selfishness

Thoughts are the compass of your life

 For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. As one who reckons, he says to you, eat and drink, yet his heart is not with you [but is grudging the cost]. ~Proverbs 23:7

Just like the selfish person progressed in the direction of their thought pattern, we also will move in the direction of our own thoughts.  Happy thoughts progress towards better and miserable towards worse.

Nagging

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… the contentions of a wife are a continual dripping.

… better to dwell in a corner of the housetop [on the flat oriental roof, exposed to all kinds of weather] than in a house shared with a nagging, quarrelsome, and faultfinding woman.

… better to dwell in a desert land than with a contentious woman and with vexation.

… better to dwell in the corner of the housetop than to share a house with a disagreeing, quarrelsome, and scolding woman.

True, it’s hard to hear, but God told us for a reason.  I’m guessing it does more damage than we realize.  Nagging is hurtful to your husband’s ears and toxic to your marriage.  And probably doesn’t make God too happy either.

~   Let’s not be like that   ~

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Love covers

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… love covers  (1 Peter 4:8)

… He clothed them (Gen 3:21)

… they covered him  (Gen 9:23)

One of the things I love about God is that He never just says, Do this rule.  He always demonstrates a clear model to follow. To me, He is the forerunner of what it means to cover an offense with love.

HIDING SIN?

God was the first to sacrifice in the name of love in order to cover the sin of another.  He loved all His creation yet He sacrificed His own creatures so He could cover Adam and Eve’s offence.  It must have been hard, but that’s what love does.

And who was He hiding their sin from?  Obviously not Himself, maybe Satan?  Although Satan was aware of getting them to disobey God, I’m not sure he understood the full ramifications of what he had just set in motion, but that’s another post.  Perhaps it was from Adam and Eve themselves?

It wasn’t to “hide” in a fearful deceptive way, like Adam and Eve did with the leaves right after they disobeyed.  There is nothing anyone can hide from God, He knows all, is all, sees all.  But when God covered them, that was something completely different, it was done with a pure heart.  It was done for them.

Covering is for love

After Noah and the gang disembarked and were safely moving on with their lives on dry land, there was cause for celebration for sure!  Having come from a long line of weekend-warrior alcoholics, I know what a blindingly drunk party looks like and the numbing affect it has on the senses.

I don’t think it was a one-time event in Noah’s life; he was a drinker.  That’s how his two older sons knew immediately what to do when the youngest son was disrespectful.  Shem and Japheth showed love for Noah by covering him when he was unable, to do it himself, because of sin.

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It wasn’t so much about modesty as it was about demonstrating love through respecting their father.  Ham choose to expose the sin; he chose wrong.

Love covered my sin

Sometimes, sadly, our first response isn’t to reciprocate what God did for us — what Jesus did for us — what Shem and Japheth did for Noah:  To cover.  Too often we’re like Ham, we want to point out the sin and expose it.

It’s not that we don’t need help.  On occasion, marriage is hard and sometimes we do need a voice of reason.  But if we are intellectually honest with ourselves, not in most cases.  In most cases, it’s a matter of, I don’t think you’re doing it right; my way is right, you’re wrong.  You need to change.

Our first response is to reveal what our husbands have done and that makes us wrong on three counts.  First:  We are more concerned about ourselves than our husbands.  Second:  We are complaining out of inconvenience to our own lives.  And third, we just think we are better than them because we can see their sin and offences and we think theirs is worse than ours.

Because of selfishness we miss the whole point.  The purpose of putting on God’s covering of love isn’t primarily for self, it’s for others.

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We wear the covering of love because that’s what Jesus did for us.  He covers my sin so that I may come boldly before God.  If I’m being continually remade into Christ’s image, I’ll behave more and more like Him.  So shouldn’t I want to try and cover in the name of love, like He did?

WHY?  Why cover it up?

The covering of love doesn’t pretend the sin isn’t real, nor does it take away our flaws, it just hides them from all-out exposure to everyone else.

… Except God.

Now God is left alone with the person and the problem, to work quietly and to completely heal their heart.  It’s only God who can really tell* what needs changing, healing or to be left alone.   And no one wants the ugliness inside them exposed for everyone to see.  Most of us just close off when there’s a threat of exposure, including shutting out God.

My job?  To cover as the process is happening.  Jesus doesn’t cover my sin with His blood to hide it from God so I can slip into heaven with it.  Jesus covers to make it private:  Just between me and God.  This is where my salvation is worked out, privately under the cover of love.

As wives, we have the distinction of being invited to work co-operatively with God as we cover in love.  So I’m left with a question.  Am I going to be like Ham and expose sin and flaws to others (sidenote: like Satan the accuser of the brethren**).  Or, will I choose to cover like Shem and Japheth?

God places the onus on me to figure out the difference.  In this responsibility, I get to see who I really am by discovering the real motive in my heart.  Why do I want to expose his flaws?  Or, why do I want to cover his flaws?

It’s tricky ground for sure.  Navigating the steps on the soil of our own hearts.

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* (Jeremiah 17:10;  Psalm 139:1-4;  Romans 8:27)

**(Zechariah 3:1;  Revelations 12:10)

 

 

The Grand Design of Marriage

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I’ve heard it said that the main purpose of marriage is to drive us closer to Christ.  And although that sounds like an epic and beautiful sentiment, I don’t see how I can get any closer to Christ than His presence inside me.  Also, what about the people not married yet, or the ones that never marry?  With this application that would mean they don’t get driven closer to Christ?  No, that can’t be right.

Ok, there is some truth there:  Marriage does maximize pressure on people because they live in close proximity to each other, day in day out.  This pressure in life pushes sin to the surface and in turn, our actions affect those closest to us, but that’s far from being the grand purpose or design of marriage.  Having teenage kids or a difficult roommate, or any number of stressors in life can drive you to seek Christ.

In order to find the main purpose of marriage, we have to be transported beyond our own circumstances into the bigger grander picture.  If we allow this to happen, we quickly learn that it’s not about us at all, but about God and what my marriage says about Him?

There are many positive results and benefits of marriage but the singular reason is that marriage is the demonstration in the natural world of the supernatural unity that Paul calls the mystery of Christ and His church.  The more a marriage mirrors this unity the more it fulfills its grand purpose.  And only then does it become truly beautiful.

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The more I indulge in entitlement at the cost of my spouse, the less I represent God’s unity, making my marriage useless because it’s not fulfilling its intended purpose.

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Loophole

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Loophole:

an error in the way a law, rule, or contract is written that makes it possible for some people to legally avoid obeying it (merriam-webster.com)

I didn’t think of myself as a quitter, but when it came to our marriage I wasn’t so sure anymore.  Marriage had turned out to be more than I bargained for.  It was too hard and I wanted out.  There had to be a way, something I’d overlooked or read wrong that would give me the loophole I wanted.  Little did I know that in my search to get out of our marriage, I had inadvertently started a wrestling match with God.

It was in Matthew 19 that I saw a loophole forming, right there in verse 11:

Not everyone can accept this statement, only those whom God helps. 

And the more I thought about it the clearer it became …only those whom God helps.  Right.  If God was for this marriage it would be easier.  There would be peace.  I began to see hope.  Yes, divorce is a hard process but afterward, life would improve for everyone.  It had to be better than what we were presently experiencing.  I could see my loophole getting larger.

… Until God asked me if I was a eunuch.

Wait?  What? …. A what?

Have You Not Read?

When God asks you a rhetorical question, you just know He’s got your number.  We’ve seen this line of questioning before. Jesus did this with the Pharisees back in verse 4:

Jesus answered, Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator made them male and female?

… have you not read …?  Obviously, they had read it – they were the religiously educated, Jesus knew that.  Yet, the intent of his question indicates they missed something. … just like I was missing something too.

I missed it because, like the Pharisees, I was looking for something that wasn’t there.  Fishing for an excuse, any excuse to twist God’s Word to my benefit.  Any excuse that says it’s ok to give up on marriage, on a spouse … on a person.

To challenge the Pharisees, Jesus began with an overview from way back in Genesis, as though they really hadn’t read from their own scriptures.  But before He could finish, they interrupted Him with another question.  Then the disciple’s interjected with a comment of their own.

Misfire From Both Sides

On the one side of Jesus, the Pharisees are saying they should be able to break the marriage contract whenever they choose.  And on the other side, the disciples are emphatic about not even venturing into a marriage if it’s going to be a covenant situation.  Both sides had different reasons but both groups were missing the bigger picture in order to avoid doing the hard work that marriage sometimes demands.

First:  The Pharisees want to be able to trade-in for a new partner:  Jesus tells them their focus is all wrong.  Their reasoning is that if they have all their Ts crossed and Is dotted through a contract of divorce, dissolving the marriage along with the contract is clean and tidy: sanitized.  The paperwork is all in order.  But Jesus wants them to look back further than their own relationships, beyond themselves, back to when marriage was established and grasp its original purpose:  Not a contract; rather, a covenant to stay together.  But they won’t have any of it, instead, they shot back in rebuttal:

“If that’s so, why did Moses give instructions for divorce papers and divorce procedures?”

Jesus tried to be a teacher and help them but they resisted with technicalities.  So He responds with more deliberate words, You are the stubborn, hardhearted ones to pursue divorce in the first place.  But if that weren’t enough Jesus pushes back with more, So you want to play hardball with technicalities?  I have a technicality for you.  You thought you could just divorce by saying your spouse cheated so you could find someone better?  It doesn’t work that way.  You want to leave your marriage?  Alright, but you cannot ever get married again because you will only bring your hardheartedness into another marriage.

WOAH-WAH

Apparently, there’s no trading in, or trading off.  Only trading out.  The technicality is too much for them, they got more than they bargained for.  They came out to play Jesus for the fool, but instead He bested them at their own game!  And they just quietly disappear before the end of the chapter.

And then:  The Disciples don’t even want to start without an escape clause.  Jesus recalls Genesis 2 in an effort to draw our attention to the original purpose of the male/female design of creation:  so that they would covenant in marriage.  No escape clause is the whole purpose.  Remaining single because there’s no escape clause goes against the intended design.  The only pure motive for choosing to not marry is to serve God.

At this point in the conversation, Jesus had turned his attention to the disciples and was directly addressing them.  The only people that don’t have the capacity to accept the covenant of marriage are eunuchs, everyone else does.

“Not everyone can accept this statement,” Jesus said, “Only those whom God helps. Some are born as eunuchs, some have been made eunuchs by others, and some choose not to marry for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.”

I wasn’t a eunuch (as God rhetorically reminded me) which put me in the category of everyone else.  It applies to …everyone …else?  I didn’t like that very much.  “God, You’re not actually saying that it does apply to everyone else, are You?  Just that it doesn’t apply to eunuchs.”  OK, that was wrong, I knew it.  I had tried the same trick that Pharisees had: a technicality.

Although there was less confusion about my own heart, I was still disillusioned about our marriage. It didn’t seem fair.  What about him?  Why am I the one with the hard heart towards him?  I could feel God’s hand pull me out of my self-pity pit:  “No, it’s not Darrell you will become hard hearted towards … it’s Me.”

This was my game changer:  It’s not about my spouse and me, but God and me.

Accept it, if you can

If I left our marriage my faith would weaken because I wouldn’t have given God the chance to come through for me.  To demonstrate His power through me … through our marriage.

To leave Darrell would be to not trust God to work out all things in our marriage. Leaving him would also be saying to God that Darrell is such a lost cause that even the Creator of the universe isn’t able to do anything in him.  I would be saying that God is not able to finish the good work He started on our wedding day.

And if I didn’t trust Him in this area of my life, what would be the next area that I would withhold from Him?  And then the next?  God is everything He says or nothing at all.  I don’t get to pick and choose the areas of my life that He gets dominion over.

So.  I’m not a eunuch, clearly.  My only other choice was to seek a divorce with a hard heart towards God.  Or, stay in admittance that Christ’s teaching on marriage was for me to accept.

With that thought, my loophole vanished.

 

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A Woman Ahead of Her Time

Sarah didn’t follow Abraham’s schemes because she was a doormat who believed she had no choice other than to sit in a victim mentality.  She was a woman who was victorious in love and victoriously ahead of her time.  She was living in the dispensation of grace before grace had arrived.

It was her choice.  She already had the freedom to choose, otherwise, Abraham wouldn’t have asked her to decide in his favour.

The World is a system.  It is more a way of thinking than it is a specific activity that takes place outside of a religious venue.

There is a sharp contrast between how the world system operates and how God operates in the spiritual realm.  The peace Jesus refers to in John 14:27 is just one of the examples He uses to draw our attention in order to contrast the two different methods.  Sometimes it gets tricky because the world masquerades as Jesus by appearing as right, righteous or good.  It’s only in the outcome of the benefit that the truth is revealed; am I all for me or am I all for another.

Sarah chose Abraham instead of herself, not just once but twice (see Genesis 12:11-13 & Genesis 20:2).  She trusted God and He protected her.  Her radical faith enabled her to choose grace for her husband, unlike Eve who believed her way was better than Adam’s.  Eve chose self-benefit which lead her to self-trust.  Sarah chose for the benefit of someone else other than herself which lead to deeper trust in God, instead of self.

In Sarah’s choice, she became free.  Free where it really counts.  In Eve’s choice, she became a slave.  She lost the freedom she already possessed and lost it where it really counts.  God has got some fine things to say about Sarah, but all He says about Eve’s character is that she was deceived.

Through feminism, the world tries to tell me I don’t have any freedom and to get it I must choose self over everyone else.  Yet it never actually gives way to any real freedom.  There is only one way to have freedom; true freedom for everyone.  It’s not found in a movement that tells you to take what you think is yours, but in a Person who demonstrated how to give it.

Satan uses the same old strategies in new trendy ways:

                Deception of withholding.  By masquerading as a good choice.  For the illusion of freedom.

Is the old Garden now the new Kingdom?  As the Church grows up in the world could feminism possibly be the one tree in the midst, to not eat from?

Sarah demonstrated how to shift our focus from the debilitating self-centered view that only sees a glass ceiling and instead rise to the top with the true vision of the only corporation that really matters:  Heaven’s hierarchy.

 

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CLIMB TO HAPPINESS

EDMONTON, ALTA.: DECEMBER 23, 2011. In back - Jake Mendez, 5 and sister Kalista, 6, found some snow for a toboggan ride at Government House hill. They are visiting from California and have never seen snow before. For Gordon Kent story of a no snow xmas. ( Candace Elliott/ Edmonton Journal )

Do you remember tobogganing as a kid?  Careening down huge slopes laughing with ease and glee.
I remember the hill behind our house when I was growing up.  It had 2 slopes!  And a gentle plateau in between.  It was AWESOME!  But then – that climb back up, whew!  Trudging, trudging, trudging, working, heavy breathing.  And with an awkward saucer in tow.  So much slower was the work of climbing up than the enjoyment found in sliding down.
A 15-minute climb
for a
1-minute ride down

 

In the movie, The Pursuit of Happyness, the same kind of ratio is at work.  Chris Gardner [Will Smith] narrates the whole movie in segments that are titled by the struggles he encountered during this time in his life.  It isn’t until the very end of the movie, after the whole venture, that we see the contrast of the reward to the work.  He says, “This part of my life … This. Little. Part … is called happiness.”

The ratio of work to reward is an exceptional example of delayed gratification for sure.  The running time of the movie is 2 hours and 25 minutes.  It is only in the final scene, the last 5 minutes when he experiences the reward of his pursuit, happiness.
I think sometimes, well actually more times than sometimes, we want our lives to resemble the last 5 minutes of that movie.  To be able to slide along into the ease of happiness as though it were something we deserved, instead of an opportunity worthy of pursuit.  In truth, most of us would rather have the ratio inverted:  2 hours and 25 minutes of laughing with ease and glee gently leaned up against 5 minutes of struggle.  After all, the world says, I deserve to have it now.  In other words, I’m entitled to an easy life along with easy relationships. When this perspective of entitlement slips into our view of marriage we are destined for failure.
Inherently we all know, marriage isn’t a gentle downhill slide.  Maybe not from personal experience but we’ve read the statistics and know the stories; nobody drifts into a vibrant successful marriage, coasting along in my role as a wife won’t be enough.  I have to accept that a successful marriage includes diligent concentration and a commitment of energy into that uphill climb before I can settle into the rewards.  I have to ask myself:  Am I still on track or have I slipped into an attitude of entitlement?

 

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