Harmony In Submission

The Bible sometimes uses marriage to describe what our relationship with Christ will look like in Heaven (Revelation 19:7, for example). In making this connection, God creates a framework for earthly marriages that foreshadows our future relationship with Him.

This framework is detailed further in Ephesians.

“…and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21)

“Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:22)

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her…” (Ephesians 5:25)

Out of respect for Christ and His submission to the will of the Father, we submit ourselves to our spouses within marriage. Unfortunately, our flesh often bucks up when we hear the word submission because we think it dictates a domineering relationships in some way. But that’s not what God intended.

For Wives

Submission means following a husband’s leadership in Christ. This includes complete commitment to your husband and the relationship. It involves cheering him on instead of trying to fix and change him (that’s God’s job anyway). It means deciding to build him up whenever possible.

On an individual level, a godly wife focuses on developing her inner beauty.

“Do not let your adornment be merely outward – arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel – rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.” (1 Peter 3:3-4)

Note that the scripture doesn’t say to NOT pay attention to your appearance; it just says to not give that a greater focus.

For Husbands

Submission means laying aside your own interests to care for your wife. In doing so, you seek to understand and protect her and to also strive for gentleness and tenderness.

In addition, your leadership should reflect godliness and not demand servitude.

“You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.” (1 Peter 3:7)

In addition to honoring his wife, a good marriage also benefits a husband’s spiritual life. Logically, the opposite is also true.

Harmony In Submission

As husbands and wives submit to one another “in the fear of Christ,” they show their trust in God. They let go of self, the enemy to submission. They deliberately and intentionally choose to prefer one another.

In marriage, separate wholes come together to make one new whole.

“And the two shall become one flesh; so they are no longer two, but one flesh.” (Mark 10:8)

Through submission as Scripture indicates, spouses learn how to harmonize with one another. In doing so, they become a beautiful tune pleasing to the ear not only of people around them, but most significantly of God in Heaven.

More importantly, spouses within a Godly marriage learn how their relationship with Christ will be in Heaven. Realizing this is life-changing as we understand that not only are we building up our spouses as we strive for harmonious submission, but we are also preparing ourselves for eternity.

Stain Free

While doing laundry one day, I pulled some clothes out of the washer and along with them, an ink pen. For some stupid reason, I pulled the cap off the pen, and some ink dripped on to my jeans… my favorite pair of jeans.

I would love to say one of my kids or my husband was the culprit, but I can’t. It was a Sharpie pen, and I’m the only one who uses them. In fact, no one else is allowed to use them because they are my writing pens.

With 10 minutes before needing to leave, I take off my jeans and work to get the ink stain out. I put a towel inside the jeans behind the stain, take a wet cloth with some dish soap and start scrubbing. I prayed too. Seriously… my favorite pair.

Thankfully, the stain came out. The ink actually soaked into the towel. If I hadn’t put the towel inside, the back of the jeans would have absorbed the stain.

This potentially devastating incident reminded me of salvation for several reasons.

First, my mistakes caused the stain.

I couldn’t blame anyone else. So often, we want to look for somewhere else to place blame. We try to avoid admitting we did anything wrong. This is pride. The stain on my jeans was my fault, just like I cannot blame anyone else for the sin in my life.

Second, without Jesus absorbing my stains, I would just experience them in another part of my life.

Had I not put the towel in the pant leg, I would either have had to scrub the other side of my jeans or given them up as lost. But the towel took on the stain and removed it from my jeans. Jesus does the same for us. He did it on the cross at Calvary. When we admit our sins and ask for forgiveness, he absorbs those sins, and we no longer have to bear their stain on our lives. Sure, there are consequences, but we certainly do not become useless. He washes us clean and makes us presentable again.

Third, acting quickly made all the difference.

If I hadn’t taken the time to get the stain out right away, the ink would have dried, and my favorite jeans would have become my work-around-the-house jeans. This equates to keeping short accounts in my spiritual life.

When we allow sin to remain in our lives, it becomes a permanent stain. Sure, Jesus removes it whenever we ask him to, but a stain’s imprint (the consequences) becomes more prominent the longer we allow it to remain in our lives.

The sooner we ask for forgiveness, the longer we get to live without that stain. That’s also less time for consequences to wreak havoc. Doesn’t mean we won’t have to live with any consequences, but certainly the impact lessens the sooner we repent.

Looking Back Lessons

Looking back on the inky jeans incident, I realize the stain resulted from my failure to think first. I just pulled off the cap. So often, sin happens because we don’t stop and think before acting. The incident also happened because I failed to take care of the pen in the first place. When we intentionally avoid situations that can lead to sin, more of our lives will remain stain-free.

Also, I am thankful that the pen fell out of the washer onto the floor and didn’t make its way into the dryer. Otherwise, a whole load of clothing may have gotten permanently stained. With temptation, God either gives us a way to bear it or a “way out.” (I Corinthians 10:13) It’s a matter of whether or not we take that way out and if we rely on Him when it’s presented to us. If we don’t, sin often results.

Everyday situations present us with opportunities to hear from God. Even an ink stain teaches us His truths. When we are open to hearing from Him at any time, we find that He works in the smallest details in some very powerful ways. And the small changes that He makes in our lives always add up to make a huge difference. In this case, victory over sin!

Go Against the Flow

Moneyball tells the story of a general manager who decides to build a baseball team based on statistics rather than individual talent. Everyone, except the economist working for him, thought he was making a huge mistake. Everyone was wrong. His counterintuitive decision was right on the money. Billy Beane went against the flow of conventional baseball wisdom, and it changed the game of baseball forever.

Ever had an idea or wanted to make a change that went against what everybody around you was doing? Or, maybe you felt the need to resist going in a direction everyone else was taking. Going against the flow is difficult simply because it sets us apart from everyone else.

4 Principles for Going Against the Flow

Scripture says that while we may plot our course, the Lord directs our steps (Proverbs 16:9). Choosing to follow the steps He indicates often means going against the flow of our culture.

These 4 principles for going against the flow can help you better see the steps he wants you to take.

#1 Acknowledge Limits

Our culture is one of pushing limits. The world of sports is a perfect example. How fast can the mile actually be run? How many touchdowns can one person make in a season? Who can jump the highest or farthest? No matter what records are broken, the new record always becomes the goal. But the truth of the matter is that we do have – and need – limits. Limits allow us to avoid significant negative consequences (think weight control and traffic signs). Intentionally setting limits on desires and pleasures allows us to stay balanced and healthy in body, mind and spirit.  Setting limits is also counter-cultural because we’re told daily we can have what we want when we want it… no limits. Embracing the blessings of limits can protect us from thinking outside of the will of God.

Acknowledging limits goes against the flow of mainstream thinking.

#2 Raise Expectations

There is always someone who isn’t doing as well as you in some way, and it’s easy to get a false sense of superiority. Comparisons are dangerous, yet our culture promotes them like crazy. Comparisons create a false reality, and they can lead to pride in feeling like improvement is unnecessary. When we realize that Jesus is the bull’s-eye, though, we understand the need for progressive improvement. He is the standard by which we should measure our lives. In doing so, our expectations are raised, and we can set goals that don’t pit us constantly against one another.

Forgetting comparisons is certainly not mainstream thinking.

#3 Be Separate

Holiness is a Bible word that many think means perfection. But holiness is not about being perfect; it’s about being separate. When you separate yourself, you avoid conforming to the world. You avoid walking the path of destruction. You become an example of one aiming for the bull’s-eye. Others may consider you odd, but their approval isn’t what matters. The question you must ask is, “Does God approve of my life?” if the answer is yes, then you are living a life of separation and not conformity.

Seeking God’s approval over man’s approval goes against the flow.

#4 Make Relationship a Priority

Limits and rules exist for our safety, but they mean little more than restriction and confinement without relationship. Parents can discipline kids, but kids won’t truly aim for obedience if the relationship is weak. The book of Leviticus is all about establishing rules for the safety of the Israelites. While they focused on God, the rules weren’t a big deal to follow. They followed them because they loved Him. But as soon as they took their eyes off of Him, the rules were broken and rebellion reigned. Relationship makes following the rules a desire rather than a requirement.

Focusing on relationship over self does not support the thinking of our “me first” society.

Directed Steps

As John Carty noted in Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success: Building Blocks for a Better Life,

“It’s not easy to overcome the training and traditions of a lifetime.”

Often, though, this is exactly what Christ leads us to do. He sometimes directs us to go against the flow of the training and traditions of our comfort zones.

Are you willing to take the steps He directs?

You Are One-of-a-Kind Special

In 2012, Dr. Pepper came out with a commercial that has individuals proudly proclaiming how they are “one-of-a-kind.”

Being one-of-a-kind gives an impression of high value. A one-of-a-kind painting. A one-of-a-kind car. A one-of-a-kind piece of jewelry. These items are unusual, unusual makes them special and special indicates value.

How are you one of a kind?

If you were to wear a t-shirt like the ones in the new Dr. Pepper commercial, what would your t-shirt read? What would you like to declare about yourself?

I like the idea of making a declaration about what makes a person one-of-a-kind. After all, there’s something unique about everyone. Well, not so much one specific thing necessarily, but rather a combination of qualities and skills that make each person one-of-a-kind.

God’s Treasured Handiwork

Long before Dr. Pepper, long before we were even born, God had a one-of-a-kind design in mind for each of us.

“Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession.” (Exodus 19:5)

 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. ” (Jeremiah 29:11)

That isn’t all either! Check out Romans 8:15-17 and Psalm 139:13-16 for more.

What Makes You Special

In a world where individuals constantly aim to stand out in unique and special ways, and increasingly is some very odd and often frightening ways, we all too often overlook that what we do has nothing to do with why we are special. What makes us one-of-a-kind special is whose we are.

All of creation shares the imprint of God, but no one imprint looks exactly the same. As individuals, we each represent our Creator in unique ways. And that representation is the key to a victorious life.

Do you embrace your uniqueness because of WHOSE you are?