Growing In Godliness Blog
Serving One Another
By Paul Earnhart
Marriage has fallen on hard times in America and its agonies have filled many with a desperate longing for the healing of the home. The appetite for books on this subject seems insatiable. Unfortunately, much of this concern is for a quick and easy method— “15 Minutes a Day to a Happy Marriage.” There is no such magic formula. But there are answers, real answers, to marital anguish. They have been there all along.
The Bible is the grandest marriage manual ever written; not because it was written for that purpose, but because it is a book about relationships. It deals primarily with a man’s relationship to God and, out of that, his relationship to himself and others.
Marriage, as a union between a man and a woman, has about it some unique qualities of companionship and intimacy, but it is, at its heart, a relationship and the fundamental principle which rules it and moves it to a profound closeness is the same one which nurtures human relationships of every kind. A powerful statement and practical application of that principle is found in Ephesians.
Ephesians 5:1 is a bridge. It is the concluding thought of one exhortation which leads to another. Paul is in the midst of a practical application of the great principles of God’s redemptive work in Christ. He has been speaking of walking worthily of our calling (Ephesians 4:1), walking in love as God’s beloved children (Ephesians 5:2), walking as children of light, carefully, wisely (Ephesians 5:8, 15). He urges the Ephesians to be filled with the sobering influence of the Spirit rather than the wild indiscipline of wine. Such a Spirit-filled life, he says, will reveal itself in concrete ways— in the heartfelt worship together of God, and in mutual subjection to each other (Ephesians 5:18-21).
It is on the last phrase fo the paragraph, “subjecting yourselves to one another in the fear of Christ,” that Paul fixes his attention on the succeeding verses (Ephesians 5:22-6:9). Here he finds the principle upon which all relationships in Christ must be grounded. It is an idea which occurs frequently in Paul, and he always derives it from what God has done in Christ and the cross. This calling, with which we must live harmoniously, is out of the rich mercy and goodness of God who, by His grace, has elevated us, sinful and undeserving, to sit in heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 2:1-10). This calling demands that those who receive it live with all others in a humble, long-suffering, forgiving love (Ephesians 4:2, 32) and find the greatest delight in serving the needs of others rather than their own. Such was the self emptying mind of Christ (Philippians 2:1-5). So He taught, lived, and died (Matthew 20:26-28; 23:11-12).
It is for this reason that in the succeeding discussion of the responsibilities of husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and servants, that the one whose role it is to submit is dealt with ahead of one whose task it is to lead and guide (Ephesians 5:22-6:9). There is no role in life which so suits the mind of Christ as the role of submission. No disciple of Jesus should find it demeaning to submit— whether a wife to a husband, a child to a parent, or a servant to a master— when he follows the One who “emptied himself, taking the form of a servant…” (Philippians 2:7); who came “not to be served, but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). The reason for the submission of the wife, child, or servant, is to bless the husband, parent, or master— and to honor Christ.
More difficult perhaps is the role of the leader. He, too, must subject himself. The husband must subject himself to his wife, the parent to his child, the master to his servant. This does not remove him from his responsibility of headship and leadership, but it means that his guidance must always be ruled by the best interest of those who must follow and not his own. The husband is not to rule his wife for his own selfish ends, but in order to bring blessing and fulfillment to her. The parent is not to rule his children arbitrarily, as if he owned them to do with as he pleased, but, as a steward of God’s gift, to nurture them after God’s purposes and for their own eternal good. The master (employer, manager) too, must in his guidance of the affairs of his servants (employees) seek their good and not merely his own.
This spirit of sacrificial love will revolutionize any relationship, especially marriage. The root problem of our modern marital trauma is not technique, but sin. Selfishness and pride have destroyed our ability to live humbly for the sake of another. We come to marriage, as to other relationships, not to give, but to get, not to forbear, but to demand, not to bless, but to use. How is this problem to be solved? In the same way every sin problem must be solved— by a heartfelt repentance which seeks God’s forgiveness and turns to serve Him humbly again. It is only as we come to know and emulate the servant-mind of God’s Son that we will find peace and blessing in our relationships with others. And in that most intimate of all human relationships, especially.
Mary- A Modern Day Mentor
By Kim Davis
Mary, the mother of Jesus, is worshipped by some religions. There are churches, statues, and prayers dedicated to her. While none of this is supported in the Bible, one cannot deny that Mary was a remarkable woman that we can look to as an example for us today.
Luke 1:30 tells us that Mary had favor with God. Out of all the women living during her time, God handpicked her to be the mother of His perfect, only begotten Son. This alone says a lot about Mary. The Lord knew He would need a strong woman who could bear the burdens that came with being the mother of the Lord. We all like to think our kids are perfect even though we know better. But Mary truly had a perfect child. Can you imagine how wonderful that would have been? No breaking curfew, no backtalk, but complete obedience. But on the other hand, imagine the heartache she felt watching her son be prepared for the cross, and hanging there in front of her in pain, as sweat and blood dripped down His body as He was being tortured. Sometimes we watch a child face the consequences of his/her actions and even though it hurts to watch, we know that facing those consequences will help build their character and hopefully teach them a lesson. But Mary’s child was suffering because of our sins. Have you ever seen a child punished unjustly for something that another child had done? It makes us angry as parents. It’s not fair and we want things to be handled justly. I can’t help but wonder if Mary experienced those same feelings, even though she knew it was God’s plan and she trusted in God.
Luke 1:34 tells us that Mary was a virgin. We know she was engaged to Joseph but yet she had kept herself pure for her husband. So let’s be honest here, is it possible to remain a virgin until marriage? Yes. Is it easy? No, it takes a great deal of determination and resolve. Many Christians have failed here but Mary did not. Sometimes we forget that people in the first century struggled with the same sins that we deal with today. All the way back to the Old Testament, the Bible is riddled with infidelity, multiple wives, and concubines. Controlling ourselves in the midst of physical passion is not harder today than it was for Mary and Joseph. We don’t always equip our young ladies with the tools and confidence they need to preserve their purity for their husbands. But Mary stayed strong and preserved herself for her husband and the Lord was pleased with this.
Luke 1:39 tells us that Mary confided in an older woman, Elizabeth. Imagine Mary’s state of shock after the angel dissipates, perhaps pacing the floor or staring out into space processing this visit she just experienced. Then, jumping up and looking for her shoes and grabbing her purse, jumping on a donkey and heading toward the hills of Judah. Her mind was probably going 90 miles an hour as she was trying to process everything the angel had just told her. Can you imagine the anxiety that she must have felt? She had been chosen to give birth to the Lord, the Messiah, and the Son of God. Have you ever received great, unexpected news and the first thing you wanted to do was share it with someone? She needed to talk to someone, to share in her excitement. I think it’s fair to say she was excited from reading Luke 1:46-55. She reached out to share the news with her trusted friend and relative, knowing her reputation could be at stake.
Luke 1:38 tells us that Mary trusted in God. We know she was afraid because Luke 1:30 tells us that Gabriel told Mary not to be afraid. However she didn’t let her fear stop her from trusting in God. She believed what the angel said and she didn’t try to run away like Jonah or convince God otherwise like Moses. How many times do we let our lack of faith get in the way of doing what God tells us to do? Even though Mary’s reputation was at stake and she didn’t understand all the details, she knew enough and trusted in the Lord and her faith got her through the rest.
The Lord selected two women from the same family to bear the Lord and his forerunner, John the Baptist. There were likely some very special predecessors guiding them in the ways of God as they endured hardships and experiences which cultivated self-discipline, kindness, love, and deep seated faith for God.
Are we preparing our self (and our children) so that God will find favor in us? Are we teaching the importance of purity, the blessing of friendship and the peace that comes with trusting in God? If we are looking for a modern day mentor, Mary is a great example.
What I Love About God
By: Sean Reisch
A few weeks ago Mark challenged us to reflect on what we love about God. The idea was for each one of us to dwell on what we love most about His character. When we discover and dwell on that we will want to serve Him more deeply. There are so many places that our minds could go with that because there are so many aspects of God to love. I want to share with you one of my favorites.
God cares for the destitute; God loves the afflicted.
This is one of the most impressive aspects of God’s character to me. God cares for the lonely, the oppressed, the mistreated, and the forsaken. He loves those whom the world would ignore. You see this throughout the Old Testament in a number of ways.
First, you see this in the provisions God makes for the destitute in the Mosaic law. He repeatedly makes it clear that He wants His people to take care of the afflicted (Deuteronomy 10:18-19; 14:28-29; 15:11; 24:17-22; 27:19). This wasn’t a side issue to God. God expected the Israelites to care for the poor, orphaned, widowed, and foreigners in their land. These are the people that had no one to advocate for them, so God wanted His people to take special care of them.
Secondly, in the wisdom literature God makes it evident that He will be the Redeemer for those that don’t have one (Psalm 9:9; 35:10; 68:5-6; 69:33; 113:7-9; 140:12; 146:9; 147:6; Proverbs 22:22-23; 23:10-11). He will take up the cause of those who are afflicted in this life. He seems to take it personally when people take advantage of the downtrodden.
Lastly, God takes the Israelites to task in the prophets for NOT caring for the afflicted (Amos 2:6-7; 8:4-6; Jeremiah 5:28-29; 7:5-6; 22:3; Zechariah 7:9-11). We often think about God punishing the Israelites for their idolatry, which He did, but He also punished them for their injustice and oppression of the needy. He condemned them for neglecting the outcasts.
Each of those things show us that there is a special place in the heart of God for those who are broken by life, and for those who have no one in this life to care for them. What I love about this is that it presents us with the tenderness of God. We see His compassion come to the forefront. Perhaps I find this most astonishing and impressive in light of His power.
God is everlasting (Psalm 90:2), He is the Creator of all (Isaiah 40:26, 28), and He is reigning as King (Psalm 93:1; 95:3). Yet our God, whose greatness is incomparable, reaches down to care for those in the lowest positions of life. I think I’m struck by this because we don’t typically operate this way, at least not naturally. We tend to reach up to those of greater power and authority in order to increase our own standing, but God does the exact opposite.
I draw great comfort, encouragement, and exhortation from this truth about God. It puts a smile on my face and makes me want to burst out in praise! It comforts me to know that even when I was spiritually destitute and orphaned God cared for me (Romans 5:6-8). It encourages me with a message to share with those who are hurting in life about this great God who cares for them especially. And it exhorts me to make sure I am prioritizing what God prioritizes, caring for the needy (James 1:27).
That’s what I love about God. What do you love most about Him?
A Man Guards Her Safety and Her Honor
The Protector Role
One flesh means that woman becomes part of the man she marries. Her life is as valuable as his life. He is to guard it and protect her with his life. When Jacob took his family from his father-in-laws house, he was told that his brother Esau was coming to settle a score. The first thing Jacob did was to move his two wives and family out of harm's way. He made sure that they were out of the line of fire and he went to face Esau alone.
Boaz protected Ruth's reputation by having her leave the threshing floor before light so rumors would not erupt concerning her character. A man protects the reputation of the woman he loves. He should not live with her or sleep over with her. This damages her reputation.
Joseph upon hearing of Mary, the mother of Jesus , was with child sought to put her away quietly so that she would not be stoned for fornication (Mat 1:19) Each of these men had a deep sense of responsibility towards the woman in their lives. They were aware of their obligation to protect her heart, her body, her emotions, and her reputation.
I'm at the end of this brief but important part of the "What every boy needs to know about being a man speech".
Be the extraordinary man good women want.
Showing Brotherly Affection
By Tom Rose
It has always been that way. You dress up in your best to go to church. Even if you have personal problems, are depressed or simply undone with life, you go to church and look normal, say everything is okay, and try to hide the pain that won’t go away. Church is not the place to bare your soul and share your messy problems, because people will talk and people will judge – all the while saying they feel “so sorry” and “would do anything to help you.” Why is it that we think of church as a place to go after we have cleaned up our act, not before? “Church!” said the prostitute, “Why would I ever go there? I was already feeling terrible about myself. They’d just make me feel worse.”
But the scriptures show a different picture. Think of Esau after Jacob tricked him out of his birthright and the anger he expressed as recorded in Gen 27:41 “So Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father blessed him, and Esau said in his heart, ‘The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then I will kill my brother Jacob.’” Yet, with the passage of time and a few chapters later we read, “But Esau ran to meet him (Jacob), and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept” (Gen 33:4). Almost the same scene of emotional healing is portrayed by Christ in His famous parable of a father greeting his prodigal son. “And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him” Lk 15:20. If you noticed, both passages contain an embrace or a hug – the most beautiful form of communication that allows the other person to know beyond a doubt that they matter.
Perhaps the apostle Paul knew better than anyone who has ever lived what it meant to be forgiven by God and reconciled to Him. Knocked flat on the ground on the way to Damascus (Acts 9:1-9), he never recovered from the impact of God’s undeserved grace extended to him. Indeed, Paul knew what could happen if we believe we have earned God’s love. In dark times, if perhaps we badly fail God, or if for no good reason we simply fall short on keeping The Faith, we could fear that God might stop loving us when He discovered the real truth about us. However, Paul took pains to explain how God has made peace with human beings (see Titus 3:1-8) by giving up His own Son, rather than to give up on humanity – helping mankind know beyond any doubt that God loves people because of who God is, not because of who we are!
Just as God has challenged us to know the unsearchable riches of Christ (see Eph. 3:16-21), He also asks us to show that same devotion for our brethren. “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love” (Rom. 12:10). Two examples of Paul’s deep interpersonal relations with his brethren are found in Acts. Read Acts 20:36-38 and notice the verbal and non-verbal emotional interactions as Paul and the Ephesian elders part from each other for the final time. A second illustration is found in Acts 28:13-15 near the end of Paul’s perilous journey to Rome. When Paul reaches Puteoli, Italy, brethren invite Paul and his companions to stay seven days. However, other Christians in Rome get word of Paul’s arrival (a person whom they had heard about, but had never met), so they walk forty-three miles to the Market of Appius to greet him. Others, possibly getting a later start, meet Paul ten miles closer to Rome at the Three Inns. Deeply moved by their visible demonstration of love, Paul “thanked God and took courage.” In these greetings (and many others) were found open displays of affection probably including hugs and kisses.
Let’s suppose your car has a problem and is not working properly. Would you take it to a dealer’s showroom or a service department? Perhaps that is a question we need to ask about our meeting houses – do they resemble more a “showroom” or a “service department?” And why is that? One writer offers this observation:
“Many years ago I was driven to the conclusion that the two major causes of most emotional problems among Christians are these: the failure to understand, receive, and live out God’s unconditional grace and forgiveness; and the failure to give out that unconditional love, forgiveness, and grace to other people. …Although we believe in God’s Word, the good news of the Gospel has not penetrated to the level of our emotions.”1
I believe the following statements, when pondered soberly, may help us look at the big picture – as God sees you and me along with all humanity. “Jesus gave up worship for a womb, majesty for a manger, splendor for a stable, and heaven for a hamlet. He went from being wrapped in glory to being wrapped in swaddling cloth. He left breathtaking for breath taking and the infinite became the infant. It was incredible to know that the baby Mary delivered had actually come to deliver her and everyone else. He was born so we could be born again. He lived on earth so we could live in heaven.”2
Sometimes we need to hear more than reassuring words of comfort. Sometimes we need a hug – a hug where someone wraps their arms around you so tight and assures that everything will be alright. That is in fact what Susan and Anna Warner did. Born into privilege on Long Island, NY, their mother died when they were young and their father lost his fortune in the Panic of 1837. Reduced family circumstances forced them to leave their New York City mansion for an old Revolutionary War-era farmhouse, both women began writing novels. In addition, they began holding Bible studies for the cadets at the US Military Academy. On Sunday after-noon, the West Point students rowed over to the island where the sisters had prepared lemonade and ginger cookies for their guests. At the close of their time together, the frail women would offer a tender hug to each of these physically conditioned young men – knowing someday they might lose their life in battle. After Susan died, in 1885, the Sunday classes became Anna’s “one thought in life.” She continued teaching until her death in 1915 and that year’s graduates included Dwight D. Eisenhower – one of her pupils. The sisters are buried in the cemetery at West Point, the only civilian women who earned this signal honor as Bible teachers to generations of cadets and their former home has become a museum on the grounds of the Academy.
Life is precious; may we hold it dear to us. For it is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away (James 4:14). Thus, while we have today, may we endeavor, as God’s elect, to put on bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness and longsuffering toward our fellowman (Col. 3:12).
1David Seamands, “Perfectionism: Fraught with Fruits of Destruction,” in
Christianity Today, April 10, 1981, pp.24-25.
2Aaron Erhardt, Grace, Louisville, KY: Erhardt Publications, 2015, pp. 46-