Tuesday, March 26, 2013

How to Find a Proverbs 31 Woman

NOTE:  This post will also appear on Michael Whitworth’s Start2finish blog.  This contribution is to be included in his series on Proverbs, as a gift to his son. Congratulations to Michael and Sara on the birth of their first son, Daniel! I hope this commentary on Proverbs 31 will be a blessing.

In Proverbs 31, King Lemuel remembers the words of his mother. Solomon says this is a good idea, "My son, hear the instruction of your father, And do not forsake the law of your mother; For they will be a graceful ornament on your head, And chains about your neck" (Prov. 1:8-9). Within these memories we see advice for being a good leader, as well as an exaltation of a virtuous woman, fully described with the accompanying characteristics.

The question at the hub of the chapter is in verse 10, "Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies." In the 21st Century world finding a godly mate can be a challenging task. But our good king indentifies her in this passage. His words hold the keys to unlocking the secret to selecting the right kind of wife:

1. She is hard to find (v. 10). The point is made at the beginning, that you can't find a good woman just anywhere. You must work hard and be selective. Be patient!
2. She is trustworthy (v. 11). If you want to be happy in your marriage you need to locate that person who would never betray your trust, who you could confess your darkest sins to, who you could reveal your wildest dreams to, and who in return would never take advantage of your vulnerability, but instead support you and help you.
3. She is good (v.12). Even a short amount of time with someone will tell you the disposition of their heart. Is she kind? Does she speak well of others? Does she want to help others? Is she humble? If you want a good wife, find the good before you find the wife.
4. She has a solid work ethic (v. 13-25). The greatest portion of this proverb includes all of the work a virtuous woman does. In a godly home, the hardest and most dedicated worker is the female. It is crucial that you choose a spouse who is not afraid to get her hands dirty, who is not always wishing to be pampered. She needs to make you want to outwork her.
5. She is benevolent (v. 19-20). A Christ-like woman is compassionate. She will care enough about those who are less fortunate to do something about it. She will help you see that you can do without some things in your home so that others do not have to do without in their homes. She will make your home a place for others to recline.
6. She wears spiritual clothes (v. 25). The most beautiful women in the world are not those who wear Gucci, Chanel, Dior, and Versache. They are the women who wear strength, honor, charity, humility, and gentleness.
7. She speaks softly (v. 26). "She opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness." I cannot improve on that discription. No further comment is needed.
8. She is not interested in gossip (v. 27). A spiritually-minded lady will not partake of the bread of idleness. When we are not busy in God's business, we end up in everybody else's. Find a bride who is already setting goals for herself in the kingdom. She will not need to ride on coattails.
9. She is praised by her family (v. 28). A husband will always be greatly blessed by a wife who prioritizes her family. A woman who gives her every breath to making her husband and children better will be genuinely loved and appreciated. She is a woman whose happiness is wrapped up in the happiness of her home.
10. She fears God (v. 30). Marry a woman who loves God more than she loves you. Marry a woman who respects God more than she respects you. Marry a woman who will please God over pleasing you.

You may say to yourself, "Wow, how can I find a woman like that?" There is a probably a lady out there who is not only trying to be this kind a person, but who has a list of qualifications for the man she wants to marry as well. Marriage is the most important commitment between humans on earth. It is serious. It is for life. Not only is it your prerogative to have a list of qualifications for your potential mate - it is your Christian responsibility.

May God bless you as you seek to find your helpmeet and the love of your life. May His providence lead you to that union. May your marriage praise and honor His wonderful and glorious name!

"He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord." ~ Proverbs 18:22

Have You Been Raised from the Dead?

This Sunday is celebrated by many as "Easter." This tradition developed through the Roman church, which, according to the Council of Nicea (A.D. 325) declared Easter Sunday to be first Sunday after the full moon following the March equinox. Therefore depending on the moon and the beginning of spring, Easter can land anywhere from March 22 to April 25. Most of the time Easter is celebrated in April, but this year it has fallen on the fifth Sunday and final day of March.

The Bible, as with our other traditional holidays, does not command us to celebrate Easter. This observance was created by man and therefore is not binding. It is not wrong to celebrate man-made holidays as long as they are not reserved as religious events or done in opposition to the commands that we find in the word of God. That this week is an "Holy Week," along with the concepts of "penance" and "lent," are nowhere in Scripture. But in our current-day religious world there are many traditions that have become holy in the minds of those who have simply followed the actions of their ancestors.

With this weekend, however, there is a God-given command that we must follow that is directly linked to the events of the passion of Jesus. Our Lord died, was buried, and then rose from the dead to become our living Savior. Romans 6 explains how every person who becomes a follower of Christ participates in a similar event:

"Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord" ~ (Romans 6:3-11).

  • Jesus died to take away our sins. We die to sin when we die to the desire to sin and through belief and repentance we determine to live for God.
  • Jesus was buried in the tomb. Paying the pentaly of  man's sin, He left our sins in the grave. We are buried in a watery tomb (baptism), leaving our sins behind by the power of the blood of Jesus. Jesus shed His blood in His death, and we are baptized into His death, where we contact His saving blood.
  • Jesus rose from the dead to live forever. We, too, are raised from the grave of baptism to walk in newness of life. It is at this moment that we put on Christ, our sins are forgiven, God adds us to the church (or the saved), and we begin to walk the Christian life with the assurance that by the grace of God one day heaven will be our home.
As the world reflects this Sunday on the death, burial, and resurrection of the Son of God, we ought to examine ourselves and ask ourselves individually - did Christ go through this process in vain? If we have not submitted to the likeness of His death, burial, and resurrection, then we have missed out on the purpose of Jesus coming to the earth.

What a wonderful opportunity we have to remember the greatest event of all history - the resurrection of Jesus Christ - that gives us hope! But our hope lies soley upon our own resurrection from the grave of baptism, where our sins our washed away.

Have you been raised from the dead? If not, what are you waiting for?

"And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord." ~ Acts 22:16

Monday, March 25, 2013

Time for a Coffee Break?

In recent news, the Starbucks Coffee Company has become a very vocal and active supporter of same-sex marriage. In a report from CNS News from a year ago - "Starbucks, the world’s largest coffee shop chain, added its name to the list of major corporations that have endorsed a gay marriage bill in Washington State, saying the legislation shares the company’s values at its core...Kalen Holmes, executive vice president for Partner Resources, offered this statement -  'Starbucks Supports Marriage Equality,' and continued, 'Starbucks is proud to join other leading Northwest employers in support of Washington State legislation recognizing marriage equality for same-sex couples.' In summary, Holmes concluded that their desire to support same-sex marriage, 'Is core to who we are and what we value as a company.'"

This week, there was a great deal of buzz concerning what Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, may or may not have said at a shareholder's meeting. Regardless of the reports, Starbucks is an advocate for same-sex marriage, and concerning this fact there is no debate.

This brings up an important dicussion. Can Christians support businesses who openly stand against what the Bible says? It is obvious that we cannot go out of the world. If you even go to Walmart, you are going to a business that now sells alcohol and cigarettes, and has thousands of products on the shelves made by companies with immoral agendas. It is nearly impossible to buy any product these days without some of your financial support going to a company promoting something that you do not believe. Every time you pay taxes on any level, legislators are using that money to formulate bills that are immoral and ungodly. So what can a Christian do?

The most frustrating part of the issue is the attitude of the people who have allowed Satan to deceive their minds and hearts. Christians are being strong-armed into tolerating sin, and if they don't tolerate it, then they are labeled as unloving, uneducated, or unintelligent. The media and our society in general looks at those who do not support things such as same-sex marriage as if we are out of our minds and not even worth their time. I am so thankful that the Bible calls us not to be pleasers of men, but pleasers of God.

I think there is an answer to this cultural conundrum. When I know that a company like Starbucks, or Home Depot, or J.C. Penney, or anyone else is an active voice to promote something that is an abomination in the eyes of God, I can make the individual choice not to support them. I cannot bind this on others, but as an issue of my own conscience I can be active in showing my allegiance to God and His holy word.

Dear friends, there is not a person or entity on this planet that can rule in my heart when my heart is already occupied by Jesus Christ. That being the case, I am not going to conform to this world, but I will be transformed by the renewing of my mind. When it comes to Starbucks, I have made the choice to take a coffee break. I cannot and will not support them. This is not out of hate, but out of love...love for God, love for the Bible, and love for a lost a dying world.

"And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." - Romans 12:2

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Parental Guidance

What are parents really supposed to be doing? This is on my mind as a write this article on the 12th anniversary of becoming a parent myself. I think this is more than a fair question. It could be argued that parenting is the single most important task on earth. After all, the family was the first human institution of creation. God invented the family to shape and direct society and determine the future of our planet.

Let me begin by first discussing what parents are not supposed to be doing:
1. Parents are not supposed to use their children for their own purposes. Whether it is making your kid the athlete you wish you were, or exposing near infants in pageants to promote your own self-worth, children are not objects. They are people with souls who deserve to be encouraged in the things they like - not the things the parents like.
2. Parents are not supposed to use their children as leverage. It is hard to witness children being shipped around or used as a threatening tool. I have seen parents do this with the grandparents in attempt to receive acceptance of wrongdoing, and I have witnessed what divorced couples are willing to do to their children to spite their ex-spouses. It makes me sick to see children used as leverage.
3. Parents are not supposed to promote their children in worldly pursuits. Many children will lose their souls because their parents have taught them that things and events in the world are more important than spiritual things. No child of a Christian should ever be influenced to think that worship or Bible study is optional. No child of a Christian should ever think that earthly possessions are more important than the souls of the lost.

This is not an exhaustive list. But these are some main principles. Now for another short list on the positive side, also non-exhaustive. What are parents really supposed to be doing?

1. "Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord" (Eph. 6:4).
2. "But Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven'" (Matt. 19:14).
3. "...that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children" (Titus 2:4).
4. "He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly" (Prov. 13:24).

As you can see, I decided since I am a parent with faults myself, that the best advice for parenting would come from God. These are a few things He has told us we should be doing - training, discipling, loving, and leading our children to Christ.

I have dreams for my children, but they are not so much for here. They are heavenly dreams. They are eternal dreams. They are dreams that can only come true with God's help.

"And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him." - Luke 2:40

Monday, March 11, 2013

Dealing with the Diagnosis

Yesterday while I was helping my 8 year-old son Daniel get ready for worship, he asked me a question. "Did you know I have A.S. (Aspberger's Syndrome)?" I know he brought this up because sometimes this causes him to have a hard time getting ready. I said, "Yes, did you know I have A.D.D. (Attention Deficit Disorder)?" Daniel said, "Mom says my A.S. is very mild, and that other kids have it in different ways." He also said, "I heard and illustration about A.D.D! It's like when a person explains, 'Yes, I struggle with something they....'Hey, look a blue jay!'" Then Daniel laughed. Then I laughed. "You are a very smart boy," I said.

Later that day I talked to my son about our situations. I wanted to let him know that just because we have been diagnosed with something didn't mean we were going to allow that diagnosis to become a crutch. Instead it was going to serve as helpful awareness. Now that we have had someone to help identify our obstacles, we were going to be more educated and determined to overcome them. My son was diagnosed last summer and his case is very mild and not very similar to the majority of children who struggle with A.S. I found out as an adult that I had A.D.D. At times it has been a challenge to my ministry. People want and need my attention. They want me to listen to them without distraction. Sometimes I still fail people miserably.

God has created each one of us in a very special way. Our genetics are different. Our personalities are different. Our backgrounds are different. Our talents are different. The human race is intriguing and variegated beyond our understanding. In this we find the beauty and majesty of God. Our weaknesses and struggles only remind us of our need to depend on God and support one another. These weaknesses also keep us humble - a very healthy reminder for Christians who have had their sins washed away and who are on their way to heaven. If you are saved, lest you be exalted above measure, God may allow there to be a thorn in your flesh. This thorn remains to help you remember that His grace is sufficient. This world is not the place of perfection. But Jesus is preparing that place.

In a time where everything is seemingly a diagnosis, we should not be afraid of what we may learn about ourselves. We can all be diagnosed with something. Our weaknesses give us no excuse to sin or be lazy or fail to contribute to a kingdom that cannot be shaken. Just remember that the person sitting next to you is imperfect. They need God. They need a Savior. They need the church. When it comes to being a part of the church that Jesus built, no perfect people need apply.

It is in Christ alone that our hope is found. He is our light, our strength, and our song. I look at my each one of my children and I see them as wonderful, special, beautiful - a creation of God just as God pleased, and an amazing gift to my wife and myself. I imagine that God sees each of us that way. He is waiting for us to trust in Him to lead us through our weaknesses and into the way everlasting. We can do all things through Christ who is our strength!

"Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong." ~ 2 Corinthians 12:10

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Know Your Directory

I remember when I was a kid, there use to be a song on Sesame Street entitled, "Who are the People in your Neighborhood?" If you know the song, you are probably singing the tune in your head right now. If you were to answer the question of that song in the twenty-first century culture, I am guessing your answer would probably be, "I don't know," or "I'm not sure," or, "I know a couple of people but not many."

We used to live in a world where we had time for our neighbors. We used to spend moments talking and sharing and being a part of each other's lives. But today, we don't even know half of the people in our church family! If you are in a larger congregation you might find yourself on a particular Sunday introducing yourself to someone who you think is visiting who in turn will tell you that they have been worshiping in the same church that you attend for the last twenty years!

This week I am with my wife and kids in Greenbrier, Arkansas, and we are staying with my grandparents. I am preaching a gospel meeting at the Greenbrier church of Christ where they attend. My grandparents have been a part of this congregation since 1979. Yesterday at breakfast my grandmother was going through the directory and telling my wife about the church. They have over 250 members in the directory. She knew every face, every name, and could tell a great deal about every person. This conversation and directory review went on for quite a while. My grandmother even knew the spiritual condition of each person she discussed with my wife. I was fascinated.

You may think, well she has been there for 33 years, she ought to know. But do you know everyone in your congregation? The reason my grandmother knows is because she has been doing more than showing up on Sundays. She has taught Bible classes here for 33 years. She is involved in every single work that goes on in the church. She does extra on top of that. Every day her life is about the church. I am not saying this to brag on her. I am simply stating that those who want to do something will find a way to do it, and those who don't want to do something will find an excuse.

As a preacher, I realize I need to know my church family. I need to work harder every day to be involved in the lives of my spiritual family. Do you want a preacher who knows you? Do you want elders who know you? I think you do. If such is the case, then you also need to make your best effort to know everyone else. Take the the first step and memorize your church directory. Find out who these people are. They are your spiritual family. They are going to heaven with you, and they may need your support. If you know who the people in your neighborhood are, your neighborhood will be a happier place in which to live. If you know the people in your spiritual family, then the church will be a happier place as well.

"I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own." ~ John 10:14