Thursday, May 23, 2013

Why Would God...?

A little more than a year has passed since I sat across the table from two of the strongest, most courageous women I know. They both were undergoing treatment for cancer, fighting the good fight of faith. Today, I would be the only person at the table. Both received the total healing for which they believed; it came in the form of heaven. For one, it came just this past Friday.
These women endured major tragedies, even as they fought for their own lives. One lost her daughter to a car accident. The other faced a devastating loss months before her passing, and as her family grieved her death, they were dealt another debilitating blow. Unrelated, that very day, a two-mile wide tornado left a path of death and destruction in Moore, Oklahoma.
I lay in bed that night, and the only emotion I could muster was shock. Numbness. Is there so much death and sorrow that my heart is now unfeeling? Can compassion run so deep that to experience its emotion would drown me? I can’t tell the difference between a hard heart or one that feels so much it can’t feel at all.
I cried out to the Lord: “How? How do you endure such great loss? How do you shoulder such deep grief? How do you lose more than one immediate family member in a short period of time? How do you lose a child and keep going? How do you face piles of rubble that were once your home and everything you owned and stay standing? What are we supposed to do with all this loss and sorrow, Lord? How much can a person take?”
And yes, “Why?”
I thought of Job. I’m not sure anyone in history has suffered more than he did, and for no apparent reason.
Job was a righteous man. He feared God and shunned evil (Job 1:1). God watched over him, and “by His light (he) walked through darkness…the friendly counsel of God was over (his) tent” (Job 29:3-4). God was with him. He did everything according to God’s laws, and God blessed him (verses 5-25). He had a huge household: ten children, eleven thousand livestock, and servants to tend to it all (Job 1:2-3).
In one single day, he lost it all. As one messenger reported news that raiders stole his oxen and donkeys and killed his servants who were plowing, another came to tell him fire fell from heaven and burned his sheep and the servants tending them. Still another came to tell him other bands of raiders stole his camels and killed those servants, while another reported the death of all ten of his children as they feasted in one’s house (Job 1:14-19).
After losing everything he held dear and everything he owned, Job was struck with “painful boils from the soul of his foot to the crown of his head” (Job 2:7). He became unrecognizable. Even sleep did not comfort or bring him relief. He regretted the day of his birth.
All this happened to Job, “although no violence is in my hands, and my prayer is pure” (Job 16:17).
Finally, his wife tells him to curse God and be done with it, and when his friends show up to comfort him, they do more harm than good. One friend suggests his calamity must be because of sin in his life (4:8-9). He concludes Job must deserve his suffering.
Another friend takes the angle that it must be God’s chastening. “Happy is the man who God corrects,” he states, “Therefore, do not despise the chastening of the Almighty” (Job 5:17).
Yet another essentially tells him to suck it up and repent, because surely his sin or his sons’ sins brought this upon them, and “if you would earnestly seek God and make your supplication to the Almighty, if you were pure and upright, surely now He would awake for you, and prosper your rightful dwelling place” (Job 8:5-7).
His friend Zophar self-righteously asserts, “If you would prepare your heart, and stretch out your hands toward Him; if iniquity were in your hand, and you put it far away, and would not let wickedness dwell in your tents; then surely you could lift up your face without spot; yes, you could be steadfast, and not fear” (11:13-15).
Something we might hear (and surprisingly Job’s friends didn’t cover) is that our suffering must be the result of unbelief. If we only had more faith, this or that wouldn’t have happened. Maybe things would have turned out different somehow if only we had believed harder or more.
Are any of these legitimate possibilities? What can possibly explain a chronic unraveling of the things around us?
What do we do when we find ourselves feeling like Job?
What do we say when someone we love seems to be reliving Job’s misery?
We can learn a lot from Job, as I’ll share in coming blogs. Join me again?
Lord, thank You for the comfort Your word offers when we don’t understand what’s happening around us. Help us to overcome any unbelief as we look for answers, and to trust You even in the midst of our questioning as we become more wholly Yours today.
Shauna Wallace
Holy His
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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Decorating Our Hearts

Boxes unpacked and everything in its place in our new home, it was time to perfect all the spots and rooms that were “missing” something. Armed with lists, sketches, and dimensions by room, along with paint and fabric swatches, I was determined to achieve a magazine-worthy décor. It was a process, but not to worry. I’m a great obsessor! Sadly, when I would walk around my house, rather than marvel at God’s goodness all around me, all I could see was want.

Sometime during that process, I came across Proverbs 24:3-4, and God’s exact word for me in that exact moment drew my heart to home design that pleases Him: “Through wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.”

My focus was all wrong! House in verse three refers not only to a physical dwelling, but also to a family, the people in the household, and the line of descendents. Regardless of what provides shelter over our heads, a family is built, established, sustained, made permanent, and sometimes rebuilt through wisdom, forethought, and discretion. When we use the intelligence, skill, and insight we obtain by reading the Bible and listening to the Holy Spirit as He leads and guides us into all truth, we are able to discern, perceive, know, observe, mark, and distinguish what is necessary for our family to be ordered, settled and secure, prepared, accomplished, and headed in the right direction.

Now to fill the rooms. Rooms in verse four speaks not only of physical chambers, but also of the innermost or inward parts. The part of us encompassed or enclosed within. Our hearts.

Drawing from the same skills of observation, discernment, understanding, and wisdom, our family’s innermost parts are abundantly filled with precious and pleasant riches, which means each of us as individuals are armed, satisfied, and complete with substance that is prized by God. Things He deems rare, splendid, costly, influential, delightful, sweet, lovely, agreeable, and sweet sounding.

Interestingly, the root for riches means “vigour, generative power, physical strength,” probably from ‘aven, which means “ trouble, wickedness, sorrow, idolatry, trouble of iniquity” (, H202 ‘own and H205 ‘aven).  Consequently, the riches with which I want to fill my house (and the hearts within) are exclusively available in Christ to enable us to vigorously walk in the generative power of the Holy Spirit in the face of any trouble, wickedness, sorrow, iniquity, and idolatry.

We are not going to find any of this in a home décor store!

So while my mind was occupied with envisioning a flawless décor, that’s not what makes a house beautiful at all! Pretty things are nice to look at, and walking into a room that is “done” brings me great satisfaction, but I don’t want my home to be attractive because of the right combination of seating, fabrics, accents, paintings, and perfectly positioned possessions. I want its true beauty to exist in the value of what’s contained within the people housed there.

To build a home is to build a family. To fill its rooms – its innermost or inward parts – is to fill the hearts of those within with precious and pleasant qualities and characteristics esteemed by God, not man.

What is delightful, sweet, lovely, agreeable, and sweet-sounding to the Lord? By no means is this list exhaustive, but here are a few things the scriptures tell us delight God:

A broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart (Psalm 51:17);

A just weight (Proverbs 11:1);

Those who are blameless in His sight (Proverbs 11:20);

Those who deal truthfully (Proverbs 12:22);

The prayer of the upright (Proverbs 15:8);

The fear of the Lord (Isaiah 11:3);

To understand and know Him, that He is Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth (Jeremiah 9:24);

Singing, meditation (of the biblical, not New Age kind), and being glad in Him (Psalm 104:34);

Sacrifices (of the giving up self kind, not animals) to and for Him (Philippians 4:18);

Love (I Corinthians 13:1).

Is it time to redecorate? Refresh a few rooms? Address a few heart issues?

We have plenty to keep us busy around my house!

My home is never truly finished in my eyes. There’s always something that just isn’t quite done. I’ve been in my home five years and just last week finally figured out a hardware and fingertip towel combination for my powder bath. Now if I could just figure out what to do on/behind my toilet! You see, as soon as I seem to finally have everything just the way I want it, I discover an item or look that’s outdated, or my tastes have changed, and it’s time to start refreshing.

In the same way, we will never be perfected this side of heaven. We will always be a work in progress as God finishes what He started in us when by grace He turned our hearts toward Christ.

Fortunately, though, the biblical principles we instill in our “house” never go out of style. God’s word never changes and it never is outdated and it never gets old. Our spiritual decorating efforts have eternal value and will always be in style.

Lord, fill our innermost parts with precious and pleasant riches that reflect Your splendor and bring glory to Your name as we become more wholly Yours today.

Shauna Wallace
Holy His

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Salvation Assurance: Perfection or Endurance?

I’m beginning to wonder if my kids are right that I’m losing my mind with age, forgetting entire conversations (or so they say). There is definitely a trace of truth to their evaluation, but I do sometimes wonder if they claim we talked about something simply to mess with me or to orchestrate a desired result.

At the same time, I find myself experiencing moments while studying the Bible or hearing it taught when something I know I’ve seen or read repeatedly before, something that is so simple and apparently so clear to most, and yet it strikes me between my eyes of understanding as if I’ve never seen it before.

This Sunday was one of those times. As my pastor preached, it occurred to me that the evidence of salvation isn’t found in perfection but in endurance. It was a profound “aha” moment for me because there are times when I sometimes struggle with sin (okay, okay, it’s daily) and have genuinely questioned whether or not I’m really saved. If I were, would I still do the things I do? If I genuinely love Jesus and He has done a transforming work in my heart, would I really continue to sin? If I truly grasp what Jesus has done for me, would I take it so lightly by doing things that are in essence spitting in the face of the grace and mercy He’s extended to me?

And then when I read I Peter 1:16, “Be holy, for I am holy,” or Matthew 5:48, "Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect,” I experience a sinking dread that I AM DOOMED!

In my mind, my lack of holiness and perfection must substantiate a lack of salvation. As a child of God adopted through the blood of Jesus, my life should certainly exhibit decreasing works of the flesh (see Galatians 5:19-21 and Romans 1:28-32) and increasing fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), but my imperfect performance doesn’t necessarily prove me unsaved. As Galatians 3:3 questions, “Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?” In other words, our salvation is a work of the Holy Spirit, and so will be our perfecting. Performance isn’t the measure.

There really is nothing we can do to earn salvation – God does a work in our hearts to turn us to Jesus (Ephesians 2:8), gives us the measure of faith with which we respond in belief (Romans 12:3), and then completes the work (Philippians 1:6). Yet, as Philippians 2:12-13 explains, “…as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13). I believe this describes the believer’s life as characterized by fearing God, obeying Him, and repenting when we don’t.

So what about losing our salvation? Can we be saved, but then not endure or overcome, and end up unsaved? I once was terribly unnerved by scriptures where Jesus said “he who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10:22, 24:13, 13:13), or the eight times in Revelation when the letters to the churches indicate “he/him who overcomes” receives eternal life and/or rewards.

The thought terrified me, again, because of my imperfection in following Christ at all times in all things. Then God showed me Jesus’s words in John 6:39-40: “This is the will of the Father who sent me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life, and I will raise him up in the last day.”

God desires that Jesus not lose one of those He has given Him. Blessed assurance!!! To be sure, Hebrews 7:25 tells us, “He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” Jesus is able to save us to the end because He lives to make intercession for us!

When Jesus saves us, there will be a change in us for sure, and He won’t let us go. Our lives will reflect His work in our hearts, and He will continue that work to the end. Therefore, we will overcome. We will endure.

Peace floods my soul. The evidence of salvation isn’t the perfect absence of sin but the continual turning back to Christ when I do sin. The continual return to Him and His ways. The never giving up. The never deciding that Jesus isn’t working and I’m out. Perseverance.

Sometimes we don’t want to hear the hard stuff, yet 2 Corinthians 13:5 tells us, “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? – unless indeed you are disqualified.”

Lord, thank You that You do not desire to lose one of those You have given Your Son, Jesus. We thank You for His continual intercession on our behalf that we would become more wholly Yours as we endure to the very end.

Shauna Wallace
Holy His

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Submarines in Muddy Rivers

Lounging in the guest bed watching an early evening movie with one of my daughters, bickering penetrated our peaceful haven as an offended sibling burst in to report an unacceptable incident. The tattling sister made a deal she never should have, the sister watching the movie allowed it, and the originator now found it to be completely unfair. It was the end of the day, and any trace of wisdom I might have started with was completely depleted.

Numb in the brain, I froze as I contemplated which issue to address – the one sister being a woman of her word, letting her “Yes” be a “Yes,” or the other sister having the consideration to be generous with her heart and reject unfair deals. James happened to pop his head in the room, and when he heard “the deal,” he swiftly and decidedly addressed the offense. He exacted a consequence, and it was over.

What a relief! Yet, at the same time, I felt a twinge of inadequacy. Why did I sometimes feel so paralyzed with confusion and indecision? Why can’t I have wisdom not just some of the time but all of the time? Chatting with James later, I explained how sometimes I just feel like I’m failing my children.

Shortly thereafter, a friend and I were discussing the challenges of consistently training up our children and choosing worthy battles. She and her husband had recently agreed that he would help balance her approach to disciplining their children, and she found his covering over her – his help in rescuing her when she was overwhelmed – to be a huge relief.

It occurred to me how desperately we need submarines in our muddy rivers!

I once heard men are like submarines, while women are like rivers. Men compartmentalize their lives – job, wife, kids, hobbies, friends, responsibilities, etc. If something goes wrong in one compartment, he just seals it off, leaving the rest of his submarine completely functioning. Flashing red sirens may be screaming as water floods the damaged area, but the rest of the craft is dry and fully functioning.

But for a woman, whatever gets thrown in or stirred up in her life throughout the day muddies all the water. There’s no separation. All disappointments, aggravations, emotions, interactions, stresses, hormones, relationship issues, and the like flow into the current. There’s no plucking out a single pollutant. All the water has to be purified!

When “the deal” blackened my waters, I needed James to navigate his submarine into my murky water and start dealing with some of the pollutants! Even though he has to immerse himself in order to get me out, he seems to have this remarkable periscope that gives him incredible perspective. He can clearly see everything that’s really going on at the surface when I no longer can!

God knew I would need him to be my head. He’s the one who set it up that way for our benefit!

Ephesians 5:23 explains, “For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is the head of the church; and He is Savior of the body.” We are to be subject to our husbands, and they are to love us as “Christ also loved the church and gave Himself to her” (verse 25). 

It’s a matter of order, like the military. People are arranged by rank for optimum function and protection. If everyone’s the admiral, there are going to be major problems. Without a clear head of operations to give orders and expect obedience, when the enemy strikes, confusion will ensue. Chaos. Defeat. Bloodshed. Death.

The order in our homes is that the wife is subject to her husband, her head. She is arranged under him. He is her covering, and she willingly, by her own appointment, yields to him. Obeys him. Accepts his admonition and advice. And help.

The good news for us is that right order clears murky waters. The reason Christ loved the church and gave Himself to her, as our husbands are to mimic in their love for us, is “that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of the water by the word” (verse 26). When our husbands love us like Christ, and we subject ourselves to their headship, we are sanctified and cleansed by the washing of the water by the word, which in the Greek refers to that which is spoken.

When James came into the guest room and laid down the law, he de-muddied my waters! He was my savior (little s). It’s a principle of application: James is head, I am subject, and I benefit, just as it is in my relationship with Jesus Christ.

“Is there mud in your river?” James will often ask if he senses I’m overwhelmed or agitated. It’s our code for gauging my state of mind. Am I a happy wife and mommy or drowning maniac?!?! Then he’ll sweetly inquire, “What can I do to get the mud out of your river?”

Husbands, at the end of the day when your wives lay lifeless on the beds of their muddy rivers, navigate your submarines into those cloudy waters and take authority over them mudslingers! Wives, let your husbands be the head. Let them propel their way into their proper place.

Everyone wins.

Lord, help us to submit to Your perfect order as we become more wholly Yours today.

Shauna Wallace
Holy His