When Callings Clash

A thoughtful and well presented article on a touchy topic.

WHEN CALLINGS CLASH

By Melissa Kruger

Submission. It’s a word loaded with a powder keg of emotions. We live in a culture more accustomed to questioning authority than submitting to it. Those in leadership are often viewed with mistrust rather than respect. Many have felt the sting of poor leadership in their homes, churches, and government. For some, this word is associated with weakness and inability rather than strength and dignity.

However, the Bible provides us with simple and clear commands regarding submission. Wives should submit to their husbands as to the Lord (Eph. 5:22). Civilians should submit to their governing authorities (Rom. 13:1). God’s people should submit to their leaders in the church (Heb. 13:17). Jesus serves as the perfect example of submission, praying on the eve of his crucifixion, “Yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). Submission is part of the Christian life. None of us is free from authority.

While every Christian is called to submit in some form, Scripture also provides examples when God’s people disobeyed those in leadership so they could faithfully follow God’s commands. Rahab failed to submit to her king when she hid the Israelite spies. She chose to align herself with the people of God and was rewarded because of her actions (Josh. 2:1-6Heb. 11:31James 2:25). Abigail didn’t submit to her husband’s sinful injustice toward David. She secretly met David and his men in order to rightly repay them for their service. Her discernment saved her family from the disaster that was upon them (1 Sam. 25:3-42). Peter and the other apostles didn’t submit to the Jewish leading council when commanded to refrain from speaking or teaching in the name of Jesus. They boldly replied, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

These passages clarify that submission is not merely passive obedience to authority. It is an active and thoughtful obedience first to God and then to the authorities he has placed over us. At times, each of us will wrestle with God on how to apply the clear commands of Scripture in the complicated and gray areas of our experience.

How are we as believers to navigate the waters of submission when we find ourselves in a clash of callings? What are we to do when our obedience to God or the betterment of his people collides with the call to submit to our husbands, churches, or governments? Two biblical principles can guide us as we seek to honor God in our submission.

Principle #1: It is Sinful to Submit to Sinful Commands

First, we must acknowledge that we should never submit to authorities by following their leadership into sinful actions. When King Darius ordered that no one could petition any god expect himself, Daniel was right to disobey the lesser command from Darius and continue his regular habit of prayer (Dan. 6). If a husband were to command a wife to stop reading the Bible or meeting with God’s people, she would be right to go against his leadership in order to follow the clear teaching of Scripture (Col. 3:16Heb. 10:25).

In the book of Acts we are told the story of Ananias and his wife, Sapphira. Ananias sold a piece of property to give to the disciples but kept back for himself some of the proceeds, with the knowledge of his wife. When Peter confronted Ananias with his sinful actions, immediately Ananias fell down and died. A few hours later when Peter asked Sapphira about the piece of property, she continued in the lie and suffered the same consequence as her husband (Acts 5:1-11). A husband’s headship doesn’t mean his wife will escape judgment for her complicity in their sinful actions. When a husband, church, or government asks a Christian to sin, the believer always has the responsibility to obey God.

Principle #2: It is Not Sinful to Influence or Persuade God-Given Authorities

An authority over us may choose a less wise course of action, but not necessarily a sinful one. Perhaps a wife truly believes that a certain schooling choice is the best option for their children or would like to attend a more biblically based church, but her husband disagrees. Perhaps a church makes what some in the congregation feel is an unwise decision on using funds. Perhaps a government makes laws that seem to promote injustice, while not necessarily causing an individual to sin. While a believer may be called to submit in these areas, it is also appropriate to respectfully engage and present one’s case before his or her authority.

Here are a few principles that can guide us as we approach those in leadership with our concerns regarding their decisions.

1. Seek the Lord in prayer.

Before Nehemiah approached King Artaxerxes to speak with him about rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, he went before the Lord in prayer and fasting. For four months he patiently prayed and waited before bringing the matter up to the king (Neh. 1). Prior to Esther presenting her request to her husband, she asked that Mordecai gather all the Jews together to fast on her behalf. As we go before the authorities, we should first spend time in prayer and fasting, asking the Lord to bless our requests. It’s also important to pursue wise council and support from godly people.

2. Choose an appropriate time and place.

Esther asked King Xerxes to join her for a private feast before asking him to save her people from destruction. She didn’t offer her request before all his officials in court but waited until they were alone, with only Haman there to hear her request (Esther 4-5). Each of us would be wise to consider the timing we choose to bring up areas of disagreement with those in authority. A wife might ask if she could meet her husband for lunch or dinner to discuss a specific topic. A church member would be wise to wait for a moment other than Sunday after the sermon to discuss his particular concern with his pastor. Choosing an appropriate time and location demonstrates respectful consideration of the person in authority over you.

3. Present your request with respectful boldness.

When Nehemiah went before the king, he was “very much afraid.” Esther also felt the weight of her request, telling Mordecai, “If I perish, I perish.” Yet both of them went before their leader with a respectful boldness that won them favor. They had the courage to ask, but they did so in a manner that honored the one of whom they made the request. As we seek to influence those in leadership over us, we can boldly put our requests before them, but we must do so a way that demonstrates respect to the role and authority God has given them in our lives.

4. Submit to God’s providence.

In the end, a husband may not agree to his wife’s request. A church may continue down a path that seems unwise. A government may make choices that fail to promote the welfare of those it governs. In these moments we must submit, trusting in the Lord and leaning not on our own understanding. Proverbs 21:1 encourages us: “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.” Ultimately, God is providentially at work through the authorities in our lives. They are the human agents by whom God is fulfilling his good purpose for each of us (Rom. 8:28).

We are called first to submit our lives to God and second to those in authority over us. The way may not always be as clear as we would like, but our willingness to humbly entrust our submission to God forces us to a new and deeper understanding of his sovereign goodness. Thankfully, we follow first and foremost a Savior who knows not only the painful cost of submission, but also the joyful purposes for which God intends to use our willing obedience.

 

Editors’ note: Register to hear Melissa Kruger speak on “Cultivating Contentment in a Covetous World” at TGC’s 2014 national women’s conference later this month.

Melissa Kruger serves as Women’s Ministry Coordinator at Uptown Church in Charlotte, North Carolina and is the author of The Envy of Eve: Finding Contentment in a Covetous World (Christian Focus, 2012). Her husband Mike is the president of Reformed Theological Seminary, and they have three children. You can follow her on Twitter.

When Gifts Lose Their Luster

When Gifts Lose Their Luster

By Tim Challies

Silver TarnishThere are times I grow weary of good things. Things I love. Things I would not want to live without. Things that have the ability to make my heart beat a little bit faster and keep my mind racing when I ought to be asleep. They are good things, but somehow, through time or familiarity or neglect or something else, they begin to feel not so good. I wish it wasn’t this way, but it seems to be yet another cost of being a sinful person in a sinful world. Even the best things feel like bad things at times.

The Bible is one of God’s great gifts. Without it I would be hopelessly and utterly lost. I would not know who I am, who God is, or what he desires from me. That Bible is living and active, it is the very words of God recorded and preserved for me. Reading the Bible saved my soul and transformed my life. It gave me meaning and purpose and direction. And yet even it can seem so humdrum at times. Drab. Uninteresting. A chore. A duty. Even it can seem like a not-so-good thing.

There is no one on this earth I love more than my wife. She is one of God’s greatest gifts to me. I am deeply dependent upon her—I’ve been married to her for almost my entire adulthood—and really wouldn’t know how to go about life without her. I love her dearly. Yet at times, too many times, I can find myself growing frustrated with her. Short-tempered. Surly. Just plain angry. In those moments, or in those extended times, it’s like I’ve grown weary of the gift. For a time that good thing becomes a not-so-good thing.

Children. Vocation. Location. Everything I love, every good gift, can fade in time.

I have come to realize something about those times when I grow weary of good gifts: This weariness makes a statement about me, not the gift. The weariness is so often a direct result of my neglect. I have neglected to cherish the gift and honor the giver.

Kevin DeYoung says “The most effective means for bolstering our confidence in the Bible is to spend time in the Bible.” And in the same way, the most effective means for increasing our love for the Bible is to spend time in the Bible. To know it is to love it. When I don’t love it, it’s inevitably because I haven’t been spending time in it. There is no gift of God that returns commitment with apathy. No, the commitment returns confidence, love, respect, enjoyment, gratitude.

The most effective means for sustaining and increasing my love for my wife is to spend time with her. If and when I find myself growing weary of such a good gift, the problem is me, not her. The problem is inevitably my neglect. I have stopped spending time with her, pursuing her, enjoying her. I have stopped seeing her as God’s good and perfectly-chosen gift.

In a world like this, and in a sinner like me, even the best gifts lose their luster. Or they seem to. The gifts lose their luster when I neglect to honor the giver and to cherish the gift.

7 Ways to Destroy Your Marriage

SEVEN WAYS TO DESTROY YOUR MARRIAGE

Perry Noble 

Want to absolutely destroy your marriage? Here are seven ways that always work.

1. REFUSE TO COMMUNICATE

Talk about the person and not to them because doing so will be awkward. This will ensure destruction, and the silent treatment is really an amazing weapon when it comes to refusing to communicate. (Don’t worry about the fact that five-year-olds do it… just own it!)

2. REFUSE TO LISTEN

Interrupting my spouse during conflict to immediately correct them and then trying my best to make a stronger point always helps tear a relationship to pieces.

3. ALWAYS ASSUME THE ABSOLUTE WORST ABOUT YOUR SPOUSE

As soon as I hear (or even think) something negative about my spouse, it is absolutely essential to carry that thought to its fullest illogical conclusion. Don’t ever ask for an explanation or clarification as more open communication will only lead to a stronger marriage.

4. MAKE SURE THE GOAL IS TO WIN THE ARGUMENT RATHER THAN ACTUALLY SETTLE THE DISPUTE

If you realize you are wrong about something, you must allow pride to dominate your thoughts. This will unleash a barrage of accusations that actually have nothing to do with what the original argument or discussion was about in the first place. Win at all costs, even if it means saying things that hurt and wound deeply.

5. YOU MUST VIEW YOUR SPOUSE AS YOUR ENEMY, NOT YOUR FRIEND

If you want a great marriage, you cannot see your spouse and you as being on the same team. You must view everything as some sort of game and make it a goal to compete with them and not actually complete them.

6. FOCUS AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE ON THEIR INADEQUACIES AND SHORTCOMINGS

You’ve got to talk about how much they are “not meeting your needs” and how they need to “step up and do better” more often. By all means do not take a good look at yourself and what you could do to improve the marriage. Everything must be blamed on them and you’ve got to see yourself as flawless and perfect.

7. DO NOT HAVE FUN TOGETHER

Heck no! You need your set of friends and your spouse needs their set. Don’t have mutual friends. Don’t have date nights. Don’t do anything fun as a family. Also, make sure that when you are out on a date as a couple you spend as much time on your phone as possible because communication with your spouse will do nothing except make your marriage stronger.

How to Love Dramatic Girls (Part 1)

This post (in two parts) written by Jackie Knapp who has worked with many “dramatic girls” over the years is well worth a read.

How to Love Dramatic Girls (part 1)

You know you’ve lived a weird life when during an average work day, it’s more normal than not to get a crying phone call or panicked text from a student. Needless to say, spending lots of time with high school and college girls in the last decade, this has become my normal. I remember one staff meeting at URC a few years back when a girl literally burst in the the room, weeping. All of the pastors’ eyes turned to me, and I said “Okay, I’ve got this one guys.” (Although if any team of men can handle weeping girls, these men can!) It’s not anyone’s favorite thing to deal with an emotional, sobbing girl.

drama masksWhether you are a parent, a youth worker, a boyfriend, husband or friend, at some point, you will encounter a dramatic female, unless you become a hermit, I suppose. But that’s a different issue altogether. As a recovering drama queen myself, I’m allowed to say some things here that may come off “insensitive” if someone else said them. I’m incredibly thankful for all of those who have and continue to love me well during my dramatic moments. And I’m thankful for the opportunities I’ve had to love all of these girls, even in the craziest times.

In this post, I’ll talk more about the big picture of caring well for girls in the midst of dramatic reactions to life. Tomorrow, we’ll discuss more tangible, practical ways to help. What do I mean by dramatic reaction? There are many different expressions, but what I’m referring to is extreme reactions, whether blowing up or shutting down, impulsive decisions, or irrational thinking about any given situation. I’ve had girls chase each other down the hallway in anger, run away from home, randomly break off engagements, and drop out of school. Others love their friends, hate their friends, gossip about their friends, and love their friends again all within the hour.

How do we love these girls? Here’s the main point for today: there is a reason for the drama, and to care for this girl, you need to patiently dig to find that reason. It may be easier to want to shake her and yell “Why are you crying? Stop crying! Get over yourself! Now!” And although this tough love may become necessary at points, you aren’t ever going to have a real relationship with her if this is your only tactic.

Instead, we have to think well about the reasons behind the drama. What is the  sin and suffering happening here? We can easily see sin, often immense self-absorption, and lack of seeing others’ perspective or needs. Girls can be nasty to each other, often in conniving and manipulative ways. But in most cases, there is suffering too. There is something real and hard that happened in her life, even if you don’t perceive it as an actual hardship. There is fear and insecurity, shame and panic, perhaps abuse or mistreatment.

Everyone has a story. Even if you know this girl well, you might not know the inner workings of her heart as well as you think. I don’t say this to take away the responsibility of her sin. But an alarming amount of the girls I have dealt with have been raised in families that did not have functioning, loving relationships or good communication. Many others have been treated poorly or abused by someone who was supposed to be trustworthy. While neither of these challenges are an excuse, they do deeply impact a person’s ability to communicate without fear or extreme emotional reactions. Many don’t know how to handle a situation in godly ways, they only know how to do what they see their mothers, friends, or celebrities do when life gets hard. And as seen on TV, drama is what our culture does best.

Mask offPart of your role is to take the time to find out what is going on behind the drama. For whatever reason, God has you right in the middle of this messy situation to help her learn to work through hard things. As you try to sort through the information she is telling you, here are three simple questions to ask. What are the facts? What are her feelings? What are her fears?

The facts and feelings may take some time and tears to get to, but with patience, these will come to the surface. Understanding her fears and how these impact her may take more time. Most girls struggle on some level with one or all of these fears: what people will think of her, that what she looks like isn’t good enough, and that no one loves her. If there has been been abuse or rejection, these are intensified. The more she struggles with insecurity, the more she will use drama to draw attention to herself. The more you talk and build trust, the more clearly you will see the reasons for the drama.

I’ll leave you with a bit of hope. At a recent reunion with a bunch of girls, we were laughing as everyone recalled their biggest breakdown during college. The stories were pretty outrageous, and I’ll leave the details for another time. But the amazing thing was to see how distance and perspective changes things, how these girls have become women who love the Lord and have learned to deal with their fears. They aren’t perfect or drama-free, but I am continuously thankful for how they have grown and fought for faith when life has been hard.

*****

See part 2 of “How to Love Dramatic Girls.”

A Wife’s Promise to Her Dying Husband

My promise to my dying husband

Your smile.

Anytime I think of you, the first thing I see in my mind’s eye is your megawatt smile. Your friendliness, your openness, and your sense of humor, all amplified and highlighted by your toothy, crooked grin.

That grin caught my eye over a decade ago, and ultimately captured my heart. From the first days of our relationship when we were just a couple of love-struck high school students, to the moment you saw me walking down the aisle, to the moment I saw you first lay eyes on your son, to the moment now when I enter your hospital room—your smile melts my heart, Ryan. You still dazzle me.

Life with you has been easy because it has been clear from the start that God uniquely wired us to be together. You challenge me, you sharpen me, you inspire me, and you make me a better person. Your unwavering commitment to The Lord makes my own relationship with Him much richer and more intentional because I have you to look to as an example of what it means to live a life sold out for Christ. Even through the last two years, as we have walked the road of your terminal cancer diagnosis together, life has remained colorful and sweet because our God is gracious to me, and you are one of the three biggest gifts I’ve received from Him. Salvation and our son are the other two.

On May 13, 2006, I saw your huge smile as I made my way down a short aisle to marry you. And on that day, you and I made a lot of promises to each other. “…from this day forward, I will devote myself to you and our family, second only to God / I commit to loving you, as much during difficult times as well as times of happiness / in victories as well as defeats / All these things I promise to you.

When I look back, so much has happened in almost seven years and I have realized that it’s time to restate exactly what I promise to you. Life has happened. And as we stare down this monster with hands clasped together and The Lord firmly entrenched behind us, I want to leave no doubt that you know these things.

Ryan Scott Prudhomme, I promise to you that I will cherish your memory as long as I live. Your character, your integrity, your heart for the Lord, and your unshakable faith in Him are all reasons that I, along with many others, will continue to regard you as a most extraordinary person. I admire you more than you could imagine.

Ryan, I promise to you that your son will know you as he grows. Any creative way that I can devise to ensure that he grows up feeling close to you—I plan to do it. Any person that can tell him about your jokes, your idiosyncrasies, your personality traits—I will ensure those people have an avenue to tell your son about his beloved daddy. Regardless of whether you get to parent him for two or twenty or seventy years, I pledge to you my commitment to raise him to know his dad.

I promise to you I will not despair, I will not be broken, and I will somehow, someday, some way again feel joy and peace. During the last two years, I know your first thoughts are usually of me—not of yourself—and you have been far more worried about me and Colton. Your love for me has never been more evident and has helped gird me through some very difficult times. I could never have done this without your faithful prayer and your encouragement, but I’m entering into a new phase where I won’t have the luxury of your nearness. Despite that, I know deep down that I am a person that can shoulder anything, as long as the Lord stands behind me. And He will. I will, with His grace, stand tall and will endure whatever tomorrow brings.  Don’t you worry.

My last promise, Ryan, is not a new one—and it’s not a promise to you. It’s a promise to my Lord and Savior. I promise that my trust in The Lord will not be broken, bent, tarnished, punctured, pushed, nor shaken. I have no idea what He is orchestrating. I may not ever know until I am able to question Him in person someday. But I know the character of the One who alone knows the number of our days, He who knew you from the time before you were born and still, to this day, holds you and I in a tight, secure grip. His goodness and his mercy have been the constancy that we have so sorely needed during the last two rollercoaster years.

My darling, I love you more than I could ever have guessed that I would have loved you when you first flashed that unforgettable smile at me in the crowded hallway of our small high school. You are more than just my husband: you’re my best friend, my closest confidant, my sparring partner, my teacher, and my hero. When I close my eyes and think of you, I will always remember the sweet happiness of being perfectly matched to a person that pushed me to be a greater version of my own self.

And I’ll never forget the beautiful smile on your face.

Which always will bring one to my own.

-Kendra

I wrote this letter to Ryan while he was hospitalized at CTCA in March.  After he read it, he strongly encouraged me to type it and release it on our blog when I felt that it was the appropriate time.  We both pray that it is effective in bringing encouragement to those that read this blog.

Thou Hast Done

A Hymn To God The Father

BY TULLIAN TCHIVIDJIAN

The hymn below by English poet and cleric John Donne (1572-1631) says it all: God meets my ongoing sin with his inexhaustible forgiveness. 70 times 7.

Jesus is GreaterMy friend Shane Rosenthal sent me a note explaining that, according to some commentators, there is double meaning in the line, “Thou hast done” which repeats throughout the poem. It obviously refers to that which God has done for Donne in contrast to that which Donne has done (and continues to do). But the other meaning, especially clear in the last stanza, is a play on the poet’s own name: “Thou hast Donne.” It is his realization that despite his weak grip on God, God’s grip on him is perfect and forever, that finally ends his fears.

It never ceases to amaze me that, if you are in Christ, you can never, ever, ever outsin the coverage of God’s forgiveness. Amazing love…how can it be?

WILT Thou forgive that sin where I begun,
Which was my sin, though it were done before?
Wilt Thou forgive that sin, through which I run,
And do run still, though still I do deplore?
When Thou hast done, Thou hast not done,
For I have more.

Wilt Thou forgive that sin which I have won
Others to sin, and made my sin their door?
Wilt Thou forgive that sin which I did shun
A year or two, but wallowed in a score?
When Thou hast done, Thou hast not done,
For I have more.

I have a sin of fear, that when I have spun
My last thread, I shall perish on the shore ;
But swear by Thyself, that at my death Thy Son
Shall shine as he shines now, and heretofore;
And having done that, Thou hast Donne ;
I fear no more.

Jonathan Edwards on Love and Selfishness

And the truth of the doctrine, that the spirit of charity, or Christian love, is the opposite of a selfish spirit, will appear, if we consider the nature of Christian love to God.  We find that the Scriptures teach that those who truly love God, love Him so as wholly to devote themselves to Him and His service.  This we are taught in the sum of the ten commandments, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all they strength” (Mar 12:30).  In these words is contained a description of a right love to God; and they teach us that those who love Him aright do devote themselves wholly to Him.  They devote all to Him: all their heart, and all their soul, and all their mind, and all their strength, and all their powers and faculties.  Surely a man who gives all this wholly to God keeps nothing back, but devotes himself wholly and entirely to Him, making no reserve; and all who have true love to God have a spirit to do so…

A selfish principle never devotes itself to another.  The nature of it is, to devote all others to self.  They that have true love to God love Him as God and as the Supreme Good; whereas it is the nature of selfishness to set up self in the place of God, and to make an idol of self.  That being whom men regard supremely, they devote all to…

If you are Christians … “ye are not your own; for ye are bought with a price” (1 Co 6:19,20), even “with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Pe 1:19).  And this is urged as an argument why Christians should not seek themselves, but the glory of God; for the apostle adds, “Therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”  By nature you were in a miserable, lost condition, a captive…and a miserable slave int he bondage of sin.  And Christ has redeemed you, and so you are His by purchase…And as you are not your own, so nothing that you have is your own.  Your abilities of body and mind, outward possessions, time, talents, influence, comforts – none of them are your own…

Let these things, then, incline us all to be less selfish than we are, and to seek more of the contrary most excellent spirit.  Selfishness is a principle native to us, and, indeed, all the corruption of our nature does radically consist in it.  But considering the knowledge that we have of Christianity, and how numerous and powerful the motives it presents, we ought to be far less selfish than we are, and less ready to seek our own interests and these only.  how much there is of this evil spirit and how little of that excellent, noble diffusive spirit which has now been set before us!  Whatever the cause be, let us strive to overcome it that we may grow in the grace of an unselfish spirit, and thus glorify God, and do good to men.

-Jonathan Edwards, Charity and its Fruits, pp. 15-16