1 John 4:9-11).  In our marriages we should not withhold love or affection because of circumstances that may arise. We must continue to love no matter how we are treated by our neighbor we must still love and be perfect, just as our heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:43-48). Our love is the fulfillment of the law (Romans 13:8-10).

This is how I am called to love my wife.  “… in the degree that Christ loved the church…”.

Here’s another point.  The church – the very one Christ gave his life for – is the very same church that beat him, scourged him, hated him, rejected him, and ultimately crucified him.  Hosea, by God’s calling, marries a prostitute and redeems her over and over to draw the picture of exactly what Christ did for the church.

This is how I am called to love my wife.  “… in the degree that Christ loved the church…”.

How does that look?  Its different for every husband.  Maybe its making the bed every moment.  Maybe its getting her a glass of water, even when it’s not a commercial.  Maybe its as Peter admonishes us:

1 Peter 3:7 (NLT) In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered.

Again, Dr. Phillips wrote this in his Practical Theology classes of Fall 2007 and Spring 2007, respectively:

As we examine the practical side of holiness we see that husbands must have an unselfish attitude towards their wives.  Christ gave himself to the church unselfishly and husband must do the same with their wives. Husbands should be self-sacrificing and giving, Jesus Christ extended the greatest act of sacrifice and the giving of himself at Calvary.  Husbands are to be nourishing, cherishing as the Lord is to the church. Paul address the Colossians, he told the husbands, “husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them” (Colossians 3:19). He told them not to be harsh with them, which is not a sign of holiness. …  Jesus Christ loves the church so much that he caused himself to identify with it. To love our wives as Christ loves the church means to identify with them. Peter tells the husband that their relationship with their wives are so important that it effects there communication line with God, … The man of God must protect his family, to assist their personal growth. Christ’s goal for the church is to make her holy, “that he might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:26).

In Ephesians 5, especially verses 25-27, Paul also contrasts the husband’s relationship with his wife with that of Christ with the  church.  Christ came to serve the church and to die for the church.  This is what Paul is calling the husbands to do for their wives.  The husbands should also be willing to put the needs of their wives before their own.  The husband’s role as head is a sacrificial one that should imitate how Christ loved his bride, the church.

I know partly what it looks like at my house (mostly because I don’t have it figured out yet).  I know this.  I have become a student of my wife.  I have looked with different and opened eyes at her and watched her… learning how I can better serve her and live with her with understanding.

This is how I am called to love my wife.  “… in the degree that Christ loved the church…”.

Selfless Obedience

In Job 38-42, God himself “questions” Job.  Questions is a really, really, nice way to say that God got all up in Job’s business and attitude.  In a series of questions, God describes himself, well, really he describes his works.  Slowly digesting each question that God asks Job is a very “awe-ing” time.  It filled me with wonder and gave me a fresh perspective on God’s hugeness, power, and majesty.

In Job 42:7-10 (click to read), it isn’t until Job prays FOR his friends – these same three friends who have accused, berated, and wrecklessly represented the Lord for 30+ chapters – that God restores to Job all Job lost in the trials (v10).

Two things struck me:

1.  Not until Job took his eyes off his own misery and trouble, did God restore and end his misery and trouble.  Job had to minister and be concerned with others… even those who he most likely wasn’t very pleased with at the time.  Personally, I’d have been ticked at them and wanted to curse them instead of pray for them.

2.  Just as God allowed the trials and circumstances surrounding Job’s troubles and losses, He also orchestrated Job’s praying for his friends and his own ultimate restortation.  God addresses these friends in v7 and tells them that Job has to pray for them.  This gets Job’s eyes off his own troubles (after he’s had a correction in his attitude and his own significance) and on to praying for his friends.  Isn’t it just like Father to send what we need our way?

And this is the point for me.  In the midst of trials -whatever form they take – I need to continue to be aware and look for those opportunities to do God’s bidding, regardless of how I feel at the time, and regardless of how I feel about who I am ministering to.

I am to be on guard for God opportunities… be aware for what He’s doing around me and join in on His work… Ephesians 2:10 (The Message)He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.

I wrote a blog a few months ago about this verse in Ephesians.  See it here.  Interesting… different passages… same lesson.  Who says God’s word isn’t alive?