Tag Archives: God

The Problem with Proverbs 31

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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!

Loving the Unlovable

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


What did you do this past Valentine’s Day? Did it involve standing in line to buy fuzzy teddy bears, overpriced chocolates in heart-shaped boxes, mushy greeting cards, or Star Wars candy for your kids? Perhaps you had a nice dinner out or watched a Rom-Com at home.

However you celebrated Valentine’s Day, I bet it involved those you love. You certainly weren’t spending time and energy on those you don’t love.

 

The Unlovable

You know who they are. The woman who said hateful things about you behind your back. The guy who deceived you and broke your heart. We all know people like this. The ones who make life harder. The ones who hurt others to get ahead. The ones we can’t stand to be around. The ones we cannot, under any situation, love.

And yet that’s what God has called us to do: to love the unlovable.

 

An Impossible Command

Jesus said we should love our enemies and pray for those persecute us. (See Matthew 5:43-47.) I thought about this for years, wondering how I could possibly live this out in my own life. How can we muster the courage, strength, or whatever goodness is needed to love those who hate us?

I finally have the answer: We don’t. We can’t. We simply don’t have what it takes.

But God does.

 

A Godly Love

Before we knew God, we had to manage on our own. Our emotions—from love to hate—were based on passion, desire, and fear.

Then, we accepted Jesus as our Savior, and the Holy Spirit took up residence in our hearts. The Bible says that God is Love. This doesn’t just mean that He Loves us, but that His Love abides within us. (See 1 John 4:8 and 15.) If we will tap into the Holy Spirit in us, we can dispense God’s Love (with a capital L).

Remember, Jesus sacrificed Himself so all who believe in Him will have everlasting life (John 3:16). He saved each of us while we were still sinners. God’s Love is bigger than any sin we can commit, and there is no one God doesn’t want to save.

 

Exercises

There will always be people who wound us, aggravate us, or simply annoy us. But we aren’t limited to our own anemic emotions any more. Now, we can draw from God’s perfect Love that dwells within us.

The next time you happen upon your enemies, try these godly tactics:

  • Fake it ‘til you make it. Act like you sincerely care for their wellbeing. This isn’t about lying but about positioning yourself to draw from God’s wellspring of Love.
  • Don’t be ugly. Even when they’re not in the room, don’t say anything hateful about them. That would only negate the good work you’re trying to accomplish and open the door to hypocrisy.
  • Pray for them. You can’t hate someone you’re praying for, so pray and pray some more.

Whatever you do, ask for God’s guidance and wisdom. Treat each interaction with your enemies as opportunities to be His hands and feet in the world. By this, God’s love will be perfected in you. (See 1 John 4:12.)

If you practice this enough, you will eventually prove something quite profound: thanks to God’s grace, no one is unlovable.

We love, because He first loved us.  If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.  And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also. (1 John 4:19-21 NAS)

I’m Teaching a Seminar!

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The Desire

It started when I was a teenager. I would lie awake at night and imagine myself teaching a group of students about something very important. I was engaging and funny—but not silly—and by the end of the presentation, I knew I had a made a difference.

When I told my mom about it, she assured me that it was not common for people to fantasize about teaching in front of large groups. It figures; I never seemed to do anything normal. But it did make me wonder if this was a “God thing:” something He was laying on my heart.

While I don’t feel called to be a full-time teacher, I still find myself dreaming of teaching, speaking, and instructing on some level. (I have utmost respect for all our amazing teachers and cannot fathom how they have the patience to persevere in light of school politics and standardized testing. May God bless you!)

 

The Reality

Finally, this year, I’ll see this vision start to become a reality. I will be teaching my first seminar at the Tallahassee Christian College and Training Center (my alma mater) on November 19, 2016!

The class, “Navigating Your Spiritual Journey,” is based on all the research I’ve done as I continue to write my book, Girls with Gusto. We’ll dive into what I call the eight major steps of the spiritual journey, from salvation to becoming the person God made us to be. This course will be heavily based on Scripture and, since we’ll be talking about the spiritual journey in general, it will be applicable for both guys and gals, from new believers to the seasoned Bible student.

As I prepare for this class, I’m beginning to realize something important. These things God places on our hearts aren’t just our “imagination;” they aren’t “possible outcomes” that we can choose to embrace or deny. They’re words from God that He has spoken over us and imprinted on our hearts. The Bible says that God’s Word goes forth and accomplishes what He desires; it does not return to Him void. (See Isaiah 55:11.) Yes, this primarily refers to God’s Word as captured in the Bible, but it also applies to words He speaks over us directly, in the here and now.

 

May Your Dreams Become Reality

Do you have a vision of yourself teaching, preaching, singing, writing, healing, counseling, etc.? Have you always had a strong or unusual desire to go to a different city or country, to be involved a particular ministry, or to change careers entirely? Do you have an idea for an invention, a new product, or a business?

Seek the Lord! If He put this desire on your heart, He means to fulfill it! (See Proverbs 37:4.) You might have to wait nearly twenty years like I have, but when it happens, you know it’s God’s doing, and you can move forward without hesitation.

May God put you in the center of His will, and may He accomplish what He set out to do with you and through you.


If you’re in the Tallahassee area, please join us for the seminar! Here are the details:

When: Saturday, 11/19/2016, from 9am-1pm
Cost: $15 for personal growth or $25 for .25 semester credit
What to bring: Your Bible and a notebook to write in.

Our goal with this class is to understand the layout of our spiritual journey so we can grow closer to the Lord and become the person He wants us to be. By the end of the class, you’ll be able to determine where you on your journey, what steps are still in front of you, and how you can continue to press forward.

Girls with Gusto: A Spirit of Joy

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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.

Thriving the Storm

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Thanks to Hurricane Hermine, we’ve been without power for nearly 72 hours, and it could still be another day before it’s back on. But we’re not complaining! With running water, a small generator for the fridge, a gas stove to cook on, and no structural damage, we’re the fortunate ones. For many others—without food, water, and adequate shelter—the storm has not yet passed.

In the midst of this, I have come up with a new personal motto: Prepare well to fare well.

In other words, those who prepare for the storm will probably get through it better than those who don’t. Of course, none of us knows what tomorrow will bring, and there’s only so much we can plan for. Ultimately, it is God who provides for us and protects us. (See Genesis 22:14 and Psalm 41:1-2.)

As I sit here on my front porch, writing by the light of a hurricane lamp, I ponder what this has to do with the storms in our spiritual lives.

We’ve all survived spiritual storms. Some, like tornadoes, come unannounced, bringing turbulent winds of destruction and change. Others are like hurricanes, causing us to shrink with anxiety for weeks as we watch them grow in strength and power. Even the regular summer showers can uproot our everyday comfort and flood us with despair.

We know we will encounter these spiritual storms again, sooner or later. Instead of just surviving these storms, what can we do to start thriving in the midst of them?

 

Prayer

In the natural world, we seek out needed information before, during, and after the storm. We watch the weather channel, looking for colorful radar maps and pretending to understand spaghetti models. We surf social media, on the lookout for emergency alerts and bulletins. This information is our life line during a crisis.

In the spiritual sense, we need to tune into God regularly. (See 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.) He will often give us warnings of coming danger, will direct our steps during the storm, and will give us the strength to regroup and move forward. (See Psalm 5:8.) Talk to God throughout each day, and listen to the guidance He has for you.

 

Perspiration

Before the storm, you have to drive to the store, stand in line, and stock up on supplies. When you get home, you have to put the batteries in the flashlights and radios, bring in the lawn furniture, pack a bag in case you need to evacuate …. Then, if there is a storm, you have to file the insurance claim, cut down the tree, cook on the camp stove, sit in the hot house …. It’s exhausting!

If we’re to survive spiritual storms, we need to be as prepared as we would be for a hurricane. We have to stock up on resources before the storm so they’re available to us after it hits. Remember, our spiritual food and supplies are God Himself. Allow the living water of God’s Spirit to dwell within you, and you will never thirst. Store the bread of God’s Word in your heart, and you will never hunger. (See John 4:10 and John 6:35.) After a storm, you will be amply prepared.

 

People

Regardless of our preparation, all of us are vulnerable to accidents during and after a storm. Whether we like it or not, we rely on others to help us: firemen to quell the flames, policemen to keep the peace, and hospitals to tend the wounded. However, it’s often family, friends, neighbors, and even strangers, who save us in our time of need.

Sometimes, we’re the ones with the answers and the resources; that’s when we need to share a word of wisdom, a warm hug, or a helping hand. Other times, we’re the ones in need, and we have to humble ourselves to listen to counsel or to take the help that is being offered. You cannot get through life—even your spiritual life—on your own. (See Luke 10:25-37.) Look at your spiritual resources and that of others around you, and share what you have.

If we can incorporate these three areas—Prayer, Perspiration, and People—into our everyday lives, we can prepare for future spiritual storms. Instead of just surviving these storms, we will be able to thrive in the midst of them!

 

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:37-39 NAS).