Is It Worth It?

In Sunday School we’re learning about Gentiles in a Jewish Timeline –like, what God’s been doing in Gentiles throughout history. One of the first points made was one that I’m always glad to be reminded of.

God’s work in the Israelites displayed His power to the rest of the world. God always wanted the whole world to know Him and to come to Him. He still does.

I don’t think that necessarily made the Israelites happy while the seven plagues were tearing apart the world they knew. Imagine their response to some challenges being drawn out so that the Egyptians would witness God’s glory: “the Egyptians?? But this is about our story, our freedom!”

We know Jonah wasn’t all that thrilled with God’s love and concern for others. He especially wasn’t pleased with his own role in sharing God’s love (i.e. Ninevah). Were his trials worth it to share the Gospel with those undeserving people? Frankly, Jonah didn’t really think so. He wished he was dead. He was angry. His story wasn’t just about him.

That’s a natural part of our sin nature.

Like Jonah, we know that God is a:

gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love.”

-Jonah 4:2

When His grace and compassion on others (especially those we don’t value) is played out through us, our struggles hardly seem so worthwhile.

Our selfishness tells us that everything that happens in our own lives, good or bad, is to be about us in some way. When we take on trials of faith, the question we ask is “Lord, what are you doing?” What we mean is “Lord, what are you doing for me in this?”

We’re so egoistic that even in our humility, accepting difficulties with faith, the “purposes” we look for in the challenges must in some way be about God improving our own stories.

Poor health is acceptable if it teaches us dependency. Challenging job situations are from the Lord, we suppose, so that He can grow us in certain ways.

None of this is necessarily incorrect. God does use our trials to grow us and teach us about Him. The trouble is simply how “me-focused” we are even in our value judgments about the life of faith.

The truth is that our trials aren’t just about our own spiritual growth- they are about God’s power being displayed to others, too. Our situations might not be resolved in the way we’d prefer (see the Israelites again) because God is instead going to:

“show (His) power that (His) name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”

 –Exodus 9:16

The Gospel isn’t just for you or I. Our stories, as a part of God’s story, aren’t written just for us.

The Bible characters we look to as examples knew this: their stories, messy and neat, were lived out for the glory of God –the glory of God that God wants everyone to witness.

Our challenges and our joys are gifts the Lord gives to us. But they are also gifts He uses to give others an opportunity to be drawn to Him. That –that eternal investment- is always worth it.

This post is being shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, and #TellHiStory
This post is being shared on: #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus and #LifeGivingLinkup.

4 Biblical Strategies for Honoring Your In Laws

You’re probably familiar with Exodus 20:12 –“honor your father and mother”. While fumbling over “Nan-uh, Mrs., uh, Mom?” it isn’t always obvious that this command applies to your relationship with your in laws too.

According to the current stereotype, in laws are common household enemies. There’s even the popular mantra “you don’t just marry him or her, you marry his or her family too!”

The Bible doesn’t gloss over this sort of relationship. In laws have been around from the beginning, and so has the awkwardness, difficulty, and blessing that comes with merging families. Biblical characters like Jacob and Ruth sought to honor their in laws, though difficulties abounded.

Jacob’s father in law, for example, tricked him into marrying the wrong girl and forced him into 20 years of manual labor. Ruth’s mother in law Naomi spent time in mourning telling everyone to call her “bitter”.

Though their relationships with their in laws were challenging, the way that our Biblical predecessors chose to relate to their in-laws sets an example for us.

  1. Jacob and Laban: Respectfully Leaving and Cleaving

                When you get married, you hear the phrase “leave and cleave” a lot. You might even cite it when your spouse calls Mom for the recipe that you aren’t making “quite right.”

This Biblical command defines marriage not only for the two who have become one flesh, but also for the parents. In laws should respectfully give you and your spouse space to become knit together and to form your own family. Some in laws have a harder time with that than others, and not just during your early years of marriage.

Laban, for example, loved his daughters Leah and Rachel –but he definitely had a hard time letting go. Jacob sought the wisdom of the Lord in the matter. When Laban confronted Jacob about running away as a family, Jacob pointed to God.

Respectfully, Jacob stood on the way of the Lord and relied on God to rebuke Laban in his unrighteous anger and battle for control. Choosing to respect Laban while also honoring God’s intentions for marriage, Jacob formed a covenant with Laban before the Lord that established his desire to have peaceful relationships and to do right by his wives through the leaving and cleaving process (Genesis 31).

  1. Moses and Jethro: Humbly Accepting Wisdom and Counsel

                People naturally enter marriage with pre-conceived notions of how life and relationships are done –and often each spouse is convinced that theirs and their parents’ way is the right way.

                It takes humility to set aside the notions that you’ve developed in order to accept the counsel of others, especially when you feel like you’re doing really well on your own. Listening to the counsel and wisdom of your in-laws when their way is so different?  That can be even harder.

                Yet that is exactly what Moses did. While leading the freed Israelites through the wilderness, Moses was visited by his father in law, Jethro. While sharing with Jethro about God’s victory and praising the Lord with him, Jethro gave Jacob some unsolicited advice.

                You can probably identify with that. Most of us can. What’s spectacular about Moses’ and Jethro’s exchange in Exodus 18 is that Moses actually listened. Jethro’s advice came from a place of wisdom, love, and humility before God. Recognizing his father in law’s Godly words, Moses responded in wisdom and humility as well.

  1. Ruth and Naomi: Being Compassionately Present

                Certainly the best known in-law in the Bible, Naomi is relatable. Like so many, she suffered loss in her life and became openly bitter about it. Outspoken about her grief and her hopeless situation, Naomi may not have been the most pleasant mother in law.

Imagine Ruth’s position as a young widow trying to care for a depressed in law while herself suffering. Ruth wasn’t in a familiar situation, she didn’t know anyone but Naomi. Yet her response to the trials of the family she married into was one of absolute compassion and commitment.

Ruth understood what it means to be present. Her famous words of “where you, if you…I’ll go, I will” evidence her devotion to actively participating in her mother in law’s life. She took on Naomi’s burdens as her own, just as she once took Naomi’s son as her own husband.

What’s more, Ruth wasn’t just committed to being present through Naomi’s trials like a “bad weather” friend. She rejoiced in sharing blessings with Naomi. We know about Naomi’s joyful reaction to holding her grandson –just imagine Ruth’s expression as she witnessed Naomi’s delight.

  1. Peter and His Mother in Law: Entrusting In-Laws to the Lord

                Mark 1:30 tells us that Simon (Peter) had a mother in law. When she got sick, Peter told Jesus and Jesus healed her. It’s a simple story, but it’s lovely. Peter entrusted his mother in law to the care of the Lord.

                The Hebrew word for honor in Exodus 20:12 is “kabad,” which means “weighty, heavy, burdensome” concerning importance. In Greek it is “timaó,” – “to assign value.” These words describe honor as valuing someone as important.

                For Peter, honoring his mother in law meant valuing her and her burdens enough to turn her over to the Lord for healing. You can do the same thing for your in laws in prayer, honoring their person by taking them on as people you love enough to lift up to the Lord, even if it has to be from afar.

In Conclusion….

                Not every controlling father in law will be rebuked by God like Laban was, and not every in law will have the wisdom and good advice of Jethro. Some mother in laws may, like Naomi, be bitter –and not want you involved or around.

                You can honor your in-laws anyway. Be respectful in doing what is right, like Jacob. Choose humility and listen to sound advice like Moses, while measuring it against the Scriptures like the Bereans (Acts 17:11). Remain compassionate in all circumstances like Ruth. And, like Peter, entrust your in-laws to the Lord.

You Were Right!…Or Were You?

Photo from: pixabay

3 words everybody loves to hear: “you were right.”

We like to be right. Many of us try to do the right thing. In fact, our desire to be “right” is so strong and deep that we have opened its meaning up to include ideas like:

  • Do whatever feels right
  • Do whatever seems right
  • Do what is right for me might be wrong for you
  • Do the right kind of wrong

So warped is our idea of righteousness (the word which “right” is the root of) that we can live blissfully ignorant that our idea of right is absolutely wrong. This isn’t just a secular issue eluding functional logic and philosophy.

In our Christian circles, we’ve become deadset on “right” and “wrong.”

Churches divide over “right” and “wrong” decisions, big and small. Marriages end when one person is right and the other wrong. We examine Scripture to determine what we feel is right. In prayer, we sense what is “right” in our hearts. As we listen to and encourage our spouses and loved ones, we make determinations about what is “right” and push for it.

For many of us, pursuing righteousness encroaches on sin. We try to be right in order to:

  • Assuage our fears
  • Earn a good name
  • Prove ourselves trustworthy
  • Make ourselves wise
  • Build up our pride
  • Guide others
  • Get to where we want to be

In all of these things, the goal of being right is ultimately about us. Ourselves, our loved ones, our futures. But righteousness only exists in relation to God. There is no such thing as truly being “right” apart from Him.

Psalm 16:2 tells us that “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.”

When we separate being right from pleasing God, we diminish the purpose of being right in the first place. We place our goals in the sin of self and this world instead of glorifying Him. As a result, being “right” is no longer a good thing –or a righteous thing.

Instead of seeing righteous as a part of following and glorifying the Lord, our twisted concept of righteousness is reward-based.

We “save ourselves for marriage” because it’s right…because it leads to healthier relationship and whatever other reasoning we’ve been told. We submit to our husbands because it’s right…because of the benefits and the way it makes him feel. We serve others on missions trips because it’s right…AND because we’ve heard so many times that when it’s over, WE are the ones blessed.

It’s not wrong to receive blessings from the Lord, even as rewards. All good gifts do come from God.

But sometimes our idea of being “right” is a lot like the idea of the kid who shapes up right before Christmas so that Santa will think he is “good.” That’s not righteousness.

Hear and recall the words of Romans 3:

“This RIGHTEOUSNESS is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.

There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…

and all are JUSTIFIED FREELY by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

Righteousness is all about our standing with God. It has nothing to do with works, but rather the position of the heart. Regarding our eternal relationship with God, we are saved. Sealed. Guaranteed because of the grace of Christ.

In regards to our relationship with the Lord right now on earth, we are to be:

filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ–to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:11.)

When we want to be right or try to be or do right, we must stop to remember why it matters at all.

Remember that being right is all about the glory and the praise of God. Is an eternity of close relationship with Him, praising Him, not our reward in heaven? Let it be our reward on earth, too. Be right by Him, and righteousness won’t be  so selfish after all. 

This post is being shared on: #Thought-Provoking Thursday #Faith-Filled Friday, and #DanceWithJesus.