Wednesday, May 4, 2011

God Doesn't Intend for Me to Be a Perfect Parent

I learned a valuable lesson recently while traveling on a choir trip as a chaperone for my oldest son’s choir.  To put it mildly, the choir teacher was a cranky old lady that had a habit of regularly yelling at the kids and was not big on compliments.  My first reaction was to complain to the school but I didn’t feel that would be the right thing to do.  After the choir trip, I asked my son about his teacher.  His words were, “I love Ms. _____!”  I was shocked by his response.  He did admit that in his junior year he was afraid of her, but in his current senior year he has made it his job to make this teacher smile.  He isn’t always successful, but this effort towards his teacher has helped him to love her.  He has become able to look past her flaws and see the wonderful parts in her; the amazing things she brings out in her choir and the softness under the outer gruffness. 

The mother bear instinct in me wanted to protect my son and these kids that I grew to love over our 5 day trip.  What my son taught me is that he didn’t need protecting.  In fact, if I had been more aware of his fear of this teacher in his junior year and tried to protect him, I would have done him a great disservice!  What I have come to realize is that my children were put here on this earth to learn and grow through their challenges just as I learn through mine.  The normal reaction to protect my children is important in some situations like protecting them from physical harm or abuse, but much of the time I think I need to step back.  

Hebrews 12:10-11 For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peacable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.

In order to raise “righteous” kids they need opposition in their lives.  The hardest things in our lives are the things that refine and purify both me and my children.  

Malachi 3:3 And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.

One thing that really helps me put my children’s struggles in perspective is looking back on my own struggles.  My childhood was not easy; it was filled with abandonment, rejection, and uncertainty.  I look back at those things and I can see specifically how those things made me a better parent and person.  It gives me confidence that my children’s struggles will do the same for them.  

This idea also takes away a lot of guilt; I don’t have to be a perfect parent.  In fact if I was, it would hinder my children’s progress in righteousness.  Because of my own childhood, I have really tried to make sure my kids don’t have to struggle with the same things I did. One of the things I have felt most strongly about is raising them in an atmosphere where they can gain their own personal testimonies of the Savior.  This is the foundation they need to get through their trials in life and be happy.  When they know in their hearts that God lives and they feel the joy of doing right, it guides their choices.

I have done a lot of good things with my kids like weekly family night, daily family scripture study, scripture memorization, and daily family prayer but I have failed in some areas.  I had 6 kids in 9 years. Most good Christian parents teach their children to say their prayers at bedtime.  Being so exhausted by the end of the day, this practice was “hit and miss”.  Sometimes I feel a lot of guilt that I have not trained them better in that area but I have been very lucky.  I have teenagers with testimonies of their own and who act accordingly.  Some of my children pray every night on their own accord.   A couple of years ago, my children turned to praying, fasting, and personal scripture reading in the biggest challenge our family has ever faced.

I feel that through the grace of Christ, my weaknesses as a parent have been made up in some of these areas.  I believe he makes up for my parenting weaknesses on my children’s behalf. 

2 Corinthians 12 9-10 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

It takes away so much guilt to know that I don’t have to be a perfect parent.  To know that Christ’s grace is sufficient for me, not only as a sinner but as a parent.  To also realize that the process of turning my weaknesses into strengths takes time and that some of my parenting was done with those normal weaknesses intact.  We can all look back and see things we did wrong in the past and would probably do different today.  This is OK!  This is part of God’s plan for our children; to help them grow through their adversity, even if their adversity is sometimes me!  God doesn’t intend for me (or my spouse) to be perfect a parent! 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Justification of Life!

In celebration of Easter, I wanted to focus on some thoughts on the Resurrection of the Savior.  I have always seen two parts to the Atonement of Christ. (see Who Am I to Judge Another blog post) Through the fall of Adam sin and death came into the world, but Christ overcame both.  

First, Christ saves us from the condemnation of the first death or physical death.  Without the resurrection, we would be condemned.  This is a free gift to all.  

 1 Corinthians 15:21-22 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

Romans 5:18 Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life

Second, Christ saves us from the second death or spiritual death.  Without Christ’s intervention for us, we would all be made sinners.  This gift is given on conditions set by the Savior.

Romans 5:19  For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.

 Revelations 2:11  He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death. (see also Rev 20:14)

It is interesting to me that in order to return to God, not only do we need to be free from sin through Christ, but we also need a body.  In 1 Corinthians chapter 15, it talks much about the need for a resurrection.

1 Corinthians 15:13, 18-19 But if there be no resurrection of the dead… Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.  If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.

This is a concept that I have not really understood; why would not having a body condemn us and make us miserable?  Recently, I was doing a study on the after-life with a good non-denominational Christian friend.  She has suffered with some huge losses in her family and wanted to REALLY know what comes after death through a thorough study of what the Bible says.  In this study, I have come across a lot of interesting things that seem to hint at some answers to my questions. 

One of the first interesting points that I fell upon was that Christ did not ascend to his Father until AFTER he was resurrected.  Mary Magdalene was the first to see Jesus right after he was resurrected; she was commanded to not touch him yet.  When Jesus appeared to the apostles, he had apparently ascended to his Father because he tells them to touch him. 

John 20:17 17 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.

Luke 24:39 Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.

Christ was perfect!  Could he not ascend or did he not ascend?  The answer to this would be a personal opinion, but it really appears to me that he could not, because it also seems that we will not be presented to the father until we are “raised up” or resurrected. 

2 Corinthians 4:14 Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you.

The reason I believe we are presented to God is so that we can be judged.   The righteous will be resurrected at the coming of Christ (1 Thes4:14) and the judgment will not happen until he comes (1 Timothy 4:1).  Thus it seems that we will have resurrected bodies at the time we are judged. 

2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

There are two things that stand out in this scripture.  Even though we must meet certain conditions to be saved from the second death, the ”justification of life” (or  resurrection) is a free gift.  If resurrection is necessary in order to return to God and be judged, then it would make a lot of sense that even the wicked need resurrection in order to be receive their judgment.  The other thing that stands out is that every person will “receive the things done in his(her) body.”  In 1 Peter 4:6 it tells us that we are judged according to our deeds in the flesh.  It appears that we are judged according to the flesh and we are rewarded (or punished) in the flesh as well.

 John 5:29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.

I also think that the phrase justification of life is very telling.  To justify is to show, act, or claim to be just or right.  It is almost as if this phrase is saying that life through the resurrection allows us to be justified through judgment.  I think that this, the importance of being judged is the very reason we need to be resurrected.  Without judgment there would be no punishment or reward.  Maybe the idea that God could not reward us is the condemnation that would come upon us if there were no resurrection.  Maybe this is why we would be men and women most miserable!  I would love your own Biblical thoughts and comments as I feel this is only scratching the surface of this concept!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Turning our Captivity: Lessons from Job 3

There is one more point in this whole story of Job that I want to get into.  It is probably my favorite point of all; blessings follow the trial.  I have always believed that if I remain faithful through my trials (Proverbs 28:20) with clean hands and a pure heart (Psalms 24:4) that the Lord will turn my curse (trial) into a blessing (Deut 23:5).  (see My Soul is Weary of Life post)  I also believe that the greater the trial, the greater the blessing that can follow.  Job’s enormous blessing of receiving twice that he had once had followed an equally enormous trial.  


His earthly possessions were doubled on earth; sheep, camels, oxen, asses.  What about his children?  I think if we look at it in terms of his eternal posterity, his posterity was doubled.  The latter blessing would not fully be realized until the next life.  Such it is with us, our blessings are partially earthly and partially heavenly and much may not be seen until the next life.  
One thing I realized in reading Job is that his blessing did not come automatically; he had to do a couple of things to earn it.  In my first blog post Searching for Healing, I considered the scriptural perspective of healing and being forgiven as being synonymous.  The story of Job further demonstrates this principle.  

Job 42:6 Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.

Before the Lord turned Job’s “cursing” or “captivity” into a blessing, one of the things Job does is to repent.  As I detailed in my Searching for Healing post, our trials can bring with it negative emotions that can lead us to sin.  For example, envy for someone who has it better than us, anger at those who have wronged us, or anger at God for letting this happen to us.  Although Job never became angry at God nor ever blamed him, we know he wanted to die and that he cursed the day he was born.  It could have also been that he had to forgive his supposed friends; they came to comfort him but instead afflicted him with their judgments and lack of empathy.  They believed that he must have done something to deserve his lot and that it was his own fault he suffered.  It is so interesting to me that it was not until he prayed for these “friends” that the blessings came. 

Job 42:10 And the Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.

This is such a HUGE realization to me that in order for me to receive the blessing, I must pray for my enemies.  I say enemies because these friends did not act as friends.  Jesus taught that we should pray for our enemies and the story of Job tells us that this is the way our “curse” turns into a “blessing.”   So, whether we are to pray for the person who caused our trial, judged us in our trial, or someone completely unrelated to our trial, to me it seems the key to blessings.  

There are some people that may be very hard to pray for because their acts are so hard to forgive.  I think it can take years and years to forgive some horrendous things.  My personal feeling is that we pray for the ability to forgive and open our hearts until forgiveness comes; I believe forgiveness is a gift from God and does not come naturally to carnal man (Romans 8:7-8).  Our prayers for an enemy can be as simple as please help me to forgive and no longer harbor bad feelings for this person.  I think those prayers can evolve to, please help me see this person as you see them and learn to love them.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Perfect and Upright... ya right: Lessons From Job 2

The second lesson Job has taught me is that I don’t have to be “perfect” to be “perfect and upright before the Lord.”  When I think of the word perfect, I think of dictionary[i] definitions such as these:

1.       Conforming absolutely to the description or definition of an ideal type
2.       Entirely without any flaws, defects, or shortcomings.
3.       Thorough, complete, utter

A dictionary definition of upright[ii] is “adhering to rectitude[iii] (rightness of principle or conduct; moral virtue); righteous, honest, or just.”  Job, a mortal man is clearly not perfectly righteous or upright for all are under sin and not one is righteous.

Romans 3:9-12 What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; 10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: 11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. 12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one

None of us are without flaws and none of us conform absolutely to God’s law.  None of us are righteous or perfect!  It is just a fact.  I think the key phrase here is, “before the Lord.”  Job cannot by definition be perfect and upright but through Christ both he and we can be made righteous and perfect in Christ.  

Romans 5:19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.

Colossians 1:28 Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus

Think of a full glass of water representing perfection.   We spend our life trying to fill our cup with drops that represent our uprightness in keeping the commandments.  Unfortunately though we fall short of righteousness and with each mistake a drop of water is taken from our cup.  It becomes impossible for us to fill up this cup of water and perfection by us can never be reached.  But if we are “before the Lord” Christ fills up the rest of our cup for us; thus by him we are made righteous and in him we are made perfect.  This is what I think was meant when the Lord referred to Job as “perfect and upright.”  He did his best to fill his cup with drops of water and relied on Christ to fill up the rest.

Job alone could never be perfect or upright.  He had to be before the Lord in order for this to happen.  I think of being before the Lord as having Christ on my team.  When Christ is on my team no matter how many runs short I come to winning my game, Christ comes in and scores enough home runs to put our team over the top.  The question then becomes, “what qualified Job to have Christ on his team?”  There are two things that stand out to me; the first is found in the second part of the Lord’s description Job.

Job 1:1 There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.

Job feared God and abstained from or eschewed evil.  My personal feeling on “fearing God” is not that we should be afraid of God but that we should care what he thinks over what man thinks; we are to fear God rather than fear man.

Psalms 118:6 The Lord is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?

When we give into peer pressure, make choices based on what will make us look better in others eyes, or seek popularity at whatever cost, we fear man and not God.  Sometimes following God is not the popular thing to do and sometimes we just care more what people think than we care what God thinks.  When we do this, we are not choosing Christ’s team.  A good example of someone who didn’t choose the right team was Pilate.  Jesus was brought to him before he was crucified, but Pilate could find no fault in him.  Pilate wanted to release Jesus but instead of doing something unpopular, he let the people decide a prisoner to be released.  Pilate was more worried about what the people thought than what God thought.  He is an example of someone who did not fear God and as a consequence allowed an evil act to occur.  I think this is what is meant by the kind of person Job was.  He was more concerned about doing the right thing (being upright) as opposed to the popular thing.   Job always chose Christ’s team!

The second thing that stands out to me about Job was his ability to recognize his weakness and repent. 

Job 42:6 Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.

Although Job feared God and shunned evil, he certainly made mistakes.  These mistakes are the things that keep us from being saved and keep us from having Jesus on our team.

1 Peter 4:18 And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?

I think that just as our sins keep Christ from being on our team, repentance is the thing that allows us to continue with him.  If I were to define righteousness before the Lord, my personal definition would not be “one who does not make mistakes” but “one who consistently repents of his mistakes.”  In order to have Christ as my teammate, it seems to me that I have to care more about what he thinks than what others think; I have to really want to do right and shun evil.  But even with these great desires, I am never going to fill that darn cup.  As hard as I try, I lose drops on a daily basis.  In order to keep Jesus on my team, I have got to repent continuously.   If I do this then I too can be considered perfect through him!  What a concept!  Truly we do not yet appear as we shall be for he intends to make us perfect!

 1 John 3:2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

[i] perfect. (n.d.). Unabridged. Retrieved April 15, 2011, from website:
[ii] upright. (n.d.). Unabridged. Retrieved April 17, 2011, from website:
[iii] rectitude. (n.d.). Unabridged. Retrieved April 17, 2011, from website:

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

My Soul is Weary of Life: Lessons from Job 1

I have harbored some guilt in the way I have handled myself in my hardest of afflictions.  For months I lay in bed and was completely unable to cope with life.  Life seemed so painful that I wished to cease to exist; I even wondered why God had not just taken me at the birth of my youngest child instead of miraculously saving my life.  I struggled with intense emotions of hate, anger, grief, and depression.  I have always believed that if I remain faithful through my trials (Proverbs 28:20) with clean hands and a pure heart (Psalms 24:4) that the Lord will turn my curse (trial) into a blessing (Deut 22:5).  I didn’t think that my current emotions and actions (or lack of) showed faithfulness or purity.  I felt that somehow I should be “happily” bearing my burden instead of bemoaning it.  I was convinced that any blessing that could eventually come my way was certainly lost.  I have come to realize that I had yet another belief that needed to die and be resurrected. 

My first realization that this idea was false came from reading Job.  Job was considered a “perfect and upright man” by the Lord and yet during his trial he wished he was never born, he no longer wanted to live, and he was completely weighed down with pain, misery, and grief to the point that he could not cope.

Job 3:1-3,11-13 After this opened Job his mouth, and cursed his day. 2 And Job spake, and said, 3 Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night in which it was said, There is a man child conceived.  11 Why died I not from the womb? why did I not give up the ghost when I came out of the belly? 12 Why did the knees prevent me? or why the breasts that I should suck? 13 For now should I have lain still and been quiet, I should have slept: then had I been at rest,

Job 10:1,16-18 My soul is weary of my life;… 18 Wherefore then hast thou brought me forth out of the womb? Oh that I had given up the ghost, and no eye had seen me! 19 I should have been as though I had not been; I should have been carried from the womb to the grave. 20 Are not my days few? cease then, and let me alone, that I may take comfort a little,

Job 3:20-26 Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery, and life unto the bitter in soul; 21 Which long for death, but it cometh not; and dig for it more than for hid treasures; 22 Which rejoice exceedingly, and are glad, when they can find the grave? 23 Why is light given to a man whose way is hid, and whom God hath hedged in? 24 For my sighing cometh before I eat, and my roarings are poured out like the waters. 25 For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me. 26 I was not in safety, neither had I rest, neither was I quiet; yet trouble came.

Job 6:2-4 Oh that my grief were throughly weighed, and my calamity laid in the balances together!  3 For now it would be heavier than the sand of the sea: therefore my words are swallowed up. 4 For the arrows of the Almighty are within me, the poison whereof drinketh up my spirit: the terrors of God do set themselves in array against me.

Job 2:11,13 Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that was come upon him, they came every one from his own place; …13 So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great.

Job felt very similar emotions to mine and not only was he still worthy of blessing, he was still considered righteous by the Lord.  I think this is because the negative emotion is the affliction.   In fact, in the very moment that negative emotions leaves, a trial or adversity ceases to be such.  Affliction is defined as a state of pain, distress, grief, or misery.  If God were to take all of the negative emotion from me, by definition I would no longer have an affliction or trial.  How could Job be tried if the Lord wiped out all the emotion and hardships associated with his trial?  It was by the things Christ suffered that he learned obedience (Hebrews 5:8) and it is by the things we suffer that we too learn obedience.  God doesn’t take away our trials or all of the emotions that go with it because he wants us to become something.  He is trying to purify us and make us more like him.  He wants to glorify us with him.

Zechariah 13: 9 And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The Lord is my God.

1 John 3:2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

Romans 8:17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.  

It is through our suffering we become refined and purified as gold and silver.  Negative emotions or afflictions are necessary in this purification process.  I recognize that I do have need of repentance for some of the emotion and action but I also recognize that the affliction or negative emotion is making me into what God would have me be.  It almost seems like a “Catch-22”; we need to sin (have affliction or negative emotion) to be better but if we become weighted down by sin we can’t progress.  This leads to the need for the atonement of Jesus Christ; his suffering, death, and resurrection.  God has provided a way for me to learn and grow through my mistakes and to become stronger through my weaknesses; his plan is perfect!  My ability to repent and find forgiveness through him not only makes me worthy of future blessings but also allows me to become something that I could not become on my own.  Am I proud of how I handled myself in my most severe afflictions?  Not really, but I know that I am much stronger because of them! 

Monday, April 4, 2011

Neither Do I Condemn Thee!

Recently a YouTube video was posted on my homepage on Facebook that really disturbed me; someone was praising God that the atheists in Japan had been destroyed.  I actually have my doubts if this was “real” but the fact is that we all sometimes have a tendency to condemn others that believe or think differently.    

I am reminded of the story of the woman who was caught in the act of adultery and brought to Jesus to be stoned.  She obviously wasn’t making good choices.  Not only was she in need of repenting, but the law issued stoning as a punishment for adultery.  When Jesus invited “he without sin” to cast the first stone, each accuser left one by one.  It was then that Jesus addressed the woman.  (Notice that this was done in private and without humiliation)  I suppose he could have cried, “repent, you sinner” or “I damn you to hell” but he did not.  

John 8:10-11 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?  She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

Instead of condemnation, Jesus showed love and compassion.  This love and compassion did not mean that Christ condoned or overlooked this woman’s actions.  On the contrary, he encouraged her to sin no more.  I think that what Christ did was to love and accept the sinner but hate the sin itself.  

But you might say, what about Jesus cleansing the temple?  He didn’t seem to be showing love and compassion to the money changers.  I think a lot of us use this example to justify condemning others.

John 2:13-17And the Jews’ passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem, And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables; And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise. And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.

One of the first things that sticks out at me when I read this passage is Jesus’ control.  He drives out the money changers and the animals but he does not touch or overturn any cages that could injure an animal.  If he was in a rage, people or animals could have been injured. When he tells those that sell doves to take them, it seems to me that rage is not what is driving him.  What seems to be driving him is his love for his father and for that which is sacred.  He does not individually condemn the money changers, but he openly protects that which is sacred; the temple.  Can we love others and still protect that which is sacred to us?  I think we can and Jesus’ example tells me that we should. We too need to protect those things that are sacred to us; our rights and freedoms, our religion, a safe place to live, etc.  We can fight for what we believe in without injuring or condemning others who believe differently.  Christ condemned the practice of making his “Father’s house a house of merchandise” but he did not condemn the people themselves.  Loving others is the key to change not condemnation.  Then the question of  Jesus’ condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees arises.  Shouldn't he have loved them instead of condemning them?

Matthew 23:29, 33 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! …Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?

There is no question that Jesus is openly condemning the scribes and Pharisees but again, probably not individually but collectively.  I think the first question to ask is who are the scribes and Pharisees?  The Pharisees were the religious leaders of the Jews and the scribes were religious teachers; many scribes were also Pharisees.  They were supposed to be teaching the people but instead they were leading them astray.  His condemnation of the leaders as a whole was out of love and concern for the people that they led.

Isaiah 3:12 O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths.

Matthew 23: 13 But woe unto you, scribe and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.

I see here a responsibility that leaders have to their people; to lead them in the right way.  The Pharisees and scribes as the only ones with access to the scriptures had been given a charge to teach the people.  Their hypocrisy in teaching the people was causing a whole nation to go astray.  I am very grateful for the Holy Ghost or the “Spirit of Truth” (John 15:26) that if we follow will never lead us astray.  The Lord does not expect us to follow the bible, leaders, or teachers blindly.  He has given us the spirit to guide us to know between truth and error (1 John 4:6) and to guide us to all truth (John 16:13).  Instead of judging each other in regards to beliefs and condemning others "to hell”, can’t we assume that we are each doing our best to follow the spirit in our lives?  We don’t know each others hearts or the purpose of God in each others lives.  If we truly desire to help change another for good, it will only come through love and acceptance not condemnation.  What kind of change would the woman found in adultery have wanted to make if Jesus has openly condemned her to hell?  I think it would have turned her from Christ, not towards him.  Christ is the example of how we should treat each other with compassion and acceptance.  He used wholesome words that uplift, not words that tear down.

1 Timothy 6:3 If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; 4 He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, 5 Perverse disputing of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.

2 Timothy 2:2-25 And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient,  25 In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves.

We are proud when we get into “strifes of words” with each other about our differences in beliefs or persuasions.  The Lord tells us not to strive with each other but to be gentle, patient, and meek with those that oppose us or our beliefs.  Disputing with men even if they are corrupt is still perverse in the eyes of God.  I think this is because disputing is not of God and we cannot have his spirit with us when we do this.  Railing against others beliefs are not of the Lord either; it shows a sense of pride.  The belief that I am right and you are wrong is pride.  When we argue about religious beliefs or political persuasions, it is pride.  When we judge others because of their actions, it is pride.   When we condemn, it is pride.  

James 4:6-7 …Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

We need to resist the devil who wants us to be proud.  He wants us to find fault with each other.  When we engage in disputations with one another or find fault with one another, we are no longer serving God.  Instead of focusing on a common belief in Christ, Satan wants Christians to be divided and find fault with one another. What power we could have if we could set aside doctrinal differences and be united as common believers in Christ!  I have great respect for people of all religions.  I honor Mother Theresa, a catholic nun, who literally gave up her whole life in the service of God and of others.  I see my good friend who is a non-denominational Christian and I admire her prayerfulness.  I have another friend who studied and became a Jehovah’s Witness; I respect her diligence in study.  I revere men such as Wycliffe, Luther, Calvin, and Tyndale who sacrificed much to bring forth freedom of religion.  I esteem our founding fathers as men of God.  I also have great respect for you who are reading my blog of whatever religion you may be.  May this blog increase your determination (and mine) to be a better Christian!

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Gardener of My Soul

It was the spring of 2004 and I was sitting in a class at a Womens Conference.  A small sheet of paper and a pen were passed out to each person in the room with the instructions to write something we were struggling with on this paper.  I am not sure how much of the class I actually heard because I spent the entire time racking my brains for just one thing I could write on that paper.  Financially we were doing great and our family had good health.  I had a husband that adored me and made me feel like a queen and children who were good and kind to each other (for the most part).  I had great friends and neighbors; there was not one person I could think of that I was angry at or unhappy with.  My paper stayed blank.  Apparently God noticed my blank paper and decided that it was high time I had something to write!

It was just a few months before this Womens Conference I attended that my family moved into a new home.  On our property there were many mature trees including three cherry trees.  Our first spring came and the trees brought forth their fruit but we encountered two problems; the trees were so tall we could not reach most of the fruit and the fruit did not taste good. 

I came to understand later, that our trees had not been maintained and had overgrown.  The trees did provide shade and they were pretty to look at but they were useless to us because they did not provide edible fruit.  In other words, the trees did not reach the potential for which they were intended.  All of this could have been prevented if only they had been properly cared for and pruned before they had grown out of control. 

John 15:1-2 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.  Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away; and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring froth more fruit.

In this scripture the Greek word for purge is katharos[i] which means to cleanse or to prune. Pruning involves not only the removal of dead or diseased branches (non-fruit bearing branches taken away) but it also entails control of growth for productivity (fruit-bearing branches are pruned to bring forth more fruit).  In order to understand this part of pruning, we need to understand how plants grow. 
  1. Lateral buds:  The growth of lateral buds ensures that leaves elevate into the sunlight and that roots penetrate deeply into the soil.  Once the tree or plant has reached sufficient height and length (of both roots and stems), this bud enables lateral (sideways) growth.
  1. Terminal bud (apex):  The apex is the top bud.  It produces a hormone called auxin that circulates downward which causes the tree to increase in height regardless if sufficient height has been reached.  This inhibits lateral (or sideways) growth.  Apical dominance occurs when the terminal bud or apex is not removed.  This causes several problems; the fruit becomes out of reach at the tops of the tree and becomes more vulnerable to damage by birds and pests, the angles at which the branches grow from the main limb are larger and are more prone to breaking off with the weight of the fruit, and a large crop of worthless fruit or trees that produce fruit only every other year can result.  By removing the apex, the auxin is suppressed and strong lateral branches can grow. [ii]

For several years the Lord allowed me to grow taller, but it got to the point that my lateral growth was lacking.  The pruning process is painful and it takes a while for the branches to fill in; there have been times I have felt completely stripped.  The Lord however is the gardener of my soul; he knows just what branches need to be taken and which branches need to be purged in order for me to reach my potential. 

The Gardener of My Soul
Brenda Hebert © 2009

In his garden, planted safely there
He watches over me with loving care
He nourishes my soul with words of peace
He digs about, ensuring thirst will cease

My upward growth, to direct and guide
A stake he places right there at my side
And when the whipping winds do threaten me
It holds me up, protects, provides security

Oh then, the gardener of my soul to you I now ask why
The pain I feel today seems more than I can bear
My branches being torn away, just as I start to grow
Where have you gone?  Where is your tender care?

More mature and taller, I have grown
Branches filling out, leaves of my own
No longer just a seedling but a tree
Now lush and green, developing beauty

On my limbs I now start to see
Growing buds, where one day fruit will be
Blossoms grow and flowering imparts
Colors bright splendor warms the heart

Oh then, the gardener of my soul again I ask you why
The pain I feel today seems more than I can bear
More branches being torn way, just when I’m filling out
Where have you gone? Where is your tender care?

A stake once held me so that I could grow
Now a strong trunk and roots way down below
Sturdy branches yielding fruit so sweet
Low enough that all may come and eat

But more than physically I have increased
For wisdom, understanding now brings peace
Alone I would have grown out of control
But with you my potential I now know.

So then, the gardener of my soul no longer ask I why
The pain I feel today I now can bear
That branches you have torn away, were dead, diseased, untamed
You never left, but pruned me with great care.

[i] Katharos. In King James Bible Strong’s Greek Dictionary. Retrieved November 9, 2009, from
[ii] Wade, G.L. Westerfield, R.R. (1999, April). Basic Principles of Pruning Woody Plant.  Retrieved November 27, 2009 from

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Perfect Body!

The world today puts so much pressure on women and girls to have a perfect body.  Something a friend said really put things in perspective for me personally.  She said that when she looked at renaissance art before the time of boob jobs, tummy tucks, liposuction, and other forms of plastic surgery, that the perfect body was completely different.  In these forms of art we see women with average to small sized breasts and tummies, hips, and legs that have definitely been through child birth.  My friend commented that to her this was a “real” woman’s body.

What is culturally beautiful to one culture can seem pretty odd to another.  In some cultures women put rings on their necks to elongate them. In other cultures, women and men wear large circular objects in their lips or ears.  Yet in others, feet are bound in order to make the foot appear dainty.  These images of “beauty” sound painful and barbaric as they altar the natural human body.  But how different really has our society become with our own painful ways of altering our natural bodies through plastic surgery?  I wonder if in generations to come, people will look back in wonder at our bodies that have been operated on, starved to death, and exercised to the extreme in order to reach a current cultural standard of beauty. 

So, what is a perfect body?  We know that man looks on the outward appearance but that God looks on the heart or the inward appearance (1 Samuel 16:7).  In other words God does not judge us by our outward appearance but finds beauty in the human by what is inside.  I think this is very important but what I want to focus on is Christ’s perfect immortal body.  When Christ appeared after his resurrection, it is interesting to me that he still had the marks in his hands and his feet from his crucifixion.  Here he was an immortal man with a perfect body and yet that perfection included what most of us would consider “imperfections.”  I think the purpose of the scars he still bears are to testify of who he is when he comes again, but I also think there is symbolism in his scars that I can apply to myself.

His scars represent his voluntary sacrifice of his life for us.  They symbolize his perfect life, his love, his pain & agony, his selflessness, etc…  His body alone tells us who he is and what he did.  What does my body say about me?  I think stretch marks on a woman’s tummy and breast (and the extra weight many of us gain) might be the noblest marks we have because they symbolize the sacrifice we willingly made for another.  I look at my stomach and see lots of scars from tissue & skin debridement (cutting out) after contracting the flesh eating disease at the birth of my youngest child.  They remind me of the miracle of my life and God’s love for me.  I think our bodies tell the story of a pampered person or a hard working person, a busy person or a lazy person, a person concerned about his outer appearance or one focused on the inner.  When Jesus comes again we will know him by the scars he bears.  What will my body tell him about me?