God Himself is a social being. He, as the Trinity, is three persons in one. And of course He created man to be in relationship with Him as well. According to Genesis Chapter 3, before the Fall He “walked” in the garden with Adam and Eve. Speaking of Eve – she was created because it is not good for man to be alone (Gen 2:18). Later, Solomon would write: Two are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But anyone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back to back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. Ecc 4:9-12. Isn’t God a loving and wonderful Father? He knows us well enough to tell us what is good for us.
Growing up, my dad was a Marine. We moved around like other military families. When I got older people would ask, “where are you from?” That was a tough question. “The South” was probably the best answer. So I developed an easy going nature and could get along with most. That was the good part. The bad part was, when things got tough, I would look for the exit. I was pretty self-contained. I tried hard not to need anyone. God brought me to a lonely and heartbreaking desert experience to show me what it was like to be really alone…for months and months. Coming out of that time was not an abrupt end to the loneliness, or a quick sprint out of that dry place, but more of a painfully slow crawl. On that journey, I finally came to understand in a real and very personal way, the constant comforting presence of God and the relief His love and protection provide. Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. Is 41:10.
He showed me how I could absolutely rely on HIm. He showed me that I was not meant to be alone…not alone in a strange city, not alone in a crowded place and not alone at church. We are made for community. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them. Matt 18:20. It is an awesome realization to know that there is power in gathering in His name. Spiritual power! But also, the same God who gave Adam a wife, Abraham a nation, and the world a Savior wants His children to connect to one another. Not just for powerful prayer…additionally to provide for one another physically (James 1:27, Acts 2:41-47, Eph 5:22-33) and emotionally…Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25.
I will close with something from Wikipedia…y’all know by now that I cannot pass up an opportunity to quote Wikipedia! Since the advent of the internet, the concept of community no longer has geographical limitations, as people can now virtually gather in an online community and share common interests regardless of physical location. So it was my desert experience that made me think there might be others, emotionally or physically isolated, wanting to connect over God’s Word and needing to belong to something larger than themselves – a community. I hope that Girls Growing with God will grow into a community of believers – praying for and encouraging one another.
Just a Girl…just like you
For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. (2 Cor. 5:14-17).
Our God wants us to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4). It is in His character to create and continually renew. The fact that He does this for us individually is so humbling. There is a wonderful book by John Eldredge, called Wild at Heart, where he explains 2 Corinthians 5:17 (…therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature…) in a way I had never considered. This scripture has become one of the cornerstones of my faith now. We get so bogged down in trying to “be better”. We are overwhelmed by our mistakes and we keep trying to “get it right” but never can. But WE don’t have to get it right…Jesus already did that for us. Sin is a constant problem for Christians but we can’t let it be our focus. If we do, we are not focusing on Jesus. What a revelation that was to me! I am a new creature. I can’t conquer sin – Jesus already did that. I am not the same person I once was, but God is not finished with me yet either. He continues to refine me. HE does that, not me, as I abide in Jesus, who said, “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine and you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart form me you can do nothing (John 15:3-5).
God is so good to us! He knows how easily we can get discouraged with ourselves so He reminds us of how He will help us. But He also knows how easily we fall into the trap of thinking we can do it without Him; so He reminds us that we are not to take the credit. Paul says, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world (Gal. 6:14). Only because of Jesus, you are “dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11). Only because of Jesus, you are “born again” by the Spirit (John 3:3). Only because of Jesus, you are able to “be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of truth (Eph. 4:22-24). We are set aside now for His purposes rather than our own. We are meant to “proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but you now are the people of God; you had not received mercy but now you have received mercy.” (1Peter 2:9-10). God calls us to a new life in Him; but He does not stop there; He draws us close and helps us to become the people He created us to be…
Just a girl…just like you
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Cor 10:3-5).
I am starting to believe that nothing is quite as it seems. Like “opposite day” at the preschool my kids attended (they wore their pants and shirts backwards and worked under the desk rather than on top of it, so cute) only it is so much more complicated. We learn, from what we see and hear on this earth, that life runs a certain way. But God’s reality is entirely different: because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men (1 Cor. 1:25). Because Jesus brought us life through His death (Romans 5). Because we ourselves must die to self in order to live (Romans 6:5-7). Because we must become “slaves to righteousness” and servants of the Most High to be free (Romans 6:18). Because it is in yielding to God, submitting to Him, that we are given authority (Luke 10:19). Because Jesus says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”…that is why, for Christ’s sake, [Paul says] I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Cor. 12:9-10). There is a lot of irony in the Christian life! What we believe runs counter to our culture. This is, at the same time, both a problem and an opportunity. The problem is God’s upside down ways really test our faith sometimes…reminds me of the old “Magic Eye” pictures where you had to stare and stare, until you lost focus of what was in front of you, in order to see the real picture (am I showing my age with this reference?). Faith is confidence in what we hope for and the assurance about what we do not see (Heb. 11:1). God gives us opportunity because His upside down ways are so simple that a child can understand; therefore in order to believe, we must only have the faith of a little child(Mark 10:15)…easier said than done – we find it hard to unlearn worldly reasoning; we have grown up and away from childhood, away from simple faith.
But is it “the world”, or worldliness, that we are battling? Our culture, or something more? Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Eph. 6:12). So the battle is spiritual in nature, yet we live in a physical world. Our enemy…is the devil (Matt 13:37-39). The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he didn’t exist (from the movie The Usual Suspects). We don’t recognize him when we encounter him. We usually know evil when we see it in others, but not always in ourselves. Sin is anything that separates us from God or pulls us in a direction away from His purpose for us – our primary purpose is to glorify God (1 Cor 10:31). We must be alert and of sober mind. [Our] enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour (1Pet. 5:8). Jesus says, “he was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is liar and the father of lies (John 8:44). The devil has an insidious manner…he plants lies in our hearts and minds that we mistake for our own anger, depression, fear, low self-esteem, “negative self-talk”, pride, various compulsions and so much more. These ways of thinking and living are so painful, yet so comfortable; they can become such a part of our identity that we cannot imagine thinking or living any other way. Our eyes are on ourselves, rather than on God. We do not see how easily we have been deceived and drawn away from God’s purpose for us. Scripture warns us: do not give the devil a foothold (Eph 4:27) Submit yourselves, then to God, resist the devil and he will flee (James 4:7). Bad choices, bad habits, wounds that won’t heal…yet it is that simple: in a moment, in a decision, we turn. We submit to God. We allow that He knows best. We accept His plan for our lives even when we don’t understand it. We develop the discipline of submission and resting in His goodness. I am still learning how to do this and how to listen to the Voice of Truth rather than the father of lies. It is a daily battle. It is spiritual warfare, but Christ has already won the victory (1 Cor 15:57). Remind yourself to put on the full armor of God today – read Ephesians 6:10-20!
Just a girl…just like you
With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:6-8
Mercy is when you give someone a second chance even when they don’t deserve it – Veggie Tales. Mercy is compassion towards someone who has offended you or who is you consider your adversary (thefreedictionary.com). The world tells you, “don’t get mad, get even” and “never forget”. But God tells us to throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us (Hebrews 12:1) AND a man’s wisdom give him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense (Prov. 9:11). The Bible teaches us that there is freedom in forgiveness. But mercy is broader than forgiveness. Mercy comes before forgiveness. When you are able to set aside your own hurt or angry feelings and instead feel compassion for another person, this is mercy, which leads to the act of forgiving a mistake or a wrong. God does this for us all day long. The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love…He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgression from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are but dust (Ps 103:8, 10-14).
In everything Jesus is the perfect example of how we are to live on this earth. Jesus said, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if your lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be paid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then our reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as our Father is merciful (Luke 6:32-36). But, hello, this is Jesus speaking! Of course He can love His enemies because He is perfect. How can we, who are imperfect and flawed, do this difficult thing? Even Paul found it hard to be like Jesus all the time. I find this law at work: although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from the body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom. 7:21-25). We are called to be like Jesus but, since we can not do it alone, He is there to help us.
We are promised, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come (2 Cor. 5:17). One of my all time favorite scriptures is when Jesus said, “I am the vine and you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart form me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Abide means to live or remain. The only way we can be more like Him is to immerse ourselves in Him. Read and memorize scriptures. Pray and listen to God. We must plant His Word deep in our hearts. God is the only one who can transform us to be like Jesus. The seed planted in our hearts will bear fruit…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22-23). As God changes us to be more like Him, we can glorify Him (reflect His images to others). As He blesses us, we can be a blessing to others. As we become aware of all He has done for us, we are called to a higher standard. Jesus showed us that we owe to others what He has given us, “Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you? (Matt 18:33). We are to honor His name and remember that sometimes we are the only Bible someone else might read, so whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Col 3:17). Remember mercy is the feeling of compassion, forgiveness is the act. We cannot do either unless we yield to the Lord and allow Him grow the seed that He has already planted in our hearts into the fruit He would have us to bear. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart…(Luke 6:45).
Just a Girl…just like you!
I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the LORD your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to HIm, for He is your life and the length of your days; that you may dwell in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them. Deut. 30:19-20
If you are a believer, you are a descendent of Abraham and an heir to the covenant God made with him (Gal. 3:16). The covenant established a special relationship with Abraham and his descendants so that they would be blessed by God and would be His people (Gen. 12:1-3). Later, God made the covenant above with Moses telling them that choosing to His way would result in blessings in this life. I tell my kids all the time, “make a good choice”…or, in some cases, “you made a bad choice”. Good parents set strong boundaries for their children and are consistent in the enforcement of the boundaries. Children must be taught to “choose their consequences” – good choices produce good consequences and bad choices produce bad consequences. Many parents I know say this to their children, including our Heavenly Father (as in the passage above). My parents were very strict but what I did not know when I was young was that my parents made rules, not to rule over me (though they had every right to do so), but for my good, because they knew what was best for me. God is the same way…Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him and He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones (Prov. 3:5-8).
When a child gets off track, a parent must help the child make a correction. No discipline seems pleasant at the time but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it (Hebrews 12:11). Discipline is training. Think of military discipline or the discipline of an Olympic athlete. But God trains us for righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16-17). God wants us to remove our impurities and bring us into a place of abundance (Ps. 66). He promised Moses: The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love Him with all your heart and with all your souls and live (Deut 30:6). He wants what is best for us spiritually over what is best for us physically because His focus is eternal. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my way your ways,” declares the LORD, As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” (Isa. 55:8-9).
God requires more than physical obedience, He requires an obedient heart. He has always prized this: Above all else, guard your heart for everything you do flows out from it (Prov. 4:23). He does not value lip service. He does not want your rote prayers, your comfortable rituals, or your social religion. For the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, their religion was more important than their God…Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly are full of hypocrisy and and lawlessness (Matt 23:27-28). In contrast, David said, “You do not delight in sacrifice or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offering. My sacrifice is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, you, God, will not despise.” (Ps. 51:16-17). Jesus introduced a new and lasting Covenant. My sheep hear My voice and I know them and they follow me; and I give eternal life to them and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of my hand (John 10:27-28).
True obedience in not something you do, it is something you decide, and then do. Your obedience does not start in your actions, but in your thoughts. I want to challenge you this week to submit to God’s authority over you. Allow Him to be the Lord of your family, your time, your finances, your health and your heart (plus more!). Commit to surrender, then you are ready to obey.
JustAgirl…just like you
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid (John 14:27). Joyce Meyers, a great speaker and writer, says many times Christians go through life searching desperately for peace when He has given it to us already. In the verse above, Jesus bequeathed peace to us…He left it to us as an inheritance, as children of God. It is like money in the bank…and yet we live like paupers sometimes – no peace, no joy, no hope. To me, peace is about surrender. Think of it: when there is conflict (political, military, personal) there must be one side (or both) who gives in or surrenders in order for peace to come. It is the same way with us. We like to think we have some semblance of control in our lives…we have our to-do lists, our short and long-range goals, plans for our own improvement or for the improvement of others…but what happens when things do not go as we expect? Loss of control often leads to loss of peace, which can bring us the entirely wrong conclusion: More control does not equal more peace…it just creates the striving for more control. When we see any loss of control in our lives, when we realize we do not determine our own destiny (The mind of a man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps Prov. 16:19) it leads us to one of three things: fear, anger or peace.
In the bible, we are told “do not fear” countless times (though someone out there has probably counted!). God knows us. He created us. He is mindful that we are but dust (Ps 103:14). He knows how easily discouraged and overwhelmed we are. So reassurance covers the pages of His book, His love letter to us – The Bible. There are too many to list, but here are two of my favorite scriptures about fear and discouragement: Do not be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with My victorious right hand (Is 41:10). And: I have told you these things so you would have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33). The antidote to fear is trust in God. We must trust in God’s character, God’s goodness. And we must trust in His wisdom and His sovereignty. We must know He is good and holy and just; and we must know that He is wise and He is supreme over all. The Kay Arthur study we are starting May 3 will reinforce all of this. In the meantime, read Psalm 139 to remember how He knit me together in my mother’s womb and He saw my unformed body ; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. As a bible study friend said, nothing takes Him by surprise. He works all things together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). Daily, we must choose to accept God’s plan for our lives and, at the same time, we are accepting the peace which He has already given us.
Another choice we have when we realize that we can not control everything in our lives is anger. I have learned that anger – at ourselves, other people, even at God, is a great tool of the devil. Anger makes us feel strong, but really makes us weak. We cannot be a blessing to anyone else and we cannot honor God when we are angry; so being angry prevents us from accomplishing what we were created to do. For the anger of man does not accomplish the righteousness of God (James 1:20). Paul says, You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desire; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness…’in your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry and do not give the devil a foothold…Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice (Eph. 4:22-24, 26-27, 31). When we are angry it is often because we cannot accept, or be at peace with, some circumstance we are experiencing – a difficult person, a trying situation, some plan of ours gone horribly wrong. Our expectations for how things are “supposed to be” can really be our own undoing. God has not lost track of us. He is still working out His plan for us, it is just a matter of us accepting it. For I know the plans I have for you declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a future and a hope (Jer. 29:11). Our peace can only come from accepting or submitting to His plans for us. When we struggle with anger, it is a lack of submission to God’s rightful authority over us. Resting in His sovereignty, trusting in His goodness will allow us to be content in any circumstance (Phil. 4:11).
Peace is one of the distinguishing marks of a Christian: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control; against such things there is no law (Gal. 5:22-23). All of these attributes mark us as those who are in the world, but not of the world (John 17:14), and they are interdependent: you cannot have peace and joy without kindness and patience, you cannot have goodness without self-control, you cannot be faithful without love and so on. The Fruit of the Spirit grows as the Spirit abides in you and God reigns, rightfully, in your heart and mind. What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator. Does a clay pot argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with one who shapes it, saying, ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’ Does the pot exclaim, ‘How clumsy can you be?’ (Is 45:9). So practice acceptance of God’s will in all things. It requires discipline like any other worthwhile practice. Start with the small things and credit God for His wisdom when things begin to “go all wrong”…remember, they are only wrong according to you. His plan is bigger than any one of our individual plans. Once we surrender to (and rest in) His will, we can have the peace that Jesus bought us with His life. Click this link to see a video with a great song about God’s peace:
Just a Girl…just like you
Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts of money. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling His disciples, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They gave out of their wealth; but she, in her poverty, put in everything – all that she had to live on” (Mark 12:41-44).
I love this parable because it shows how God is El-Roi, the God who really sees (stay tuned to our Kay Arthur Study to hear more detail about the names of God and how they describe His character). I love that when you have given your very best, though others might not count it as worthy, He counts it as precious. He knows when you are tired and out of patience and you decide to take that deeeeep breath and respond to someone in love rather than in frustration – and He credits you for that. He knows what you have given when you set aside time during an overwhelming day to call a friend who is in need. And he knows when you are financially strapped and decide to give to your church offering out of faith that He will provide for all the rest of your needs. This is giving when you have nothing left to give; and we have a God who honors and values that sort of generous giving.
His master replied, “Well done my good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” Matt 25:21. Jesus gave us the Parable of the Talents to teach us about stewardship, about being faithful with what you have been given. The good servant invested the master’s money and got a good return while the lazy servant buried it in the ground so as not to lose it. The wicked servant thought that he was clever by protecting the master’s coin, but instead he was despised for missing his opportunity to grow the talent (remember in Bible times a talent was a unit or measure of money). Whatever “talent” God gives us, whatever gift He entrusts us with (musical talent, people skills, a caring heart, a sound mind, business acumen, athletic prowess, strong family relationships, good health or financial abundance), He expects us to take good care of it. He does not expect us to bury it like the wicked servant. He does not want us to hoard it and keep it for ourselves…if so, we have squandered the Master’s investment in us. Rather He expects us to take a risk and do what is necessary to grow the talent He has given us.
God wants us to grow our gifts so we can share them. He blesses us so we can be a blessing to others – this is part of the promise He gave to Abraham when He called him to be the father of many nations – including us (Gen 12:3). Out of that promise, came the most important gift He gave to mankind: the gift of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. This is a gift we must invest in ourselves, this gift we must grow and this gift we must share generously with others. Generosity is the willingness to share your best with others; this is pleasing to God. So be generous with all the gifts God has given, including Jesus, and these gifts will grow and multiply so that YOU can bless many others!
Just a Girl…just like you
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails… 1 Cor 13:4-8??. How many times have you heard this passage? I think I have heard it at every wedding I have ever attended. Even non-Christians have heard it and can probably recite at least the first sentence or two. There have been countless sermons and books written about it. In a way that is a shame because the more familiar we are with something, the more we are likely to take it for granted.
I had to look at the “Love Chapter” again, more closely, almost a year ago. My sweet girl and happy boy (then 7 and 5) memorized this verse and I had to explain each phrase to them as we worked on it. That is yet another good reason the Lord gives us children – to keep us from hypocrisy! As we talked about it, I was convicted…was I teaching them this verse daily by my actions or just with my words? ??Many of us can look over the “love list” of do’s and don’ts and feel okay with ourselves…but there is usually at least ONE thing that we get tripped up on, sometimes more. So this is a good checklist to go through at the end of the day, to evaluate our behavior and look for the things that may drive a wedge between us and God.
We are commanded to love, this is not to be our plan B option, but our first choice. A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:34-35 In other words, we honor God and show our love for Him when we love others unconditionally, without placing quid pro quo conditions on our love (like, I will be patient with you if you don’t drive me crazy…). Interestingly, the World really counsels us against God’s way. You know….put yourself first and don’t accept second class treatment from others; be proud of yourself and your accomplishments and don’t be shy about telling others about the good you do; and, of course, don’t put up with bad treatment from others – after all, you’ve got to protect yourself and it is a good thing to see a bad person get what was coming to them…listen to the world long enough, and there will be no room in your heart for love since it will be filled with animosity, revenge and grudges (like a Jerry Springer show or an episode of Jersey Shores!).
This “love list” is also a good checklist to go through when we are in conflict with someone else – sure, if we choose, we can use it to find fault with them…maybe they are not showing love to us…perhaps they are being self-seeking or demanding of their own way; maybe they have been easily angered or are holding a grudge, or just plain violating our boundaries and hurting our feelings. On the other hand…You have heard that it was said ‘Love your friends and hate your enemies.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? Matt 5:43-46. So we can choose to use the love checklist to respond in a better way to the difficult people God has placed in our lives. As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17. In the interest of self-disclosure, I must admit that God is working in my heart right now on this very topic! I have realized that God has placed some difficult people in my life because He wants them to sharpen me, that they are a way to make me better (if I choose His to-do list in 1 Cor 13)…so I am making a conscious effort to thank HIm for wanting me to be a better person and to turn my heart to follow His way, rather than the World’s. I pray we all may be able to do this!
Just a Girl…just like you!
You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them. John 13:13-17
This passage from John is really Christian service in a nutshell. There is no, “that’s not my job”, or “not those people”. But the interesting thing about this message is it is not just about serving people…it is about serving God. Yesterday at Starbucks I overheard a manager explaining the company philosophy to a new employee. He said, “We are not in the coffee business serving people, we are in the people business serving coffee.” As Christians, we must be in the people business, serving Jesus. We serve Jesus to them, the Living water, because “those who drink the water [He] gives will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” John 4:14. But in John 13, He makes it clear that serving others is not a glamorous job – not one that would bring us glory, but one that should bring Him glory. To glorify Him is to bring honor to Him but also to reflect His Glory, as a mirror reflects an image, accurately (2 Cor 3:16-18). So when people look upon us, they should see His wonderful image, not our own.
Jesus is the perfect example or image we need to reflect. And when He washes the feet of the disciples, he is showing us how to serve people. Talk about leading by example! Also important, He is showing us how we should serve God, His Father, and Our Father. We can best serve God by our obedience to Him, taking on the role of a servant as He has instructed (and as Jesus does by washing the feet), being willing to obey and to honor Him in all we do. Jesus’ life and death were accomplished in complete obedience to God. I tell my kids – when you obey, you must do it right away, without complaining (or eye rolling!). A Sunday school teacher for my son’s class has this saying, “slow obedience is no obedience”.
So this week I am challenging you: be in the people business serving Jesus. First, serve Jesus to people, giving them a taste of the Living Water in all you do. But also, serve Jesus, in obedience to His Word, by serving people.
JustAgirl…just like you!
I’ve told my kids that prayer is just talking to God. Obviously I am no theologian! I know there is so much more and yet, at the same time it really is that simple. The Creator of the Universe wants to be in intimate fellowship, in close personal relationship with you and me. He has sought us out and bought us back from the slavery of sin at a terrible price, the death of His Son. His pursuit of us demonstrates His great love for us and His desire to bring us close to Him. But relationships are a two-way street. I love the saying “you’ve got to be a friend to have a friend”. That one has convicted me on more than one occasion in my relationships with other people and, sadly at times, in my relationship with the Lord.
There was a time when I did not pray much. Now, I couldn’t get through more than a couple hours (if that long) without praying. Mostly, I am in constant conversation with the Lord. He is my very best friend, the strongest advocate, a staunch defender, an amazing teacher and a consistent disciplinarian. And I know He loves me, I can just feel it. Closeness with God is a result of prayer. Staying in close intimacy with the Lord surely brings a lot more peace than I have ever known, but this is in keeping with the Word of God:
- You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! Isaiah 26:3
- Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Phil 4:6-7)
- Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live. Thessalonians 5:16-18
There are so many worries in this life, sometimes it is easy to get distracted from the Truth. God is good and He is in charge of everything, period. That is rule number one. Rule number two is: see rule number one. When we know God’s character, we can rely on Him. His ways are better than ours (Is 55:8) and all that He does is working for our good (Rom 8:28), to accomplish to His purposes. His plan may not always feel good to us personally, but we cannot deny His sovereign right to carry out His will. If we trust Him to make the best choice and we accept that nothing can happen outside of His will for us, then we can submit to His plan, rather than asking Him to accept ours. Prayer helps us to know God so that we can trust Him and this is what truly gives us peace in any circumstance.
Just a Girl…just like you!
Exalt the LORD our God and worship at His holy mountain, for the LORD our God is holy. Ps 99:9
Throughout the Bible we are called to worship. But what is worship? ”Worship is an act of religious devotion…The word is derived from the Old_English ‘worthscipe’, meaning worthiness or worth-ship — to give, at its simplest, worth to something, for example, Christian worship”. (Don’t you just LOVE Wikipedia?) So in worship, we acknowledge the value and the worthiness of the object of worship – we highly esteem the object; it deserves our honor and recognition. The Psalms are all about worship – such a great place to find inspiration. They were the first “praise music”. Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth. Sing to the LORD, praise His name; proclaim His salvation day after day. Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous deeds among all peoples. For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; He is to be feared above all gods (Ps 96:1-4). We should note that, though I said we are “called” to worship, in truth, we are commanded to: Ascribe to the LORD the glory due His name; bring an offering and come before Him. Worship the LORD in the splendor of His holiness (1 Chron 16:29).
I love more modern songs about worship too…aren’t the lyrics of Casting Crowns’ song, Lifesong, great?
May the words I say
And the things I do
Make my lifesong sing
Bring a smile to You
Let my lifesong sing to You
Let my lifesong sing to You
I want to sign Your name to the end of this day
Knowing that my heart was true
Let my lifesong sing to You
We see here that worship is not just for church. We worship God in how we live our life, how we think our thoughts, how we speak to our families, how we spend our time and even our money. In Matthew 6 Jesus teaches about how to live your life as an act of worship. Please take some time and read this chapter today. Here are the main lessons:
- “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” (Matt 6:1)
- Do good for the sake of doing good and pleasing God, for His glory, not for your own glory. When you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. (Matt 6:3-4). Here again He wants us to give because we want to help others and to glorify and bring Him honor, not ourselves.
- And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. (Matt 6:5) Starting to see the theme here? Do the right thing for the right reasons – we are to pray to be in relationship with God, not to turn the focus on ourselves. In Matt 6:16-18 He says that if you fast, do not make it obvious to others that you are fasting, only do it for your Father who will see what you do in secret.
- Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matt 6:19-21). This is such an important verse here at the end. Where you spend your time and your money shows what you value the most – so shopping online can really get us into trouble in both of those areas!
- Finally, He tells us to be at peace…He commands us not to worry. Did you ever think about how much time you spend worrying about things? Your kids, your health, your weight, your clothes, your bad-hair-day, your dirty floor, your schedule, your future, your finances…(whew! And that is just before you have had breakfast!) Worrying takes our mind off of God and puts it on ourselves and on our circumstances (which God can take care of very well, thank you very much!). Worry interferes with true worship – the acknowledgement of God’s worth, His awesome ability to take care of us and how He does all things well (Mark 7:37).
There is so much more that can be said about worship but I just wanted us to be thinking this week about how we could worship Him with the way we speak to our husbands and children, the way we drive in busy traffic, the way we spend our time (the “free” time as well as the scheduled time), the way we talk to ourselves when no one can hear, the way we live our everyday, ordinary lives. God has a purpose for each one of us – and I don’t mean the part where you could discover the cure to some dreaded disease or save people from a burning building – I mean each of us has the same purpose: But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9). He has chosen us to declare His worth to this world, to glorify Him with our lives. May He give us all the close walk with Him this week that will help us to bring honor to His name and to worship Him with our lives.
Just a Girl…just like you!
“Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her!” (Luke 1:45). This is what Elizabeth said to Mary regarding her acceptance of God’s promise for her and for so many others. Mary was chosen by God to take part in His plan to redeem mankind and she accepted. She believed, and was blessed. Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness (Gen 15:6). Here again, God makes a promise and someone believes Him and is blessed for believing. Abram had no good reason to believe that he would be the father of many nations, except that God said it to him. Today we believe in gravity, we believe in this country, we believe we can fly (okay…not really, that is just an old 90’s tune thrown in for good measure, just showing my age). Sure, we can be pretty cavalier about what we “believe” in…but believing is more than the head knowledge we hear about today; it is a heart knowledge. Belief requires acceptance and causes commitment. By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear, built an ark to save his family (Heb 11:7). You are really stepping out there when you build a boat in the desert.
Did you ever build boat in the desert? Did you ever step out there? Trusting in Christ is like building a boat in the desert – you do not see the coming storm unless you believe the Word that God has spoken, the promises He has made – then you know you need that boat, you know you need that Savior. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God 1 Cor 1:18. It is really a wonderful thought. That God would, so many times, use the unlikely heroes, go against the odds, do the impossible just to show us who He is. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland Is 43:19.
Please take a moment to share with me something absurd or improbable that the Lord has done in your life. Did you ever build a boat in the desert? I just did and you are riding on it! “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her!” (Luke 1:45)
Just a Girl…just like you!