Understanding God’s Word – Nehemiah 8:4-8

Seek Out God’s Pastor/Teachers To Better Understand God’s Word.

4 Ezra the teacher of the Law stood on a high wooden platform built for the occasion. Beside him on his right stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah and Maaseiah; and on his left were Pedaiah, Mishael, Malkijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah and Meshullam.

5 Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up. 6 Ezra praised the Lord, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, “Amen! Amen!” Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.

7 The Levites—Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan and Pelaiah—instructed the people in the Law while the people were standing there. 8 They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read.

Reverential Respect

In an insightful view of ancient worship, Nehemiah records the gathering of ALL of the people who were able to understand the law of God in Jerusalem after the wall was rebuilt.  After he opened the scroll (the book) of the law, the people stood up.

God is a holy God.  He desires, and deserves, our respect in all things.  In the same way that our Earthly fathers desire respect from their children, God desires (and more rightly deserves!) our respect.  Standing up when God’s law is about to be read is a way to show that respect.  It shows that we are attentive to it, and that it deserves our full and undivided attention.

Powerful Praise

Ezra next praised our great God, YHWH.  In response, the people raised their hands and responded with “Amen, Amen!”  This meant “truly, truly!”  It is a sign of acknowledgement and agreement with what is being said.  We hear it and we do it.  But how often do we think about it?  How often do we take the time to truly ponder how we respond to God and His word?

Wonderful Worship

The people then bowed down and worshiped God with their faces to the ground.  Do we show the same respect for our Father in Heaven?  Are we willing to bow down and worship the King of kings and Lord of lords?  Is our view of God so high that we bow down with our faces to the ground?  Do we give everything in worship to Almighty God, or do we merely acknowledge Him with words?

Concisely Convey

Due to the lack of modern convenience of sound systems and, in that location, a parabolic-shaped theater setting, the Levites (designated priests of God amongst the Israelites) were spread in the crowd of those gathered.  As they read the word of God to the people, they made sure that the people understood what was being read.

Reading without comprehension is filling time, or even giving lip service to the material being presented.  To honor the author, we should take the time to ponder and understand what the author intended for us to get out of their writing.  The Levitical priests, as they read God’s word, made certain that the people understood what was being read to them.  They took to the time to explain the full meaning of the law of God.

We need to understand what we are reading so that we can apply it in our lives.  When we read God’s word, and then don’t understand it, we may say “wow, that was interesting”, but what effect will it have on our lives?  How will it draw us closer to God and each other?  How will it penetrate our hearts to show us ourselves?  The word of God can only act as a mirror to our soul, properly reflecting what is there, when we can see what is in the mirror.

It is imperative that we seek out teachers of God’s holy word who have a clear and accurate understanding of it.  The selection of our teachers will greatly influence our understanding and application of the word of God.  And while God will certainly honor our attempts to live out what we know, He greatly desires that we understand His word more and more each day, so that we can participate in His character, and know Him more fully through living out His word in our lives.

Today, take the time to re-read the section of scripture that you read, and see if God reveals more about it to you, or more about you to yourself.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do I take the time to fully understand the meaning of scripture that I am reading?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have graciously recorded for us the history of Your people and how You have interacted with them.  Thank You for Your diligence in doing so.  Help me to better understand Your word so that my life can be transformed from what it was into what it should be.  Help me, Holy Spirit, to better understand the word of God.  Show me where in my life that I need to make changes so that I will better honor You, Lord God Almighty.  Help me to take more time, and do more research, so that I will have a fuller, richer, and accurate understanding of what I am reading.  Help me to put it into action, for Your word is living and active an is able to help me to recognize my innermost feelings and desires.  Help me to align my heart with Yours, Oh God!  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Inner Beauty and God – 1 Peter 3:3-6

God Sees The Heart.  So Should Everyone Else.

3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. 4 Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 5 For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, 6 like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.

Flashy Fashion

Culture teaches us that we need to be noticed.  And the only way to be noticed is to flaunt what we have.  Women in particular have been listening to this lie for millennia.  During the time when the writer of this Scripture lived, they women adorned themselves with beautiful hair styles, heavy perfume (quite costly and showed the potential of their dowry if unmarried, or the affluence of their husband if they were married…), and precious metal jewelry.

Today, it is how much skin can you show, how tight can you make your clothes, and how much bling you can safely wear without tipping over.  And while that certainly will get a woman attention from all who see her, is it the type of attention she is truly seeking?  Fishermen know that whatever you bait your hook with will determine what type of fish you will catch.  For disciples of Christ, this type of adornment is not at all in keeping with God’s plan for attractiveness and beauty.  This type of adornment is designed to evoke worldly desire from men and envy from women.  While that may seem desirable because it provides immediate feedback to the woman, it underscores the problem that the Christian community has in general:  Disciples of Christ have adopted modern cultural definitions of beauty rather than the Biblical model for beauty.

Carefully Clothed

Peter then goes on to remind women (remember, this is nothing new – it was going on two thousand years ago as well…) that they should adorn themselves with a gentle and quiet spirit:

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

If a woman dresses like a street-walker, there should be no surprise if salacious men cat-call and undress her (and more than she already is) with their eyes.  If a woman dresses in Armani and Pravda and (name any other fashion mogul who designs outlandishly priced clothing and accessories), they should not be surprised when thieves and burglars stalk her to lighten her burden of wearing and carrying all of her clothing and accessories, or the vacuous playboys who will try to woo her heart to make her their sugar-mama.  People will crowd around like friends until the money dries up.  Then the leeches of society will move on to other feeding grounds.

Women must ask themselves a question:  What “bait” will I put on to attract a Godly man?  Godly men are attracted to women who have a gentle and quiet spirit.  Godly men attune their eyes and hearts to women who display this type of beauty.

Reverent Respect

When women put on a gentle and quiet spirit, they exhibit the character that Godly women of old used to display.  They showed great respect for their husbands and others, didn’t gossip, and dressed modestly so as not to entice LUST in the hearts of potential suitors or even other Godly men trying to keep their hearts pure.  When people can’t determine what’s beneath the clothing, they look to see what’s in the character.  When women show respect to God and others, that is like a bright light to moths for potential Godly husbands.  Proverbs has a lot to say about women and character.  Proverbs 31 tells of a woman of noble character.  And here are a few choice other ones as well:

It is better to live in a corner of the housetop
than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.

A quarrelsome wife is like the dripping
of a leaky roof in a rainstorm;
restraining her is like restraining the wind
or grasping oil with the hand.

A foolish child is a father’s ruin,
and a quarrelsome wife is like
the constant dripping of a leaky roof.

Better to live in a desert
than with a quarrelsome and nagging wife.

Forego Fear

Women are prone to fear.  Their very nurturing nature predisposes them to assess potential dangers and to avoid them.  While this is a very useful skill, it has a tendency to bleed into all other areas of life, and can cause great distress as they try to fight the  response to flee.  Women are able to summon great courage, and fiercely protect their families, but this generally comes out when they are cornered.  It is when they are blind-sided or can see danger at a distance that fear envelops them.

Peter encourages women to let go of fear, for God is sovereign and is MORE THAN ABLE to protect them through their circumstances.  When women can let go of fear, God is able to use them more powerfully in every situation.  While the fear response has its place (seek shelter from tornadoes and lightning storms, lock the doors and go to the panic room when crowds come shooting up and burning down the town, etc.), so does trusting God in every circumstance.

A Qualifying Question

Women, let’s ask a question:  Do I exalt myself before men, or do I let God exalt me before men?

Men, let’s ask a question:  What attracts me most to the woman I desire?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have shown me that it is You that I need to please, and not men.  Help me to dress in a way that honors You.  Help me to cloth myself with the character of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Help me to live this life free of fear, for You are sovereign over all.  Help me to do what is good and right so that I will honor you with my body, words, and thoughts.  This I ask in Jesus Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

When Prayers Are Hindered – 1 Peter 3:7

The Best, Sure-Fire Way For A Husband To Hinder His Prayers Is…

7 Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.

Doctorate Degree

Peter counsels men to live with their wives as a family, not as a “tyrant” or “lord of the universe”.  Many men believe that because they are the head of the household, that they are the “dictator-in-chief”.  But God says:

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Rather than taking on the role of “overlord of the galaxy”, men are to love their wives as Christ loved the church.  He DIED for her:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her

Men should learn their wives, studying them like a student in post-graduate studies takes the time to learn their subject so well that they are eventually awarded a Doctorate Degree.  In the same way, men should study their wives and know them so well that they know just about everything about her.  If you know your wife, you will be better prepared to understand how she will respond to any set of circumstances, and know her likes/dislikes, hot-buttons (the things that trigger a strong, emotional response that should be avoided at ALL costs), and everything else that she responds to.

In other words, live with her in an amicable way, showing deference to her preference whenever possible…

Radical Respect

Do you like to be treated with respect?  What man doesn’t?  If men want to be respected by their wives, should they not respect their wives as well?  How does a man respect his wife?  He lays down his life for her:

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

For a man to respect his wife, he must love his wife.  Not the way that he thinks of love, but how she thinks of love.  That’s why men must put in the time and effort to get their Doctorate Degree in their wives.  In order to love your wife, you must first understand how she perceives love.

To be sure, romance novels, television, and culture portrays this version of love in such a way that the man somehow has mental telepathy and is able to discern out of thin air the very thoughts of the woman of his affection and then responds with lavish gifts grand entries, always dressed just right,and always saying just the right words to give her that feeling that she is intimately known and cherished.  Good luck with that.  While ideal, the Bible says:

For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.

But that doesn’t mean that a person isn’t able to reasonably guess if they understand how to interpret the clues…  (Ladies, this is a HINT:  Don’t be coy:  Yes means yes, and No means no.  Mixed signals may seem like a good idea to test whether a man truly knows their woman, but is God ever deceitful* to test us?)

Holy Heir

Women are heirs with men in the kingdom of God.  They are to be treated as the weaker vessel, not as inferior.  Silk is strong, soft, luxurious, and great for making sheets, shirts, and other items.  Steel is strong, hard, durable, and bright.  However, most people would never consider wearing steel wire braided into cloth for underwear (except as body armor, and only with something a little more soft underneath that…).  In the same way, silk, although strong (spider silk is at least as strong as steel cable in the same diameter…), is not as durable.  Femininity (not militant feminism, as defined in culture) is to be treasured for its soft, supple, warm embrace.  To despise it because it is “weaker” is foolish.

Gracious Gift

God has given His gracious gift of salvation to both men and women, and makes not distinction of separation between them (with regards to respect, for God is not a respecter of persons):

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Since God has done this, should men not treat women as equal but different?

Powerful Prayers

And here is the consequence.  For men who are married, do not expect that God will listen to your prayers if you are not “being considerate as you live with your wife.”  God will not tolerate a man who professes that he knows God, and then treats his wife in a disrespectful, unloving way.  That is the surest way to slam close the doors of heaven for prayer.

Husbands, if your prayers seem to be hitting the ceiling and bouncing right back down, consider that you may need to re-evaluate your relationship with your wife.

Wives, if your husband is trying to reconcile and show you love, will you forever despise him for his mistakes, never forgiving him for his errors?   Will you spurn him to punish him because you are hurt?  Do you want his prayers to be answered by God (what if he is praying for you…)?  If so let God work in him to change him, and take it upon yourself to help your husband to know you better.  Men are terrible guessers.  Be direct; it may not feel romantic, but it certainly will help your husband to better understand your needs.  (And remember – just because every other woman in the UNIVERSE can understand your needs and desires merely by the way that you ask questions with nuance doesn’t mean that your husband has the God-given ability to discern these things [even if the men riding in shining armor on horses in books and movies appear to be able to do so]…)  Also remember, once your husband starts to submit to you and love you like Christ loves the church, God will answer his prayers, especially if they are to reconcile you to him

A Qualifying Question

Husbands, let’s ask a question:  Am I loving my wife as Christ loved the church?

Wives, let’s ask a question: Am I communicating my needs and desires clearly and concisely in such a way that my husband will be able to  clearly understand them?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have made men and women different yet equal.  Each have a unique perspective with strengths and weaknesses.  Help me, Father, to fulfill my role in every relationship in a way that shows both love and respect.  Help me to submit to one another in Christ, displaying before the world the peace and servant’s heart that Jesus Christ displayed when he washed the disciples’ feet.  Show me how to better serve and communicate with my family, and the family of the church body.  Help remove any stronghold of thought that the world, the flesh, or the devil has placed in my head and heart that has taken root that may be hindering my relationships with others.  Help me to put Your love on display for all to see.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?


Notes: This blog has been edited for spell errors and clarity

*Here is a hypothetical situation in the form of a conversation:

Wife: Do you feel like eating out tonight?

(What she REALLY means: “I have had a tough day.  The last thing that I want to do is slave over a hot stove for the next hour or so in order that we can have a morsel of food.  Why don’t we get out and have a romantic night on the town?  I’m going to play the Romantic Guessing Game with you now.  Be on guard – you are being TESTED!  And you better pass if you want me to be affectionate with you later…”)

Husband (response 1):  Not really

(What he REALLY means: “I had a long day at work.  The last thing that I want to do is go home, shower, drive for an hour, wait for an hour, then eat at a restaurant that is over-priced with so many people talking and distractions everywhere…   All I want to do is go home and relax my brain…”)

Husband (response 2): Sure, where would you like to go?

(What he REALLY means: “Sure.  Where would YOU like to go?” BTW, most men won’t turn down the opportunity to eat at a restaurant unless there is something dire going on in their life that is sucking the very life out of them, or they are financially destitute at the time…)

Wife: Oh, anywhere will be fine.

(What she REALLY means: “You know perfectly well where I like to eat.  Pick the romantic restaurant with flowers, music, entertainment, and coziness that I have already picked out in my mind, [restaurant q], so that I can feel loved and appreciated by you.”)

Husband:  OK, how about [restaurant x]?

(What he REALLY means: “OK, how about [restaurant x]? [Wow!  She is letting me pick!  How very gracious of her!]”)

Wife: No, I don’t really want to go there

(What she REALLY means: “OK, it’s time to flex those romantic muscles.  Think REALLY hard, and empathically sense which restaurant I have already picked out in my mind, because we are so emotionally tuned together, and I know you will be able to guess it right because YOU LOVE ME SO MUCH…”)

Husband:  Uh, OK. How about [restaurant y]?

(What he REALLY means: “Uh, OK.  How about [restaurant y]?”)

Wife: (sounding a little dejected) No, I really don’t want to go there.

(What she REALLY means: “I can’t believe you didn’t empathically guess right!  Maybe we aren’t as emotionally close as I thought we were…  I’ll give you another try [deep sigh…]”)

Husband:  All right.  How about [restaurant z]?

(What he REALLY means: “How about [restaurant z]?”

Wife: (Sounding depressed) Never mind.  Let’s just whip something up here at home.

(What she REALLY means: “How could he be such an unfeeling oaf?  Could I have been ANY MORE OBVIOUS that I wanted to go to [restaurant q]?  Does he even know ANYTHING about me?  He NEVER picks the right restaurant when we play Romantic Guessing Game.  He must not really care about me.  I guess I’ll just be the dutiful wife and slave over the oven to feed him, the unromantic buffoon…”)

A better way this conversation could have gone…

Wife: I have had a tough day today.  I would really like to get dressed up and go the that nice, fancy restaurant, you know, [restaurant q].  That would really make me feel loved and appreciated.

(What she REALLY means: “I have had a tough day today.  I would really like to get dressed up and go the that nice, fancy restaurant, you know, [restaurant q].  That would really make me feel loved and appreciated.”)

Husband: Gorgeous, I love you so much!  Of course that would be fine with me!  Let me get showered, shaved, and spruced up for you, my beautiful buttercup!  AS YOU WISH

(What he really means: “I love you so much that I will offer my body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God as my spiritual act of worship.  You have shown me your preferences, and given me a deeper understanding into your heart, which I am trying to learn and discern as part of my Doctorate Degree training that I am deeply engaged with you.  Now that I know exactly what you want, I can act on that and make it happen, for I know that it will bring great joy to you, even if I am tired and exhausted.  I want to submit to you, and am willing to make the necessary sacrifices to ensure that you feel loved by me.  I look forward to meeting your emotional, relational, and physical needs as you reveal them to me clearly.  Thank you so very much for letting me know!”)

 

 

Marriage and God – Titus 2:1-8

Our Elders Are to Teach The Young Families The Key Pillars To Marriage

1 You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. 2 Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.

3 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4 Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

6 Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. 7 In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness 8 and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.

Creative Chiasm

A chiasm has been formed in these verses.  It contrasts men and women, and specifically, the mature versus the immature.  The structure looks like this:

Older Women – Young Women
/\
Older Men Young Men

It is an interesting contrast between these groups, especially the instructions given to the younger men and women.

Mature Men

Paul indicates that older men should be taught the following:

  • Avoid Excessive Wine (Temperate)
    • Excessive consumption of alcohol can severely impair a person’s judgment.  This can lead to terrible words and actions that cause great pain and resentment long after the effects of the alcohol wear off
  • Be Worthy of Respect (Honorable)
    • Paul touches upon a very core need for men – to be respected.  It is hard for a man to love a woman when he does not feel respected.  Paul urges men to live their lives in such a way that they are worthy of respect.  They are to make it as easy as possible for their wives to give them the respect that they so desperately need and desire.
  • Be Self-Controlled
  • Be Sound in Faith
  • Be Sound in Love
    • Paul exhorts men to unconditionally, volitionally, and sacrificially love their wives and others.  When they love their wives in this manner, it will help their wives to blossom and open up like a flower unfolds it petals, fully displaying its inner beauty to the world, confident in itself.
  • Be Sound in Endurance

Wise Women

Paul also urges that older women be taught the following:

  • Be Reverent in the Way They Live (live holy lives)
  • Avoid Slandering
    • The gift and curse of the great capability of women to communicate is the potential for gossip.  This needs to be avoided at all costs, so that no one is slandered.
  • Avoid Excessive Wine
    • Wine has the ability to lower the inhibitions of all who consume it, and everyone who does must take extra care to guard themselves against its effects
  • Teach What is Good

The interesting part is that Paul indicates that only after these characteristics are taught to older women that they will be able to properly guide the younger women in their ways.

Little Ladies

Paul then lists several ways that the older women should urge the younger women:

  • Love Their Husbands and Children
    • The interesting part of the word “love” here is that it comes from the Greek word phileo – to be greatly fond of.  God has already placed unconditional love – agape – into the hearts of women.  Older women must now teach the younger women to like their husbands and children.
  • Be Self-Controlled
  • Keep Chaste
    • It is ever more important that young ladies carefully guard their hearts against the wooing of other men.  In moments of emotional distress or feeling unloved by their husbands, younger women can be particularly vulnerable to a man who breathes life into her heart.
  • Be busy at home
    • In the time that this was written, it was mostly men who went out to work the land and provide for their families.  Yet it was documented in Proverbs 31 that a wife of noble character engaged in entrepreneurial enterprises as well as taking care of the family:
      • 13 She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.
        14 She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.
        15 She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family and portions for her female servants.
        16 She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
        17 She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.
        18 She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.
        19 In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
        20 She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.
        21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
        22 She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
        23 Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
        24 She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.

  • Be kind
  • Submit to their husbands
    • Submission is the dreaded word that every women cringes at.  It brings about the feelings of some patriarchal tyrant who tries to keep his wife barefoot and pregnant, staying silent, and doing everything he asks – being at his beck and call and essentially his slave.  But submission is a beautiful thing.  We each are to submit to the Holy Spirit as Jesus Christ Himself submitted completely to God.  Submission has been described as being willing to duck so that God can throw a right-cross at the one who is in charge.  But only a fool would not listen to the counsel of the one that God has placed at his side for his benefit.

Growing Guys

Paul then goes on to tell what the young men should be taught:

  • Be self-controlled
  • Set an example by doing what is good

Paul provides these instructions for our benefit.  It is at our own peril that we scoff at them or ignore them.  Western culture teaches us that we should seek our own welfare before the welfare of others.  But God in this passage shows us just how important it is to self-regulate rather than indulge our heart’s every desire.  It is better to follow the word of God than it is to follow our own hearts.  This is because our hearts are deceitful above all, and without the transformation by the Holy Spirit and the word of God, we will be duped into desiring what the flesh wants, rather than what the Spirit of God desires.

There are now a higher percentage of Christian marriages ending in divorce than those who are not professing Christians.  This should not be!  There can only be one reason for such widespread failure in our marriages – we are not being obedient to God’s word.  Let us now take the time and remember the advice given by God to Solomon, the wisest man ever to live:

if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

The choice is ours.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I doing what God desires me to do as revealed in His word to ensure that my marriage is as best protected as it can be?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are the embodiment of truth.  You know all things, and reveal Your truth to us through Your word.  Help me to learn Your truth and put it into practice so that my marriage would flourish as well as bring you honor, glory, and praise.  Help me to submit myself to my spouse and to live life in accordance with what is good in Your eyes, so that You will be able to bless us in our marriage.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Family Living by God- Ephesians 5:21-24

Jesus Submitted Himself to the Holy Spirit

21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Sacred Submission

Paul starts this section on family living with a very provocative statement: that ALL of the body of Christ should submit to the REST of the body of Christ.  Unity within the body of Christ CANNOT be obtained unless we are willing to submit ourselves to one another.  He prepares the reader with this for the next big challenge – that wives should submit to their husbands, and not only submit; but submit to them as they submit to Christ.

God has created within Men and Women certain traits that have been corrupted by the fall of Adam in the garden of Eden.

  • Men – by nature – understand how to respect each other
    • They can live in a state of quasi-harmony with each other in respect.
    • They do not have agape love embedded into the DNA of their brain.  As a result, they will tend to do things that show respect to others, but they may not necessarily show love to others.
    • This can be seen in the business world, and even in gangs.  Men are risk-takers, and do things that tend to benefit themselves.  When men do things to each other, they have a sense of respect when it happens, understanding the need for certain situations, but then say, “It’s nothing personal – it’s just business.”
    • This can come off as being aloof, uncommunicative, unloving, dispassionate, emotionally distant, and relationally cold.
  • Women – by nature – understand how to agape love each other
    • They can live in a state of quasi-harmony with each other in love.
    • They do not have respect embedded into the DNA of their brain.  As a result, they will tend to do things that show love to others, but they may not necessarily show respect to others.
    • This can be seen in the family, and even in women’s gatherings.  Women are natural communicators, and seek the best for others at their own expense.  They are protective of others, and are wonderful for showing love and raising children.  When something needs to change, they often use their communication skills to spark a controversy (repetitive criticism can sometimes be seen here) because women want wholeness in relationship, and will respond to that with compassion and a heart to reconcile the relationship.  Their natural sensitivity helps them to stay connected and desire smoothness in relationships.
    • This can come off as a critical spirit, gossiping, and nagging.

Wives are told to submit to their husbands, and this is very difficult for them, especially if they don’t have respect for them, or see them failing as leaders of the family.  How can a person submit to another person that they don’t respect?

Because of this issue, Paul tells wives to submit to their husbands as they submit to Christ.  This is the hardest thing they will need to do in marriage.  But it can also be the easiest thing to do in marriage.  Paul next tells us why this can occur.

Household Headship

God is a God of order.  There is order in the Trinity:

  • God the Father is the head of the organization, but submits to God the Son and God the Holy Spirit
  • God the Son submits to God the Father and God the Holy Spirit
  • God the Holy Spirit submits to God the Father and God the Son
  • Someone has to be in charge for the purpose of accountability and to establish a hierarchy of authority so that order can be established and maintained.

In the same way, there is hierarchy of order within the family:

  • The husband is the head of the organization, but submits to his wife (and any children).
    • He is a servant-leader, who is charged with bringing about the spiritual growth of his wife and children, teaching them the things of Christ and revealing to them the Word of the Living God.
    • He is charged with taking care of them and providing for them physically, financially, and spiritually.  God has placed this burden upon his heart, and he eagerly seeks to meet this goal.
    • It is a terrible thing when he rebels against this and abandons servant-leadership to become self-centered.
  • The wife submits to her husband (and any children).
    • She has an advisory role in the organization, able to see things about people and situations that the husband is unable to see because of his giftedness.  Her input is very valuable, and should be given great consideration by her husband when making decisions.
    • She is in tune with the needs and desires of all affected people in the organization, and can provide balance and unity between husbands and children.
    • It is a terrible thing when she abandons this and cultivates a critical spirit that does not encourage and love but rather verbally reminds others in her care of their shortcomings, often in anger, fueled by the memories of all of the other similar things that happened to her that flood into her mind during the situation.
  • The children submit to the husband (father) and wife (mother).
    • They are adults-in-training, and don’t have the skills yet to be independent of them.  They should carefully consider their parent’s advice and decisions.  When both the mother and father are acting in the role of servant-leader, they are taking their children’s best interests at heart, and are making decisions that are meant to be beneficial to everyone involved.
    • Children are born needy and selfish.  If left alone, they would do great harm to themselves and others.  It is only through the care, teaching, and correction by their parents that they are able to train themselves away from this natural-born state.  But it is just as important that they acknowledge and submit themselves to God so that they can overcome these tendencies.
    • Sometimes, decisions made by their parents may not appear to the children to be in their best interest.  An example of this is when they have to move because the father and/or mother has lost his/her job, and now are going to be separated from the safety and security of everything that they have known until now.  What they fail to grasp is that if the family stays, they may become homeless and encounter all of the difficulties associated with that particular life situation. They may not grasp that this would be far worse than if they moved.
    • It is terrible when they rebel against the authority of their parents (in the Lord). One example of this is when the children seek to do them as much harm as possible to get back at them in retaliation for feelings they may experience when their desires are not immediately granted (the entitlement generation syndrome).

When the order that God has imposed is followed by the family organization, there can be unity within it.  When a husband (fathers) submits himself to Christ, he is listening to the One who Omniscient, Omnipotent, and Omnipresent.  God has everyone’s (including the family’s) best interests at heart and will direct the husband (father) in the ways that the family should go.

When this occurs, he will display the love of God to his family, and it will be much easier to respect him in his role.  They should remember that he will be held accountable by God for the success or failure of the family organization.  While individuals have free will, and they certainly can rebel against both God and the husband (father), he will be held accountable for his submission to God and obedience to what God has directed him to do.

If a husband (father) is seeking God with all of his heart, mind, soul, and strength, it should be a joy for his wife to respect him and submit to him in all things, for in doing so, she is both submitting to the one placed in authority over her by God, as well as to God Himself as He works through His servant, the husband (father).  When the children (if any) see this relationship being displayed, their unity and Christ-likeness should fill them with a sense of safety and security and fill them with joy, knowing that they are loved and respected, and that their best interests are being kept in mind in all things.

When a wife submits to her husband, even (and especially) when he doesn’t deserve it, she is fulfilling her obligations with regard to the organization.  This must be done in love and without a critical spirit.  When this occurs, her love and respect for him will be used by the Holy Spirit to convict him and bring him back into line where he should be.  This is to be done with tender and tearful prayer by his wife, so that God would get a hold of him and help him to be the man of God that he is called to be.  Once that occurs, it will be a joy to submit to him.

A definition for submission of wives to husbands was once described as wives being willing to duck so that when God throws a right-cross at the family leadership, it lands firmly upon their husbands.

A Qualifying Question

For wives, let’s ask the question:  Are we submitting to our husband as the church is supposed to submit to Christ, with great respect and joy (even and especially if he doesn’t deserve it)?

A short prayer of Preparation:

Father in Heaven, it is a difficult thing to do what is the opposite of my nature to do.   Father, give me strength and guidance in every area of my life.  Help me to be who You made me to be.  Give me peace as I fulfill my role that You have provided for me.  Help me to see Your perspective in all things, and to love and respect my family the way that desire.  Show me where I need to change, that I may grow in You, and be an example for others.  Watch my ways, and keep me from sinning against You.  You have called me to be Holy – to be set apart from sin, and set apart to You.  Only You can bring that to fruition.  Encourage me when I feel frustrated, and remind me of Your goodness, mercy, grace, and compassion that I may lean upon them and show them to others, even when I am experiencing great trials.  This I ask in the name of Jesus my Lord and Savior, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Family Living by God – Ephesians 5:25-33

Husbands Have Great Responsibility

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

Lavishing Love

Christ poured out His love for the church by devoting His life to it.  He gave His life up for her in that He allowed Himself to be crucified on the cross for her.  Jesus poured out His life in ministry through teaching, healing, and preparing the disciples in what we would call “training the trainer” lessons.  In all of this He gave up any desires that He had for His own life, and devoted Himself to preparing and helping the disciples to be effective in their ministry.

In the same way, husbands are to lay down their lives, goals, ambitions, dreams, and whatever is part of self to devote himself to his wife.  Yes, husbands need to work (all Christians should be in some sort of labor, whether it is in the workplace, or in the home.  Anyone who says that working in the home is easy hasn’t really tried it by giving their full devotion to it…), but they should be doing their very best to ensure the success of their wives in what they are doing.

If you want to see your wife put a smile on her face, watch what happens when she realizes that you are devoting yourself to her success.  She thrives on love.  Study her to see what makes her feel most connected to you and emotionally engaged.  Then,give her so much of it that she is bursting!

Proper Preparation

All of God’s people are called the bride of Christ.  His job was to make us holy.  He did that through His death, burial, and resurrection, offering His sinless blood for our sins, His righteousness for our shame. He washed us through the living water that springs out of the Word of God.  He transforms our minds as we read the Word of God.

In the same way, husbands are to prepare their wives as well, being the spiritual leader of the organization that is the family unit.  Husbands do that through love.  When husbands love their wives, their wives are more open to their leading.  The only way that this will successfully occur is if their wives feel loved (emotionally engaged and connected).

Consider the Context

Husbands are to take into consideration that it would be hypocritical to love their wives less than they love themselves.  When the two became one flesh, this does not only mean physical intimacy, but also spiritual intimacy and oneness.  It is a unity of minds, direction, purpose, and intent.  Selfishness – the deficiency of showing love to others – is unthinkable in this context.

The husband now should put as much care and maintenance into helping his wife as he does himself.  Without that, there is an imbalance in the relationship that is like driving a car with one front wheel out of alignment.  As you try to drive straight ahead, the car will pull to the side that is out of alignment.  In order to go anywhere fast and safely, that wheel has to be put back into alignment so that both front tires are working together in unison for the purpose and direction they are instructed to go by the person behind the wheel.  And the person behind the wheel should be Jesus Christ if both spouses are Christians.

Husbands need to remind themselves that it is just as important to see to the needs of their wives as it is to see to their own needs.  The only way that this can happen on a regular basis and in an appropriate way is for husbands to die to themselves, pick up their cross, and follow Christ.  Following means walking alongside shoulder to shoulder, step for step.  And how did/does Christ love His bride?

Total Togetherness

And the two shall become one flesh.  This is an amazing thing.  Two people who have different backgrounds, interests, likes and dislikes, habits, ways of thinking, and physical needs, come together for the purpose of changing, unifying, and sanctification.  They begin to change from the mental state of taking care of self to taking care of another.  They morph from two separate identities into a more singular identity, where they consider themselves extensions of each other.  The process can become so complete that they even begin to look like each other – their facial expressions become nearly identical, they may even wear the same color clothing when they go out, they smile the same way, they become a singular unit in a singular purpose in a singular direction.  That is very powerful.

Mighty Mystery

What a delightful thing!  That the family – the relationship between husband and wife – is to be considered a reflection between Jesus Christ and the church, His bride.  Paul takes the opportunity to remind us that the relationship between husband and wife is indicative of the relationship between Christ and the church.  We can draw many parallels, but in the spiritual realm, there is this melding as the bride is drawn out of her shell and begins to fully blossom as a beautiful flower as love is poured into her and she draws close to him.  She becomes confident and strengthened, emboldened by the support of her husband.  As love is poured into her, her fears diminish, she is overwhelmed with security, and love begins to overflow out of her heart.  It blesses everyone that she meets as they are the recipient of that magnified love.

Delight and Deference

Oh, the key to every successful marriage! L O V E and R E S P E C T.

  • Husbands need to feel RESPECTED
    • When a husband feels respected, he draws out of his shell and performs to the best of his ability.  His internal need – respect – is fulfilled, and he is able to perform and respond in the maximum capacity that God has provided to him. He will be able to engage his wife emotionally, and he will feel that he is able to open up to her more.
    • When a husband does not feel respected, he will withdraw, and may not be able to engage emotionally.  His thought process may be, “Why should I open myself up emotionally and be vulnerable if all I hear is criticism?”  Since he longs to be respected, he may even pour all of his time into whatever activity provides that (usually his job, where he is respected by his peers and superiors).  If he then encounters a woman who is respectful, compliments him on his prowess at work, and lets him know he is doing well – not criticizing him – he may be at great risk for moral failure.
    • Wives, do you want your husbands to open up to you and engage you at every level in every aspect of your life?  Show your husband respect, whether or not YOU feel he deserves it.
  • Wives need to feel LOVED
    • When a wife feels loved (even if husbands are loving her to death from their perspective, unless she FEELS it, it really isn’t going to have any effect…) she will begin to come out of her shell.  She will engage her husband, and be able to show him the respect that he greatly desires.  She will be more forgiving, smile more, do more – even desire to please him – and be better prepared to engage her husband physically.
    • When a wife does not feel loved, she will withdraw, and will not be able to engage physically.  Since she longs to be loved (feel emotionally connected), she will be like a flower that hasn’t been watered, and is drying up.  If another man begins to water that flower – engage her in conversation, compliment her, say and do things that lift her spirits and engages her emotionally – she may be at great risk for moral failure.
    • Husbands, do you want your wives to open up to you and engage you in every aspect of your life?  Ensure that your wife feels loved, whether she deserves it or not.
  • The negative cycle where men feel disrespected and women feel unloved can be broken by just one person making the decision to act counter to how they feel.  Someone has to start.  It might as well be you!

A Qualifying Question

For husbands, let’s ask the question:  Are we loving our wives as Christ loves the church?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are perfect in all of Your ways.  Everything that you do is righteous, and You can do no evil.  Help me to better understand Your plan and purpose for marriage.  You have declared me to be Jesus Christ’s bride, and You pour out Your love on me all the time.  Your mercies renew every morning.  You never leave me nor forsake me.  I am more than a conqueror through Christ Jesus.  I have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ.  Help me to truly understand all of these things, and to comprehend the depth and width and height of the love that You have for me.  Help me to show your love to others, especially in my family.  Guard and guide me in this that I may reflect Your love and my responsibilities in the role that You have called me.  This I ask in the precious name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Leadership of God – 1 Timothy 3:8-13

It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.

8 In the same way, deacons are to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. 9 They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.

11 In the same way, the women are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.

12 A deacon must be faithful to his wife and must manage his children and his household well. 13 Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.

Requirements of Responsibility

The body of Christ, now as well as then, needs capable leaders and leaders-in-training to ensure that the body is orderly, well-kept, and that their needs are met.  Before anyone should be put into a position of leadership, they should first be examined to see if they are up to the challenge.  Leadership exacts a toll on people.  And to the extent that leaders allow themselves to be crucified – to submit to the task of servant-hood and apply themselves to fulfilling their responsibilities well – will determine the success or failure of their leadership.

Paul lays out the expanded character requirements of Deacons here.  It is important to note that all of these requirements should be the core foundational principles of EVERY Christian man and woman.  We should ALL be found worthy to be chosen for roles of leadership.  Jesus is our model; He led the disciples, and leads us now.  How much more should we try to emulate Him so that we can be useful in the Kingdom of God?

Capable Character

Paul lists several important character traits that the Deacons should exhibit prior to even being considered for appointment to this office:

  • Worthy of Respect
    • When leaders act responsibly and show themselves devoted to the tasks at hand, placing a special emphasis on the needs of those being led, they are worthy of respect.  When they abuse their office, or the responsibilities entrusted to them, they are no longer worthy of that respect.  In that case, they should be relieved of duty, confronted, and be restored once the issue has been addressed and they have once again shown that they are steadfast in their walk with God and worthy of respect.
  • Sincerity
    • Sincerity does not preclude hilarity.  A person can be jovial, but should be very serious when it comes to ensuring that their responsibilities are properly and promptly executed.  They should be able to set aside frivolity and indifference so that they can be clearly seen to understand the gravity of their calling, and be trusted to execute their responsibilities in such a way that any who watch will not have any reason to lay a charge against them.
  • Sober-Minded
    • Many have indicated that this means that a Deacon cannot drink alcohol.  In leadership, it is very important that the leader emulate the character that they wish to see in those whom they are leading.  It is imperative that this example be exemplary.  Imagine what a Deacon would have to say if they were called just after dinner and a glass or two of wine, to come out to the church to help with some immediate needs, or provide counsel to a member of the flock over the phone.  Wine addles the brain.  It is best to be sober-minded at all times, if possible.  While not prohibited, great thought should be given when contemplating the consumption of alcohol both for timing as well as amount.
  • Financially Content
    • The candidate should be able to put into practice the wisdom that God has provided to them concerning financial matters as instructed in the Bible.  This includes giving to the ministry of the church, financial planning, and with payment of all financial obligations.  There may be times that the candidate has unusual circumstances – one of the leading causes of bankruptcy is medical debt.  These should be taken into consideration.  The person should not desire to pursue dishonest gain, be in a state of greed, or envious of the material success of others.  If a person is faithful in the little things of life, they will be faithful in the big things of life.
  • Biblical Understanding
    • This requirement cannot be emphasized too greatly.  The Deacon, in the role of meeting the needs of the body, needs to have a firm understanding of God’s Word.  Not only should they have a firm understanding, they should have a great love of the Word.  It is only when there is a great love of God’s Word that they are able to do what God has called them to do when leading God’s people.  Because the office of Deacon is often the training ground for Elders (both lay-persons and ministers of the Gospel), it is critical that they show a commitment to the Word of God, and demonstrate through their lives that the understanding that they have in their mind is shown by their actions, speech, and thoughts as seen by others.
  • A Clear Conscience
    • When they are properly demonstrating in their lives the truth of the Word of God, they will walk with a clear conscience, being able to test God’s good, pleasing, and perfect will in their lives.  This will further embolden them to walk more confidently with God.

If after demonstrating these characteristics, if there is nothing found against them, they should then be considered for the vital role of Deacon.

Women Welcome

But this role is not only for the men.  Women can also serve in this capacity.  Paul gives a few qualifications for women to be considered.  Because of the God-appointed roles of men and women by God, they will not have all of the specific requirements that men are required to display.  The qualities of character that women are to display in order to be considered for the office of Deaconess are:

  • Worthy of Respect
    • Deacons should be worthy of respect.  It is hard to follow a leader when they demonstrate through their words and actions that they are unworthy of respect.
  • Careful Speech
    • God has made women natural communicators.  Because of this, the enemy likes to take the strengths that God provides and twist them to malign the image-bearers of God and by implication, God Himself.  It is important that women who are to be considered for the position of Deaconess not engage in gossip, or accidentally (and especially not on purpose!)  divulge anything said to them in confidence as they meet the needs of the body.  They need to be above reproach in how they speak, and keep matters that are private from becoming public talk.
  • Temperate
    • God has provided women with a natural ability to harness their emotions for accurately judging situations (womanly intuition).  However, the enemy does like to twist the good things of God, and women may have a tendency to be overly emotional or take the statements of others to heart before they are carefully evaluated to see if they have any merit.  In this, it is a requirement that women are able to manage their emotions properly so as not to be compromised when these situations occur.  Steady leaders are easier to follow than moody ones…
  • Trustworthy in all things
    • As with all positions of leadership, it is absolutely vital that the person be trustworthy in all things.  If people are unable to trust their leaders, there will be a reduction in their ability to fully engage in the work at hand.  This undermines the credibility of the leader, and eventually, people will just ignore them.  When they are not longer trustworthy, they are no longer worthy of respect.  It is hard to lead when no one will listen to you.

Family Focus

In any organization, their needs to be a hierarchy for decision-making and, as a necessary part of that, accountability.  God has appointed men to be the head of the household, and women to be in an advisory role.   While this may seem sexist to our generation, it is not that men are superior and women and children are inferior, but there has to be a chain of command:

  1. Jesus Christ is the head of the organization of the family
  2. Men are the leaders who are (ultimately) responsible for making the decisions and (ultimately) accountable for the success or failure of the family organization.  Men are, as Christ, required to lay down their life for those he has been placed in charge.
  3. Women are in a very good position within the family organization – they (should) have great influence in the decisions that affect the family.  They are required to submit.  It has been said that submission is the willingness to duck so that God can throw a right cross at leadership when needed…
  4. Children are adults in training.  Treat them accordingly.

When a man is leading his household faithfully and under the control and guidance of the Holy Spirit, it should be easy for those under his leadership to not only willingly submit to his authority but to rejoice and be glad in the decisions that he makes, for they will be in everybody’s best (long-term, and not selfish) interests so that they align with God’s Word and God’s plan.

Firm Foundation

When a Deacon is leading a life full of the Spirit and in step with the Spirit, he/she will be gain a boldness in their walk – a boldness from the confidence of knowing that God is leading them, that God is sovereign, and is has everyone’s best interests (within the framework of God’s holy and perfect plan) at heart.  They will grow in knowledge and understanding of God’s Holy Word, as God reveals more to them so that they can be better servant-leaders.  This confidence will be in a humble attitude, and should encourage those who have entrusted these leaders to greater trust and confidence in their ability to provide leadership to them.

A Qualifying Question

So, let’s ask ourselves a question:  Am I leading my life in such a way that I would be considered for a position of leadership?  And if I am in a position of leadership, am I leading my life in such a way that I am worthy of respect and above reproach?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You sent Your Son, Jesus Christ, to bear witness to the Truth.  Guide me in Your Truth, and help me to live a life worthy of respect and above reproach.  Help me to completely submit to You through Your Word and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  May my life be poured out to You as a drink offering.  May it honor and glorify Your Holy Name.  May it be in dedication to You and Your purposes.  And may my life be lived in such way that others will glorify Your Name, and be drawn to You.  Help me in the role that You have placed me in so that it may be carried out to its best and fullest extent.  This I ask and pray in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?