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Archive for June, 2017

running

Most of us know the story of Jonah and the big fish.  Jonah was sent to a wicked city called Nineveh and he did not want to go.  He got scared.  He got mad.  He was not willing.  He was like, “Anywhere but there, God.  Anyone but them.”  These were not people Jonah was at all interested in helping or teaching.  They were not nice people.  They were the worst of the worst.

So, Jonah runs away.  He gets on a boat going the opposite direction from where God called him.  He causes a big storm to come upon all those who were around him because of his rebellion.  He gets thrown overboard and God’s mercy catches him in the mouth of a whale.  Rather than letting Jonah drown in the ocean, God saves him, dusts him off, and sends him right back to the place he was running away from.  Jonah ends up in Nineveh preaching. Jonah grudgingly goes out of sheer obligation.  He is hoping the people he so dislikes do not repent.  But they do.  Jonah is not happy.  “Those people do not deserve grace!” is what he is thinking.  We know it by his words in Jonah 4:1-2

“But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. And he prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.”

Jonah’s argument is that these people don’t deserve mercy or grace.  God’s argument is that neither does he.  God cares about sinners!  And it is his business whom he chooses to save, not Jonah’s or mine or yours!

Nineveh repents.  They listen to the prophet.  And some generations live in grace and mercy.  But they repent of their repentance eventually.  100-150 years after Jonah was sent and they repented, another prophet speaks a word of judgement against Nineveh.

Nahum the prophet was not sent to Nineveh, just to speak a prophetic word of judgement and coming destruction.  Nineveh had again become corrupt and very wicked and evil.  Nahum describes them this way:

Woe to the bloody city,
    all full of lies and plunder—
    no end to the prey!
The crack of the whip, and rumble of the wheel,
    galloping horse and bounding chariot!
Horsemen charging,
    flashing sword and glittering spear,
hosts of slain,
    heaps of corpses,
dead bodies without end—
    they stumble over the bodies!
And all for the countless whorings of the prostitute,
    graceful and of deadly charms,
who betrays nations with her whorings,
    and peoples with her charms.

Behold, I am against you,
    declares the Lord of hosts,
    and will lift up your skirts over your face;
and I will make nations look at your nakedness
    and kingdoms at your shame.
I will throw filth at you
    and treat you with contempt
    and make you a spectacle.
And all who look at you will shrink from you and say,
“Wasted is Nineveh; who will grieve for her?”
    Where shall I seek comforters for you? ~Nahum 3:1-7

Matthew Henry says this of them: “Nineveh had with her cruelties been a terror and a destruction to others, and therefore destruction and terror shall be brought upon her.  Those that are for overthrowing all that come in their way will, sooner or later, meet with their match…Note, Those that showed no pity in the day of their power can expect to find no pity in the day of their fall…Nineveh had been told that God is against her, and then none can be for her, to stand her in any stead; yet she sets God himself at defiance, and his power and justice, and says, I shall have peace.”

This was a fortified city.  It was a strong city full of strong men.  Their walls and gates and strongholds were secure.  But God says he will break them down in an instant.  (Nahum 3:12-15)

Interestingly, Nahum begins his prophecy of destruction by saying the same words Jonah said in his protest after the people of Nineveh repented at his preaching.

“The Lord is slow to anger and great in power,
    and the Lord will by no means clear the guilty.
His way is in whirlwind and storm,” 
    and the clouds are the dust of his feet. ~Nahum 1:3

Nahum reminds them how slow God has been anger.  He reminds them of God’s patience and their longstanding rebellion.  Nevertheless, Nineveh falls.  Forty years later, Judah – God’s people – falls at the hands of the same enemy – Babylon.

All of this teaches us that we have absolutely no room to exclude people from the gospel.  We have no place to tell God who we will and won’t disciple and preach the gospel to.  That is God’s business and if he sets a person within our sphere of influence, that is our job.  Being deserving is not the prerequisite.  No, they do not deserve mercy.  No, we do not deserve mercy.  We all deserve judgment and only God determines who, when, and how he will judge the living.  Our job is to share the truth and love them until that day comes.  Amen.

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Wooden background

As I studied Isaiah 66 I found that Isaiah 66:1 is the verse Stephen referenced at the conclusion of his speech to the Jews who immediately killed him afterward.

 In Acts 6 beginning at verse 8, we find Stephen working for the Lord in grace, power, wonders and signs.  Not everyone was happy about Stephan’s zeal and success.  The same religious men who killed Jesus came after Stephen when they saw his righteous deeds.  Because they could not outwit the Spirit of God which was speaking and working through him, they resorted to other measures in order to accuse and expel him.  The methods they chose were gossip, treachery, false witnesses and charges complete with a mob stirring mentality.

Their whole premise was built on lies that Stephen was saying bad things about them, about Moses, and about God.  They stirred up everyone on false charges.  Stephen answers by taking them through the entire history of the Jewish nation with God.  Notice how a factual, detailed telling of history proves the true from the false.  From Abraham to Moses to Jesus to…Isaiah.  Isaiah 66:1 is where Stephen lands just before rebuking them harshly and being murdered for it.  He applies this verse directly to them.  Why?

Thus says the Lord:
“Heaven is my throne,
    and the earth is my footstool;
what is the house that you would build for me,
    and what is the place of my rest?

All these things my hand has made,
    and so all these things came to be,
declares the Lord.
But this is the one to whom I will look:
    he who is humble and contrite in spirit
    and trembles at my word. ~
Isaiah 66:1-2

Isaiah 66 is about the contempt God has for empty religious ceremonies and rituals compared to moral obligations.  It is a chapter where salvation and comfort are given to the remnant saved by grace and harsh judgment and warning to the power hungry religious hypocrites.

In this passage, the prophet is pointing at the religious men who believed they were the ultimate authorities in God’s house.  He makes it clear that he esteems them not, and that they are full of empty, prideful religion.  They are abusing, maligning, and throwing God’s people out of their synagogues.  God speaks through Isaiah and tells them who he does esteem – the humble, contrite spirits who tremble at his word.  God esteems those who love his word, live his word, and lay down their personal interests for his word.  He gives a message of harsh judgment to these persecutors while also giving a message of comfort and hope to those whom they were persecuting and ostracizing.  In between, he makes sure his hearers know that God can do whatsoever he wants to at any time and in an instant. He does not need these so-called authorities.  He can build his own house. (Isaiah 66:7-9)

Interestingly, God sends his remnant on a mission.  (Isaiah 66:19)  He sends them to the worst of the worst!  He sends them to Tarshish, Pul, Lud, and many other difficult places.  Tarshish is the place Jonah was en route to when he was running away from God’s command to preach to evil men. He rather jumped into the ocean to avoid his call.  Pul was where the Assyrians hung out.  Lud was full of archers and warriors.  God sends his people to the worst kind of people.  And we have people in the church today who will not even speak to other members of their own congregation out of self-preservation!  News flash: God cares about sinners!!!  Those of us who have been given the grace to not fall under his judgment have a job to do and that job is not to avoid, condemn, or throw sinners out on the street refusing to ever even know or disciple them!  It is to go and teach them the gospel!  These religious hypocrites had so truncated God’s will that they didn’t even care how distorted and demoralizing they had become.  They did not care about people.  They did not care about God’s word.  All they cared about was their self-exalting show.  Anyone who did not submit and conform to their standards of showy piety and outward man-centered obedience were cast out.  Jesus included.

“Observe, How the faithful servants of God were persecuted: Their brethren hated them…their brethren, who should have loved and encouraged them for their work’s sake, hated them, and cast them out of their synagogues, excommunicated them as if they had been the greatest blemishes, when they were really the greatest blessings, of their church and their nation…Note, it is no new thing for church censures to be misapplied, and for her artillery, which was intended for her defense, to be turned against her best friends, by the treachery of her governors.” Matthew Henry

The reason Stephen chose Isaiah 66 in his final words is not hard to understand.  Isaiah rebuked religious hypocrites for how severely they were injuring God’s people in God’s name.  Jesus rebuked religious hypocrites for how severely they were injuring God’s people in his name.  Stephen was rebuking religious hypocrites for how severely they treated Jesus when he came to earth as well as how severely they were treating him out of pride and envy.  Let this be a rebuke to religious hypocrites for how they continue to do the same today.  Judgment is coming for those who would hate, ostracize, and abuse God’s precious own.  He alone is the authority over his own house.

“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, 53 you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.” Acts 7:51-53

 

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berries.jpg

“What does this bowl say?  The Pioneer Woman?  Mom, are you The Pioneer Woman?”

“Well.  As much as I would like to take credit for that woman’s success in homemaking, no, I am not her.  But, I am a pioneer, I think, and I am a woman, so, yes, I guess that does make me a pioneer woman even though I am not The Pioneer Woman.”

The inquisitive, almost too mature to be called my little girl, girl with freckles and braids follows me into the backyard.

“You look like a serial killer with that sword.”

I cut a path and I pick a pie-filling bunch of black raspberries from the picturesque providence surrounding my fully covered tick and thistle fearing body.

“See.  I am a pioneer woman.  I cut a path.  I blazed a trail.  I made a way where there was no way.  Now, the next person who wants a berry can get one without a hazmat suit.”

I carry my sword – which, by the way, is a large machete-looking knife – and I find it becoming cumbersome as my picking is prolonged.  I put it down for a moment only to pick it right back up.  There is not too far I can go into this jungle I call my backyard without it.  If I want more fruit, my sword must remain my best friend.  I tuck it underneath my arm and I continue further back into the weeds.

“Of course,” I think to myself, “There is never a fruitful harvest without a brave, willing pioneer willing to risk being bruised by the thorns, brushed by the poison, and bitten by the bloodsuckers to make a way for others to find the fruit.  There can be no fruit -finding without a constant carrying of the all-important sword.”

Oh!  How all of life is Christ!  Fruitful Christian life is never found without a pioneering spirit.  We must be willing to go where we have not gone before.  We must be unafraid to do things we have never done.   We might even have to know people we have not known and be people we have not been.  Fruitful Christian life is never found when our sword is lying on the ground.  No matter how cumbersome and difficult that sword may prove to be, we must never fail to not only carry it, but use it, everywhere, always.  Our sword is our greatest weapon in this fallen world full of thorns and thistles.  The Word of God is our sword.

We must always be willing to risk being bruised by the thorns, brushed by the poison, and bitten by the bloodsuckers if it means making a way for others to find the fruit.  Pioneering hurts.  It is hard.  If it were not so, everyone would do it.  Pioneers are the few who are willing to take the risks, endure the pain, and go the distance so that those coming after them can do the same more readily and with the confidence of a good example.

Pick up your swords, brothers and sisters!  Fail not to carry them, everywhere, always, and in every situation!  Your Bible must, must, MUST be your very best friend if you would ever wish to find your walk fruitful.  Without it, not only will you not find your own fruit, it is likely you will not even be able to walk forward any farther.

As I exit the overgrown briars and brush, my mostly mature miniature me rambles on about her frustration in the pie crust preparation she’d  been busying herself with while I had been buried in briars picking berries.

I looked down at my bucket of berries and with my sword in my right hand and my bucket of berries in my left I thought, “Fearlessness and fruitfulness inspires fearlessness and fruitfulness.”

“Hey.  You tried.  You did something most 12 year-olds wouldn’t even think of doing.  Even if your first crust isn’t right, we will make another one.  You are a pioneer woman and pioneer women keep trying until we succeed.  We have to make a way; cut a path; blaze a trail for others to come behind us and be fruitful, too.”

I thank God today that I am no longer afraid.  I do not need to follow the beaten path made by the many and the minions.  No.  I have actually learned to prefer the road less travelled.  I don’t even mind mingling and meandering along the road where there is no road.  No matter how difficult or personally dangerous, I am confident and courageous enough in the power of my both my Sword and my Savior to do all that I am called to in cutting and clearing new paths so that others can follow Christ and find themselves fruitful, too.

Thank you, black raspberry patch. Thank you, briars.  Thank you, bugs, poison branches, and brush of all kinds.  Thank you, sun, and heat, and sweat.  Your lessons are deep and your rewards make all of you worthy of my time.

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confront

In 2 Corinthians chapter 10, Paul brought to light the spiritual nature of all the conflict happening in the Corinthian Church in an effort to point to the solution.  The solution he gave was the divine power of God to destroy strongholds, in other words, our spiritual weapons.  He began to defend himself in the face of much slander and personal attacks.

In chapters 11 and 12, we find Paul dealing with specific reasons why he personally was being maligned and the truth of what was going on in this corrupt church.  He begins seeking to unmask the dark realities by stating facts and asking questions that point to the truth of who he had been to them and who he was.  He calls it foolish because he is humble.  Humble men don’t usually go around listing their qualifications, but here we find that sometimes just that is necessary for the sake of the gospel.

Paul fears that the Corinthians were being deceived to believe in a different Jesus and a different gospel.  He is showing the foolishness of their willingness to accept false brothers and false teaching but not him and his truth!  His argument is that they would put up with falsehood and not say a word in opposition or correction.  They were embracing these false men as brothers while at the very same time refusing to accept and embrace Paul.  Against Paul, they railed.  Why?

The accusation made against Paul was that he did not speak right.  Unskilled speech.  He looks wrong.  Frivolous, differing preferences was all they could come up with against Paul.

If you want to avoid the truth someone is telling, personal attacks are all you have.

Paul answers those dumb objections and reasons to refuse him saying: “Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not so in knowledge; indeed, in every way we have made this plain to you in all things. “ 2 Corinthians 11:6

In verses 7-11 Paul states the facts that he had taken nothing from them and that he had given much to them.  He had gotten his needs met elsewhere and found a way to meet their needs without asking for payment.  He assures them that he was not going to be quiet about what he was about to say.  He knows they are going to claim that he is saying it because he does not love them so he puts that accusation to rest from the get-go.  He professes his great, enduring, long-suffering love and offers the proof as the fact that he preached to them for free, always.  He preached out of love and without asking for any return save their souls.  He wanted them to be saved and that was his only motivation.  Others wanted pay and position for what he did for them for free out of love.

Paul makes it clear that he is going to keep doing exactly what he had been doing in order to prove the false claims of the false followers who were maligning him false.

He says, these men boast of being servants of Christ!  Even if they truly were or are, so am I!  Why, then do you so despise and abuse me?  That is a question that begs an answer.  Christ’s ministers do not abuse and malign one another no matter how different they are.  Like mama said, it takes all kinds.  There is room for all in Christ.

So these guys are seeking to divide and Paul is seeking to unify – even though the opposite is being said of him and of them.

“I repeat, let no one think me foolish.  But even if you do, accept me as a fool, so that I too may boast a little.” 2 Corinthians 11:16

He’s like, “Hey! you let other fools come in here and talk all the nonsense they want.  Can I have a turn?!”

“He gives a good reason why they should suffer him to boast a little; namely, because they suffered others to do so who had less reason…Or these words, ‘You suffer fools gladly, seeing you yourselves are wise,’ may be ironical, and then the meaning is this: ‘Notwithstanding all your wisdom, you willingly suffer yourselves to be brought into bondage under the Jewish yoke, or suffer others to tyrannize over you; nay, to devour you, or make a prey of you, and take of you hire for their own advantage, and to exalt themselves above you, and lord it over you; nay, even to smite you on the face, or impose upon you to your very faces, upbraiding you while they reproach me, as if you had been very weak in showing regard to me.’  Seeing this was the case, that the Corinthians, or some among them, could so easily bear all this from the false apostles, it was reasonable for the apostle to desire, and expect, they should bear with what might seem to them an indiscretion in him, seeking the circumstances of the case were such as made it needful that whereinsoever any were bold he should be bold also.” ~Matthew Henry

Paul goes on to say exactly who he is beginning in verse 21.  They say they come from Abraham?  So do I!  They say serve Christ?  So do I!  They say they suffered for the gospel?  So have I!  Even more so no doubt!  Consider the facts, friends.

“He chiefly insists upon this, that he had been an extraordinary sufferer for Christ.  Note, When the apostle would prove himself an extraordinary minister, he proves that he had been an extraordinary sufferer.” Matthew Henry

Paul had suffered greatly for the Lord and no one could deny him that boast.  There was not a weak or scandalized Christian alive whom Paul could not sympathize with.

In chapter 12, Paul goes on to share of his visitations from God.  One would think with such great visions and revelations he would have been focusing constantly and speaking always of these things, but no.  Paul is humble and only speaks of them for their betterment in this case.  He speaks more so of his suffering so that the power of Christ may rest upon him.  (2 Corinthians 12:9)  From this we glean that speaking of our own weaknesses candidly causes the power of Christ to rest upon us.

Lastly, he states his concern.  He’s like, “Hey!  I’m not inferior to these boasting “apostles.”  God gave signs and wonders and works through me even though I am nothing.  Yet you fail to trust and love me while loving those who deceive you and malign both me and the gospel.  Listen to his plea of love toward them:

“Here for the third time I am ready to come to you. And I will not be a burden, for I seek not what is yours but you. For children are not obligated to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. 15 I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls. If I love you more, am I to be loved less? 16 But granting that I myself did not burden you, I was crafty, you say, and got the better of you by deceit. 17 Did I take advantage of you through any of those whom I sent to you? 18 I urged Titus to go, and sent the brother with him. Did Titus take advantage of you? Did we not act in the same spirit? Did we not take the same steps?” 2 Corinthians 12:14-18

I can hear his desperation saying, “I love you!!!  I don’t want your money!  But because of my generosity you distrust me?  Because I love you so much you love me less that those who do seek to rule and deceive and take from you?”

“He blames them for what was faulty in them; namely, that they had not stood up in his defense as they ought to have done, and so made it more needful for him to insist so much on his own vindication.  They in manner compelled him to commend himself…Note, it is a debt we owe to good men to stand up in defense of their reputation; and we are under special obligations to those we have received benefit by, especially spiritual benefit, to own them as instruments in God’s hand of good to us, and to vindicate them when they are calumniated by others…so far he was from seeking praise from men, though he tells them their duty to vindicate his reputation – so far was he from applauding himself, when he was forced to insist upon his own necessary self-defense.” Matthew Henry

Paul indicts them on the charge that they should have been sticking up for him.  For the truth he was teaching.  But they were not.  He makes it clear that he is not defending himself, rather trying to teach them for their own good and for the edification of the whole body.  He is begging them to listen.

 

 

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screwtape

In 2 Corinthians chapter 10, Paul begins to defend himself within the Corinthian Church.  He had been encouraging and instructing in the preceding chapters.  Now, his tone completely changes.  He began to deal with the fact that there were false apostles, false teachers, and false teachings in this church that were presenting in the form of competition and defaming of his own personal character as well as a concerted effort to discredit him personally and deny him the authority he had been given by God to lead and teach in this church.

Paul begins with humility agreeing with his accusers that he was indeed low and mild when present among them.  Paul makes clear that he has no desire to be rough or overbearing even despite the severe and abusive slander being spread about him personally.  Paul is not about to stoop to that level, although he does make it very clear that he is both equipped and prepared with the authority given to him by God to punish offense done against him.  It was hindering the gospel which, in turn, made it an offense done to the gospel itself.

Paul points not to his own power, but to the wonder-working power of God over the spiritual realm.  Consider his words:

“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.” ~2 Corinthians 10:3-6

He’s like, “Hey, guys!  This confusion and conflict and disunity we find in this particular church has nothing to do with the superficial problems or isolated issues that everyone wants to argue over.  This conflict is spiritual.  Everything going on here is a result of unseen forces working to destroy and devour God’s people and God’s plan.  There is bondage here – spiritual bondage that we must wage war against.  Spiritual strongholds are just that – spirits strongly holding people captive by deceit, by confusion, by ignorance, by prejudice, by lust, by lofty, high and prideful thoughts and opinions which contradict God and His will. These things are not trite or trivial.  They are a force waging an all out war against us all.  Thank God, that in his grace he has given us weapons with divine power.  Divine power!  The very power of God!  These are weapons which are able to defeat these forceful, spiritual strongholds.

That’s why I’m not gonna play your game of fleshly and worldly comparison.  We have a war to fight and that war is not against each other.  We have only one enemy and his name is Satan.  The war is against demonic forces evidenced in these conflicts and character assassinations being brought against me personally.”

“Ignorance, prejudices, beloved lusts, are Satan’s strongholds in the souls of some; vain imaginations, carnal reasonings, and high thoughts, or proud conceits, in others, exalt themselves against the knowledge of God, that is, by these ways the devil endeavours to keep men from faith and obedience to the gospel, and secures his possession of the hearts of men, as his own house or property.  But then observe, the conquest which the word of God gains.  These strongholds are pulled down by the gospel as the means, through the grace and power of God accompanying it as the principal efficient cause…The apostle speaks not of personal revenge, but of punishing disobedience to the gospel, and disorderly walking among church-members, by inflicting church censures.  Not, thought eh apostle showed meekness and gentleness, yet he would not betray his authority; and therefore intimates that when he would commend those whose obedience was fulfilled or manifested others would fall under severe censures.” Matthew Henry

Paul had every right and reason to punish this blatant disobedience to the gospel but he was waiting for the fulfillment and completion of their obedience first.  Later, in verse 10-11, he references again their complaint of him and responds:

For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account.” 11 Let such a person understand that what we say by letter when absent, we do when present.

In other words, Paul doesn’t say things right.  Who does he think he is?  Writing corrective letters but showing up and speaking softly?!  His speech is all wrong.  Why would we listen to him?!

If you hate what someone is saying and you want to avoid the truth of it, a great strategy is to just personally attack them and incessantly complain about how they say it.

Paul answers by pointing to his actions.  Actions speak louder than words.  If you find someone who doesn’t talk like you or walk like you but they walk like Christ, think about who they are called to follow and imitate.  It isn’t you or your preferences.  It is Jesus Christ and His practices.

Paul goes on to oppose their worldly comparison games and refuses to participate.  He restates his purpose – which was edification for the church, not destruction as he was so often and brutally accused.

Herein we find both the cause and the remedy for conflict, confusion, and disunity within a divided church.  The cause is spiritual strongholds and evil influence warring against God and His people.  The remedy is using the weapons which are listed for us in Ephesians 6 as truth, righteousness, readiness, faith, salvation, the Word of God, and prayer.  These are the things which, when used appropriately, have divine power to destroy the enemy’s schemes and free our brothers and sisters from spiritual bondage.  Thank God!

“Do not be deceived, Wormwood.  Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”  C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

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us

Twenty years.  That’s how long Mr. Rodeheaver and I have loved each other.  Today is our 17 year wedding anniversary and I could not be more in love.

There were many years where I could not have imagined our marriage being what it is today.  I can say with all honesty and without exaggeration that it is better now than ever before.  This is the result of a faithful God and a faithful husband.

I spent the past week cleaning the house.  School is out – homeschool, that is, where mom is always home but never able to get anything done – and cheer season is over.  Finally, I had time to do all those jobs I never get around to.  Cleaning out drawers, closets and bookshelves, scrubbing floors, baseboards, and walls, and, my personal favorite, throwing away everything that isn’t nailed down.

House cleaning is not my favorite job.  There are only two reasons I clean: 1. I can no longer function due to the chaos happening around me 2. My husband told me to.  If it was not for Mr. Rodeheaver’s consistent reminders about doing “my job” I honestly might be featured on the next episode of “Hoarders.”

It is because of my husband’s unwillingness to overlook or ignore sin in my life that I have grown in the areas that are most difficult for me to find success in.  Because he neither fears telling me the truth nor accepts any nonsensical excuses I make that keep me from being better, I have no choice but to grow.  He understands my potential and he accepts nothing less than my best.

Twenty years is a long time to be learning something.  Most would have given up instructing and encouraging me a long time ago.  Love never fails, though.  Tim’s faithfulness to me extends far beyond dinners out and depositing paychecks.  Tim’s faithfulness to me is often found in his consistent correction in the things I figure out how to continuously fail at.  Housecleaning is just one example.  We can also add cooking, planning, spending, and eating, just to name a few.

If I am honest I would have to say I fail a lot in almost every area of my life in some way.  We all do.  Fortunately life is not a competition against anyone besides ourselves.  If I am better today than I was yesterday, that is progress.  It is a reason to celebrate.  It does not mean I won’t regress and fail again tomorrow.  It means I have victory today and I have a faithful voice to correct me again tomorrow, if need be.  I can think of no greater blessing.  Faithful love instructs, encourages, corrects, and forgives.

If any one of those elements is missing, I would be hard-pressed to call it faithful love with any amount of confidence.  Things I would call it may be idolatry, selfishness, fear, or resentment.  These are what love is not.

Idolatry.  Idolatry worships.  When we make someone an idol, we only encourage and forgive.  Idolatry lacks the ability to instruct and correct appropriately.

Selfishness.  Selfish relationships only do what is best for self – not the other.  They may instruct, encourage, correct, or forgive, but all things are done only in one’s own interests depending on which manipulative action will give them – not the other – the most satisfaction.

Fear.  Fear is not found in true love.  The Bible says,  There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” One who fears in a relationship will never correct or instruct appropriately.  They may not encourage or forgive, either, depending on what kind of fear they are entertaining.

Resentment.  Resentment is when a person only corrects and instructs but never encourages or forgives.  Resentment is not a characteristic of true love.

Faithful love instructs, encourages, corrects, and forgives.  Love is not idolatry, selfishness, fear, or resentment.  If I am honest, I would have to say that over the course of our marriage, I have fallen prey to all of these things which are not love at one time or another.  Thankfully, true love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.  Thankfully, I have a husband who sent this message to me first thing this morning:

text

Love covers a multitude of sins.  We fail but love never does.  Keep loving no matter what else happens.  I will leave you with a few verses from the song we chose as ours in May, 1997 and has been true of our lives:

Better than I was
More than I am
And all of this happened
By taking your hand
And who I am now
Is who I wanted to be
And now that we’re together
I’m stronger than ever, I’m happy and free

Oh, it’s a beautiful thing
Don’t think I can keep it all in
And if you ask me why I’ve changed
All I gotta do is say your sweet name

It’s your love
It just does something to me
It sends a shock right through me
I can’t get enough
And if you wonder
About the spell I’m under
Oh it’s your love

~Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, It’s Your Love, May, 1997

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