God & Church are Not Synonymous: Pt 1

I think it’s taken me near 10 years to realize, that despite the Protestant Reformation 500 years ago, most people assume church and God are synonymous. They are not.  They never have been.

It took going back through the memories of being inside the church system to realize I believed it once. It was never spoken out right, but it has always been implied.

When I started weaning away from the church system my brothers had really critical things to say to me over the smallest detail. Stupid things that have stuck with me like thorns under the skin since that time. But I think I get it now. I think they saw the way I acted at or towards church was synonymous in their mind to how I was acting or respecting (or lack of {in their mind}) towards God. Not even that  it was connected, but it was a directly linked together in a full embodiment. If I didn’t mark the sign-in sheet correctly I was mocking God, not the sign-in sheets.

I never realized that this side of Protestant Reformation that there was still such a direct correlation in the minds of the masses of church goers. I mean I know that’s how masses of pastor think. I know the people are trained to associate the two. However, I just didn’t realize how much that is the reality within the church system.

There has long been this thought that if someone leaves their local church building and gathering times, that they’ve walked out on God. For many this does happen, because there is no separation between them.

I can’t emphasize enough that God and church are not synonymous.

Sometimes it takes looking at history to realize, that something that holds a scared title isn’t always what it seems. For me, the most simplistic words that really spelled this out for me was when Jesus said: “If you were Abraham’s children then you would act like it.” (John 8:39)

God judges someone by their heart, what’s on the inside, the true character which we develop within ourselves, our true motives and intentions. God sees that clearly. If that’s how God judges us, is it any different for an institution or an assembly of people?

God knows that our true intentions and our heart cause for us to do all things that flow out of us. All of our actions. The way we perceive people comes from our heart and our inner being. I believe this is also true for any system, corporation, community, assembly.

Now in a matter of speaking, a system has no heart, no inner being. Therefore those who align themselves with any given system become the heart therein. Yet so often we trade our minds & hearts for a go-with-the-flow mob mentality. We create a system to unify and drive us to our intend goal, but often it’s not long before we sacrifice our own goals, our own drive for the sake (health and sustaining) of the system.

I see this is still the reality of something called church. I too was part of  that once.

This is the strange thing about “church”:
It starts by saying that you can have a personal relationship with God. But then the whole time is spent telling you how to interpret God, how to serve God, how to do these things through more solidly aligning yourself with the local “church” and its “ministries”.  This happens so much so, that for those who actually do learn to grow and interpret on their own, they do not become the prize pupils, but instead are consider the ones who need to be corrected, or even broken in.
My husband and I have heard multiple stories like this. We’ve both been in these situations. We know it happens everywhere. It is not an isolated event.

We also know this isn’t God. This isn’t how God works. This isn’t the relationship that God had in mind.

A healthy body works together. Period. A body with auto-immune disease attacks itself. This is not consider healthy or normal. This is considered to be something that is in need of cure and of treatments, as there is often no known cures for many auto-immune diseases. Maybe especially spiritual ones which go unidentified. 

This thing calling itself church attacks itself. Am I to believe that is the resemblance of the body of Christ?

500 years ago (and more) there was something that was calling itself The Church. It was taught that this was the one way to know God, to honor God, to get to heaven, to be safe in this life, to be a responsible admirable citizen of your country. The Church was the guardians to Truth, or so it was taught.

But there arose men and women who disagreed with this thing called The Church. They disagreed that this system was not doing what it said it was meant to do. They disagreed that this system was honestly, openly, freely leading people Truth and to God.
To them the cruelties of the opposing a well-established system were unleashed. There was no mercy for such trouble makers. We are not too far removed from this history.

As a matter of fact, we maybe standing in the middle of an era where history repeats itself. We maybe at a crux of guarding and regarding the sacred words and descriptions back unto their true intentions. System or no system, when a people want to know God and want to know truth, there is an unquenchable thirst for the authentic thing.

Yet we have seen in history that the artificial thing will defend it’s stolen/assumed throne. The price for truth is high. Very, very high. Yet for something so priceless, we’d be fools to settle for anything less than the whole truth.

We can no longer bow our necks and bear this a little further in history. We cannot continue to plow for a master who is not our God. We must consider who and what we are truly serving. What do we truly fear? Whom do we truly want to serve? Are we interested in God? Or are we interested in our own rewards and security?

God and church are not synonymous. They never have been.

But woe to you … For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.
– Matthew 23:13

Not Superheroes, Just Friends

About a month and half ago, a friend of ours confessed he need to turn himself in for DUI. We prayed with him and have prayed for him since then.  A few weeks after that, another friend told us about his agonizing relapse, we listened, and he asked us to pray he’d get into detox. Maybe a month later, a different friend of ours found out his wife was cheating on him and planning to leave him. We were able to be with him that day, and spent the night keeping him company and being available.

We’re not miracle workers. We don’t change the world with our prayers. But we believe this is who we are meant to be. We believe this is what resurrection life looks like. We are thankful for those who will let us know when their life isn’t perfect and they need some support. Not everyone will tell us, not everyone will let us help or pray or sit with them and listen. Not everyone can trust, hope, or call out for help. We are thankful that God has made these friends strong enough to include us.

Somehow, I don’t think people imagine this as the good Christian life. We don’t evangelize (as its known to be), we don’t seal them with cliches, we don’t tell them everything will be okay. We just try to be available, try to pray, try to believe with them.
…and personally I can’t imagine much else to be the “Christian thing to do”.

We’ve never once stopped to think or accuse the devil. We’ve not yet become overwhelmed. Instead we thank God that these fine people have entrusted us with their tough situations. We thank God that we’ve been able to look into their faces, and hear it from them. We’ve thanked God that we are able to pray with/for them, and fully believe God will strength the weak hands and feeble knees. We know they need the prayers. We all do.

My husband and I are searching for a new place to live, and it’s frustrating. We haven’t found an open door, and we start to get a little put out with God. What does he want from us anyway? We’re trying! Then something happens… not to us but to whom we love …and we get quiet. We remember to be thankful. Although our current residence is limiting, and we’re ready to move forward, we are still a part of life. Life is not out there, somewhere, someday, instead…it is today. With all the bad and good and waiting, it still counts as life.

If I have to take a moment to remember this, to think about it, and to let the gratitude sink in, then I’m sure I’m not the only one.

We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, addictions and cheaters, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

And this is why we believe that we are already part of the resurrection life. In life we feel pain, we share heartbreak, we hope in unseen circumstances, we fall and get up again, we sorrow, we rejoice, we try. WE do this together. We include one another in these adventures -which at times seem to lead nowhere- and we pray. We include God.

When saints pray for a common hope, I believe it’s like going to a concert with a beloved band on stage. It feels like everyone is singing along, the crowd is pressing forward, strangers become friends, there is strength in numbers. There’s also that one weird person who has to yell something like “marry me” or “I love you” to one of the band members…but that’s easily ignore or laughed away.
In a concert like this, people are sweaty, smelly, sometimes pushy, close and pressing closer. Some yell the whole song, some sing, yet we all seem to lose our voice by the end of the night. And we love it! It’s like a sign of hardwork well accomplished. Not only did the band get on stage and perform, but we were all a part of the concert tonight…and it was beautiful.

If you’ve never been to a concert like that, you’re missing out. If you’ve never lived a faith like that, then you’re missing it…missing everything.

One or two of these friends (from the previously stated stories), said to us something along the lines of, “I don’t deserve friends like you” to which my husband perfectly replied, “Everyone deserves friends like us.”

We’re not superheroes. But in real life, we are friends to real people. We love our friends. We are proud of our friends.Our prayers for them pour out more regularly than prayers for ourselves. We are thankful for those who have allowed us to journey with them. We know these aren’t just bad times, but these are times where God is working.  We press on, carrying the burdens of our friends. Hoping. Rising…one more time. We will try. Together we will walk through today.

If this isn’t what faith is suppose to look like, then God help us. It’s the best we’ve got thus far.

Walking through Depression

Perhaps all my growing up life I’ve heard about depression grimly. It’s a defeat, it’s shameful, it’s dark, it’s a weakness the devil can use. And I suppose I’ve felt all those things at one time or another, but now… Now I finding myself standing in the midst of a struggle I thought was over, and I am not cowarding to it. I’m standing in the middle of it, trying to understand why it’s back, how to cope, and what is to be learned here. In a sense I’m trying to make peace with my depression now that it has found me again and I am no longer a child. And why not?

Early this year, I listened to a man anxiously talk about “spiritual battle” and he tried to say if you have any weakness in you, you need to pray it away, because the devil will use it against you. I remember for a nano second this shook me, and then I told myself…yeah, that’s not how God works.

God uses the weak to overcome the strong. So why should I fear my depression? Why should I fear my weaknesses?

Hey, I’m not a hero… I feel stupid to have to admit to my husband I have depression in my life. It’s been gone so long, I really, really thought I was free. And I was. I don’t know what this new occurrence is for, so I’m trying to tactful use to for my own humbleness.

I have to talk back to that voices in my head that say to me, “no loves you” “you’re worthless“. The first time I heard (again, but first time in my adult life) it scared me half to death. I was mostly asleep, and it woke me up. Where did that come from? I’m not worthless, and I know that.  I think I know that.

Depression is terrible, but it is temporary. It can be overcome. It will be. I have not prayed it away, because I need to know why it’s found me again. I need to know why God’s people suffer this. And I know…many others do suffer this, and they suffer it like I did years ago when I felt like I was drowning. I felt like I was dying, everyday I lived through it. Everything felt defeating. It was horrible. But that was in the past. This time it’s different.

This time I try to fight by knowing I’m not the only one who struggles with this. I try to fight by encouraging others to fight. My life is not my own. I am one part of a intertwined people, a generation, a heritage, a voiceless sea. Yet we are not voiceless, we can be heard. Our stories can become beautiful, inspiring, hope-filled, courageous, remarkable, lovely, dream worthy.

Too often people fear their insecurities or their weaknesses, but guess what? Everybody has them, and it doesn’t disqualify any of us from becoming great. Or becoming at all. We can still learn, relearn, retrain, cope, and reassess whatever problems come to us through those drippy leaks in our system. We don’t have to ignore or hide them, and we don’t have to display them on the table of shame. It’s just a part of living. A part that needs a certain amount of attention and detail, just like all our other traits, qualities, strengths, weakness, ect.

We can change. We can adapt. But we can do it in a natural and holistic way, that wouldn’t demand invasive reconstruction. We are they who are still becoming and discovering that thing which we were created to be. There’s no need to rush that. Here in the midst of the desert of life God often trains, sends, accompanies, protects, and meets with his people. In comparison to some, this is a hard place, but knowing it’s still close to God, it’s not so terrible.

But in case the sand is blowing your face, leaving tiny irritating  wounds, or the sun is scorching your head and your body feels dry, almost lifeless, or if you’re in the night, dark, arid, mysteriously anxious & vulnerable …I get it. I’ve been through this desert before. It gets scary. But it’s not so bad when you know you are not alone. …and you are not alone this time.

I am here again, but today I am not afraid. I will overcome. I will be a light. I will cry and break and struggle …and I will win.  I will always win. Because I press on to know the truth, and because I fight for more than myself this time…and from here on out, I will always be fighting for more than me. And we…. We are overcomers.

 

Related Posts:
Silent God

Struggles

Hope For Today

Remember Thy Neighbor

“There’s a darkness upon me that’s flooded in light
In the fine print they tell me what’s wrong and what’s right
And it comes in black and it comes in white
And I’m frightened by those that don’t see it”

-Avett Brothers

 

“If you fail to see a problem,
Which I find hard to believe,
Or if you’re hanging on the branches,
Licking honey from the leaves,
You say: The hopelessness of living,
And the childishness of suicide,
It puts a call on my brother, that could never be destroyed”

– mewithoutYou

 

Recently I picked up a renew interested in modern day Native Americans. I want to know what’s happening. Sometimes we get so caught up in our day to day lives that we fail to see where we are in history, or where history has brought us. Whether that’s a on a personal, individual level, or in the grand scheme of things.

In my own life I feel it’s necessity to “check your pulse” once in while. To consider where I am, where I hope to be, what I want to do, what my life has become up to this moment, and perhaps even to consider how far I am from certain things. …for better or for worst. I feel like this is part of being a healthy adult.

In a similar fashion, once in a while I just want to know where history has brought us.

Racism is a foreign concept to me. As many times as someone could explain or some of the origins of it in this country, I simply can’t fathom it’s justification. I have to look at history to even have a concept of why it’s still around. And then when I do, I realize, just like so many other things, racism is only a suffers issue.

It seems like the modern media news is indulging its viewers with more and more propaganda of racism. Seemingly saying its bad, but then promoting it anyways. It’s like when an illusionist has you looking in one direction is preforming the actual trick in another direction.

I don’t understand the concept of racism, but I understand nullification. I understand being forgotten. I understand some people are just mean. I understand a Silent God. I understand pain.  These are things that transcend all cultures, races, up-bringing. These are area where I believe I can sit down and draw in the sand, without out right answering the religious “authorities”.
These are wounds I believe love can heal.

As I search around for some information about the current circumstances of some Native Americans, I came across a continuous mention of a place called “Pine Ridge” reservation.  After seeing it up pop up multiple times, I looked into it a little bit. The Lakota people. South Dakota.

The statistics were bad. I looked up videos, volunteer opportunities, ministries, blogs, whatever stories I could find. (For me this a normal form of study). And it’s only been a week since I’ve started searching through this, but I’m so taken with the stories the people tell. …beyond their words. There’s a culture of pride and of pain. There’s hopelessness and yet severely strong spirit calling for life. There’s smiles and agony. There’s beauty there. It’s like seeing the face of Jesus walking along the dirt paths of Israel.
That Jesus who said “foxes have holes, and eagles have nest, but the Son of Man has no place to rest his head.”  That Jesus who was tried from travel and sat down at the city’s well, while his disciples continued on into the city to find provisions.

The story is so familiar, I know it already. And yet, there is so much I do not know. There’s so much information I can’t find. There’s so much I wonder about.

So much of what I have found is some church that went there for about five days, did some physical labor, smiled at some people, and left feeling better about it all. …Mission trips? In America? What the hell I am missing? Why is this place like another world?  These people are our people. South Dakota is part of the United States of America. These people speak English, and yet a “one week” visit suffices as showing the love of God to our neighbor?

My husband and I have been blessed to have friends in many states, and even a few other countries. We visit those who are closeby when we can, and we keep in contact with those who are further way, because we love our friends. Although South Dakota in the lesser densely populated area, it’s not exactly nowheresville. So I can’t understand why I’m only finding things like “mission trips” to this area. It’s a little frustrating.

But somehow, I think this is a quintessential expression of what we have become in our modern convenience Christian world. Isolation. Scary isolation.

I remember asking a youth pastor, I knew, if he did activities with other churches in his town or other churches in his denomination. And I was astonished when he answered neither.

On one hand, I am worried. Another hand, I just want to go out there, and find out for myself. Do these people really believe themselves to be forgotten more than any other small town area? In a modern world like ours with internet, social media, podcast, telephones, cellphones, and…. mission trips?
I can’t stand the thought of it.

Yet, with the stories I’ve been able to dig up, I wonder if there is something to it. I wonder if there is a historical prejudice that has made these people sit in silence, even though the are our very own people.

I am not looking for social justice (as they call it). I’m looking for the body of Christ to be the body of Christ, and to make sure the needs of the saints are meet. To remember your brethren in prayer; to love one another.
But with so little information available, I wonder if this is happening or not?

The few videos I’ve watched speak of a sorrowful, isolated, people who want to live but have been told there is nothing for their future. I know that’s a lie. I’ve heard it before. I know who tells those lies, and it’s absolutely false.
Because of the severity of the circumstance I have heard of, I believe there is an equal or greater importance to these people. And I can’t stand the thought that they might not know. Would God send me to tell them? I don’t know yet. But they’re in my prayers, and I love them so dearly.

 When I remember you in my prayers, I always thank my God  because I hear of your love for all the saints and your faith toward the Lord Jesus. I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective when you perceive all the good that we may do for Christ.  I have indeed received much joy and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, my brother.
Philemon 1:4-7

We Need Dreamers

We need dreamers.

Sometimes people make the mistake of thinking dreamers are the ethereal, conceptional, all play and no work people. They are not. Sometimes the misjudgment is made that dreamers and idealist are lofty, aloof, pretentious people. They are not exactly that either. Dreamers should also be known for being doers. They are the innovate, world-changing, try-try-again, problem solving people who have brought the world into new leaps and bounds. Often, even for this, they are hated.

To know me be friends with a dreamer is to live in the midst of a love story written about life itself. However a disappointed and scorned dreamer can be just opposite of these many beautiful things. A disilliousioned, I don’t care what happens to the world, mess. When dreamers are with held from dreaming they become the scorners, the scoffers, the do-nothing’s. They become the nightmares that no one else has the answer to, because without dreamers, idealist, romantics, lovers there is no moving forward. There is no picturing a world as it could be. There is no getting up today because hope maybe victorious. Without the dreamers things don’t even merely continue as they are, but they decay because the dreamers are the problem solvers.

We need the dreamers. They dreamers are doers. They get things done. They innovate, they conquer, they vindicate.

Dreamers need support systems to be their roots, not to hold them down from being too lofty or ethereal, but to hold them strong when things get rough up there. …to keep them from slipping in the wind speeds of life that you can’t even imagine (no pun intended) if you’re not also a dreamer. Dreamers need strong, deep support systems that don’t mind get a little bit of dirt on them for the benfit of all. Dreamers need to people who don’t want to angrily cut down their “loftiness”. Trust me folks, life itself we’ll make prunings to any dreamer, but only the ones with good healthy support systems will be the ones to make through those times alive. The rest face devastions that will turn them into something they were never meant to be shaped into.

We need the dreamers, and we need to love the dreamers, …the romantics, the idealist, the lovers, we need them too. People who change the world in a positive way simply because they saw something the rest of hadn’t imagined, these people are beautiful gift from heaven. I don’t want to lose them.

I make not guarantees that I could ever be the strong healthy dreamer to change the world for the better, but at least I’ve tasted enough of it know what this feels like. It hurts like hell (as the phrase goes). And for the ones who make it, it’s worth it. It worth it for all of us.

Dreamers change the world. Dreamers write music. Dreamers build enterprises. Dreamers care for wounded and those who need to be rehabilated. Dreamers love, even when love seems elusive, because a dreamer is compelled to become more than what is seen. Dreamers invent. Dreams scout, draw maps, climb mountains. Dreamers stay home and raise responsible children. Dreamers share their dreams, because maybe you can’t imagine things only going this far and stopping either.

Dreamers open doors for us to choose a beautiful future. We need the dreamers.

Being At Peace in the Deep

Do you ever wonder what your younger-version of yourself would say to you in the situation you’re in now? I do. I probably think of this a little too often.

I was strangely encouraged by Sara Bareilles’ song “Many the Miles” and by reading the book of Job this morning.  I had part of the song stuck in my head, but couldn’t remember all the lyrics to song, so I looked it up. Some of the words reminded me of choice I made when I was younger, and how I set my mind to being a particular type of person. Today I am still striving to be the person.
Sometimes I get frustrated that essentially I am not yet the person I have strove to be. I get really upset with myself, as if I’ve only made stupid choices. I definitely haven’t followed the simple road which has been paved before me. I really think my family would have been happier and more reassured if I had simply stuck with the directions (in life) that they gave to me, but instead I continue to choose to follow my heart and be the kind of person I believe the Bible describes as someone who truly loves God. But ultimately, my husband & I are in a hard place in life.

In this hard place, I try to regularly tell my husband how much I love being married to him. I am very aware that many good responsible people would have never walked down this road of obscurity with me. …but my good man does. We walk together hand & hand. It’s everything I could have ever dreamed of.  We do our best to follow our hearts even though it doesn’t really make sense to many people, and doesn’t always make sense to us. But we are a ridiculously happy couple. Not that everyday overflows with joy, but that there is joy in these times and that we continue to share love is in itself ridiculous (in a good way). It’s everything I wanted to be when I was younger.

When girls are very young, they learn to imagine a sort of “Mr Perfect” and each girl has her own list of qualities, traits, physical features, characteristics that she thinks her “Mr Perfect” should be.  Not long after I learned this game, I quickly came to unlearn it as well. I realized that the greatest thing about being in Love with someone else wouldn’t be many of the petty things listed, but would be someone who goes through everything (ups & downs and all the other obstacles) with me and still loves me.
A few years into married life and we’ve been in over our heads in attempting to actually live the things we say we believe in. We’ve taken something that’s laid out before us, and chosen a different way of doing things. We’ve chosen a difficult road. But you should know… we’re none the worse for it. Needs like money and hunger don’t really compare to the deep peace and apparently joy we’ve found in the midst of all this wilderness.

I can’t imagine there’s anything better than knowing I am still keeping to path I chose in a younger, purer, more innocent version of myself. Maybe life itself hasn’t fully succeed to something I can externally be proud of, but I’ve got a husband that I am proud of, I continue to develop the internal character that I wanted to be from my youthful years, and I am still willing to keep trying this “foolish” road.

Maybe I don’t have a plan for “success” in lot of ways, but somehow I really believed things like, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added until you.”  I believed when I read in Deuteronomy how we should strive not to be in debt or take out loans, and how we should care for one another. I believed when the book of Acts say “and they were like family”  and how it relates directly back to book of Deuteronomy. I believe Jesus when he says that world treasures only have value here & now and how we should work for things that don’t perish.

I don’t have a lot to show for my life. I am not an impressive person. But I am proud that I am continuing to grow up into becoming the type of person that my younger-self would be proud of. It means there’s something simple & innocent that I haven’t lost yet. It also means, that even if my husband & I don’t figure out external things in life, we might still have some success in who we are anyways.

This is the adventure of a lifetime.

as long as my breath is in me
    and the spirit of God is in my nostrils,
 my lips will not speak falsehood,
    and my tongue will not utter deceit.
 Far be it from me to say that you are right;
    until I die I will not put away my integrity from me.
I hold fast my righteousness, and will not let it go;
    my heart does not reproach me for any of my days.

As for the earth, out of it comes bread;
    but underneath it is turned up as by fire.
Its stones are the place of sapphires,
    and its dust contains gold.

 That path no bird of prey knows,
    and the falcon’s eye has not seen it.
 The proud wild animals have not trodden it;
    the lion has not passed over it

Where shall wisdom be found?
   And where is the place of understanding?

Where then does wisdom come from?

    And where is the place of understanding?
 It is hidden from the eyes of all living,
    and concealed from the birds of the air.

Truly, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom;
    and to depart from evil is understanding

Job 27:3-6
Job 28:5-8
Job 28:12
Job 28:20-21
Job 28:28

Proverbs 31: the Last Great Mystery

Here’s a phrase that causes my hair to bristle down my spine (so to speak), “An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.

Really it’s cute little phrase, however I believe it’s highly misdirected. Women are often told this is the standard for them to live up to. This is the stigma for what wife really ought to be. Just so we’re clear: It’s not.

Actually I have no idea how anyone reads the previous 30 chapters of Proverbs, a book of wisdom, parables, & idioms, and then comes to chapter 31 and suddenly it’s suppose to be freakishly literal? OR… maybe there’s something we’ve missed? (like maybe the previous 30 chapters of Proverbs and their writing style)

How about we take a chance to talk a little bit about how Proverbs 31 isn’t about a woman or all women, but it’s about the church, the Bride of Christ? How about talking about the beautiful poetry and idiom used in Proverbs 31 to hide God’s wisdom from those who call themselves “wise & insightful” and authors, but instead revealed it to the least of these, “the lost generation” …me… maybe you? Maybe whoever is willing to consider these things without looking for a quick & cheap version. Whoever has the time to read all 31 chapters of Proverbs and therefore has built insight and humbleness, so that they can have their hearts ready for the most outstanding mystery of all: the church.

“She is far more precious than jewels.”
Jesus seems to come across the issue of money and what to do with it rather frequently. Strangely enough I don’t think Dave Ramsey or any other “money saver”, budge-lover is going to quote much of Jesus.  When Jesus says cool things like,
I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings
or
So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?
or
No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
It’s very different approach than the most trusted name-brand Christian teaching, which is elapsed in weirdness by the fact the Proverbs 31 say of the Bride of Christ that “she” is more far more precious than jewels. …or riches or wealth or money or the pathetic things we usually (even if secretly) find our own worth in it.

Yet it starts to make sense that “she” is more far more precious than jewels, when you think of Jesus saying, “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
or
God’s kingdom is like a treasure hidden in a field for years and then accidentally found by a trespasser. The finder is ecstatic—what a find!—and proceeds to sell everything he owns to raise money and buy that field.
Indeed these are the description of things that are much more precious than jewels! This dedicate you’re whole life, get-down-on-your-knees goodness. This is the church, the Bride of Christ, uniting with Christ and bring the Kingdom of God upon the earth. St Paul calls this a “profound mystery” the uniting of the church & Christ. Indeed, although weaves a beautiful pattern to make it clear throughout the whole Bible, we rush pass the big picture to find “what can I get out of this” and certainly such an attitude will not bring us to being united with anyone or anything. Yet we’re here now, let’s consider a few things.

One of my favorite phrases in Proverbs 31 is, “She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens
This isn’t about being a workaholic. This is about the church who finding itself in dark times arises and becomes that which she was always made to be. Often many modern “fundamentalist” consider the first many chapters of the book of Acts to be the image of what church is suppose to be. Ironically, this “first century church” is really just the Deuteronomitcal church, mean that is what God’s people were told to be back in the book of Deuteronomy. It isn’t a new pattern, but a solid classic pattern of who God’s people were always meant to be. That’s probably one contributing reason why it really took off at that time. It was probably the most Hebraic thing those Jews had ever seen! And in a world where the Roman/Greek culture was threatening the stability of Jewish culture at all, it must of been some crazy revolution to start being truly Hebraic at that time. A really back-to-the-roots kind of moment!

One time someone pointed out to me how in the stories of Jesus life they always have these phrase “then the next day Jesus went here” “then the next day” “then the next day”  but when Judas betrayed Jesus suddenly the authors happen to record “and it was night“.  Indeed nothing feels like the darkest times, such as night, like betrayal. Yet in Proverbs 31 “she” gets up at night and does what she always does.
Many of the old preachers get up there and say how these are dark times, the last days, things are getting worse, ect. I’m sure if you’ve had to sit in church for a year or better, you’ve heard these things more than a few times. …But so what!? If we are the church, let’s get arises. Let’s get to it. There’s work to be done.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” -Galatians 6:9-10

She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands.  She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar. She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens.  She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.

She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong. She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night.
She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle. She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.”
– Proverbs 31:13-20

Come, all you who are thirsty,
    come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
    come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without cost.
 Why spend money on what is not bread,
    and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
    and you will delight in the richest of fare.
– Isaiah 55:1-2

This is the image of the church. This has always been the image of God’s people. This isn’t just something God does, but it’s something he asks us to do as the Bride of Christ. Because God is relational, this is something that God wants us to be in on too. Yes God can and will do these things alone if necessary, however we are fortunate enough to find that God doesn’t find it necessary but is willing to include us.

What we do as the people of God is a big deal to God. Jesus makes that super clear when he tells the parable know as “the sheep and the goats” in Matthew 25:31-46. God wants to be in on what God is doing around us, yet we can choose to say “oh that not my thing” “that’s not my calling” and if that’s what we choose God will let us make that choice. Because it is the willingness of our hearts that make “our thing”. It the willingness in our hearts that will make it so that we feel it’s necessary for us to be what God is continuously describing in the Bible. It’s the willingness in our hearts that makes us to see that what we have obtained through Christ Jesus is profitable for those around us. They need it, we got it. but we have it to share it.

There’s this crazy beautiful, poetic, heart-wrenching verse that says,
You (God) will arise and have compassion on Zion,
    for it is time to show favor to her;
    the appointed time has come.
 For her stones are dear to your servants;
    her very dust moves them to pity.
– Psalms 102:13-14

It ought to be the church who is the servant who has compassion & pity about this “dust” & “stones” of Zion. It ought to be the church, because it’s God’s compassion and it’s God’s chosen time to favor his sweet Zion.
And Zion is much more than just the church, but that’s for another time perhaps.

Here’s perhaps one of the most bold and otherwise crazy statements in Proverbs 31:
She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet. She makes bed coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple. … She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant. Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.
I can only begin to guess at this bold phrase.
It brings to mind the famous Isaiah 1:13 which states: “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.

This is forgiveness, redemption, and beautiful freedom all wrapped up into one. It’s like the church isn’t afraid of the dark, it isn’t afraid of the cold, it isn’t afraid of the systems which the principalities can throw-down, because the church (the people of God) are washed clean of this  world’s sentiments and wrapped up in God’s wisdom and Christ redemption. We have nothing to fear in these times, or the times to come.  It’s like this tiny bold phrase is talking about the stuff that the saints and martyrs are made out of. …the beauty of holiness, the tears of Zion, maybe that’s what it means when it say “or all her household are clothed in scarlet“. It’s joy just to read this mystery and consider the deep implications of what we are and what we can be as the Bride of Christ, as the church, as the people of God.

Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land.
I find no way to mistake this as any other great man, than the Messiah himself. The judges always sat at the gates, and of course Jesus is given all authority & power to be the judge of all. Could it be anyone other the he who is betrothed the Bride of Christ, Jesus Christ himself? The reference seems so plain to me.

Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. 
She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.

Again we have a vivid picture of what the church truly looks like. An intrinsically familiar picture that can’t be disfigured by modern systems that call themselves “church” but then don’t apply these same characteristics. The church who speaks the words of God through the wisdom of God that speaks a language that our spirits can actually connect with when deep calls unto deep. And yet it’s not just talk, it’s for real. This something that’s so familiar, even though it’s sadly so foreign in our modern society.

Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:  “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.
This is the successful story, or end of the story, when it all comes together. When Jesus receives a glorious bride who’s innocent & blameless & without stain, as it’s said it will be, then indeed those who are preserved by the perseverance of the saints, and also Jesus Christ himself, may in that day both truly say how they’ve longed for this beautiful occasion to come. This is an opportunity we have in front of us, if we choose to seek God, seek truth, and dwell in the beauty & wisdom of the Bible. Then we might just be the people of God act like that which God has created us to be from the beginning.
…Working together as a people of God, as we preserve God’s words & wisdom by investing them into the next generation, by living them out in our own lives, by working together, and by believing in God’s wisdom above & beyond any great worldly advice or temptation. Then, indeed, that’d most likely be a era where such a proclamation as “Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:  “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all” would be heard. Let’s strive to give God this opportunity, and the kids of the future this opportunity. Let’s not steal from them what ought to rightfully be there, and that being the chance to make this declaration in the times to come.

Indeed we can only end with: “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.  Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.

Again I simply state that God has called us into a working relationship with him. Although God is perfectly capable of running history and the whole Earth (universe really) on his own, that’s simple not what God wants to do.  God wants to work with his creation (you & me) and God wants us to take part in the privilege of setting things right. We can choose to mindlessly go with the systems of the world or systematized “church”, but God has a greater calling on our lives than those wisdoms can perceive. Yet for those who seek, for those who are willing God gives his Holy Spirit to counsel and direct our spirit, and lead us through the Bible, teaching us to be the people whom God has always meant for us to be.

There is hope beyond the cliches and truisms that we’ve been taught, and pray there’s enough life left in us to seek it out, to find it, and to emerse ourselves in God’s words & wisdom. Let’s we merely become a people who keep repeating our forefathers mistakes. …and therein we’d truly become the lost and the last generation.

Proverbs 31 it isn’t about a woman, it isn’t about how women or females should be. It’s about us as the Bride of Christ, the church, the people of God. It’s us being what God has always meant for us to be. It’s possible. It’s different. It’s perfect. We can do perfect when we do it together.

Love & grace,