beautiful wedding bouquet

The Glory of a Godly Woman

Yesterday, my wife and I were essentially incapacitated. Both of us were suffering with some sort of food poisoning. I won’t go into the graphic details, but just know that it was absolutely awful. Praise God that we are feeling much better today. Also, we would like to thank everyone who prayed for us and offered to help us yesterday. We felt very loved.

My wife definitely had worse symptoms than I did. Despite this fact, she did not grumble or complain when I told her I needed to lie down. Never once did she get upset with me yesterday. Instead, she constantly checked in on me, made sure I was taking medicine, and wasn’t overexerting myself. She has done these things in the past when I was sick, but never have we both been this sick at the same time. I was overwhelmed by God’s glory and grace shining through her.

Proverbs 31:10-12 says this about my wife:

An excellent wife who can find?
She is far more precious than jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good, and not harm,
all the days of her life.

In some Christian circles, especially at Christian universities, the search for a godly wife is more of a joke than an earnest prayer before God. In fact, Proverbs 31 has become a source of banter among young Christian men and women. I don’t know if it is still popular, but I remember #P31Success being a popular hashtag when I was in school.

Young men in Christ, be serious in the search for a woman who fears the Lord. One day when you are sick as a dog and your mom and dad aren’t there to take care of you, you are going to wish you had married a Proverbs 31 woman. And because marrying a beautiful woman is such a top priority for many of you, let me just say this: I have never met a truly godly woman who was not exceedingly beautiful. If your main goal is to be with the “hottest” girl on campus, man, you’ve lost before the race has even begun.

And MacKenzie, if you are reading this, I want you to know how thankful I am to be your husband. I know full and well that I have done nothing to deserve you or the beautiful little girl you brought into this world. I love you with all of my heart.

picture of crooked house

Crooked Teeth and Other Things Out of Place

If you have ever hung a painting before, you know how good it feels to finally get it level and at the right height. Similarly, there is something so gratifying about organizing a closet or a kitchen cabinet. We tend to be more at peace when everything is in its proper place. Recently, I have noticed myself becoming anxious when there is a pile of dishes in the sink or a scattering of my daughter’s toys on the floor. I can usually resolve these issues in a matter of minutes. Other things take much more time.

Straightening teeth, for example, takes much longer than cleaning the house. It is also far more painful and traumatic. I, myself, have never had braces–my teeth are fairly crooked. Before I became a Christian, this was a major source of insecurity for me. I would often cut my smiles or laughing short to prevent someone from possibly pointing out a snaggletooth. Now that in am in Christ, I do not carry this burden any longer. I now understand that my crooked teeth testify to the fact that this world is not right. Things are not the way God created them to be. Like an impacted tooth, every atom is growing in sideways, waiting to be made new. Listen to what Paul says about this is his letter to the Romans.

Romans 8:19; 22-23 “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God…For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”

All of creation realizes that there is something wrong, something off, so to speak. Ultimately, the problem boils down to humanity’s sin. Our hearts are crooked, ladies and gentlemen. We long to sink our heart’s crooked teeth into the proverbial forbidden fruit. But, there is no orthodontist in the universe that can fix the crookedness of the heart. I don’t know of any dentists who have raised the spiritually dead (Perhaps, there are some Christian dentists who have raised the physically dead). Sinners need more than a dentist; we need a Savior.

Jesus Christ is that Savior. Not only did He straighten crooked spines and raise the dead to life, He laid down His perfect life that the scoliosis of our souls would be healed. Praise the Lord that even though I still have crooked teeth, my soul has been made clean and new!

And one day, I will even have new teeth (verse 23)!

Books on a Shelf

Like Books on a Shelf

As I sit here in my living room in front of our bookshelf, I am reminded of all of the books I have said I am going read, yet have never taken the time to even read the first page. They remain untouched, and I’m convinced, without fear of ever being used at this point. I suppose they have become quite comfortable up there on the shelf, I mean, it looks nice and cozy to me. In many ways, it seems like somewhat of a peaceful existence–to never have anything demanded or expected of you.

I find that this is how many American Christians live their lives. Day after day, we remain comfortable there on the shelf, surrounded by others who make us feel “nice and cozy.” Sure, we have been cataloged into the family of God; we are in the right place. But, are we fulfilling our purpose as living epistles (2 Corinthians 3:2)? We bear witness to God’s power to save and transform lives. We, as new creatures in Christ, all have a story to tell.

In fact, we have been called to be different from the “other books” we are accustomed to. These books might be more popular in the world’s eyes, but in the end, they have no hope to offer in this life or the life to come. As Christians, we don’t wait to be “checked out of the library” or for people to get around to reading us. We jump off the shelves and preach the message that is inside of us to whomever will listen. Imagine a book that is so excited to share its contents that it cannot, for lack of a better term,  shut up.

Jesus is calling us off of the shelves, brothers and sisters, and into the hands of the lost. There is a possibility that we may be discarded or even ripped to shreds. But know this: the world can destroy our outside covers, but it will never change the truth of what God has done within us. Ultimately, it is God’s Word, not ours, that the world truly rejects. May this encourage you as you seek to serve the Author of Salvation wherever you are.

 

cross at the beach

The Prayer I Pray Most Often

In recent days, I have noticed myself praying one specific prayer more than any other–“God, help me!” I find myself asking God for His help all the time in this season of life. Two years ago, we were living in the US, but now we live on the other side of the world. Two years ago, I had no problems or difficulties going to the grocery store, paying bills, or simply communicating with people. Now, all of these things are hard; they can be both mentally and emotionally exhausting. Learning a new language and culture requires dedication and perseverance. Becoming a father is wonderful and rewarding, yet it is a huge responsibility. I know that in my own strength, I can’t do any of these things well. So, I plead for God’s help.

You may be asking, “what do you mean by help?” I am referring to the mighty power and enabling of God Almighty. Jesus said in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches.  If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” Notice that Jesus says the word “nothing.” Many times pastors and missionaries will talk about this verse in terms of service and ministry, but I have found it to be true in every aspect of life. Some mornings I find myself praying “Lord, help me just to get out of bed this morning.” The Christian life cannot be lived out in human strength and effort. We need the Holy Spirit to fill us each and every day (Ephesians 5:18). We need Him to empower us that we might be His witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). I love that Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as “the Helper” in John 14:16. He was sent to help us!

Often times, I sound like the father of the boy with the unclean spirit: “Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief.” (I need His help in simply believing at times.) According to His lovingkindness, He has always answered this prayer. He has always helped me. Maybe not in the way that I wanted or expected, but always in the way that I needed, in the way that strengthened my faith.

So, when you don’t know what to pray, pray that God would help you to know. When you don’t know what to do in the midst of a trial, pray that God would help you and give you wisdom. When you don’t feel like serving others or sharing your faith, pray for God’s help in changing your heart and attitude. This isn’t some sort of magical prayer. It is simply one that recognizes that He is God and we are not.

Are you zealous or jealous?

For those of us in ministry, it is easy to compare ourselves and our ministries with others, especially in the age of Facebook and Instagram. Many times we become jealous of those who seem to be having more success in their ministry than we are. But, we know this is wrong, so what do we do? We mask it with zeal. Let me explain.

The word zeal involves having an eagerness or enthusiasm “in pursuit of something.” This sounds good at face value, but it is important to note that not all zeal is good zeal. Only zeal that produces the fruit of the Spirit in our lives is good. Remember that the Apostle Paul, before he came to know Christ, was “zealous” about terrorizing Christians (Philippians 3:6)! Paul, addressing Israel’s unbelief, describes this type of zeal in Romans 10:1-3.

Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 

It is clear that zeal, in the life of the believer, needs to be grounded in the knowledge of the righteousness of God. Christians are to be zealous for good works (Titus 2:14). We should be zealous in our desire to preach the Gospel and love our neighbors as ourselves. And we should be zealous in our daily pursuit of God (Psalm 42:1).

With that being said, I am afraid that sometimes we pretend to be zealous when we are, in fact, harboring jealousy towards our brothers and sisters in Christ. This manifests itself quite often on social media. I, myself, have been guilty many times of posting things that make me look good knowing that I was doing it only as a response to hearing about how God is blessing the work of a friend. In one-on-one conversations, I have even exaggerated about personal ministry experiences to “keep up” with others who are simply reporting the amazing work of God in their lives.  We may write or say “praise the Lord” or “glory be to God,” but in our hearts we are saying, “PRAISE ME! GIVE ME THE GLORY!” This isn’t biblical zeal; it is worldliness. Biblical zeal aims to give God every ounce of glory for the growth, success, and fruit in our ministries not just with our mouths, but with pure hearts and clear consciences (Psalm 24:3-4).

Zeal is beautiful when it is pure and rooted in knowledge. Jesus demonstrated zeal for His Father’s house when He overturned the money changer’s tables inside the temple (John 2:13-17). This should go without saying, but brothers and sisters in Christ, don’t start chasing people around with whips, figurative or literal ones. We are not Jesus. However, know that true zeal for God may mean we lose popularity and suffer persecution for Christ’s namesake.

So, where do you stand? Are you often jealous of those around? Do you get tired of waiting on the Lord to produce visible fruit, so you try to fabricate some of your own? Is your zeal for God sometimes just a facade for your jealousy? If you have answered yes to any of these questions, welcome to the club. Thankfully, the Gospel isn’t just for those we are trying to reach, it is for us, too. Remember fellow ministers of the Gospel, we serve a holy and righteously jealous God, meaning that He will not share His glory with another, not even us (Isaiah 42:8). And when we choose unrighteous jealousy over holy zeal, we rob Him of the praise due His name.