Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7
“You only fight the fights you can win? You fight the fights that need fighting!” A.J. MacInerny to President Andrew Shepherd, “The American President”
This is hard, because I don’t do this really well myself. I guess that’s why it’s a good post to write. I’m doing it mostly for me. Hopefully, you’ll find it helpful too.
St. Paul definitely fought the good fight. He even went for it when he couldn’t win. He’d been shipwrecked, flogged, stoned, left for dead, and more. He was a smart guy, so I’m sure he saw a lot of those beatings coming. He didn’t have to go to Rome. When he was on trial in Jerusalem, he could have gotten off easily. But, no, he appealed to the emperor and his Roman citizenship. That pretty well sealed it for him. Rome is where he was imprisoned for a long time and eventually executed. He told the ship’s captain who was taking him to Rome not to sail according to plan. Bad time of year, bad winds, bad storms. Paul tried to warn him, but they shipwrecked. Told you so.
Paul could have not kept his foot on the gas so hard. That might have meant he’d lived longer, made more missionary trips. God, however, knew better. Rome was the center of the world. What better place to proclaim Christ than Rome?
To all appearances, Paul was going to lose. He knew it was coming. Jesus told him that He would show Paul “…how much he must suffer for My sake.” Paul didn’t fight the fights he could win in the body. He fought the fights that needed fighting for souls. Even when those souls rejected and tried to kill him.
As for me, I can’t tell you how many times I have not spoken about the Gospel with people I know. I couldn’t find a way to insert it in the conversation. I couldn’t think of how to bring it up without – in my mind – making it a complete non-sequitor. It might have been embarrassing. It might have put them off. But maybe I should just dive in. Fight the fights that need fighting. Get the message out and let the Holy Spirit worry about how the message is received. Just go after it and do the best I can.
Paul had a lot to make up for in his mind. I’m sure he carried the shame of having persecuted Christ and killed so many innocent Christians. He knew he was forgiven, but we don’t forget as well as God does. God says, “I will remember their sins no more.”
I need to fight those fights. I need to wade in and do what needs to be done. I might lose a friend. I might tick someone off. I could lose in any number of ways, but certainly not as much as Paul did.
That’s the real trick, isn’t it? That’s earthly loss. Heavenly loss is something else.
What I’m really talking about is good works, right?
“20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless[d]? 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.” James 2:20-22
We need to fight the fights that need fighting, regardless of whether it looks like a winning position in this world. You see, faith saves. And faith without works is dead.
Then what happens after we die? Well, my Lutheran upbringing tells me we go to heaven as believers. Cool. But I’ve also come to learn that we will face judgment. For example:
“But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.” Matthew 12:26
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” 2 Corinthians 5:10
“You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.” Romans 14:10
But Jesus will step in and acknowledge us to His Father as we have acknowledged Him. I still don’t take this judgment lightly, because we will face it, and I believe it will be terrifying to see God’s wrath poised to strike us. I’m pretty fearful of that time, because I know what I can remember. Bad enough without all of the rest I can’t remember!
One other piece about heaven. There are levels of heaven. Check out Matthew 11:11 – “Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”
Or Matthew 5:19 – “Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew 6: 20 indicates that we can actually make heaven better by virtue of how hard we work for Christ in this world. “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”
There will be those who will sit in places of greater glory in heaven than others. Those who shirk the tasks God has given, those who are of minimal faith and works will occupy places of lesser glory.
Am I saying we need to start working the system? No! We need to listen to everything Jesus told us. He did so, because He wanted us to know and act. He wants our actions as a loving response to our faith in Him.
Revelations and the letters to the seven church should also give us a chill. Each letter contains reprimands and warnings about the works they do and don’t do.
“And I will give to each of you according to your works…And he who overcomes and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations.” Revelations 2:23b & 26.
“I know your works…I have not found your perfect before God…He who overcomes shall be clothes in white garments and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life, but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.” Revelations 3:1, 2b, & 5.
Aren’t we saved by faith? Yes. Recall, however, the above passage from James, which tells us that faith without works is useless. Why?
Simply put, we do what we believe we should do. If we don’t think that we should share God, help the downtrodden, and do all things Jesus told us to do, well, we have to question just what we really believe.
I use my works as a mirror, some sort of indicator as to whether I’m fighting the fights God wants fought. I must admit I do a lousy job. I must do better. Because I want to please God. I don’t want my name blotted out of The Book of Life. I want to see Jesus and everyone else in heaven.
Melissa Ohden has already lived an amazing life at 40 years.
At birth she was jaundiced, had breathing problems, and seizures. It was thought that she’d end up with vision and developmental problems…if she survived.
Fortunately, a nurse named Mary took her to heart and gave her the extra care she needed to survive. At three weeks, Melissa was adopted by Linda and Ron Ohden, who already had another adopted daughter.
The Ohdens stayed in touch with Mary, keeping her updated on Melissa’s progress over the years. When Melissa was old enough she started writing the update letters herself. Melissa had some struggles early on, but she had caught up developmentally by age 5.
She went through some problems with alcohol when she was young, but she eventually conquered those demons, attended college, got her degree, married a wonderful man, and had two daughters of her own. After spending years as a social worker, she is now a motivational speaker and has published a book, You Carried Me.
Now, you might say that she’s had a good life, above average, but amazing? Everybody gets married and has a family. There are tons of college grads and married mothers with good families. Melissa’s life sounds like a pretty good one, but not amazing.
Oh…did I mention that she was aborted and thrown in a garbage can?
1977 was a time when getting pregnant out of wedlock was a pretty scandalous thing, so when Melissa’s mom got pregnant with her, Melissa’s own grandmother – a nurse! – forced her daughter to have a saline abortion. In her EIGHTH month!
Check into a hospital and get hooked up to a saline drip for 5 days till it kills the baby and your body expels it. Toss the body in the trash, go home, and continue with your life.
Saline abortions were banned years ago in the UK and USA, because they tended not to be very reliable, which was a pretty good thing for Melissa.
So, aborted on 8/29/1977 and weighing in at a mere 2 lbs. 4 oz., and lying in a trash can with other medical garbage, she fought for life, and her movement caught the eye of another nurse who just couldn’t let her die there.
She rushed Melissa to intensive care, despite the orders of Melissa’s grandmother, the nurse in charge of that area, to ‘leave the baby in the room to die’.
So why did Melissa have an alcohol problem at one point? Well, this is the sort of thing that kind drive a person to drink when discovered at a young age.
She finally tracked her birth mother down 36 years after the fact, who was understandably shocked to be found by the baby she thought was dead.
Melissa understands now that her mother didn’t want the abortion and was devastated by it. They have a great relationship. Melissa has even grown forgiveness in her heart for her grandmother who orchestrated the whole mess.
So, yeah, Melissa has had an amazing life! And so have hundreds of other “aborted” people she has met over the years in her quest for the truth.
That’s right, folks! Aborted PEOPLE!!!
How many millions of amazing lives, how many millions of AMAZING PEOPLE have been aborted, destroyed before they ever had a chance to see the light of day? How many amazing stories have NOT been written, because we’ve gotten so much better at killing unborn people?
Melissa’s story definitely gives the lie to the abortion advocates who try to tell us that an unborn person is not really a human being, but just a fetus, just a HUMAN fetus?
Abortion is murder, hidden in the womb. Nothing less.
Read the story of Melissa Ohden yourself: The Woman Who Survived Being Aborted…
You shall not murder. Exodus 20:13
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord…25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; Ephesians 5: 22 & 25
A lot of people get themselves in a twist over this chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. They get stuck on the idea of wives being submissive and don’t ever seem to make it to verse 25, which tells husbands they should practice the same, selfless, sacrificial love toward their wives as Christ practiced for us, His church.
So husbands have the duty to put their wives above themselves, and wives should respond in loving submission and respect for their husband’s selfless love.
In short, it’s about “You First” instead of “Me First” for both partners in a marriage.
Enter Dr. Finkel from Northwestern University, Department of Social Psychology. His October 2 headline for the London Daily Mail: Why modern relationships fail: Psychologist says we expect too much from our partners and should lower our standards
He makes both some good points and horrendous points in the article. I’ll classify the article overall as something a bit more toward the horrendous side just because it’s overall focus, as written, is completely wrong. You can tell from the title that the focus is self, not other. If that’s your starting place, you can’t help going wrong. But let’s take this one point at a time.
We expect too much from our partners? Wrong focus. This is the WIIFM question – What’s In It For Me? In a bible-based marriage, the question is “What can I do for you?” The expectation is that we will seek to work with our spouse out of love. If both people do that, a lot of problems will go away.
…people are expecting their partners to be everything to them. No argument from me there.
Dr Finkel says in order to have a happy relationship we need to ask less from this person and think of ways in which our friendships could give us more. Let’s say he’s getting warm here. His problem is that the focus is still on self. I think that strong marriages include a circle of friends. Friends are the “swizzle sticks” that stir our marriages, They add other dimensions, other stimuli to all of our relationships. Marriages make friendships better and friendships make marriages better.
If you read my article, Activation, you might recall the idea that families develop their own “dances,” a set of stimulus/response patterns that become ingrained and, over the years, become almost unbreakable. The additional input from a good circle of friends helps introduce new steps into our family “dances” and helps keep ALL of our relationships fresh.
This means scheduling in time to do things together – and stop trying to do relationships ‘on the cheap’, he said. Absolutely! I’ve seen too many couples with his and her friends and doing more things apart than together. You and your spouse are a team. Do things together! Do you maybe want to do things on your own at times? That’s good, but don’t let that become the majority of the time!
‘The idea of the book is that the changing nature of our expectations of marriage have made more marriages fall short of expectations, and therefore disappoint us’, Dr Finkel said. Agreed! But what should our expectations be? Ephesians 5 lays it out pretty well.
‘There’s no shame at all in thinking of ways that you can ask less. Well, OK, sort of. Again, his focus is on self and how much we can healthily get from our partner. His statement comes from a point of selfishness, perhaps greed. I could almost hear someone asking themselves, “What can I get away with getting from my spouse?” The question should be more about what can I do FOR my spouse?
When I had bypass surgery I was determined to be the staff’s favorite patient. I do NOT buy into the current social attitude of “I’m the customer, and you need to kiss my butt!” My attitude is that you’ll help me, if I help you first. And I don’t mean just a little, token effort! They told me walking was the best thing I could do to aid my own recovery, so I walked. I did what they asked and never complained. About anything.
Believe me, you have no idea how tiring walking is after having your chest cracked open for heart surgery, but I did it. More than one staff told me that I was the “walkingest” patient they’d ever had; they might charge me extra just to replace the carpet I was wearing out!
Those people took care of me! I never had to ask for anything from them, because they wanted to help someone who was being such a great partner in his own recovery!
If that sort of giving effort gets that kind of response from total strangers for just a few days, imagine how that servant attitude can affect your marriage for decades!
28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:… 31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. 17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God! How vast is the sum of them! 18 Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand… Psalm 139:12-18
I’m thankful for me. No, that’s not ego. That’s just me appreciating how well God engineered me. Despite sin, the human body is still an impressive piece of engineering! There’s a (dark) joke that life is fatal. It’s true. When it is written in Genesis that, due to sin, we will die, the translation literally reads “…dying, you will die.” In other words, we start dying at birth.
But look at how well we hold up! Look at what we are capable of! We can thread a needle and (potentially) lift hundreds of pounds with the same limbs. Speed, power, and grace all within the same frame. God has given us a brain through which our soul works within our body, creating physical structures as well as intellectual ones.
I’m a big fan of Dancing With the Stars. What amazes me is the human capacity to convey ideas and emotion through music and movement. The impact the performers can make on us is physical; laughter, tears, awe…
What sort of a marvel of engineering are we that we have such a capacity? Why did God do it? I think He just gets a hoot out of it when we use what He has given us to do such beautiful things. I think He enjoys watching us enjoy His gifts when we see them in each other.
And that’s just humanity. What about all of creation? Do you realize what a piece of work water is? It’s the only thing in the universe that expands when it gets cold and shrinks when it gets warm. If not for that, it couldn’t do its job in circulating heat around the planet. Life would be impossible!
Yup. I’m thankful for how well God has made me, despite the illnesses and brushes with death I’ve had. I’m thankful for my days and the other wonderfully created people in my life!!