Friday, April 25, 2008

Authority Shelters

One of my very dear friends who is a Pastor's wife told me the following little story. As we know, most Pastors and thier families are scrutinized and criticized more than most-as people watch them closely. So I imagine there is always the threat of criticism hanging over them. That was on the back of my mind when she told me that because of today's fashions, she will ask her husband to approve or disapprove what she wears, and if he okays it, then no matter what anyone says, she can be confident that it is okay.

To me that seemed so profound an example of the shelter of authority that God gives. I have another friend who keeps her life in balance (saying no to things freely) because her husband restricts her. My husband is really liberal with my time. He is very easy going and I am thankful for that. At times I think I would be tempted to feel rebellious in her shoes, but she is very content.

Just this last Sunday, I was on Worship Team @ church. One of the songs was a guys/girls round..."I will worsip (I will worship)..." I happened to be the only one to show up that was a girl, so I was leading the girls part ALL BY MYSELF (yikes!) When the song got started, it got started off key (or something???) and it was all wrong. I had to echo the "wrong" all the while trying to think of how it was sudposed to go. I just couldn't think of the right way while doing it wrong!! I ended up following as it was being sung. You should have seen the looks on the faces of the congregation!! I thought that after it got started that if everyone started singing it right, we would get back on track. Well, that happened at the chorus, we ended up singing the rest of the song the right way. The strange part for me was I felt no embarassment afterward (and I am prone to analyzing myself if I goof and feeling totally humiliated) I just knew it was another lesson from the Lord on following leadership and the responsibility that is on the one in charge. (and the freedom for the one following)

Lord, thank you for little funny lessons in truth that confirm the principles you have established. You are Awesome!!!

The Blessings of Submitting

The first story I want to tell is about my daughter Kayla. I honor her for her heart to be submissive to authority, and want to share with you how she found it to be protective and a place of safety.

In the summer of 2005 (between freshman and sophmore year) she and Ethan (brother) spent some time at the little lake south of our house swimming and fishing with friends. The friends' parents are friends of ours. They spent some time here and at the friends' house. When school started she and the oldest boy "H" (same grade as Kayla) wanted to "go out". She talked to me about it and (she had just turned 16) was cautious because she didn't want to hurt the friendship. So they started to hold hands and spend more time together. They went four wheeling with siblings and got all muddy, and hung out together at our house or theirs. Over the course of the fall/winter their relationship became rocky. Fighting and (some things I was unaware of) manipulation, anger, etc.

I work with the youth group, so I was seeing things there. I would notice them missing, and find them out in the parking lot "talking". Lots of tension. Lots of my intervention at times. "H" was crossing lines I wasn't going to allow. I found them a couple times in potentially dangerous situations. Situations that Kayla really didn't want to be in, but was "falling" into. So they were back and forth for a few months (Jan-Apr). Finally one night he broke up with her saying he needed to "get right with God". I commended him for that, but the next day he changed his mind.

Kayla had made a decision that it was over for good. He was used to her taking him back, and he began to pressure her with phone calls (literally 50-60 one day) keyed her car, mean texts, threatening suicide, and one night, stalking her outside her window when I wasn't home. Demanding his things back, burning things she had given him. It was a very difficult time. Her dad stepped in and told her what to do and what not to do in response to everything going on. We ended up having to restrict them from talking at all the last month of school that year. Kayla followed all of the instructions that her dad gave her. And she was kept safe. She was very grateful for the one in authority over her. A shelter in a time that could have been very volcanic if not for the wisdom of her dad. We could see that the issue was like an addiction on "H's" part and that they needed to be separated completely.

Since that time there have been more attempts by him to open the relationship again, and anytime she has responded with a desire to be kind (she truly does care about him) a pursuit of her would begin again. We ended up homeschooling her after that because of the nature of the danger we saw in them being together. Many times it has been confirmed that we did the right thing. Kayla was kept from losing things she wanted to keep; her purity and dignity.

I was thankful for Dale stepping in and restricting me at times too. I tended to get too involved, wanting to do the right thing. He just simply said "don't". I could trust God and not wonder if I should or shouldn't do something. What a blessing it was to have him say "no". Even times when I didn't agree with him, I chose to just rest in his decision and after the fact was very glad that I had.

I am thankful for God giving me a husband to shelter me and our kids from storms. Thankful for his authority in our home. God's ways are so good and for our safety.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Authority and Submission

I am currently reading a book called "Authority and Submission" by Watchman Nee. I have wanted a clearer understanding of God's view of the subject. In the past when one would ask me what it was all about (usually a woman with a worldly view) I would explain by using the example of military ranking. In the military there are generals, commanding officers and soldiers (among others-I am not fully familiar with). No one is more important to the mission than the others, but all are interdependant on one another. If the general isn't making the plans and calling the shots, no one would know what to do and there would be disorder and chaos. If many soldiers were left to make the decisions, there would no doubt be arguments and no one would accomplish anything. The general has communication abilities while the soldiers are on the field. They have not had enough vital information to make wise decisions.

The same is true for a family. There is an established order for the purpose of it functioning as a smooth running unit. If there is an established "head" then there is always one who oversees the needs and delegates for the home/family to run smooth and to progress.

The book I am reading is proving that all authority is established by God and showing just how important it is to the Lord that we see Him as the authority and all other authorities as "deputy authorities". The deputy authorities are accountable to God. God expects them to carry out their duties in a way that pleases Him. All of God's authorities are to model their roles after Jesus who was not "lording over them" but came to serve. He is the loving example. He laid down His life.

The problem that people have with the idea of authority stems from the sinful human nature of an authority not submitted to the One who established authority. (not to mention our own rebellious nature from our ancestors that doesn't want to submit to God) If one uses a postion of authority to manipulate those entrusted to him for selfish reasons, there is disorder and oppression. This is not what God designed, sin has caused His plan to malfunction. The question then is, how do those under authority respond when the authority is not acting in love and wisdom?

We know that if the one in authority tells us to do something that really opposes God we obey God and not men as in Acts 5:29 Peter and the other apostles replied: (to the order to stop preaching) "We must obey God rather than men!" We wouldn't be expected to follow orders to harm someone, or commit a crime. What about other times?

In the book of 1 Peter, the 6th verse, Sarah is commended for obedience to her husband Abraham when he told her to lie and say that she was his sister instead of his wife (Genesis 12:10-20). In that case, Sarah had to make the call to obey her husband- trusting God in the circumstances that she would find herself in. (As God is the ultimate authority, she trusted that God would deal with the one He had put in charge of her-and God did come through as we know)In this story, Sarah honored God by submitting to her husband by showing she trusted God to care for her. She could have opposed him "God says not to lie, so I'm not gonna!!" But she chose to let God be the one to tell him that. Sarah chose to obey God by respecting her husband instead of opposing him. She knew that God was the one Abraham had to answer to ultimately and trusted that God would protect her.

The book also underscores that Jesus' ultimate purpose was to "do the will of the Father who sent him". This is paramount to God- that we are submissive to His authority. There are many stories in the Old Testament that highlight just how serious this is to God. The times that His anger was aroused were all due to rebellion. Korah, Dathan, and Abirim and their families were swallowed alive by the earth when they rebelled against Moses and Aaron and lead others into rebellion (Numbers 16). Mariam recieved leprocy for rebelling against God's authority in her little brother Moses (Numbers 12).

Kings Saul and David are great examples of the two different hearts towards God's authority. Saul had a rebellious heart and did his own thing and what a sad story it is, and David, though he fell into sin at times, always came back to God in repentance submitting to his authority and accepting whatever consequences the Lord gave him with humility. He had a tender heart. Saul had a hard heart.

In my next post I will write about the safety of authority for those who are submissive to God. Examples from my own life and those of my friends.

Father, thank you that you established authority to keep order in your plan for us. Help us to submit our hearts and lives to you, and trust you to meet our needs through those in authority over us. Help us discern your will in all situations by knowing your heart. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Upside Down Kingdom

That's what Michael Card calls it (Heaven) in his book "Scribbling in the Sand". My blogging sister Heather inspired me to read the book again when she wrote about it on a recent post. It will bless anyone who reads it, you don't need to be an official artist. Actually as I am reading the book, I see that being a mother is one of the most artistic opportunities I can think of...Michael Card describes art or creativity as a response of worship to God. As I read more about our creativity (as we are created in the image of our Creator) All things seem to be an expression of creativity, whether it is building a building, planning an event, running a household,or working at Walgreens...we are creating with our actions and words. And if we love Jesus, we are glorifying Him in all we do.

Anyway...regarding the upside down kingdom idea, using Phillipians 2:5-8, he highlights that Jesus came in humility and to be a servant, and through His radical obedience -on the "other side" (Heaven) He is the opposite...Exalted and Lord.

He chooses the foolish things of the world to shame the wise...If you want to be great in God's kingdom, you must be a servant of all...To save your life you must lose it (in this life) and in losing is gain...

I just finished another book that everyone will be blessed to read-it is AMAZING. It is called "The Heavenly Man" by Paul Hattaway. It is an autobiography about a Chinese man and his work in the church in China. Or should I say his walk with Jesus that included so much suffering we could never imagine it in our land. I don't think he is much older than I am and he is the father to thousands and thousands of brothers and sisters in Christ. He adds onto the "upside down kingdom" idea, (adds on in my mind:), by stating that suffering should be embraced as a blessing. That we should welcome it as a friend. After reading his book, I am so challenged to change my outlook, my habits, my attitude about hardships. I stand amazed at the fire of God and what power it has through one laid down life. I am also so encouraged by reading of the ways that God intimately came through for him in his times of need. That whatever he needed in the suffering he was called to endure (encouragement, strength, healing, etc) was ministered to him in profound ways. OH HAIL THE KING!!

The freedom of absolute trust in Jesus no matter what we are called to endure brings joy in ways that those who don't know the King want to know Him after seeing His amazing grace in one of us. I was in tears in the middle of the book when I learned that after fasting from all food and water for 74 days in prison, being tortured, shocked, urinated upon and placed in human feces, after he broke the fast with his first visit from his mom, wife and sister (they broke bread and shared communion) he then went back to his cell and they mocked him there as usual, placing bets on how soon he would die, when a couple days later he stood to his feet and preached to them with authority telling them they needed to repent and trust Jesus to save them and every one of them (I think there were 11 or more) dropped to their knees in tears and became born again then and there. Wow!

Oh Jesus, my cross has been like a toothpick compared to your humble servants in China and other countries like N. Korea. Help me to remember them in prayer more and to be willing, like them to do whatever you call me to do with joy. Give me courage and boldness and more of Your Spirit. In Jesus' name. Amen

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Blessing of Hiddeness

Colossians 3:1-3 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.

All of the things the Lord has lead me to lately are touching on the blessing of hiddeness. The freedom to be obscure. This is not easy for us, as we see in our society and experience in our own lives that people are admired for their accomplishments. We wrongly equate admiration with love, thinking that if we are celebrated we are loved, and we tend to find our security in the praise of men.

This is the way of the flesh. The "old way" that when we come to Jesus, we die to. Represented by Baptism...out with the old in with the new. We become a new creation. Our needs are all met in Him, therefore we don't need the things we used to use to gain our security. Unfortunately we don't just jump out of old habits once we have been born again. The Lord now begins to walk us through the process of making us more like Jesus. The refining process, the process of purifying us and making us holy. This is a gradual process, as we spend time with Him in His Presence and in His Word and in fellowship with other believers, we progressively are transformed.

It stands to reason that the more secure we are the less attention we need. Hiddeness comes from our security in our place in Jesus' heart. Our belief in how much He loves us. In our transformation, not only do we have the "old" to deal with, we have an enemy that is always positioned against our progress in the faith. He wants to get us in doubt and unbelief, because it is there that the truth is darkened and we are vulnerable to falling back into old habits. Darkening the reality of the absolute agape' love of God for us causes us to stumble backwards.

It is love that makes us secure. It is love that we are all looking for. The blessing of hiddeness comes from the absolute knowledge that Jesus loves us and we are eternally secure. Christ Jesus loves us perfectly (as the Cross represents if we really look at it for any length of time we cannot deny the reality of His perfect love) It seems so simple stated here, but living the reality of it is progressive and daily.

Philippians 2:5-8 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death- even death on a cross!

Jesus stooped down to our level to lift us up. He came down to serve us and to point us to the Father. He was here to do the will of God and bring Him glory. That is the will of God for us as well, as he is making us Christlike. That we magnify Him with all that we are.

As we grow in our security in Him, our need for attention from people diminishes and we delight to exalt and magnify him. We decrease, He increases. We are then blessed in hiddeness. What amazing freedom there is in doing something and giving the glory to God. He is the source of all of our gifts and abilities anyway! He relieves my anxiety to perform. As I grow in awareness that He is doing His thing through me, I am freed from any responsibility except for keeping my eyes on Him and obeying Him. I am free from fear of man, or fear of failure, or fear of rejection.

Lord, please help me to bear in mind the reality of your love, help me walk in the assurance of your life and power living in me by the Holy Spirit that you gave me at my new birth. Help me, like David, to conquor giants with faith. Like Daniel, to continue to be faithful to you no matter what. Help me to magnify your name in all I do and say. In Jesus name.

Quote: "Fear is the darkroom where Satan develops your negatives" by Francis Frangipane

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Mind Muddle

Praise the Lord O my soul; all my inmost being, praise His holy name. Psalm 103:1

"Quagmire" That is what I kept thinking I was in yesterday...only I wasn't sure what it meant so I looked it up and it is "in a bog". I realized I was in a bog(wet spongy ground/swamp) in my mind. A hard place to get out of and very frustrating. I felt anxious, and wasn't articulating what was going on. As I prayed this morning about it, the Lord showed me what my quagmire consisted of. Now I need His help to get out.

I have struggled with "fear of man" or- as Joyce Meyers book-title puts it:(which I have not read, but suspect I could have written) "Approval Addiction". Mostly I fear disappointing those in authority over me...first my dad, then my husband. I have also struggled with certain friends who are "authorative" in nature. And I realized this morning how I sometimes do with my daughter. I knew by her countanance that she was upset with me, but she can never seem to tell me why until hours later.I have tried to press her for the "why" so often, but it makes it more difficult. So I must wait until she is ready. Until then, though I speculate and feel like I have failed her and feel anxious to fix things.

Later then, my husband asked the question a wife doesn't want to hear at the end of a challenging and (what felt like an) unproductive day..."What did you get done???" YIKES I felt right away like the failure I am always trying so hard not to be. Worse, I felt like I had failed the Lord in failing my daughter and then my husband (he's hoping I get some painting done on some birdhouses he made to sell)

So I asked Jesus, "what is this quagmire? How do I get out?"
"I am your defender, your strong tower, your deliverer"
But Lord, I should have made my husband's priorities my priorities today. (guilt)
"But you made my priorities your priorities today, didn't you ask me to guide you? Do you trust me to come through for you? Who are you resting in? You or Me?"
I am trying to do it all perfectly (in my own strength again...)I guess that'd be me. And Lord, it isn't restful at all when I am acting like this.
"Okay, put it all over here, remember, my yoke is easy and my burden is light. I'll carry the weight. You just walk here beside me, okay? Let me work this all out."

So today, I found out my husband wasn't really as disappointed as I thought. I have done much praying and talking with Kayla and Jesus is bringing growth to both of us through the challenges in our relationship. We both need to trust more (the Lord and each other). And Oh,...we need to try to keep it light. (I am the worst at taking things too seriously)

Father, praise you for your ever persent help when I get stuck in a quagmire. Please help me rest and trust more in your perfect plan. Give me grace to lighten up. Thank you that you make bitter things sweet. Thank you that you use our weaknesses to show your strength. Thank you for your loving kindness. Forgive me for trying to achieve what you came to give me. Help me stop doing that!! Amen