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Life is so long and so short at the very same time.  We close our eyes exhausted from chasing toddlers wondering if the day will ever end and when we open them we are looking back wondering how they could possibly look so much like adults.

Every single day is so very important.  Every day.  Our time here on earth is short.  We have but a few minutes before we are gone.  It seems it is only the good things that pass by so fast.

The seasons of discouragement and doubt seem to last and last.  If we are not careful, bad days can turn into bad years, and bad years can turn into joyless lives.

Every single day is so very important.  Every day.  Our time here on earth is long.  We have years upon years to make a difference and influence those around us for the good.  We cannot allow personal setbacks or problems distract us from our purpose and the greater good.  If we do, we will end up looking back on a life poorly spent and largely unaccomplished.

I have taken somewhat of a hiatus from writing my personal thoughts over the past couple months.  I have not felt particularly inspired.  Truth be told, I have felt unloved, discouraged, and even unnecessary.  I have experienced heartache, hardship, and hurt over the past year.  If I am being honest, it has been a hard year. Still, a good year. I have gotten to know my Father so much better. What could be better than that?

And, I have been healing.  I have been sitting at the feet of my Lord and allowing him to be all that I need.  Healing is not a process one can easily explain and share while undergoing it.  But by God’s grace, I can see light.  His provision is evidenced in so many blessings that I can’t help be be thankful.  I have finally come to the place where I can honestly say to the Lord, “Whatever your plan is, that is exactly what I want today.  Suffering?  Give me that.  Miscarriage?  You’re sovereign; I surrender.  Shunning?  OK.  It’s your world, Lord, and I am just your kid. It’s your plan.  It’s your will.  It’s your authority to which I bow and none else.  USE ME.  Whatever that means in my life, do that.  Just use me.  Somehow, someway, get glory from my meager little life.  That is all I want and it is all that truly matters to me anyway.

I open my hands.  I unfold them and I wait.

When I was a young Christian, I used to pray every single day that God would allow me to die a martyr for him.  What I have found over the past twenty years is that it is likely easier to die for Christ than it is to truly live for him.  We die once.  As each day begins, we must live over and over and over again.  So I changed my prayer:

Lord, whether I may or may not die a martyr, please allow me to live a martyr.  Allow me to live dying daily for you that you might use me.  Give me peace with your perfect, sovereign plan.  Let me not miss the opportunities you give.  I do not need to understand, I just want to be used.  Please use me in this long, short life.  Amen. 

Every single day is so important.  Don’t waste it.

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return

In Exodus 23:10-19 we find the instructions for rest and return pertaining to crops and giving back to God out of our abundance.  These laws were given to the Jews in wilderness as they waited for the promised land.  They had great significance and we are able to draw more than a few parallels today in our own experience regarding how we ought to rest and what we ought to give back to the Lord.

In verses 10-11 we find the principle of a Sabbatical year for growing.  For six years the people of God were to sow their fields, but in the seventh year they were to let the ground lay fallow.  They were not to plant, reap, or keep anything that the ground produced on its own for themselves.  They were to store up in the sixth year for two years and allow the poor and the animals eat from the field in the seventh year.

Here we have the fundamental teaching God gave from the very beginning of working six days and resting the seventh.  Verse 12 reminds us of God’s order created in Genesis 1.  The main idea that we ought to take away is that rest and refreshment is not only necessary, but commanded for all living things.  The reason for the rest is not just rest in and of itself, but the underlying idea is trust in God.  Taking one day every week and one year every seven away from our work to simply rest and trust in the provision of God is a constant reminder that our strength, our portion, our needs are never met by our actions alone.  God is the giver of all things including food, shelter, clothing, and even the ability to work to obtain those things in this life.

“Pay attention to all that I have said to you, and make no mention of the names of other gods, nor let it be heard on your lips.” ~Exodus 23:13

In verse 13 we have a command to “Pay attention.”  It is not every passage that we have the Lord stopping in the middle of his instructions and law-giving to refocus his hearers and make sure they are listening.  Therefore, what is being said here must be of utmost importance.

The imperative here is not just to pay attention, but to pay attention to God’s words.  Oh, if every believer today would heed this instruction!  Pay attention to God’s Word!  Hear him!  Listen!  And the idea to which he was pointing was not only to pay attention to His words, but to ignore and avoid all other gods.  The people of God were not even permitted to speak of the ways and wants of foreign gods.  So important was his instruction on idolatry, he has stopped in the middle of his giving of the law on resting and returning a portion out of their work and abundance to him to say so.  Consider that.  I will say it again so it sinks in for us all.

 So important was his instruction on idolatry, he has stopped in the middle of his giving of the law on resting and returning a portion out of their work and abundance to him to say so.

Why does God do this?  It is because other gods – idols – be they material, relational, or otherwise, are exactly what are going to cause these guys, you, and I to disobey God in these instructions on rest and return.  Instead of resting as God commands here (and elsewhere) and being content with his provision, idols will cause us to work nonstop, keep all we produce for ourselves, never rest, never let our workers or animals rest, never let our fields rest, not give to the poor, and not give back or to the God who gave us all these things to us in the first place.  It is the driving ambition to serve other gods and make idols out of what our hands have made that prevent the rest and peace that God commands here.  Little wonder why he tells His people to pay attention to this.

In verses 14-17, God commands a return three times a year.  The men were to come before him and bring a portion back to Him.  Three times were set aside in the calendar year for feasts.  One was the Feast of Unleavened Bread, one of the Feast of Harvest/Feast of Weeks, and the last was the Feast of Ingathering/Feast of Tabernacles.  The significance of these festivals is worthy of noting.

With the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the people of God were to remember their deliverance out of Egypt.  It was celebrated in the month of Abib – when they came out of slavery by God’s mighty hand and the unleavened bread pointed to the provision of bread which rained down from heaven for them.

No one was to come to this feast empty-handed.  This feast began the day after Pentecost, or Shavuot. Christians know Pentecost where the Spirit was given but in the Old Testament the Jews knew this holiday as the Feast of Weeks – a time of harvest and firstfruits. There is an unmistakable correlation between these Old Testament practices and the New Testament spiritual realities.  If Jesus death and resurrection and the Holy Spirit’s subsequent work at Pentecost was the first fruits, we would expect what follows to be something that would point back to the deliverance that made those things possible.  That something is the preaching of the gospel.  The preaching of the gospel is what followed the first fruits of Pentecost.  The preaching of the gospel points us always and ever back to the cross – our deliverance out of slavery and bondage to sin.  And, just as no one could come to the Feast of Unleavened Bread empty-handed, no one can come to the true bread from heaven – Jesus Christ – without giving their very life to Him.

Secondly, God instituted the Feast of Weeks.  This was the feast at harvest time.  This was when they brought the first fruits of what they had sown to the House of God.  Just as they were to bring the first and the best of what they obtained from the earth and of their labor, we are to do the same.  God never allowed his people to keep all they had for themselves.  We are to rest, give back to Him and to others, and, in so doing we ought to remember who the Giver is and be thankful.

Lastly, the people were to gather at what was called the Feast of Tabernacles, the Feast of Booths, or, here the Feast of Ingathering.  This gathering was at the year’s end and they were commanded to live in temporary structures during this week’s time.  It was to remind them that though they produced much and were at the end of the abundance for the year, everything given to them here on earth is temporary.  The idea was that they were not to keep back the last portion all for themselves out of fear or worry about the months ahead with no return, and that what was given could not be held forever.  God himself is the sustainer of all things including us and our very lives.  This was also a time of the reading of the law.  It is when we are most blessed that we are most likely to forget God and his requirements.

Lastly, the people of God were instructed once again on the kind of bread and the kind of sacrifice they were to offer.  This reminds us that we cannot worship God any way we want.  There was a specific kind of bread and a specific way to offer their sacrifice.  It is Jesus Christ alone whom we must bring to the altar with us and we must offer ourselves in the way in which he commands.

The very last instruction here is found in verse 19.  The people were told not to boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.  This was a superstition from a pagan religion of the day that said if one did this and sprinkled the milk over the fields, they would produce a better harvest the following year.  God’s people were to have nothing to do with superstition, false religion, idol worship, or pagan practices.  The principle is still true for us today.

Pay attention to these things.  Rest, remember God, and return the best of what he has given you.  Amen.

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Have you ever felt all by yourself?  I have.  Yesterday was one of those days.  I picked up my Bible first thing and read Isaiah 59.  Instead of giving me life, I allowed the Enemy to steal the encouragement of the Word and accuse me with it.  If I had just stopped at verse 1 and meditated, I think I would have had a different kind of day.

Behold, the Lord‘s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save,
    or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; ~Isaiah 59:1

It’s verse 2 that did me in.

but your iniquities have made a separation
    between you and your God,
and your sins have hidden his face from you
    so that he does not hear. ~Isaiah 59:2

The condemnation I felt as I read this was overwhelming.  Being in a place where justice is not evident and wrongs have not been righted personally, it was easy for the Enemy to use that against me and bring accusation and discouragement.

Despite the fact that we all sin, to feel as though God is not hearing or acting on our behalf because we are separating ourselves by our own sinfulness is quite a place of despair – especially when you’re not really sure what sin it could possibly be.  Still, this is the reality for us all until Christ saves us.  After we are made right with Him, however, he hears us.  He acts upon on behalf.  He forgives our sin and he guides us in all truth.

The people Isaiah is speaking to here are not right with God.  They may be His covenant people, but they are not acting in accordance with his order.  Verses 3-8 describe their sin in detail.  They are speaking lies, making trouble, harming one another and they are failing to call for justice and plead for truth.  They are doing wrong and they are refusing to do right.  These are the reasons God will not listen to them or bring justice to them.

Therefore justice is far from us,
    and righteousness does not overtake us;
we hope for light, and behold, darkness,
    and for brightness, but we walk in gloom. ~Isaiah 59:9

Therefore – because of these reasons and all your wrongdoing, lack of concern for righteousness and justice – because of this, justice for you is far away; righteousness is not with you.

Truth is lacking,
    and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey.

The Lord saw it, and it displeased him
    that there was no justice. ~Isaiah 59:15

Truth is lacking.  That is a powerful statement.  When truth is lacking, much evil follows.  Even those who sought truth and stopped sinning had a hard lot.  They became prey for those who did not repent.  The Lord saw this.  The Lord was greatly concerned for this particular society of people.  The most offensive thing to God was perhaps not even the sin itself – it was that there was no justice.  There was no judgement.  No repentance.  No reconciliation.  God longed to be made right with these people but there was not even a shred of repentance.  Their hearts were as hard as ever.

He saw that there was no man,
    and wondered that there was no one to intercede;
then his own arm brought him salvation,
    and his righteousness upheld him. ~Isaiah 59:16

Here is most powerful verse in the entire chapter.  God saw that there was no one – no man fit, no one righteous, no one who cared.  God did not throw up his hands or shrug his shoulders.  God did it himself!!!  How glorious!  Sin abounded, yet grace abounded all the more!!!  Matthew Henry says it this way:

“Since magistrates and societies for reformation fail of doing their part, one will not do justice nor the other call for it, God will let them know that he can do it without them when his time shall come thus to prepare his people for mercy, and then the work of deliverance shall be wrought by the immediate operations of the divine Providence on men’s affections and affairs.”

To whom shall God perform this goodness?  This mercy?  To whom will he bring justice?

“And a Redeemer will come to Zion,
    to those in Jacob who turn from transgression,” declares the Lord. ~Isaiah 59:20

The Redeemer will come to those who turn from transgression.  Those who turn!  Those who repent!  Those who turn their eyes upon Jesus!  Amen!  God makes a way for sinners!  He does not cast us out!  He does not shun and avoid us!  He does not condemn and accuse us!  He saves us!  That is encouraging!

And the promises are laid upon Christ and his bride.  The church will continue always until the end of time and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it!  Amen!

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In the very short book of Obadiah, this little known prophet speaks a word of both judgement and encouragement.  Obadiah’s book is only one chapter but R.C. Sproul notes that the authority of his message is seated in the authority of God rather than the prominence, or lack thereof, of this messenger.  Sproul’s observation is something we can put into our pocket and remember when a word of truth comes to us from an unknown or unlikely source.

Obadiah writes his prophesy primarily for two reasons or to two groups of people.  He begins:

The vision of Obadiah.

Thus says the Lord God concerning Edom:
We have heard a report from the Lord,
    and a messenger has been sent among the nations:
“Rise up! Let us rise against her for battle!”

Obadiah is writing about Edom.  Edom took part in a military assault on Jerusalem.  Judah was defeated and Edom prospered.  Both were covenant people of God.  Justice was not obvious during this time and it could easily have seemed to the people of Judah that they were living in opposite world.  We often feel the same way, too, when evil triumphs over good and wrongdoers win while the innocent suffer.  This is where Judah was.  Obadiah writes this message to make clear to both the people of Judah and the people of Edom that justice was coming.  God used Obadiah to convey also that he had great concern and compassion for the people of Judah.  He is writing to his people for both warning and encouragement, respectively.  Both groups needed this message.

God’s people of Judah needed to hear and understand that they were not forgotten and that God did indeed see their suffering.  They needed to know that God was deeply concerned for them and that it doubtless would be made right in time.

God’s people of Edom needed to hear that God was not pleased and their their victory and prosperity was soon coming to an end.  They needed to remember that God punishes injury – especially injury done to his own people.

Behold, I will make you small among the nations;
    you shall be utterly despised.
The pride of your heart has deceived you,
    you who live in the clefts of the rock,
    in your lofty dwelling,
who say in your heart,
    “Who will bring me down to the ground?”
Though you soar aloft like the eagle,
    though your nest is set among the stars,
    from there I will bring you down,
declares the Lord. ~Obadiah 1:2-4

Here, in verses 2-4, God is saying, “Hey Edomites – hey group of people who hurt my people, who by the way are your people too – I am going to make you small among the nations.  Maybe your brothers could not overcome you but I can.  I can and I will.  And God does do just that and fulfill this prophesy.

Why?

Your pride, Edom.  The reason you are being brought low by God himself is because of your pride.  Your pride has deceived your heart.  You may think you’re safe and high and mighty but I – the God of the universe – remember me? – I will bring you down and make you small.  Maybe your brother could not succeed against you and your pride but I can.

Furthermore, in verses 5-9 God goes on to share some more bad news with the people of Edom.  Obadiah assures them that the very people they trusted in – the worldly friends they made at the expense of their brothers – those guys were not their friends at all.  The prophet tells them that the worldly people they trusted in and used to hurt their brothers would be used by God to bring them down.  The ones they trust will be the ones who will conspire against them.  This is justice.  Edom betrayed his brothers so he would be betrayed by those he trusts.

“Because of the violence done to your brother Jacob,
    shame shall cover you,
    and you shall be cut off forever.
11 On the day that you stood aloof,
    on the day that strangers carried off his wealth
and foreigners entered his gates
    and cast lots for Jerusalem,
    you were like one of them.
12 But do not gloat over the day of your brother
    in the day of his misfortune;
do not rejoice over the people of Judah
    in the day of their ruin;
do not boast[e]
    in the day of distress.
13 Do not enter the gate of my people
    in the day of their calamity;
do not gloat over his disaster
    in the day of his calamity;
do not loot his wealth
    in the day of his calamity.
14 Do not stand at the crossroads
    to cut off his fugitives;
do not hand over his survivors
    in the day of distress.

15 For the day of the Lord is near upon all the nations.

As you have done, it shall be done to you;
    your deeds shall return on your own head. ~Obadiah 1:10-15

The prophet goes on saying that Edom will be ashamed and cut off forever.  That is a pretty harsh word and the reason given for it is the violence done to their brothers.  God is saying that this injustice they have done has not gone unnoticed.  It is not a small matter.  God is not about to overlook their treachery.  They joined the enemy in order to get ahead and they injured their own people on purpose all for their own benefit and false security.  God is saying, “I saw what you did and judgement is coming.”

Consider verse 11.

 On the day that you stood aloof,
    on the day that strangers carried off his wealth
and foreigners entered his gates
    and cast lots for Jerusalem,
    you were like one of them.

Remember when you acted like you didn’t see foreigners taking everything from your own brother’s house?  Remember when you sided with the enemy against him and participated in their assault against your own people?  Well don’t gloat about your victory.  Don’t rejoice.  Don’t boast.  Don’t loot.  Because guess what?  The day of the Lord is near.  God’s justice is coming, boys.  As you have done, it shall be done to you.

The house of Jacob shall be a fire,
    and the house of Joseph a flame,
    and the house of Esau stubble;
they shall burn them and consume them,
    and there shall be no survivor for the house of Esau,
for the Lord has spoken. ~Obadiah 1:18

Esau.  Esau, this is what happens when you sell your brother out for a bowl of soup; for worldly gain; for selfish ambition; for self-centered self-worship.  You lose.  God sees.  God’s wrath repays.  R.C. Sproul puts it this way: “Edom is doomed because they broke the law of brotherly compassion by joining, in malicious merriment, with God’s enemies as they destroyed Judah…The exploitation of a brother’s adversity showed that Edom’s true loyalty was toward getting ahead in the world, in disregard of moral and spiritual absolutes. The seeds of Edom’s moral character were sown by their ancestor Esau, who shows that he cares more for earthly enjoyment than for God’s kingdom by despising his birthright of covenant blessings and marrying Hittite wives.”

Wow.  Think how encouraging it would be for the people of Judah to hear this in their place of felt betrayal, defeat, and humiliation.  Friends, God sees the injustices done to us.  He sees when your own friends and family betray, injure, and side with the enemy for their own advancement and benefit.  God is concerned about that kind of thing.  Even in the dark places of loss, loneliness, and rejection dealt by those who should have loved and protected us, God is working.  He will bring justice and appropriate discipline to those who wrong his own people.

Therefore, we must take Obadiah;s words to heart lest we begin to doubt God’s goodness in those times.  May our brothers who betray us repent before they are judged and may we know God’s love for us as we wait for either his justice or their repentance.  Amen.

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“You shall not steal.” ~ Exodus 20:15

This command is pretty self-explanatory.  I think we all know what stealing is – taking something that belongs to someone else.  I have not really struggled with stealing in my life but I have stolen things before.

The two instances I can distinctly remember were both when I was young.  The first, I was about six years old and my friend had a doll I wanted.  I stuck it in my shirt and thought no one would notice as I was leaving her house.  I was caught.  The second time I stole lipstick from a store because my friend encouraged me to and when I walked out the alarms went off.  I am pretty sure that is the last time I ever tried stealing anything that did not belong to me.

Still, as I meditated on this verse this morning, I began to consider ways in which “good moral Christian people” do steal from one another in ways we may not realize.  Not materially – other ways.

I looked at the other commandments in order to put it in perspective.

With the first and second commands, if we break them we steal what belongs only to God – namely our worship – and give it away to other, lesser things, people, etc.  When we take the name of the Lord in vain we steal God’s honor by failing to respect him appropriately.  When we refuse to rest we steal God’s time filling it with earthly things or work in our own strength apart from him.  It is pride that causes us to steal time from God and refuse to rest in Him.  We steal honor from our parents when we break the fifth command.  We steal life when we break the sixth command.  We steal someone else’s spouse when we break the seventh command.  We may also steal another’s purity or steal affections and attention that belong to someone else.  When we bear false witness we steal another’s good name and reputation by the evils of slander, gossip, misrepresentation, and purposefully misleading others concerning their character.  Lasting, when we covet we steal the encouragement and love we should for others and fail to give it to them out of jealousy.  Jealous people always seek to bring down, discourage, avoid and injure the party of whom they are jealous.  I have encountered many jealous people who refuse to build up, love, or even know others simply due to their own covetousness.

Therefore, stealing is so much more than taking material things – although it is that.  I personally would rather have my lipstick stolen before my reputation.  But the latter is what “good moral Christians” in the church do again and again to one another by gossip, slander, and jealousy.  God help us.

Amen.

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 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” ~John 3:1-2

We.  Nicodemus speaks in plural.  This religious leader is not just speaking for himself.  He says, “…we know…”  It is very likely he is speaking on behalf of himself and several, if not many, religious leaders of his day.  The Pharisees.  They knew.  They knew, at the very least, that Jesus was from God – yet – they still hated him.  They still sought ways to discredit and undermine him.  They still publicly challenged and slandered him.

This is amazing!  Jealousy makes power-hungry religious men do terrible things even though they know better.

Jesus takes Nicodemus immediately to the reason and the solution for why he doesn’t know him for who he actually is.  Jesus is not just from God – he is God.  The reason Nicodemus doesn’t know that is because he has not been regenerated by the power of God.  He is a just another guy who is interested in religion.  He lacks spiritual insight and wisdom precisely because he has not come to know Christ truly yet.  He knows all about religion.  He fails to know God.  This is tragic.

What does Jesus do?

He wastes no time explaining who he is or setting Nicodemus straight about his identity.  Jesus gives him the solution.  “You must be born again.”  He proceeds to preach the gospel to Nicodemus adding that it is quite peculiar that he is in a position and in fact is a teacher of God’s people and yet has no understanding of the things of God. (verse 10)

Nicodemus is bewildered.  He is confused.  He is astonished at what Jesus tells him saying, “How can these things be?” (verse 9)

After Jesus makes the point that a teacher of God’s people ought to know these things, he reveals the real issue in Nicodemus’s life.

 “Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony.12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?”~ John 3:11-12

You don’t believe me, Nicodemus.  I have repeatedly told you and showed you the truth in simple, lisping lessons but you simply do not believe it.  If you don’t believe me about things on earth – things you can see – how will you believe about things in heaven – things you have not seen?!  He gives Nicodemus the gospel as well as the reason men just like Nicodemus do not believe it.

We tend to forget that this whole John 3:16 business is in the context of Jesus talking to one of the most religious men of his day.  Think about that.  Consider the implications of that truth.

So what does Jesus say to this very religious teacher guy?  Grace is here – but, as Jesus has already told this man, it is for those who believe.  You do not believe.  Light is here.  The problem is not that you do not have enough light.  You love darkness.  That is the problem.  And why do you love darkness?  Because you’re hiding.  You are afraid that your wrong deeds will be exposed.  You care more about how you look on the outside than you do about whether you are in God’s favor.  You would rather hide behind religion than come into the light and be made clean.

The main idea here is that Jesus is not the one hiding.  God is waiting and willing no matter how or when we come to inquire of him.  We are always the ones who hide from God.  Nicodemus comes at night because he is hiding.  Likely he fears his religious friends seeing him talk to Jesus – because God forbid one of them get to know Jesus rightly and for who he truly is.  They were much more content to make him who they needed him to be in order to keep their sin hidden and their people – their followers – deceived about who they really were.

Jesus is not the one hiding.  The religious men are hiding.  When asked indirectly who he really is, Jesus pulls no punches.  He tells the inquirer the solution and the problem for why he does not know the answer to his own question.  Jesus does not have to say, “I am God” because it is extremely clear that Nicodemus has already repeatedly refused to believe the truths that would lead to that conclusion.  Instead, Jesus mercifully gives him the solution.

Here’s your problem, Nicodemus.  Here’s what needs to happen in your own life, Nicodemus.  There’s grace, Nicodemus.  Believe and be saved, Nicodemus.  If you do not believe, you are already condemned despite all your religious work and knowledge, Nicodemus.

Have you ever had someone try to be your friend secretly?  Or treat you differently when others were around vs. when they were not around?  Religious people are infamous for this kind of behavior because they not only fail to recognize and believe who God is, they fail to know who they themselves are.  Therefore, they are not genuine in their dealings.  Jesus shows us how to deal with this kind of pretense.  Say this:

Here’s your problem, religious man.  Here’s what needs to happen in your own life, religious man.  There’s grace, religious man.  Believe and be saved, religious man.  If you do not believe, you are already condemned despite all your religious work and knowledge, religious man.

Jesus deals with pretense, fear, a religious spirit, and sin all in one blow.  He tells this spiritually impoverished soul the truth of the gospel and the solution to his sin problem.  He makes sure that guy knows exactly what is required of him and shows him that he has not yet been willing to do it.

God’s grace is waiting.  He wants people to come to the light.  We must believe, confess our sin in the light, and repent of our hiding it in the darkness.  God is faithful to meet us there and do a great work in our lives.  He will change us from religious pretenders – people who have (as the Bible says) a form of godliness but deny its power – and false friends to real sons and daughters; brothers and sisters of his very own.

Come to Jesus.  Confess your sin to him.  Ask forgiveness.  Allow his Holy Spirit to do his work in you and you will be a new creation.  You will be born again.  Amen.

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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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