Finding Peace with that Proverbs 31 Lady.

I really don’t like that Proverbs 31 lady. She is just so… together. Her life is perfectly organized and well managed. She has everything figured out. And everyone just loves her. She is not a normal woman- she stands out big time.

I want to like her, really. The problem is when I look at her I see all of my inadequacies. I see the inevitable dust on the shelves and the dog hair that reappears the second I put up the broom. I see the imperfect relationships in my life. I see my inability to master anything half as well as her.

So instead of looking up to Proverbs 31 lady, I bitterly resent her. I have this vision of her in my mind. She’s totally gorgeous- no acne, skinny, flawless. She’s balancing a quiet and clean baby on the hip with one hand, sewing clothes the other, and dinner is cooking in the background (and you can bet it won’t be burned!). Ugh.
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But the closer I grow with God, the more I can stop picking at my flaws and imperfections. I can start to understand that I am enough, exactly as I am. And it has nothing to do with my performance or perfection. It has everything to do with God being the utmost priority in my life. More than a clean house or an employee of the month award is my relationship with God. When He is my priority, He spills out into all of the other areas of my life.

Every single day I need God’s grace to save me, heal me, and make me perfect in His sight. It is God’s grace that gives me a purpose, not my performance or perfection.
So maybe I can find peace with my friend in Proverbs 31 when I look at her with this light. She isn’t a checklist of who I ought to be, but a reflection of who I can be when God’s love is my first priority.

God wants us to be so filled with Him that others cannot possibly look at us without seeing Him. His love should change us and make us stand out. Others should see something different about us. Just like Proverbs 31, we should stand out.

God’s love for us is what makes us stand out. Despite my shortcomings, God chooses to love me. I can extend love and grace to others because love and grace have been extended to me.

We love because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19)

Get Up and Live.

You will know that I am the Lord, My people, when I open your graves and bring you up from them.

(Ezekiel 37:13)

It is the very essence of God that He will receive glory through our salvation, through bringing  us to life. As I read Ezekiel 37: 1-10, I see myself laying in the valley. Remnants of myself, what once was a body, now dry and disassembled. Scattered amongst the remains of others. Surely I have been picked over by scavengers. Maybe my belongings were looted by passerby. Whats left now is a skeleton of a man, if it can be called that.

Those who look out over me see hopelessness. They see what once was but is no more. To them, I am finished, useless. What could have led me to this state? One act. One act that lead to a terrible fall. One bite, if you will. It set me on a downward slope of never-ending consequence where each action leads to an exponentially greater fall. The more I tried to save myself the harder and faster I fell. Then I hit the bottom. It’s there, in the valley, that I lay, among others who met the same fate. Each of us trying so desperately to save ourselves. But now we lay here. Dry. Dead. Disassembled. Desperate.

That is when He comes along. He sees us not in our current state, but in a restored and brilliant manner, powerful and worthwhile. It’s with one breath that life begins to come back into us. With one breath we become reassembled. With one spoken command we are more than restored, to a holy and blameless state. His Spirit is within us, His power is among us. We are more than the men we once were. We are a new creation. A great and powerful army.

The same shell that was once useless, lifeless, and broken now has purpose. There is now a reason for its existence. In living, the Breather of Life receives glory. Our life in its restored state is a testimony to His power. It shows that He is good, He is strong, and He is the Lord.

It Doesn’t Even Matter.

Qu’est-ce que c’est le point?

What is the point of it all? Why bother? Is it really worth it? What is the meaning of this?
Life can be a little bit (or a lot a bit) dreary depending on your circumstance. Sometimes its easy to sit back and question the purpose of our motives. Does it matter if I go to work? Why should I finish off this degree? Is it worth getting married? Should I buy a house? Why bother?

I’ve been captivated by Ecclesiastes lately. And like many before me, I’ve been wondering if the Bible screening committee missed that one when they filtered out the books that deserved to be part of the canon.

We’re taken through a vast history of God’s people starting in Genesis, leading into powerful, beautiful books of wisdom like Psalms and Proverbs. Then, we hit a little bump. Before the beautiful woman of Proverbs 31 even leaves our mind, we are smacked in the face with a very Squidward-esque and seemly grumpy author of Ecclesiastes.

He, who is referred to as Teacher, opens up stating that everything is meaningless. Everything is pointless. I think the HCSB says it best: everything is futile.

Futile: incapable of producing any useful result

Go ahead and say it. “Absolutely futile! Everything is futile.” (On a personal note, I prefer the UK pronunciation of fyoo-tai-el to the US fyoo-tul when exclaiming this, but was called a “word nerd” for feeling as such.) Again, I picture Squidward (yes, the Nickelodeon character.. no condemnation!) throwing his tentacles in the air and exclaiming such a phrase as he watches “commoners” such as Spongebob and Patrick enjoying their day.

Could that be so? Would our loving, purposeful God ordain such a statement to be made about the life He created for humanity? Yes. As a matter of fact, I think it is in that realization that we can truly understand and come alongside Christ in His calling to us in Luke 9:23-25:

Then He said to them all, “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. What is a man benefited if he gains the whole world, yet loses or forfeits himself?

To better understand this, we need to unmask the Teacher. Most Biblical scholars would argue that this is none other than the wise King Solomon speaking. But who is Solomon to make such pessimistic and forward claims? What authority does he have? In 1 Kings 3:5-12 we meet Solomon and see how he receives God’s favor. When God appears in a dream and asks him what he would like, Solomon responds, “give Your servant an obedient heart to judge Your people and to discern between good and evil.” I can see God’s face. Nothing surprises Him- but I’m sure He was nonetheless impressed. After all, Solomon was merely a youth with a powerful dad who held the world in his hands. He didn’t ask for money. He didn’t ask for a girlfriend. He didn’t ask for better abs. This pleased God. So God rewarded Solomon with wisdom- so that there will never be anyone like [him] before and never will be again (v 12).

Back to Ecclesiastes… So Solomon is given this undeniable wisdom beyond that of anyone around him. As he surveys the world and the toilsome efforts of his peers, he exasperates “Absolutely futile!”

This stumped me until I thought of it in the context of a message I heard this weekend. It was on Luke 14, a scripture I’ve studied many times before, but never in this way. Jesus was getting pretty popular. He had started to attract crowds of people following Him, some for different intentions than others. I can best understand this when I think of my Facebook friends. Of the 558 people I can call my “friend”, maybe 100 are people I’d say truly know me, 50 are people I’d invite to a party, 20 are friends I will text on their birthday, and 10 are people I could call in tears. And those numbers might be generous.
So likewise, Jesus had to “de-friend” a few of his followers by laying down some truth and letting them know just what they were getting into. Jesus says in Luke 14: 26:

If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, and even his own life—he cannot be My disciple.

Hate. Whoah. Jesus wants us to hate people? No. I am lead to believe that Jesus uses the term hate to exemplify how vividly we need to love Him, that the amount of love we have for other things pales so much in comparison, that it looks like hate. Then Jesus goes on to say in verse 27:

Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.

That takes us back to Luke 9. I believe that King Solomon was attune to this wisdom and understanding as he spoke in Ecclesiastes. In comparison to our purpose and commission in Christ, life is meaningless, purposeless, futile.  I think of the popular song by Steven Curtis Chapman “Do Everything”. Our purpose in this life is to glorify God in everything we do and in doing so we both intentionally and unintentionally further the Gospel. That is the key. That is the purpose. That is why its worthwhile. And outside of Christ, everything is futile.

Father God,
Give us your heart for the world, that as we go about our daily lives we are reminded that everything is worthless outside of your purpose. It is in You that we live and move and have our being. Help us to focus on what is eternal- our eternal purpose- and to have wisdom and discernment like our brother Solomon to see the brevity of life and the insignificance of worldly pleasures. Amen.

Need A Hand?

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. But God is faithful. He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so you can stand up under it.
1 Corinthians 10:13

Life just isn’t always easy. I so wish that it was.
God doesn’t promise we won’t hit rough spots. Actually, He says we ARE going to.
But, I love His promises.

“except what is common to man”
You are not alone in this. God has given you fellowship with other believers and leaders to encourage you through this issue.
“God is faithful”
He will never leave you or forsake you. He has sent the Holy Spirit to be with you as a comforter.
“beyond what you can bear”
It’s not going to be more than He knows YOU can handle.
“He will also provide a way out”
This is not permanent. There is an end to this season. There will be a peak to the mountain you’ve been climbing.
“you can stand up under it”
I always think of the Greek myth Sisyphus there. He is the mythological figure who has to push a huge rock up a hill. Ironically (or purposefully..) he was the son if the King of Ephyra, also known as Corinth. (As in Corinthians….) I imagine him rolling this huge rock (our struggle) up a hill and then getting to the top and picking it up over his head and literally grunting and roaring in victory!

It is never easy on the journey, but the reward is great when you have reached the top. Be strong. You are not alone- God is faithful. This, too, shall pass. Image

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