Category Archives: Girls with Gusto

Should We Seek Perfection, Progress, or Neither?

Standard

GoodWork_BSK

 

The following blog was first posted on LiftUpYourDay.com. Click over to their site for more encouragement!


 

For years, the media has sold us an image of perfection. We idolize celebrities and models in movies, TV shows, and print ads. We envy their photo-shopped looks and overflowing bank accounts, all the while feeling totally inadequate in comparison. In response to this, the following advice has become commonplace: “Seek progress, not perfection.” Apparently, Hollywood can be perfect, but we common folk should settle for progress.

However, lately I’ve been hearing a new message: “You’re perfect just the way you are.” So, now it doesn’t matter what we say or do; we just have to wake up in the morning to be perfect. And since everyone is perfect, no one has to feel pressured to seek progress.

Each of these messages can be used to justify our actions (or lack thereof). So, what’s the truth? Do we seek perfection, progress, or neither? As Christians, we should look to the Bible for our answer.

 

Be Perfect

One of the grandest statements in Scripture is found in Matthew 5. After admonishing the disciples to love their enemies, Jesus said, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48 NAS).

If we can’t even compare to celebrities, how can we be perfect as God is perfect? How should we interpret this today?

First, note that Jesus was NOT talking about heaven. He simply said the disciples would be perfect if they loved and obeyed God and loved their fellow man. As Jesus’ disciples today, this applies to us, too.

Second, the word “perfect” here is derived from the Greek word teleios, meaning “complete” or “having reached its end.” This does NOT mean that we’ll gain special powers, that we’ll stop making mistakes, or that we’ll never need to ask for forgiveness again. I will NOT become Super Woman, and you will NOT become Anne Hathaway.

However, this Scripture DOES mean that we’ll become complete, mature versions of ourselves—the epitome of what God intended us to be when He created us. I’ll be the perfect me, and you’ll be the perfect you.

 

Make Progress

I’ve heard parents say they wish their children could remain babies forever, but they don’t really mean that. Instead, they want what is best for their children: for them to grow and mature until they realize their full potential as adults. As our Heavenly Father, God wants the same thing for us!

Paul explained that we must “grow up in all aspects into Him” (Ephesians 4:15 NAS). He then said that we should use our talents and the roles God gives us within the Church Body “until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13 NAS, emphasis mine).

The word “mature” here is the same word teleios meaning, “perfect, complete, having reached its end.” In other words, we should strive toward righteousness, obedience, and unity, growing in the knowledge of the Lord until the whole Church Body is where it should be.

This act of maturing, of perfecting, is not a one-time activity! It is not relegated to the point of salvation, baptism, or confirmation. Instead, it covers a lifelong pursuit of God and His holiness in our lives.

And God expects us to make progress.

 

Progress in the Pursuit of Perfection

God is not concerned with the world’s definition of perfection, and neither should we. The media’s messages might tickle the ears, but they are empty of real truth. God’s message is much more meaningful and valuable! His Word says that we should seek Him first, and that we should strive to be what He made us to be so we can do what He’s called us to do.

In other words, we should make progress in the pursuit of God’s perfection.

If this is a new concept for you, I encourage you to study these verses and meditate on their meaning. If you feel convicted to make progress in your spiritual life, ask the Lord what steps you should take. Then, stand in faith that, “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6b NAS).


I’d love to know your thoughts on this post! Have you struggled with the concept of perfection? Is the idea of progressing in your journey a new one for you? Please leave a comment or send me a private message. Thanks for reading BigSisterKnows!

The Problem with Proverbs 31

Standard

ProblemProv31_BSK_jpg

The following blog was posted this week on Lift Up Your Day and is included in its entirety below. For more encouragement, check out the other posts on LUYD.


 

The Woman

If you’ve been a believer for a while, you’ve probably heard about Proverbs 31. Depending on your Bible translation, you may know this as the chapter describing the “virtuous woman” or the “excellent wife.” (See verse 10.) I used to think of this fictitious person as the Perfect Woman—Mother Theresa, Martha Stewart, and Ivanka Trump rolled into one modern day Super Hero.

Sounds cool, right? Sure, until you read the details.

This woman

  • does good things for her husband every day of her life (with no exception);
  • makes beautiful clothes and linen for her family using exotic raw materials she’s sourced in the marketplace;
  • finds time to make additional items, which she sells through her own clothing line;
  • is also a successful farmer and vine dresser;
  • never sleeps, rests, or is idle (and probably doesn’t blink for that matter);
  • still has the energy to mentor others;
  • is strong, wise, and dignified; and
  • apparently doesn’t have a negative bone in her body. (God bless her heart!)

 

The Frustration

Is it just me, or does this woman give us over-worked, over-stressed, under-paid girls a bad name? Don’t you just hate her? Can we agree to ignore this chapter all together?

Okay, so I was a little mad at the Proverbs 31 woman for a while. I was also frustrated at the preachers and teachers who lifted her up as the standard against which all women are measured. I was doing good to get out of bed on Sunday morning, so this comparison to the Proverbs 31 woman was becoming a stumbling block for me. I began to feel guilt and self-condemnation because I couldn’t measure up. My solution was to ignore that entire chapter as best I could.

 

The Truth

Fortunately, the Lord didn’t let me off that easy. Over a period of years, He kept bringing me back to Proverbs 31. Eventually, I discovered something amazing: this isn’t a to-do list of all the things we have to accomplish daily for God to love us and use us. Instead, this chapter is like a map of our spiritual journey as seen from a 20,000-foot vantage point.

For example, the woman buys a field, plants a garden, sells the produce, and then buys a vineyard with the earnings. Later, she helps the poor and needy. (See Proverbs 31:16-20.) We all recognize that we can’t reap what we don’t sow, and we can’t bless others if we have nothing to give. Even from a spiritual standpoint, we can’t offer the gifts of knowledge and wisdom until we’ve received them ourselves. Proverbs 31 contains many such natural laws, which helps us understand our spiritual journeys and track our progress.

I also realized that Proverbs 31 applies to both men and women. There are numerous Scriptures depicting God as a bridegroom courting His bride, which is the Church. (See Matthew 9:15 and Revelation 21:9-10.) So, when we read figurative Scriptures referring to the marriage relationship, we can usually put ourselves in the wife’s role and Jesus in the husband’s role. Applying this to Proverbs 31 has given me a new outlook on how we, the Church, interact with Jesus.

 

The Encouragement

Over time, I came to see that the problem with Proverbs 31 wasn’t with the Scripture at all—it was with my own misunderstanding of the Word. I encourage you to read this important chapter again with fresh eyes. Notice how the woman grows over time, from faithful servant to wise teacher. Then read the verses again as if the woman is the Church body and the husband is Jesus.

Instead of running from this chapter—like I wanted to—lean into it. Seek God’s guidance and understanding. Let go of the guilt of not being a Super Hero and pursue the greater role of an obedient child of God. May this bless you and encourage you on your journey.

“A woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised” (Proverbs 31:30 NAS).


The book I’ve been writing, Girls with Gusto, delves into these topics of perfection and Proverbs 31. As I pull these sections together, I’ll share them here with you. Please give me feedback—what you like or don’t like, what you find encouraging, and what’s difficult for you to live out in your daily life. Thank you!

Girls with Gusto: A Spirit of Joy

Standard
a-spirit-of

Photo by Ashley Jones 2016.

It’s human nature to want what we want, to be happy when we get it, and to be unhappy when we don’t. Only a crazy person would be happy when everything is going wrong…right?

 

A Spirit of Joy

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog entitled A Clean Heart, which was about the first of eight major steps in our Christian journey. These steps, and how to navigate them, are the topic of the book I’m writing for young women: Girls with Gusto.

Step Two in our journey is A Spirit of Joy. As I researched this topic, the first thing I learned is that there is a difference between worldly happiness and godly happiness. Worldly happiness is a fickle thing, with its highs and lows determined by our current circumstances.

Godly happiness, or what I call joy, is tied to our relationship with God (see Psalm 43:4). I learned that if we will only anchor ourselves to Him, we can experience the kind of joy that never waivers, regardless of our situation.

 

An Excerpt on Joy

Here’s an excerpt from Girls with Gusto: 

If God is to be the source of our joy, we need to be sure that His direction is as true and straight as the North Star. Otherwise, our joy would be as unpredictable as if it were based on the shifting circumstances of the world. 

Thankfully, the Bible gives us assurance: “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow” (James 1:17 NAS). The KJV version states there is “no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” 

I love that! There is no variation. No variables. There’s not even a shadow of turning. Not a hint. God doesn’t wake up grumpy or go to bed angry. He doesn’t tell us one thing today and another thing tomorrow. He is more constant than the rising and setting of the sun (see Isaiah 60:19-20).

This surety and steadfastness are extremely important qualities of God. If we are to have a solid foundation we can rely on, it must be immovable.

 

The Crutch of Circumstance

When I went through a rough patch in my early twenties, I realized that the world couldn’t offer me real joy. That’s when I began to truly seek God in my life.

Ten years later, as I was writing about joy, the Lord began to convict me once again. Life has been really good and, while I’ve been thankful to God for my blessings, I haven’t looked to Him as the source of my joy. Instead, I’ve limped around on the crutch of circumstance, accepting the mediocre happiness of the world. The fact that my circumstances were good doesn’t make my reliance on them (instead of God) any less of a sin.

So what did God do? Did He punish me? No, but He sure taught me a lesson! Here’s a short list of things I went through over the course of a few months:

  • Robby began to travel a lot. For a while, we had more days apart than together. I didn’t realize how much I relied on him for emotional support as well as all the work he does around the house.
  • Our sweet kitty, Sue, passed away. She was our fur-baby for over four years, so this was a huge loss for us. [Click here to read more about Sue.]
  • My parents sold the house we moved into when I was 13. I like their new house more, but letting go of the past can be difficult.
  • My grandfather had emergency surgery and, for a while, we weren’t sure if he was going to be all right. Thank God, he did heal completely, but it was a stressful time for all of us.
  • I picked up every bacterium or bug came my way and stayed sick for days on end. These illnesses were putting a strain on my nerves, work, writing, and home life.

It was like everything in life that gave me comfort was being withheld, and every stressor had the volume turned up. Through it all, I felt God tugging me toward Himself, forcing me to look to Him as the source of my joy and comfort. It was a painful process, but I’m glad to be moving ever forward in my spiritual journey.

 

Your Joy

When things don’t go your way, do you feel anxious and depressed? Are you too stressed to seek the Lord?

When life is good, do you grow slack in reading your Bible? Do you get caught up in the day’s activities and forget to pray?

Remember that God is your spiritual food and water (see 1 Corinthians 10:1-5). Whatever the day brings, you have to eat and drink, right? In the same way, you need to seek God’s presence and read His Word. If you can make this a daily habit, regardless of the situation, you can have the joy that comes from God—a true Spirit of Joy.