God’s Design for the Christian Heart

Have you ever watched a designer at work? I have had many occasions to watch my husband at work as a builder. However, before he ever begins to build, he fully designs the project in his mind. Once he thoroughly knows the design, he meticulously works at the drawing table to create every detail of the design before he ever lifts a finger to build. Then, and only then, he begins to build – and he only builds according to that design.

Have you ever thought that God has a design for your heart? You may wonder why He chooses to work on the heart. Scripture teaches that every action that we make, every word that we speak, and even every thought that we think comes from the heart. In essence, the whole of our life is directed by the heart.

However, the human heart has a great problem. Because of the Fall described in Genesis 3, sin entered the human heart. The human heart fell from perfect communion with God to a self-focused, selfish life. Make no mistake. The selfishness make take shape in the form of the most terrible sins that one could imagine or it may take form in pride and self-exaltation that may be manifested in a variety of ways. But no matter where along this spectrum that self manifests itself, it is still a fallen human heart. Scripture describes the human heart as deceitful above all things and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9).

Our gracious and holy God came to earth in the person of Jesus Christ to forgive sin by His death on the cross, but He also came to give the one who has trusted in Him a new heart. And, praise be to our God and Father, He has already designed what the heart of the Christian will be.

We must remember that what the Father is doing is two-fold. He is removing the the fallen human heart controlled by sin and self and is creating a new heart in the Christian. What will this new heart be like? How has God designed it to be? In essence, God has designed the new heart to be just like His! But how can we know the heart of God? We can know the heart of God because it has been revealed in the Scriptures.

Listen to the Scriptures as the saints of old describe God:

Moses in Numbers 14:18 says: The Lord is long-suffering and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty …

The psalmist in Psalm 86:15 declares: But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, long-suffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.

David in Psalm 145:8 proclaims: The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion, slow to anger, and of great mercy.

Nehemiah as he prays in Nehemiah 9:17: But thou art a God ready to pardon, gracious, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness …

There are other passages as well. Those Old Testament saints knew their God. They called out to Him and trusted Him to act because of Who He is. But they also knew God’s heart, because God Himself had made it known.

In Exodus 33, in a beautiful exchange between God and Moses, Moses finally begs God to show him His glory. Chapter 34 continues as God Himself places Moses in the cleft of the rock, and covers him with His hand, as He passes by and declares the name of the Lord: The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious and long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.
And in response, Moses bowed before Him and worshipped.

These saints of old had come to know God – as He had revealed Himself to be.

What happens then in the New Testament? Jesus Christ, the Messiah, is born and the Scriptures declare that God now lives among us in the Person of Jesus. We can read the gospels to see the heart of Jesus. How often the Scriptures describe Him of being full of compassion.

Hebrews 1:3 describes Jesus as: the brightness of God’s glory and the express image of His person.

In other words, the Scripture is teaching that Jesus is exactly like and is God.

Jesus even declares of Himself in John 14:9: If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father.

Now let us take a look at the Holy Spirit. What is it that is produced by the Holy Spirit?
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith meekness, temperance (Galatians 5:22).
The fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth
. (Ephesians 5:9).

Now, we are beginning to see our God. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all one. They are the same. Did you notice how the descriptions of them parallel so closely?

But let us return to our first question. What is God’s design for the Christian heart? As has already been mentioned, He has designed our new heart to be like His!  At the Creation, man had a perfect, sinless heart. He had been made in the image of God. After the Fall, sin entered and every human being that has ever been born has been born with that fallen human heart. But God does an amazing work when He saves someone. Colossians 3:10 teaches us that the new man is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him. Did you see the connection? Originally man was created in God’s image and after salvation a person is renewed after His image! What a glorious blessing!

When Jesus first began preaching, in His first recorded sermon, the Sermon on the Mount, He describes the heart of the ones who have entered the kingdom of heaven. Listen to the description of their heart. Poor in spirit (empty of self), mourning (grieving when have sinned), meek (humble under God’s hand, not self-assertive), hungering and thirsting after true righteous, merciful, pure in heart, peacemaker, rejoicing even in persecution. Do you see the parallels to God’s own heart?

Do you recall the fruit that the Spirit will be producing in the Christian’s heart? Love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and self-control, along with goodness, righteousness, and truth. Can you see the design of the Christian heart is to have a heart like God Himself?  And, of course, we know that it is a human impossibility. The Christian can only live in that way when the Holy Spirit lives within, and the believer walks in the Spirit of God.

Listen how the Apostle Paul exhorts the believers at Ephesus to walk worthy … with all lowliness, and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love. Can you see the same characteristics of the heart?

Paul in writing to the Colossians says:  Put on therefore , as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering, forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.

The New Testament is full of exhortations for the Christian to walk in a way that honors our Lord.

Oh, my friend, can you see God’s design for the Christian heart? The Master Designer planned it from the beginning … that we would be conformed to the image of Christ!

Now let us look at these truths in a very practical manner. It is quite evident that, apart from God Himself doing this work in us, it will be an absolute impossibility. The ultimate goal for the Christian is that we glorify the Father in heaven. How is that done? In the simplest form, it means that you reflect Him as He truly is! In your daily interactions with God Himself and with those around you, your words, deeds, and thoughts simply reflect God as He is because He lives within you. Your life is no longer about self. It is about your Father in heaven.

Now for the tests … How much of your Christian life is spent alone with the Father in true fellowship with Him as opposed to doing “spiritual” things to be admired by your own self or by others?

And how do you interact with others? How do you speak to others? Perhaps the most revealing test is not how you speak to or about others in Christian circles? But how do you speak to your husband? And how do you speak to your children? Jesus said your words reveal your heart. What is found in your own heart? Do you have a heart like God?

I recently had to ask myself all of these same questions as the Lord began speaking to me, saying that He wants all of my heart. Daily I see thoughts, words, and deeds that I must turn away from. Truly, my self must die daily, so that the Spirit of God may rule my heart, and thus, my life.

I return in my thoughts to the Master Designer of the Christian heart. He has specifically and carefully designed the Christian heart to be a reflection of Him.  To God be the glory!

 

O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
Romans 11:33

The Goodness of Affliction

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The goodness of affliction. Goodness? Affliction? Those two ideas always seem contrary to one another. How is it even conceivable that suffering or troubles, whether from circumstance or people, could, for even a moment, be considered good?

Affliction is addressed in many places throughout the Bible. In Psalm 119 alone, the psalmist refers to affliction repeatedly:
Verse 67 states: Before I was afflicted, I went astray …
And then verse 71 makes an amazing statement: It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.
And finally in verse 75, the psalmist praises the Lord for His faithfulness:
I know, O Lord, that Thy judgments are right, and that Thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me.

And it is these verses that have stirred in my heart and mind for the last couple of months – since I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I can humbly say that the Lord is making these verses real in my life.

Very soon after my diagnosis, the Lord began speaking to my heart saying that He wants ALL of me. I discussed this with my husband, and he asked me what the Lord wanted me to do. But I explained to him that though there may be something that the Lord wants me to do in the future, right now what He was saying was that He wants ALL of me … that He wants ALL OF MY HEART!

I had no idea of the path that the Lord had prepared for me, but I can, in all honesty, say that before I was afflicted I went astray, that it has been good for me that I have been afflicted that I might learn His statutes, and that in His faithfulness He had afflicted me.

How did He bring this about?
Before I was diagnosed with cancer, the church had asked me to lead a ladies group on the study of the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5-7. After discussing the request with my husband and the pastor, we agreed that I would serve in that capacity, although the study was not scheduled to begin until the fall, which would be several months later. I felt so unqualified and began to pray regarding the study. Then along came the cancer, with appointments, procedures, biopsies, surgeries, and more.

I had “still” time, and quite a bit of it. I had told my husband that though I had this illness, I still needed to use my time well. Therefore, I “decided” to begin studying the Sermon on the Mount in preparation for the fall study. There are inadequate words to describe what the Lord has done in my heart. Yes, although I have been a Christian for over 30 years, I saw that before I was afflicted, I went astray, and indeed, the Lord wanted all of my heart.

It is impossible to explain, in one writing, the depths of the truths that the Lord has been showing me, but with His guidance I will attempt to summarize the path that I have been on. This path was not trodden in one day. I have been weeks and months in these truths. May the Lord Himself show forth His truth!

As I began to study this sermon, I saw that the Lord was teaching His disciples and that these truths are true for every child of His throughout all generations. It was as if He was speaking directly to me! Remember, He had shown me that He wanted ALL of my heart, and He lovingly laid it all out before me.

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Poor in spirit. Humble. Emptied of self. Broken, knowing that in my self I have nothing to offer God. I can only fall before Him, pleading for mercy. That is how everyone who has entered the kingdom of heaven entered, but I must REMAIN humble in heart. How easily pride slips in, and how often the enemy causes one to lift himself up in pride. How many times do I look down on others with criticism and silently pat my own self on the back? Pride and arrogance have no place in the life of a child of God. How often the Scripture exhorts the child of God to humility! Indeed, I had gone astray. And yes, the Lord wanted ALL of my heart!

Blessed are those who mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Mourning. What is this mourning? When one comes before the Lord poor in spirit, he will of necessity mourn over his sin as he sees how far short he falls. But do I continue to mourn when I sin? How often do I compromise without any remorse? How quickly I justify and excuse sin. How complacent am I when worldliness begins to creep into my heart? How readily do I accept my flesh responses to situations or people? It is all still sin! I must remain poor in spirit, grieving to the point that I confess to Him. There He is faithful and just to forgive, and there I am comforted. Yes, indeed, I had gone astray. I had allowed sin to settle in my heart. And the Lord wanted ALL of my heart for Himself.

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Meekness. How I have come to love this word! What is meekness? Meekness is not easy to describe. It seems that there isn’t a good word in the English language that defines meekness, nor is it something that is seen readily in our culture. Meekness comes following being poor in spirit and mourning. Meekness is a place of surrender to God, and a calm assurance rests in the heart of the child of God that she is His child and that He cares for her perfectly, only acting in goodness toward her. What this calm assurance produces is peace within the heart. The amazing effect of this meekness is that no matter the difficult circumstance and no matter the problem the difficult person may bring, God is in control of it all, and I can rest in Him. But besides the wonderful, confident rest and peace that meekness brings, it also prevents certain behaviors in my life. It will prevent one from retaliating, from lashing out, from storing up resentment and bitterness in the heart. It is not self-centered, nor self assertive. The effect of meekness is all because the child of God is trusting every situation and circumstance in the hands of her Heavenly Father. Yes Lord, without any exceptions, You want ALL of my heart!

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
All of these qualities described in the Beatitudes are qualities of the heart, and so is this hunger and thirst. What are the desires of the heart? What do I truly hunger and thirst for? Is it God’s own righteousness? Is it all the things that God says is true and right? Do I have a deep desire to reflect Him as He truly is? Or do I settle comfortably into my own ways? As the world insidiously creeps in, do I find myself seeking worldly things and worrying about such? The heart moves away from hungering and thirsting for God, and settles for some worldly endeavor rather than seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Even busyness in doing “good” things can interfere and subtly change hunger and thirst for Him to desires for other activities. And, there again, I saw that surely I had gone astray. And, most importantly, that God wants ALL of my heart for Himself.

What I was beginning to see is that God wants my heart to consistently remain with Him. He wants me to continually humble myself before Him. He wants me to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s conviction and guidance, confessing when I fail. He wants me to remain meek and trust every circumstance of my life to Him, without reacting in a fleshly manner. And He wants me to continually seek Him above all else.

All of those heart qualities are directly related to my relationship to Him, and I am eternally grateful that He gives His children His own Holy Spirit to comfort, guide, and enable us. For apart from Him, we can do nothing!

I had been so convicted and humbled as I examined my heart and my relationship with God in the light of these truths. But my examination was not over. God now turned the focus to my relationship with others and my heart toward them.

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall receive mercy.
The first quality of the heart toward others addressed by the Lord is mercy. Why is that such an important quality to find in the heart of the believer? I believe that when a person has truly experienced the mercy of God, the very mercy of God must be manifested through him as he turns toward others. Apart from being merciful to others, I can never reflect the Father as He truly is. I had to face some tough questions. How often did I look at others with a critical spirit toward them rather than one of mercy and compassion? How often did I truly lift those same people up to the Father in prayer, that they may come to know Him and experience His mercy? God says His mercies are new every morning. Did I consistently and faithfully reflect the mercy of God? Oh, how short I fall. How desperately I desire for the Lord to take ALL of my heart.

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
I cannot even begin to speak regarding purity of heart. I cannot even imagine the blessing that it would be to truly be pure in heart. A pure heart. Pure thoughts. Pure motives. Serving the Lord purely, sincerely, and in singleness of heart at all times! The human heart is a desperately wicked heart, deceitful above all things, as the Scripture declares. Yet, our loving God says that He gives the believer a new heart, a heart that is like His own! How humbling, that God would be so gracious to any one of us. I understand the cry of the Psalmist: Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me. Lord, only You can do this in me!

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Peacemakers. My whole life is to be an ambassador for Christ. My life is to be about reaching out to others that they may be reconciled to God. And then, as I interact with others, am I a peacemaker? Or do I find myself guilty of stirring envy and strife? Do I gossip? Or do I speak with words to edify and minister grace? Am I a part of healing relationships? Do I forgive? Am I truly a peacemaker? Again, I will trust the Father to change this heart to make it all He desires it to be! Truly, He wants ALL of my heart!

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
If someone is growing in all of those attitudes of the heart revealed in the Beatitudes, doesn’t it seem as though he would be respected? The Scripture indicates otherwise. It says he will be persecuted, insulted, and falsely accused. Yet, the believer is to rejoice – to rejoice in the Lord! It is an honor to be counted worthy to suffer for Him, and great is the reward in heaven!

I have only given a quick glimpse into these Beatitudes, but the truths are deeper and higher than we can fully comprehend. The Lord has just begun showing me what He means by wanting ALL of my heart. He wants it for Himself. He wants to dwell there. He wants me to be conformed to His image.

Yes, slowly over time I had gone astray. I was like the church of Ephesus described in Revelation who had left her first love. God always call me to repent – to turn back to Him. And there I find the same gracious, merciful, forgiving Father as when I first believed.

I am still studying the Sermon on the Mount, and will likely be here for some time. I still have another surgery ahead of me, and I know that the Lord has much more for me to learn on this cancer journey, but right now, He is teaching me that it is good that I have been afflicted because He is truly bringing my heart back to Him!  Yes, My Lord wants all of me.  He wants all of my heart.  And if you are His child, He wants all of your heart, too!

It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.
Psalm 119:71

I know, O Lord, that Thy judgments are right, and that Thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me.
Psalm 119:75

An Unexpected and Uncertain Journey

Vacations. Travels. Journeys. Most of us look forward with eager anticipation to the journeys of life that are on the horizon. We plan, pack, and thoroughly prepare for the journey ahead. But in life, we sometimes find ourselves on a completely unexpected journey, one that we had never planned to take.

Such is where we find ourselves in this season of life. Having recently been diagnosed with breast cancer, there is an unexpected and uncertain journey that lies ahead for my husband and I. Where this journey will ultimately lead, only our Lord and Heavenly Father know for sure. However, as unplanned as this journey is on our end, I see that the Lord is preparing our hearts and packing all that we need for this journey.

The first truth for the journey – ASSURANCE. As we received the diagnosis, I was immediately reminded in my heart that I am not my own, I have been bought with a price – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. What assurance it brings when you know of a certainty that you belong to God. Because you have been redeemed (bought by the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross) you are a child of the Living and Almighty God, and as such, your perfect Heavenly Father will care for you on every step of this unexpected and uncertain journey. From that assurance comes great rest and peace. Nothing else, nor anyone on this Earth, can give that kind of rest and peace. I know I will need to rest in the loving arms of my Father throughout this uncertain journey.

Interestingly, the second item for this journey is something that I am not allowed to bring with me. I thought about my travels to visit my son and his family overseas. There were certain items that I was never allowed to pack. Such would be the case on this journey. God spoke very clearly to my heart that I am not to bring FEAR with me. Fear is the natural and understandable reaction to the news that you have cancer. But immediately the Lord began bringing Scriptures to mind to FEAR NOT! As I took a concordance and walked through the Scriptures, over and over God’s people were instructed, yes commanded, to fear not. In addition, God gave the reason that they were not to fear. The overwhelming reason was that HE was their God and that HE was with them. I spent many hours in those Scriptures, with a greater and greater understanding of why fear should not be in my life. I believe Isaiah 41:10 explains it best: Fear not, for I am with you: be not dismayed; for I am your God: I will strengthen you; yea, I will help you; yea, I will uphold you with the right hand of My righteousness. Again the reason that I am not to fear is because He is my God, and He has said that He will strengthen me, help me, and sustain me. He has also said that He will never leave me nor forsake me. Faith, in its very essence, is knowing what God has said and trusting Him to do what He has said. Therefore, I must walk by faith, and not by sight. He has said: Fear not, therefore my heart’s response to Him is: I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me! I know of a certainty that fear will want to creep into this journey because fear is such a strong, natural human emotion, from which I am not exempt. But I also know of a certainty that the Lord does not want fear on this journey. I will trust His grace to help me walk there day by day.

The third item the Lord prepared in my heart for this journey is CALLING. Every true believer should know his calling in life. It is God Himself who calls, equips, and places one where he is to serve. God has called me to Himself to be a child of His. That calling will not change – not on this upcoming journey, nor on any journey in this life, nor throughout eternity.

Secondly, God has called me to be the wife of one man – my precious husband. During our 39 years of marriage God has taught me much about being a wife, help, and companion to this one man. That calling will not change. I am to continue in this calling in every way that I am able, even through the ups and downs of the journey. As the Lord began to cement this in my heart, there was one day that I wanted to mope around. The Lord gently reminded my heart that I wasn’t having a mastectomy TODAY, and that I wasn’t having radiation TODAY, and that I wasn’t having chemotherapy TODAY, so what was I going to do TODAY? My heart’s response was: I am going to be David’s wife today! With that truth, I set about having a blessed day. Since that day, I have been frequently reminded to just continue to be David’s wife. That is my place in this life and that will not change. I was reminded of a portion of our wedding vows: in sickness and in health. That vow must be true, not only to the kind of husband David will be to me, but the kind of wife I am to be to him. Additionally, the Lord has called me to stay under my husband’s leadership (headship) as I trust the Lord with every step of this journey. The Lord has spent years teaching me to see the goodness of God in following a husband’s leadership. That, too, must not change. God had called me as David’s wife, and all that that means shall not change for as long as we both shall live.

And the third part of my calling in this life – As a Christian, God places us in the body of Christ. There He gifts us and equips us to serve one another for edification – to build up the body of Christ. That calling would not change either. Though it seems that I fail at this so often, I am still to be about encouraging fellow believers. Yes, there could be such a tendency to shut oneself away from all others, but that is not God’s design. Everyone has times of struggles, trials, hardships, and difficulties. No one is exempt. It is part of the fallen world in which we live. But as fellow believers, we are to encourage one another, pray for one another, comfort one another, help one another, and love one another. This calling would not change. As I walk through this unexpected and uncertain journey ahead, as God Himself faithfully sustains me, I am to encourage others facing the struggles of life. By sharing truth and proclaiming His faithfulness, may I be found true to that calling, as well.

So in all three of these, to God Himself, to my precious husband, and to fellow believers, may I be constantly reminded: the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable – Romans 11:29. Those things will not change.

I know this is only the beginning of this unexpected journey as God prepares my heart for this path. When one looks at our situation with earthly eyes, it seems as if there is a one way path ahead, from which we cannot turn away. Above this path is a dark and ominous cloud encapsulating the word “Cancer”. Earthly eyes would see that only darkness lies ahead on that path, but that CANNOT be so for the Christian because God is already ahead of us on the path, and of a necessity light must be there because God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.  

I know that I understand nothing yet of the path that lies ahead, but I know the God in whom I have believed. I have been reminded of words penned by Daniel W Whittle in one of his well-known hymns. I close for now, as I share those meaningful words with you.

Refrain:
But “I know Whom I have believed,

And am persuaded that He is able

To keep that which I’ve committed

Unto Him against that day.”

Am I “On Task”?

The Father's Business

I recently decided to read through the gospels in a Chronological Bible, paying special attention to the words of Jesus.  The question on my heart was: In Jesus’ life here on Earth, what, exactly, was He teaching?

And so, my reading began.  I was reminded of all of the miraculous occurrences and fulfillment of so many prophecies in the narration regarding Jesus’ birth.  Then, at the age of twelve years old, we find Him in the temple, amazing the doctors with His spiritual understanding (Luke 2:46-49).  The first recorded words that we find of our Lord as He lived His life here on Earth was, in essence:  Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?

From the moment of recorded Scripture of Jesus’ life here on Earth, we find that He was about His Father’s business.  My mind stayed there for a few moments, and then was carried to the last recorded words of our Lord here on this Earth.  In Luke 23:30, as Jesus hung on the cross, just before He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost, He said: It is finished!

What was it that was finished? …  The Father’s business – that work which the Father had given Him to do.  I reflected for some while on that truth.  What exactly was the Father’s business, and what was it that Jesus had finished? …  It was, in actuality, the redemption of mankind!

My thought went from there to my own Christian life.  It is so easy to get distracted or weighted down, often encumbered by many things.  It was then that I was reminded that all of what the Father calls us to is still about redemption.

My life is meant to impact others.  My life is meant to bring others to Christ. My life is still meant to be about the Father’s business – to be about redemption.

As a Christian, sometimes our eyes get on our self or our own “personal” Christian life, but what the Father actually calls us to is to represent Him (and His gracious redemption through His Son) to others – to our spouse, to our children, to all of the others that God brings across our path.

As I further contemplated these truths, it became so clear why I get so distracted. So often I find that the things upon which my time is spent are mere encumbrances or weights because they have nothing to do with redemption!

I am asking the Lord to help me weed the unfruitful things out of my life.  At the end of my life, I want to be able to say, as the Apostle Paul: I have finished my course!  I want to know that I have completed that which the Father had for me to do. I want to have spent my life “on task” and have been about my Father’s business.

Living in Grace 2015 – Reflections

imageHappy New Year!

The first day of a new year. I pulled the covers up tighter around my neck. I really didn’t even want to get out of bed. I lay there for a few moments, and then a thought passed through my mind. “Living in Grace.” Hmmmm. I lay there a little longer and began thinking about grace. Grace was probably the most wonderful thing that I knew. It was what had given me spiritual life, and it was surely the only real way to live the Christian life.

Verses began to flow through my mind: For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: It is the gift of God. Ephesians 2:8. My grace is sufficient for you. 2 Corinthians 12:9. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16. Yes, grace was a truly marvelous thing. Again, I heard in my heart “Living in Grace.” I wondered why that thought had occurred to me again.

I rolled out of bed, and pondered as I went. I stepped into my sunroom, with the morning sun filtering through the frosty windows. Just then “Skip to My Lou” came to mind. Ha! I had to laugh! I had a friend that used to call me “Skip to My Lou” all the time. She said that no matter what happened (and I had had a number of hard circumstances), that I just kept “skipping” right through. Hmmm. I sure hadn’t been “skipping” lately. It seemed as if so many things were burdensome to me, and I did so many things out of obligation. Then, “Living in Grace” popped back in my mind. Not living BY grace, but living IN grace. I pondered the difference between the two.

It was then that an additional thought occurred to me …. On this first day of this new year, it seemed as if “Living in Grace” would be my theme for 2015. Hmmm. More pondering. Maybe, just maybe, the Lord wanted to restore that “skipping” to my life. I didn’t even know how I had lost it, but I had a deep desire to have it back.

I quietly prayed about these thoughts … open to know all the Lord wanted to teach me.

I began the day … Nothing monumental. I called my aging Mom to wish her a “Happy New Year”. I’m thankful for every year that the Lord gives to her. I texted my sister with the same greeting and wished my niece well as she departed for a long awaited trip to Spain, and I “facetimed” my son and his family across the Atlantic. I always loved to talk with them. I planned a special dinner for my husband, and I spent the rest of the day on what we so often consider the “mundane”. Cooking … Cleaning … Laundry … And such. But as I took care of those homemaking tasks, “Living in Grace” filled my thoughts. Lyrics to songs about grace entered my heart. The book of Galatians came to mind. As I considered certain Scriptures from Galatians, I knew I would search out those verses.

And so the day continued… again, nothing monumental. Simple day. Simple tasks. My home was in order; my husband was fed and quite content. We sat quietly by the fireplace as he read and I pondered. My heart was still. Living in the grace of God! And maybe, just maybe, I felt a little “skipping” return!

Am I a Pleasant Wife?

Pleasant Words

Several weeks had passed.  I had given a devotion on pleasant words, and we had discussed Proverbs 16:24:  Pleasant words are as a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and health to the bones.  Somehow those words kept ringing in my mind, along with a question: Am I a pleasant wife?  Because I could not shake the question, I decided to take a little self-examination, so I began to filter everything that I said through the “pleasant words” filter.  Were my words really pleasant ones?  Were they sweet to my husband’s soul? Did my words bring healing to him?

I knew that in the way that I spoke to my husband there were not angry nor bitter words; neither were there harsh nor loud words.  Certainly there were not sarcastic nor demeaning words.  Yet, I wasn’t so sure that they were “pleasant” words.

Through the years I had learned a number of scriptures that had greatly affected the way that I spoke to my husband:

It is better to dwell in the wilderness than with a contentious and an angry woman.  Proverbs 21:19

It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman in a wide house.  Proverbs 21:9

A continual dropping in a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike.  Proverbs 27:15

The contentions of a wife are a continual dropping.  Proverbs 19:13

A soft answer turns away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger.  Proverbs 15:1

Yes, I had learned many lessons through the years, and The Lord had worked many truths into my life and my manner of speaking, yet this question about “pleasant” words continued to press upon my heart.  What I discovered was that for me to be a pleasant wife, it would require even more of me.

Pleasant Words:  Pleasant words would be more than just not being angry or harsh.  Pleasant words would be agreeable and delightful. Pleasant words would be kind and gracious.  Indeed, they would be sweet words.

A Pleasant Attitude: Next, I found that a pleasant heart attitude would be a prerequisite for pleasant words to be spoken.  The Bible says that it is from the heart where our words flow, so I would need to keep a pleasant heart attitude toward my husband.  My words would surely reveal my heart.

A Pleasant Tone:  The next thing that I discovered was often my words themselves were fine, but I spoke with a short, and maybe even impatient, tone.  I heard that short tone come out far too often.  Sometimes, even an exasperated sigh spoke volumes.

Pleasant Facial Expressions:  And then there were the rolling of my eyes, the raised eyebrows, the scornful brow, and even glaring eyes which spoke loudly, even without words.  So, pleasant facial expressions were added to my list of needed changes.  Even though that may sound foolish, so much is communicated just by our facial expressions and body language. I knew it was important.

So, the self-examination was over, and I was pretty sure that I had not passed it.  I began to make a concerted effort to change those areas which The Lord had shown me, as I continued to pray for Him to help me truly speak pleasant words. Within days, I began to see a very positive change occur, not only in my words, but also in my husband’s reactions to me.

I must confess, I am still working toward speaking pleasant words and being a pleasant wife. As with any change, it comes one step at a time.  In this case, I guess the change will come one word at a time, one phrase at a time, one response at a time, but I truly do desire to be sweetness to my husband’s soul and health to his bones.

Pleasant words are as a honeycomb,

sweet to the soul,

and health to the bones.

Proverbs 16:24

The Mystery of Marriage

Great Mystery

… And they two shall be one flesh. Ephesians 5:31

God has painted a most beautiful picture of  life, as it is intended with Him, in the union of marriage.  God Himself chose marriage as the means of portraying this spiritual truth.  Marriage was neither designed nor instituted by mankind.  Neither can it be changed by mankind.

What was the great spiritual truth that God was portraying as He formed the man from the dust of the ground and then formed the woman from the man’s own rib?  What was the significance of God bringing the woman to the man and the two becoming one flesh?  And, very importantly, how can a Christian marriage aptly reflect these great truths?

One important observation that should be made by the one that believes and loves God’s Word is that this picture of marriage is found both at Creation in Genesis (Genesis 2:18-25) and in the closing chapters and verses of Revelation (Revelation 21:2,9; 22:17).  In the very beginning of the Bible, we find God creating a man and his bride.  At the very end of the Bible, we find the God-man, Christ Jesus, coming for His bride.  Perhaps we would not have the spiritual eyes to link the two truths, but the Apostle Paul sheds great light upon these truths in Ephesians 5.  As the Apostle was exhorting and instructing the believers at Ephesus in very practical ways that husbands and wives should treat one another, he uses Jesus Christ and the church as the example.  In his explanation of the proper relationship between a husband and wife, he says:  This is a great mystery:  but I speak concerning Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:32).  A mystery was that which could only be made known by divine revelation.  It was a truth that was hidden or covered until God Himself revealed it – at His appointed time.  The word mystery can be understood in the context of Colossians 1:26: Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to His saints.  In the same way, the Apostle Paul says that this mystery of marriage concerns Christ and the church.  As Christians, therefore, we should humble ourselves before the Lord asking that He help us understand this mystery which He has revealed in His Word.

God has chosen to demonstrate, in a visible way, the spiritual truth of Christ and the church.  And that visible demonstration is to be seen in marriage – in the relationship between a husband and wife.  For the Christian, this truth has tremendous implication as to how we are to respond to our own husband or to our own wife.  How often do we consider that our day-to-day functioning as husband and wife can bring much glory to the Lord, or actually cause His name to be blasphemed (Titus 2:5)? Let us consider a few parallels between God’s institution of marriage and Christ and the church.

–  Adam was formed first, then Eve (Genesis 2:7).  Christ was existent long before the church became His bride (Colossians 1:16-17).

–  God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, so that his bride could be taken from his side (Genesis 2:21).  It was through the death of Christ that the church was brought forth.  He was pierced in His side (John 19:34).

–  Adam called Eve bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh (Genesis 2:23).  Regarding Christ, the church is called members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones (Ephesians 5:30).

–  Just as God joined Adam and his wife into one flesh (Matthew 19:4-6), Christ and the church are joined into one flesh, as the believer becomes a member of His body (Ephesians 5:30).

–  Interestingly, the Scripture teaches that Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived (1 Timothy 2:14).  Similarly, Christ was not deceived, as He came and paid the sin debt for his bride (John 18:11).

–  Traditionally, a bride was bought with a dowry.  Christ bought and paid for His bride. For ye are bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20).

–  God brought the woman and gave her to Adam (Genesis 2:22).  A bride was traditionally given in marriage by her Father.  It is the Father that gives the church to Christ (John 18:9).

–  A bride traditionally gave up her identity and took the name and identity of her husband.  The Scripture teaches:  Male and female created He them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created (Genesis 5:2).  Likewise, the Christian should leave the old life behind and take upon the identity and name of her new Husband.  Listen to this beautiful analogy in the Psalms:  Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people, and thy father’s house; So shall the king greatly desire thy beauty: for he is thy Lord; and worship thou him (Psalm 45:10-11).

–  In marriage, God joins the two together (Mark 10:8-9).  In salvation, the believer is joined to the Lord (1 Corinthians 6:17).

–  As the marriage is consummated, the wife gives herself to the husband, and the husband comes in unto her.  In salvation, the believer gives herself to the Lord, and He, through the Holy Spirit, comes in unto her (Romans 8:9) .

–  The intimacy between a husband and wife should continue throughout their lives.  The intimate relationship between a believer and the Lord will continue throughout eternity (Revelation 21:2,3).

–  The husband and wife are to forsake all others and be faithful unto death (Romans 7:2).  The Lord has said that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).  The church is to forsake all else and be faithful unto death (Revelation 2:10).

–  The husband is to be the head, and the wife is to be a member of his body (Ephesians 5:23, 31).  Christ is the Head of the church, and the church, collectively, are members of His body (Ephesians 5:30).

–  The husband is to love the wife (Ephesians 5:25).  The wife is to respect her husband and arrange herself under his authority (Ephesians 5:24,33).  Christ loves the church with a perfect love, and the church is to respect and reverence Him and to arrange herself under His authority (Ephesians 5:24-25) For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.  This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.  Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.

Ephesians 5:31-33

We have lost much of the beauty of marriage.  It is a relationship as no other.  It is the relationship that God Himself has chosen to reveal the mystery of Christ and the church.  As those around us view our marriage, they should see a picture of Christ and His church – because God has chosen that relationship to reveal His truth.  May the Lord renew our minds and hearts that we may see our marriage as He sees it.  Then, may we guard carefully the beauty and the mystery of marriage.

For of Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things:

to whom be glory forever.

Amen
Romans 11:36