Romans 8:35-39 “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” “Mom, since you and dad are getting divorced, does that mean when we grow up and get married we will get divorced too?” My ten year old rarely asks questions about the fact that his father and I are separated. However, his innocent, and slightly fearful question, shows much going on beneath the surface. “No. It does not necessarily mean that. Your Gran and Papa and your Maw Maw and Paw Paw have all been married more than 30 years. Every couple is different. But you know what? Even if you do grow up and get divorced, you will be okay. If you are a child of God you will always be okay.” Mothers are we teaching our children that they will be okay? Are you teaching them that within the hand of a Holy, all powerful God “all things work together for good?” Or are we instilling in them a sense of dread and fear in hopes that if they are careful enough they will walk a straight line that will not bring us shame? Our children need to know that life is messy, even for Christians. There is no magic wand or secret formula that is going to give them “happily ever after.” They will be happy, joyful and content when they trust their life to their Father, circumstances have nothing to do with. The peace of God has nothing to do with our circumstances. Children who grow up in fear become adults which base their choices on fear and outward appearance. Do I want my children to find wonderful spouses with whom they can spend a lifetime? Absolutely. They have many great examples of couples who stay together and thrive. But I want them to know that if that does not happen they will be just fine. If they never marry, then can be joyful Christians. If their spouse dies, they can be joyful Christians, if they get divorced they can be joyful Christians. If they have a houseful of babies they can be joyful Christians, if they have no children they can be joyful Christians. If God gives them a sick and crippled baby they can be joyful Christians. If they are rich they can be joyful Christians, if they are poor they can be joyful Christians. “Live today in such a way that your children know we will all be okay”
Philippians 3:13-14 Brethern, I count not myself to have apprehended, but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forth unto those things which are before.
v .14) I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
On the coast of Spain is one of the world’s most well- known natural landmarks, The Rock of Gibraltar. It is often associated with strength or determination or stubbornness. People will often refer to something that is difficult to move as a “Rock of Gibraltar”. Or if we consider someone to be especially strong, perseverant, or dependable we may say they are like “The Rock of Gibraltar.” Gibraltar is loosely translated as “the mountain of Tariq”, and for good reason too. In 712 AD, and Islamic mercenary named Tariq bin Ziyad stood atop the Rock of Gibraltar and made an astounding decision.
The prince of Spain at the time was terrified that he was about to lose the throne, since his father had died. In a moment of rash desperation, he decided to hire Tariq bin Ziyad and his “army for hire” to come help the prince establish himself as the rightful ruler of Spain. Tariq was a ruthless warrior that had been making his way across North Africa capturing land for the Islamic Empire. When the prince sent word that he wanted his “help” he couldn’t believe the prince’s stupidity and his own good luck. Of course he would come “help”. He was in the Northern African city of Tangier, just over the Mediterranean Sea from Spain, and he had been waiting for an opportune time to move on into Europe and continue his conquest in the name of Allah. This was his chance.
He and his seven thousand men set out for Spain. Tariq was in the lead ship, and could see the Rock of Gibraltar rising up. When he landed, he quickly climbed to the top of the rock so that he could watch the other ships land. As his soldiers began pouring onto the coast, he turned to his next in command and said, “When all the men are safely ashore, burn the ships.”
The officer stared at him in utter confusion. “But…but sir, how will we return?”
Tariq turned on him, “There is no plan to return! We will either conquer this land or perish. Burn the ships!” The soldiers did as they were commanded, and as they watched their option of returning to their old lives, go up in smoke, they realized the level of commitment that was being asked of them. No plan B. Conquer or perish.
With that sense of determination the small army made short work of Spain, and Spain remained part of the Islamic Empire for many years.
There are many situations in life in which a “Plan B” is a wise thing to have simmering on the back burner. But the things that are of sacred importance will require a level of commitment and determination that leaves no retreat option. When we set out to conquer the land of our marriage, our parenting, our calling of God upon our lives, our holiness, our sanctification, our service to others, we must burn the ships that have brought us this far and declare to ourselves and those around us, “There is no plan to return. We will conquer this land or perish!”
Are you planning any retreats today? Are you up against some challenge and everything inside you says, “Let’s just turn around. This is too tough.” You must ask yourself: is this of sacred, infinite importance? Will turning back destroy the respect and confidence of those who truly love me? If God tells you to go forward, do not go backward! Burn the ships and conquer the land!
Read 1 Timothy 2:9-10
Have you ever heard someone say, “Well, looks aren’t that important? I’m interested in what is on the inside”? That sounds very noble, but deep down it really isn’t true. We do care what people look like, and we do judge people by their appearance, probably more often than we care to admit. Perhaps this isn’t fair, but it is very true. Someone’s appearance creates their first impression on you. But it works the other way around too. Your appearance creates a first impression on others.
The KJV translation of 1 Timothy 3:9 uses a not so popular word to describe a Christian lady’s appearance, the word is “modest”. Not only is this a not so popular word but it is also a not so popular idea. The word modest basically means “not excessive, arrogant or indecent.” In Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary he describes modesty as “the sweetest charm of female excellence.” There are two types of modesty: modesty of appearance and modesty of attitude. First let’s look at modesty of appearance.
Like Mr. Webster, most of us use the words modest or immodest when describing a female. The reason is because the female body is usually admired for its physical appearance and shape, whereas the male body is admired for its strength. That’s not my opinion, that’s just biology. So if biologically men pay closer attention to a lady’s body, than a lady would a man, it makes sense that a lady must pay extra special attention to how she presents herself, so that she does not become “indecent” in her appearance. Just the fact that you are female has placed you under a microscope. The “male microscope” is set to immediately notice two things: skin and curves. Remember, this isn’t sin, this is just biology, and men are made that way. Biology becomes sin, though, when a lady, knowingly manipulates her appearance and clothing so that she will GET more attention for her skin and curves!
Now, I’m sure there are ladies who have dressed a certain way for so long that it’s just their habit and they have no conscious motive of being immodest or being a distraction to men. However, if you have been unconsciously doing something wrong and then the Lord turns on the light for you and shows you Biblically how it’s wrong, then you have a Christian obligation to change.
So how do you change from immodest to modest in your appearance? Do I have to become Amish or something? No! Think about it! If the “male microscope” is set to skin and curves then the trick to modesty would be to cover the skin in loose enough clothing! Simple.
The not so simple side to modesty is modesty of attitude. This is more complicated because it’s about our character, not our clothing. Part of the definition of modesty is “not excessive or arrogant”. If modesty in appearance is about not drawing too much attention to our skin and curves, then modesty of attitude is about not drawing too much attention to any of our other qualities. Modesty does not seek to constantly be the center of attention. Modesty does not brag on its accomplishments. Modesty does not always have to be in charge.
People who lack this trait very rarely see it in themselves because they’ve learned to use other terms for their lack of character. Examine some of these code terms to check yourself for a lack of modesty:
- “I’m just really outgoing” code for “I need to always be the center of attention”.
- “I’m just really confident” code for “I’m the best at everything so sit and listen to me tell you all about it.”
- “I’m just a natural born leader” code for “I have to be in charge or I’m not participating at all!”
Modesty of attitude is painful to correct, but not impossible. Sincerely ask the Lord if you have this flaw. If so, begin to consciously put yourself last in some things. Stop talking about yourself all the time. Try to have an entire conversation with a friend in which you don’t mention one thing about yourself, but keep the entire conversation focused on your friend and their day or their accomplishments or their troubles. Suggest for someone else to be in charge of things, ask others their opinions and this just listen. People with a lack of modesty of attitude also usually talk a lot. Just spend a day being quiet, listening to others and focusing on others.
I suppose when Noah Webster said, “Modesty is the sweetest charm of female perfection” he was imagining a lady with a combination of modesty of appearance and modesty of attitude. Her appearance is not a distraction to those around her and her attitude encourages and includes others. That would be a lovely lady indeed. Let us all strive to be such ladies
Read Proverbs 3:23-24
Most mothers, most parents, have experienced the night time interruptions of frightened children. The insistent poke in the shoulder accompanied with, “Mommy, Mommy! Can I sleep with you?” Bad dreams and strange noises send most kids running for their parents’ bed. My youngest son, who seems to have particularly vivid dreams, has often come to me in the night physically trembling with fear, with no more explanation than just, “I’m scared!”
After eight and half years of sleep interruptions, I’ve learned the quickest way back to sleep is to simply scoot over (thank God for king sized beds) and cuddle the little guy (or girl) up. What has not ceased to amaze me though, is the instant change that comes over a little person when taken into their parents’ bed. My son who moments before was trembling, heart racing and on the verge of tears, will immediately relax, melting into the warmth of Mommy and within minutes fall fast asleep.
Why does our presence create such a transformation in our children when they are frightened? Is it because we are bigger and stronger? I’m sure that has something to do with it. But not just any bigger, stronger person would do in the middle of the night, would they? There is something more. It is the solid, unshakeable conviction (though the child scarcely understands it themselves) that this bigger, stronger person loves me beyond all limits and will do everything in their power to protect me from anything threatening me.
How much more solid a conviction can we have in our Heavenly Father’s ability to protect us and make it all better? We do not have to remain in the dark, trembling in fear of what lies in the shadows of our lives. We do not have to face the dark nights alone. Our Father waits to wrap us in His arms, and let all the fear melt away. He wishes to cuddle us up until peace pervades our souls, just like the peace sweeping over a frightened child once he reaches his mother’s side.
Are you frightened or troubled by some shadowy phantom today? Not a boogey man under the bed, but a marriage that just isn’t clicking, or money problems with no solution in sight, or loneliness, or disappointment or any number of grown up “boogey men” that just won’t go away? Don’t sit in the dark frightened and alone. Take it to your Father in prayer; leave it in His all-powerful hands. Let your sleep be sweet again.
Read 1 Timothy 6:6-8
Power Verse: v.6
I was recently asked, “Are you satisfied with the way things are?” I had no idea how to answer such a huge, vague question. When I hear the word “satisfied” I immediately think of how we all probably felt yesterday evening, right after Thanksgiving dinner. Webster’s 1828 defines it this way: “satisfy- to gratify wants, wishes or desires to the full extent, to supply possessions or enjoyment till no more can be desired.” Till no more can be desired? How many of us reached a point yesterday when we knew we could not eat another bite? You eventually shoveled in that last bite of pumpkin pie (or Seven-Up Punch Bowl Cake, OMG!) and suddenly you desired no more. But let’s think about at what point satisfaction is acquired. At most Thanksgiving dinners yesterday the order of events went something like this: someone asked the blessing, you got a plate and then you take a look at everything spread before you. You had plenty of options and free choice to get whatever you wanted and as much of it as you wanted. And that’s exactly what you did. You piled up your plate with anything you chose and then you ate it. Maybe you went back for seconds and that was just fine. That’s Thanksgiving. Then you headed back for dessert. Plenty of options again and freedom to take all you want and as much as you want. Then at last, you attained that magical state: satisfaction. You gave yourself everything you wanted until you could want no more: satisfaction. That’s pretty easy to attain on Thanksgiving. But can we really attain that in life? Are you satisfied with your life? I’m not sure. Is that even possible? Could I give myself everything I want until I can want no more? Could any of us do that, and not wind up in jail eventually? Satisfaction would be a dangerous thing to attempt and more importantly a sinful thing to attempt for Christians. That is why the word satisfaction was not used in 1 Timothy 6:6, but rather Paul used a very different word: contentment. Contentment is a different word, and an entirely different concept. “Content: rest or quietness of mind in the present conditions, restraining complaint, opposition, or FURTHER DESIRE!” Restraining further desire!!!!! Not fulfilling our further desire? Really? But isn’t that what everyone keeps telling us we deserve? Don’t we all deserve to have everything our selfish, silly, human brains can fabricate? The apostle Paul had no home, wife or possessions. He traveled around entirely dependent on the charity of the churches he ministered to. And yet this man, this traveling, homeless, celibate preacher says in Philippians 4:11 “…for I have learned in whatsoever state I am therewith to be content.” Do you really think Paul had everything he had ever desired? NO! But at some point he learned to start restraining his desires and he continued restraining those desires until there was an equality, a balance between what he desired and what God was going to allow him to have. And right there, right in the center when the balance has leveled out (in Paul’s life and in ours) is the magical state of: not satisfaction, but something much more profound: contentment, rest, peace. So what is the answer to the question I was asked? “Are you satisfied with the way things are?” Uh….no! Are you? Have you gotten everything you ever wanted in life until you could want no more? I doubt we’ve gotten everything we wanted even this morning! A far more important, and spiritual, question is this: Are you CONTENT with the way things are? Because as most of us found out about midnight last night, (especially those who ate Misty’s ninja dressing) getting everything you want isn’t always good for you in the long run.
Read Proverbs 19:11
“Don’t pick fights! Don’t pick fights!” we tell our children. But is that entirely accurate advice? The idea is right. We shouldn’t be brawlers or trouble makers, but we should definitely “pick” our fights rather than have them picked for us. By pick I mean choose. Do you choose your battles wisely? How much time have you wasted fussing over silly things? How many real battles have you ran from when God could’ve been honored if you had took a stand?
Anger, like all our emotions, was created by God. Throughout the Bible God was often angry. What do you think that whole flood thing was about? Anger was intended to help us fight evil in the world. God wants us to be angry at sin like Jesus was.
Jesus wasn’t a weakling walking around with a lamb in His arms all the time. Our Lord was fearless and brave. He wouldn’t tolerate the Pharisees hypocrisy and He told them so. “Woe unto you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites,” he boldly says in Matthew 23. He said it right to their faces too! He was sinless in His anger, though. Unfortunately, most of us wind up sinning because of our anger. That’s why we are told in Ephesians 6:26… “Be angry and sin not.” Anger is a motivator. It should motivate you to speak out against wrong.
In Matthew 21:12 Jesus went into the temple in Jerusalem and when he saw merchants were using the church to make money He became angry. “And Jesus went into the temple of God and cast out all that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of them that sold doves.” I don’t know about you, but He sounds angry to me. He was not sinning, though. He chose that battle. He evaluated the situation and decided this was worth fighting for.
There are times when God wants us to fight, not with our fists, but to speak up, battle against evil. If we are told in Ephesians 6 to put on the “whole armor of God” then there must be some fighting going on. Anger can give you the courage to stand up against pressure when people want you to do wrong. It gives you courage to speak out when you see others doing wrong. When Christian activists are protesting evils in our country, such as abortion or child abuse, they aren’t out there because it’s fun. It’s because they’re angry.
Wisdom knows what is worth fighting for. Proverbs 19:11 “The discretion of a man deferreth his anger and it is his glory to pass over a transgression.” Wisdom will turn your angry away from silly, petty things. In Mark 14:65 we see Christ choosing not to fight right before His crucifixtion. “And some began to spit on him and to cover his face and to buffet him.” In this battle He he reacted differently. He chose not to fight. Wisdom is knowing when to fight and when not to.
So here’s the deal: what is important enough to fight about? Ask yourself these three questions to help decide:
- Will this matter in a hundred years? If you’re a Christian you’ll be in Heaven in a hundred years. Would this fight have changed the outcome of eternity for you or someone else?
- Are you just angry over hurt feelings? Fighting over hurt feelings is an incredible waste of time and very un-Christ like.
- Will this help or hurt my witness for Christ? In 2 Timothy 4:7 Paul says, “I have fought a good fight.” Paul fought a good fight for Christ, not himself. Are you fighting a good fight or just bickering?
The world is watching us and deep down they want to see a good example. Anger is a natural part of us, use it to pick your fights wisely.
Read- Matthew 14:23-31
Power verses- Proverbs 3:5-6
My two year old daughter stood hesitantly on the shore, the Gulf Coast waters inches away from her feet. “I’m scared,” she says adamantly. “It’s okay,” her aunt coaxes, “just take one step.” Her tiny feet take one baby step. “Okay,” says Aunt Nikki, “now just a little deeper.” She takes another step and another while trustingly holding her aunt’s hand. “A little deeper, now a little deeper.” In a few moments my brave little girl is triumphantly standing waist deep in the shallow water. “I’m in! I’m in!” she shouts and does a sweet toddler dance of victory. How often have I cheated myself from that same feeling of victory because I am too scared to follow Jesus out a little deeper? How often have I chosen to stay up on the shore of insecurity? Our insecurities make so much sense to us, don’t they? We have very rationally chained our self to the shore. Where are these insecurities rooted in our lives? Likely in many places, but let’s look at a few of the most common sources. What holds us back from truly swimming in the deep of Christian life?
• OUR PAST FAILURES. Nothing can kill ambition faster than the fact you have failed before. Failure is often the natural effect of trying something. Failing doesn’t make you “a failure”! You are only a failure when you quit trying. It doesn’t matter what the ambition is: a new diet, an exercise program, nurturing your marriage, making a craft, homeschooling, witnessing to a lost person. You name it, from the most natural everyday task, to the most spiritual undertaking. Go ahead and tell yourself, “I may fail at this. I might do it wrong. And if I do I will take note of my mistake and then try again.” Failure is God’s way of telling you, “That wasn’t quite right, pray, and let’s try it a different way.” – Philippians 3:13 Brethren I count not myself to have apprehended but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forth unto those things which are before.-
• THE CRITICISM OF OTHERS! Unfortunately even when we have rustled up the courage to pursue our ambition and have put our past failures behind us, there will be actual people just waiting around to criticize our efforts. Often it is folks close to us too, because they feel they have free reign to express their opinions to you, about you! It is important that folks in our life feel comfortable to express those opinions. None of us want people walking on egg shells around us. Wisdom, however, is in knowing when to take the criticism to heart because there is a legitimate point to be made, and when to just let it roll off. Ask yourself: are they criticizing because it is just their habit to criticize? Are they criticizing because they are frustrated about something else not even related to my ambition? If so, then politely take the high road. “Thank you for your opinion, but I feel very confident and excited about this ambition. Please pray for me.” 1st Corinthians 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am; and the grace of God which was bestowed upon me was not in vain…-
• PLAIN OLD LAZINESS. If you’ve never tried something it’s natural to be insecure about it. If you never try anything then you have LOTS of stuff to feel insecure about. It is so easy to wrap yourself up into a comfortable little bubble of familiar experiences and never attempt to move beyond that. This is not a happy, healthy or spiritual way to live, though. And again this can apply to the simplest of things or the grandest. Trying a new hairstyle because you think your husband would like it, or heading to the mission field (also because your husband would like it.) Laziness is not just sitting on our fanny watching TV all day. That is physical laziness, but few of us ever address our spiritual laziness. Spiritual laziness is an attitude of refusing to push outside our bubble and grow as mothers, sisters, friends, church members and Christians. – Ecclesiastes 3:10 Whatsoever they hand findeth to do do it with all thy might-
So ask yourself today: Am I stuck up on shore, longing to go out deeper? Jesus is not holding your past failures against you. Jesus will not criticize your efforts and Jesus does NOT want you to remain spiritually or physically lazy. Jesus does not want us on the shore, but lovingly holds our hand coaxing us out to where true intimacy and victory can be found. “Just a little deeper, now a little deeper,” he whispers. I want to feel the same joy my two year old felt as she happily danced in the waves, the feeling of victory over my insecurities. The path to that kind of joy lies out “a little deeper.”