The Forceful Compassion of God

the forceful compassion of god

Today, the Spirit of God captivated my attention with a phrase in a very familiar passage of Scripture. I have read about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah many times in chapter 19 of Genesis and usually the same main points keep my attention:

  • the wickedness of the men of Sodom who demand Lot’s guests be released so they can sexually abuse them
  • the power of the angels who caused all those men to become blind instantly
  • Lot’s wife turning into salt because she turns to look at the city as it is destroyed

But for the first time as I read, a different point became painstakingly clear to me: God’s compassion is often forceful. And I am so thankful that it is!

When morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying “Up, take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away in the punishment of the city.” But he hesitated. So the men seized his hand and the hand of his wife and the hands of his two daughters, for the compassion of the Lord was up on him; and they brought him out, and put him outside the city. – Genesis 19:15-16

THE WARNING

Leave, or you will be swept away in the punishment of the city.

DANGER DANGER! Lot is clearly warned that he is standing in the direct path of the impending doom. God is about to pour out His wrath on these wicked cities, and in His great kindness (and due to the prayers of Lot’s uncle Abraham, Gen 18:22-33) He warns Lot to leave immediately before He is swept away with the rest of the city.

Likewise, God has warned us as well of impending doom. Through His Word He makes clear the wrath stored up for all. “The wages of sin is death.”  And then in His kindness tells us the way out. “But the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus.” (Rom 6:23)

I think of the way Jesus sought to convince us of how dangerous sin is: “If your right eye makes you sin, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you sin, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.” Matt 5:29-30. It’s better to lose parts of our body than to continue in sin. This is a warning of the dangers of sin for the human soul.

The warning given to us isn’t once and for all either. Even for the adopted children of God, those who have trusted in Jesus to pay the penalty of sin, there is still a warning not to continue in sin. True, for those who believe there is no more wrath left from God and we safe in the grace of God. But we live in the already and not yet. Our sins already covered, yet their presence not entirely gone. There is still a warning for us.

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A Wife After God’s Own Heart, Part 2

a wife after God's own heart

As man’s power over woman is restrained by love, woman’s power over man is restrained by submission. Any woman knows that she has ways of getting her own way. These must be restrained. The kind of restraint God asks of her is submission. -Elisabeth Elliot

As wives, we have influence over our husbands but too often we use that power in self-centered ways, manipulating to get what we want when we want it. But to be a woman after God’s own heart is to think first and foremost about God and His Kingdom, then about others, and lastly about ourselves. So how can we grow to have that heart within our marriages? By learning to walk in the 3 clear commands God has given us to refine our influence in our marriages: help, submit, and respect.

In part 1, we discussed what it means to be a helper to our husbands. Please go back and read it if you haven’t yet as it sets the tone for the other two commands.

So now let’s move on to submission.

SUBMIT

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.  Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Ephesians 5:22-24

Wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.  1 Pet 3:1-2

Submission Defined

Submission is not just for wives. The concept to subjecting yourself to an authority is showcased in many arenas throughout the Bible: young men submit to elders, servants to masters, children to parents, and everyone is to submit to government, rulers and authorities, and to one another.

Submission simply means to operate under authority and have a disposition to yield to that authority. John Piper defines submission “not in terms of specific behaviors, but as a disposition to yield to the husband’s authority and an inclination to follow his leadership. It is a disposition rather than a set of behaviors or roles because mature femininity will express itself in so many different ways depending on the situation.” I agree with Piper that submission is much more an attitude than a set of behaviors.

Biblically, your husband holds a position and a rank over you. This is not due to his merit, his skill, or his personality. It is simply because God ordained men to be the authority in a marriage. A refusal to submit to a husband is a refusal to submit to God, since it was He who gave the command.

The mature woman acknowledges that submission is the will of God for her, and obedience to this will is no more a sign of weakness in her than it was in the Son of Man when He said, “Not my will but yours be done.” – Elisabeth Elliot

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A Wife After God’s Own Heart, Part 1

a wife after God's own heart

Remember how we discussed that women are meant to be influencers? There’s no easier place to see this than in marriage. Wives, whether you realize it or not, you have likely become a skilled influencer of your husband. It is second nature for women to use subtlety, nuance, and timing to encourage the changes we want to see in our men. But unfortunately most of us use this skill set selfishly, manipulating to get what we want. God is aware of this bent within us (in fact He designed it!) and has intended for us to use it for the Kingdom of God and the good of our husbands, even at our expense.

To help us refine our skill of influencing, God has given 3 very clear and specific commands to wives: help, submit, respect.

Not the answer we usually want, that’s for sure. These are usually the last 3 things we want to do in relation to our husbands, but without these, we will never see our husbands flourish through our influence. I love the way Elisabeth Elliot put this concept:

“As man’s power over woman is restrained by love, woman’s power over man is restrained by submission. Any woman knows that she has ways of getting her own way. These must be restrained. The kind of restraint God asks of her is submission.”

So let’s unpack these commands to help, submit, and respect, one at a time.

HELP

“Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him. The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” (Gen 2:18, 22, 24)

Help Defined
Unfortunately, most people think being a helper is little more than being a secretary. But as you’ll see, this is not an accurate interpretation. This phrase, “helper fit for him” is ezer neged in the Hebrew: ezer (help) neged (at your side, next to, beside, corresponding to). This Hebrew word ezer is used of Eve twice in this chapter. Every other time but one it is used of God and how He came to the aid of His people:

Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. Ps 33:20

But I am afflicted and needy; Hasten to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O Lord, do not delay. Ps 70:5 

O Israel, trust in the Lord; He is their help and their shield. Ps 115:9

I will lift my eyes to the mountains; from where shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. Ps 121:1-2

What an incredible type of help this is! A help that shields, that is needed desperately, in times of need and affliction. This help goes beyond that of a secretary or assistant. This is help that is invaluable! Wives, this is the type of help we are to bring to our husbands!

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A Heart for Home: Part 1

A Heart for Home

In the last post, I discussed our role as influencers. Now I want to consider where the Bible calls us to have primary influence: the home.

Now, if you just rolled your eyes or felt a twinge of fear or anger at the thought of women being called to the home, listen up. Do not let your culture be the primary informer of your worldview. In our age of career-rules-all, urging women to give their best efforts toward the success of the home seems insulting. “Isn’t that like asking women to play second string? To be the understudy? A benchwarmer? To let men do all the really important things, while we clean up their messes and do their laundry and raise their kids?” 

Maybe that’s how you think of managing a home… something you do when you’ve got nothing better to do. Even those who agree that women should be the primary keepers of the home often have an attitude expressing the opposite. We’d much rather be doing vocational ministry, writing a blog, or [fill-in-the-blank] than the menial, every day humdrum of home life.

But do not fall for the lie that the home is unimportant. The home is the fundamental establishment of any society. Like the rudder of a ship, the condition of the homes will steer the direction of the nation. The home is where future world leaders are molded, where brilliant minds are nurtured, where world views are established. Any investment made in the home has ripple effects that last for generations. So when we talk of a woman overseeing the home, this is not to lessen her importance, but to elevate it. God has given us influence over the most important establishment in all of society.

WHERE IS IT IN THE BIBLE?
Let’s look at a few key passages of scripture on this topic. And instead of doing the work for you to unpack these passages, I’m asking you to take just a minute to pull out your Bible (or your Bible app) and read the passage yourself and answer the questions.

Take some time to read Titus 2:3-5 and answer the following question:

  • Of the 6 things older women are to teach younger women, how many are related to family/home life?
  • What does this communicate to us about our priorities?

Read Proverbs 31:10-31 and answer the following questions:

  • Who are the main beneficiaries of this woman’s efforts? (v. 11, 12, 15, 21, 23, 27)
  • Does this woman do things outside of her home? (v. 16, 20, 24)
  • Read verses 15, 21, 27 again. What do you notice about her intentionality toward those in her home? And what does this imply about her work outside her house?

Last but not least, let’s go back to God’s initial design of man and woman for some insight. Read Genesis 2:7-22.

  • Did God create Adam before or after He made the Garden of Eden?
  • Where was Adam created? Inside or outside the Garden?
  • Where was Eve created? Inside or outside the Garden?
  • What does this imply about men and women?

After studying the passages above, it is evident that God has created women to be uniquely influential within the context of the home. This does not mean she cannot earn an income for her family or devote her time to other ventures, as the Proverbs 31 passage portrays. But regardless of her other commitments, her primary responsibility and area of influence should be oriented toward the home, not away from it.

To drive this point home (no pun intended), consider one last verse from the book of Proverbs:

The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down. Proverbs 14:1

A wise woman is investing in her home. She is putting effort into building it up, strengthening it, and supporting it. Wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord, so a woman who fears the Lord will build up her house. This is exactly what we see the wife in Proverbs 31 doing.

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Women, We Are Influencers

Women Are Influencers

In the beginning, God created woman as a helper, a supporter and an aide (Gen 2:18,22). Though our culture would scoff at such a role in society, there is truly great honor in it. The only other person given the title of helper in the Old Testament is God. The Hebrew word for help/helper is ezer. Here are a few passages that describe God as an ezer.

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1-2

Our soul waits for the LORD, he is our help and our shield. Psalm 33:20

But I am afflicted and needy; hasten to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O Lord, do not delay. Psalm 70:5

When we say God is our help, our ezer, we place him in an exalted place: our shield, deliverer. Is God inferior to us because He is our help? No! Rather, God is elevated when we admit we need His help, that we can’t do it on our own. So why would we, as women, feel inferior by being created to help? By understanding that men cannot do it alone, that they need our help to fulfill their God-given roles? We are no more inferior to man because we were created to help any more than God is inferior to us when He is a help to us. As God is a help to His people, so woman was created to be a help to man.

To be a helper carries with it a unique characteristic: the innate ability to influence others. Influence is “the capacity or power to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions of others.” This is a powerful thing for God to entrust to our gender.

Unfortunately, our ability to influence has been tainted by sin. The influence that was meant to help has turned women into skilled manipulators, only influencing for their own selfish gain, harming others. A line from My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding sums this up nicely: “The man may be the head of the house, but the woman is the neck. And she can turn the head any way she wants.” And for most of us, we know that this is true. Women, through subtlety, nuance, emotions, and skillful timing, usually can get what they want, especially from men.

But manipulation is a perversion of our design. Yes, we were meant to come alongside others and be a compelling force on their actions, behaviors, and thoughts. Not for our own selfish gain, but for their good and for the glory of God. We are called to influence others unto the glory of God.

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Biblical Womanhood

Biblical Womanhood

Men and women are different. A seemingly obvious statement, yet one that is up for debate nowadays. Our world is fighting to convince us that, besides their reproductive systems, there are no significant differences between a man and a woman. The logic goes like this:

1. Men and women should be equal.

2. Equality means the same.

3. Therefore, for men and women to be truly equal, they must be the same.

But equality does not equal sameness. This concept is widely understood in many areas of life. Consider the cultures in the world. Asian, European and South American cultures are all very different. They connect differently, eat different foods, and celebrate differently. Is one culture greater than another? Should all the cultures of the world be exactly the same so they can be equal? Of course not. It is the differences within the world’s cultures that bring so much beauty and value to the human race.

Are men and women equal in intrinsic value and dignity? Yes. Should we fight for this? Of course! But let us not strip each gender of their unique beauty, purpose, and strength by forcing them to be the same. Men and women most certainly are equal, but they are not the same.

WHY DISCUSS BIBLICAL WOMANHOOD
I plan to take a couple weeks to post a series of articles on this topic of Biblical womanhood. Why is this topic important to me? For several reasons.

First, I am deeply loyal to the One who has spared my soul from its deserving end of eternal death, and therefore care deeply about what He has to say about my womanhood. Secondly, I believe that this same loving God was incredibly intentional about how and why He created man and woman and therefore what He has to say on the subject is my most trustworthy source. And lastly, I am a living example that “the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32) My life is more full of joy, peace, purpose, and contentment as a result of the very truths I hope to share over these next weeks. So this topic is deeply personal to me as much as it is deeply theological.

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Friendship Gone Wrong, Part 2

friendship gone wrong

THE FIRST LIE
Since the serpent first opened his mouth in the garden, he’s been trying to convince us that God is not enough for us: “You’re missing out. God’s holding out on you.” (Gen 3:1-6) And since then, the temptation to look to God’s creation instead of God Himself for satisfaction is a common, daily struggle, manifesting in myriads of ways.  God speaks to this when He addresses the Israelites in Jeremiah 2:12-13:

“Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the LORD, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.”

Anything we look to for satisfaction other than God is an idol. A leaky, broken cistern. This is a shocking and grievous thing to God that we would forsake Him for something lesser.

The subtlest forms of idolatry happen when we put good things above God. Marriage is a good thing.  But when we need it more than God, it is an idol.  Children are good things, but when we need them more than God, they are idols.  Friends are good things, but when we need them more than God, they are idols.

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Humility and Faith

humility and faith

Humility is emptiness of self; having no concern for your rights and your importance.  A humble person doesn’t feel entitled to anything but wrath from God.  In the last post I talked about the link between humility and seeing God clearly.  We looked at Isaiah, Peter, and John the Baptist, three men who had a big view of God and therefore a low view of themselves.

“Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” – Isaiah (Is 6:5)

“You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!” “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” – Peter (Mt 16:16, Lk 5:8)

“He must increase, but I must decrease.” – John the Baptist (Jn 3:30)

Cultivating humility begins with an accurate view of our Holy God and understanding that the only thing we deserve is wrath.  But without the element of faith, you will stop short of true humility.  Here’s what I mean: Yes, we need to understand that our God is holy and before Him we stand condemned.  This is crucial.  But we must also believe that He is who He says He is: “compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.” (Ex 34:6, Ne 9:17, Ps 86, 103, 145, Jl 2:13, Jn 4:2)  Without an understanding of God’s bent toward grace and compassion, we will stop short of humility and end in self-pity.

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Humility: A Clear View of God

humility

Nothing draws the heart of God to His people more than humility.

Thus says the high and exalted One who lives forever, whose name is Holy, “I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and the lowly of spirit.” Isaiah 57:15

“My hand made all these things, thus all these things came into being,” declares the Lord. “But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.” Isaiah 66:2

You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise. Psalm 51:16-17

For though the Lord is exalted, yet He regards the lowly, but the haughty He knows from afar. Psalm 138:6

What more convincing do we need? We must deal with this truth: God loves humble people.

What does it mean to be humble? It is defined as a modest or low view of one’s own importance. Consider the synonyms of humility in the above verses: lowly, contrite (or crushed), broken.

A Clear View of God
I LOVE the dichotomy in those verses. They begin with a high and exalted God. A holy God. And of all places, where does this God long to be? With the lowly! The broken! The crushed! The contrite! Why is this? I believe there is a simple and clear explanation. Brokenness and humility is the defining characteristic of those who see God clearly.

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Journaling: More Than a Diary

journaling

“Today we went to Hobby Lobby. My mom got 2 new lamps. It took her 30 MINUTES to choose which ones she wanted! I got a little birdcage for my dollhouse. We went to Marco’s for dinner then to Kroger. They now have a checking counter you can do yourself!” ~Me, 12 years old

My first journal is full of entries like this: “dear diary” entries recounting my day and how I felt about it. I recorded everything from how God was answering my prayers, to what my friends and I scored in putt-putt. Ha!

Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun rereading my pre-teen thoughts.  (Especially now that I have often spent over 30 minutes being indecisive about decor and that self-checkouts are standard in many stores.)  But chronicling your life is not the only function a journal can serve; those blank pages can be used in so many other ways!

In a sermon about how to have a quiet time, our former pastor would include a photocopied page from his journal. It was so helpful to have a tangible example of what it looked like to engage with God. Something that once seemed daunting and unknown became attainable. It is for this same reason that I share some pages from my own journals.  I hope this will get the creative juices flowing as you consider what it could look like for you to engage with God and seek Him with all your heart.  Below are some functions your journal can serve.

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