Wednesday, November 18, 2015

An Open Letter to Young, Inexperienced, or Interim Pastors

Dear Men of God,

To be a pastor is surely one of the greatest graces given to men within the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Leading a congregation in His name is no small feat. He has chosen you out of His flock to feed His flock. That knowledge alone should stop you in your tracks to stand in awe of Christ's plan for His Body through you. This isn't a calling that should be taken lightly. In fact, Scripture says men who answer this call will be judged more harshly (James 3:1).

With that truth firmly in mind, I wish to address an issue I've recognized within various churches, whether they be in my neighborhood, or whether they post sermons online. The issue has many facets, but it all boils down to a lack of godliness. These facets include:

  • Integrity
  • Personal holiness
  • Wisdom 
  • Maturity
  • Perseverance
  • Study
  • Prayer

Many who call themselves pastors are not godly. I'm sure we could all name a few false teachers on both hands. However, I'm not speaking of false teachers, rather I'm speaking of men who stand in a place of authority who do no much more than "jumping jacks for Jesus" in front of their congregations. If you wear the title "pastor", own it. Dig in, get dirty. Crack open the ESV or the NASB and study hard. Wrestle with God as Jacob once did. Do not let Him go until He blesses you. Spend long hours in your prayer closets. Yes, I said hours.

Preaching should never be something done "on the side" or taken as a "privilege to be a leader." Preaching is hard work, dedicated work, done by men who can draw Living Water from the deep well of Scripture. It is not telling stories about your own life or how to overcome obstacles. The sum and substance of all preaching everywhere is Christ and Him crucified. If the congregation hasn't been taught about the life or teachings of Christ in your sermons, you are not preaching a sermon but giving a lecture or having a speaking engagement.

If the sermon does not revolve around the Word of God going out to the people, you have not built your house upon the rock, but upon the sand. If the congregation is not being fed on the Bread of Life that is God's holy Scripture, one must assume the man giving the sermon does not love the Lord, as the one who loves God feeds His sheep (John 21:17).

A congregation rarely rises above the spiritual maturity of the man leading them. This should light a fire under many men who care about the eternal wellbeing of those they lead. This should drive the man of God to strive after the Almighty with both hands and willing to be led down the hard, winding road. A man who cares about his flock will weep over them and hold them up before the Throne of Grace, asking the Lord for more wisdom, maturity, and a passion for Him within the hearts of His people. The man who understands this knows these people are not his, but the Lord's, and everything he does on their behalf is for the glory of God.

This high responsibility is not for the lead pastor alone, but for all pastors of the church. Associate pastors should not shirk their responsibilities to God. Those who preach when the lead pastor is out of town or away at another church should not see themselves as the "substitute teacher". There is just as much responsibility riding on the shoulders of associate pastors as there is on the main pastor. This is not a "free Sunday" to preach on what you like, but rather, the grace of God to grow you in leading His sheep. Do not squander these opportunities with fluffy sermons. 

Here's the rub in all of this. I am well aware I'm a woman, and because of the biblical mandate that a woman is not allowed to teach or have authority over a man (1 Timothy 2:12), this letter might fall on many deaf ears. If that's the case, I will still continue in prayer for your church and your congregations. However, as a sister in Christ, am I not allowed to encourage my brothers? (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

Consider this letter isn't meant to teach you, rather, to implore you to fill that pulpit like the ambassador of Christ you are.

Therefore look to the men who have gone before you and have worn the same mantle that you now wear. Men like Bunyan, Knox, Owen, Edwards, Whitefield, Spurgeon, Moody, Ryle, Pink, Tozer, Lloyd-Jones, Stott. There is reverence there. A certain amount of awe. They believed God is worthy of poring over Scripture, studying the original Greek and Hebrew, and cultivating a relationship with Him that surpasses the ages. These men venerated their pulpits, and by that I mean they preached according to their adoration for the Lord Jesus Christ. They were not flippant; they climbed the steps with a righteous fear of God in their hearts.

When one studies, prays, and makes the glory of Christ the driving force of their lives, they have an "aroma of Christ" about them (2 Corinthians 2:15). I'm sure you've run into these godly people throughout your line of work. They don't solely rely on the Sunday sermon to fill them, they go home and do their own prayer and study to bring them closer to God. 

If singular congregants do so, how much more the man of God?

Your congregations can tell the difference between a sermon that's been polished all week and one that's been phoned in on Saturday night. God should never be the recipient of our dregs. He should get our first fruits. All too often sermons seem as if they are piecemealed together, an afterthought, or they lose their focus once the pastor drifts away from Scripture. When the aroma of Christ is missing, the prayer, study, and godliness are missing as well.

If there is little Scripture in the pastor's sermon, there is little Scripture in the pastor's life.

My purpose behind writing this letter is to stir up the Church of Christ and compel the Lord's shepherds to not merely check if the sheep are in the pen, but to feed them as well. If we truly wish to exalt the Lord Jesus Christ and bring glory to His name, we must give Him honor as well. We must lift Him up. We must be willing to do the homework, willing to be on our knees, willing to wrestle and sweat for the meat of the Word, not just milk only (Hebrews 5:12-14).

We need spiritual maturity in our pulpits in order to ensure spiritual maturity in the Body of Christ. When the pastor is so taken with the Lord Jesus Christ that he finds Him altogether lovely and absolutely magnificent, when he expounds on the everlasting grace of the King of Glory, when he gazes heavenward with unwavering devotion in his eyes, my brothers, that is when the Holy Spirit captivates the hearts and minds of the people of God, as that is when the Spirit of God is with you. 

Remove the veil from the eyes of your people and declare from the mountaintops the wondrous, glorious, dazzling, epic beauty of the Lord God Almighty. Light souls on fire by plumbing the depths of His boundless Word, and pray meaty prayers that compel your congregations to grow in Christlikeness. If you don't know how to do this, you have work to do. In Jesus' name.

In prayer for one and all,
~~Becka Goings

Friday, October 9, 2015

These Forty-One Years

Here we go, Lord, forty-one years on Planet Earth! I have learned a lot in all these years - I've learned that You are more faithful than I had ever dreamed, and more beautiful than the blazing sunrise. You are good and You are love - the greatest love I've ever known.

You are my strength and my song (Psalm 118:14), my very present help in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1). My sword, my shield, my rock and my fortress. You are my Best Friend, my Well-Beloved, my King of Glory, my Crown of Life (James 1:12).

Everything I am flows from You. You are the sum and substance of all that I am and all that I have. There is nothing I possess that isn't a good and perfect gift from You (James 1:17).

You are my One Constant, the One I can always count on; my Protector, my Deliverer, and my Lion of Judah.

Forty-one years is long enough to know that I don't actually know You to the full - despite it all, I only see You as a light under the door. Yet once that door is blown open - the door that no man can shut (Revelation 3:8) - I shall behold the radiating power of Your Glory with my own eyes, and it will be more than enough to fill libraries upon libraries of praise!

If, as the Apostle John says, the whole world would not be big enough to contain all the books written of You in life (John 21:25), then likewise the whole of Heaven is not big enough to expound Your eternal qualities, as even in Glory, You stoop to meet us (Psalm 113:6).

No mere "place" can ever contain an infinite, eternal God. You are more magnificent than I can ever dream. And I am one with Christ (1 Corinthians 6:17). By His glory am I glorified (1 Corinthians 15:52). We shall be like Him (1 John 3:2). How wondrous your blessings that flow to Your children, that we should be called sons of the Most High God (1 John 3:1)! Such an unimaginable inheritance. I don't know much, but I know that much, and I know the God of my heart cherishes my love and would never betray it.

Thank You, Yeshua, for loving me so fiercely that I cannot, nay, will not, take my eyes off You.

I am Yours.
You are mine.
This waltz of love,
Dancing in time.

I cannot wait to dance and sing with You in the courts of Heaven, to the praise of Your glory. I am no longer afraid. Consume me within Your Holy Fire. 

My precious Jesus... me forever.

In Your name, 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Why Did God Choose Me?

According to Scripture, the names of God's children were written in the Lamb's Book of Life since before the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8). All over Scripture, we're given the doctrine that we're predestined and chosen to become believers (Romans 8:29-30, Ephesians 1:5, 1:11, 1 Peter 2:4, 2:9). Some people believe God knew who would choose Him and thus wrote down their names before they ever came to be. Others believe God made a choice in eternity past of who would believe. One view is passive while the other is active.

Regardless of which belief is actually what happened in the Throne Room of God, the fact remains that God knew who would believe, and thus He wrote down their names in His Book. This post is not to argue Arminianism over Calvinism or vice versa, rather, I wanted to bring a pondering of mine to the fore.

I've heard it said time and again from many theologians that God chose us independently of who we are. In other words, there was nothing inherent within a believer that compelled God to choose one person over another, other than it was His own good will to do so. Other theologians claim there are a certain "number" of Gentile believers that must come to believe and when that number is reached, Christ will return (Luke 21:24). The first view is consistent with those who believe God chooses us, and the second view is consistent with those who believe God simply knew who we were and penned us in His Book.

I have an issue with both of these views.

Both views don't take into account God's eternal omniscience - not merely in eternity past, but also eternity future. In thinking about this issue during prayer time, I realized that I can only be written in the Lamb's Book because I have been redeemed. God fore-wrote my name in the Book because He knew (chose) that I would be redeemed. Therefore, it is the culmination of Romans 8:30, the Golden Chain, if you will, that those He foreknew ...He glorified. Am I glorified now? No. But it is a done-deal - one day, I WILL be glorified, as surely as there's a God who wrote my name in Heaven.

So what does that mean? It means that when God wrote my name in His Book, it was likely not my sinful frame He penned, rather my glorious countenance. I believe this because I know God is sovereign. He does nothing "just because He can." Everything works according to the pleasure of His will. He didn't merely choose to write my name down because of some grand, ethereal, unknown reason, or that He simply knew I would choose Him. No, He determined Christ should have me according to who I would become.

To say this another way, we know that we are the Body of Christ. What makes us think we are no longer the Body of Christ in Heaven? Down here, we are a hand, a foot, an eye, an ear. We have an earthly purpose and we are given works which He has prepared for us beforehand (Ephesians 2:10). So not only were we ourselves predestined, so too were our works in His name. The same Scripture quoted above also mentions that we are God's workmanship/handiwork/masterpiece, depending on which translation you read.

That is not "mankind" as a whole, as many mistakenly believe, but those who believe on Christ. Those who believe are His masterpiece - created in Christ Jesus. We are His workmanship - we are GOD'S work, so that no man can boast. This is the main reason why salvation is on the finished work of Christ and not our own doing because we are God's work - His masterpiece.

Now, let's keep the end goal of God in sight here. God can see everything before Him. There's nothing He does not know. His mind is not like ours, He knows all. When He wrote my name down in the Lamb's Book of Life, He wasn't randomly picking and choosing. Nor was He merely jotting down those who would believe. He had a design in mind - God is the Grand Designer, after all - and He is working toward a very specific end.

Because the Bride, the Church, is the Body of Christ, we do not cease to be His Body once we're in Glory. The works He has prepared for us to do on earth prepare us for the works that are to come on that Golden Shore. While it's true we won't need to preach to the lost in Heaven, I do believe we shall continue to glorify God in the vein in which we glorified Him on earth. Do you sing to Him? You shall sing in His choirs. Do you preach sermons? You shall continue to expound on His greatness to the brethren. As for me, I love to write to the glory of God. One of my hopes is that I shall one day inherit a vast library lined with shelves of empty books so that I may pen great sonnets and praises to be read in His Heavenly Court.

The point being, we are still His Body in Heaven. Perhaps with a different focus toward His magnificence rather than bringing in the lost, but it will be our delight to glorify Him before our brethren. We will not cease being "ourselves". God glorifies and perfects us in Christ, but it is still you and it is still me on the other side of the Veil.

This is why I say God has not merely "jotted believers down" in that most Important Tome, nor has He simply plucked our names randomly from the ether because it "pleased Him to do so." The Father has an end in mind - to give a people to His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Not just any people, but a specific people for which He has a specific plan. Therefore, God has predestined craftsmen, artisans, evangelists, singers, prayer warriors, pastors, and yes, even writers for Christ's own glory.

In His wisdom, He knew Heaven should be filled with books of His praise to be read before the Throne of Grace, and therefore He determined that I should be created, that I should find Him most magnificent, and He gave me to Christ to ensure His plan would come to pass. He gave me to Jesus so that Christ would ever praise the Father; He gave Christ to me so that I would do the same (John 17:22-26).

If I'm right, God has given us work to do on earth AND in Heaven, which would be consistent with God's will according to the Lord's Prayer. Every trial, every joy, every situation in our lives is preparing us for a greater weight of glory that is yet to come (2 Corinthians 4:17).  I don't know about you, but that excites me. Our eternal life in Heaven is going to be glorious!

For now, I have work to do which God has created beforehand, for me to walk in them. This earthly work is not yet finished, and thus I remain in this flesh. Until I fly away, I will fill empty books with His praise here as a foretaste of the books I have yet to write in the Library of Heaven.

God is not finished molding me into the person He wrote into His Book of Life. But one day I shall become what He always foreknew. I shall one day be glorified into the image of His Son and my salvation shall be complete. I am not yet His perfected Bride who dwells in light amid the halls of Heaven, but even now, in this body of dust, Yeshua has given me the breathtaking privilege through the power of prayer to approach my King and read aloud for His Courts a new song of praise from the pen of this ready writer.

"Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." ~~1 Corinthians 10:31 

Praise the Lord.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Love of the King

Long before the universe was spoken into light
long before the day was separated from the night
The Creator God foreknew it all and said, "I have a plan
for that wicked, sinful, selfish being known to Me as "man".

"For I love him and his offspring more than he'll ever know
yet when he dies he'll have no peace, to Hell his soul will go.
Therefore I must step in and save him, for I want him here with Me
But the price of peace is high--I must be nailed upon a tree."

So God the Father sent the world His one and only Son
To teach us how to live and to show what must be done.
But the rabbis and the priests had Him hung upon a cross,
and the men the Son had loved surely thought that all was lost.

But Yeshua HaMashiach, having the keys to hell and death,
returned to His lifeless body and took another breath.
In that moment Satan screamed, for Redemption had been won
As all Power and Authority had been given to God's Son.

Now the sinful, selfish man was covered by God's Grace
And he had no need for fear to look upon God's face.
But even though God's Grace is a gift He gives for free,
the sinful selfish man must claim, "Christ is the way for me."

He must cast aside his wicked ways; repent of all his sin
God wants for him a holy life, seeking only Him.
Now man's soul is bound for Glory, yet by faith, not his own might
God counts him blameless, holy, pure, on the finished work of Christ.

This is the mystery that confounds us, the very Love of God,
that our King stepped from His Throne, and among our flesh He trod.
And His Church faithfully follows Him, with no hate or lust or pride
Because the King is now our Bridegroom, and we, His spotless Bride.

All of Heaven is preparing for the Wedding that is to come
And God the Father will decide when all is said and done.
Then Christ once more will stand from upon His golden Throne,
To gather His lilies, those He loves, and bring His Bride on Home.

© 2015 by Becka Goings

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Do Not Forsake Your Prayer Closet

Today I'm writing a sober blog to address an issue that seems to be running rampant in today's church: neglect of the prayer closet. For those who may not know or have never heard the term, a "prayer closet" is slang Christians use which refers to our private prayer time with the Lord Jesus Christ. In days of old, people used to have a specific room (or closet) to cloister themselves into so as not to be disturbed when they pray. Most people no longer have an actual "closet" to go into and pray, but the term has stuck to refer to any time you're with the Lord in private prayer.

I have blogged about prayer before and I have even written a book on how to pray. Not that I'm an expert on the subject, but I know from experience the warning signs of a vapid prayer life. Considering the recent breach of a certain website which promoted adultery to unhappily married folk, many pastors and public figures were revealed in the scandal. Not only that, but in a different scandal, a well-known pastor had to step down from his pastorate and disband a flourishing ministry due to an affair he had in retaliation for his wife's own affair.

Brethren, what are we doing?

What are we doing?!

The only excuse I can find is that these men and others like them are neglecting their personal prayer time with God. A person with a solid prayer life is equipped to avoid sin and flee temptation. It is not always easy, and we do sometimes stumble. But cheating on your wife isn't a "stumble". Cussing after stubbing your toe is a stumble into sin. Lying about stealing office supplies is a stumble into sin. But signing up on an affair website isn't a "stumble". It's the long drop into the darkened pit after tripping over every rock on the way there. It's not a momentary lapse, rather it's the end of a very sinister secret, the one you've been hiding from your kids, your wife, and all your brethren.

We cannot blame it on lack of godly knowledge, as those caught red-handed are very well-read and theologically sound men. Two of them come from very influential Christian families. We cannot blame it on no one to talk to and be accountable toward, as some of these men were leaders and chairs of very prolific ministries. At the end of the day, we are all sinners who fall short of the glory of God. Without Christ, none of us have any hope of which to speak.

And that's my point.

When left on its own, the sin nature overtakes one's heart like a fast-growing weed. Its thorns choke out the good fruit until only rotten fruit remains. The only defense we have, Church, is THE WORD OF GOD AND PRAYER. These are the only things that keep the sin nature at bay. Through the Word of God, we obtain counsel from the Lord Himself, and by prayer, we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to resist evil so the enemy will flee from us.

Let me share with you an excerpt from my book The Prayer Project:

Coming into God’s presence, for me, is like a balm from this crazy life. The gouges the world carves from my heart are smoothed over by the Potter’s hand. The peace that passes understanding washes over me, and the Living Water of Christ sustains me. When I’m in the presence of God, there’s nothing I want more than to stay right where I am. I want to know more of Him, seek more knowledge, gain more wisdom, glean new insights. I want the Lord to teach me His ways, and it is not only His pleasure, but His will, to do so.

When the Holy Spirit begins to sanctify us and take us out of the vanity of this world, what we realize is Christ is the only Treasure worth having. He might grant us a few unspoken thoughts or prayers, but that is because He loves us. The true fruit of unspoken prayer is when God grants us the grace to realize Heaven isn’t Heaven because it’s an eternal utopia; Heaven is Heaven because Christ is there.

For the sanctified believer, Heaven is Christ Himself.

And if that is true, then we can have a taste of Heaven here on earth.

Within this excerpt, I touch on the fact that a meaty prayer life springs from the deep passion one has for Jesus Christ. The more we pray to Him, the more precious He becomes to us, until He is our All-in-all, until we realize we have no one in Heaven but Him, and there is nothing on earth we desire besides Him (Psalm 73:25). When we take our eyes off our fellowship with the Lord, we begin to drift away from Him. Maybe not drastically, but gradually, until before we know it, we can no longer see our Anchor in the Sea of Adversity.

Here's another quote from The Prayer Project about prayer itself:

It’s almost like the water cycle of earth, if you think about it. The Holy Spirit lifts our prayers up to the Father, which He then returns to us as Living Water raining down and refreshing our hearts for Christ. Within that Living Water are spiritual blessings from God, and He grants the things we want of Him – more wisdom, more knowledge, more insights. Before you know it, your heart has become a vast garden, seeded, cultivated, and pruned by the Spirit, overflowing with fruit.
One of my favorite themes from the Bible is the garden. We see it everywhere. From the Garden of Eden, to the Garden of the Beloved in Song of Solomon, to the Garden of Gethsemane. It is no coincidence this theme reoccurs again and again. Song of Songs is my favorite book of the Bible. Charles Spurgeon once said this book is the Holy of Holies of Scripture. I agree with him. The entire book is a metaphor of Christ and His Church, and the garden is a picture of His spouse’s heart. The only way to be fruitful for God is if your heart is His garden (Songs 4:16).
Prayer begins the work of breaking up our fallow ground (Jeremiah 4:3). We pray to know our God, we pray to know our Scripture, we pray to shape ourselves, and...our heart is then seeded to grow fruit for the Lord. The Holy Spirit moves in us to sanctify our lives to resemble the life of Christ.

We cannot rely on prayers of rote or prayers before and after the sermon. We cannot rely on prayers to bless our meals or prayers for others. We cannot rely on tradition and people praying for us. WE MUST PRAY OURSELVES. We must go into our room and close the door (Matthew 6:6). We must earnestly seek Him (Matthew 6:33). We must come to Him with a childlike heart (Mark 10:15). We must have a RELATIONSHIP with the Lord of Glory. He cannot be your best Friend if you never speak to Him. As I said in my book mentioned above, "If you spend no personal time with God, you cannot say you know Him personally."

We are too caught in "doing things" for the Lord, that we've lost sight of spending time with the Lord. What's the first thing Christ did every single day? Wandered off to be by Himself with God. He didn't have scrolls tucked under His arm, He wasn't claiming that His study time was "spending time with God". No, He just went out to a quiet place, sat on a stone, and PRAYED. Not repetitious rote like the Pharisees, not tradition like the scribes, but like a child - the Son to the Father. And if we're all adopted children of God (Romans 8:15Ephesians 1:5), then we must do the same. Christ is our example in all things - even our prayer lives.

When we look back over the history of the church, those men who had a special "unction" from the Lord were stoic men of prayer. Their ministry couldn't have succeeded in any other way. It had to be built upon the private prayers of these men, weeping and rejoicing in their prayer closets - and not just for the good of their people and the world, but for God to come and make His abode with them, to equip them and use them for His glory. To make them holy as He is holy. To cultivate their prayer life until their entire being was saturated in tearful, joyful doxology.

And here is where the beauty of private prayer can be seen -- obedience! To obey is better than sacrifice. It matters not how much you DO for the Lord Jesus Christ, what matters is do you OBEY? It is the obedient heart that God the Father and Christ the Son come in to make their abode (John 14:23).  We must be DOERS of the WORD not just hearers only, lest we forget what we look like (James 1:22-24).

This is especially true for pastors and public figures (James 3:1).

Pastors, do you pray for your congregation? I mean earnestly, with tears of desperation over the state of their souls?

Husbands, do you pray over your wives and children? Do you lift your families before the Throne of Grace and pray for their sanctification?

Wives, do you pray for your husbands and for your children? Do you actively ask God for His peace and His grace over their lives and in their hearts?

Brethren, do you pray for your pastors and for your church, that it will thrive and flourish and that God will use your preacher mightily for His Glory?

Do you pray for yourselves, that God would move in your own lives to mold you into a Christian who truly abides in the Vine? Have you ever asked Him to cultivate a deep love in your heart for His Word or sat and chatted with Him beneath a starry sky? Have you ever thanked Him for your blessings and made praise as natural to your life as breathing?

We have forgotten to pray without ceasing. Or perhaps it is in tossing up a nugget of prayer every now and again that we have convinced ourselves we parade the banner of "praying without ceasing" while neglecting the wisdom and meditation of praying long in our closets. What made men like the Puritans and Edwards and Spurgeon such bright stars within the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ? Why did the fragrance of Christ cling so closely to these esteemed men?

I think the little book Valley of Vision magnificently answers that question. It was their prayer lives, brethren.

The Father who saw them in the secret place rewarded them openly (Matthew 6:6).

We must find the grace within our hearts to forgive those who have fallen deeply into sin. I weep over these men and pray for them myself, that God will restore them into a more intimate fellowship with Himself and His Church. But we must remember that a man falls in private long before he falls in public. Do not become so busy in your ministries that you have no time to spend with God Almighty. With no fresh supply from above, how then can your heart become an ever-flowing fountain (John 7:38)?

Never forsake your prayer closet. By doing so, you not only deprive yourself of heavenly refreshment, but those who look to you for guidance as well. If there is no fresh water flowing into your supply, then your heart is a rancid, brackish pool of black standing water. If there was more private prayer in the Church of Jesus Christ, perhaps there would be less scandal, less adultery, less porn, less divorce, less bondage to sin. How can we who died to sin still live in it (Romans 6:2)?

Draw near to God, my brothers and sisters, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded (James 4:8).

Come to Him, sinner. O, come to Him in prayer! And never again will you thirst for anything other than Christ and Him Crucified (John 4:13-14, 1 Corinthians 2:2). Come and give Him the glory due His name, and worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness (Psalm 29:2).

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

El Roi - The God Who Sees Me

If there's one name of God that I love more than all others, it would be this one - El Roi, the God who sees me. Spoken of by Hagar in Genesis 16:13, I believe her words go deeper than a mere passing observance. Hagar was the slave of Sarai (later to be known as Sarah), whom Sarai had given to her husband Abraham in order to conceive a son. She did conceive, which made her hate her mistress (Genesis 16:4). Sarai took her to task (Genesis 16:6), and Hagar ran away.

Let's stop and think about Hagar's position for a moment. She's a slave. She must do what her mistress tells her. Perhaps Hagar didn't want to lie with Abraham. But she must. And she conceived. That son would not be hers, but Sarai's - the very son Sarai couldn't have. It doesn't take long before there's enmity between the women. Hagar is bitter at Sarai for making her conceive, and Sarai is bitter at Hagar for being able to conceive when she couldn't.

When Hagar runs from her mistress, she literally has nothing. She has no freedom. She has no husband of her own (she was given to Sarai's husband, which makes Sarai the dominant wife and her mistress). She has no friends. Sarai is not kind to her. And she doesn't even have the child growing inside of her, because it will be given to Sarai.

That's when God steps in. This is where the story takes a drastic turn for Hagar. The angel of the Lord appeared to her and says, "God has heard your affliction" (Genesis 16:11). He tells her about the son she will bear, how He will multiply her seed, and He gives her hope for her baby's future. Then she gives the Lord a name - The God Who Sees Me.

Through it all, Hagar had nothing of her own. She had no status in life. Her way was miserable. No one saw her. No one cared for her - except the only One who matters. GOD saw her. GOD cared. And God gave her hope and counsel. This must have blown her away. This must have humbled her greatly. The Almighty God of the universe sees and cares for her, a slave! How can it be?

This is why I love the name "El Roi" so very much. Time and time again, God has shown me that He sees me too. When no one cares or can even understand, God does. When my heart aches, God sees me. When I cry upon my pillow, God sees me. When I sing in my kitchen...God sees me.

Who am I? No one! That's what amazes me. God doesn't have to love me - He chooses to. And like Hagar, when I cry out to Him, He gives me hope and counsel. Often I talk about my love for God and how it consumes me. But if God hadn't loved me first, I wouldn't love Him (1 John 4:19). He cares about what happens in my life. He sees everything.

That's what gives me comfort. I don't hope He sees, I KNOW He does. He shows me all the time. He listens to my afflictions and dries all my tears. He reaches down from Heaven to bring me peace and calm my fears. I don't have to explain myself or give long backstories because He knows already. If He hadn't come into my life much like He came into Hagar's, I would likely drown in my despair.

Everything in my life, God knows about. Every joy and every heartache. I am not lost in a sea of believers, I am singled out. I am not merely one of many in a grand collective, but a very specific jewel the Lord both cuts and appraises.

His goal for my life is to conform me into the image of His Son. In that way, God is very invested in my life. This is how everything works together for the good to those who love Him. Even suffering now serves to mold me into Christ's image, which is the greater good. Pride and self-righteousness are burned away in the Refiner's fire, leaving humility and grace behind.

El Roi reminds me that He is with me always. He knows everything I'm going through. He is not at arms' length, but my very breath. He isn't far away, but in the minutia of my day-to-day. He sees me, not only when I'm at my best, but also when I'm at my worst, grumbling and complaining - even though I'm infinitely rich in Him.

He knows my frame, that I am but dust, and yet He sees - He cares - because I am His child. I belong to Him. Because He sees, I don't have to worry. Because He sees, I know He shall care for me. Any injustice against me is seen by the Singular Eye of Heaven upon me. All my praise is known by Him, every word I speak is heard. Every prayer is listened to.

Within the name of El Roi, God's omniscience is glorified. He is all-knowing. And because He is all-knowing, He sees me. But it is not impersonal, this seeing. He cares about everything that happens to me, as what happens to me, through Christ, also happens to Him (Matthew 25:40Acts 9:3-5). Because He sees, I can rest in knowing that God will take care of whatever comes my way. He doesn't just see, He cares, He loves, and He is fierce in protecting His own.

This name also comforts me to the uttermost when I am brought low in my loneliness. When I lament that no one seems to understand, there is One who does. If I feel as if my deepest heart of hearts will never be explored, there is One who continually explores it. When I'm unsure if I'll stumble on my way, the Lord sees my steps and guides my path. If the whole world forsakes me and cannot comprehend who I am, it is EL ROI who takes my hand and leads me home.

For He is the only One who truly, lovingly, assuredly, and completely sees me.

Thank You, Yeshua, for knowing - and loving - even me.
"You see the depths of my heart - and you love me the same. You are amazing, God." ~~Chris Tomlin

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Truth about Godly Womanhood

What does it mean to be a godly woman? I've found many resources that talk about integrity, grace, peace, gentleness, and exuding true femininity. Christian women, both speakers and bloggers, have addressed this topic many times over, from texts such as Titus 2 and Ephesians 5, giving pointers and advice on how to be more godly, from one woman to another. This advice comes in many forms, but the bottom line is usually study more, pray more, and teach younger women and children about God.

Examples are given of the woman in Proverbs 31, who, let's face it, humbles the lot of us. Sometimes we find a study on Ruth or Esther or Sarah, which showcases how to wait on the Lord, how to trust in Him, and yes, even how to submit to one's husband.

There is no doubt these examples and advice are sound, being rooted and grounded in Scripture. And yet, from all these studies, there seems to be something...missing.

What's missing?

The awe-inspiring, high-and-lifted-up, never-ending, lifelong pursuit of our Beloved Bridegroom, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Before we teach the children, we must teach ourselves. Before the elder married women teach the younger newlyweds, they must first know what it means to pant after the Lord God like a deer panteth for the waterbrooks. And not only that, they must experience it for themselves.

Head-knowledge begets head-knowledge, but experience is a testimony.

Women are taught how to be good wives and mothers, but they must first be taught how to be true Christian disciples. High above all else is our love for our Savior. Above our husband, our children, our possessions, our pets, our family, and our friends. This involves knowing sound doctrine and also having an awakening to the Beauty of the Lord of Hosts.

Christians love Jesus. That's a given. I have no doubt my sisters in Christ love their Lord. deep is that love? Is He the pursuit of your LIFE? Is He the One for whom your heart beats? Is He the Alpha and Omega of every day of your life? Do you wake up thinking of Him and go to sleep praying to Him? Do you live, breathe, and adore the King of kings? Would you lay down your life for Him? Do you strive to know more of Him? Is your entire being consumed with knowing Him and making Him known?

Ladies, I daresay our Biblical examples of this kind of love should be Mary of Bethany and Mary Magdalene.

How can a woman be the best wife/mother/daughter/friend she can be? By putting Jesus first in her life. The woman who knows who she is in Christ, who gives Him her whole heart, is then free from making her husband, her children, or her family idols before Him. Her identity isn't in striving to be the Proverbs 31 woman, her identity is in CHRIST alone.

Now, once a woman realizes that great truth, there's something else we should consider about being a godly woman, and this is something I've never seen in all those commentaries, blogs, and series I spoke of above. It is not easy. In fact, it is likely the most formidable endeavor a woman will ever face.

Unless your entire life revolves around the church, being a godly woman means you'll be distancing yourself from friends. They'll stop calling. They'll be too busy. They don't mind YOU as long as you don't bring HIM along (if you know what I mean). What they find fulfilling will become hollow and vain to you. What they laugh about, you find vulgar. What they find entertaining is distasteful to you. And even if you have Christian friends, when you make a solid commitment to follow Jesus and pursue that young stag that skips across the mountains of Bether, they'll soon be left behind. Unless they're willing to pursue Him with you as the passion of their lives, they'll only be able to give you blank stares when you ask them, "Have you seen him whom my soul loves?"

And they'll reply by saying, "What is your Beloved more than another beloved that you thus adjure us?"

The same is true for your family. If sisters and brothers and other relations don't share your convictions, being a godly woman can be trying and draining. You'll feel as if you have to "put away Jesus" whenever they come over. Conversations are about the weather, sports, or current events. They'll feel like it's somehow "okay" to tell you blasphemous jokes because you'll get it as a Christian. Hey, even God has a sense of humor, right? If conversation does happen to venture into Christianity, it's awkward and uncomfortable.

Being a godly mother means praying for your children. Every single day. It's being terrified the world will lead them astray. It's knowing you have no control over the Spirit of God. It's knowing God reveals Himself to whom He wills and you find yourself weeping at the foot of the cross for the Lord to bring your babies into His fold. And sometimes, it's having to let them go their way and leave it in God's hands when they reject your beliefs.

Being a godly wife means loving your husband, even when he's not particularly lovable at times. It's striving to cling to Jesus with all you've got if your spouse doesn't believe. And if he doesn't believe, it's going it alone with no spiritual head to guide you. It's sacrificing yourself for another, and being an example of Christ to build up your spouse and not tear him down. It's not yelling and screaming though you really want to. It's turning the other cheek in arguments, and helping to make family decisions in a wise way. It's reaching for and grasping onto that gentle and quiet spirit which God finds so lovely.

This is hard work. I daresay this is impossible work without the Spirit of God. Being a godly woman isn't about flowers and puppies and sunshine and rainbows (see apropos picture above). It is sweat; it is tears. It is heartbreak and agony. It's depression and loneliness, the sting of which is unlike any you've ever felt before. It is feeling foreign and odd, weird and uncomely. Some people will hate you, others will laugh. Perhaps they'll even scoff.

The more you love and serve Christ, the more you'll realize your need for Him. His glorious fragrance to you is a stench in others' nostrils. You'll have no one with which to talk to about the deeper points of theology. Even if your husband is a believer, he is still a sinful creature and cannot completely fulfill you. Time and time again, you are learning to (as Spurgeon well put it) "kiss the wave that throws you back against the Rock of Ages." It would seem that while we find fellowship within the Body, we are each individual members who go through the gate to Heaven one at a time.

Our Lord told us to expect this. Our lives should be marked by hardship and persecution if we're truly walking as Yeshua walked. In this life you will have trouble. But we take heart - He has overcome the world!

However, the story doesn't end there. Christianity is full of paradoxes. The weak are made strong. The dead become alive. In humility there is glory. The life of a godly woman is also a paradox. While living a life dedicated to Christ is a narrow way that's uphill and full of brambles, it is also the most fulfilling life you'll ever lead.

In sorrow, there is joy. By peeling away the layers of this world, Yeshua reveals Himself as our steadfast Companion - the One who never leaves us nor forsakes us. When the world condemns us, in Him there is no condemnation. When the world judges us, we remember it is God who justifies. When our family walks away, He sticks closer than a brother. When our spouses are indifferent, He is our Bridegroom. When our parents are absent, He is our Father. He becomes for us exactly what we need.

So yes, while I agree we as godly women should study more and pray more and teach younger women and children, we must first know who we are in Christ and experience His love shed abroad in our own hearts, which is as strong as death, its jealousy as fierce as the grave. It's flashes are flashes of fire -  the very FLAME of the Lord.

And here I ponder, at the end of my essay, if we should not consider another title for godly women? I shall therefore close with a suggestion. Rather than be known as godly women who bake casseroles for potlucks, let us be known as WOMEN OF GOD, warriors of faith who stand fast on the battlefield of the Lord God Almighty. Hallelujah, my sisters in Christ. Amen.