Righteousness Revisited

"He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake." Psalm 23:3

Isn't it interesting that such a short and clear verse has so much depth?  When I feel the Holy Spirit speaking to me through God's Word I start investigating.  It is just my nature and my present desire to fully know what God is saying.  That is why I define everything.  (Also why I love the Amplified Bible!)  Definitions are like looking at a word with a magnifying glass.  You might generally understand the meaning of a word or sentence, but you might actually learn something if you take the time to explore the meaning of the word or sentence.

Restore - bring back; reinstate
• return (someone or something) to a former condition, place, or position
• repair or renovate so as to return it to its original condition
give (something previously stolen, taken away, or lost) back to the original owner or recipient 

I discussed righteousness in an earlier post but here is a quick recap:

Righteous - characterized by proceeding from morality or justice; clean-handed, good, guiltless, innocent, upright, virtuous, worthy.

In Matthew 5:20 Jesus says, "For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven."

A Pharisee was a member of an ancient Jewish sect, distinguished by strict observance of the traditional and written law.  Pharisees were supposed to be the very embodiment of righteousness during their time, so for Jesus to expect a righteousness that surpassed pharisaic righteousness, it must have seemed unattainable.  Yet Jesus also says "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him." (John 14:6-7).  So how is it that we achieve the unattainable righteousness needed to enter Heaven?


Now look at the Amplified Bible's version of Psalm 23:3:

"He refreshes and restores my life (my self); He leads me in the paths of righteousness [uprightness and right standing with Him--not for my earning it, but] for His name's sake."

Jesus was the fulfillment of the law, as he taught.  While the Pharisees maintained their focus on the law as the means to their "righteousness" they completely missed Jesus, and true righteousness.  The righteousness that is required of us to enter the Kingdom, is acquired only through surrender to Jesus.  He is the only one capable of this righteousness, and therefore the only way into Heaven and into communion with God.  As I said in my earlier post, this should be a great relief!   There is no striving for some unattainable perfection, no meeting of expectations, no performance that is required of us.  God simply asks for us to abandon ourselves to Him.  There is nothing required of us to receive God's love.  The process of salvation and progressive sanctification is not performance-based.  It is simply allowing yourself to belong to God.  This involves obedience... but I'll save that for next time! Just remember that coming to God and needing Him, have nothing to do with where you are in life or the choices you have made.  The only thing you need to have to come to the Lord, in repentant salvation or as a repentant believer, is a willing heart.

One of those days...

Blog posts are usually reserved for those moments of revelation that come at moments of heightened spiritual understanding... however tonight I realized something that I felt completely necessary to share. I did not have a good day today.  There wasn't really one specific reason for it, I simply woke up in a foul mood.  My foul mood was then received by my ever observant children and then manifested in them as fit throwing, rebellion, excessive crying and mess making.  Thank God I have been given enough insight as a mother to recognize that all these things were a direct result of my original attitude this morning...but that is another post.  Some thoughtful observations lead me to believe that there are a few culprits at the root of my disdain for living today.

1. Stress - I have a lot of homework this week and not a lot of time to devote to it.
2. Self Condemnation - I did not do my pilates Monday and ate more than I should have, there by frustrating myself with myself.
3. Exhaustion - Irresponsibly playing on my new Mac until the wee hours of morning left me with very little sleep
4. Satan - Oh yeah, I am throwing him in the mix. ;) After all, he does like to take advantage of situations just such as this.

So, despite my "quiet" time done amid the morning pleas for diaper changes, breakfast and juuuuice, I was not feeling spiritually refreshed. I was overtired, dreading a day of trying to accomplish homework which meant not accomplishing housework (not much of it anyway), and despite meeting my exercise and eating goals today, still disappointed that I couldn't have a "do over" for Monday.  What I realized tonight however is that all of those things should not equal: grouchy, unattentive, disengaged, threatening, super unfun mommy.  You might be thinking, "DUH", unless of course you have been in my shoes and acted the same way.  So what I am going to take from this lesson is, nothing is as important as the way I am my children's mother, especially for them.  Especially now while they formulate their behavior, and most importantly their role model of Christianity.  So I will fall asleep praying tonight that, when I choose to not do homework tomorrow, I'll trust that God with his infinite grace will help me accomplish it at another time. And I pray that God would forgive me for my ridiculous behavior and bless the time I spend with my babies tomorrow, allowing me to nourish their spirits and exude all the mommy-love I can on them.  And most importantly I pray that I will continue to pray this every day, so that my most important ministry is one that God will see and say "well done, good and faithful servant".


So, part of my weight loss/lifestyle change plan is to incorporate bible reading and journaling in the morning before I eat anything.  Through the youversion iPhone app I found a great reading plan that has me reading a psalm and a proverb each morning. This has been wonderful reading so far and several things have spoken to me.  A couple days ago I came across Proverbs 11:16. 

"A gracious woman attains honor, and ruthless men attain riches."  (NASB)

I was interested in the former part of the proverb but decided to reach for the Amplified Bible to explore the entire verse. The Amplified expanded this verse a great deal:

"A gracious and good woman wins honor [for her husband], and violent men win riches but a woman who hates righteousness is a throne of dishonor for him."

Wow!  All of a sudden both parts of the proverb interested me.  This verse is about behaviour but it is also about the role of a wife within marriage.  Like any other marital reference in the Bible, this verse can ultimately represent the marriage of Christ to the Bride(me and you).  In order to really break this verse down for myself I explored what type of behaviour this proverb was promoting.  I started this by understanding the meaning behind gracious and righteous(since the unsuccessful wife hates righteousness, we can assume that the gracious woman loves it). Here is what I found:

gracious - charm, good taste, generosity of spirit; elegant, friendly, graceful, merciful, refined; kindness and warm courtesy; politeness, propitious(which means favorable)

righteous - characterized by proceeding from morality or justice; clean-handed, good, guiltless, innocent, upright, virtuous, worthy.

A woman who is gracious and righteous should represent all of the above.  Quite a list!  Righteousness is a great theme of the Bible and the Christian walk.  In the New American Standard Bible(NASB) the word righteous and its variant righteousness, are mentioned at least 580 times!  Probably an element of the Christian faith worth looking into.  My research brain got the best of me and did I ever look into it. 

Romans 3:10 says "...There is none righteous, not even one."

If in our own efforts we are incapable of being righteous, how than are we to be righteous?  How can I bring honor to myself and my husband? More importantly, and what I believe is the significant question that Proverbs 11:13 is addressing, how can I bring honor to the Groom, Jesus Christ, who is himself the purest example of righteousness?  Romans chapter 4 really digs into the biblical explanation so I am just going to put it here:

Romans 4 (capitalization denotes the quoting of Old Testament verses)

"1What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? 2For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3For what does the Scripture say? "ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS." 4Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. 5But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, 6just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: 7"BLESSED ARE THOSE WHOSE LAWLESS DEEDS HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN, AND WHOSE SINS HAVE BEEN COVERED. 8"BLESSED IS THE MAN WHOSE SIN THE LORD WILL NOT TAKE INTO ACCOUNT." 9Is this blessing then on the circumcised, or on the uncircumcised also? For we say, "FAITH WAS CREDITED TO ABRAHAM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS." 10How then was it credited? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised; 11and he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised, so that he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised, that righteousness might be credited to them, 12and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham which he had while uncircumcised. 13For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith. 14For if those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is nullified; 15for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, there also is no violation. 16For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, 17(as it is written, "A FATHER OF MANY NATIONS HAVE I MADE YOU") in the presence of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist. 18In hope against hope he believed, so that he might become a father of many nations according to that which had been spoken, "SO SHALL YOUR DESCENDANTS BE." 19Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah's womb; 20yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, 21and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform. 22Therefore (IT WAS ALSO CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS. 23Now not for his sake only was it written that it was credited to him, 24but for our sake also, to whom it will be credited, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification."

Okay stay with me!  I know that is a lot to swallow but this is a beautiful image of Christianity!  To honor our Bridegroom, (JESUS!) we are to be gracious and righteous, however none of us are righteous, but we are credited with righteousness by our FAITH..... which mean that it is our SALVATION, therefore JESUS, who creates our righteousness!  So we must fully rely on our faith and and strength given to us through our Savior in order to even truly honor Him, (and our husbands!)  What a relief!  At least that is what I thought when I waded through all of that.  Who knew one little verse in Proverbs would get me to that.  Christians often refer to their strength through Christ when faced with trials, but it is important to remember that we cannot even fully honor (or worship, or serve) Jesus without Him.  Wrap your mind around it!

Living Waters

As I mark day 7 of my weight loss journey I wanted to share a revelation I had last night.  One of the most important things that I am doing in conjunction with my food journal is drinking at least 64 oz of water a day.  It was difficult the first two days and I felt water logged.  Then as each day has passed since, it has been easier to drink the entire half gallon by the end of the day.  At night I refill my half gallon water bottle and put it in the fridge for the next day.  Last night as I lay in bed my lips were parched and my throat was dry... I marveled at how this was possible given the amount of water I have been drinking.  Being the curious person that I am I hopped on the Internet to learn a little more about water and to make sure I could drink more than the daily recommended amount.  Ultimately I found out that water is amazing and as long as you don't drink a ridiculous amount all at once, you really can't have too much. (Check out the link for an article I read about the benefits of water.) So why is this entry titled "Living Waters"?  What revelation did I have?

"Jesus answered her, 'If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.'" John 4:10

(If you are unfamiliar with this passage of scripture...Jesus is speaking with a Samaritan woman at the well--something a man would never do at that time-- and ultimately offers her "living water".)  So what is Jesus offering her?  If we look back in the Old Testament we see what context Jesus is taking this phrase from.  Twice in Jeremiah God identifies himself as "living water". 

"O LORD, the hope of Israel, all who forsake you will be put to shame. Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the LORD, the spring of living water." Jeremiah 17:13

(And also Jeremiah 2:13 for those of you who are interested.)

Even more interesting is that God identifies himself as a "spring" - water from a spring is pure, unblemished, safe to drink and edifying to the body.  I don't think it is any coincidence that purified drinking water has so many amazing benefits, not to mention on the most basic level it is needed to survive.  No wonder God and Jesus (one in the same by the way) identify and relate themselves as living water.  It is a metaphor that transcends the ages - eternally relevant to humanity. But what is even more special for me in my moment last night was that even when I increased my intake of water to the "recommended" amount - in just a few short days I was still going to sleep parched, my body longing for more water!  And Jesus leaned in close and whispered to my heart - "I am Living Water... you will never get too much of me.  The more you drink, the more you will find yourself going to sleep parched - longing for more of me."  Isn't it funny how - if we pay attention - God can teach us in the smallest aspects of our day?

"For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." Revelation 7:17

The Weight of the Issue

I promise I will be more consistent with this blog... or not. The important thing is that when I have something to say... I generally come here where no one will read it, and "say" it. Either way it is therapeutic. I don't want anyone to be confused by the name of my blog. I am not becoming beautiful for the mirror in front of me... I am seeking the kind of beauty that reflects Jesus when people look at me.

Since I got married I have struggled with my weight. And what I mean by "struggled" is that I was really unhappy with being overweight, which is a mental battle believe me, but really did nothing about it. Once I started having children I didn't really stop, so losing weight between pregnancies wasn't even attempted. Finally after dealing with many other issues, I began to feel ready for weight loss. For anyone who thinks weight is simply a physical issue to be tackled through logical means is, sadly, mistaken. The emotions we tie to eating and caring for our own bodies is really pretty intense.

Before I could even fathom losing my weight, I had to deal with many personal issues. I am sure I could have lost weight prior to dealing with these issues (I did one time, back in 2005). However God faithfully revealed to me that before I could focus on my physical body, I had to place real value on my spirit. Now that I have arrived at the ready to become healthy again, so that I may readily serve my God in any situation, and likewise my husband and children, I am ironically at another start point with God. As I began my journal/food journal Wednesday June 2, it occurred to me that what God was doing through my weight loss had very little(if anything at all!) to do with how I looked.

Weight loss is a training ground...it involves commitment, integrity, discipline, sacrifice, perseverance, and many other characteristics that truly enhance our pursuit of Jesus. I realised that God, in His infinite wisdom, was not interested at all in my ability to run a mile, nor the skill of squeezing into a size 8 again. He was fully interested in taking my carefully sutured spirit and cultivating complete restoration, through His ability and not my own. So as I draw near to day three of this "diet" I give thanks that I am learning real commitment to something that is hard and uncomfortable. I rejoice in God's ever present sustenance so that, even when no one is looking, I don't take a slice of that homemade raisin bread from my sweet neighbor. I am absolutely filled with joy knowing that at the end of this training I will be not only physically able to serve God where ever He calls us, but I can truly be of use to Him because I have allowed Him to be the potter, and myself, to be the clay. And make no mistake that it is by His strength, that I have even been able to surrender myself to being a lump of clay.

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