Little Linda

My wife’s mother, Linda, passed into the presence of Jesus on this day, Feb 6th, when my wife was only ten years old.  But this is no sob story!

My wife’s maternal grandmother, Lucille, used to call her “Little Linda.”  Probably because Michele (my wife) looked like her mom.  And probably, I assume, because Michele had echoes of Linda in her personality and mannerisms.  And assuming this is so, Linda must have been a truly amazing woman of God’s grace.

While I did spend some time with Linda before her death, it was not significant.  After all, I was only 8 years old!  I didn’t really know her, though I have a fond memory of her smiling when she was first introduced to me.  She smiled at me even though her body was wracked in pain as she was in her last days of struggling with cancer.  She seemed happy, though bed-ridden.  But again, I cannot say I knew her well.

But I know her “little Linda” very well.  And she is the sweetest, most tenderhearted, thoughtful woman I have ever known.  The fruits of the Spirit spring from my wife’s heart and life!  She is a woman of love, joy, peace and patience par excellence.  And that’s really saying something when she has lived with me for over twenty years.  It’s a credit to God’s saving and sanctifying grace and presence.

My daughters could not have possibly asked for or even dreamed of having a better mother.  Michele has poured into them day after day, night after night, fighting for them in prayer and forging them into women who know what it means to live in humility and gratitude regardless of life’s circumstances.  They, too, must know something of the kind of woman their grandma Linda was; for they see her legacy in their own mom as she loves them fiercely, teaches them gracefully, and models Christ-likeness in her daily routine.

Meaghan and Keileigh – you are living quite a legacy of love for God and others!  Passed down from Linda, and seen so clearly in your Mom.  May God grant you His grace and Spirit to honor this amazing legacy.

Michele – you are so indescribably wonderful to me.  Your beauty and love is surpassed only by that of our Savior and Lord.  I love you and pray your heart is comforted in this time of joyful remembrance and grief.  May you anticipate with all the saints of God the day you will sing to the Lord with your parents again, face-to-face with them before the very face of your Redeemer-King Jesus.

I love you, my Little Linda!

 

 

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Self-Esteem: The Big Fat Lie

Screen Shot 2018-01-16 at 8.25.49 PMBy Lori Beard

Self-esteem=big fat lie.  Do you want to know the truth?  You have not been getting it from the psychology world or the secular counseling world for a very long time.  In fact, I think we have never heard the truth from those worlds at all in the matter of self-esteem.  We have, instead, as Christians, been buying into a lie that is eating into the fabric of who we really are and what our worth really is.

To be quite honest, I am sick of that lie.  I am sick of women being deceived by it.  I am sick of women teaching it to others.  I am sick of the church buying the lie of self-esteem.  I am just fed up.  So, if this sounds a little angry, well know this: I am pretty mad on behalf of Christ and His church.  So, here is the truth.

Self-esteem means to think highly of oneself.  Yeah, just let that set in for a minute or two.  Is it sitting?  Well, it should have sunk into the minds and hearts of Christians by now I think.  To think highly of oneself is ridiculous because there is nothing about ourselves to think highly of.  Now, if you have bought the lie the culture preaches daily on TV, in magazines, and over the internet, well, you are probably starting to either get indignant with me or to drop your head in despair.  Both reactions are totally normal because it is hard to let go of something we have based our lives and values around and taught our children from day one.  So, I am okay if you are angry or despaired.  Just keep reading a bit to gain some real truth and hope.

A normal response in our culture is to think highly of oneself and to teach one’s children to do the same.  It is everywhere we look.  TV promises beauty every day as soon as you get up.  When is the last time you saw an ugly actress or one who did not fit the Hollywood mold?  Magazines have pics of women doing it all and doing it in the biggest style.  And we are saturated in stories of how important and powerful women are.

This teaching is frayed for many reasons, but the main one is that the Bible does not teach this at all.  In fact, in Philippians 2, it teaches the exact opposite.  It says we are lowly and should recognize that about ourselves and take on the form of a servant to look and act like Jesus.  Try that curriculum out in any school or child environment anywhere.  It is a sure way to get yourself fired, or worse, shot and killed.  Teach our kids to be servants?  I think not. They are way too good for that. They are gonna be great and ahead of the game and achieve greatness on all kinds of levels.  This is what we are told to tell them when we raise them.  This is what we are told will cause them to feel good about themselves.

Oh poppycock!  What happens to their esteem when they do not do great things?  When they just achieve mediocre things?  What happens when they screw up and get divorced or have a car accident that kills somebody?  How does that teaching stand them in good stead?  They certainly have not lived up to the things they have been taught should give them reason to feel good about themselves.  In fact, they now know they are losers doing loser things.  What about the woman who marries a man she loves in good faith only to be beaten and abused by him?  What about the little girl who has been told those things and then gets hurt by the guy next door?  What about those women?  What about the lady who gets burned really badly and lives with a scarred face for the rest of her life?  What about the little girl who is overweight all through school and bullied because of it?  How does any of the teaching about self esteem help these people?

It sounds pretty. It sounds so good. It sounds so righteous but it is bogus.  It leads us into hurt and wound and confusion.  It leaves us feeling inadequate and always like we have to play catch up.  Esteem based on performance is bound to disappoint.

Why can’t we, as Christian parents, just teach the truth of the Gospel?  We have worth because we were created by God. We were created in his image.  We are priceless to Him.  Our worth has nothing whatsoever to do with us.  It does not depend on our looks or our achievements.  It does not depend on our abilities, talents, or gifts.  They can all be lost.  Our worth is grounded in God as our Creator and Redeemer.  It is solely based in Christ.  He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities.  How much more worth does one need than that?

We need to quit scrambling.  We need to quit begging for approval.  We need to quit depending on the opinions of others for worth.  The sweet truth of God’s Word is enough.  His truth is that we are so worthy because of Jesus.  He is our center.  He is our truth.  He gives all of his creation worth.  We can rest now.  We can live at peace with all of our messiness, all of our hurts, all our failures and all our wrongs.  Jesus is our worth and He is perfect.

“For in Christ Jesus, you are all sons of God through faith” (Galatians 3:26).

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I am Woman

By Lori Beard

Let me confess right off the bat that womanhood is a mystery to me.  I can honestly say that after 53 years of being a woman, I am still figuring it out. That being said, I do know a couple of things for sure and thought I would pass them on. We deal in a world that thinks what we FEEL is truth. Well, that is simply not so. Truth is absolute; like 2+2=4.  Even if I wished it equaled 100,  well, it does not. So, it is with womanhood. There are some absolute truths to be known about being a woman.

1.  I am a woman. I have woman parts. I use them accordingly. I am a woman. I can wish to be a man. I can act like a man. I can talk like a man. But, I cannot be a man. This seems crazy to me. But it appears this absolute truth must be affirmed. I was created a woman. I will be a woman until I die. Absolute truth. Genesis 1:27; 5:2.

2. I am created with the same equality as a man. I think and act and feel. I have ability to reason and think logically. I can figure things out and solve problems.  I also am equal in position and importance to God as a man is. He loves me just as equally as he does my husband. Cliff is no more precious to God than me. I am not clawing for a place in God’s thought or care. He is faithful to his people equally.

3. I am different from my husband. I am different in that we have different bodies. Mine was created to give life and nurture it. His was created to provide for life and protect it. He is physically stronger than me but he is called to use his strength to protect me. And why would I be angry about that?  Why would I resent that?  When did it become politically correct for women to resent a man’s care and provision. It certainly does not mean I am incapable of caring for myself. It does mean that God loved me enough to provide protection for me. That is sweetness, but according to the world it defines me as unequal to a man. Since when?  I am not woman hear me roar in numbers too big to ignore. I am just a woman. My husband is just a man. Created by God and loved by God. Equal.

4. I am created in equality with my husband but I am different than him in roles.  And that is ok.  It is good. It does not define me as weaker or lesser. But it does help to define me. In my marriage, I am a helpmate. I am my husband’s helper. He leads and I follow. He plans and I help execute. Now I have a wise husband so, often he asks me what I think and we plan together. Often, he uses my strengths and tells me to do what I do best and gives me freedom to do it well. He is smart like that. But his role is one of leadership. Mine is one of submission. And this is an absolute truth. The Bible says so (Ephesians 5) and I believe the Bible.  There is no other truth. So, we have different roles and we also have different gifts. He is excellent at fixing stuff and at thinking things through in steps. I am excellent at getting things done quickly and seeing the big picture. We put those things together and we work pretty well together. Same but different. Good design.  God’s design.

What happened then?  What is the war between the sexes about?  Well, it is a created war. It was created by women who felt a need to be the same as a man. They were not content to be the same before God.  They were not content to be created in perfect equality as far as being  loved by God and having the same access to God as man. They wanted to be men. They wanted to do what men do. They wanted to be followed and submitted to.  This did not just start with women’s lib. It actually started way before that. Genesis 3. It started there. Eve took the fruit. She ate it. She gave it to her husband. She was not content with perfection. She was not content to know the creator of perfection. She wanted to be Him. So, she listened to the lies of the serpent and ate.

Women, I would venture to say we are still listening to the lies of the serpent. We are not content to be women. We are not content for men to be men. We want more. We want to design our own pictures. And, just to be quite frank, we have screwed it up.  In fact, it is so messed up that it seems un-fixable. It seems hopeless. Women in homes fight against their husbands with no regrets or sorrows. Men refuse to lead and love their wives sacrificially. Women demand to do whatever they want even if their bodies are not designed for it. Women dress like men and walk like men and call themselves men even though science agrees that it is biologically impossible to change your gender. We are screwed up. What do we do now??

I submit that we pray. We pray earnestly for God to change the hearts of the church. The world will never see truth until we are living truth and not just talking about it. So, what does that mean? Well, I definitely need to think about my attitude towards my husband. I need to think on how I speak to him. I need to pray about loving him with honor and respect. And I need to live that to the glory of God. And I need to teach my daughters and granddaughters what a privilege it is to be a woman.  I need to remind them that womanhood is not in opposition to manhood. It complements it. It works together with it to achieve all the glory of God in a magnificent design that we could never have imagined.

I pray I do that well. I fall short so often. But I know another absolute truth. God is strong in my weakness (2 Cor.  12:9-11).  His grace is sufficient for me on the days I forget the sweetness of my creation. I am a woman. Glory to God. What a gift from God.

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Harassed by all this Harassment

Sexual harassment.

What is it?  I imagine the answers to that question are too many to count.  It depends on whom you ask, right?

When I served as an Officer in the Marine Corps, we knew in no uncertain terms that any unwanted remark or contact with a female Marine was considered harassment.  The woman got to define it, so we had better keep things clean.  A very similar definition prevailed at GE when I worked there as a Materials Manager.

And yet I heard comments made by men about women, or specific female co-workers, that were not clean.  Not in the least.  But those comments were always made only in the company of other men.  Behind the backs of those women.  It was gossip, sometimes of a sexual nature.  Sometimes I confronted it.  Sometimes I ignored it.  Sometimes I just found a way to walk away and find something else to do.  But it was fairly normal and commonplace.

And no evangelical, Bible-affirming Christian is at all shocked by this behavior!  Honest women I know tell me that women often do the same thing!  They, too, talk inappropriately about men behind their backs.  And in high school locker rooms all across this land, crude talk and jesting is rampant.  This is how sinners live and move and have their being.  Sinners sin.  Our thoughts are not pure.  Our lips are unclean.  And sometimes we use our bodies to sinfully violate the body of another person, whether that’s a punch in the nose or touching when that touch is not wanted.

So I have been, like all of you, watching, with massively mixed up emotions, the latest rampage of firings amid allegations of sexual harassment.  At this rate, there literally will be no male news anchors left on TV in a year!  And we might not have any men left standing in public office either.

Please do not misunderstand me.  I do not endorse any inappropriate talk about anyone.  I denounce any sexual activity outside of marriage.  Period.  I decry any unwanted sexual advances or contact.  Sin is sin.  It is ugly.  Never justifiable.  And followers of Jesus, of all people, must affirm and embrace these truths!

“From the same mouth come blessing and cursing.  My brothers, these things ought not to be so” (James 3:10).

“But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.  Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which is out of place; but instead let there be thanksgiving” (Ephesians 5:3-4).

My concern here is not to defend any sinful or inappropriate talk or behavior.  Rather, my purpose in writing is to say, “Every man in any position of influence or authority in this Nation right now is walking on pins and needles.”

Why?

Because we ALL have sinned in these ways.  At some point in our lives, every single one of us has sinned in ways that our society now defines as “harassment.”  Some of these allegations reach back 25-40 years.  Does any one of us really want all our stupid, hormone-afflicted behavior as teens or college students thrown back up in our faces?

If the allegations are true, whether they are 30 years in our past or just a few months ago, we should confess them as sin before God and seek His forgiveness as well as the forgiveness of those we hurt or offended.  I have personally promised God that each time I encounter someone from my past that I know I sinned against I will do this very thing.  I want people to know I am genuinely sorry and thanks to Jesus I am not the man I once was.  And, praise God, He has blessed me to maintain pure relationships for decades now.  I give Him all the glory, for apart from Christ I am nothing and can do nothing of spiritual beauty (John 15).

And if a crime has been alleged, such as sexual assault, we need to withhold judgment until a fair trial is conducted.  I am deeply disturbed by the direction of our culture and media.  We are as Americans no longer innocent until proven guilty.  No!  Especially not if the allegations come from a woman against a man.  We expect that man to quit his job immediately, even if he is denying all the allegations.  Long before a trial.  We have already crucified him.  And even if the man admits to inappropriate talk or advances (but no legal crimes were committed), we still know he will get fired from his job and disgraced.  And so I say again, no man then is safe!  Because we have all sinned in these ways and if we’re not allowed to genuinely repent and apologize and seek forgiveness without losing our livelihood, well, I have no idea how our society and economy will sustain this insanity.

And frankly, I wonder why we assume only men harass women.  If you think the stigma on a woman making public allegations against a powerful or influential man is strong, consider the stigma when the gender roles are reversed!  When is the last time you heard a man make public allegations of harassment against his female boss?  And it happens.  Our military now has to deal with male-on-male and female-on-female harassment and it is devastating.    Surely we are not naive enough to think only men are guilty of these sins?  Surely we do not think it impossible for a woman to advance in a career through sinful means?  Surely we do not think only women tell the truth and all men are liars?

Or do we?  And if all women tell the truth, what about those labeled trans-gendered?

The spiritual ramifications of this ongoing saga are crucial.  Even in the church.  Will we hold our pasts against each other?  Or, as those who humbly confess our sins and plead the blood of Christ as our only hope of forgiveness and reconciliation with God and one another, will we embrace one another as the Redeemed Family of God?  Is the Cross of Jesus Christ the great leveler of all playing fields, or not?

“For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).  

What is most disturbing in all of this is the complete lack of any gospel consciousness or biblical language to help us process and deal with it.  Not one dismissed news anchor has called his behavior “sin” to my knowledge.  God has not been mentioned.  The forgiveness of sins available only in the righteous life, substitutionary death and powerful resurrection of Jesus Christ is never invoked.

Instead, we just send offenders away in shame.  Much as we have shut away and silenced victims in our society for far too long.  We are losing our sense of hope!  Of forgiveness!  Of reconciliation! Of restoration!    

O dear friends, our nation needs the Gospel.     

 

 

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Dependence

By Lori Beard

Recently I have been studying Isaiah.  It has been revealing to say the least.  It has also been very convicting.  It appears to me that the overarching theme of Isaiah is our dependence on ourselves as opposed to God.

God tells us in so many places in the Bible to depend upon Him and not ourselves.  Proverbs 3:5-6 says to lean not on your own understanding but to trust in the Lord.  2 Cor 1:9 says to trust in the Lord God and not ourselves.  But as I read through Isaiah, I see that Israel did not trust God well.  And often I do not trust God.

Isaiah 29 speaks of the Potter and the clay.  Clearly God is the Potter.  I am the clay.  But I don’t always act like He’s the Potter.  And I certainly don’t live like I am the clay.  Often I live just the opposite.

In Isaiah, God uses practical examples to show how Israel is not trusting in Him.  When they were being attacked, they trusted in swift horses and fleeing.  In other words, they trusted strong horses and running instead of God.  Good grief!  This is so like me.  I often look for my strength in things besides God.  When a struggle comes, what I might do first is get a plan in my mind of how to fix it.  The problem with that plan is that often I have not consulted God first, by prayer or time in the Word.

Isaiah 29-30 talks about this very thing.  It says Israel’s hearts have been hardened and they don’t listen to God’s Word coming through His prophet anymore.  They don’t read or heed His Word.  This is what depending on your own strength and plans looks like.  It is the result of a hardened heart.

God forgive me.  I do not want to be a hard-hearted Christian.  I often am so proud of my own strength and my own ideas and my own ways that I refuse to look to Jesus first.  Somehow I think it makes me look weak.  But the Bible says God is made strong in my weakness!  So why do I fight dependence upon God so much?  Why?  I don’t really know why I fight it.  But I guess the answer is sin.  Specifically, the sin of pride.

I am so proud of myself and my strength.  I am arrogant.  Ugly sin.  But I do know how to battle sin, thank God.  1 Cor 10:13 says no temptation will come to us that God has not provided a way of escape.  So, I know that the answer to the sin of trusting in myself is just to trust in God.  It is to cry out to Him to help me and humble me.  So that’s what I intend to do.  I imagine I’m not the only Christian struggling with this matter.  I imagine there are people in our church family and in our circles of brothers and sisters who struggle with self-strength.  I hope that we love each another enough to pray for each other and to call out pride when we see it.  To speak to each other with love and gentleness – words of life and truth.

And those words would probably sounds something like:

You cannot do this by yourself.  Have you prayed about this sister or brother?  What does the Bible say?  Have you studied the Word in this matter?

Self-strength is ugly.  But it can be attractive even to the Christian.  It causes us to believe that we are sufficient in a way the Bible says we are not.  I love Isaiah.  Because Isaiah does not let you believe that lie.  It knocks down all those deceptions and defenses and speaks truth instead.  And the truth is that God is the only sufficient One.  He is the only One with all the answers.  He is the Truth.  He is the only Hope.  I am absolutely nothing and incapable of living rightly or wisely without His help.

This is God’s truth.  I am not strong.  You are not strong.  We are not strong unless and until we put our whole hope in God.

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