Lifting Others

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves (Phil 2:3).

If you look back a couple messages ago, I referred to this same scripture. God has been speaking to me lately about acknowledgment and appreciation of others as well as humility. Also, a bible study that I attend has been focusing on submission these past few weeks.

God designed the family as the most efficient foundational institution here on earth where we are not alone, but support each other by providing love, nurturing, learning and stability. The enemy knows exactly the areas to attack that will make us most vulnerable to sin, and submission is the one concept that has been more than misunderstood— it has been perverted.

It has been used in some cultures to place others, especially women, in positions of little more than indentured servitude. This is clearly NOT what God had in mind. Think of the parent who willingly sets aside his/her own needs for the needs of a small child. It is not motivated by coercion, but quite the opposite. The motivation is love.

The one who is submitting is actually in control, choosing that course of action. We have all read about mothers who have chosen to give their last bit of food, or their coat for the comfort or life of their child. Or men who have sacrificed their own desires and needs in order to provide for their families.

Valuing others above ourselves requires confidence in God’s love in order that we can willingly yield to others. It can be as simple as relinquishing our place in line to giving away our prized possession (probably our pride).

With loving humility, submission involves willingly placing ourself beneath another in order to lift that person up.

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Chosen

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:13-16).

I would like to share with you part of a story from Crosswalk. I hope I can do it justice without getting too lengthy.

A women’s ministry speaker challenged her audience by asking them to be still and listen to their hearts in order to recognize the lies about themselves that either knowingly or unknowingly linger there. It may have been something spoken by a parent, teacher, spouse, school kid, or something not even spoken at all, just believed. The ladies were asked to write them down, then symbolically (and not so symbolically) place them at the foot of a wooden cross and replace them with a “truth card” that she had prepared citing a promise or positive affirmation from God’s word.

After the retreat, the speaker gathered the cards and noticed that over and over again the word “worthless” appeared. This big, fat, ugly lie is one that the enemy throws in our face time and time again.

As parents, we were intentional in instilling a positive self-concept in our children; in fact, one spouse says that we went a little overboard. But it really is not based on anything we do or are. Self-worth is only meaningful when we recognize who we are in Jesus—beloved, precious, wonderfully made. We are not only worthwhile, but we are a necessary part of His perfect plan; and to believers, all mistakes and sins are covered.

Next time a negative self-thought pops in, recognize that it is not from the One who made us just as He wanted us, “complete” and filled with all His fullness and power.

Wait

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him (Ps 37:7a).

For a while food trends in the U.S. were all about speed—microwaved fast food from freezer to table in five minutes or less. Recently we have realized the value of waiting, starting from the real deal and patiently waiting until it reaches the richness of its intended, wholesome end. I’m not sure if it’s me, women in general, or our culture that finds patience at a minimum.

 I am beginning to realize that God doesn’t always work on my schedule, nor does He always answer my anxious prayers the way that I think will remedy situations. When I think back on some of my prayers, it’s obvious that God loves me, and has always worked things in His way, in His time, for my best interest. Like Garth says, “Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.”

I have found, too, in hindsight, that when God isn’t as fast as I think He should be, that He is preparing me. There is usually something lacking, often in my character, which needs to be dealt with first.

Our Father really does know best and I hope someday to learn not to question Him.

Submission

Submit to one another out of reverence to Christ (Eph 5:21).

Our ladies’ group was discussing submission a few days ago and I was reminded of some of the principles that, as I saunter through the day, are so easy to disregard. I also realized that this topic and related scriptural references were ones that I had never written about—maybe because it is so volatile and misunderstood even among believers, and especially when dealing with less-than-perfect marriage relationships.

The goal of submission is not domination/subservience, but rather unity. And the path to unity is kindness, respect, honor and love—one to another.

Submission is lifting another up—not pulling or dragging, but lifting for the other’s greater good. That is so opposite of pride or even low self-esteem where we’re trying to make ourselves feel good, right, or knowledgeable.

Relationships always work best when we follow the instructions and guidelines of the Creator. And I personally think the connotations of the words arrogant and prideful are much more distasteful than that of one who serves out of love.

Nothing Can Separate Us

He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west (Ps 103:12).

Do you remember the cartoon where the main character had an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other, each whispering in his ears? Well, that’s not far from the truth. Of course it is easy to distinguish the voice of God versus the enemy when the whispers are love and kindness as opposed to nastiness and revenge.

It’s quite different when one is whispering that we can never be forgiven for our horrible actions, words, or attitudes even if they happened decades ago. Guilt allows us to agree with the enemy rather than hear the love and forgiveness being whispered in the other ear.

Although God may correct us, He will never condemn us. (So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus). Think of a loving parent correcting a child’s behavior. It is done in love for the child’s benefit, not to castigate him.

So it is with our Heavenly Father. Once we are His, nothing can separate us from His love.

 

A Pure Heart

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me (Ps 51:10).

Are there people in your life, too, who knowingly or not, cause contention? When I choose to admit it, those people and uncomfortable situations are so often what send me to the Lord in prayer. Often times I have prayed for them to change when God shows me that it is I who need to change too.

Isn’t this exactly what God wants? A change in my heart?  When Jesus dealt with the people who despised Him so much that they took satisfaction in the brutal suffering that He endured until death, He looked at them with love, forgiveness, and understanding, realizing that they didn’t really know what they were doing.

Oh, to have that much love in my heart! Maybe the table He is preparing before me in the presence of my enemies is really my own heart.

Guidelines for a Joyful Life

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men (Col 3:23).

The other day I heard the following part of a sermon preached by the Reverend Martin Luther King:

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’”

I did not check the rest of his message to identify the scripture about which he was speaking, but when Colossians 3:23 came to my mind, I began thinking that every success principle discovered by man can be paired with a principle from scripture.

Our God is good. He wants us to be joyful even when we are hard at work. In fact, His joy gives us strength (Neh 8:10).

So instead of reading a list of the 10 Best Things to Do for a Contented (Successful, Joyful…) Life, search The Book and you can write your own.