Learning from the Widow in Luke 21

We were in Indy last week visiting family, and we heard a really insightful short talk on a Wednesday night. The brother reminded us of a familiar passage in Luke 21 about the poor widow who gave her last two coins to God.  What the brother then said was to take out the chapter and verse divisions in the Bible and read the end of Luke 20 and then read about the widow in Luke 21. So I put the text here for you to read.

And in the hearing of all the people he said to his disciples, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.” Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
(Luke 20:45-21:4)

The question was posed – I wonder how this widow ended up with only two coins? One really good explanation for the state of her poverty was that the Jewish leadership had “devoured” it. Instead of supporting the widows, they took advantage of them in their time of distress. Again, if you read the text straight through it sure sounds like that is the explanation for this widow’s condition. It also may explain how the “rich” in that context had so much excess of money to put into the treasury.

This concept of devouring widow’s houses is not just in Luke. Here are some other passages that address this social injustice (Isaiah 10:2; Jeremiah 7:6-10; Ezekiel 22:7; Amos 8:4-6; Micah 2:2,8; 3:1-3; Mark 12:40; 2 Timothy 3:6). These hypocritical, narcissistic Jewish leaders were even doing this garbage to their own parents (Mark 7; Matthew 15). When we take time to read passages like the ones in this paragraph, we can see how strongly God feels about it.

But that is not really the point of this article, nor was it the point of the brother who was giving that short talk. When you consider the state of things, the injustice that was going on, and the poverty of this woman, are you not impressed with her heart for God? Even in the midst of great poverty, knowing these two coins were “all” she had to live on, she still gave it all to God. Her heart was not filled with bitterness and rage against those who oppressed her, nor was she angry about her state in life. She loved God and was happy to give Him her all.

What a woman!

Because You Have Done This

So Abraham called the name of that place, “The LORD will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.” And the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”
(Genesis 22:14-18)

“Because you have done this” – That statement could be in between a bad choice leading to a awful consequence, but for Abraham it was quite the opposite. Abraham made a choice to obey God even when it would cost him his son Isaac. Because Abraham made this choice to obey God even through extreme sacrifice of what he held most dear, God would richly bless him and his family for generations to come.

We studied this chapter last night in a Bible study at someone’s home, and it really caused us to reflect upon the faith and trust that Abraham had in God’s promises. That trust in God’s promises led him to the conclusion that if he killed Isaac, then God would raise him from the dead (Hebrews 11:19). He knew that God would provide, even if Abraham gave up the very things God promised him.

What a great example for leaders of homes, and what an encouragement to know that if we make the commitment to follow God fully, God will be there in our homes blessing us and providing us with wisdom and strength. Abraham said, “The Lord will provide,” and that is just as true for us today as it was for Abraham. Our job is to fully obey His voice. The calling for us is the same as it was for Abraham; don’t withhold anything from God. Don’t let anything be so valuable to us that we would not give it over to Jesus.

You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe–and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”–and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.
(James 2:19-24)

The Proverbs 31 Husband

I’m looking at Proverbs 31 today with a perspective not on the virtuous woman but on the husband who loved and supported her. Take some time to read through the chapter and learn about the man who was married to this wonderful woman. What kind of man was he?

He was a husband who has been taught and come to understand the precious value of a woman who fears God and walks with Him.

The words of King Lemuel, the utterance which his mother taught him:
(Proverbs 31:1)

Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies.
(Proverbs 31:10)

Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.
(Proverbs 31:30)

He was a husband who “safely trusted” in his wife. As a husband, he did not hold her back or discourage her from expressing her talents and pursuing her dreams. This man fanned the flames of encouragement. She knew he trusted her. It was clear that he supported her and was her biggest fan. He took leadership in the home among his children; those kids saw their father praising and lifting up their mother. The kids followed suit by imitating their father in praising their mother.

The heart of her husband safely trusts her; so he will have no lack of gain.
(Proverbs 31:11)

Her husband is known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land.
(Proverbs 31:23)

Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many daughters have done well, but you excel them all.”
(Proverbs 31:28-29)

In verses 28-29, the husband is comparing his wife to other women, but notice how he is doing it. He doesn’t point out how other women are doing things she isn’t or that they are doing it better. He lifts her up on a pedestal and makes her the queen of the castle with his words.

Look at the verbs connected to the virtuous woman. She seeks, works, brings, rises, provides, considers, buys, plants, girds, strengthens, perceives, stretches, holds, extends, reaches, is not afraid, makes, supplies, opens her mouth with kindness (vs. 12-27). As this godly wife was doing all these things, her husband trusted her, supported her and praised her.

Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her own works praise her in the gates. (Proverbs 31:31)

She may not be sitting in the gates with her husband and the other leaders/officials of the land, but her influence is truly felt there. Her own works praise her in the gates.

How do we talk to and about our wives? Do our children see an example of a man who rises up and calls her blessed? When we are “in the gates” are we lifting up our wives in praise? Do our wives know and fully understand that our hearts safely trust in them?

Holy Ground – Marriage

In Monday’s article, we looked at the event in Joshua’s life when he was asked to remove his sandals from his feet because he stood on holy ground. Here are three observations we made Monday:

  1. God is holy.
  2. Wherever God’s presence dwells is to be regarded as holy.
  3. Changes must be made to recognize and honor the holiness of God.

Today we are going to take those concepts and apply it to how we view marriage.

But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the LORD, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”
(Malachi 2:14-16)

Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.
(Hebrews 13:4)

Do we look at marriage, and our wives as holy ground?

The very idea of marriage is to be held in high honor (Hebrews 13:4). Why? Because God is in it. He serves as witness to the covenant between the husband and the wife. As you read in Malachi, a portion of His Spirit is in the union.

Your wife is to be treated in high honor (1 Peter 3:7). She is created in the image of God. Her body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, and she was bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:18-20). The way we think of her, touch her, talk to her, etc., should all be in harmony with the truth that she is very precious in the sight of God (1 Peter 3:4).

The marriage bed is to be undefiled. Marriage is holy because it is set apart for a union that is dedicated to and governed by God. Only a husband and his wife can be holy while participating in sexual relations. Any other sexual behavior is called fornication and adultery and will be judged by God. Also, husbands, we must remember not to defile the marriage bed by bringing in worldly thoughts and defilement into our minds that will corrupt and pervert our marriage bed (Titus 1:15). God said, “Be holy, for I am holy.”

God’s marriage relationship that He created for us is a beautiful and very special thing. Just as Joshua was told to remove his sandals to recognize the holy presence of God, we must transform our lives and thinking to recognize God’s holy presence in our marriages.

Be nice

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:32).

I like what Albert Barnes said about “being kind” from this verse.

Christianity produces true courteousness, or politeness. It does not make one rough, crabby, or sour; nor does it dispose its followers to violate the proper rules of social contact.

Being a Christian should produce a polite spirit. As Barnes said, we should not become rough, crabby or sour. But that happens, doesn’t it, men? We get into the busy-ness of life and things keep piling on, and sometimes we get cranky with those we love the most.

That’s when we may hear something from those wonderful wives of ours…something like, “Be nice.”

Guys, don’t forget to be nice. Even in all the crazy twists and turns of life, saying nice and kind things to your family members is not only helpful for having peace and harmony, it is what God expects of us. Being too tired or “stressed” to be nice is not a good excuse.

Can you imagine if God barked at us like we sometimes snap at others? Yikes, we couldn’t survive that. But God is at His core a kind being. So, just like at the gym, it’s time to work on your core.

It helps sometimes to stop, breathe a little bit, say a prayer for God to help you to chill out, and look at your wife and kids and just smile.

Be nice.

The GOD of the Towel–Day 2

This week, we are considering Jesus’ act of humility and service in John 13:1-17 in the context of our lives as men. Humility is the key word I am inviting you to meditate upon this week.

What does the word mean? Humility is a freedom from arrogance that grows out of the recognition that all we have and are comes from God. The Greek philosophers despised humility because it implied inadequacy, lack of dignity, and worthlessness to them. This is not so with God. God calls us to be humble and the “meek’ are the ones to be victorious in Him. Jesus is the supreme example of humility, and He is completely adequate and of infinite dignity and worth. Biblical humility is not a belittling of oneself, but an exalting or praising of others, especially GOD (John 3:30; Philippians 2:3). A humble person, then, focuses more on God and others than on himself. Biblical humility is also a recognition that by ourselves we are inadequate, without dignity and worthless. Yet, because we are created in God’s image and because believers are in Christ, we have infinite worth and dignity (1 Peter 1:18-19). True humility does not produce pride but gratitude.

With all this in mind, are we humbling ourselves with our women? Whether it be our mom, or wife, or sister, or girlfriend, or fellow Christian or even those ladies we come into contact with our eyes…are we elevating God in our life and therefore humbling ourselves so that we can serve? There are a lot of snares Satan lays before us to keep us from this way of living. What might that look like?

Do we find the “needs” of the very person who has nurtured us through life inconvenient or bothersome? Do we keep lists or wrongs or do we keep lists of “all we have done” and think in our hearts “why can’t they do as good as I am?” Do we find those special quirks that are part of a special being God created annoying and avoid rather than celebrate? Are we “bossing” more than “leading” or “serving”? Do we allow our lust to color our view of women so that we miss the most important part…their souls? Are we more interested in being served, or entertained, or pleased than we are in filling ourselves with the humility of God demonstrated in Jesus so much so that we can’t help but let it pour out to those precious ladies God has blessed us with or has put in our way for one reason or another?

I don’t know about you, but I sure don’t have all this figured out? Even when I am doing my best, the snares Satan has laid before me are still there and if I lose focus, get tired, get annoyed, etc…that is when I step into one and it is a scary thing to be trapped by my own selfishness. In order to avoid this, my only hope is in Jesus. I need to abide in Him…fill my heart with His love and word, allow His Spirit to guide me while I continually commit myself to a heavenly perspective so that I can be a blessing today. God is both our Creator and Redeemer! Our existence…our righteousness…our ability to humbly serve the ladies in our lives is completely dependent on Him! (John 15:5; Acts 17:28; Ephesians 2:8-10).

Take some time and meditate on this today. Boldly go before your Father and ask Him to humble your heart and strengthen your service towards the women in your life. Be a blessing because you are blessed…and I am blessed in you. Lead on brothers!  Serve well!

Remember Lot’s Wife

But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.
(Genesis 19:26)

Last night we had a Bible study and we looked at Genesis 19 concerning the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. As we talked about Lot’s wife being turned by God into a pillar of salt, a few thoughts were discussed in the class.

Remember not to look back to that old world.

The backslider in heart will be filled with the fruit of his ways, and a good man will be filled with the fruit of his ways.
(Proverbs 14:14)

We are to die to sin. We are to leave that old world behind. That old world is going to be destroyed, including all those who follow in its ways. Some of those who are destroyed in that old world may be very close to you. Don’t look back. Don’t turn back. Longing and pining for the things and people in Sodom will only lead to your own destruction.

We have to love God more than family.

And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
(Matthew 10:36-37)

Lot pleaded with the men who were to marry his daughters. They took it as a joke; they didn’t take the warnings seriously (Gen. 19:14). It seems that this may have been part of the reason Lot delayed and lingered. Maybe there were more family members or close friends there that he didn’t want to leave.

What we do know is that the angels grabbed Lot, his wife and his daughters by the arms and forced them out of the city. This was because of God’s mercy upon Lot in response to Abraham’s prayers (Gen. 19:16,29). Lot was called righteous by God, but that doesn’t mean that he always made good decisions. God had to yank him out of this city (2 Peter 2:6-9). Lot was tormented by the wickedness around him in Sodom, yet he still delayed to leave Sodom. There is a point there for us, I believe.

Am I lingering in Sodom? Maybe because I’m too close to someone, it clouds my vision and I don’t stand up for what is right. How many times do we see that happen? Lot lingered in Sodom, when he (1) knew how wicked it was, and (2) he knew God was about to torch it. What or who was he so tied to that he was delaying the very thing God commanded him to do? It is something for us to reflect upon.

In our study last night, someone pointed out from Genesis 19:26 that Lot’s wife was behind him. She was turned to a pillar of salt. Lot never looked back. Whether he knew at that point or not that she had been destroyed, he didn’t turn back. He did what the angels of God told him to do. With all of his delay and hesitation while still in the city (Gen. 19:15-16), he now did exactly what God told him to do, even when his wife did not. He had the opportunity as well to look back with longing and/or sadness over the city and its people. But he kept his eyes looking forward.

Jesus used this event to teach His disciples and prepare them for the coming destruction of Jerusalem. He told them that when they saw certain signs, to get out immediately, don’t go back into their houses to get anything. Move! Go! Get out!

On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.
(Luke 17:31-33)

Remember Lot’s wife today, men. Am I seeking to preserve my life and my things and my ways? Or am I walking away from Sodom without looking back?

For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.
(Hebrews 10:37-39)

Therefore from one man

By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore (Hebrews 11:11-12).

I was always taught that when there is a “therefore” in a Bible verse you need to find out what it’s “there for.” This “therefore” in Hebrews 11:11-12 connects the faith of Sarah to the innumerable multitude that came from the loins of Abraham. It was not just Abraham’s faith and Abraham’s relationship with God that brought forth these amazing blessings from God upon generations to come.

By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who promised. THEREFORE…

Sarah’s faith gave her power to conceive. See the “therefore”? Therefore Abraham became a father of multitudes. Yes God promised it, and Abraham believed it, but Sarah became pregnant because she believed it, too.

Sarah grew in faith to reach this conclusion. She had at times considered her own age and physical ability to conceive a child. When we look at passages like Genesis 16 and 18 we know that Sarah had her own growth process that she had to go through to come to the faith we see mentioned in Hebrews 11:11. Remember that Sarah gave her handmaid Hagar into the embrace of Abraham because she thought that would be the way to make God’s blessings and promises a reality (Genesis 16). It was Sarah who laughed inside her tent when she heard the men talking about her having a baby the next year (Genesis 18).

If that’s all you knew about Sarah would you have called her a strong woman of faith? If you were Abraham would you be tempted to think you are the strong one in this relationship and are carrying her along? Sarah had her moments of weakness, and she had need of growth, but look at what God did through Sarah.

Didn’t Abraham have to grow too? Abraham laughed too! When offered the handmaid Hagar, he went into her. He listened to Sarah instead of God. Abraham had his own process of growth he was going through.

All of this to say, men, that when we look at our wives who are following Jesus, know that God is doing a great work within them, and He will accomplish it (Philippians 1:6). Also know that because of that growth of faith within her, you and generations to come will be blessed immensely.

Her children rise up and bless her; her husband also, and he praises her, saying: “Many daughters have done nobly, but you excel them all.” Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised. Give her the product of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates (Proverbs 31:28-31).

 

 

 

How Many Lessons Have You Learned?

So, I Googled “lessons on marriage” to look for ideas and resources, and I just thought it was interesting what titles I saw on the first page.

Link #1 – “40 Lessons from 40 Years of Marriage”

Link #3 – “12 Lessons Learned in 12 Years of Marriage”

Link #4 – “20 Marriage Lessons after 20 Years of Marriage”

Link #6 – “8 Lessons That Surprised Me After 8 Years of Marriage”

Hmmm…is there a pattern here?

Then there are those oddballs who apparently had more lessons per year:

Link #5 – 23 Marriage Lessons We’ve Learned Over the Last 15 Years

Link #8 – 20 Marriage Lessons We Learned From Our First Year of Marriage

So, what would your list look like? If we were to list the most fundamental lessons we have learned in our marriages, what would we write?

Another question is really, “Have I learned?” or “Am I Learning?” Do I have 20+ years of learning, or one year repeated 20+ times because I have not grown?

If you were to learn one lesson per year like these folks above, what would you say your lesson this year would be? What is the lesson you are being taught this year in your marriage?

Here’s a lesson I’m learning right now:

Don’t get so caught up in the “business” of doing that you forget to have fun and talk about the lighter things. Anna has been saying to me lately, “Give me the fluff!” In other words, don’t just talk business, schedules and to-do-lists.

This is one of those lessons that I have to keep re-learning over time. I wish I could say I learned this lesson during the first year of marriage and never had to revisit it, but that just isn’t the case.

We’ve started going out on a weekly basis with another couple from our congregation. This has been such a great time for us in our marriage, and in our relationship with two very special Christians we love dearly. Not only do we get to have some fun with each other as a couple, we get to grow in our relationship with a brother and sister in Christ. They encourage us and we encourage them, and we have fun along the way.

Along with this thought is a passage from Solomon about enjoying life and enjoying it with your wife.

Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do. Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head. Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun.
Ecclesiastes 9:7-9

Sarah shall be her name

And God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.” Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!” God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly. He shall father twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation. But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year.”
(Genesis 17:15-21)

We were studying and discussing Genesis 17 last night. In this study, we have been going through Genesis. Right now Genesis is focusing on the relationship God had with Abraham and his family. “Abraham is the father of us all,” Paul wrote (Romans 4:16). We sure can learn a lot from Abraham and how his faith in God grew and was continually challenged. But we can also learn about God and His awesome nature and character. He loves us. God keeps His promises. His blessings have no parallel in what the world can offer us.

God promised an old man and an old woman past the age of childbearing that they would have a child. He changed their names to forever memorialize that promise being fulfilled. “Sarah” would be a princess for God the sovereign King will bless her and kings would come from her. “Abraham” will become a father of multitudes, because his family will become like the stars and sands…innumerable.

Abraham fell on his face and laughed (Genesis 17:17). In the next chapter Sarah laughed (Genesis 18:12). What did God name the son to come? “Isaac” which means laughter! I love that.

I think about this in connection to our marriages. Here are just a few thoughts to consider:

  • Genesis 17 begins with God’s call to Abraham to walk before Him and be blameless (Genesis 17:1). The chapter concludes with a 99-year old man being circumcised in the flesh of his foreskins, along with all his household. If I want God to bless my marriage like God blessed Abraham and Sarah, then I must walk before the Lord and be blameless. We as husbands must commit to doing whatever God tells us to do, whatever is required, however difficult it may be.
  • God blessed Sarah. Men, are we praying for God to bless our wives? God reassured Abraham that He deeply cared for Sarah and was going to bless her richly. God called her princess. Think about that husbands. Do you and I view our wives as that princess whom God deeply loves?
  • The Lord can resurrect what is dead. He is the God of the impossible. In Romans 4:26-25 we learn a lesson in faith from Abraham and Sarah. God brings to life what was dead! If God can make an old man and old woman past the age of childbearing to have a baby, and if God can bring a man (Jesus) who was in the grave 3 days back to life, when what can God do for us today? Can God resurrect a dead marriage? With God’s help we can revive and rebuild what we and others around us may count as impossible!
  • God can make you laugh. Finally, just a thought to consider that God wanted this baby to be named Isaac. Whenever they cuddled that baby or called that son to dinner, they said “laughter.” Remember that the “joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). When God makes you rejoice, there is no one who can take away your joy (John 16:22).