Monday, April 29, 2013

Respect Challenge: Week 1

25 Weeks to Being a Respectful Wife

I found a list of 25 ways to communicate respect to your husband over at Loving Life At Home.  This has inspired me to take 25 weeks and make each of these things a habit.  I want to be the wife my husband dreamed of, I want to be a wife he is proud of, one he talks about, one he doesn't have a problem loving like Jesus does.  I think blogging weekly will help keep me accountable as well as give you inspiration!  I encourage you to do this with me!  It never hurts to try to be anything.  I'll share what I do each day and what Hubbies response was (if there was one).  And, no he doesn't know about this (I can even hide it from him when I post it on Facebook).  The only way he will find out is if one of you tells him!  ;)  I'll tell him when I'm finished but for now I want this to be our little secret...SO much fun!  

So week one it is:

Choose Joy. 

Jennifer notes, "Please don't use moodiness as an attempt to manipulate your man, but in all things rejoice, because that's the right thing to do."

1 Thessalonians 5:16 - Rejoice evermore.

Philippians 4:4 - Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!

The beginning of the week went pretty well. Hubby said once: "why are you being so lovey? I'm so confused." So he did notice I was being a bit different. And one night I noticed he was really trying to be happier as well - my joy was infectious! The best part: when I was joyful there was much less bickering.  One night Hubby asked me if I was going to finish hanging his clothes.  I took a second to think before I reacted and I did it joyfully with a smile on my face (and not a snarky one either)... It is amazing what a change in attitude can do. When I chose to be joyful it was refreshing - I felt I was doing what I was supposed to do and I was truly happy about it!  When I chose to be joyful about the things I don't necessarily love doing, it changed my whole outlook.  This is probably the best thing I learned through this challenge.

Another positive was that when I was being moody and pessimistic, I noticed almost instantly. Most of the time I would apologize for my moodiness as soon as I realized. There was one night I'm sure Hubby thought I was like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde....

Sadly, choosing joy was much more difficult than I thought it would be some days. All in all, though, it was pretty much like any other week. But I was much more conscience of my attitude and moodiness. That in itself is a big step! :)

If you take some time to "choose joy" let me know how it goes!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Do Something Crazy

Praise is defined by as "the act of expressing approval or admiration."  

What act of praise, what act of admiration or approval sticks out most in your head?  For me, a ton of romantic comedies and chick flicks pop into my head.  In the movies (and yes, sometimes in real life) guys do some ridiculously crazy things to express their admiration.  But even though we know it is ridiculous and crazy we still love it!

For instance, in the movie Hitch, he tackles a car!  Just so he can tell her how he feels, how he really feels.  Or what about Up?  He moves his house the whole may to South America with a bunch of balloons as one last act of admiration (or praise) for his dear departed Elle.  I even read a news story where a man had an ice company turn their yard into a winter wonderland (snow and all) so his wife, who was dying of cancer, could have the winter she wanted.

When we truly admire someone, when we want to give them our praise and approval, there is something in us that wants it to be over the top, ridiculous, crazy!  Maybe that is because God desires our over-the-top praise for Himself and has placed that potential in our souls, in our inner-most being.

Psalm 9:1-2
1 I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart;
I will tell of all Your wonders.
2 I will be glad and exult in You.
I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.

David really knew how to praise God.  His admiration over flows in just two simple verses.  When studying a passage, I always scribble down my initial impression: "This is how we should start every day!  Giving thanks and praising God - it would make such a difference in me and everyone I encounter if my lips overflowed with praise for God as I got out of bed each day."  Can you just imagine!?!

Here, David gives us a sort of outline for what praising God should look like.

First and foremost, if you are praising God, expressing your approval or admiration for Him, it should always be done with your whole heart: I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart.  This is essential.  Let me say that again, this is essential...without your whole heart, no matter how crazy your act of praise or admiration is, it is irrelevant - "it is only when the whole heart is employed in the work that God can look upon it with acceptance" (Clarke).  

I will tell of all your wonders.  The Gesenius Lexicon defines 'wonders' in this case as "things done wonderfully, miracles of God, both in creating and sustaining the world."  And 'tell' is translated from the Hebrew word caphar meaning "to count, recount, relate" (Strong's H5608).  So, we should recount the miracles that God has done, not only in our creation, but in our lives, in our sustenance.  We need to always be mindful and thankful of what He has done in our lives - focus on what you have, not what you do not have.  

I will be glad and exult in You.  It is not always easy to be joyful is it?  When life is going our way, joy is easy.  And when it is, "whatever occurs to make us glad, our joy must pass through it, and terminate in God only...not in the gift so much as in the Giver" (Henry).  You see, He should always and forever be the source of our joy, no matter what life brings our way.  And that means we should be joyful and glad even when it is difficult.  You see, "Obsessed people," or people that would do crazy things to show their praise and admiration, "know that true joy doesn't depend on circumstances or environment; it is a gift that must be chosen and cultivated, a gift that ultimately comes from God" (Francis Chan, Crazy Love).  Remain joyful at all times and always remember to give Him the credit!

I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.  This, I believe, is where the crazy comes in - where the houses-flying-by-way-of-balloons and jumping-on-top-of-cars kind of stuff comes in.  Yes, we sing in church with everyone else (and let's be honest, some of us don't even do that).  But does our embarrassment get in the way of truly praising God?  When I was going to school we went to a college-age service on Tuesday nights and it was always phenomenal.  I left there each week knowing I had felt the presence of God in a powerful way. And I truly believe it is because it was a worship-the-way-you-want-to kind of atmosphere.  For some reason, that place, that service made you feel less inhibited - I was never afraid to raise my hands in awe of God's presence and power.  But in most places, I will admit, I'm too embarrassed to do so.  I'm sure many of you can relate.  But David danced in the streets when he was praising God - he was NEVER inhibited or embarrassed or afraid of what others might think (see 2 Samuel 6:14 and 1 Chronicles 15:19)!  And we can hardly sing for fear of what the person in the pew behind us might think!  If you want to praise God - do something crazy!  Show your admiration in a memorable way.

I challenge you today to take your praise of God to the next level.  Make sure your whole heart is in it and then do something crazy.  Let's become a little less inhibited and give God the praise He deserves.  But, please, don't go dancing naked in the streets...people might get the wrong idea....   ;)

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Grass is Always Greener

The grass is always greener on the other side.  It always seems that way doesn't it?  Right now, I struggle with being content in our apartment.  I am so ready to have a house, to start a family, to enter the next stage of our lives.  For others, it is a matter of more money - "I'll be content once I make just $5,000 more a year." Or maybe it is status - "I'll be content once I am VP of the company."  For most of us, we feel that something is lacking - "I will be content once ___(fill in the blank)___.  

But maybe we are looking for that contentment or success in the wrong place?

Psalm 4:6-8 
6 Many are saying, "Who will show us good?"
Lift up the light of Your contenance upon us, O Lord!
7 You have put gladness in my heart,
More than when their grain and new wine abound.
8 In peace I will both lie down and sleep,
For you alone, O Lord, make me to dwell in safety. 

Verse 6 is two separate lines.  The first line "Who will show us good?" "is the wish of the worldling, the latter," lift up the light of your contenance upon us, O Lord!, is "the wish of the godly" (Clarke). Those people of the world do not know where to turn to for success, joy, and contentment.  They are forever and always miserable wondering who will ever show them any good.  For, "Giving in to the world's idea of success is an attempt to put a Band-Aid over a bullet wound" (Colin Creel, Perspectives).  True success and contentment can only be found in God: "I find now a happiness which earthly things could not produce...such inward happiness as they cannot boast who have got the highest increase of corn and wine" (Clarke).  

King David, the writer of this Psalm, was so joyous and content in Christ alone, that he slept peacefully without a worry in the world.  'Peace' in the Hebrew is translated from shalowm meaning "completeness, soundness, welfare, peace" (Strong's H7965).   Shalowm not only gives us this idea of peace, but of utter completeness - that is the ultimate contentment and success.  I don't know many people who could say they feel complete.  Because society has taught us that the grass is always greener on the other side, it is hard to focus on what truly matters.  It is next to impossible to remember where our true completeness, our success, our contentment, our joy...actually comes from.   You want "the true answer to contentment[?]  Accepting yourself as God made you" (Colin Creel, Perspectives).  To put it another way: "Contentment requires a decision to make the choice to be satisfied with who I am and what I have, rather than to be enslaved to what I lack" (Cindy Sanders of Atlanta, Georgia).  And what about success?  Well, "Where you turn in your moments of pain as well as celebratory moments will determine how successful you are in God's eyes" (Colin Creel, Perspectives).  

When we feel that we are lacking, when we feel that we need more - instead of wallowing and being miserable in what the world can do for us, we must turn to our Father in Heaven and cry out: Lift up the light of your countenance upon us, O Lord!  He will provide a completeness that will allow us to lie down and dwell in safety forevermore.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Be Perturbed

Let me paint you a picture:

A long time ago there lived a man, a great man that was known to most as a peacemaker.  He was known for loving - and not just those he was closest to, he also loved those that many others refused to love for one reason or another.  He had this presence that drew people in, calmed their hearts and minds...

One day, he stumbled across a group of people that were not doing what they were supposed to do, they were doing the wrong thing.  And this peacemaker, he became very angry, so angry that he made a whip and overturned tables, driving people away from the area.

If you haven't caught on yet, this man was Christ.  Christ got angry!

I feel like there is an overwhelming sense in Christian society today that we aren't allowed to be angry.  And if we are, well, then we need to be quiet about it.  Heaven forbid we make a scene.  But that is exactly what Christ did!  He was so passionate about the misuse of God's temple that He got angry and He didn't stay quiet about it - He made a scene, He made His point.

And my point is...we are allowed to be angry!

Psalm 4:4-5
4 Tremble, and do not sin;
Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still.
5 Offer the sacrifices of righteousness,
And trust in the Lord. 

In order for this to make sense, it is very important to note that 'tremble' is translated from the Hebrew word ragaz meaning "tremble, quake, rage, quiver, be agitated, be excited, be perturbed" (Strong's H7264).  While a few scholars define tremble in these verses to mean 'fear,' I agree with Adam Clarke in that, keeping with the Hebrew definition, 'tremble' here is much closer to our idea of anger.

We can easily translate this as "Be angry and do not sin" or "Be perturbed and do not sin" or even "Rage and do not sin."  Yeah, I know, that sounds nice.  But isn't it much easier said than done?  Well, thankfully, David has given us some advice on how to be angry yet remain from sin.

First he says to meditate in your heart upon your bed and be still.  Wesley puts it this way: "when you are at leisure from distracting business...consider these things."  In other words, really think before you act.  The word 'meditate' comes from the Hebrew 'amar meaning "to say, speak, utter" (Strong's H559).  Simply put: speak with your heart!  Sometimes we overreact before we've really had time to reflect on what happened.  
I also believe that this is why "upon your bed" is mentioned.  Time.  Time ensures that you will not sin.  Have you ever gone to bed livid about something only to wake up wondering what the big deal was in the first place?  A good night's rest and a little time may shed new light on the subject and can most certainly keep you from sinning.
Next, David notes, offer the sacrifices of righteousness.  We must make sure that we are righteous, that our hearts are not amiss and that they are in the right place.  It is not enough to cease doing evil, we must also learn to do good (Henry).  We must also remember that "no sacrifice - no performance of religious duty, will avail any man, if his heart be not right with God" (Clarke).  So even if you do not sin in your anger, it means nothing if your heart is not in the right place.

Lastly, David reminds us that we must always trust in the Lord.  But what does it mean to trust?  Interestingly, "Trust is the characteristic [Old Testament] word for the [New Testament] 'faith,' believe.' the rendering of Hebrew words signifying to take refuge" (Scofield). We must have faith in the Lord, take refuge in His arms.  Ultimately, He will bring justice to this world.  Our anger may burn for a night but his justice will prevail in the morning!  If we do not sin in our anger, we can rest assured that justice will come.  We need only to have faith, to trust God.  It isn't so hard as it sounds, after all...."How can you trust God for salvation and not anything else?" (Todd Theissen, pastor of Summit Church in Norman, OK).

In a world where many people are misusing God's temple and disregarding His is incredibly easy to become angry! Just remember these words: "The next time you want to spit at a parade of gays marching with banners, you are actually spitting at Jesus.  If you berate a woman walking into an abortion clinic, you're berating Jesus.  This isn't to say you can't speak the truth, but don't let your righteous anger compel you to unrighteous behavior" (Thor Ramsey, A Comedian's Guide to Theology).

Today the challenge is simple: think before you act.

Monday, April 8, 2013

What Would You Do for a Klondike Bar?

Job 31:24-28
If I have put my confidence in gold,
And called fine gold my trust,
25 If I have gloated because my wealth was great,
And because my hand had secured so much;
26 If I have looked at the sun when it shone
Or the moon going in splendor,
27 And my heart became secretly enticed,
And my hand threw a kiss from my mouth,
28 That too would have been an iniquity call for judgment,
For I would have denied God above.

Did you know that worship of the sun and the moon is the most ancient form of idolatry (Wesley)?  I don't know for sure if I did or not, but every one of the commentaries I use mentioned it.  What I find odd, however, is that none of them tied the talk of idolatry in the last 3 verses of this paragraph with the talk of money and wealth in the first couple of verses.

To me, that is the ultimate form of idolatry in the present age, especially in the first world.  We are so driven by money.  There are 25 year old women who marry 75 year old men (and vice versa)...for money.  There are men and women selling their bodies, and sometimes the bodies of their very own children....for money.  People work their lives away...for money.  We give all our time and attention to money.

Don't get me wrong, I know there is a need to survive and, most often, you need some sort of money to do that.  But, "Our wealth is either advantageous or pernicious to us according as we stand affected to it.  If we make it our rest and our ruler, it will be our ruin; if we make it our servant, and an instrument of righteousness, it will be a blessing to us" (Henry).  You see, money becomes an idol when you put your confidence and trust in it (see vs.24).  If I were to tell you that you've just lost all of your money - no more checking, no more savings, no more IRA's or trust funds, no more stocks and bonds, no more coffee cans buried in the back yard - it is ALL gone.  Would you panic?  Worry?  Stop functioning?  Or would your confidence be elsewhere, say...God perhaps?  Would you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that everything would turn out alright because you trust the one and only God?  And what is your heart lured by?  Is it secretly enticed to do everything you can to make a buck (see vs. 27)?  Or is it lured away by Godly things and heavenly treasure?

Remember those old commercials: "What would you do for a Klondike bar?"  There were some pretty outrageous things being done in the name of Klondikes.  Well, "What would do for $5?"  Something outrageous?  What about for God - what would you do for Him?  Something outrageous?  If you are going to be doing anything "outrageous," I challenge you today to do something outrageous for God.  Make Him your only God.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Would Your Integrity Win?

How confident are you in your righteousness?  Could you stand before God and ask him to weigh your integrity with accurate scales?  

The thought of that terrifies me.  Not that I'm hiding some awful sin, but what will God think of the way I treat my husband or how I spend my time?  I don't want God measuring me, sifting the good from the bad - no way!

But Job asked God to do just that.  And even more, he asked that if God found anything, for just punishment!  Talk about a bold righteousness!

Job 31:6-8
Let Him weigh me with accurate scales,
And let God know my integrity.
7 If my step has turned from the way,
Or my heart followed my eyes,
Or if any spot has stuck to my hands,
8 Let me sow and another eat,
And let my crops be uprooted. 

If only I could be so bold and confident in my righteousness!  After all, "An honest man is so far from dreading a trial that he desires it rather, being well assured that God knows his integrity and will approve it, and that the trial of it will be to his praise and honour" (Henry, emphasis added).  We should desire a trial with God if we are truly righteous - it could only bring about good!

It is easy to let our hearts follow our eyes - from coveting our neighbors Mercedes to lusting after the girl next door - "commonly sin enters by the eye into the heart" and our society is a VERY visual society (Wesley).  And they don't leave anything to the imagination.  It's hard to walk through the mall without seeing images of women scantily clothed.  Let's face it, if you see something, it makes you want it all the more!  For instance, if we go to a restaurant, 10 times out of 10, my husband will pick the entree that has a picture over the entree that doesn't.  We are driven by what we see. And sometimes when we let that instinct take over in can be very, very destructive.

Fact of the matter is, in today's world it is incredibly difficult to remain righteous through-and-through.  But that isn't an excuse.  If we fall into the world's trap and start lusting after anyone but our spouse, or we become envious to the point of hurting others, we always have the option of repentance - "Those that deal much in the world may perhaps have a blot come upon their hands, but they must wash it off again by repentance and restitution, and not let it cleave to their hands" (Henry).

As long as unrighteousness does not 'stick to our hands,' as long as we repent of any sin, we remain righteous in the eyes of God.  As long as we repent, we should not be afraid of being 'weighed on accurate scales' by God Himself.  

I challenge you today to examine your life - past and present.  Is there anything that you haven't repented of?  Any sin that you haven't asked forgiveness for and turned your back on?  If so, write these things on a piece of paper, and cross each sin off one by one as you bring them before God and repent.  He will forgive you, guaranteed, all you have to do is ask.  If God were to weigh you on His scale today - would your integrity win?  Or would your sin?