Get Dressed

While we may be attentive to clothing the outer person, God is most concerned with the dressing of the inner person. God calls us to dress according to our identity not our activity.

Everyday it’s the same routine. We get out of bed, remove whatever we slept in, jump into the shower and then get dressed. Women probably spend more time choosing their wardrobe than men. Women not only carefully choose their wardrobe but also their accessories (i.e. earrings, necklace, scarf, shoes, etc.). If we don’t spend a lot of time pondering outer adornments, at the very least, we think about what we’ll be doing for the day and dress for that. We dress appropriately for the task at hand. Since God clothed Adam and Eve in the Garden we have been putting on something to cover the body.

One can easily recognize a person’s vocation or who that person represents by the way he or she is dressed. Police officers are identified by their uniforms. Healthcare professionals are known by their scrubs. A firefighter is recognized by his/her PPE. I know the difference between the FedEx driver and the UPS man not by his face but by his uniform.

They are dressed to be known and recognized before they ever utter a word.

While we may be attentive to clothing the outer person, God is most concerned with the dressing of the inner person.

Colossians 3:12-13 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other, as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

The Word of God uses the same language for physical dressing as for spiritual dressing. Everyday we cover the body with outer garments that are determined by the activities of the day. Not so for spiritual dressing. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing for the day. The spiritual dressing is for every day, every activity, every moment. God calls us to dress according to our identity not our activity.

He reminds us the we are:

  • Salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16)
  • Image Bearers (Genesis 1:27; Colossians 3:9)
  • Individual members of the body of Christ (1 Cor .12:27)
  • Chosen (1 Peter 2:9)
  • Adopted as Sons, Children of God (Ephesians 1:6; 1 John 3:1-2)
  • New Creations (2 Corinthians 5:17)
  • Debtors (Romans 8:12-13)
  • Ambassadors-One who represents the sender in character and authority. (2 Corinthians 5:20)

And in Christ we: Ephesians 1

  • Are blessed with every spiritual blessing
  • Have redemption through the Blood
  • Have forgiveness of trespasses according to the riches of His grace
  • Have wisdom and insight
  • Have obtained an inheritance
  • Have been sealed with the promised Holy Spirit

Who we are in Christ determines what we put on! That identity establishes our wardrobe. It looks nothing like the self-centered garments of the old man (Ephesians 4:22). We, who are in Christ, must chose to live and dress like the One we represent. We must, with great thought and intention, put on our new garments. We are not the same. We were bought with a price and covered by the blood of Jesus. We are a new creation. Our behaviors, responses and pursuits should match our identity.

Isaiah 61:10 I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with the beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

Everyday you choose what spiritual garments you will wear. Remind yourself who you are in Christ. The new man, holy and beloved, puts on garments of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience. Wear them with joy, as they are a gift from the one who covered you with the garments of salvation and the robe of righteousness.

Get dressed!

MY WAY

My personal preferences are a good servant but a lousy master.  They can serve me well but when I become a slave to my preferences I serve no one else.

While sitting in a class (which I wasn’t super excited about in the first place) I found my critical heart becoming increasingly nit-picky.  It began with the subject matter.  Before the speaker even opened his mouth, I had attitude.  As he began to teach I found him as well as his presentation to be distasteful.  Soon I found myself getting up to leave the room.  I needed a break to regroup and regain some perspective before I could head back in.  What I began to realize was, that while critical thinking is vital to true discernment, a critical heart suppresses the Holy Spirit.

My personal preferences are a good servant but a lousy master.  They can serve me well but when I become a slave to my preferences, I serve no one else.

  • My way is right
  • My point of view is right
  • My perceptions are right
  • My thoughts are right
  • My counsel is right

If I believe my methods/preferences are right then, by default, the methods/preferences of others are wrong.  I am setting myself up as the standard by which all other things should follow.  It’s a throne position.  I am exalted in the process of expressing my preferences as truth at the expense of others.

When I am controlled by the narrow view of my personal preferences, there is no room for the way of others or their viewpoints, perceptions, thoughts or counsel.  They cannot be heard in my presence.  I become the authority.  My way becomes the standard by which all things should be perceived, thought of, stated, done and counseled.  I am teaching others my way while I myself remain unteachable.  I do not hear others because I do not listen to others, therefore I cannot learn from others.

It’s a “my way” approach to even the most menial of tasks which are meaningless to the big picture.  Process, not people, is first.

Have you ever found yourself grumbly in everyday circumstances such as:

  • Folding laundry – Do you refold or instruct others how to fold laundry.  Even worse, when you are helping someone else fold their laundry, do you fold their way or your way?
  • Loading the dishwasher – Ever reorganized the dishwasher?
  • Making the Bed – Which side of the top sheet faces the bottom sheet?
  • Toilet Paper – Under or over?- Have you ever changed the roll position…at someone else’s house?
  • Bible Study – Morning, noon, night? And with what method? Inductive, Deductive, SOAP?

The answer is probably “yes” for most of us.  Are any of these things a big deal in light of eternity?  I think most of us would say an emphatic “no.”  And yet, when someone disrespects/disorders our preferences, how do we respond?  Does emotion well up inside of us?  When we believe that our ways should be everyone’s ways we have lost site and control of our preferences.  They rule us, we do not rule them.  There is  no freedom to waiver from them.  We must now adhere to them and enforce them upon others.  In a sense, we are saying, “This is the way, follow me.  If you do not adhere to my way, I will correct you.”  There is a rightness/wrongness but not a righteousness to this way of thinking.  We are in bondage and we put others in bondage to our way of thinking and doing.

So often we measure the good, sufficiency, adequacy or maybe a better word is value of something based on our own preferences.  We evaluate situations and circumstances as if everything about it revolves around us.  Food, temperature, hotels, restaurants, smells, neighborhoods, communities, schools, classes, people, teachers, conferences etc., are assessed by our own personal palate.  It seems our ability to enjoy and appreciate something is based on what we like or dislike.  How many times have you gone to a restaurant with rave reviews only to be disappointed?  Your personal preferences were not met there.  We cannot fathom how people considered it a good place to have dinner!

So, what’s the difference between a fair assessment and a biased one; an assessment that is just or one that is critical because of personal preference?  What is real and what is preferred?  How do we determine if something is good?

We must sort through our own personal preferences, as one sorts through puzzle pieces; by color or flat-edged pieces.  A good puzzle worker sorts first.  How often do our personal preferences get confused with the really important facts?  Before we assess a speaker, program or a class, we must ask ourselves, “What is my measuring stick of value?  Do I have a gospel view?”

The gospel is the picture of self-sacrificing love in action.  For God so loved the world… it was good for the world that Jesus should suffer for it’s sin but not so comfortable for Jesus.  It was greater love.

To assess fairly we must think beyond what we like to what is real, whole-group and gospel centered.  We must have a wide lens view that takes in the whole horizon.  We must see the big picture and give grace to minor details that are not important in fundamental ways.  How would it change the way we evaluate situations, tasks, people, speakers etc. if we saw them in light of the gospel rather than ourselves?  What if, instead of being critical, we look for the good?

I’m not saying we should turn a blind eye to sin.  Matthew 18:15 is very clear about what to do if we see a brother in sin, as is 2 Corinthians 10:5 as it addresses arguments and lofty opinions or anything that sets itself up against the knowledge of God.

When we align our personal preferences with the Word of God and measure them by the call to love one another, we are not only God honoring vertically but we are God honoring horizontally.

Philippians 2:3-8   Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Do nothing from selfish ambition but in humility, look around you.  People are wounded and struggling to survive one day at a time.  Can we find enjoyment in what others enjoy?  Can we give an honest evaluation of a situation based on the needs of others being met?  Can we remember to measure goodness based on what God says is good and not on our own comfort, preference or level of needs being met?

Jesus is the Son and all things revolve around Him.  It is through Him that all things are held together.  His ways are higher.  His thoughts are for all as well as the individual.  He humbled himself by taking on the form of a servant for a lost and dying world of which we are just one of many in that category.

I can have preferences, but my personal preferences are not a measuring stick I can use to determine right or good.  My unit of measure must be higher than myself.  When I measure myself against a Holy God, I am humbled and brought low.  His glory is all I see.  This is true and right perspective.

Isaiah 55:8-9   For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher that your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

God’s thoughts and words for us are found between the front and back covers of the Bible.  He has established a true and better way, as His ways are perfect.  Let us choose to be wise thinkers in our assessments and use the Word of God as our system of measure.

Freedom from the bonds of our personal preferences is a gift to those around us!

 

 

 

 

LOVE BELIEVES THE BEST

There is a sizable gap between what the Word of God says about love and how I actually live out that love for others.

 

The battle rages on.  The struggle between the prideful ruler and the humble servant.  The rub between what feels good and right and what is righteous.  It is not a wrestling of two individuals but of one; an internal struggle of being my own god or bowing to the only Wise God.

I want to tell you I struggle with  believing the best of others.  I want to believe the best of others but I assume to know heart and motive.  I want to say that it’s because I am observant, discerning and often right in my assessments; therefore when I see questionable behaviors I know what people are thinking, how they are feeling and what motivates them.  I like the idea of promoting my strengths.  It’s a curse to be so darned discerning!  I’m pretty sure that’s  not the path toward anything good and while sometimes I may be right, being right is not the issue.  The real struggle – my real issue – is love.

1 Corinthians 12:1-7, 13, 14:1a    If I speak in tongues of men and angels but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have  not love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it his not arrogant or rude.  It doe not insist on its own way:  it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.  14a Pursue love,

It’s love.  Without love we are a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal; lots of talk but nothing more.  He says we are nothing and we gain nothing.

I look at this beautiful, poetic description of love and I wonder, “How do I get there?”  This love is not my nature!  This love is outside of my skill set:  This love goes beyond my own ideas of love and calls me to a higher love that does not rely on my own senses and sensibility.  It is counter-intuitive.  I think things.  I know things.  I sometimes believe what I think without really knowing fully as God fully knows.  My mirror is dimly lit.

There is a sizable gap between what the Word of God says about love and how I actually live out that love for others.  Knowing that I will never love perfectly does not disqualify me from the race nor should it discourage me from entering it.

1 Corinthians 9:22-27   Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?  Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.  They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

No runner can endure or gain speed without practice.  I need practice.  I need to practice love with the purpose of learning to love others the way God loves me.  I need to practice to make it my nature.  It takes consistent discipline to not only believe the best of others, but to love them in all the ways God has called me to love them.

The practice happens in the battle.  Love cannot be rehearsed outside of being in relationships and situations that require love.  It is a battle to catch those thoughts (2 Cor. 10:5) and remind myself that only God knows heart and motive.  It is a battle to replace those thoughts (Phil. 4:8) with loving, beneficial thoughts.  It is a battle worth fighting.  Thinking fuels my heart; if I think wrong, I believe wrong, therefore I feel wrong.  Believing the best of others inspires right feelings about them and toward them.  It inspires love.

And love believes the best of others.

Seasons

Last year at Word of Life in upstate New York, Richard Blackaby, author of Seasons of God,  taught four sessions on the subject of seasons.   It gave me great perspective on the seasons of my own life both looking back on the past as well as to what lies ahead.

Seasons are a fact of life.   We can count on there being four seasons every year but those seasons don’t always look the same.  Sometimes spring is cold and seems to come late.  Sometimes summer is hot, dry, and without much rain.  Sometimes warm fall weather lasts into November and sometimes winter has brought us feet of snow .  Every year brings with it its own brand of seasons.

As does life!

I love how Solomon says it Ecclessiates 3:1-8  

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

2 a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

For EVERYTHING.

Everything has a beginning, a time preparation, a time of furrowing and planting and waiting for things to happen and grow.  There is a time of hard work, weeding and toiling under the sun.  There are signs of life but not much fruit.  There is a time when the evidence of your investment and work proves to be fruitful and there is a return on your labor;  harvest season. Then there is a resting season, a time when everything good has been harvested and the ground needs a rest, the people need a rest.  It’s a time when some things die and other things only look like they’ve died but they are simply in a time of complete rest.

Today I am facing a winter season.  As season of letting something go; ceasing to breathe life into something that clearly needs to die.  There is a bit of grief stirring within me.  Saying goodbye to this season is necessary in order to move on the the next thing.  I am reminded of what Paul writes in Philippians:

Philippians 3:13-14

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own.  But one thing I do:  forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

I must let go of one thing in order to grab hold of another.  Just like the playground horizontal ladder.  I cannot move ahead without first letting go of the hand behind me to swing forward to the next wrung.   If I don’t let go, I do not move ahead and neither can those behind me.  Those following me cannot move ahead until I move. Horizontal Playground Ladder

So what’s behind the hesitation to let go?  Why the ambivalence?    It’s easier to hold on to the thing you know, than to let go, trust God and grab hold of the unknown thing that lies ahead.   Living out a faithful life in Christ to the glory of God requires me to let go and trust that God will uphold me with his righteous right hand.   It’s a walk of faith.

Life is reflected in the image of seasons.   I can rest in this season of winter and let go; no need to strive to make things happen.  It is foolish to attempt to harvest when the fruit is gone.   I must see that there is no more to be gained and let go.  No worries about what will happen if something has to end.   God has more for me until He calls me home.  It may be winter now but spring is coming!

And so I rest.

 

 

 

Growing Together

God doesn’t need us to do His work for Him but He invites us to share in His good work.

I used to think of mentoring as an end of life endeavor: after I’d lived, seen and heard it all, I would pour it out on a younger woman. I even prayed to God, “Grow me up to be a woman of wisdom.” I hadn’t yet come to the truth that God’s word is living and active. I wasn’t supposed to wait until I was ready but I was to be made mature.

To whatever degree, mentoring is about my mentoree AND me. As God is refining me, He has put me in a relationship with another woman so that I can continue in my humility and vulnerability and thereby point to the beauty of Christ, embracing His transformational love and grace. Being a mentor keeps me at His feet listening for His voice, reading His word, and conforming myself to His will.

And I have discovered a wonderful aspect of mentoring: this younger woman is sometimes my Ebenezer in the sense that she reminds me of what God has done in my life as I walk with her through hers. I recognize that God alone is able to shepherd, protect, teach, rebuke, encourage and grow my younger sister in Christ into a mighty warrior for His kingdom. We are spurring one another on to love and good works.

So, what’s my point? There is no magical age, no arriving at a perfect moment in time to mentor another brother or sister in Christ. In all honesty, God doesn’t need us to do His work for Him but He invites us to share in His good work. “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” so that not only can you bless another with your service but so that you can be blessed with: greater knowledge and intimacy with Jesus, seeing the transformational power of God in another’s life, and witnessing God’s faithfulness to His children down through the years.

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is names, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:14-21

Imitate Me…

1 Corinthians 11:1 Be imitators of me as I am of Christ.

1 Corinthians 11:1   Be imitators of me as I am of Christ.

Imitate, mimic, copy, watch me and do as I do, be as I am. I am following Christ.  You follow me; I follow Christ, therefore, you follow Christ by following my example.  Paul is so confident in his walk with Jesus that he is willing to say, follow me.

1 Corinthians 4:15-16   For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers.  For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.  I urge you then, be imitators of me.

Paul clearly draws a line between guide and father.  A guide can lead you through something and point you in the right direction but a father is personally invested.  You are his, he is yours. A father’s care is beyond guide.  It is also, protector, guardian, authority, parent, caregiver and caretaker  – all motivated by love.

Philippians 4:9   Whatever you have learned, received, heard or seen in me – practice these things and the God of peace will be with you.

Paul is saying here, not only observe and learn but put it into practice. Make it your habit to do these things.   And what’s the payoff?  Peace!

So what about you?  As a mentor are you comfortable saying to your students, “Follow me as I follow Jesus?”   Are you living a life worthy of the gospel?  Phil. 1:27-30    If not, then what? Do you dumb down your mentoring to make yourself the standard by saying, “If I am not doing it then I cannot require someone else to do it.” or  are you willing to follow Jesus in a way that you are confident brings honor and glory to God and you would be fully confident saying, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.”

L.E.N.T.

BEFORE YOU SPEAK CONSIDER L E N T
It is a privilege to be a biblical mentor. Although we aren’t Spiderman the advice his Uncle Ben gave him applies to us as well: “with great power comes great responsibility.” When we have the authority to speak into another’s life it is important to watch our words. As Christians we recognize Lent as a time of remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice and redemption. So the acronym LENT can be useful to check that your words lead the way towards christlikeness in ourselves and our mentoree.
So before you speak check your words and ask:
L : Is it Loving?
Does what I am about to say pass the “1 Corinthians 13 test”?
1 Cor 13:4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
– Is what you are about to say exhibiting patience with the person, situation, God?
– Is it kind?
– What is your motive?  Does this stem from comparing yourself or your mentoree   others, or to bragging about yourself?
– How are you saying this? In humility and with respect?
– Does it consider the other before yourself, do you need to be right about this?
– Are you being overly sensitive or are you annoyed?
– Does the motivation behind it honor God and point to Him?
E: It is Encouraging?
To encourage is to bring courage in. Encouragement is not empty platitudes but inspires by directing us to God’s character and promises. It may even hurt but never harms and is often hard but always good. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend”   Proverbs 27:6
N: is it Necessary?
Do you need to say this?   Are you putting yourself where you do not belong? Are you in the way of a person getting to God? Are you an obstacle or a bridge to God in this circumstance?
T: Is it True?
Does what you are about to say match up with God’s word?  “For everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” Hebrews 5:13, 14