It causes me great sorrow, joy, remorse and rejoicing to know myself that way. To see me dying and growing.
Such a time of growth in my life!!!
God is doing so much in me. I think a LARGE portion of my Christian walk with Jesus has been an external work. Changing and growing me in how I act and behave…things I do or don’t do…sin, repentance, etc. But NOW God is really digging in. I mean REALLY digging into my inner world. My deep down thoughts and beliefs. My heart and my motives. My capacity to truly forgive and love. Challenging me in situations where I might have “corrected” someone or rightfully put them in their place. Or choosing what I wanted instead of seeking God for what he wanted for me.
God has me in the fire, and He is Burning the wood, hay and stubble…leaving only the gold. And I’m finding that a LOT of what was taking up space in my life was wood, hay and stubble. BUT, I’m grateful for that. Better to know now than on judgment day!
It causes great sorrow, joy, remorse and rejoicing to know myself that way. To see me dying and growing. It is the pruning of a shrub or the cutting back of a tree whose limbs are about to grow into power lines. I am being renewed…and NOT because of ANYTHING that I did or have earned. Jesus SOUGHT me out…yet again. He made my life uncomfortable so I would notice that the place I was in was not for me anymore. VERY often the pain is caused by having too much growth in flesh that is too small! And THAT is a GOOD thing. The painful and joyous breaking forth, like birthing a child.
I am realizing more and more that my efforts and my “goodness” are truly contaminated with the insidious condition of sin. It pulsates in my members…fighting like “hell” to survive. Choking out all that is holy. BUT GOD… God LOVES me SO He loves ALL of us SO that he made a way out!
He gave us Jesus!
Praise God…Abba…my Father, that his love is never failing. Only a holy God could make me feel so alive in this sinful corpse I carry!
What does Jesus want us to be doing while we’re here?
How will the world/nonbelievers know that we are Christians?
What was the central message that Jesus conveyed while he was here?
These are all very important questions, and it is imperative that we know the answer to those questions. Otherwise…what are we even doing here? There’s so much going on in the world today. Terrorists, cold blooded murder, war, etc. Evil and sin run rampant and seem to be growing everyday. But one of the greatest sins that I see happening in the church is both apathy and hypocrisy. We, the church, have the greatest gift and message for the world. There is nothing more important that knowing God and having Him present in our lives. But, in spite of that fact, we don’t lean into sharing that message or living in such a way that anyone would know that. I mean, yes, of course there are Christians doing it right. People who share the love of Jesus and give back and pray to be changed and healed and used mightily. So, as always, I’m not saying 100% of anyone does anything. It’s an argument filled with holes if we get into “always” and “never”. But, I think it is definitely fair to say, the percentage of Christians and churches that are far more interested in their own agenda, judgment, law and condemnation is significantly greater than the percentage “doing it right”.
What is right…right?
Well the Bible says that our job as the church is to make disciples. A disciple is a follower of Christ. Someone who has decided to give their lives to him in order to be made holy and to live in relationship with this Jesus man. A disciple is someone who, through hearing and accepting the good news – which is the message of Jesus’ sacrifice for us and our redemption through him dying on the cross, raising from the dead, and sitting at the right hand of the father interceding for us so – can believe in him and therefore have eternal life.
The Bible also says that the world will know that we are Christians by our love. Not the earthly idea of love, but the biblical one laid out in I Corinthians 13. Patience, kindness, not keeping a record of wrongs, not envying, not boasting, not proud, longsuffering, bearing one another’s burdens, always protecting, always hoping, always persevering.
Would you say that the world’s opinion of the church matches the above two paragraphs? Would you say the behavior of the church matches the above two paragraphs?
We can attribute the world’s disdain for us by referencing scriptures such as John 15:18 that says, “If the world hated me, they will hate you.” Or Proverbs 29:27 which states, “The righteous detest the dishonest. The wicked detest the upright”. And there is definitely room for that and obviously truth in those scriptures. But there is something we much check first. If we are being detested, is it because of our righteousness and uprightness or could it be for another reason?
Sometimes people who are disliked are disliked because people are envious or jealous or hateful. But sometimes people are disliked because they are horrible people. Both happen…and we need to evaluate which is happening.
Without making exact accusations, I will just ask a few questions:
- If we were to ask the general public what the loudest message is coming from the church, what do you think the answer would be?
- Do you think there are people who know where we stand on various political/moral issues, but have no idea who Jesus truly is because we haven’t focused on telling them?
- Do you think love, true biblical love, is what we show the world? Do you think they know we are Christians because of our love?
- Do you think Jesus himself would handle the gospel the way we do? Does what the Bible says about how Jesus lived his life and ministered to the world mirror what we are doing as a church?
- Do you think nonbelievers hear more about Hell or Heaven from us?
- Do we demonize people who have certain sin that we have deemed as being “worse” than others?
- Do we give a pass to certain sin and remain silent on those issues? (gossiping, lying, fornicating, envy, gluttony,etc)
- Are we more religion-oriented than Christ-centered? Are we more committed to church than relationship with Jesus?
- Do we play the role of Holy Spirit in an effort to convict nonbelievers? Do we feel that it’s our job to change people?
- Do we find ourselves angry, bitter or entitled when dealing with the sin of others or do we approach others’ sin in a humble and loving way?
- Do we despise our sin as much as we hate the sin of others?
- Do we have joy in our faith and in sharing it or are we ourselves caught up in a self-deprecating Christianity?
- Are the fruits of the Spirit evident in our lives: Love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control?
- Are we bound to the law and have yet to grab onto love? What does legalism produce? Where does it come from?
Galatians 5:20-26 The Message (MSG) – This was written to the church…not the world
19-21 It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.This isn’t the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God’s kingdom.
22-23 But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.
23-24 Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified.
25-26 Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.
Let us hold, not onto our religion. not onto legalism. Not onto judgment. Not onto our fleshly feelings about others or ourselves, but let us read and interpret scripture correctly, walk circumspectly, and live as those who live according to the Spirit. The world needs to know Jesus. THAT needs to be our main message, Whatever people need to change (ourselves included) the Holy Spirit is MORE than capable of convicting hearts. He is the only one who actually knows our hearts anyway. They will know that we a Christians by our love.
Let us focus on LOVE.
In Matthew 25 we read the story of the ten virgins and the bridegroom. You are probably pretty familiar with this parable, but indulge me…some may not know. The word describes our relationship with Jesus Christ when he returns, as being like ten virgins who are waiting for the bridegroom to return. All the virgins had lamps, but only 5 virgins brought extra lamp oil because they weren’t sure exactly when the bridegroom would arrive, but they wanted to be ready. Well, as you might have guessed, the bridegroom took a while…so the virgins fell asleep. But when he did arrive, the five who had extra oil were able to light their lamps, but the ones who had not brought oil were in the dark. They asked the other virgins if they could use some of their oil but they told the sad virgins that they had to purchase their own. So they left to buy oil, but when they returned, the bridegroom had already gone to the wedding with the prepared virgins and they had been left.
There are a few points here to consider:
- What does it means that all the virgins fell asleep
- What does the oil represent?
- What do the lamps represent?
- What is significant about the virgins having to go and purchase oil?
- How can we be prepared like the 5 virgins who attended the wedding?
Matthew 25:5 But while the bridegroom was delayed, the virgins slept and slumbered. Do we find ourselves “sleeping on the job”? What does that even mean? Is Jesus usually a faint thought in the back of our minds, only coming to the forefront when we need to pray our foxhole prayers? Is he our holy butler that we make endless requests of? Salvation is ALL about relationship. Jesus says over and over, things such as “This is eternal life, that you may know God and I whom he sent” (John 17:3), and other verses such as when Jesus said many will boast of the good works they did in his name but “Depart from me, I never knew you.” (Matthew 7:23). We must do as we were instructed in Ephesians 5:16, “Wake up from your sleep, Climb out of your coffins; Christ will show you the light (The Message).Being in a relationship with Christ, not just obtaining “fire insurance” is central and necessary to salvation.
The oil repeatedly represents the Spirit of God throughout scripture. “The oil of gladness”. Being anointed with oil as a representation of the Holy Spirit’s presence.
In the Bible, lamps often reference the spirit of man. In scriptures such as Proverbs 20:27 which reads, “The human spirit is the lamp of the LORD that sheds light on one’s inmost being.”
The need for the virgins to purchase oil may point to the cost of obtaining the oil. There is a cost to becoming full of the Holy Spirit. A decision to serve Christ, to kill our flesh, to be obedient, to forsake sin. Oil cost us everything.
So if you put this all together, the translation of the parable reads something like this for us today:
We don’t know when Christ will return, so we must be alert…not slumbering or wasting our time or focusing on things that don’t matter. We must be watching prayerfully. We must build a relationship with our savior and Lord, and we must pay the price of obedience and sacrifice and devotion…ultimately starving our flesh of the disobedience that it desires… we must follow Christ’s commands so that we can receive the Holy Spirit, which keeps our human spirit burning bright…so that in the moment when he comes to carry us to our heavenly home…we will be ready.”
If you are a Christian and questioning if you are truly ready or if you aren’t a Christian and want to know how to be ready. This is how. Social or Cultural Christianity is not enough. Going to church on Sunday but then living how we want Mon-Sat or not enough…it’s actually insulting. Was his sacrifice not worth at least our obedience to a God who laid down His life for us?
Lord, let us be ready. Let us chase after your heart and not just your hand. Let your Holy Spirit dwell inside of us that we may keep our light burning until you return!
While praying this morning the Lord spoke something to my spirit. Actually it started yesterday when I was praying and asking God to do something for us. While praying and asking God to do this thing I found myself repeating my request and feeling anxious…actually not an uncommon or unfamiliar refrain…at that moment God spoke to me and said, “you don’t have to beg me to do anything. No need to ask over and over again. I hear you and WANT to bless you.” Then this morning while praying, he took the revelation a bit further by sharing with me that prayer should not be filled with requests alone or even primarily, but communion with him. A time of thanksgiving, praise, and worship.
You know the spiritual maturing process is pretty much identical to the natural growth and maturing process. When I was a new Christian, a baby in Christ if you will, God sat everything in my lap. I felt his presence near almost always and was fed easily on the word. I didn’t have to do much to hear from him or to feel encouraged to go to church or anything. Like a baby whose needs are met almost before they even know they have them…God fed me at every turn. Then like a toddler, it was time to move on past milk and begin eating solid foods. To begin trying to sit up and feed myself clumsily…but learning. Getting my food required a little more work from me, but it was still readily available. Similarly, God’s presence, hearing his voice and knowing his will became slightly harder to obtain. I had to start doing new things to “reach” him. I had to use new muscles to pull myself up. To be able to learn to walk. To figure out how to get the food to my mouth. Then eventually I became school age. I had to leave home for a while everyday and go interact with others and learn…I had to learn how to be myself while also learning about who others were and my ability to be able to socialize with new people and new surroundings grew. Of course, you get the gist now. I had to find my place in the world without losing myself, especially in middle and high school. I did however, still have the safety of home and parental guidance. Spiritually I had to learn to recognize what was good and bad, right or wrong. To know how to venture out into a hostile world who liked neither me nor my God and stay focused. However, I had God close and available enough that it was relatively easy to run to him and be comforted if they didn’t like or accept me. Then came adulthood. Moving out for real. Working to pay the bills. Sleeping alone in my own house. Encouraging myself. Finding my own job and food and way…but still being able to all home if need be, and able to visit when needed.
I’ve been saved for 21 years now, and as an older Christian, milk and diapers and hand holding and wobbling on feeble legs is/should be in my past…part of my testimony. God should not STILL have to be convincing me that he’s good, or that he hears me or that he will answer my prayers. He shouldn’t have to pick me up off the floor when trials come. He shouldn’t have to keep reintroducing me to elementary things. Paul said to the Corinthians regarding his words to them, that he had to give them milk instead of meat because they were not mature enough, although they should have been ( I Cor 2ff, I Cor 3:2-3).
It is the experience of learning and stretching and growing in Christ, and in our faith, and in life that mature us and make us complete. James says in the book of James 1:2-8, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”
Sometimes prayer can be our outlet for worry. Our many words and repetitions in our requests, and our anxious feelings and wavering doubt. BUT, instead it should be an unwavering, mature, peace-fllled conversation with a God that we know and trust. Jeremiah 17:7*8, “Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Being PLANTED by the river gives peace in being nourished and no fear of drought. Being PLANTED in God removes worry, anxiety (be anxious for nothing – Philippians 4:6) and doubt.
Christ came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. Not that we would be barely holding on to hope. Abundant life in relationship with Him. God is not just good. He is great! We are not weak little Christians who need to be coddled all our lives. We are more than conquerors in Christ Jesus and we should live like it.
Let’s learn from Peter who was able to walk on water as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus, but sank like a “rock” when he turned his eyes on the circumstances of the storm and the sea.
Do the work. Feed yourself. Study to show yourself approved a workman before God who need not be ashamed. And let us move from faith to faith and glory to glory.
In Jesus name. Amen!
It’s been a while eh? Sorry I disappeared for a few months. I have had a lot of things going on…good but busy. For one, I got married!!! Yes, that should probably be it’s own blog…and I will write it…soon. Anyhow, until then. Feel free to enjoy this one. It’ll be like Star Wars…you know…how the prequel came later ;-).
For those of you who might not know this about me already, I’m a pretty old fashioned girl when it comes to relationships, marriage, gender roles, etc. Now, this isn’t something I put on anyone else. Please, by all means, be who you wanna be. But in my own life, in my awesome southern upbringing by a black grandma in Georgia…I am steeped in sweet tea, the smell of honeysuckle, fresh cut grass, sweltering church revivals in the back woods of Heard County, GA and porch swinging on a bench in the Summer waving at strangers going by. Men in fedoras, Uncles in Linen pants laughing big at the cookout and the smell of southern cooking riding on the voices of the women talking in the kitchen. I loved growing up in the south with red dirt, big wheels, fireflies in a jar and warm summer nights laying on the hood of the car wishing on falling stars. Finding a creek nearby and tossing sticks in or making just one more lap around the neighborhood on my bike and hearing Ms. Powell who lived down the street from us, yell out her window that my grandma called her and told her to tell me to come on home. The beautiful lazy gallantry of the south and the clear lines of who did what made me comfortable…and it still does.
Mix that with my faith, and what you find are well defined roles in my idea of marriage. Now, although John is a city boy from Detroit, he too was wooed by the beauty of the idea of a submissive, serving and supportive wife, as I was eager for a strong, decision maker, leader and spiritual guide in my home. The premise truly, being the scripture that tells husbands to love their wives like Christ loved the church and gave himself up for it. For husbands to live with understanding with their wives. And for wives to honor their husbands and submit to him as unto the Lord. I believe, when done in tandem, you have a beautiful collaboration of a man who loves and is willing to sacrifice for his wife and family, while leading them towards God’s will…supported by a wife who gets to enjoy the covering of his headship, while also giving him the support that he needs to slay dragons. Together they kick butt and take names…both of you appropriately submitted to the Father God.
What I also found was that my desire to BE that wife was horribly overshadowed by the screaming psychopath in my flesh and sin nature who was operating more under the curse from the Garden of Eden than in those New Testament words of love and respect. I joke when I say psychopath…but you get my point. In Genesis Eve was told that her consequences for sinning against God would be that “her desire would be for her husband (or rather his position) and that he would rule (more like a dictator) over her. Most people only think of the “pain in childbearing part, but that was one statement. Both were a part of the curse. So as Jesus came to make right what man had done wrong, he gave us the command for wives to NOT follow the desire to usurp your husband’s position but instead to honor, respect and submit…and for the husband NOT to “rule” over her, but to love, sacrifice, and live in understanding with her. It’s so much like Jesus to turn a thing on its ear…and give us new freedom and a second chance to still receive his blessing.
I have been a mouthy, opinionated and rebellious girlfriend and now wife at times. Not in the positive ways that you might be thinking where I’m supposed to roll up my Rosie the Riveter sleeve, but in ways that would be totally inappropriate if I were talking to anyone in authority. Most people could easily see how yelling at, interrupting, disregarding or rudely talking over a police officer, judge, etc. would be not only bad but punishable. HOW MUCH MORE should I respect my HUSBAND? I’m supposed to love him, right? Police officers are random people which I have no ties to. If we as wives can muster up the ability to be nice to the Pastor, School Teacher, Police Officer and Neighbor…surely we can honor our husbands. It’s not only a good idea…it’s commanded in scripture.
The Lord began showing me that my submission to my husband, or actually the lack thereof, was more about MY heart than anything he had done or could do. AND, my inability to interact with him respectfully was not just a sin against my husband…but ultimately a sin against God. I know some of you would say, “Well, what if he isn’t acting right?” Well, that’s an issue between him and God, just like our behavior is OUR issue between us and God. We don’t get a pass because the other person isn’t doing their job. We were independently given our tasks…and will be independently judged for our execution of them.
This morning the Lord led me to do something…an intimate thing…a humbling thing…a necessary thing. While my husband sat on the couch, I repented to him for my disrespectful and rebellious ways. I made a commitment to build him up and encourage the king in him and I did all this while kneeling at his feet, where I ultimately prayed for him. This was good for me because I needed to humble myself. Interestingly enough, I felt ten feet tall while kneeling. Some of you may feel disgusted that I would do that. You should probably ask yourself why and…wait for it. The answer will come. None of this came from prodding or suggestion from my husband. This was absolutely a God thing. And it is SO very consistent with scripture.
Whether it’s to my husband, to the Lord, to the Lord’s will, to humility, to courage…I need to get comfortable on my knees. Because God’s power is made perfect in my weakness, and it is in my weakness that God is made strong. Relying on God the Father to be my strength, I am made strong.
Submission is not a dirty word. We all must submit in some fashion. How could a man be great as someone in authority unless he has learned to be a man under authority? Service to others is the training ground for leadership. As the leader, he submits to God. As his wife and helpmeet, I submit to him. If done properly, we should both be facing the Lord God. This is again, another way that marriage is ultimately still about making me a better Christian and Child of God.
The beautiful poetry of the Word of God and the clear lines of what my father asks of me makes me comfortable like those lazy Summer nights in GA. May I grow to become more and more humble as I become greater and greater in Him.