A Desperately Needed Picture of Selfless Love

Men and women will naturally love themselves first. Husbands will have selfish ambitions, wives will manipulate. But in Christ, God calls us to live not in the curse, but the blessing.

Many books and sermons exist that describe the differences in men and women. At the same time, our culture insists gender is not binary or clearly defined in anyway. While this is an important subject to deal with Biblically, I will not address it here. This document isn’t about gender differences, gender identity, gender fluidity or gender definitions.

I’m concerned with the Bible’s instructions regarding marriage between a woman and man because that is what is the Bible discusses. (No reference is made to how a man should treat his husband, for example.) Because of this, I will stay focused on this “type” of marriage.

 

“… be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.

Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” —Ephesians 5:18-25

The imperative in this passage is at the place where I began my quote. “Be filled with the Spirit.” It is written in the original language in a way that could better be translated, “be being filled with the Spirit now and now and now …” It is on-going and dynamic.

For just a moment, let me clarify that once someone has professed faith in Christ Jesus, they are filled with the Holy Spirit. However, here Paul is telling us that we need to continuously let Him consume us. The whole of verse 18 is, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.” Don’t fill yourself and alter your own mental state. That self-indulgence is a “wasteful expenditure” as Merriam-Webster defines dissipation.

In contrast, we are passive as we are being filled continuously with the Holy Spirit; it is God’s work. The results of this on-going filling aren’t dulled senses, slurred speech or next-day hangovers. Instead we become more fully alive, encouraging one another, declaring praises to God and experiencing healthy relationships and vibrant marriages. (Reread the passage above.)

The instruction, or rather implication that comes from being consumed with God and not ourselves, is that we are willing to put others first:

Be subject to one another in the fear [reverence for] of Christ. —Ephesians 5:21 (brackets mine).

Single people, children, elderly widows/widowers, married people—everyone is instructed to submit to others. Yet Paul takes a look at wives and husbands here to show us an illustration of our relationship with the Lord. Directly after telling us to submit to one another, he tells women to be subject to their husbands.

A heading is added here in most of my Bibles, creating a break between verse 21 and 22, but this passage is a continuation of the implications of verse 18. Paul hasn’t suddenly switched gears into a homily about marriage; he’s describing what happens in marriage when we are being filled with the Holy Spirit. One result is that women will be subject to their husbands or as some Bibles say, submit to them.

Let’s back up for a moment to verse 21 where we’re told to be subject to one another, again as an implication of our filling with the Spirit. If we subject ourselves, we will put others first and consider our needs secondary to theirs. Practically speaking, it can mean to put our energy, talents, time and even finances towards the needs of others before ourselves.

Getting drunk—or in a broader sense, living in self-indulgence—is the contrast to this. Instead of intoxicating ourselves, we can live truly indulgent lives: generous lives that lift up and meet the needs of those around us. In turn, we not only have the fullness of Christ’s Spirit dwelling continuously in us, we are receiving what we need from others. This is the picture—one of mutually lifting and encouraging within the body of Christ.

Focus the idea down to one woman and one man. The husband is to (out of his Spirit-filled life), put his wife first and himself second. He is to lift her up, loving her sacrificially. He is to devote more of his energy, talent, time and money to her than to himself. This passage even goes so far as to say he is to sacrifice his life for her.

In first century Ephesus, this was even more radical (if possible) than in 21st century America. A man had a wife to bear children and tend to his home. He often had a mistress for recreational pleasures. It was also not uncommon for a man to have a young boyfriend. These dalliances were part of the culture but not of God’s creation.

When men became believers in Christ and began living life full of Him, this Ephesian norm needed to be corrected. So God instructed husbands to love their wives. This wasn’t simply a wedding homily or a sermon on how to treat your bride. It implied stopping all the other relationships and loving her only. It meant truly putting her above all others, including oneself.

In contemporary terms, a husband may or may not have other side relationships, but he’s told work, hobbies—everything he thinks and does—is to come second to his wife.

The wife is to (out of her Spirit-filled life), do exactly the same! Of course she wouldn’t have been told to love only her husband as extra-marital affairs would not have been allowed. In that culture women didn’t vote, attend school, or have any political agency. They were socially and economically subject to their husbands and very dependent upon them.

But these circumstances did not guarantee she was, in the most crucial ways, putting her husband before herself. Since Eve, women have been tempted to be domineering. In fact, this is part of the curse that came upon women as a result of sin in the world.

“Yet your desire will be for your husband,
And he will rule over you.” —Genesis 3:16b.

The desire described in Genesis 3 wasn’t sexual attraction or an emotional feeling of fondness. Women would have a hunger to overcome and control their husbands—to lie in wait to pounce on them like an animal hunting for prey. This is the curse!

Yet in God’s original design, a wife is to put her husband first and herself second. She is to lift him up, loving him. In practicality, she’ll devote more energy, talent, time and money to him than to herself. She will subject herself to him wholeheartedly like she’s submitting herself completely to God.

When a husband and wife prioritize one another, they become a visual aid to the world of Christ and the church. Others can see that Jesus is our loving Savior and believers promote the Gospel of Jesus Christ instead of themselves. While a Christian marriage may not look like this, it could. Marriage will be this if both wives and husbands allow the filling of the Holy Spirit enable them to live as God intends.

This is not a new intention. From the beginning, God states that He created humanity, male and female to rule the earth. Only after the fall did God say husbands would rule their wives, and that is the curse! The pure, original design was male and female as the image of God. He gave them equal blessing and shared responsibility over the rest of creation.

“Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’ Then God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food;’ and it was so.” — Genesis 1:26-30.

As in the beginning of time and in first century Ephesus, men and women will naturally love themselves first. Husbands will have selfish ambitions, wives will manipulate people and circumstances to meet their needs. But in Christ, through the perpetual pouring in of His Spirit, God calls us to live not in the curse, but the blessing.

God Himself enables us to humbly submit to Him and to each other. He gives us strength and willingness to lift one another up. He provides a way for us to live and love as He meant for us from the start. Will we allow ourselves to “be being filled” with His Spirit? I pray so, because if we do, the world will get a desperately needed picture of selfless love.

 

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Songs in the Night

Several years ago, I had the privilege of sharing part of my story in Miracles and Moments of Grace: Stories of Survival. Here’s an intro from the editor.

In June one year, newlyweds Joshua and Sara Schaffer moved to Colorado, and in that sunny state they felt like they were on vacation every day. Early one morning, Josh kissed a sleepy Sara good-bye and headed off to Keystone ski resort. It was the last time Sara saw her husband alive, and the beginning of her tidal wave of grief, as she writes about in her story, “Songs in the Night.”
   
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To get a copy of these many inspiring stories, you can link to the publisher store, or buy at Amazon.

If you would like a personalized, signed copy from me, the cost is $20 (including shipping and gift wrapping, if applicable.) I’d be honored to send a copy to you and/or a friend. Simply email me to request copies at: sara@saraschaffer.com.

Blessings, and may the true Hope of the world fill you with joy today!

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Look Up to Know Good

In the bleakness of winter, God gently invites us to look to Him and His infinite blessings.


IMG_1643“Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?”
–Matthew 6:26

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“I will lift my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.” –Psalm 121:1-2

 

Girl Playing with Snow

You will make known to me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
In Your right hand there are pleasures forever. –Psalm 16:11

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Videos of The Fall Retreat

Last weekend’s retreat in Keystone was amazing. I can’t let you taste Dani’s food (scrumptious.) There’s no way to capture the smell of autumn in the mountains (clean and crisp.) And, I can’t recreate the richness of the fellowship (amazing women of God, each and all.)

What I can and will do is share with you the teaching. The links below are for the first two videos. Three more to follow. Get out your Bible, and let’s go!

Refresh your faith.

            Stand with strength.

                        Know God and be encouraged.

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Watch Session One

Watch Session Two

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“Great topic, fresh new insight and great, deeper content. Loved it!”  -Becky P.

“Sara’s exuberance about the Bible and its teaching is contagious. She makes the Bible stories come alive.”  -Laura L.

“Sara is a gifted speaker. The lessons were both highly intellectual but easy to understand and relate to real life. Truly left feeling encouraged and, well, smarter.” -Shana J.

“Enjoyed the use of the Old Testament. [Sara was] so enthusiastic and brought the Bible material relevant to our spiritual lives.”  -Arlene T.

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You Really Are Not Alone

sunsetID-100186777A couple of weeks ago I gave the following talk at my Wednesday Bible study. Depression is a chronic struggle for me, and I’m thankful God’s Word deals with it honestly and transparently.

If you or someone you know also deals with a troubled heart, here’s a gentle reminder: put your hope in God. He is a sure, definite, reliable, all-powerful Hope. Especially in the darkness of depression, I’m thankful I can rely on Him.

I invite you to listen and read along in Psalm 42. Blessings to you, dear one.

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Something New!

I’m thrilled to announce the release of two new Bible studies!

Now available at many major online retailers including Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com Just search for “Sara Sophia” or click on the links in the post below.

GROUP DISCOUNT: If you are interested in purchasing copies for a group study, please order through me directly at sara@saraschaffer.com to receive a 40% discount on purchases of 5 or more books.

Why Lord Cover Photo

Why, Lord? Discovering God in Difficulty

by Sara Sophia Schaffer

Over 2600 years ago, a man named Habakkuk dared to ask, “Why, Lord?” God’s
astonishing reply holds answers for all of us. Find hope for life’s challenges in this remarkably relevant ancient book. This personal Bible study with questions and leader’s guide is perfect for individuals and groups. If you’ve been asking God “Why?” discover Him through His Word.

 

Fight the Good Fight CoverFight the Good Fight: A Study Guide for 1 & 2 Timothy

by Sara Sophia Schaffer

Equip yourself to fight the good fight of faith through this personal study of 1 & 2 Timothy. Perfect for groups or individuals. Includes instructions for inductive study, leader’s guide and discussion questions.

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How to Stop Hating Someone

She betrayed me.
Others started to make assumptions about me.
Lies swirled and rumors started.
They were whispers. At first.
But then something I said contradicted someone’s conclusions about the whole situation, and the accusations crescendoed.
 
The betrayal stung.
The lies spread like fire.
I was burned. And it hurt.
 
Anger grew, bitterness tempted me and I begged God for help.
He showed me Jesus in the garden being kissed by a friend and then handed over to the Romans.
A betrayal wrapped in affection—twisted, evil, typical.
 
God also reminded me of Jesus washing His betrayer’s feet, offering him mercy until the last moment. And I saw Jesus crying out “Forgive them!” from the cross.
 

And that’s the secret. Forgive them.

Whenever the hurt surfaces, forgive. When a mean comment comes to mind, forgive. When the pain of what was lost returns, forgive.

Each layer, every time. Forgive.

It took time—years—to feel fully free of the hatred and anger. Sometimes I still grieve over it all, but hatred has not won. Love has.
 

Lord, You see every betrayal. You understand the sting and injury that result better than anyone! Give me the ability to forgive. Give me an understanding of the grace you’ve shown me that I might forgive others and live free. Amen.

 
  • Be Up to Know Good: Read about Jesus’ betrayal first-hand in John 13 and Matthew 26 and His words from the cross in Luke 23.
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In a Monday Mood

Four down. Eight to go.

Eight full weeks until school starts again.

Who’s counting? Yep. Me.

But I pause this Monday—another summer vacation day of Legos, playing outside, Netflix, art camp and swim lessons—to think back. (I can pause because of art camp. Selah.)

The first of three months has been better than I hoped. Despite two rounds of summer colds, we’ve had a lot of fun.

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It’s so easy for me to drift into thoughts of what’s next 

that I can easily overlook the right now.

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My six year old learned to ride a bike.

My eight year old has devoured half a dozen chapter books.

There have been countless houses made of small colorful bricks, doll parties, Vacation Bible School and two trips to the local water park.

Both my girls are learning to swim.

And I am learning to walk.

I walk slowly enough to see the crayons strewn on the floor with a smile. Someday there will be no crayons, no living room floor art sessions. But they are here now, and they are wonderful.

A promenade up the stairway to my daughter’s room leads to an unexpected conversation with a brilliant eight year old.

Strolling through a mall, my girls and I stop for a while to enjoy a fountain. We spend almost as much time just being here as we do in their favorite stores.

For most of my life I’ve had a plan. At age 20 I made a 100 year plan for the rest of my potential 120 year lifespan. I’ve set and met goals, run a marathon, managed several of my own businesses and recently have been actively pursuing a career as an author.

But whatever I do, I need to walk. My eyes need to see and ears need to hear what is happening here and now. It’s so easy for me to drift into thoughts of what’s next that I can easily overlook the right now.

So yes, I’m counting down until school begins, but I’m also looking back a bit, and loving my life today.

  • Be Up to Know Good: Read through Galatians 5:13-26 and focus on keeping pace with the Spirit. May we, like Enoch, be those who faithfully walk with God.

Photo Credit: usamedeniz

 

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Dealing with the Shadow of Depression

Depression is a shadowy disease. Recently, it once again darkened the edges of my world.

First I ignored it. Then I admitted it. Now, I’m fighting back.

King David once cried,
“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?”

My cry has sounded more like this:
How long do I have to wait, God?
Will wait my whole life and never know fulfillment?
Why does my life, my very good and very blessed life, feel so small?
God, would anyone really miss me if I just disappear?

In this midst of his mental anguish, David also remembered God’s character:
“But I trust in Your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in Your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for He has been good to me.”

Truth: God is good. He hasn’t been holding out on me. The enemy works hard to convince me otherwise. This tactic of diminishing God’s greatness and goodness is the oldest trick in the Book. The serpent told Eve there was more to life than God had offered her. So she reached out and grabbed more for herself. Bad idea. For Eve, and for me.

Instead of finding my own way, may I wait with the transparency of King David—telling God when I’m stressed and then remembering Who He is.

In shadows, depression, discouragement or whatever struggles may come, there is a way to fight back. “I will sing the Lord’s praise, for He has been good to me.” Yes, He’s been so very, very good.

 

  • Be Up to Know Good: Read and pray Psalm 103. It lists the benefits of believing God, and it’s written as a prayer.
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My $5 for Your Two Cents

Lately I’ve been praying a lot about why I blog.

And I thought I’d ask you a couple questions.

Click here to take a 90 second (if you take your time), 5 question survey.

When you’re done, take a second to tell me in a comment below, and Sunday, June 14 after 8 MDT I’ll select a winner to get a $5 Starbucks Card.

Want to increase your chance of winning? Tweet, share on Facebook or email this bitty blog to others, and I’ll double your chances.

Thanks for your feedback! I appreciate your help. Now, I know you want to be up to know good, so click here and get to it.

 

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