Work! Work! Work! | Our Single Purpose

When I got married, somehow I thought that it would lighten my workload. We’d share chores, and he’d have a wonderful job so that I could have a part-time job (or no job) and I’d have lots of time for writing, gardening and all the things that I would love to have time for. Well, that’s not what happened. The man of my dreams is a seminary student—which means I work a full-time job and do most of the chores (which somehow tripled when a man was added to the equation) while he slaves away over piles of books to read and papers that need to be written.

Sometimes things just don’t turn out the way we expect. And so, my task is to be happy about it or at least not be grumbly about it (Phil 2:14) because this is what God has for me to do. So my spiritual lessons lately have been around the subject of contentment (Yep, that’s right. You still have to “learn contentment” after you get married. Surprise! It’s a lifelong journey…) and seeing the value in the work that I’ve been asked to do.

So here are some things that have helped me to battle my discontent with work:

  • Scripture (specifically these verses): “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58). And, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23-24).
  • Thankfulness. I’ve been memorizing Colossians this year and have been reminded of the importance of being thankful. It’s a theme that Paul reminds the Colossians about often (Col 1:3; Col 1:9-12; Col 2:6-7; Col 3:15-17; Col 4:2). Colossians 2:6-7 has really stuck out to me during this season: “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” There’s so much to be thankful for—every breath, every blade of grass, every flower petal is a gift.
  • Servanthood. Whatever my job happens to be, it is an opportunity for ministry. The people around me that I spend 39 hrs a week with are people that are loved by God. I’ve been placed where I am (and you’ve been placed where you are) to be an ambassador for Christ, a minister on his behalf (2 Cor 5:2).
  • Working women have been vital to God’s plans throughout the years. Women supported Jesus in his ministry “out of their means” (Luke 8:1-3). Lydia was a dealer in purple cloth (Acts 16:14), which was not cheap fabric, and she hosted the church in her home (Acts 16:40) in Thyatira. The Proverbs 31 woman had a vineyard (Prov 31:16) and sold clothing (Prov 31:24) to supplement their household income. For these women drawing an income provided an opportunity to bless others. I want to do the same.
  • Work is good. God put Adam and Eve into the Garden to tend it before the Fall. Work is part of God’s good creation and plan for us as His Image bearers. So whether it’s in the home or outside of the home, our work should be done to the glory of God for the good of others.

I know that this is a season of life that will change at some point. Who knows what the Lord has next in store for my husband and me? But whatever situation I find myself in, I pray that I will work hard for the Lord and find contentment in knowing that my labor for Him is not in vain.

via Work! Work! Work! | Our Single Purpose.

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Thoughts on Forgiveness

Owen is co-teaching a class on The Sermon on the Mount at church this semester. It has been wonderful and I’ve been able to see his teaching abilities blossom and grow. Recently,  someone in the class asked for some more thoughts on Matthew 6:14-15 so Owen and I worked together on an email to her. It was a good exercise for both of us. It taught us a bit about working together as a couple and also helped us to think through that verse…which can be a bit tricky. I’ve posted most of the email below in the hopes that it would be helpful to some of you also.

So here’s our text (with a little context) from Matthew 6:

12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’

14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

First of all, verses 14 and 15 are in the context of the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ right before them. In verse 12, Jesus teaches us to pray that God will forgive us our debts AS WE ALSO HAVE forgiven our debtors. It assumes that we are forgiving those who sin against us. And then in verses 14-15, he tells us that if we’re not forgiving others, then we’re in trouble. So, here’s an important principle which Jesus seems to be assuming: God disciplines those he loves (Heb 12:4-11), and one of the ways he does that is through hindered prayer. In 1 Pet 3:7, husbands are encouraged to treat their wives well so that their prayers are not hindered, and in the Old Testament there are several passages which teach that sin blocks our prayers (Ps. 66:17-18; Isa. 1:15;59:1-3; 58:4, & Micah3:4). Thus, when we are living in unrepentant sin, God in some sense does not hear our prayers. He hides his face. So, if we don’t repent of our unforgiveness (or some other blatant sin), then over time our hearts get hardened and calloused by sin’s deceitfulness (Heb 3:13) from not heeding the conviction of the Holy Spirit. And if that happens, our relationship with the Father suffers because of it.

The forgiveness Jesus is talking about in this passage is not the same as the forgiveness that we receive at initial salvation. When we believe in Christ, his blood covers us and we are forgiven our sin in such a way that our standing in Christ–that is, our ultimate salvation and relationship to God as His child–is secure. So, the passage in Matthew cannot mean that God withholds forgiveness so that true disciples would “lose their salvation.” This is impossible, because other parts of Scripture say that our ultimate salvation is secure (1 Pet 1:3-5). But, our sins do grieve the Holy Spirit (Eph 4:30) and can give Satan a foothold (Eph 4:27), which is also mentioned in the prayer prior to our verses (“deliver us from the evil one” v. 13). So, our legal standing as God’s children is never affected by our sin of not forgiving others, but the quality of our relationship with the Father is affected. To maintain an unhindered Father/Child relationship with God, there has to be confession and repentance of our sin (1 John 1:8-9).

Here’s a few more things worth remembering, also: We receive forgiveness from a Perfect God who calls us to be perfect as He is perfect. When we compare ourselves to others, we don’t seem so bad, but when we compare ourselves to Christ…we fall far short. Our sins start adding up—every unkind thought, word or deed, every missed opportunity to do the good we should have done, every thought of envy or covetousness or discontentment, every worry. All those “respectable”sins. When we see our hearts as wicked as they are compared to God’s standard of perfection, then in our brokenness we can cry out to God for forgiveness. He will accept us every time. We don’t deserve the forgiveness of this Holy and Perfect God, and yet he freely offers it to us. How can we possibly withhold forgiveness from someone when we have been forgiven so much? Therefore, as His people, we should be marked by being extravagant forgivers.

There is a cyclical pattern of being forgiven by God and offering forgiveness to others. It seems like in the Scriptures our forgiveness of others is based on the forgiveness that we have received from Christ at our salvation. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Eph 4:32; see also Col 3:13). I think that goes along with the verses “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19-20) and “[God] who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Cor 1:4). If we open our hearts to the Lord in humility, he will fill our souls by the Holy Spirit with love, comfort, forgiveness, etc. (our deepest needs) so that we can offer those same things to those around us. We can bear the image of our Savior to others by offering the love, comfort, and forgiveness that we have already received in Him.

I hope that helps at least a little bit. Those are my (our) thoughts on those verses and forgiveness in general. If you’re interested in some more practical conflict/reconciliation management tools, the “Peacemaker” book by Ken Sande is really good. He’s done some really good work in that area. Peacemaker ministries have helped a lot of people and churches through some tough times. They have some great resources on their website.


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Reality Check | Our Single Purpose

Last Sunday was Palm Sunday, the day when the church celebrates the anniversary of the Triumphal Entry of Christ into Jerusalem. On that day a little under 2000 years ago, the crowd welcomed their humble Messiah with Palm Branches (a national symbol) and with shouts of “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” This whole week, the church will reflect on the last week of Jesus’ life here on earth, before he was crucified and laid in the grave on Friday. Then, on Easter Sunday, we’ll celebrate His glorious resurrection! If you’d like to dive deeper into what happened this week in 30 A.D. (or thereabouts), Justin Taylor is posting a short video every day (4-5 mins each) on his blog, where New Testament scholars look at the last week of Jesus life and break it down into bite-sized pieces. It’s been very good so far.

I’m so grateful to have this week to refocus my thoughts on Christ and His sacrifice, because honestly, I’ve been very distracted this Lenten season. In a previous post, I mentioned that I was observing Lent this year by limiting my tv watching to Friday and Sunday nights and giving up cream in my coffee. I have done those things fairly faithfully, but not sincerely as an offering to the Lord in my heart. It’s been more of a task on my list of things to do—something to just check off and feel good about myself for doing. I’ve filled my nights of no tv with other things like books or cooking/cleaning, and when my husband leads me in our Lenten devotion together each night, I often just do my best to stay awake… and, as for the cream in my coffee, the “bitter reminder” that it was supposed to be to turn my heart to Christ just disappears because I get distracted with something else. It’s been a spiritually dry season. Until this past weekend…

This past Saturday, my dear husband was away on a trip, and I had the house to myself. It was glorious and just what I needed. I got so much done around the house! But, most importantly, I had some time to sit myself down before the Lord and hash out what was going on in my heart. We’re still working on that. But it was still a wonderful morning with the Lord. Then, Palm Sunday was such a sweet, joyful celebration at my church. It was so good for my soul.

This week, thinking each day about what Christ did so long ago (with the help of Justin Taylor’s blog which I linked to above and reading through our devotional) has made Jesus more real to me. He was a real, flesh-and-blood man, living in this tangible world, dealing with various types of actual people, and then dying an intensely physical death. I know these things, but they have become fresh and real to me again. So, Sunday I will celebrate with all the saints—at my church and throughout the world—that this real, flesh-and-blood man is now risen from the dead and is reigning at the right hand of our Father in Heaven. And I will rejoice that all the promises of God have found their ‘yes’ in Him (2 Cor 1:20-22).

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:1-5

~ Carrie Kelly

via Reality Check | Our Single Purpose.

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Do I really need this? | Our Single Purpose

Lent has a long history. It has been observed by the Church since the 4th century. It’s not specifically mentioned in Scripture but it is a biblical concept. There is a pattern in Scripture of God’s people being called to seasons of fasting, prayer and repentance – often for 40 day periods: Moses (Exodus 34), Elijah (1 Kings 19) and Jesus (Mathew 4). It’s not mandatory but it is a good way to draw closer to God and prepare for the celebration of Easter.

Personally, I am observing Lent by limiting my tv watching to Friday and Sunday nights. And I’ve given up cream in my coffee, which started out pretty tough and almost made me give up coffee all together. But the bitterness of the coffee is a pretty vivid reminder of the bitter cup that Christ had to drink so I’ve kept pressing through…and I’m slowly getting used to it. I have also tried to give up sweets but that has honestly not gone so well…so I don’t think it counts…

So the question from the beautiful ladies of Our Single Purpose assigned to me this month regarding lent is: What are some things in my life that I tell myself I need but I don’t?

chocolate, coffee, music, more sleep…, more money…, a new pair of jeans, another pair of shoes, affection, appreciation, …did I mention chocolate?

These are things that I want and that sometimes definitely feel like a need but they are not things that I really need. Many people live on a lot less than what I have in my possession. Paul said in 1 Timothy 6:8, “But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” Wow…that’s a tough standard (and I don’t think he had chocolate and new jeans in mind when he wrote that). I can be content for a few minutes after I have a piece of chocolate but it’s not long until I go on the prowl for my next piece. …I have a serious sweet tooth problem. So point being, contentment is hard!

Fasting during Lent helps with learning to be content. It brings back into perspective the Cross of Christ and His life leading up to it which makes my comforts (e.g. cream in my coffee, tv during the week after a long day at work…) less appealing. I get too tied to my things, my wants, my ways. My life gets too busy, and too full of temporary and passing things. My perspective gets off and my loves get out of order. Soon I start to put more stock in whether I get to watch a certain tv show rather than being sure that I am loving my husband (or roommate) well. Completely giving up, or at least considerably limiting, something (food, comforts, tv, etc.) in my life for a time loosens the bond that I have with that thing so that I see it for what it is—nice, but unnecessary.

The one thing I do need tends to be one of the last things or one of the hardest things for me to want to do. Luke 10:41-42 (a familiar and fitting life-verse for me) says ‘“Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’” Mary knew that Jesus, sitting at his feet and learning from Him, was the most important and most needed Person/thing in her life. Martha and I also need to learn that lesson because that’s where contentment is found. Consider these verses:

Philippians 4:11-13 – I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Giving up some of my comforts during Lent helps me say, “Not my will, but thine be done” (Lk 22:42) to whatever circumstance I find myself in…it helps me learn to “die to myself” which is very important to grow as a follower as Christ (Mt 16:24). “He must increase, but I must decrease” (Jn 3:30). And that’s what Lent is about, the decrease of me and the increase of Christ in my life and in the world.

~Carrie Kelly

via Do I really need this? | Our Single Purpose.

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Love endures… | Our Single Purpose

“Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1 Corinthians 13:6-8a

True Love endures. It perseveres. It never gives up. This love is not the ooey-gooey kind of infatuation that we see on TV—that “love ‘em and leave ‘em” kind of love that has become so common in our culture. The love I’m talking about is Real Love. The kind of love that is solid, substantial, committed…in other words, it’s enduring. The word “endurance” or “perseverance” is used when speaking of sticky situations. For instance, here are some examples of love that endures:

  • A mother stays up all night with her sick child because love endures all things.
  • A volunteer at the homeless shelter continues to serve even when she’s been diagnosed with a brain tumor because love endures all things.
  • Parents continue to pray for and plead with their rebellious and thieving son because love endures all things.
  • A woman stays by her husband’s side as he battles cancer on his deathbed because love endures all things.
  • A man imprisoned for his faith continues to share Christ with his fellow prisoners and his guards because love endures all things.

Love doesn’t give up when things get tough. It continues to love and give of itself. It’s the kind of love that gives everything. This type of love is foreign to this world that screams that love is all about feelings and whatever makes me happy. But we’ve been shown a different definition of love. The Scriptures tell us that “God so loved the world that He gave his only Son…” (John 3:16). And Jesus showed us how far that love was willing to go when he endured the cross, despising its shame (Heb. 12:2). It’s a love that nothing can separate us from. The kind of love that never fails.

But that’s not easy. How do we do that? How do we, in our weakness and feeble attempts, live that kind of love? We can do it because we’ve been shown this kind of love. And God will enable us to love this way, if we just ask. In Colossians 1:9-12, Paul prays:

We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way:

  • bearing fruit in every good work,
  • growing in the knowledge of God,
  • being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and
  • giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.

This is my prayer for you, for us, that we may live lives worthy of the Lord and please him in every way being strengthened by His power to have great endurance and patience in our love for God and others.

~ Carrie Kelly

via Love endures… | Our Single Purpose.

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Love is not easily angered… | Our Single Purpose

“Love is not easily angered.” (1 Cor 13:5b, NIV)

We’ve all felt it (or maybe it’s just me)—that terrible angst that rises up in our hearts. Bitterness simmers just under the surface. We’ve reached our limit! We’ve had it up to here! All our friends are walking on eggshells, waiting for the next eruption. If just one more person asks us about what we’re doing for Valentines…! We explode. We overreact. We’re irritable. Touchy. Prickly.

But we love Jesus, and we want to love others, so how do we do this when we are being provoked? According to Scripture, love is not easily provoked, not easily offended. The word translated “angered, provoked, offended” from the Greek has the connotation of a volcanic eruption—an anger that suddenly erupts on someone. That doesn’t sound very nice (or loving), does it?

This list of Love descriptors in 1 Cor 13 that we’ve been exploring this month on Our Single Purpose should not be kept separated for long. It’s good to look at it piece by piece and try to plumb the depths, but all of these parts are connected. They build upon one another. A love that is patient, kind, doesn’t brag, is not rude and does not seek after its own will have an easier time not being “easily angered” and will refuse to keep a record of wrongs. But it also goes the other way. It will not take much provoking for a tainted love to become easily angered. “If love lacks patience and allows self-regard or self-importance to creep in, such contaminated love may become exasperated into pique [a feeling of wounded pride] or into bitterness.”* Contaminated love. Let those words sink in. Love that is contaminated, made impure or unclean, by our sin.

There is a type of anger that is not sinful, or there would not be a verse that says, “In your anger do not sin” (Eph 4:26). But the anger that is being addressed in our verse is not the righteous type. It stems from wounded pride and selfishness… Nancy Leigh DeMoss puts it well, “But do you find, as I do, that so many times the things that anger us and provoke us are not the things that are really wickedness, the things that anger God? They’re the things that disturb my peace. They’re the things that don’t go my way, the things that annoy me and upset my agenda and my plans” (italics mine).** This type of anger is all about me, my wounded pride, my feelings not being thought of, my way not being done, me, myself, ME! So to combat this type of anger means learning to die to self (i.e., deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow Christ – Matt 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23). Christ is our example.

“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” (1 Pet 2:21-25)

So, “How do you react to people who misunderstand, overlook, or minimize the pain of your not-yet-marriedness? Though good-intentioned, they unwittingly offend you with their advice, questions, or indifference. You feel justified in your anger, expressed in an insensitive word or violent, bitter thought toward them. [Or maybe an angry outburst.] But God rewards gentleness in the face of offense.”*** Gentleness like that of Christ’s, who “did not revile in return” but loved, even to the point of death. So repent, ask for forgiveness and strength to love like Him. “Love overlooks a multitude of sins,” not just a few of them (aren’t you glad?), so bear His image to those around you. Love like He has loved you.

~Carrie Kelly

*Thiselton, Anthony C. 1 Corinthians: A Shorter Exegetical & Pastoral Commentary. Grand Rapids: W. B. Eerdmans, 2006. Pg 223.

**Revive Our Hearts Radio – Nancy Leigh DeMoss on “Love is not provoked” in the How’s Your Love Life series – from February 8, 2010

***Nine Lies in the Not-Yet-Married Life by Marshall Segal on the Desiring God blog.

via Love is not easily angered… | Our Single Purpose.

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Colossians on Thankfulness

I’ve decided to dig into the book of Colossians this year for my devotions. This morning as I was reading through all four chapters again to familiarize myself with the book, I was struck by how often thankfulness, in one form or another, is mentioned. Not too long ago, Owen and I watched the TedTalk above about gratitude (which I highly recommend) so the topic of gratefulness was already swimming around in my head. So this morning’s words of “thanks,” “thankfulness,” and “gratitude” jumping off the page at me was just confirmation (and a gentle kick in my pants) to BE THANKFUL! Here are the verses all put together for your enjoyment and my sanctification.

“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you…” (Col 1:3); “We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.” (Col 1:9-12); “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” (Col 2:6-7); “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Col 3:15-17); “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” (Col 4:2)

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