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Thursday, May 31, 2007

What Does Your To-do List Look Like?

We’ve all probably seen the media portrayal of the average American housewife. She begins her morning with a brisk game of tennis at the country club. The rest of her day is spent shopping and eating lunch with friends. At home, she kicks up her feet, watches her favorite soap operas while squeezing the centers of chocolates in a Whitman’s Sampler box. Or perhaps she spends her day lounging in her pajamas, talking on the phone with friends while shushing her noisy kids in the background. Does either of these scenarios describe your day?

The world’s perception of a housewife, or homemaker, is far different than the way our Creator designed this very important role. The word “homemaker” conjures up an image of an unintelligent, lazy woman who is incapable of doing anything else with her life. A “career” as a homemaker is on the bottom rung of life’s ladder to success. But what should a homemaker’s purpose be and what should she do with her time? A godly homemaker’s to-do list may look something like this:

  • Willingly work with hands (Proverbs 31:13).
  • Bring food from afar (Proverbs 31:14).
  • Provide food for household (Proverbs 31:15).
  • Carefully consider purchases (Proverbs 31:16).
  • Help the needy and poor (Proverbs 31:20).
  • Provide clothing for family (Proverbs 31:21).
  • Watch over household (Proverbs 31:27).

Fulfilling a Purpose

The worthy woman in Proverbs 31 has a purpose. She is busy with activities far different than the fictitious homemaker we see on television. The godly woman does not "eat the bread of idleness." Instead, her schedule begins before the sun comes up and extends beyond the night – an expression that indicates a strong work ethic.The Scriptures emphasize the woman's role as a wife, mother, and worker in the home and warn of the danger of living a sedentary or hyper-recreational life.

Paul’s description of the older widow in 1 Timothy 5:9-10 and subsequent instructions for younger widows are very revealing. The older widow is known for her good works, has raised children, lodged strangers, washed the saints’ feet, and relieved the afflicted. She has “diligently followed every good work” (verse 10). Younger widows are encouraged to remarry, have children, and manage the house. Far from wandering aimlessly around the house, the godly homemaker finds purpose in taking care of her family and serving others.

Taking a Break

Being an industrious homemaker does not necessitate eliminating recreational activities. And how active we are may depend on our physical health. While hobbies and activities shared with friends often provide a much-needed break from housework, a godly woman is not called to a life of non-stop recreation. Managing a home requires time, hard work, and motivation.

Women are motivated to become homemakers for a variety of reasons. Some may view staying at home as an opportunity to spend an inordinate amount of time on hobbies or pleasure. The flexibility a homemaker enjoys can also be a curse when it tempts her to become lazy. Paul describes such a woman when referring to the plight of some younger widows: “And besides they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house, and not only idle but also gossips and busybodies, saying things they ought not” (1 Timothy 5:13). When my children were little, I had a neighbor who was the epitome of Paul’s description. She literally roamed from house to house in our neighborhood on a daily basis while plates of half-eaten meals sat on her family room floor.

Understanding the Proper Motivation

What is the godly woman’s motivation for becoming a homemaker? The Proverbs 31 woman seeks to “do good” for her husband and to “watch over the ways of her household.” This indicates a motivation driven by her love for her family and a desire to serve others. We, too, should pursue our daily tasks with the same motivation. Ultimately, we strive to be productive in our homes because we are serving the Lord (Colossians 3:23).

The role of homemaker blesses a woman with an opportunity to serve. However, if we are not careful, we may find ourselves spending hours running the recreational circuit instead. God has chosen women to fulfill a wonderful and much needed role in this life. Are we making God's choices ours?

Friday, May 4, 2007

How to Enjoy Life More

This world is not our home; but while we are passing through, we can make our journey more enjoyable. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer almost 13 years ago, my perspective on life changed. The experience helped me learn how to make the most of the time I do have here on Earth.

Savor the Simplest Things

Have you ever considered the trip to your mailbox as the highlight of your day? While I was recovering from surgery and undergoing chemotherapy, I learned to savor my daily walk to the mailbox. The walk accomplished more than retrieving the mail: it allowed me time to savor my surroundings. I no longer moved ferociously to the mailbox, ignoring everything in my path. I became aware of how the elements of God’s creation filled my senses: the scent of fresh air, the coolness of a breeze. When we take time to appreciate the majesty of God’s creation, we learn to appreciate what God has done for us. This must be how David felt when he wrote, “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained, What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him?” (Psalm 8:3-4).

See the Good in People

We are not to ignore or condone sin, but too often we engage in unfair criticism of others. Have you noticed that people who habitually criticize others seem miserable? Perhaps that’s because their critical heart has created a skewed view of the world. If we see only what is lacking in another’s character, we often fail to appreciate the kindness others show toward us. Looking for the good in others teaches us to trust and prevents us from exalting ourselves too highly.

Look for the Good in a Bad Situation

Consider how Paul viewed his situation in 2 Corinthians 4:8-18: "We are hard-pressed [. . .] yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed." In his darkest days, Paul recognized that all was not lost.

Paul prayed three times for God to remove the thorn from his flesh, but God chose not to do so. Instead of blaming God for his disappointment, Paul chose to see how he benefited from God’s denial: "lest I should be exalted above measure..." The thorn in Paul’s flesh helped him remain humble. Sometimes our requests are denied or our plans thwarted. Instead of wallowing in our disappointment, we need to look for the opportunities and blessings our disappointments bring.

Be Thankful

When we cultivate a heart of gratitude, we are less likely to think about what we don’t have. Christians are instructed to “give thanks always for all things to God the Father” (Ephesians 5:20). When we pray, we are to replace anxiety with gratitude (Philippians 4:6). Counting our blessings results in a merry heart, and a merry heart “does good like medicine” (Proverbs 17:22). This medicine doesn’t require us to use a credit card, cash, or check!

Meditate on These Things

We often feel miserable because we have allowed ourselves to focus on everything that we believe is negative in our lives. Paul offers the solution: “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things” (Philippians 4:8). When we meditate on the good, our journey on Earth becomes a little more enjoyable until we experience the ultimate joy in heaven with our Father.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Girl Power: Every Woman has it!

Long before the ‘90s female pop group the Spice Girls popularized the phrase “girl power,” the feminist movement sought empowerment for women. One way the movement seeks empowerment for women is by challenging (or obliterating) the roles of men and women in society. What feminists fail to realize is that every woman already possesses power. That power exists apart from her holding a high-profile corporate position or exchanging her role with that of a man. That power is exerted through a woman’s influence. A godly woman has the power to change hearts, homes, and the world around her.

Women of the Bible

Throughout Bible history, we see women who exhibited a powerful influence over the lives of others – some for good, some for evil. Eve - the very first woman created - influenced her husband to sin, and the consequences her sin continue to effect women even today.

Abigail – a woman of understanding
In the Old Testament, Abigail is described as a “woman of good understanding.” She held no prestigious position in society and referred to David as “lord” and herself as his “maidservant,” yet this meek and humble woman stopped the future King of Israel from committing murder! In 1 Samuel 25, God tells us how Abigail humbled herself before David and pleaded (not nagged) with David to listen to her. Instead of berating David or tearing him down as a man, Abigail reminded David that he is the man who fights the battles of the Lord. In return, David respected Abigail and eventually made her his wife.

Eunice and Lois – raising a servant of God

In the New Testament, Timothy’s mother Eunice and grandmother Lois taught him God’s word from his youth, influencing Timothy to become a faithful servant of God and preacher to the lost. Paul tells us that Timothy knew the Scriptures from his childhood. A woman fulfilling her role as a mother has a wonderful opportunity to teach her children from youth about God and His word, thus influencing her children to develop characteristics that are in tune with God’s will.

Delilah: a Bad Influence on her Husband

Another woman of influence, Delilah, sought to tear down and destroy her powerful husband Samson. Far from the positive influence Abigail had over David, Abigail negatively influenced Samson to reveal the secret of his strength. Delilah employed childish tactics that eventually wore out Samson’s patience. She cried and played “the victim” by claiming her husband did not love her. She nagged him daily until Samson could no longer take it. To his demise, Samson revealed the secret of his strength, and Delilah delivered Samson’s secret into the hands of evil men.

“Curse God, and die!”

During Job’s difficult days, his wife encouraged him to curse God. Rather than supporting and uplifting her husband, Job’s wife asked her husband to do the unthinkable. Instead of reminding Job that he serves a powerful God, Job’s wife pleaded with him to abandon the only One who could make things right.

What kind of influence are we exerting on our husbands, families, and those we come in contact with on a daily basis? Are we like Delilah, nagging and trying to make others feel guilty in order to get our way? Are we like Job’s wife, encouraging others to abandon God during difficulties? Or are we like Abigail, humbly and meekly reminding others to do what is right?

Monday, January 8, 2007

What is the Church?

After Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, Jesus responded, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”

The Greek word translated “church” is ekklesia, which means “the called out.” Sometimes the word is translated “assembly.” Ekklesia, or the church, never refers to a building but rather to people.

Paul teaches that the church is the body of Christ (Colossians 1:24 and Ephesians 1:22-23). Ephesians 1:22-23 says, “And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” The church is Jesus’ body, and Jesus is the head of the church, having all authority. The church is subject to Christ (Ephesians 5:24). And according to Paul in Romans 12:4-5 and 1 Corinthians 12:12-14, there is one body (church), but many members (individual Christians). “For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:12).

In summary, the Scriptures teach that
1. the church is the body of Christ,
2. the church consists of many individual members,
3. there is one body (church),
4. Jesus is the head of the church.

This means that
1. the church is not a building,
2. the church is not made up on many churches,
3. there is not more than one church,
4. no man is the head of the church.

In addition, Jesus purchased the church with His own blood (Acts 20:28), which is a reference to His death on the cross. Jesus’ death on the cross was necessary in order for mankind to have forgiveness of sins and a relationship with God. Sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2), and our own goodness or meritorious works cannot earn us forgiveness (Ephesians 2:8-9). No matter how “good” we may be, we will stumble and sin from time to time. Only the sinless and perfect Jesus, come to Earth as a man, could sacrifice His life so that we might live. The Scriptures show a relationship between Jesus’ death and the church.

Romans 6:3-5 tells us,

“Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection.”

How do we enter into the church, the body of Christ?

According to 1 Corinthians 12:13, baptism puts us in the body of Christ. Therefore, when we are baptized, we are baptized into the body of Christ – the church. This relationship is also demonstrated in Acts 2. After Peter preached the first gospel sermon, the Jews who were “cut to the heart” asked Peter what they should do. Peter instructed them to “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (vs. 38). In order for man to be saved, he must have forgiveness of sins. God tells us that baptism is for the remission of sins. Some teach that “for” means “because of;” however, the original Greek word “eis” is never translated “because of” and is the same word used in Matthew 26:28 in which Jesus says, “For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” We understand that Jesus’ blood was shed in order for the forgiveness of sins to take place, not because it already had. Similarly, baptism is in order to receive forgiveness of sins, not because we are already forgiven. Baptism is the point at which we receive the forgiveness of sins or salvation.

Later in Acts 2, verse 47, we are told that God added to the church daily those who were being saved. We do not “join” the church – God adds us. We are not saved because we were added to the church – we are added to the church because we are saved. Therefore, the church consists of individual saved members whom the Lord added through baptism.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Understanding God's Word

One of the most dangerous traps man falls into is taking the position that we cannot understand God's word; therefore, we must rely on someone else (scholars, preachers, priests, etc.) to interpret the word of God for us. Often this type of thinking is a result of two things: a general misconception that man cannot understand the Bible (common in denominations) or arrogance. Those who pride themselves on being intellects often exhibit arrogance and superiority over others. They put an undue emphasis on scholars and side with them in order to appear more intelligent than everyone else: they are on the "intellects' side."

Paul told the Ephesians, "Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is" (Ephesians 5:17). This statement follows Paul's admonition that we walk "carefully," avoid being foolish, and redeem the time, "because the days are evil." Walking carefully, or circumspectly, and redeeming our time wisely demands that we understand the will of the Lord. If that were not possible, God would not have revealed that it IS possible. Luke records in Acts 17:11 that the Berean Christians were more fair-minded than the Thessalonians because the Bereans "received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so." Of course, this passage is referring to the Old Testament Scriptures as the New Testament had not yet been completed. But it's interesting to note that the Christians went to the Scriptures to determine if what they were hearing was accurate. They didn't consult a multitude of commentaries, scholars, or man's opinion in general. And they did not have to be inspired in order to UNDERSTAND the word, only to REVEAL the word. According to the Bible, we CAN understand the will of the Lord, and we CAN determine if what we hear is accurate by comparing those teachings to the SCRIPTURES. This is what the Bible teaches. There is nothing wrong with reading commentaries or the writings of scholars. The problem is when these become our basis for understanding God's word or when we justify our beliefs by their opinions. This danger is obvious when Paul writes in 2 Timothy 4:3-4, "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables." Gathering an arsenal of teachers (including scholars) who teach what we want to hear is what we do when we make man our source of authority. This is unacceptable to God and demonstrates a departure from sound doctrine.