This morning, Evie and I continued our reading (okay, just my reading – she was asleep with me) in Ezekiel. But for a change, I decided to read something from the New Testament, too – and randomly decided on Hebrews 10.
This morning, Evie and I continued our reading (okay, just my reading – she was asleep with me) in Ezekiel. But for a change, I decided to read something from the New Testament, too – and randomly decided on Hebrews 10.
There hasn’t been a great deal of peace in our household of late. Although, I suppose a in house with two under three (a very spirited toddler, and a newborn), you might not expect there to be much.
In the period of adjusting to our new family dynamic, all of us have settled in well – except for Nathan, our son. The change in circumstances (understandably) impacted him significantly, and he was no longer reacting to discipline the same as usual, and wasn’t as much of his bubbly, confident self.
So, with a bit of observation, prayer, reading, and trial-and-error, we’ve now implemented a different form of discipline – with great success! We’ve done away with much of the yelling, tension and disconnect which was all too prevalent in this already challenging season. But, it wasn’t merely a new discipline technique which sprouted this newfound relief. That was only the by-product.
We Are Shepherds Of A Flock
In my quiet time yesterday I read through Ezekiel 34 – a prophecy against the shepherds of Israel. He condemns them for their selfish and neglectful ways:
“The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them”
and declares His sovereign care and devotion to His people:
“Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them.
I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep.”
(v. 11-12, 15b)
Children are God’s gift to parents, and in a sense we are ‘shepherds’ over them – caring for and nurturing them, tending to their needs, providing a home and relationships in which they can flourish and thrive.
In the text, the part about force and harshness hit me particularly hard – I know with Nathan’s ‘adjusting behaviour’ lately (read: exponential disobedience), I’ve found it hard to not become impatient and frustrated, speaking and acting out of that frustration – after all, I’m fallible and sinful, just as he is.
But then I read God’s promises, remembering that although I am an imperfect shepherd over my children, God is perfect – the Almighty shepherd of both our souls. And it is His devotion, His righteousness, upon which I seek to build a parenthood which imitates the way He loves and shepherds me.
And in a remarkably astounding (although not at all surprising) gift of His grace, I find myself with a newfound peace – permeating all of my being, striking down my fighting will, and cooling the temper which flares too easily. With less self-trust and more sight of God and His perfection, by the Holy Spirit’s power and leading I am enabled to give my son the love God gives to me. It is wonderful, it is selfless, and it is full of compassion, laughter and joy. Praise be to God!
“Let your gentleness be evident to all; The Lord is near.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Many people claim the Old Testament features an ‘angry God’ or a ‘different God to the one in the New Testament’, but I think this couldn’t be further from the truth. The whole bible is written by God, about Himself; and when we look at each book, chapter and verse through the lens of “what does this say about God/Jesus?”, our eyes are opened by His Spirit to see, know and enjoy more of Him. My quiet times have been a perfect example of this of late.
I’ve been slowly but surely returning to my readings in Ezekiel for my quiet times, and let me tell you – it’s not a bed-time read. There are few books in the bible like the Prophets: so immensely powerful, direct, and densely packed with stark reminders of who God is.
Ezekiel 16 is such a compelling chapter within this awe-inspiring book. It outlines God’s response to Jerusalem’s unfaithfulness, by comparing her to a prostitute. Not only that, He goes on to say:
“Was your prostitution not enough? You slaughtered (my) children and sacrificed them to idols.” (v. 20b-21);
“Samaria (and Sodom) did not commit half the sins you did. You have done more detestable things than they, and have made your sisters seem righteous by all these things you have done.” (v. 51)
The picture God paints of the desires, actions and consequences of the sins of Jerusalem is grotesque and shocking. No words are minced here – we see the full evil of sin through the lens of God’s absolute holiness.
And yet, even after centuries of contempt and unfaithfulness on the part of Israel, God still shows mercy!
“‘So I will establish my covenant with you, and you will know that I am the Lord. Then, when I make atonement for you for all you have done, you will remember and be ashamed and never again open your mouth because of your humiliation, declares the Sovereign Lord.’” (v. 62-63).
And reading this, I was reminded of some gentle words our Lord and Saviour spoke to a woman found guilty of adultery (and facing death as punishment):
“‘… neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.’”
Notice the title of this post refers to the ‘unfaithful’, not the ‘faithless’ – believers are never completely without faith, but the remnant of sin in us means we are still capable of unfaithfulness.
And yet, we have a God and Saviour so faithful, and at the same time, so holy and willing to save – despite our own imperfection and unfaithfulness! I find this so convicting, and so freeing – because this grace God extends to me, He extends to all people. Through our faith in Christ, our continued fight against sin, and knowing God more, we are conformed to the image and likeness of Christ. Praise God!
In my quiet time this morning I came across a comparison in Matthew 26 I hadn’t noticed before. This is why I’m adamant reading books of the bible multiple times is of such significant benefit to us – as we grow in knowledge and godliness, the Holy Spirit reveals new gems of wisdom to us in holy Scripture.
Jesus has just finished preaching about His second coming, the judgement; and the Passover is two days away. The chief priests and elders are plotting to kill him, and want to do so as soon as possible.
While Jesus was in the town of Bethany, in the home of a man named Simon (the leper), a woman came to Him and, as He reclined at the table, opened a magnificent alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, and anointed Him with it.
As she poured it over His head the disciples openly resented her for it, saying “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor”. But Jesus rebuked them, saying “She has done a beautiful thing to me… When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial.”
Now, the woman probably had no idea she was doing it in preparation for His upcoming burial – but God did. Our work means more in God’s plans than we often realise. And Jesus honours our faithfulness and generosity. Sometimes, what we think might be best in a situation might not actually be; but God always knows what’s best, and will always carry out His plans. Our job is to be as wise and obedient as we can be, doing all things through faith.
After this passage, it is briefly mentioned that Judas approaches the chief priests (who are trying to kill Jesus), and asks, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?”. They then proceed to count out a cost that was the equivalent of what a beast of burden (such as a donkey) was often sold for.
Judas was not willing to give up his own life to Christ – instead, he wanted to know, what could I have that would be better? He believed the lie that knowing Jesus Christ was not the best thing one could experience in life, and instead, sought out material riches to fulfill his soul.
What about you? If presented with the option, can you truly say that the glittering and clang of jewels and gold doesn’t appeal to your heart more than the gospel call of Christ?
Or, is this an ongoing struggle for you? Perhaps you find it hard to keep Christ as the Lord of your life, and find your heart competing with other idols for lordship. If this is so, be encouraged – take heart from the great faith of the woman who anointed Jesus. She saw no greater good than to honour her Lord with her best, and so it should be with us.
I might cop quite a bit of backlash for this post – or, some well-meaning comments from wishy-washy types who think it appropriate to take words from Scripture and extend them into meanings which feed their ego. Regardless, this is a topic I feel very strongly about – not only because it’s propaganda of a false title for Christians, it takes everything Jesus lived – and died for – and spits in His face.
We are NOT royalty
I can’t tell you how many times I have seen memes, statuses and even T-shirts claiming something along the lines of “I’m a prince/princess in God’s eyes”, “I’m the daughter of a King – I’m a princess!”, “I can do all things in Christ because I am royalty” yada yada ya, you get the picture. But, is there anywhere in the bible that believers, or those who trust in God, are called such a thing? No. In fact, far from it.
It’s a nice sentiment. Royalty are a representation of everything we could want: financial stability, good reputation, status, comfort – in short, a perfect earthly life. Isn’t that nice? Isn’t that what Jesus was all about? I mean, He attended parties, hung out with his friends and family, and told us to ‘shine our light to the world’, right?
Yes, our Lord Jesus did do all of those things. But do you know what His main goal was? To take our focus off of the things of earth, and onto Him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near. Just look at the statement: I’m a princess. What do we get from that statement? Firstly, we are the only ones it’s directed to. I’m talking about ME. Even if I join it to God somehow, the focus of the statement is still on me. Secondly, I’m stating something as truth, that something being ‘princess’ or ‘royalty’.
Thirdly, the exclusivity of this statement (as well as the screaming implication, “I’M OKAY BY MYSELF THANKS”) excludes us from God. Why? Because a Prince, or Princess, usually have everything they need, don’t they? They have health, wealth, and every possible comfort. They are the epitome of earthly indulgence and contentment, so this is what we are proclaiming when we call ourselves royalty: I am content because I am blessed and comfortable and, frankly, don’t feel a great need for a saviour. If you don’t think that’s true, have a look around you and your home. Is there a fridge with food inside? A wardrobe with clothes? Access to water and electricity? Heck, if you’re reading this, you’re at least rich enough to own a laptop/Ipad/mobile phone. That makes you wealthy. Moreover, do you know what Princes and Princesses are not famous for needing or desiring? A Saviour. And that should be very, very sobering to us when we consider how we present ourselves to the world as Christ’s ambassadors.
… But God says we are BETTER!
I’ve got good news! You’re NOT royalty, but do you know what you are? A helpless sinner in need of grace. That is the heart cry of the Christian. We are aware and convicted of our sinful nature. We don’t want to sin, and we need a Saviour: so we submit our lives, our heart and soul and mind and strength and all that we are, to Jesus Christ, who isn’t merely royalty, but divine. We believe in Him who had no sin, who died on the cross in our place, as payment for our sin on our behalf. Trusting in Christ’s sacrifice and repenting from our sin is how we become children of God. That is WAY better than being called a prince or princess.
Also, Jesus is called the Prince of Peace, and that’s right, because He is of God – we are not. “But,” you say, “we are heirs! Does that not make us royalty?”. People can be heirs without being royalty. A king can adopt a child who is not of his own, and make him a co-heir with his true son – that doesn’t make the child of the king in the same way the true son is. Jesus is God, He is divine; we are not. And we dare not risk irreverence by ignorantly implying that we are.
So, what can we call ourselves?
Here’s a list of biblical titles for Christians, as put forward to us by God Himself in His Word to you – yes, you! – you’re welcome!
I don’t know about you, but all of these titles, which God Himself calls us, far surpass ‘princess’, which has a self-indulgent, pompous ring to it. I’d prefer to be called the friend of God any day.
“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God… Put to death, therefore, anything that belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” Colossians 1:2-3, 5
“Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
“Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.”
Most of us are familiar with the story of the Rich Young Ruler from Matthew 19. As I read from verse 13 to 30 in my quiet time today I noticed something that I hadn’t before.
The Rich Young Ruler was working out of a framework most of us live by because, well, that’s just the way the world works most of the time. That framework is the idea that in order to receive something, we must do something to earn it. This is a good principle to keep us from being elitist and having a sense of entitlement by virtue of our existence. Working hard to earn or achieve something produces in us substance of character and fortitude. All good things.
But when it comes to the gospel, we must understand that the way things work in God’s Kingdom take the principles of the world and flip them on their heads.
The problem with the Rich Young Ruler’s question is that he is assuming that in order to attain eternal life, he must do something to earn it. And this is what many Christians today believe – but this is not the gospel!
Jesus’ response is brilliant: “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only One who is good.” The thing we get through salvation is God Himself! And God is not something we can have or achieve on our own – it is purely by God’s grace that He extends His love and relationship to us. God IS our salvation, from God Himself.
Let us not be foolish like the Rich Young Ruler, or even like the Galatians – who Paul rebuked for “turning back to those weak and miserable principles (?) Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?” (Galatians 4:9).
It is by grace we have been saved, through faith – not of our own works (our own doing), so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8). Salvation is completely God’s work, completely His own predetermined election and grace, through the death and resurrection of Jesus. We need only repent, turn from our sins, and believe and trust in what Jesus has done; enjoying the free grace and mercy of our Heavenly Father.
As Christian women we live not as anti-cultural, but counter-cultural – presenting to the world a completely different way of living and hoping, as we continually become more and more like Christ.
As different seasons come and go and new roles and responsibilities make their presence known, I often find myself coming back to God’s Word to refresh and refine my mind with what my priorities ought to be. It’s far too easy for me to let the world, news, and other humdrum of life carry my mind to places that distract me from my God-given callings.
So, what should our priorities be as God’s women? Particularly for young women? And where in the bible can we find such instruction for our hearts?
The two main texts I always refer to are Titus 2:4-5:
“Then they (the older women) can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children,
to be self-controlled and pure, to be workers at home,
to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.”
and Proverbs 31:10-31:
“A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.
She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.
She selects wool and flax
and works with eager hands.
She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar.
She gets up while it is still night;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her female servants.
She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.
She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night.
In her hand she holds the distaff
and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy.
When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
She makes coverings for her bed;
she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
Her husband is respected at the city gate,
where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
She makes linen garments and sells them,
and supplies the merchants with sashes.
She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Honor her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.“
1. God and His Word
We see in Scripture that God gives honour and praise to the woman who fears Him. A woman whose dress is dignity and strength – not meaning literal clothing of course, but the way she presents herself and her character leaves an impression on others that she is strong and dignified. Her hope is in her Saviour, Jesus – so she has no fear for the future. She eagerly does good, so that she faithfully represents the Saviour she worships, and so the Word of God will not be maligned. The godly woman is obedient, gentle, kind, faithful, sensible, and a hard worker.
2. Husband and/or children, if they have them
Another priority of the godly woman, and her first ministry, is to her husband and children (if she has either). Our husbands are given to us by God as a gentle, loving servant leader who constantly directs us to Christ, as co-heirs and co-worshipers of God.Our submission to our husband is a model of the church’s submission to Christ and, ultimately, the kind of submission we bring to God in our own relationship with Him.
Just as our husbands are called to love us sacrificially, so we too must also consider the needs of our husband and children before our own. In this way we imitate Christ, who came not to be served, but to serve others – that we might have life. This service of love, hard work and faithful diligence to our husband and children will come also as a result of us seeing to the next priority.
3. The Home
The home can be many things – an unsafe, unkempt area of chaos or, as it should be, an ordered, safe, peaceful haven for the family, brought about by the willing and loving nurture of the wife/mother. Our care of the home should be taken seriously as it is a representation of ourselves, and also reflects the value we place on providing for our family. If the burden is on godly men to provide the finances the family needs, then it must also fall to us to complement our husbands work by ensuring he and our children are well fed, dressed, and kept comfortable and safe in the home.
The home is also an arena for hospitality to others in the church, family, friends, and the needy. Having a home that is safe, tidy and welcoming makes this all the more possible, and makes it a much more viable place for God to use to meet the needs of the underprivileged in our community.
4. The Church
Finally, another main priority for the godly woman is her home church. We ought to be regular attendees, not neglecting meeting with other believers to fellowship, worship and minister together. In being involved in church we also use the spiritual gifts God has given us to build up the church – this is done through teaching (other women, and children), counselling, cooking, discipling, hosting, cleaning, sharing testimonies, child-minding, administration, and other general helping. In doing so we bring glory to our God, and joy to our fellow believers.
It’s easy to guess what kind of life this would result in – a VERY busy one! To meet all of the instructions is impossible, for sure – but through prayer and a willing heart, we ought to strive all the more. If working in employment outside the home is still a plausible option that you’d like to take up, and you have not neglected the needs of your family, the needy, the home and the church, then I say go for it! Having some employment work can also be very fulfilling, as well as the God-given privilege of working as Christ’s hands and feet to our husbands, children, and communities.
I encourage you to pray this week for God to reveal His priorities for your life, where He’d like you to spend more time working, and maybe some things/places you needn’t worry about so much. Ask Him to reveal what your spiritual gifts are, and to bring up opportunities for you to serve the church and your family.
“Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves were swept over the boat.
But Jesus was sleeping.
The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”
He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”
Then he got up and rebuked the waves, and it was completely calm.
The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this?
Even the winds and the waves obey him!”
Thunderous storms often come upon us without warning, much like the storm that came upon the disciples in this passage. They arrive quickly and set into action quickly, barely allowing us much time to think past the emotional reactions we feel to our circumstances. Our knee-jerk reaction, as it were, is to surrender to worry, anxiety, and sometimes fear, when it comes to changes (sometimes even the good ones) in our lives.
But even in the most unpleasant storms, we ought to do as nature does, and obey God at His Word and trust in Him. This is certainly easier said than done! But there are ways of overcoming our fears.
Turn to Jesus
Just like the disciples in the boat, our first step ought to be turning to our Lord – the only one who can save us, from anything. He alone, being God, knows everything, is all-wise, all-knowing, almighty and perfectly good. He alone has our best interests at heart, and brings about things for the good of those who love Him.
Be Bold in Prayer
God already knows what we’re going to pray for before we pray it, and He also knows our situations. If some trial has come upon you, or you’ve given in to some temptation you’ve faced – be honest before God, knowing that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and will cleanse us (1 John 1:9).
Expect God’s Work
Following the trend of boldness, be so bold as to expect God to not only hear your prayer, but answer it – because He will. The disciples in the boat didn’t ask Jesus for help, and then simply cover their eyes, fall asleep or cower in fear – they stayed well aware of the situation, anxiously watching Jesus for any sign of deliverance from their storm. Let us do likewise, and glorify our Lord by trusting in His power in all things.
Praise God, and Continue in Obedience
When you see God’s answers to prayer by the work He does in your life (whether He delivers you from your changed circumstances, or gives you the grace and strength to endure it), you will all the more want to respond with genuine thanks and praise! What a warmth to the heart it brings to see our Heavenly Father’s kindness made so evident in our lives, brought about by prayer and obedience.
I have to remind myself of these truths, daily! Our finite and sinful minds and hearts often lead to disappointing attitudes, thoughts and choices. But, with eagerness and hope, we rely on our great Father to continually conform us to the image of His glorious Son, as we await the day when we will suffer fear and anxiety no more.
I encourage you to be vigilant in prayer, heartfelt in praise and constant in your hope in Christ!
“Then Jesus… was led by the Spirit into the wilderness,
being tempted for forty days by the devil.
And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward,
when they had ended, He was hungry.“
My husband read this passage for his quiet time yesterday, and in his reading of the commentary, came across a remarkable interpretation that hadn’t occurred to him before.
Our High Priest was Tempted
Jesus is our High Priest (Heb. 4:14-16), and when He was here on earth He was fully man, while still maintaining a divine nature; He did not inherit a sin nature, for He was still fully God. How, then, can He as the Holy of Holies, truly sympathise with us in our weaknesses, and our temptations, if He is without sin? How can He find sin tempting at all if He has no worldly flesh with which to constrain Him?
The answer lies in Jesus being without food or water for forty days. A miracle in itself that His body survived, this was necessary to produce in Him hunger; an experience similar to our own sinful disposition. For although it is impossible for Jesus to truly be tempted by sin, when His own body was starved and dehydrated, His physical hunger, exhaustion and, ultimately, His desire for relief, became the closest thing He could possibly experience to having a sin nature.
Have Confidence in Your High Priest
From this, we can be greatly assured and encouraged! Jesus was tempted in every way, yet remained without sin; even in the face of unbelievable trials and hardships. The very fact that God was willing to send His son from glory into flesh, from eternity into the constraints of time, and from majestic power to flimsy human weakness, is supremely wonderful. Let us give thanks to our God who, in Christ, extends mercy to us in our sin, gives grace through forgiveness, and for our great Saviour and Friend who truly sympathises with us in our weaknesses.
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