Saturday, March 16, 2013

Pearls in Your Pocket...

I was taught as a child to put the needs and feelings of others before my own. Not because I was weak, but because others needed me to be strong. If I went to someone’s house for dinner, for instance, I was expected to accept whatever was put before me with a smile and a thank you. And I was expected to eat it (at least some of it), even if it was chicken feet stew, or chitterlings, or some other concoction I didn’t recognize or like. (... and there was so much food back then I didn’t like, but all of it tastes real good to me, now. :-) I was expected to eat it and compliment the cook—to make her feel good; to take her feelings into account above my own. And, in fact, the Bible teaches this in Philippians 2:3 when it says, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.” And I guess this principle is what my parents were trying to teach me.
I also tried to pass this legacy of self-sacrifice and giving to my children, but they were having none of it. The harder I tried to teach my daughter to be a ‘ponytail girl’ and my son to be an Edwardian prince, the harder they bucked. Don’t get me wrong; they're fairly nice people, then and now. But both of them have a very firm grip on their own likes and dislikes--their own needs. And as I look at it, in retrospect, that’s a very good thing.
You see, Philippians 2:3 works well when you’re dealing with God-fearing, Bible-believing people. In a setting like that, everyone is trying to outdo the other with regard to showing each other deference, and love, and kindness, and esteem. Everyone is being blessed by the other; the circle of love is Spirited and complete. That’s why Christ gave us the church. But when you’re dealing with unbelievers, not so! And maybe that’s what my children knew that I did not. My mother even said to me one day, “Leave those children alone; you don’t know what or who they have to deal with in the course of the day.” Now, I thought that was quite odd coming from her, since it was she who  had badgered me incessantly as a child to put the needs of others before my own—to be a ‘ponytail girl’, in fact. (Thank God my dad taught me a few other things! :-)
But more to the point, Jesus, with His sweet self, has let us off the hook as it relates to dealing with the unbelievers among us (those who’ve not yet come to Christ and are not committed to following His ways).  In the one breath, Jesus says, “Judge not ....” (Matthew 7:1) In other words, He does not want us going around having the audacity to try to condemn others in their current state of unbelief; something that only He has the right and authority to do--in the fullness of time. But in the very next breath, Jesus says, “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.” (Matthew 7:6)
Wow! There it is. If you are among believers, putting yourself last and deferring your own needs for others makes very good sense, because it will be eagerly reciprocated. But when you’re not, it might just be better to keep your pearls in your pocket. Unbelievers have a tendency to take kindness for weakness, instead of strength. The more you give, the more they’re apt to take, without seeking to give anything in return. That’s why it’s important to study the ‘whole Word’, because Jesus did not intend for us to be victims in this world. Love everyone—for sure! But putting your pearls out there—your feelings, your needs, your desires, yourself—to be trampled on is quite another matter. Know your people. And when wisdom dictates, know that it’s okay to keep your pearls in your pocket.   ~Much love! :jb

Friday, March 15, 2013

Jesus is Our Soul Mate...

Hi Everybody! I don't have the time or space to tell you the 'whole story', but the Lord gave me this understanding through some very deep and troubled waters, so take it from me... it's real & true... at least enough for you to consider. :)
I came upon this Scripture some time ago that I didn't really understand. And I kept coming back to it, praying for insight ('cause I sho-nuff needed it). "For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands. Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well and are not afraid with any amazement." (1 Peter 3:5-6) Now, don't get me wrong. I was r-e-a-l stubborn in my youth, but by the time I came upon this Scripture I had no problem with the subjection part, 'cause the Lord had rubbed my head enough to convince me that 'submission is power'. He doesn't tell us to subject ourselves to others--husbands, 'masters', etc to cause us harm. On the contrary, the quicker we submit to the authority that God has placed us under, the quicker we find peace. I tell the children that I come in contact with through the community gardens, schools or churches this all the time. 'The Lord gave you parents for your protection from the larger society until such time as you're old enough, wise enough, and financially able to fend for yourselves. Submitting to loving parents is far less painful than being hit over the head with a billy club by a prison guard who could care less'. Since God gave us this hierarchy of relationships--this chain of authority--I figure, it's good & very good: Jesus, man, woman, children (1 Corinthians 11:3). When we are where God wants us to be, we've landed in the 'power seat'... the 'way of blessing' (or at least that's what I call it). So the need for submission was not an issue by the time I came upon this Scripture. No, it was that little phrase "who trusted in God" that had me stumped. Because if we're calling our husband "lord", aren't we trusting God when we turn the reins of our lives over to our husbands? By submitting to our husbands, aren't we trusting God that our husbands are our soul mates?
When we are saved--trust in God--the Lord promises to be our Comforter (John 14:16); our Guide (Psalm 23; Psalm 119:105); our Protector (Hebrews 13:6); our Provider (Philippians 4:19).... In short, the Lord promises to take hold of the reins of our lives and look out for us in this dark, dangerous world. And when He brings a husband to us--as He did when He sent Isaac looking for his Rebecca--we are happy, joyful and willing to go with this man... anywhere. In fact, in our delight, we're willing to put the reins of our lives into the hands of this man--this husband sent from God. Because, after all, we're supposed to submit to our husbands and call him lord, right? Right! But we're also supposed to "trust in God". In other words, all that the Lord promises to be to us can never change. We must never stop looking to the Lord to be our Comforter, Guide, Protector, Provider.... We call our husbands "lord" because the Lord tells us to, because He knows (for reasons we know not) that our man needs this. But our focus, our expectation, our trust cannot be transferred from the Lord to our husbands, or our wives, or our jobs, or our money, or our children, or any such thing. We cannot put the reins of our lives into the hands of another. Our trust has to remain in the Solid Rock--Jesus (...believe me on this--'All' other ground is sinking sand).
Surely, the Scripture tells husbands to " your wives, even as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it." (Ephesians 5:25) But this is a learning experience for any man, just like submission is a learning experience for any woman. So can we entrust the reins of our lives into the hands of someone who's wearing training wheels? Companionship, yes! Trustworthiness, no! Especially in this day-and-time when few parents or churches are teaching young men to be husbands ...or even real men, for that matter.
Reverence and submission are due our husbands for this is right in the sight of the Lord. (Ephesians 5:33) But asking a husband--any person--to do what only God can do is asking too much. It is in our Great God we put our trust for our life--our soul. This cannot change. Jesus... and Jesus alone... is our soul mate.  ~Much love! :jb