I concur

SEEKING GOD’S VISION FOR MARRIAGE by Gloria Furman on GCD

Many of my friends walked down the wedding aisle to the hymn “Be Thou My Vision.” The melody has an ethereal quality about it. And the lyrics— to say that the lyrics are meaningful would be a gross understatement. I want to walk through every day of my married life embracing the truths of this song in my heart.

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart; Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art…

So many things clamor for my attention when I wake up every morning. Regardless of the busyness or dullness of the day, I want the greatest reality to hit me—that the God whose name is I AM is worthy of my praise, my thoughts, and my obedience.

Will the damp towels and clothes left strewn about the room from my husband’s morning routine matter to me when the atoning work of Christ on the cross is my vision for the day? In my husband’s case, leaving towels and clothes draped around the room is not an affront meant to hurt me. But, what if it was? Is God so clearly my vision that I could persist in clinging to His grace in Christ even when my marriage relationship is strained?

Thou my best Thought, by day or by night, Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light…

When the tragedies and discouragements of life threaten to overtake our marriage then I want to think on God’s faithfulness by day and by night. Will the urgency of the day’s demands weigh so heavily on my heart and bring out the nag in me when the indwelling Holy Spirit is my comfort and peace?

Waking or sleeping, God’s presence sheds light on how He does all things for His glory. We have no cause to fear the darkness. Today—right now—we can relate to one another by grace, hoping in the future grace to be shown to us in the last day when Christ returns.

In Ephesians Paul describes the marriage relationship as a reflection of the heavenly reality of Christ’s marriage to the church.

Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her. Ephesians 5:24-25

Paul goes on to quote Genesis 2:24 to underscore the significance of this mysterious relationship:

Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.

No wonder the second stanza of “Be Thou My Vision” strikes such a chord with couples about to be united as one flesh:

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word; I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord…

I wonder if I could dub this song over the soundtrack on the VHS tape of our wedding. Or better yet, what if grace covered over the soundtrack of every petty argument, stray word, and rude remark I’ve ever made to my husband?

The great news is that Jesus has already done that. And He doesn’t just dub over the soundtrack of such things. He removes our sins from us as far away as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). By the shed blood of Christ, we are forgiven. The price for my peace-filled, joy-enjoying, grace-exchanging marriage is the precious blood of the spotless Lamb of God. Who am I to scorn the sacrifice that Jesus made?–so I can hold onto my scoffing pride, self-righteous anger, and arrogant impatience toward my husband?

Thou my great Father, I Thy true son; Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one….

What a poetic reminder of the priority of fellowship with God and the preeminence of our relationships with Him as the foundation for our relationships with our spouses. The power that we need to love our spouses is supplied by God according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:19). In Christ, we can serve our partner with the strength that God supplies so that God gets the glory (1 Pet. 4:11).

Be thou my breastplate, my sword for the fight; be thou my whole armor, be thou my true might…

My power for holiness is from God, and I see Him most clearly in His word, the Bible. The Bible says that God’s grace, not fear or regret, is the song of my life. It sounds like a Christian cliché to say, “We’re together at the foot of the cross.” But when we understand that what puts us at the mercy of God at the foot of the cross is our pervasive inability to love God and each other as we ought, then all of a sudden our sin isn’t so trite anymore.

My husband’s sin isn’t so harmless, either. We’re sinners married to sinners. We sin against each other, sometimes we’re in sin together, and we even leave our sin lying around for our spouse to stumble over. We must see ourselves together at the foot of the cross. Both of us need God to look favorably upon us through Christ’s atoning sacrifice. The blood that covers my sins is the same blood that covers my husband’s sins.

Even if I were not married to a Christian man… God has freely given His Son and offers to all the body and blood of His Son Jesus if we will repent and believe. Who am I, a sinner saved by grace, to look on anyone as more desperate for that grace than I am? If I have Jesus then all I know is grace and God’s future for me is grace upon grace. By that grace, we can love our spouses as God has instructed us.

Be thou my soul’s shelter, be thou my strong tower: O raise thou me heavenward, great Power of my power…

And what of the millions of little, mundane things that occur each day? What about my sharp tongue, for example? If God did not withhold His only Son giving us all His riches in Christ Jesus, who am I to withhold words of kindness from my husband? Through Christ in me I can speak the truth in love as He commands and compels me. Instead of merely biting my tongue and avoiding hurtful words, by God’s grace my tongue is loosed to edify and build up my husband instead.

When Jesus died on the cross He reconciled us to God and He wrote His song of reconciliation by grace across our entire lives. God has shown us grace and we can be conduits of grace to others.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise: be thou mine inheritance now and always…

The reward I am looking for in loving my husband is not bound up in how my husband responds to me. How our souls can be refreshed and our marriages strengthened when we believe: “Thou mine Inheritance, now and always; Thou and Thou only, first in my heart.” A godly husband is a gift from the Lord, and I do enjoy the gift God has given me. But the gift of my husband is meant to draw me to worship the Giver.

Because we are all so prone to worship our gifts, this hymn reminds us to pray, “Be thou and thou only the first in my heart; O Sovereign of heaven, my treasure thou art.”

“Be Thou My Vision” is an epic song to walk down the aisle to. The triumph of God’s grace in Christ is an even greater song to dance to by faith.

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Acts 5

Back story: Peter and the apostles have been arrested by the Pharisees for preaching the Gospel and performing miracles. They have been thrown into prison and, on the same night, they have been freed by God. The very next day they show up bright and early at the temple to continue teaching, and the Pharisees are confused and mad. They bring the apostles before the council of the high priests to question their defiance of their orders to not preach Christ and Him crucified. Peter responds once again, “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 4:19-20, 5:29, ESV). Love it. While the council deliberates the punishment of the apostles, a seemingly random man named Gamaliel steps up to speak. He is a revered teacher of the law and he asks to speak to the council in private.

There’s something about Gamaliel response that I just love:

“When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while. And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!…”

I also love the apostles’ response. They stayed true to their word (Acts 4:19-20, 5:29). They were beaten for their evangelical faith in Christ, but they kept on preaching. With glee. Amen.

“…So they took his advice, and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.”
(Acts 5:33-42, ESV)

Proud of my Father and the strength of His children,

Christina

Taking big girl bites

We are told to watch our doctrine closely (1 Timothy 4:16). Obviously, this is something that I should take seriously.

I was raised a NIV (New International Version 1984) gal. I have spent the last 23 years memorizing scripture and reading this version of the Bible. I’m a visual learner, and I know where most things (*let’s be humble here*) are on the specific pages/sections of my familiar ole feel-good fit-in-my-hand blue-leather NIV. Needless to say, the idea of switching to a new translation is scary to me. But, I think I need to…

I’ve had this nagging feeling that I need to go deeper. I need to take bigger bites. I need to look deeper at the sources of scripture and search out the true meaning of the texts. I crave pure spiritual milk (1 Peter 2:2). As my character changes, my dietary intake also needs to change (1 Corinthians 3:1-3). I need to start eating solid foods (Hebrews 5:11-14).

What does all this have to do with the ESV (English Standard Version)? I need to make the anxious switch from NIV to ESV. And I did. Eeek!

Why the ESV? It is the most true-to-text translation of the Bible that I can find on the bookshelf to date. In my study of Biblical translations, I discovered that there are three types of Bibles: (1) Word-for-word (literal), (2) Thought-for-thought (dynamic equivalent), and (3) Paraphrase (free). Common word-for-word translations include the NASB, KJV, and ESV. Common thought-for-thought translations include NIV and NLT. The most common Paraphrase translation includes The Message.

I’ve been in the ‘thought-for-thought’ realm for a majority of my adult walk (I would peek into the higher level translations for cross-referencing now and then). But I need to take the nerve-racking step up into the ‘word-for-word’ translations for my daily feedings. The inflated vocab of the text alone scares me, but I’m praying for His continued guidance and revelation. Not to mention the fact that I have no idea where anything is located. 😉 Nevertheless, it’s a learning processes and I need to keep growing. 🙂

I bought the ESV Study Bible as a graduation/growth gift for myself. I love it. You can also access the ESV for free online.

Giving my dictionary a good workout,

Christina

Zero disadvantages

First: Listen.

Then: Pray. Study the scriptures. Pray, again.

Finally: Read, if you choose.

I’m single. I will also be the first person to tell you how big of a struggle that little descriptor of life has been for me. It has been a tough journey to bring my heart to a place of peace on the subject. It has been tough because my heart has been torn in two opposing directions all along… (1) I thought I would meet someone in college and fall madly in love. I met young men, but those relationships weren’t blessed by Him. Each ‘friendationship’ served its purpose as a major facilitator of personal growth (usually via hard lessons learned), but those relationships weren’t built for the long-term. They were good and tough, but they were not the relationship that would push me toward Christ and His family. So, here I am. Single. (2) I’m a relational soul. My inner parts long for community and intimacy. And cooking and cleaning and kiddos and home. All of those things describe my character with uncanny accuracy. I know that I was built to be a helper, but I do not know whom I’m fitted for (Genesis 2:18).

I stumbled across the aforementioned sermon on singleness by John Piper. Needless to say, it was convicting. In his effort to give an accurate portrayal of Christian singleness, Piper touched upon so many familiar verses and stories from the Bible. I know these verses and stories, but why can’t I wholly believe the Truth in each? Why can’t I find contentment and joy in His opinion on the topic? Why do I keep fighting His hand and try to reason with God on the subject? I mean, come on… He’s God. Whose gonna win that argument? … Truth be told, this season of singleness feels like a curse. It’s hard to see the blessings in something that you hate. (And I don’t use the ‘hate’ word lightly.) Once again, I need to forgo my own thoughts and cling to the truths that lie in the Word.

Being single is not a curse. Let me say that again. Being single is not a curse. It is not a punishment. It does not mean that I am a failure. It does not mean that I am undesirable. It does not mean that I am ugly or fat or unpopular or annoying or smelly. I graduated from middle school 10 years ago… it’s time that my understanding of life and God’s word grew up a little, too.

What does singleness mean for my life? I must look to the Word for that answer:

1. I am blessed. Not cursed or punished or forgotten.

Jesus said so (Luke 11:27-28), and Paul did too (1 Corinthians 7:1,8). I am able to wholly devote my life to the Lord in body and spirit (1 Corinthians 7:34). Read Isaiah 54. I am not at a disadvantage to my wedded pals.

2. The church is my family.

Imitate Christ and Paul. Serve the multitudes with my time and love (1 Thessalonians 2:7) and my fruit will be measureless among the body of believers.

3. Marriage and children aren’t the cream of the crop in life. A life devoted to God is most supreme.

“One is that you will learn sooner or later, and you may as well learn now, that the blessings of being with Christ in heaven are so far superior to the blessings of being married and raising children that to ask this question, Wouldn’t it better to have both? is like asking, ‘If you’re going to give me the ocean, can’t I have a thimble as well?’ It does lose some of its force. You just need to see heaven. You need to see Christ better than we see him to keep things in proper perspective.” – John Piper

4. Remember: Steady my eyes on the things of God.

“I am declaring the temporary and secondary nature of marriage and family over against the eternal and primary nature of the church. That’s what I’m declaring. I’m declaring the temporary and secondary nature of marriage and family over against the primary and eternal nature of the family of God. Hear that. This is not trivial. This is huge. And I fear that we have settled into our land and our culture and idolized the family and marriage. We are here for a vapor’s breath, and then we are gone. What happens here is relatively minor compared to what will happen after the resurrection. What I’m saying is no small thing.” – John Piper

I know that I unintentionally excluded a lot of valuable scripture here… lots of valid points and applicable verses that I just can’t mull through at the moment. I encourage you to do a little digging yourself in order to fully grasp the depth of blessings for those who are called to a single life. Single for a season, or single for the long haul. Piper shared the following… it comes off a little strong, but I cannot deny the Truth that lies within its claims:

“The strongest, most Christ-like single is the one who is virgin until death, and may it be so for many. What a glory. What a reward. The world will tell you that it’s a waste. The world doesn’t know anything. If you’re buying into what the world says, then you’re gone.”

A little more reading on the life of the blessed barren: Christianity Today

What if God asks me to remain single for my entire earthly life? Gulp. (That’s my honest-to-goodness natural reaction at this point.) But, I will except that calling with joy. I honestly hope and pray that this is a season of contentment and growth… a time in which I am learning deep truths about Him and how to be(come) a godly woman. I pray that He will give me a heart for singleness in due time if that is His ultimate plan. I also pray that I will wholeheartedly accept His calling… gonna need a major change of heart/perspective if that’s the case! (Matthew 19:12; Philippians 4:11-13)

Many of my friends did find their helpmates in college. It’s now the season of marriages and babies, and I couldn’t be happier for each and every one of those couples. Their relationships stand as a living reminder to me that His love can be the basis and fuel for God-glorifying marriages. Each built on an enduring promise to Him. Joys and sorrows. Kisses and spurns. From Him, through Him, and for Him. I’m trying my hardest to be content in my current situation, yet I expectantly await that season of life.

Being patient with life,

Christina

Ephesians 5:1

This has been a precious Spring for me. Lent has come and gone, but the resounding spirit of Easter remains in my heart and mind. I call this a ‘precious’ thing, because I don’t think I’ve ever carried the joy of the Lenten season with me for so long. I’m usually quick to forget His sacrifice. (Not proud of that fact, but it’s the truth.) The climactic anticipation of Christ’s resurrection disappears faster than a bag of half-price Easter candy in my apartment.

I awoke with a smile on my face on Easter morning. I was flat out excited to sing His praises all day long… I couldn’t wait to celebrate the day with brothers and sisters in Christ, and thank my God for His acts of love. I had spent the 40 days of the Lenten season reading and reflecting on various NT parables. Each one sought to exemplify the deity of Christ and build on the prior. I then walked through the prayer/arrest/trial/crucifixion/death/burial/resurrection/appearances of Christ in the Gospels on the appropriate days. I felt like a bottle rocket… I was so full of anticipation by the time Easter rolled around that I thought I might explode. I was overjoyed. Perhaps for the first time, I caught a glimpse of the true purpose to the Lenten season.

Easter is not about bunnies and candy and cute dresses and pastel colors. It’s not solely about the resurrection of Christ either.

Lent is about an act of self-sacrifice that gives God an opportunity to occupy (and have lordship over) another part of our lives. It’s about Christ’s journey to the cross and the betrayal of Truth. It’s about His anguishing death. It’s about the three days He spent in Sheol to retrieve our brothers and sisters who have died and remove the need for a trip to Sheol for those of us who will someday die. It’s about atoning for sin with an act of holy propitiation. It’s about His validation and approval of the Son. It’s about His holy demonstration of love for glory. It’s about the reconciliation of a Father and His children. It’s about hope and victory. And, it’s only the beginning…

One of the best gifts of God was unleashed soon thereafter at Pentecost: The Holy Spirit.

Jesus promised the church that the Holy Spirit would “be with [us] forever” (John 14:16) and “teach us all things and remind us of everything [Jesus] said” (John 14:26). The Holy Spirit will be our great Counselor… the Spirit of Wisdom, Love, Understanding, Knowledge, Power, Discipline and Truth that will forever bear witness to Him. We were given the Spirit of God for all time. The OT guys were only given it momentarily, and look at the power displayed in their weakness. Look at their faith despite having the Holy Spirit for fleeting periods of time. Now, look at us. Imagine the power that lies within us at all times? You are a living, breathing temple of God. Think about that for a minute.

We’re lucky dogs.

This whole blog post was spurred on by my quiet time this morning. I have chosen to not let go of the joy and excitement of Lent. I don’t want to lose appreciation for one of the biggest and best events in the history of my religion. I want to hold this joy close to my heart and allow it to water seeds within me. So, I’ve let the Love continue to flow… I’m reading “The Passion of Jesus Christ: 50 Reasons Jesus Came to Die” by John Piper and the book of Acts. I love Peter’s response to the crowd after healing the crippled man in chapter 4 verse 15, “You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead.” (1) Peter is man of confidence and power via the Spirit. Sweeeet. (2) Bam. Just, bam. Straight and hard facts to the people who killed my Savior. No dancing around the truth. Christ had to die, but the peoples’ hard hearts still couldn’t believe Truth when it was demonstrated before their very eyes. So Peter hit them hard and fast, and he later showed them mercy through an invitation to repentance. That’s God at work right there: Truth, Admonishment, Mercy, Invitation. All in the face of sin. Love in it’s many forms.

The story doesn’t end on Easter day after the delish honey and brown sugar ham is devoured. The resurrection is just the beginning. God’s Spirit was unleashed on the day of Pentecost some 2,000+/- years ago. How fortunate are we to profit from His pain. How loved are we. Don’t let that love stop flowing through you.

An overjoyed and thankful heart marked by Love,

Christina

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” – Jesus

The Weaver

My life is but a weaving, between my Lord and me;

I cannot choose the colors, He worketh steadily.

Oft times He worketh sorrow, And I in foolish pride

Forget that He sees the upper, And I the underside.

Not til the loom is silent, And the shuttles cease to fly,

Shall God unroll the canvas, And explain the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful, In the Weaver’s skillful hand,

As the threads of gold and silver, In the pattern He has planned.

-Unknown

Praying for green leaves

I apologize up front for the bazillion things that I will touch upon in this post… hold on tight and enjoy the ride! 😉

UNO

I find myself unable to move forward too often. It’s as if I get stuck… face in the mud, head held down by the world and my sin. An unshakeable sense of guilt and condemnation floods my heart and entangles my thoughts.

I feel like I can’t fight myself. I feel like I’ll never conquer my sins.

But, I can win. I will win. I have already won. Christ fought for me and He now stands victorious.

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:1-4

Why, then, do I struggle with this same sin over and over and over again? Why can’t I shake it once and for all, nail it to the cross, drop it off at Jesus’ doorstep, lay it at the alter and walk away… whatever analogy floats your boat. I find myself in a perpetual wrestling match with Him over this thorn in my flesh, and my soul longs for Him to simply remove it. Life would be so much easier if He just took it away. Real simple fix… all He must do is utter a word and it would be gone. But, I must realize that He put that thorn in my flesh for a reason. I need that thorn to remind me of my weaknesses and His all-sufficient grace. I need that thorn to bring me low and thrust me toward Him. So, what do I do with this pesky thorn?

1. Do nothing. Be weak. Receive His grace. Trust that His mercy will cover my sin and weakness, and I don’t need to fix everything.

2. Act out of Godly obedience. I need to keep my thoughts in check. (This has been a major area of weakness.) He keeps telling me to do this, and I keep failing at doing it. I am a big proponent of living life with purpose and intention, but how have I occupied my time and my thoughts recently? What is the purpose behind my actions in this thorny situation, and are my actions glorifying Him? Are these (sore)thoughts and (poor)actions drawing me closer to Him by causing me to trust the Word, serve His children, and rest contently with my Father? Or, are these (sore)thoughts and (poor)actions driving me into discontentment, anxiety, fear, self-deprecation and isolation? How can I discern His will if I am not in communion with the Spirit and casting off the behaviors that negatively interfere with our relationship…

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

DOS

He keeps asking me to trust Him. Cast all my cares on Him. Rest at His feet in sweet communion. I must remember these truths and carry them as part of my armor all throughout the day:

A. Set my mind on the things of God.

“…those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace….Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.” Romans 8:5b-6,8

B. Dwell on the lovely things.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8-9

C. Be joyful. I have no reason not to be.

“This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

TRES

Ever feel powerless and unknown? I do at times. I feel like each day is passing by… life is passing by… and I somehow fell through the cracks or missed the proverbial bus. I feel powerless, because I have no control over my situation. This is my current season of life and He has ordained every facet of the situation. I feel unknown, because loneliness and isolation have slowly crept in somewhere along the journey.

Christina – people = DANGER, WILL ROBINSON

CUATRO

When I feel trapped by the past and anxious about the future, I must remember who my Dad is. I must step out of my anxiety-prone sin self and cling to Truth. That’s not a natural habit, but it’s essential. I would rather trust Him than my fearful flesh any day. My head knows that, but my heart needs a reminder every now and then.

When I think I can’t move beyond the past and simply let. go. I must remember His words… He alone can cause life to spring forth from death. I must simply be obedient and joyfully content in my Dad. I think I have the easier job of the two. 😉

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:18-19

“This is what the LORD says: ‘Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD. He will be like a bush in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives. But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.’”Jeremiah 17:5-8

Praying for green leaves,

Christina