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Posts Tagged ‘faithfulness’

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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exit

God is not known to take His people on shortcuts.  This was never truer than in the case of the Israelites leaving Egypt.

There were two ways to get to where God was taking them.  One was shorter, but it went straight through their fiercest enemy’s territory.  The other was much longer and went through the wilderness.  The text says this:

When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, “Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.”18 But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea. And the people of Israel went up out of the land of Egypt equipped for battle. ~Exodus 13:17-18

Curiously, we are told that God’s people are equipped for battle, yet, God will not allow them to take a shortcut.  The reason given is because they might turn and run away when they see war.

Hmmmm. Does anyone else find that a seeming contradiction?

They were equipped for battle.  But God knew they lacked confidence.  They had the ability to fight well but God knew their fear would likely overcome them before they ever drew their swords.  Why?

These people had been enslaved.  They were broken.  They were tired, weary, and heavy laden.  God knew they needed time.  Time for what?

Time to consider the words of Joseph, their ancestor, as Moses carried his bones out of Egypt just as he has prophesied.  Time to rest under the stars in the desert.  Time to watch the pillar of cloud lead them day after day.  Time to watch the pillar of fire illuminate the darkness night after night.  Time to watch as their Father led them tenderly.  Time to trust Him as they moved to a new place they had never known.  Time to adjust to the idea that their entire lives were changing completely.  Time to learn patience, providence, and gratitude.  Can’t you hear him speaking to their hearts?

Follow me.  Watch for my cloud.  Watch for my fire.  Do not worry about which way to go on the long, long road ahead.  One day at a time, children.  Your faithful Father is leading so you do not have to.  Watch for me.  Wait for me.  Listen to me.  Trust me.  Walk with me.  Follow me.    

What mercy!  What a good, good Father we have!

On this long way around, God would use the Red Sea ahead to destroy their enemies fully and finally.  He would use the wilderness to sufficiently humble and prove His own people true.  Though we often lack understanding, we can rest assured that God has more than enough reasons to take His people the unique ways in which He takes them.

God is not one much for shortcuts.  There is no easy way to glory.  God warns us when we are tempted to take shortcuts because he knows how apt we are to run away when fearful conflict arises.  War causes fear and God would rather have his people take the long way through the wilderness than a shortcut through wars too frightening for us.  Even though we are equipped for battle, God takes extra care to ensure that we do not become entangled in fights he has not fitted us for.

“Note, God proportions his people’s trials to their strength, and will not suffer them to be tempted above what they are able…God knows our frame, and considers our weakness and faint-heartedness, and by less trials will prepare us for greater.” ~Matthew Henry

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strong

Upon leaving Egypt, God laid out very specific instructions about how to remember what he has just done for them.  God’s people were not just coming out of slavery, oppression, and harsh treatment at the hands of a false god named Pharaoh.  They were also being led into a very long and life-changing land of need and dependence on the true God named Jehovah-jireh; Yahweh; Adonai – “The Lord who provides.”  (First named such by Abraham at Mt. Moriah as he found provision to sacrifice in his son’s stead.)

God has already spoken specifically on how to remember the Passover with a meal.  Now he instructs his people on how to remember this Passover by consecrating their firstborn children and animals to Him.  They all must be set apart and redeemed.  Furthermore, in order to remember their great and mighty deliverance, they were instructed to avoid leaven on specific days and in specific ways.

Interestingly, the Lord calls them first, to remember (Exodus 13:30), second, to go (Exodus 13:4), and third, to keep the service of his present instruction when they get to the place where He is taking them (Exodus 13:5).  First, past.  Second, present.  Third, future.  Past. Present. Future.  The Lord is speaking to His people’s past, their present, and their future.

In between all of these instructions, God is emphasizing one particular idea.  Four separate times Moses is called to say this to the people:

For with a strong hand the Lord has brought you out of Egypt. ~Exodus 13:3,9,14,16

Matthew Henry quotes, “The more opposition is given to the accomplishment of God’s purposes, the more is his power magnified therein.  It is a strong hand that conquers hard hearts.” God wants his people to get this.  Children, I saved you.  I delivered you.  I saved your children.  I delivered your children.  Remember!  Remember!  Remember!  I AM strong! I AM strong!  I AM strong!  I AM strong!  Past – remember.  Present – go. Future – remember.  You are weak, but I am strong.  You can trust your God.

 Remember and do not forget!  We serve a God who saves!  We serve a God who delivers.  Remember, Christian brother.  Remember, Christian sister.  He is strong.  Remember.  Go.  Remember.

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courage

Sunday school commences and my big kid husband reads the parable of the talents.  Between giggles and coos my thoughts on God suddenly become impeccably clear.

He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ ~ Matthew 25:24-30

The servant was “afraid.”

As the story was read, the main idea became crystal clear to me.  Fear is not and will not be an acceptable excuse to not invest in the things God has placed in our hands.  Fear does not justify us in sins of omission.

The servant who justified himself by claiming fear was judged wicked and lazy by his master.  R.C. Sproul notes that,  “The third servant was unwilling to do the work of investing the talent for the benefit of another.”

What, then, does that mean for those of us who struggle to use our hands, feet, voices, and abilities for God due to fear, worry, and anxiety?  What does the Bible teach us and how we are to overcome?

It means we must overcome fear.  The Bible teaches us that there is no fear in love.  When we love our Master, we do His will by investing ourselves and our gifts in His priorities – namely His people. We are to do this despite our fears. We are to do this despite our failure.  We are to do it despite our weaknesses, weariness, and worries.  When we love our Master, we do His will by investing ourselves and the gifts he has given to us against all odds.  Christians are called to be courageous.  Cowards, on the other hand, are listed among those who take their places in the second death.

When one fears God or men in an unhealthy way rather than loving Him and them truly, he will fail to serve either rightly.  That one will continually justify and excuse himself on the basis of fear.  Likewise, if we use fear as the reason for our lack of investment in God’s gifts and His people, we will be sorely judged on the basis of disobedience and unfaithfulness in what we were given.

We must overcome fear because we know that while it may indeed be a reason for our stagnancy, it is not and never will be a reasonable excuse for it.  The question we must cease asking immediately is then, “How can I justify my lack of investment?”  We must change our focus from the problem (fear) to the solution (Christ) and begin to ask rather, “How can I overcome my fear through Christ and begin to invest earnestly?”

The answer is found in believing and applying the promises of God and dismissing the reasons and justifications of the world’s wisdom.  Because courage is required of Christians on a daily basis, we must understand what courage looks like and how it feels.  Courage is not the lack of fear or anxiety.  Courage is being afraid and anxious but trusting more in God to do whatever He is instructing me anyway.  God did not place gifts, abilities, opportunities, and, most importantly, people, in our laps for us to hide from and avoid.

Fear is unbelief and distrust of the Master.  Though we may experience fear frequently, He has been faithful to give us the resolution to it.  Consider His many promises and be free from fear:

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me. ~Psalm 23:4

For I, the Lord your God,
    hold your right hand;
it is I who say to you, “Fear not,
    I am the one who helps you.” ~Isaiah 41:3

for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. ~2 Timothy 1:7

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
    whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
    of whom shall I be afraid? ~Psalm 27:1

 So we can confidently say,

“The Lord is my helper;
    I will not fear;
what can man do to me?” ~Hebrews 13:6

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. ~John 14:27

casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. ~1 Peter 5:7

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. ~1 John 4:18

 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” ~John 16:33

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry,“Abba! Father!” ~Romans 8:15

When I am afraid,
    I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise,
    in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
    What can flesh do to me? ~Psalm 56:3-4

Though an army encamp against me,
    my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
    yet I will be confident. ~Psalm 27:3

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. ~Matthew 10:29-31

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”~ Joshua 1:9

There are many more examples of our Master giving us hope and courage to overcome fear in the Bible, but I am going to be focusing on each of these particular scriptures  individually  in context over the next few weeks to explore exactly what kind of assurance He has given us despite our fear in this world, what kind of faith He is calling us to live out, and what courage in the face of fear really looks like practically.

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fix

“I spent a lot of money on this.  I had it replaced twice.  Every time I go to use this tool, it falls apart.  It’s worthless.”

I watched as the mechanic tried unsuccessfully to repair the brand new God-forsaken object that was supposed to be helping him repair something else.  I watched as the ball bearings rolled out and underneath the car he was working on.  I watched as the entire tool fell completely apart in his hand as he tried to piece it back together.  I thought about his great level of frustration and I considered what he had said…

“Every time I go to use this tool, it falls apart.”

…and I saw myself.  Surely the Lord sits on his throne watching me fall apart in his hands right at the very moments when he is seeking to use me most.  I was bought at quite an extravagant price, too.  He continuously returns me to himself and makes me new, but it seems that the very mechanics of my inward parts disallow me from delivering when the stakes are highest.

After puzzling a few moments more, I reneged on the thought of God’s disappointment with me and I reminded myself that I am not simply a tool made of cold metal.  I am, rather, a child.  His child.  God may indeed be a stellar mechanic when it comes to matters of the heart, but he is never a frustrated one.  He is not a disappointed boss – ever – because disappointment, by nature, comes only upon the heels of failed expectations.  The Lord of the Universe knows and has always known exactly who I am, where I’m at, and what I will do.  He knows absolutely everything and therefore never expects anything that will not come to be.  He already knows when and where and how very much we all will fail throughout our lives, and yet, he saved us kids anyway.  He bought us at an outrageous price.  He adopted us at the very time when we were most undesirable and he seeks to use us even though we often fall completely apart when he seeks to use us under pressure.

All is not lost, though.

When that tool broke for the third time, the mechanic reach instinctively down and positioned the new part by hand without it.  He showed himself an expert builder by his clear lack of need for that small, insignificant tool regarding the sure accomplishment of his desired result.  Likewise, through each human failure, we prove our God stronger; more able; altogether independent; an expert builder in need of nothing and no one regarding the sure accomplishment of his purposes.  Thankfully, unlike the mechanic’s tool, our failures do not make us useless.  Consider Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, Solomon, Peter, Paul…and these were those who did some of the greatest things for the kingdom of God!

 God does not throw us away when we fall apart under pressure.  Instead, he takes those opportunities to discipline, prune, and mature us – loving father to ever-learning child.  He uses those times to prove himself strong and perfect in our weakness, and that, friends, is wonderful news.  These truths should encourage us if we are his children.

As we embark upon a brand new (home) school year, I rest.  After the worst year of my life, I can confidently say that if I am faithless, he remains faithful.  (2Timothy 2:13)  I do not have to worry whether he will carry me when I inevitably become overwhelmed.  He is the one who called me to work in this capacity.  I sometimes act like a hammer trying to be a screwdriver or a drill trying to be a fire extinguisher.  But God made me a wrench’s wife.  He asked me to teach the mechanic’s children and he specifically said I ought to do so at home.

By the grace of God, that is what I am about to do once again.  The days I fail will prove my God strong.  The days I succeed will prove him faithful.  I pray that every day in between will find me growing more mature, less unworthy of my calling and more useful to his kingdom.  Amen.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. ~2 Corinthians 12:9

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Image

Job is wondering whether his faithful obedience to God really much mattered.  

Such is not only a great temptation in affliction, but a good question.    If obedience to God on earth does not necessarily produce pleasure, comfort, or prosperity in the here and now, what is a man’s incentive?  If faithfulness to God on earth is in no way a contingency of salvation, what is the purpose?  Do faithfulness and obedience really make any difference?  If we are saved despite our works and works aren’t a formula for earthly happiness, why try?

Job has a valid point.  But how does Elihu answer?  

And Elihu answered and said:

2 “Do you think this to be just?
    Do you say, ‘It is my right before God,’
3 that you ask, ‘What advantage have I?
    How am I better off than if I had sinned?’
4 I will answer you
    and your friends with you.
5 Look at the heavens, and see;
    and behold the clouds, which are higher than you.
6 If you have sinned, what do you accomplish against him?
    And if your transgressions are multiplied, what do you do to him?
7 If you are righteous, what do you give to him?
    Or what does he receive from your hand?
8 Your wickedness concerns a man like yourself,
    and your righteousness a son of man. ~Job 35:1-8

Job, you don’t hurt God by sinning.  You don’t impress him by obeying.  Our God stands in need of no one and nothing.  No good or evil done on your part can or will ever manipulate God’s will.  One thing we do know is that when we sin, we follow after Adam.  When we obey we follow after Christ.  We obey because we trust our God to be good and because we love him.  We exercise faith because we believe him.  These are not cards we play with God.  They are simply evidences of genuine salvation.  They matter because apart from them we cannot be proven true, have any assurance, or glorify God.  We do not do them to obtain favor or assurance; we do them because we have favor and assurance.  Our incentive is our joy and his pleasure.  If that is not enough to spur us on to do good, doubtless we simply do not know him as Our Father.

Like Job, sometimes our circumstances bring only pain.  We wonder how a good God could ever find pleasure in crushing us – or his son.  It’s in these times we must know that our God is looking for our trust in the trenches. 

Elihu goes on to elaborate on how no one praises God for the good things when under affliction.  Often, if we find ourselves poring over our troubles we will find little reason to rejoice in our current blessings or our future glory.  (Also one of the many reasons I do not recommend psychotherapy.  Where it is rooted in studying the problems, God’s Word is rooted in looking at the solution.)  Therefore, Elihu reasons, God is justified in not hearing our prayers.  Often, it is pride that reigns in a heart which allows earthly troubles to overshadow heavenly treasures.

Faithful obedience to God while on earth matters more than anything else.  It is a great temptation to doubt this particular truth while suffering under affliction.  It is easy to slip into self-pity and unhelpful introspection.  But God calls his children to trust him against all odds.  Pride will keep us from praise at every turn.  The only hope we have is keeping our hearts and minds stayed solely upon Christ.  There is no other remedy.  There is no better help.  

Consider him.  Remember his earthly life.  Recall his humiliation, agony, and death – not your own.  Think about what beautiful eternal results his suffering brought and know you do not suffer in vain, rather, to make known his glory.  Know that no matter what God calls you to endure or sacrifice for him, it is far less than what he was willing to endure and sacrifice for you.  Take courage by following the leader – the Lord – in his example through suffering.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kA4-ioUmYjo

 

 

 

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Image

In chapter 29, Job begins to reminisce his better days.  You can hear his mourning in his speech.  We know how much he has lost, but of that, here, we learn what he most misses.

In verses 2-6, Job mourns the loss of God’s favor.  He implies that he feels God is no longer watching over him, no longer lighting his way, no more his friend and no longer with him.  How terrifying.

Next, in verses 7-17, Job mourns the loss of his good reputation as well as the respect he’d earned by his good life.  This is not so much about him being disgraced as it is about him being disqualified for good use.  We know because he was most upset about his loss of ability to serve, to protect, to do justice, and to be used due to his state and others’ presumption about its cause.  The fact that people think he’s spiritually unfit, sinful, and deserving of punishment make him the last person on earth they will ever trust, believe, lean on or look to.  How devastating.

Finally, in verses 21-25, Job mourns the honor he formerly had.  He who had much wisdom, much experience, and the most right to be heard had not one who was still listening.  How frustrating.

Verses 18-20 tell us that Job fully expected to live out his days in the blessing he’d been experiencing.  Naturally, if you’re doing right, being faithful, and being blessed, it’s easy to begin to believe that the blessing is a result of the service – and sometimes it may well be.  God does reward faithfulness – both on earth and in heaven. A man reaps what he sows. It’s just that, sometimes, he chooses to do it on earth and other times he waits until heaven.

The truth is that we are never promised earthly blessings in exchange for faithfulness to God.  We are only promised heavenly ones (which, I really have a feeling, are much better anyway.)  If we happen to get earthly blessings, it’s an extra gift.  And it’s not because we were perfectly faithful anyway (we never are), but because God is.

So, what do you do when you’ve dotted your i’s, crossed your t’s, lived in God’s favor, and then it all goes terribly wrong?  What do you do when you’ve truly done your very best to please God and be faithful, and yet, life becomes terrifying, devastating, and sickeningly frustrating?

EloiEloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” ~Mark 15:34

You remember Jesus.  God’s favor was removed from him for a time, too.  His reputation was quite sketchy despite his…perfect life.  He, who was most deserving of honor, was dishonored most severely.

Faithfulness is not a free ticket to earthly blessing, but, usually, just the opposite.  Rest assured that even if no one else ever does, God sees and he will surely reward you in heaven.

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. ~Hebrews 11:6

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0k1WhFtVp0o

 

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