Friday, August 31, 2012

Off to Ninevah!

An old post, by request:
This morning, I was struggling. I have been under the weather for about two weeks. My family members have been cantankerous–teething, fussy, rebellious, stressed, crabby–all of them.  One hour into my day, after coffee, and time spent in prayer (in the hot tub), I found myself in the shower, still praying, and still not of the right spirit towards my family. I was angry, and hurt, and feeling slighted and tired and… you know.
I decided my best course of action would be to take the little guys, or even just the baby, and leave the house for the day. I knew I was not in the spirit to serve lovingly, and couldn’t seem to snap out of it, and I didn’t want my bad attitude and grumpiness to add to the mix. So, before my shower was over, I had convinced myself that I was doing God and my family a favor by just leaving for the day and not dealing with anyone. That was the best I felt I could do for God today.

So I looked up at God, and said, “So, I’m gonna go for the day and keep the peace, okay?”

And He said one thing:



Jonah didn’t want to go serve the Ninevites. He ran.

I didn’t want to serve my husband and children (those fish-slapping Ninevites!), so I was planning to run!  

Just like Jonah.

I stand corrected.  I was running from the main ministry God has placed before me. The one ministry to which He has clearly called me–the ministry He called me to the day I married, and called me to the day each of my five lovely children were born into this world by the gift of God. There is no confusion at all about what this ministry of mine is: My husband, my children, and my home. I was running because I didn’t like them today (because of my selfishness and crabbiness and judgments), and I didn’t feel like serving them.  But God reminded me He has made it clear where He has told me to serve.

So now, you will be pleased to know, I am in Ninevah (serving where I didn’t want to serve today), and happy to be corrected and in good grace with my Lord, my Saviour, my Father.

My older children, they are getting a “message from the Lord,” because God has shown me some training they need right now and they will be getting it. 

My husband, so far this morning, I did all I could to help him with his many burdens–his plate is so full right now, working to lead and provide for our family! I have remembered I never feel happier than when I am able to serve him as I serve the Lord (because I am serving the Lord).  And yes, I will admit, before God called me a Jonah, I did just want to slap my husband with a fish.  Which is ridiculous.  Do you even know how much time I spend feeling so sorry for every other single woman in the world because I got the best man in the world for a husband, which means y’all did not?

And my babies… how I am committed to loving, and serving, and correcting them with the fruit of patience and gentleness and kindness.

Not to mention, continue, as always, to sweep up the cheerios, and the food mashed and dried onto the kitchen floor and the high chair, and do the dishes, and continue keeping my home for my family–this kingdom of Ninevah where I serve (it’s only a Ninevah when I’m rebellious!).

Ladies… where are you serving?  Are you serving where the Lord has called you? If you have a husband and children, that is your “Ninevah.”  Jonah thought the task of converting the Ninevites was not only too much, but sounded like too much work.  How often do we take that attitude with our own family?  It is a huge responsibility to raise children well in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, to train them up in the way they should go–to raise them to love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. It takes 24/7 commitment and effort–and requires that you walk always with the Lord and rely upon Him.  It is a blessed place to be–and yet….

How many of us are going to end our time here on earth and have defaulted on our main calling?  Have you missed your main calling?  Are you confused because it is easier for you to have a job and go to work–and spend your day with people who are not your true spiritual responsibility?  What about spending your time serving in the “church,” teaching Sunday School, bible studies, cleaning, or volunteering for ministries.  Isn’t that easier than going to Ninevah?

If you feel any kind of a tug on your heart reading this post, then ask the Lord right now where your “Ninevah” is.  If you are wayward, give Him permission to “toss you overboard” and get you back on course to serving where He wants You to serve–to where He has called you to serve.  Which could be very different from where you have decided to serve, or even where you have been asked to serve….

Serve the Lord with gladness, my dearest sisters and brothers in Christ, and you will be made glad!  My day is corrected, and I am living in peace, in the shelter of His wings.  And I even had time to sit and type a couple blog posts.

Amazing.  My God is good.  Do you know Him?
Today 's addendum:

If I were to write this post today, I would add to take note that the power of God worked in Jonah only when He served where God told him to serve.  Jonah obeyed and went to Ninevah. Jonah did what he could--he got there, he walked into the town, he opened his mouth. He served.  But God's miraculous power accomplished His purpose and plan. 

The same will be true for you. Serve where He calls you to serve, and let God's work be done. Miraculous work. Right there in your family.

My God is even more good, and even more amazing, than I knew He was when I first wrote this post over two years ago.  

Do you know Him?  Oh... I hope you do!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Dating, Courtship, Marriage

We'll start here--in true fashion and style of all my posts--long and forthright. When I first started blogging, my oldest two were 11 and 6. Now they are 18 and 13.  I have been praying quite a bit for God to show me how to teach them regarding MARRIAGE--and how to prepare for it.  And He is answering that prayer.

I wanted to take a minute to share with you how I have been teaching my two oldest regarding dating, courtship, and marriage. I began praying for this several years ago, as my oldest son approached the teen years. I really wanted God's best and nothing less for how to PREPARE my children for marriage.  Everyone out there in the "homeschooling" and fundamental religious groups has different ideas. They outline all sorts of different guidelines and examples--but to me, I felt their scriptural support was vague and felt that people were attempting to put their own worldly rules and interpretations on things.  I wanted the "Simplicity that is in Christ."  No confusion. No muddy waters or gray areas. So I prayed.

The first thing God impressed upon me is that the ultimate calling is NOT to prepare my children for marriage. It is to prepare them to serve God and God alone. To be a true disciple. That is first and only what is important.

Then, in direct answer to my prayers, God showed me 1 Corinthians 7, where Paul is teaching directly about what is best regarding marriage.  Directly and clearly. I need look no further.

Regarding whether or not dating is okay, I Corinthians 7:1-2 gives a very simple, clear, and complete answer: It is good for a man not to touch a woman (that covers dating rules completely) Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife.

Simply interpreted:  If you don't have a wife, don't touch a woman. If you cannot avoid fornication, get a wife. Dating is not in this picture. Don't touch women, or have a wife.

Then Paul says in verse 7, I would that all men were even as I myself. Unmarried.  The message is very clear and simple. He is saying it is better that all men were like himself. Unmarried is better.  However, Paul realizes that different people are called to different things, so he goes on to say, "But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that."

But then he says a SECOND TIME, so WE GET IT, in verse 8, I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I. 

Very simple.  If you are unmarried, it is good for you to abide that way.  The verse implies nothing else. It is very clear.  Your children can easily understand the words. Then the following words in verse 9 are very clear, too:

But if they cannot contain, let them marry.

This is also very simple.  And this is what I showed my kids and they could not deny what the words of scripture said for themselves.  If you are unmarried, it is good to remain unmarried.  My children are unmarried.  It is GOOD to remain that way. So don't make any other plans.

Now, if at some point, they are too tempted by the opposite sex to "touch" or to sin, then "let them marry." Maybe this temptation is masked as a longing and dreaming for a special someone, or simply a longing to be married.  Some, as Paul clearly states, have the gift to remain as Paul. Some do not. If a young adult finds in his heart he longs too much to be married, and cannot contain, in prayer, they should ask God to provide their spouse and marry, for (v. 9), it is better to marry to marry than to burn. 

God made marriage--He uses it in His plans and purposes in many ways--but it is not His ultimate plan, and He does not depend on it. We need to be honest and assess if our children are growing up longing for a marriage relationship or the opposite sex because they have not been taught to long for Christ first (what would one of my blog posts be without stepping on toes?) Maybe they have just always assumed that marriage was the only goal, and began thinking about that from the time they could think. (That's called "stronghold," "traditions of men," etc.) Have we unwittingly allowed our children's desire for marriage to usurp or take equal place of their desire for God?  Do you have a child thinking of marriage?  Do they long for marriage more than they long for God?  You must assess these things!

Contrary to popular teachings and belief,  God does not NEED marriage and children to grow the kingdom of God, like some family-oriented religious groups like to preach.  God said that He could raise up sons of Abraham from STONES (Matthew 3:9).  We musn't dare to think He needs us or that we are doing something great for Him by raising godly children. He could use stones to build His kingdom. But He loves us, and chooses us, and chooses any children HE forms in the womb (whether in wedlock or not, no child is born that God did not form).  We just need to follow and obey. And yes, for many of us, that means getting married and raising godly children! Remember, though, He does not need your reproductive system. He is God. He needs nothing.

After several verses exhorting those who are already married to STAY married (unless those reading tried to say that Paul says it is better not to be married and then put away their wives or depart from their husbands--how many could have been looking for that loophole at some point in their marriage?  I might know some, but won't mention any names), Paul states again for each person to be sensitive to their own calling, in verse 17:  But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches.

So, I tell my children again, you are unmarried. It is better to remain unmarried. God may call you to it someday. You must be led by God in all areas of your life--and if He wants you to marry, then you will.  If you feel you must marry to avoid temptation--because it is all you can think about, and you truly want it, then pray and God will lead and provide your wife or husband. If you feel it is your calling and heart's desire to marry, then pray, and God will lead. I do my part to make sure marriage does not become an idol, or a fleshly lust. I must train my children away from all fleshly lusts. 

So now then, if my child is so called to marriage, how best to get from single to married?  Will they have to date, look, court? What are the examples in scripture of how to get a spouse--the good examples? What can we clearly see and trust how God works and provides?  Here are just a few I have meditated upon:

1. How did God provide Adam's wife?  Adam didn't even know a wife was coming--he woke up and she was there. He did not have to LOOK (date).  I told my children that all you have to do is talk to a few married people to realize that dating or even "looking" is quite irrelevant to finding a spouse.  How many people will tell you that when they met their spouse, they "just knew," regardless of whom they had dated before or if they had dated before. That was certainly true for me.  I knew I would be married to my husband before we had a "date" of any kind.  How many people "swear off" dating because of all the stupid mess it causes, only to find their spouse the minute they quit looking and dating?  This is very common.  Dating is really just a foolish and expensive distraction, treading into dangerous grounds of lustfulness and other temptations. God does not need you to DATE to find you your spouse.

2. How did God provide Isaac's wife?  His father sent a servant to choose one, and the servant prayed for the Lord to reveal His choice, and He did.  No dating. The parent's input and prayer for God's choice were the only factors. Isaac and Rebekah both still had the choice to decline, but from Rebekah's reaction when she first saw Isaac, it seems she just "knew" when she saw him! 

3.  Jacob and Rachel--often touted as such a wonderful love story.  Nope. Read it for what it is. Jacob, first of all, we know was very stubborn, and would do anything to get what HE wanted. Jacob wanted Rachel and chose her. He willfully chose her, as you can see by the serious arrangement he made to work for her for seven years.  However, God tried to let him know his choice was wrong. God gave him Leah.  If Jacob was in tune to the Spirit (and obedient to God and stopped at just ONE wife), he would have recognized that his choice of Rachel had been overruled by God. Maybe he recognized this, but still wanted what he wanted.  He stubbornly continued to pursue Rachel--there was nothing but trouble from his continuing to pursue her. She was not the best choice for him--as the scripture clearly shows.  Rachel stole from her father (idols, at that--a worldly, idolatrous woman), and lied to her husband and her father (a deceitful and selfish woman), and therefore was cursed with death unknowingly by her own husband--and she died in childbirth in just a few short years. Jacob's favoritism between the wives and the children tore the family apart--the sons of Leah tried to kill the son of Rachel.  The only happy ending to that mess is that God is sovereign and even when WE mess up, we can't mess HIM up.  Does anybody take note that David and Christ were descended from JUDAH--Leah's firstborn? God's chosen--not Jacob's chosen. We also see God's mercy, and how He loves and chooses us all--in the fact that He chose Joseph and used him in a mighty way. But Judah was the line of Christ. And did God NEED Joseph? Does He need me? (We covered that one already!)

4. Joseph was given a wife by his boss. God's principles of authority can be trusted.

5. David was given Michal, Saul's daughter, by Saul. And Saul knew that the LORD was with David, and that Michal Saul's daughter loved him (I Sam. 18:28).  That should have been enough. David went on to all sorts of trouble and household divisions by taking additional wives. But God worked in it all, didn't He? Doesn't mean David did everything right. It means God makes everything work perfectly, according to His purposes. (Praise Him!)

6. Naomi encouraged Ruth, but Boaz chose her and claimed her.  The mother's counsel was used, but God moved Boaz's heart. I would think that every girl, deep down, if called in her heart to marry, would love to be claimed in this way!

So, what can we conclude from these?  Don't date. Let God choose. Your spouse will appear and you will know. He may use your parents or an authority to help choose a wife, He may overrule who you think you want to marry (probably because YOU were looking instead of waiting on Him)--and may do that by using the authority of your parents. You may be boldly claimed--and you will know.  You may meet someone in a parking lot--and you will know.

But trust for sure:  It is better to remain unmarried. That is the bottom-line principle. 

Further repetitive exhortations in I Cor. 7: 

V. 27  Art thou bound unto a wife? Seek not to be loosed.  Art thou loosed from a wife? SEEK NOT A WIFE. (Seek not = DON'T DATE, or arrange anything else by yourself, for that matter).

V 28  But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned.  Of course marriage is not sin. God made marriage! It is GOOD if it is His calling for YOU with His chosen spouse for you! But here is the warning if you have ears to hear:  Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh. (Never a truer word in the Bible).

V 35: And this I speak for your own profit (Do you hear me? This is for your own good!) not that I may cast a snare upon you (Don't get hung up on the details or make these things an unbendable law--you must follow God for yourself), but for that which is comely (beautiful), and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction. Everyone's ultimate goal should be to attend upon the Lord without distraction! VERY hard for the married person to do it!

And then, instructions to fathers of unmarried daughters, this is VERY clear also, in V 38:  So then he that giveth her in marriage doeth well (marriage is good), BUT HE THAT GIVETH HER NOT IN MARRIAGE DOETH BETTER.

He that giveth her not in marriage doeth better.

He that giveth her not in marriage doeth better.

Do your children understand this is God's best?   Are they willing to seek and serve God, and God alone, and then just leave marriage in God's hands--not looking, not lusting, not dreaming about this worldly thing.

Yes, marriage is worldly. In heaven, there is "no marriage or giving in marriage."  Jesus says in Luke 20:34-35, The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage: But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage.

In Matthew 22:30, Jesus tells us this same thing, and clearly tells us that angels do not marry.

Jesus did not marry, either, did He?  If it was best, wouldn't He have done so?

We are called to treasure things that are eternal. Marriage is not eternal. It is earthly. Worldly.

Look at how Jesus refers to earthly marriage in Matthew 24:38:  For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark."

Marrying and giving in marriage--mindless of their souls and standing with God.

We are called to think on things eternal. Our children must be taught this!   Marriage is NOT eternal--not even for those of us who are married.  I can place no value on my marriage--God can do with it as He wants.  It is earthly.  From God's viewpoint, outside of time, just as this earth is already judged and burned up, my marriage is over, too.  It was part of this world.

Paul says in I Corinthians 7:32-34  He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.

Marriage is worldly.  It is a provision God made for us in the flesh. He designed marriage. He gave us instructions for marriage. Married people in obeying God are very happy and blessed indeed. Proverbs 18:22 Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD.  I will be the first to tell you how God has blessed me with my marriage. My husband is truly my earthly redeemer, and earthly savior, and his authority, care, protection is blessed. As I seek to obey God in my marriage, God uses it as a tool to reveal Himself and to make me more into the image of His Son.  Marriage is good--while you're on this earth, IF God calls you to it.  And He calls many--but I think He might not call so many if more understood to just seek Him first and leave the marrying to Him.

According to I Cor. 7, we should not seek to give our children in marriage. If we obey this, we do better than one who does seek to give our children in marriage.  We do need to teach them to love God first and foremost.  We need to exhort them to seek HIM--not a spouse.  We need to exhort them to dream of, desire, and long for God. Not a spouse.

Our sons or daughters do not have to seek (date). We do not have to seek on their behalf.  Leave the wedding in God's hands. He will lead. We won't have to look, decide, choose.  Just follow on the narrow road. And if our children love God first and foremost, and know God's Word, they will be ready to be a wife or a husband should God call them to that.

So, that is how I teach my children.  I share my testimonies with my daughter and son about how God guides me to be a wife, or how God has worked in our marriage and guided their father--but I never let them lose sight of the basic. It is better to remain unmarried. Don't seek. God will do. I told my own stories of how I messed this up and had the wrong ideas. How God brought me my husband even when I wasn't looking for one, or seeking God. I tell how God blessed that and made it right for our family despite all my stupid mistakes.  But I exhort them, "Do you see exactly what this says here in the Word?"  "Can it possibly mean anything other than what it clearly and simply says?"  I exhort them to read it and meditate on it for themselves, and then make that call for themselves.  And it is a pretty easy call. My son, 18, is quite settled on this. He can read the Word for Himself. He knows these things are true. He has decided to put his affections on Christ, and eternal things.  He knows that he would like to be a husband and father someday, but has left that decision in God's hands. And you can see, and hear, and sense the peace in my son in this area.  My daughter is 13. She is learning the same.  It may be different for her one way or another--we will see. But we will seek God's will for her life, and nothing else.

Paul is quite apologetic and hesitating in his passage--he knows the wrong perceptions and worldly thinking that people have placed on marriage from the beginning of time (due to their own lusts)--especially considering all the Mosaic laws. He knows people put marriage on some sort of religious pedestal.  He tries gently to say, "Please, if you will, listen to me," But he also says earlier, "I wish you would be ready for more than just milk."  These people had obviously asked for his counsel--he knew they would probably not have ears to hear it, but he was moved to write it anyway. He had to write it anyway. It was truth. The pure Word of God.

But I also know that every Word of God is pure.  It is simple. It is truth. It speaks for itself loudly and clearly, alive, vibrant, cutting!

So, that is my testimony. Hope you find some help and encouragement as you seek the best for your children.  For our sons and daughters who know the Lord, appealing to them with the pure Word of God always brings peace. They will know and they will discern.  Point the way straight to Jesus Christ, the Word, and they will be able to know for themselves what is right.