I Was Shocked and Hurt on Christmas Morning

DSC_0315I was shocked and disappointed…and that was a very good thing. At first I couldn’t believe my ears. I was wearing Ezra in a baby carrier (burdensome task, I know, but someone has to do it). We were in the midst of the Christmas morning magic and I was passing out the gifts under our tree. (That’s just always been my job on Christmas morning) For some odd Christmas-Eve- reason, I had been up till 4 a.m. that morning (Whew, I don’t know how Santa came when I was awake almost the entire night, but he did!) So there we were in the middle of ribbons and paper and gratitude and magic, when I suddenly felt very thirsty. So I looked over that little Santa hat hugged tight to my chest and said. “Hey Glenn, do you mind getting me a drink from the kitchen?”

And then it came from his lips…the line I will never forget: “You get it yourself. I don’t really want to miss this.” Just as calmly and matter-of-factly as you please, he said it. At first, I thought he was saying it with a hint of teasing, you know playful banter, but he didn’t move and his face was expressionless, his eyes glued on the gifts that the kids were admiring.

Then Hannah looked over at him, wide-eyed, and said “Really, Dad?” He just kept right on looking with interest at the boys’ gifts and admiring the books or socks or whatever he’d been given and nodded. “Yeah, she can get it this time.”

Hannah quickly rose out of the middle of that couch and said. “I’m getting it, Mom.” I cannot believe he just said that.”

I said, “No Hannah…I’m halfway there already.” I thought I really needed to go to the kitchen by that time to have a short cry and recompose myself…to try and salvage the morning. But I was confused, hurt and deeply disappointed. Maybe I said something offensive to him? Maybe his psyche was being affected by that chemo-type medication he was taking for that pre-cancerous spot on his ear? Maybe this was a dream and I was about to wake up? I tried to process this all the way to the kitchen sink. Maybe….”AHHHHH!!!!…there are beautiful dishes that are just like my mother’s best china in my dish drainer!!!” They heard me scream all the way to the living room.

And there they were… the beautiful dishes. The china was vintage. It was just exactly like the dishes from my childhood at 941 Lynn Dale Lane—the ones we only ate on when the preacher was there for supper during the gospel meeting…and maybe, once in a while, at Christmas time. My father had given them to my mother one Christmas when I was about two years old. That would have been back in the sixties. And the way he had given them to her was by placing them in her dish drainer and she found them in the exact way that I had found mine. (Many thanks to my sweet sister, Celine, for finding these in an antique store and contacting my sweet elf with possibly his best Christmas idea ever! Celine has the real set from my mother’s kitchen. But now, I have a set, too…and this priceless Christmas morning memory.)

But the best part of the story is that I was sad, shocked, disappointed and very disturbed. I know women whose husbands speak to them every day just like mine spoke to me and there is no surprise or shock when they do. I know women who are quite used to husbands who inconsiderately snap at them, who respond to their requests with contempt, and who fail the tenderness test every day of the week. In the lives of these women there is no shock, no amazement, because it is, in fact, nothing out of the ordinary when they are treated with disdain or, at the least, indifference. The children in these homes, sadly, grow up, never even seeing or understanding what a godly leader looks like.

But not at my house. Praise God that this relatively calm and benign behavior from my husband was shocking. I’m glad it was a moment of hurt and pain—a bolt from the blue. Because you can’t have a bolt from the blue unless you have…well, the wonderful blue! I’m grateful for that little moment of psychological excruciation. I’m grateful to the husband, but mostly, I’m grateful to the Lord, because I know it is the influence of Jesus, the Christ…His golden rule, His example of washing disciples’ feet, His kindness to the women he encountered, His inverted pyramid of greatness, and the Calvary kind of love that He has for His bride…that makes moments like the vintage dish moment shocking to me. I’m so thankful for my Lord, the ultimate loving Husband.

August…the Month of Reaching

CCHeaderNew Blog! You might want to check out Caleb Colley’s new internet journal. Called “Restore” its address is www.calebcolley.com. I’ve taken a look already and it’s not your everyday “things-to-think-about” or “what’s-going-on-in-my-world” blog. It’s a well organized multi-dimensional site that includes more than may pop into your mind when you think of a blog. Categories include the faith page, which features articles about the pillars of Christianity, and the family page, tackling issues about church and family. There’s also a page about the Restoration Movement, an ethics section and even pages that will teach lessons from sports and film. I’m personally excited to see what practical lessons pop up in those categories. I just wanted to invite you to take a look as this site launches today. When you do, you may think it’s your husband who will enjoy it more. That’s okay. Invite him, too!

August…the Month of Reaching

It’s a marvel to me that 24 months have elapsed since the beginning of the first Digging Deep study and the morphing of that small PTP session into an international women’s Bible study group. You’re invited to the brand new study that will begin on September 1st. Details will follow both here and in a session on Tuesday, August 27th at Polishing the Pulpit in Sevierville, Tn. That session will be streamed live for those of you who are unable to be in the room with us. (It will be available Tuesday, August 27th at 2:30 pm EST at http://new.livestream.com/whcoc/for-women.) These are exciting times. Who would have thought we (ladies all over the world) would be able to virtually assemble for His glory, spend time in discussing His will for our lives, pray together and motivate each other to love and good works (Heb. 10:24) as we are now doing! This study most certainly exponentially builds faith. That’s what He has promised (Romans 10:17). And Faith IS the victory that overcomes the world.

Faith is only alive when it is working, though. That’s why our assignments in August each year are reaching assignments. August is the month in which we use our spiritual nerves. I mean we put what’s in our spiritual brains (the faith we have acquired from study) into our hands, arms. legs and feet. We write notes, cook meals, wash dishes, have heart-to-hearts and we WORK. This year we are working to restore, in the spirit of meekness, those around us who may be struggling to be the sanctified people of God (Gal. 6:1). In case you are not a part of the study, here’s what August looks like. (Of course, we all are working year round. If we weren’t, we would be pretty backward believers! But August is our month of study application. It’s the most hands-on part of our Digging Deep year.) Here’s this month’s assignment and one final note:

Read the book of I Peter this month, memorizing chapter 2, verses 9-11. Make a note of each time suffering or trials or pain is mentioned. See if you can also make a list of promised benefits of suffering. Does suffering sanctify us? Give scriptures to prove your answer. How does suffering allow us to be partakers with Christ? When we are partakers with Him, we are sanctified!

The challenge for August is to reach out to someone who may be struggling in their attempts to leave the world and be holy. Perhaps it is a teen girl in your congregation who is peer dependent. Perhaps it is a young mother who thinks an awful lot about the acquisition of this world’s goods. Perhaps it is a brother who is tempted by alcohol. Perhaps it is a business person who is constantly away from his family. Choose one or more of the following ways to encourage holiness in the body where you are. If this is hard for you, remember that it’s the hard things that help us to be partakers with the Christ!

1. Write a letter to a younger woman and tell her that you are praying for her daily as she faces the rough decisions of her school or workplace. Tell her you are “here for her” when she needs encouragement.

2. Ask a weaker member of the body to have a weekly study with you about sanctification. You should be ready for this.

3. Make a phone call to someone who is haphazard in attendance to let her know she is missed and ask if she’s okay.

4. Purchase a Christian parenting book written by one of our faithful brothers or sisters for parents who are struggling to bring their young children up in the ways of the Lord. Write a sweet note in the cover and tell them you are appreciative of the way they are trying to be godly parents in this tough world.

5. Purchase a book about teen purity for a struggling teen in your congregation. Ask her to read it and then get together with you at the coffee shop or at your house to talk about how she liked it.

6. Sit beside someone at services who is struggling with a sin problem. Let him or her know that you are keeping him/her in prayer.

7. Have a ladies prayer group meeting in your home and just pray, pray, for the sanctification of the body.

8. If your congregation is one which does not practice the withdrawal of I Corinthians 5, go to your elders, or humbly ask your husband if he would be willing to go to them and meekly ask them to help you win back those who are in sin by faithfully practicing this command. Godly elders will respond well to a kind spirit of obedience.

9. Purchase a book about future church leadership to give to one or more boys in your congregation to help insure faithful leadership for the sanctified body in the year 2035. This could be a gift that keeps on giving!

10. Read Galatians 6:1 and decide another approach you will take this month to try and restore the one who is overtaken. Remember to wear the spirit of meekness.

One final note. I began this month by having a serious discussion with Sister A in Congregation X, who just cannot bring herself to be friendly with Sister B. Due to some real or imagined injustices of the past, Sister A will actually move away from me if Sister B walks up to converse with me. As I think about our study of I Peter this month and the suffering of sanctification, I am saddened that anyone, having been cleansed by the sacrifice of the cross can be so brazen as to reject the relationship offered to us in Jesus without being willing to even sit down and discuss the breach of fellowship between sisters. I challenged Sister A to go home and read the bottom of Romans 12 and just see if she could fit her behavior into that chapter in any way. Even if Sister B is her enemy, there is certainly a prescription in Romans 12 for how to respond to ill-treatment and that prescription is NOT to stop speaking to an enemy. I told Sister A that I would be praying for her as she re-evaluates this conscious decision to avoid a sister.

“You just do not understand,” Sister A said. “I am not going to be mean to her, but I am just not going to put myself out there for her to start being friends with me again and then try to take advantage of me.”

I just had to think about Christ…the one who “put Himself out there”. He put Himself out there in the garden…I mean out there all alone sweating drops as blood. He put Himself out there in that mock trial as Peter was denying Him by that warm fire. He put Himself out there at Golgotha–out there where all the sin of all the ages of all the world was on His bleeding back. He put Himself out there for this body–for this family–in which Sister A can’t put herself out there for Sister B, because she is afraid her “feelings will get hurt again.” Really?

Let’s be about making a step in August to try to restore relationships. Decide you can don the spirit of meekness this month and reach out to restore. Restore your own will to be all about His glory every day. Encourage restoration in a weak sister. Bolster one in your local congregation who is struggling every day to be what God wants her to be. Go to the “Digging Deep for Encouragement” page on Facebook and pray for the sweet souls there who have asked for prayers for strength, for studies being conducted, for healing and for wisdom. If you are willing to share with us your strategies for restoration this month, send me an email or a Facebook message, so that we can encourage each other and share good ideas for helping each other be holy women for Him. Let’s pray that our reach this August will be a reach all the way into eternity. It’s possible though Him!

Are You a Pouter?

imagesDo you ever have evenings at home when you and your husband don’t speak to one another?  Someone’s feelings were miffed because of some slight or some frustrated statement. A few misunderstood statements have been exchanged. Maybe there was no explosion or anger, but still, there’s something in the air between you. You are distant and cool. At least one of you is pouting. Pouting wasn’t likely an effective strategy when you were trying to get your way as a kid. Practiced in adulthood, it’s both ineffective and damaging to relationships.

 My very good friends, Bud and Lucille, were happily married for about thirty-five years. Little did Bud know that night, when he kneeled beside the bed and prayed with Lucille, that she would not awaken in the morning. Following the prayer, he leaned over and kissed her, they exchanged “I love you”s  and went to sleep. It was just a regular night. It was only the next morning when Bud brought Lucille her coffee in bed, that he discovered her spirit had left. He just slowly sat down beside her and said, “Oh Lucille, you’ve gone on and left me.”

 All of our nights should be like this…just regular nights. One day someone will leave someone and we don’t know which regular night it might be. But surely all of us would want it to be a night like this. There is wisdom in the words of Ephesians 4:26: Let not the sun go down on your wrath. I would add: Don’t let the car leave the garage on your wrath. Don’t put the phone receiver down on your wrath. Don’t close an email on your wrath. One day not so long ago I met my  good friend, Cindy, at the hospital moments after her husband had been in a wreck on his way home from work, only to agonize with her as the hospital personnel brought the wedding ring from his finger and gave it to her. From there we went to tell her children that their father had died. It was one of the worst days of my life. Cindy bravely faced the realities and was amazingly strong as we told the children. As tough as things were that day for her, they were not nearly as unbearable as they could have been had there been problems in their relationship as he left the house that morning. But our God shields us, as His children from the biggest pains of life and death. When we are doing life and marriage His way, the biggest of burdens are blessed with peace and hope. Not only do we live prepared for the worst eventuality, but the everyday living is blessed with peace and serenity as well. It takes effort, but daily pout resistance pays big dividends.

A Mother’s Day Card Challenge

I got a Mother’s Day card a few days early this year. But it has encouraged me over and over during the past week. In fact, it was such a blessing to me that I wanted to share it with you.

The front of the card said “Is it true that all daughters become their mothers?” Then I opened it and read this: “I sure hope so. Happy Mother’s Day.”

I have gotten a card much like this from my daughter every year (only Hannah’s are usually pretty funny and a bit sarcastic–I love them!). What is different about this card is that it was not from either of my children. At the bottom of this card was this closing greeting:

To my spiritual mother in Christ–
I’m so thankful for all you have taught me!
Amber Gilreath

Now, I am humbled by this because while there are lots of worthy spiritual mothers, I’m so flawed–daily flawed–that I have a tough time being the example to my own kids that I want to be, much less to those who could be looking to me from other biological families. The point is, Amber is looking–to me, to ladies in her congregation, to her sweet mother-in-law–for strength and teaching and encouragement. Older women in the body have never had a greater Titus 2:3-5 burden than we do today. There has never been a greater need to strengthen and guide younger women than we find in our churches right now. When I think about the sin they daily face in work places, the cultural expectations to disrespect their husbands and neglect their children, the barrage of materialism and the constant pull of worldliness, I feel for their spirits, worry about their souls, and fear for their children. I know God has challenged older women of 2012 in a very practical way in Titus 2. We are part of the answer to the problems of the kingdom in our day. So why are we falling down on this job of teaching younger women?

I think there are several reasons. One is that, although we are faithful women, we feel unworthy and unqualified to teach. Secondly, we sometimes feel our advice or guidance is not enlisted or welcomed by younger women. Thirdly, we are not the faithful older women described in Titus 2:3 (holy, not false accusers, etc…); thus we truly are unqualified to be teachers.

Whatever the reason for our failure, I hope to challenge older readers to do better at fulfilling Titus 2. While the command to teach does not require us to be public speakers, it does require us to be teachers. It is required–not suggested– and the nature of the teaching is outlined specifically. Truth is, I don’t get to choose whether or not I teach, no matter the difficulty involved, and I don’t get to choose what I teach. It’s all there. Even more sobering, God specifies a dire consequence of our failing to teach. The Word of God will be blasphemed.

I know I have often failed at teaching the “good things.” I have often failed at even living the “good things.” But Amber made me want to try harder. She made me want to encourage others to try harder. So I am sending a card like the one Amber sent to me to an older woman in my life who has impacted me to be a better wife and mother. I hope you will, too. In some small way, we could bless our congregations for their future generations if we could each encourage one older woman to stay the course of teaching the younger women.

The aged women likewise, that they be in behavior as becomes holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things;
That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children,
To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed (Titus 2:3-5).

Questions and Answers – Very Personally Speaking


My husband and I have been married for a little over 2 years. My problem is that I just am not very much “into” sex. I need to be romanced and my husband just isn’t great at romance anymore. He was very romantic while we were dating, but somehow it has just sort of slowly disappeared from his personality.

Anyway, my problem is, I never want to (except maybe once or twice a month)  have sex with him. It’s surely nothing he can help. I just don’t particularly enjoy it. It’s not that I’m not attracted to him because I am. It’s like I can’t get my mind to think sexually. I want to be one of those wives who is all about it and willing and actually really wants sex, but I’m not. I try to give it to him anyway, but I want to want it. Is there something wrong with me?

Do you have any suggestions for me? This is affecting our marriage because, when we have sex infrequently, we seem to argue more. I just don’t know what to do anymore. I don’t know what is wrong with me.

Any advice would be appreciated!


Well, let me first of all say that I am 99 percent sure that there is nothing wrong with you. However, it may still be a good idea to discuss this with your OB-GYN and be sure. Having said that, let me add that this is very commonly expressed by Christian women and I remember when we were in our early years….Kids were keeping me up all hours and the money was tight, so we did not go out for many meals. Our work was demanding and we lived far from parents, so I sometimes felt like sex was the last thing I needed on top of everything else that was going on. Of course, it is very different for men. We must, and I know you do, realize that sex is a very real need for husbands. It is something like hunger, itself. It builds and builds to the point of really physically gnawing at him if he is deprived. He is far more likely to be tempted to lust and to view pornography if he is deprived for long at a time. It is not a choice that he feels this way. It is the way God made him. It is a really good thing, because, for God’s men, it draws them to be intimate and to depend on their wives for fulfillment, just as the wife should depend on him for physical sustenance. It makes the relationship cohesive as well as intimate. God knew what he was doing. While, at our best, we enjoy and look forward to sex, I doubt that any of us NEED it in the same way our men do. It’s really important, too, for you and me to realize that the affirmation of our WANTING to be with our guys sexually is a huge part of their manliness. It is a really big part of what makes them feel like the men of their homes…that they are needed, wanted and on their game. It affects their performance in their jobs, their church work and their parenting. I know you know this, too, but, of course, Biblically, your body does not belong to you. It is his and the frequency of your sex should be whenever either of you want it (I Cor. 7:3-5).

Only when you are in happy compliance with this biblical principle will you even start to find the joy God wants you to have in the marriage bed. So you start there and then you work on growing to love sex. Get a good book to read together. You (the woman) should choose it since some of the books in the “better sex” section are pornographic. Some good ones are “Sheet Music”  (Leman) or “The Gift of Sex” (Penner) (although this is not a blanket endorsement of either).  Then you try to be the initiator at least once a month. Try to be happy when he is the initiator. If there is a time when you really are just too tired or ill, let him know that if he can wait till __________, then you can make it worth his wait! Just make yourself happy doing this for now because you know God wants you to grow in the appreciation of this part of His wonderful gift of marriage. Soon there will be more times when you really will look forward to it. Try to work toward a point when you can tell him which touches specifically are pleasurable to you. Try to do funky things (like making up code language for sexual messages so you can say them to him in public, in Song of Solomon fashion –or sending a message about “later tonight” in his fb message box.)

Now, having said that, I must say this also. Just as the sexual part of intimacy may not be so easily appreciated by you, the romantic part of intimacy seems a little more awkward for the man, so be patient with him. He thinks that, since he is bringing home the bacon, and attending the welfare of the family, that you should obviously know that he is attracted to you, loves you like crazy, and that all the romance is wrapped up in the service to you and family. Of course, if he only knew that a little (okay, a lot) of… let’s say…less practical romance on all the days (not just the ones when he is thinking sex is going to happen) could do so much to enhance your view of him and his advances, then he would make the effort to be more creative, more thoughtful and, in general, more romantic. Remember, though…your happily wanting sex cannot be dependent on his romance. He must remember that his thoughtfulness and kindness to you (romance) cannot be dependent on your excitement about sex. You both do it because you want to please God and each other. You make an EFFORT to do the right thing because you want to please the other. And then, reciprocally, YOU will get the reward for making his sexual pleasure your priority. I can almost guarantee you will come to enjoy it. HE will be rewarded for being romantic…and he will come to like being romantic. Now, if you haven’t already done so, try to read “You’re Singing My Song” together and, if at all possible, try to attend one of our seminars together. The seminars have a very practical session to teach men how to be romantic.

One more thing. Treat your husband the way you would want your little boy to be treated one day by his wife. Be the kind of wife you would want his wife to one day be. I love my son so much. I want his needs to all be filled and I want her to do it with joy, because I want my grandchildren to grow up in a household of peace. You are so right. You keep sex to a minimum for a while and you will keep arguments to their max. By your simply seeking the answers to these issues in your marriage, you have led me to believe the problems will find resolution. You WANT to fix this and that’s the most important element in the fix. Also, you should pray separately and together about this. God can do anything. You know that!

In A Word…

Well, it was a sad evening for the girlfriend. She texted her mom from her pity party at her cold and lonely apartment in the quiet west Tennessee town. “Well, I drove all this way and I’m within thirty minutes of the boyfriend’s house and he doesn’t even want to see me.”

“Oh, I’m sure he does,” the mom encouraged. “His family will invite you over. They know you’ve driven all that way just to meet his grandma.”

But the evening wore on. She watched a movie all by herself and ordered herself a pizza and cleaned like crazy till the apartment was cleaner than it had been in months. It was approaching midnight. Still, she was alone and the phone wasn’t ringing. It had been hard for her to leave her own family to go meet the grandma from up north—the grandma who rarely ever came. But she was in love with this guy and he wanted–at least he sounded like he wanted–her to be there. So she set out, the roads still a bit icy from the first Alabama white Christmas in over a hundred years. She was on her way to meet the grandma. She knew the boyfriend would be pleased…and surprised, since she never actually told him she would come.

Her mom, her dad and her brother, back home, had been watching a new movie someone had gotten for Christmas and playing with the new Wii and checking facebook every few minutes to see if she had arrived safely…and missing her.

It was earlier in the evening when she got the text. She was in northern Mississippi, only a little over an hour from her boyfriend’s house when she picked up the phone… “Grandma changed her plans,” the boyfriend said. “She’s not coming today after all.”

Well, the girlfriend was disappointed, but not deterred. (After all, there was someone else besides the grandma that she was excited to see. Though the boyfriend had spent the better part of the holidays in Alabama with the girlfriend, who had a couple of weeks off from her school teaching job, and with her family, he had gone back to spend Christmas Eve with his own family. The four days since they had parted had seemed an eternity for the girlfriend. The boyfriend, upon learning that she was almost there, was extremely apologetic. “I am so sorry that you have driven all this way to meet my grandmother and she’s not even coming. I feel so bad having taken you away from the time with your family. I am so sorry.”

So she said, “Well, that’s okay. I’m sad I’ve missed her. I will just keep driving till I get home. I’ve got lots of stuff I can do there. I need to clean and I might go by school and catch up on schoolwork.”

That was the boyfriend’s cue to invite her over to eat homemade pizza with his family and watch old movies and play games and, in general, be in the warmth of holiday merry-making. But when she hung up the phone, she was resigned to the awful truth that no such invitation was forthcoming. She tried to get a grip on how she felt about this as she drove on to her apartment. It appeared she would be only a few minutes from the boyfriend, yet she would spend the holiday evening at the little duplex—all by herself. She felt a tear stinging her cheek. Perhaps she cared more about seeing him than she should. Maybe the relationship was a little one-sided. After all, she had just driven over three hours to be the loyal girlfriend and he was having a jolly time with his family while very much in her absence. Perhaps, this relationship wasn’t going anywhere. Perhaps she should just resign herself to that bleak truth. Perhaps, although she’d invested a real part of her soul…perhaps this was the omen–the wake-up call she needed. And maybe this was the beginning of the end.

Meanwhile, at the boyfriend’s house, the festivities were happening. The boyfriend’s family had a really fun evening. They were a pretty tight-knit family. They loved being together. Every now and then, the boyfriend’s dad would say, “I sure wish the girlfriend was here.” The boyfriend would smile and say “Yeah, me too.” But what was he really thinking? “Why on earth ISN’T the girlfriend right there in the merry middle of the pizza party/game night?”

“Why? Why would she drive all that way and then turn around and go back home just because my grandma isn’t coming? I just don’t get it. Obviously I care much more for her than she does for me. She was practically here…I mean just a little over an hour more and she would have been right here with me. She would be opening presents… that wonderful Fossil bag I got her, that silver bracelet and that antique box and that Happy perfume. But no. The truth is, she wasn’t coming to see me. Just because Grandma couldn’t come, she turned right around and went back home. She was just coming because she thought it was some sort of duty to meet my grandmother. I have her Christmas presents, my family would love to see her…I love that girl. But she’d rather turn around and drive three hours back home to her family than to spend a few hours with me. “

The girlfriend texted her mom as she put the left-over pizza in the almost empty refrigerator. “I am miserable. I’m too stubborn to call him up and tell him what he should be saying, but I am so disappointed that he can’t figure it out himself.” And so the evening wore on. A lonely apartment and a lively house, a homemade pizza with all the trimmings and a one-topping delivery, the lonely girlfriend and the dejected boyfriend…all within a few miles of each other… yet so far away.

How does such a miscommunication occur? It was all about the word “home.” The girlfriend said she was going to drive “home.” The boyfriend thought “home” was where her parents live…you know, the place that had been “home” for her entire life, until she became a school teacher a few months ago and moved into the little duplex apartment. It simply never occurred to the boyfriend that this little apartment, which was very near his family home, could have been the “home” to which she was going to drive. When the girlfriend said, “I’m driving on home,” he felt the sting and paid very little attention to any words that followed that unsettling statement. He missed the part about housecleaning and going by the school. When he responded with an “I’m sorry,” but no invitation to spend the evening with the family, she felt the sting, too, and certainly felt no inclination to further discuss her plans, since his were obviously so isolated from hers.

So, a perfectly good holiday evening was wasted (well, other than the very clean apartment). It was very late at night when the boyfriend finally looked at the girlfriend’s facebook correspondence with her mom:

Mom: Did you make it okay?
Girlfriend: Yes, to my apartment. I’m cleaning like crazy…
Mom: Well I’m really sorry. This didn’t turn out so good. We wish you were here. We miss you.

Well, the phone call to the girlfriend was made very quickly and very early the next morning the gifts were delivered to the duplex, the apologies all made and the holiday season reclaimed all the sparkle it had lost.

By the time the happy ending came, the boyfriend was determined to listen. The girlfriend was committed to clarity about her plans and feelings. Most of all, the hours of stewing and brooding were forgotten.

While this is just a funny story now, some miscommunications cause mistakes that are beyond recovery. In this instance, it was the small word “home” with huge and multiple meanings. Two very different definitions of home were a catalyst for actions taken or not taken and for hurt feelings. But, sometimes people look into God’s communication to man and misunderstand a single word or phrase. One example is the little word “for” in Acts 2:38:

Then Peter said to them “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins.”

There are many preachers who tell honest seekers that the little word “for,” in this case, means “because of” rather than “in order to obtain.” Because of a prevalent belief in religious circles today that baptism has nothing to do with a person’s salvation, it is convenient to espouse that Acts 2:38 teaches that one is baptized “because of” remission of sins rather than “in order to obtain” remission of sins. Before investigating the meaning of the word “for,” let’s make a couple of observations.
  1. Whatever it means, it is VERY important. This is not about whether or not the girlfriend will get to see the boyfriend. This is about whether or not I will get to be with the Bridegroom for eternity. Remission of sins is my desperate need. Without it I will be lost forever in hell. I do NOT want to lose my soul because I misunderstood this three-letter word.
  2. God is not the author of confusion (I Cor. 14:33). Unlike the girlfriend, God is incapable of being unclear. He has revealed His will for me in words that I can grasp and obey (I Cor. 2:13). If I act upon a misunderstanding, it will be my fault, because He is a God of clarity. I really want to get this right. So how can I know what “for” means?
The first indication of the meaning of a word in question is context. Are there some clues in the phrases around the word? Well, for Acts 2:38 there are some pretty obvious contextual hints. The question being answered in verse thirty-eight was asked in verse thirty seven by some people who were being accused of putting Christ to death. These people had just heard irrefutable proof that the one they had crucified was the Christ, the Son of God. The Bible says they were pricked in their hearts and asked “What must we do?” The language in verse thirty-seven indicates that they were desperate for the answer. Knowledge was crucial and Peter answered their quandary succinctly:

“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, for the remission of sins.”

Do you think if these people could have been rescued from the guilt of killing the Son of God without baptism, that Peter would have made baptism a part of this concise answer as these desperate people with pricked hearts waited to know what they must do? Further, do you know anybody who thinks these murderers could have been forgiven without repentance? Whatever “for” means, it is the preposition that ties both repentance and baptism to remission. Whatever is true about the necessity of baptism is also true about the necessity of repentance.

And then there’s the rest of the story in Acts two. Three thousand believers were baptized and the text concludes by stating that God added those who were being saved to His church. Repentance and baptism, joined by the word “and,” precedes remission of sins, being saved, and being added to the church.

Another good way to figure out what someone means by a word is to examine other things the person has written or stated that include the word or phrase in question. Amazingly, the Holy Spirit used the exact same phrase (it’s the same in Greek and in English) in another passage. Here it is:

For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins (Matthew 26:28).

Question: What does “for” mean in this verse? Does it mean that He shed His blood “because of” the remission of sins? Or does it mean “in order to obtain” remission of sins. If Christ died because sins had been remitted, what a colossal tragedy! But He didn’t. He died to obtain remission of sins for us. I would surely insult the reader’s intelligence to suggest otherwise. But whatever “for” means in Matthew 26:28, it also means in Acts 2:38. It’s the exact same phrase.

The third way to figure out the meaning of a word is to examine its compatibility with other statements written or spoken by the same author. Which meaning of “for” makes Acts 2:38 concur with other clear New Testament passages? For our specific purpose, let’s look at some bible phrases containing the word “baptize” or “baptism”. Let’s at least attempt to look at these phrases without glasses that may have been colored by the teachings of a man, the creed of a church or the prejudices of a family belief.

He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved (Mark 16:16).

…and now, why tarriest thou? Arise and be baptized, washing away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord (Acts 22:16).

Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3,4).

For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ (Galatians 6:4).

Baptism doth also now save us (I Peter 3:21).

What is the immediate result of baptism? It’s remission of sins. It’s washing. It’s contacting the death of Jesus. It’s putting on Christ. It’s being saved. To incorrectly end a sentence in a preposition, one could say that’s what baptism is “for”.

One more question: If the old devil, who walks about looking for people to devour (I Peter 5:8), could keep almost all religious people out of heaven by getting out an incorrect memo about the meaning and significance of a three-letter word, do you think he would? Remember, he’s not like the girlfriend and the boyfriend. It is no accident when you misunderstand God. It is a victory for Him.

Don’t let your misunderstanding keep you away from the One you love. Remember, this is more than a pizza party at stake. So much more. Remember, too, if there is a miscommunication, it will not be that God has misspoken. It will be that you misunderstood. And, finally, remember, if you miss this crucial heaven-or-hell concept about what baptism is “for,” there will be no joy, gifts or sparkle in the eternal morning.