Daring to Talk About the “S” Word

So when you are asked to speak at a bridal shower on what the Word says about marriage, where do you turn?

Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. (Ephesians 5:22-24)

Somewhere between the silly (yet fun) shower games of ‘Who Has the Strangest Items in Her Purse?’ to watching the brides race to pull on pantyhose over their jeans with oven mitts, I spoke on submission.

Yup, talk about a difficult transition!

(By the way, it turns out my purse is fairly normal, which meant the prize went to the lady with the suitcase – but, in my opinion, should have went to the one with the breast pump stashed between her wallet and her makeup.)

I LOVE speaking about the biblical roles of wives and husbands in marriage because I believe it is vastly misunderstood in today’s culture, and even in the church. And if we as Christians did this marriage thing right – biblically – the world would definitely take notice. Christian marriage is radically different than marriage in the world.

In a Christian marriage each spouse puts the needs and desires of the other first.

In marriage in the world, your spouse exists to make you happy, and if he doesn’t, it is reasonable grounds to end the marriage.

Before we talk about the dreaded “s” word, remember:

  • God designed marriage and pronounced it “very good.”
  • there are no spiritual distinctions among men and women, only different roles in marriage.
  • marriage is a two-sided equation. If we are going to talk about the role of the wife we need to talk about the role of the husband as well.

Submission is not a word our society is particularly fond of. God commands wives to be subject to their husbands. This means the wife voluntarily places herself under the authority and headship of her husband out of love and obedience for the Lord. This does NOT mean the husband makes the wife submit.

Submission goes beyond actions to an attitude of the heart. The passage from Ephesians says wives are to submit to their own husbands. In other words, this is not a general submission of women to men.

Did you notice those two little words at the end of verse 24? In everything. Not only when we think our husbands are right. However there is one exception: if a husband is leading his wife into sin she must obey God rather than men.

Why do we as women struggle so much with submitting to our husbands (hopefully I’m not the only one?)? I think it goes way back to the garden. After Adam and Eve sinned, when God was handing out the consequences, He said to Eve, “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you” (Genesis 3:16). This is not a physical desire, but a desire to dominate and control. I have to admit, I feel that in me. I have that urge to control what my husband does and how he leads our family. It is only with the indwelling help of the Spirit that we as wives can walk in obedience to this command to submit to our husbands.

But we can’t stop here.

Ephesians 5 has more to say about marriage:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church (Ephesians 5:25-29).

The command to husbands is to love – but not as Hollywood loves – as Christ loves the church. This is a sacrificial and unconditional. This kind of love is willing to die for another. This kind of love nourishes, cherishes, and protects, putting the desires and needs of his wife first. This is the kind of love that comes home from work early to scrub the toilets when his parents announce they are arriving early and his wife is overwhelmed with her never-ending to-do list (thanks, honey!).

Notice husbands are one of God’s instruments in the process of sanctifying the wife (Ephesians 5:26). As he leads her in prayer and studying the word, she is purified, becoming more as God created her to be.

We must remember, this command would have been a shock to Paul’s readers. Instead of the women walking away in disgust at this passage as they do today, it would have been the men. In a culture where women were easily second-class citizens, the husbands were called to be “Christ” to their wives, treating them as precious and cherished.

A godly husband will take his wife’s opinions, knowledge, intuition, and discernment into consideration and they will make decisions together. It is when the two can’t come to an agreement that the husband will exercise his leadership role. A godly husband will listen to the wise counsel of his wife and lead the family in a way that honours God. And remember, he is held accountable before God for the decisions he makes on behalf of the family. Wives must respect the position of authority God has placed their husbands in.

Okay ladies, if your husband doesn’t love you like I’ve just described, are you still required to submit to him? Absolutely! We are all responsible before God for our own actions. And as you are obedient to the word, your husband may grow in his understanding of his role.

Incidentally, I truly think the role of the husband is much harder. We only have to submit, but they have to be Christ to us! Talk about a high standard! Being under the leadership and headship of my husband is a wonderfully safe and secure place to be.

In eternity past, as God was thinking about His design for creation, He knew He needed a physical picture of the spiritual reality of the relationship between Christ and the church. And so He created marriage. The husband represents Christ and the wife represents the church. God has so much invested in marriage and therefore we have an incredible responsibility to live out the biblical mandate for marriage. We have the privilege of displaying the gospel to a world in which marriage is treated so lightly.

When we do marriage God’s way, it doesn’t mean it will be perfect. It doesn’t mean we won’t have disagreements or struggles in  our relationship. But it does mean you will grow closer together and to God and we will fulfill His mission for our marriage.

And if you ever find yourself needing to put on your pantyhose with oven mitts, just know, it is possible to do in 39 seconds flat.

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When Cancer Becomes a Part of My Story, Will I Respond with Faith or Fear?

Fear can leave us wild-eyed and pounding.

I sit across from the specialist nervously wringing my hands in my lap. Her knee-high boots, fur bomber jacket, golden hoop earrings, and thick black mascara project an image contrary to the care and concern expressed in her gentle eyes and soft voice.

She draws a diagram. The dark lumps are here and here she says. My hand moves immediately to my throat.

The fear is rising like a lump, black and threatening.

I try to focus on what comes next. A needle to extract some of the lump for the microscope to test for – that dreaded “C” word. I nod.

And do I have questions? Yes – many. Why God? But I shake my head.

I think back to the papers that came in the mail on the eve of Christmas Eve. I was scrubbing hard at the stove in my childhood home, my dad chatting steadily, his loneliness painfully obvious.

The papers described how they had cut her open hours after she died to examine every square inch of her lifeless body. And yes, there, on the fifth page, disguised in medical words we didn’t understand, was the undetected cancer lurking at her throat.

The same as her daughter – my sister – had years ago.

If my mother and her daughter had the same cancer, should I be worried?

That’s how I ended up in an ultrasound room, and then later here, across the desk from this soft-spoken woman.

She was giving me statistics now. Odds were in my favour. But are we really a number to God and nothing more?

O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways. (Psalm 139:1-3)

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Then months later I find myself in a sterile operating room counting ceiling tiles while waiting for the radiologist who will pierce my neck. The whiteboard to my left lists all the procedures these kind nurses will oversee today.

9:15. Thyroid biopsy. That’s me.
10:15 Liver biopsy.
12:00 Abscess drainage.

I shudder.

After the contents of four needles are handed to the lab technician I go home and wait until my next appointment.

Wait to see if my life will change. Wait to see how God’s good plan will unfold.
But the doctor’s office calls early and says the results are in and the doctor would like to see me sooner.

My mind races. Could this mean …?

No, I reason, the test came back early because it’s negative and they likely just want to set my mind at ease.

My man wraps his arms around me and asks if I want him to go with me. No, I’ll be fine. It’s going to be negative and then it would be a waste of his time. I’m sure its fine.

I smile weakly.

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And so I find myself again, sitting across from the same specialist, her kind eyes find mine and she smiles.

I’ll be fine.

These are the moments that can forever alter your life. And yet these are the moments that are not a surprise to God. In fact, He has them written in His book before the foundation of the world. All of my days were numbered before I was even born.

…in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them. (Psalm 139:16)

She holds papers in her hands.

“Your mother and your sister had thyroid cancer, right?”

I nod.

Had – yes, one lives cancer-free here on earth and the other cancer-free in heaven.

“… and I’m sorry to tell you, you have cancer as well.”

I take a sharp breath.

“But you knew, didn’t you?” she asks.

I knew? I was hoping not – praying not – but perhaps I did know. Perhaps God had been preparing me for this.

She’s drawing the diagram again with those same dark lumps. And she’s talking about a surgeon – the best one in the area, she says – to cut out the whole thing, cancer and all. Who needs a thyroid anyway? And she says she’d like this to be done sooner rather than later.

I nod agreement.

And after surgery, is that it? Is this nightmare done and over with?

Maybe … assuming the cancer hasn’t spread.

Spread?

But we can’t know that now, not until the surgeon has cut me open to peer inside.

Do I have any questions?

My mind is blank, except for one reverberating phrase …

I have cancer. I have cancer. I have cancer.

I shake my head. No questions.

The shock waves are still reverberating through my body as I leave her office.

What does a person do immediately after being diagnosed with cancer? She gets her hair done, of course. I’m sitting in the chair in my pre-booked, unavoidable, appointment, foils all over my head, gratefully listening to my hair stylist chat easily about family and Jamaica and her new house.

And all I can think is…I have cancer.

As I’m driving home, I finally allow the tears to come.

What does a husband do when his wife has been diagnosed with cancer? He brings home flowers, of course.

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Later as he wraps his big strong arms around me and my eyes again fill with tears, we talk about all the what ifs. We talk about how this news changes life. And what about our plans? And how do we tell the kids?

My mind races with all the possibilities and refuses to be quieted. In the middle of the night I lie awake thinking of the worst case scenario. Satan uses the dead of night to make the dark press in closer and he whispers all manner of fears into my mind.

When I can stand no longer stand the assault, I slip silently from the bed and downstairs to my Bible. I need to combat these lies with truth.

I sought the Lord and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. (Psalm 34:4)

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea. Though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake at is swelling pride. (Psalm 46:1-3)

One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek. That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to meditate in His temple. For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle; in the secret place of His tent He will hide me. He will life me up on a rock.  (Psalm 27:4-5)

When I return to bed a while later, these life-giving verses are running through my mind, and I finally sleep.

The future is uncertain, but I know this, God is still good. He is completely in control and He is abundantly good. He loves me perfectly and can use all things for my good and His glory.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. (1 John 4:18)

I resolve this: To continually choose faith over fear. To use this valley to speak of His goodness and glorify His name. To allow Him to do a good work in me.

This cancer needs to be cut out – yes – but there is so much more that needs to be cut out of me, a cancer that is far more deadly. God is doing His good work of cutting away all of the sin that so easily entangles and trips me up. And if He needs to take me through the valley of the shadow of death to do it, then so be it. I will humbly submit to the Great Physician’s knife.

“Hold still, child. This will hurt. But afterward, you will look more like My Son.”

Yes, Lord.

What is causing fear to rise dark inside of you? Will you join me and choose faith in a sovereign loving God over the fear that threatens to overwhelm?

Galatians 2

Galatians 2_20 Scripture Print

(Click the image above to download the scripture print.)

A group of ladies gathered on my deck in the warm sunshine last week to study Galatians 1. Some were holding babies, some were chasing toddlers, some were sipping lemonade or coffee, and we all had our Bibles open.

(If you missed downloading the workbook for Galatians 1, you can download it here.)

As you well know if you are studying along with us, Galatians 1 is such a rich chapter! These are some of the things that came out of our discussion:

  • Paul greets his readers with grace and peace. Grace always has to come first. God initiates with His grace and then when we respond in faith, He gives us peace with Himself. Grace first, then peace.
  • Our salvation was a rescue from our sinful nature, this evil world, and an eternity apart from God. Do we think of it as a rescue? Are we forever grateful for how He’s rescued us?
  • There are many reasons people leave Christ. Their continual sin causes them to be defeated. Difficult times and suffering sometimes cause people to abandon their faith. When people leave Christ it causes us to wonder if they were ever saved to begin with.
  • Ah yes – verse 10 … we could have camped here for a long while. People-pleasing is such a powerful stronghold. We discussed the outcome of addiction to the approval of others. It leaves us feeling frustrated and exhausted and never able to measure up. Perhaps the only way to overcome people-pleasing tendencies, is to replace it with the desire to please God in all things.

What has the Holy Spirit taught you as you studied Galatians 1?

This week we are focusing on Galatians 2.

You can download the workbook here.

Galatians 2 describes a pretty intense interaction between Paul and Peter. The second part of this chapter contains such powerful spiritual truths for how we live out this Christian life.

Praying you are blessed as you seek God through the pages of His Word. He will be faithful to teach you.

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When You Are Tempted to Leave Grace

The sun has not yet touched the horizon. It’s still dark and quiet when I settle onto the sofa under the warm blanket and turn to Galatians.

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These days my little ones are rising earlier and earlier, and I am determined to do the same so my time with God does not get replaced with all the tasks that inevitably come with the start of another busy day. (That’s happened more times that I’d like to admit …)

Galatians 1.

Paul greets the believers in Galatia with grace and peace. Yes, I need more of that.

He reminds them that Christ gave Himself for their sins so He might rescue them from this present evil age. Understanding what God has done for me only heightens His grace. Lord, this world IS evil. Even our Western middle-class society is utterly evil in Your eyes. We all need rescue. Thank you for sending Your Son on a rescue mission to save me from the evil in me and around me.

The birds  outside my patio door are signalling the arrival of dawn.

Paul doesn’t waste ink. He gets right down to the heart of the matter – his reason for writing. He is amazed that they are so quickly deserting the grace of Christ for a different gospel. Lord, I would never do that!

I think of those I have known who have claimed Christianity, but then as time passes, they deny Christ and turn back to the world. I wonder for a moment at why people would do that.

Perhaps they didn’t really know Christ. Maybe they joined a Christian community and played the part, but they didn’t have a personal relationship with Him, and were never truly reborn.

Perhaps they turned away from Him when difficulties came. God disappointed them, and even after many heart-felt prayers, He chose not to the trail. And their thought is, If Jesus can’t or won’t deliver me from this, He is not worthy of my worship. Yes, suffering causes many to leave the faith.

Or perhaps they doubt whether Christ really is enough to save them and to deal with their struggle against sin. They haven’t rested their entire weight of faith on Christ, and so they’ve created Plan B just in case. They turn to legalism, or intellectualism, or emotionalism, or moralism – something tangible to validate their beliefs. Something they can actually DO to earn favour with God.

Yes, there are many reasons people leave Christ. Desert grace for another gospel, which is really not another.

Lord, I would never do that.

And yet …

The sky is beginning to brighten and the chorus of birds is getting louder now.

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Maybe I leave grace in little ways?

Life get busy, and I don’t have time to pray, and I leave grace.

I smile I proudly as I mentally list the things I’m doing for the Lord, because surely He loves me more now – surely my good deeds outweigh my sin, and I leave grace.

I pour over the Scripture, and I love God only academically when it ought to stir worship and awe, and I leave grace.

I succumb to the list of rules people impose, telling me you have to look like this to be saved, and I leave grace.

The storms of life come, and I take my eyes off my Saviour and am overcome by the waves, and I leave grace.

I try to be better, do better, act better, – all in my own strength – and I leave grace.

I listen to the voices of the culture, and His voice becomes more and more faint, and I leave grace.

The sun bursts over the horizon now, and I hear the pitter-patter of little feet upstairs.

Lord, I confess, I have deserted your grace at times. Every other thing I turn to will only lead me into bondage. Help me to remain in your grace today.

More Galatians Resources

As you study Galatians, will you consider committing a few verses to memory? Click on the Galatians Scripture Memory Cards to begin memorizing today.

Galatians Scripture Memory Cards

Or perhaps your up for trying a little longer passage? Click on Galatians 5 to download this chapter to memorize.

Galatians 5 Memory Card

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Galatians 1

Galatians 1_4-5 Scripture Print

(click on the link above to download this Scripture print)

Welcome to the introduction of the book of Galatians! This is such a lovely little book and perfect for the next few weeks before summer fully hits (and all its wonderful distractions!).

Have you ever wondered what it looks like practically (and I mean day-to-day) to live under grace? What is freedom in Christ really? How can we recognize those warning signs when we are being lulled back into slavery to rule-keeping? How do we walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh – especially in those moments when our flesh is tempted to take control?

Galatians addresses all of these topics – and more!

Starting this week, there are a handful of ladies meeting in my backyard to study Galatians. And you can join us here in this online space. For the next 6 weeks you can expect to find some resources on the blog to help you as you study Galatians.

Today, you can download the workbook for Galatians 1 and start your study.

Title page for Galatians

If a workbook is not  your style (and no condemnation if its not), consider the following questions as a guide to walk you through the first chapter (grab a notebook perhaps to take some notes?):

(Note: you might want to grab a coffee or a lemonade and finding a comfy place to sit down and read the entire book. It doesn’t take very long and it is always a good idea as you being to study a book so you can begin to see its overall themes.)

Galatians 1

  1. Who wrote this letter? What did you learn about him?
  2. What is the main issue he addresses in the first chapter?
  3. Read Acts 15:1 for a better understanding of what was happening in the churches in Galatia.
  4. How does Galatians 1:4 summarize the gospel?
  5. Do you think of your salvation as a rescue? What have you been rescued from?
  6. What are some reasons people desert Christ today? When someone you know (and love) leaves their faith, what questions arise in your mind? How do you reconcile these?
  7. What “different gospels” are prevalent in our culture today?
  8. What was Paul’s concern in 2 Corinthians 11:3-4 and how does it relate to Galatians 1?
  9. What does Paul say would happen to those who teach a different gospel?
  10. What two things are mutually exclusive in Galatians 1:10?
  11. What is the outcome of people-pleasing? Do you struggle with this in your own life? What are some ways you can seek to overcome it?
  12. How did Paul receive the gospel? Read Acts 9:1-9 for further clues. How is this different than the way you and I received the gospel?
  13. What does Paul say about his former manner of life? Read Acts 2:3-5, Acts 26:4-5, and Philippians 3:4-5 for more information about Paul’s past.
  14. When was Paul set apart and called? When were you set apart and called?
  15. What was their response to Paul’s incredible transformation?
  16. How does your testimony bring glory to God when you share it with others?
  17. What have you learned about the character of God through this text?
  18. How has the Holy Spirit spoken to you through this text? What will you do this week to incorporate these truths into your life?

And could I ask if would you let me know in the comment section if you are studying along with me?

We can do this ladies! I’m so excited about how God will deepen our understanding of who He is over the next six weeks. He is faithful to reveal Himself to us through His Word when we are faithful to seek Him.

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A Sneak Peak at What is Coming Next Week …

It’s like floating on a boat in the middle of the river without a paddle.

We are never standing still.

In this Christian life, we are either intentionally taking steps towards Christ, or we are drifting away from Him.

I know that soul drift well. When life gets busy and papers get piled up and there is no space left on the calendar to pencil one more thing in – that’s when I drift.

In the middle of the raging river of life – relentlessly flowing and swirling and crashing around me – I’m without a paddle. Without direction. Without an anchor to keep me grounded.

There are things poking up through the thawed earth in my gardens, the sun shines warmer and warmer each day, and I’m gloriously happy in my flip-flops.

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But as my mind turns from schedule and routine to summer things, I’m so aware of this possible drift.

In the midst of summer holidays I don’t want to – I can’t afford to – take a vacation from Christ. I’m determined not to remove meeting with Him from my daily schedule.

Will you resolve to do the same?

And so to keep us intentionally taking steps of faith towards Christ … I’m so excited to announce what we will be starting next week on the blog.

I’ve been immersing myself in the pages of a book I’ve come to love – the letter of Paul to the Galatians. And I’m humbly asking you if you will join me?

God can do a great work in our hearts and lives as we are faithful to pursue Him.

Check out the video below for more information and check back on Monday for some helpful resources.

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She Calls Me Mama

There is a little girl on the other side of the world who has cried tears beside the grave of the one who gave birth to her and has felt her heart break into a million pieces.

We’ve never met – this sweet little girl and I – and yet she is my daughter in love.

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I’ve never heard her voice, yet I’ve felt her grief.

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Her mother had written to me faithfully. Her letters were so full of joy. She was a woman of very little means but of great faith and love. Her words were often convicting.

Then one day the letters stopped.

And then the formal one saying, “We regret to inform you …”

It was cancer that took her life, quickly and cruelly.

What could I do for a little girl halfway around the earth who had just lost perhaps the most important person in her life?

And then it was my turn beside the grave of the one who gave birth to me.

I knew then what I could do. I could love that little girl by telling her I know how she feels. I could write her letters and send her gifts, and go before the throne of grace for her and beg for God’s mercy and comfort in her life. I could pray that she would know God’s love, which far surpasses our understanding.

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Shortly after I said goodbye to my own mother, this letter came in the mail. My hands shook as I held the very paper she had carefully penned the words on, and my eyes brimmed with tears.

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Can you call me Mama? Yes! A thousand times, yes!

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I want to hug you too, dear child.

Maybe – just maybe – we go through suffering and grief in order to comfort others. Perhaps that’s the way God has designed it.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. ~ 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

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There is a little girl on the other side of the world who calls me mama.

And I am blessed to be a blessing. I have suffered to comfort.

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What difficulties has God graciously brought you through that you can use to comfort others in their time of need? God wants to use every trial, every bit of suffering to change you, to bless others, and to bring glory to His name.

 

 

New in the Inductive Bible Study Resource Library!

Just a quick note for a Monday morning …

I’m working on expanding the resource library here at Sitting at His Feet, and so I’ve uploaded an inductive study of the book of Ephesians.

Ephesians

I taught through the letter to the Ephesians verse-by-verse last fall and it was such a blessing to me. Ephesians speaks of the spiritual blessings we have in Christ and how to live like a child of God. It also speaks of how to engage in spiritual warfare with our enemy who is seeking to steal, kill, and destroy. It’s a very practical book full of rich truths.

Note: The workbook was originally designed for a classroom discussion setting, so hopefully it will work on an individual basis as well. Or better yet – grab a few friends and a cup of coffee and study the book together!

Also, my church has just recently started a series in Ephesians on Saturday nights and Sunday mornings. You can watch the videos here. It’s great teaching!

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One Year Without Her, One Year of God’s Grace

Some memories are so vivid they seem like yesterday.

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But today marks a full rotation of the earth around the sun.

I remember walking into the critical care ward, machines beeping, nurses scurrying, people motionless on hospital beds, and their loved ones walking around wide-eyed and bewildered. The woman lying in that bed did not look like my mother. In fact I would have struggled to guess who she was if I had not known.

I remember the doctors words and our stunned silence and then finally the question I dared to ask, “Are you saying she’s on full life support?”

This was a scene from the movies not from my life.

I remember how lifeless she looked and how we could not comprehend that only three days earlier my dad had driven her to the hospital with a sudden kidney stone attack. Doctors treat kidney stones every day, how on earth did she end up like this?

Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. This could only be the plan of a loving God for purposes I was completely blind to in the moment.

Minutes turned into hours as we waited. The reports from the doctors grew more and more hopeless.

And yet – don’t we have a sure and certain hope?

“You understand she’s the sickest person in this hospital?” I swallow the permanent lump in my throat and nod.

At midnight the kind doctor comes and sits in our darkened quiet room and looks straight at my dad. “Your wife is dying and I don’t know why.” The title behind his name reads Infectious Disease Specialist.

I silently shake my head. I can’t figure out why God would allow this either.

Dad explains how she moved from one hospital to another in three days and deteriorated before our eyes. The doctor gives us one last thread of hope and we consent.

More waiting … and then finally the news that all hope is gone.

We choose to say our goodbyes and silence the machines.

I don’t remember what I said. How do you say goodbye to the woman who gave you birth, who bandaged your bleeding knees, and hugged you when your heart was breaking? How do you say goodbye to the woman who was your greatest cheerleader and your softest place to fall?

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You don’t.

You simply say, “I’ll see you soon.”

Because we do not grieve as those who have no hope.

Her funeral was on a beautiful sunny day in May. And then five days later we celebrated Mother’s Day beside a mound of earth topped with wilting flowers.

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A year later, after meetings with doctors, we understand more about why she died medically.

But more importantly, I understand more about who God is and His purposes in my life.

I boldly declared it the day after she died and I boldly declare it today: God is sovereign and He is good. He does what He wills as He sustains this earth, and everything He allows is according to His good plan.

He walks through deep valleys with us and takes every opportunity to lift our gaze heaven-ward.

Heaven seems more real now.

Hope more certain.

God more loving.

Today marks one year, and although I would choose to have her back in an instant, I am so grateful for the grace of God that continues to carry me through.

Until we meet again.

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Lessons Learned from the Pages of Deuteronomy

Four months of trudging straight through the book of Deuteronomy, line-by-line and verse-by-verse.

Sixteen weeks spent standing on the Plains of Moab with that second generation of Israelites listening to Moses explain and apply the law.

One hundred and twelve days standing with our toes on the edge of the Promised Land right alongside them, anxious to cross that raging river into the land flowing with milk and honey.

Deuteronomy

I’ve just finished leading two classes through an intense study of Deuteronomy and have been so blessed by this often overlooked book.

(and I’m so grateful for their patience in putting up with me!)

If you were to ask me which book of the Bible is my favourite, my answer would always be the one I’m in at the time. Deuteronomy is (for now) my new-found favourite.

It is a book of words and very little action, but this does not diminish its intrigue. The generation of Israelites who had seen their unbelieving parents die in the wilderness, were now standing at the edge of the Promised Land. They wouldn’t make the same mistake twice. But before crossing the Jordan River into the land God had promised their ancestors, Moses renewed the covenant with them. This wasn’t a new covenant or second law, as the name would suggest, but an explanation of the same covenant God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai forty years earlier. Moses made application of those same ten commandments for a people who were about to encounter new circumstances as they settled in the land.

The Israelites recognized God’s grace in speaking to His people, giving them safe boundaries to live within, and procedures to follow when new situations arose. They no doubt heard God imploring them through the voice of Moses to obey.

We too, heard God pleading with us to obey as we lingered over Deuteronomy.

Here are some things God has taught me through the study of this book (and a few other interesting tidbits):

1.  We have a choice. Choose life.

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may life, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days.  ~Deuteronomy 30:19-20

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It’s like a multiple choice question with two possible answers, and He’s given us the right answer in advance. Choose life. Choose obedience.

How? By loving God, obeying His voice, and holding fast to Him. That’s the good life.

Love Him.

Obey Him.

Hold fast to Him.

Simple.

2.  God’s law is life-giving. A gift.

We view rules as drudgery – something that squeezes the life right out of us. But God intended the law to be life-giving. It was a gift for them, and they knew it.

Moses charged us with a law, a possession for the assembly of Jacob.  ~ Deuteronomy 33:4

Do I view God’s laws as a gift of His grace to keep me within His circle of blessing?

3.  God longs to bless us. His heart is for us to obey.

Throughout the pages of Deuteronomy we can hear God literally begging His children to obey. He longed for them to listen to His voice so it would go well with them. His desire for us is the same today, for our good and His glory.

Know therefore that the Lord you God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments.   ~ Deuteronomy 7:9

4.  There are some pretty specific (and strange?!) laws in Deuteronomy.

Don’t muzzle an ox while he is threshing.

Don’t mix fabrics.

Newlywed husbands must stay home for a year.

Some of these laws don’t make sense in our context, therefore we can’t pick them out of Scripture and apply them directly to today. We must look for the spirit behind the law, and then make application.

For example, Paul referenced the bit about muzzling the ox in 1 Timothy 5:17-18 and applied it to financially compensating those who labour spiritually for us.

5.  The secret things belong to the Lord.

The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.  ~ Deuteronomy 29:29

I love this verse!

We will never know all there is to know about God. He has secret things that are – quite frankly – none of our business. But the things He has revealed generally in creation and specifically through His word belong to us. We are responsible for the things that have been revealed to us.

Want another awesome verse that relates to this one?

Behold, these are the fringes of His ways; and how faint a word we hear of Him! But His mighty thunder, who can understand?  ~ Job 26:14

We only see small glimpses of who God is. A whisper compared to the thunder of His reality. Amazing!

6.  The word is very near.

For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach. It is not in heaven … nor is it beyond the sea … But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it.  ~ Deuteronomy 30:11-14

God’s word was quite accessible to the Israelites. Think about how much more it is accessible to us! With the tap of a screen on a phone, we can read God’s Word anytime.

7.  Moses was not allowed to cross into the Promised Land. But at the end of the book he does!

Moses is not allowed to cross into the promised land, which at first glance seems harsh. However he broke faith with God and did not treat God as holy in the midst of Israel.

BUT …  the moment he dies, he crosses over into the real promised land, his heavenly home. Its the measureless grace of God.

8.  God buried Moses. What?!

Yup. God buried him.

So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord. And He buried him in the valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor; but no man knows his burial place to this day.  ~ Deuteronomy 34:5-6

God buried him but didn’t erect a gravestone. Why? Why would He not want the Israelites to know the place of Moses’ burial?

Now to add another strangely fascinating detail …

But Michael the archangel when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses … ~ Jude 9

What would Satan want with the body of Moses and why did Michael protect it at all costs? Think about what the Israelites would have done with the burial site of their faithful and loved leader of 40 years. Yes, they would have built a shrine, which would have turned into idol worship. God hid the body to protect them from falling into sin over it.

Fascinating.

9.  There is none like God, therefore there is none like us.

There is none like the God of Jeshurun, who rides the heavens to your help, and through the skies to His majesty. The eternal God is a dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms. Blessed are you, O Israel. Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord?  ~ Deuteronomy 33:26-27, 29a

Because there is none like our God, there is not a people on earth like His people.

Chosen. Adopted. Redeemed. Forgiven. Predestined. Blessed.

10.  Make the word our control centre.

When Moses had finished speaking all these words to all Israel, he said to them, “Take to your heart all the words with which I am warning you today, which you shall command your sons to observe carefully, even all the words of this law. For it is not an idle word for you; indeed it is your life.   ~ Deuteronomy 32:45-47

Take these words to heart.

Deeply root God’s word in your heart. Make them the control centre of your life.

If you want to study the book of Deuteronomy in greater detail, you will find the workbook here:

Deuteronomy Workbook

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