One For All

The call to serve, grow and mature is a corporate undertaking. Growing together as the body of Christ is an others-centered pursuit of growth for the maturity of the entire body.

One for all, all for one. While this declaration and motto of The Three Musketeers is not in the Bible, it is a principle of unity found in the New Testament. The concept of this motto is that the one supports and is dedicated to and lives for the good of everyone within the group and the group supports and is dedicated to and lives for the good of the one. The deep bond of love, trust, commonality of purpose, beliefs and goals strengthens the resolve of dedication to one another, placing the good of another above and before one’s own interests and profit/gain. It’s a living out of a surrendered life that sacrifices for others. This is the way of the body of Christ. We grow together maintaining the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. This theme is woven through the New Testament.

If you are a Christian it is likely that you would agree that spiritual disciplines are essential to spiritual growth. Our growth as believers is directly related to our personal training; study of the Bible, prayer, fasting, journaling etc. As 1 Tim. 4:7 says, we are to train ourselves for godliness. The purpose of our training is not to be trained. The Pharisees were well trained in spiritual disciplines. They were trained and displayed their piety as a performance for all to see and admire. But God calls us beyond the exercise of these disciplines to a heart and mind transformation. It is through these disciplines that we become more like Jesus in desires, affections and character. It’s the process of becoming what Christ has already made us. Though we are positionally righteous through the person and work of Jesus, we grow experientially into that position which will never be fully attained this side of heaven.

In society today, personal growth and development has become a multi-million dollar industry. People from all backgrounds, professions and vocations are pursuing personal development for career and life. This focus on self improvement can be a selfish endeavor. Generally speaking, the desire to become a better me or live my best life now is for my own personal gain. This is the way of the world.

God gives us a higher reason to pursue personal growth and development. The call to serve, grow and mature is a corporate undertaking. Growing together as the body of Christ is an others-centered pursuit of growth for the maturity of the entire body.

Ephesians 4:11-15 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking truth in love, we are to grow up in every way to him who is the head into Christ, from who the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love for us made us alive together with Christ (Ephesians 2:4-5). We are His body; the bride of Christ. We have an obligation, born out of that great love, to grow up and mature in Christ that goes far beyond personal development. It is our duty, our act of devotion to Christ and our love for our brothers and sisters in Christ. As believers and followers of Jesus, we must set our hearts on knowing Him and growing up in every way into Him. Personal growth leads to corporate growth. When we work together for the maturity of one body we take responsibility for one another and help each other grow up into Christ who is the head. When we use our God-given gifts, talents and resources to encourage one another toward Christ-likeness, we build one another up and mature as others around us are also building one another up and maturing. We grow and mature together.

When a group of naturally imperfect, self-centered people are joined together in any group, it gets complicated by personalities, passions and deceitful desires. He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. (2 Cor. 5:15) He died that we might no longer have to live for ourselves. Only by the work of the Spirit are we able to put off the old self, be renewed in the spirit of our minds and put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Eph. 4:22-24) It is only then that we can speak the truth with our neighbors because we are members of one anther. (Eph.4:25)

If we are to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called (Eph. 4:1), we must be prepared to walk it with our brothers and sisters in Christ. This walk is marked by direction, effort, purpose and progress. It is characterized by humility, truth in love, gentleness, patience and a bearing with one another. It is made possible only by the outpouring of God’s abundant grace. It’s not a mindless, casual stroll in the park. It’s an intentional, others-centered walk toward unity and maturity in Christ.

Believers are called to live in unity together. There is one body, one spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all (Ephesians 4:4). I must be devoted to growing, maturing and living for Christ because I am constrained and compelled by His love for me and my beholden, reciprocating love for him. I can only consider and commit my self to this great call of “until we all attain…” (Ephesians 4:11) because of His great love and sufficient grace.

One for all, all for one.

Less of ME

Followers of John were concerned that Jesus was stealing his ministry. John knew if people were to follow Jesus they could not follow him.

Show-stealing, glorying-thieving human nature always wants to be the best, the brightest, the most spectacular and the hero. The flesh wants to rise up and be seen, heard and known. The flesh competes with Jesus for the spotlight. How often we lose sight of the fact that we are but specks of dust reflecting His glory. We have no glory of our own. All our springs; the sources of life, blessings and everything good is in the Lord.

John knew. His mission was to boldly foretell and proclaim the coming of the Messiah. He lived his whole life to this end. He humbly, obediently, served the Lord his God as a way-maker and path-forger, heralding the news of the coming Messiah. John was chosen by God to introduce Jesus as the Messiah to the world and to baptize him and yet he didn’t see himself worth to carry his sandals.

John 3:26-30 And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to who you bore witness – look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” John answered, “A person cannot receive one thing unless it is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, “I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him. The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore, this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.”

Imagine this scene playing out on stage. John introduces Jesus to the audience and positions Him center stage. John baptizes Jesus and then he steps out of the spotlight. The light on John fades to dark as the spotlight shines brighter on Jesus. John does not aspire to share the stage of fame with Jesus. As he said to his followers, “He must increase, but I must decrease.

Followers of John were concerned that Jesus was stealing his ministry. John knew if people were to follow Jesus they could not follow him. As John explained to his followers, he who has the bride is the bridegroom. The best man is not in competition with the bridegroom. John was not in competition with Jesus. Instead of rivalry there is joy in the heart of the best man as he witnesses the marriage of the bride and bridegroom. John’s joy was complete. The best man steps aside still pointing to the bridegroom calling attention to him. John must step aside as the Messiah moves forward.

Remind us Lord that our hope and significance lie in Jesus, the one who lived for our righteousness and died for our sin. Jesus, name above all names in heaven and in all the earth is the bright and morning star. We can never outshine You! When we compete with You for glory and attention, humble our heart with the reminder of who we are compared to who You are. Give us the grace and humility to submit to You in the process of becoming less as you become more as we are a people not worthy to carry your sandals.

More of Him, less of me!

Who do You Really Represent?

When I remember my role as ambassador to Christ, the good name of Jesus will be showcased in all my associations; my family, my marriage, my job and my church. Before and above all else, I represent Jesus and endeavor to live in such a way that His name be made famous.

My thinking was myopic and faulty. I had fallen short. While it was true, I represented my church and the desire to represent well was a good objective, it was secondary to my ambassadorship of Christ Jesus. As a believer and follower of Christ, I am sent out as ambassador to represent the one who sent me and to demonstrate His character in the manner by which I live and speak. As Christians we are called to represent Christ in words and actions. Acts 1:8, 2 Cor. 5:20

As I was making a reservation for a women’s retreat I determined, as a representative of my local church, to be especially kind, polite and patient. I had resolved to live out Colossians 4:5-6, Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of time. Let your speech always be seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

As it turned out, there was a bit of confusion on the part of the hotel representative as to who we were and there appeared to be no block of rooms available for our group. A short phone call became long, filled with questions and long pauses of being on hold.

When the confusion was eventually cleared up, the hotel representative thanked me for my kindness. As I hung up the phone my heart swelled with gratitude for the grace to represent my church well by exercising patience and kindness. That momentary sense of victory turned to piercing conviction and joy turned to sorrow. I had fallen short of the mark.

Though I had set my mind to represent the church well, the object of my representation was wrong. My goal is not to make my church look good. It’s to showcase my Lord to the praise of His glory. How quickly and easily I forget that while we live out our lives before human-kind, we live for the good name above all names, Jesus Christ and for His glory.

Matthew 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and glorify God in heaven.

Psalm 115:1 Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and faithfulness!

When I remember my role as ambassador to Christ, the good name of Jesus will be showcased in all my associations; my family, my marriage, my job and my church. Before and above all else, I represent Jesus and endeavor to live in such a way that His name be made famous.

Psalm 45:17 I will cause Your name to be remembered to all generations; therefore nations will praise you forever and ever.

Above and before all else, I represent Jesus.

Should not my every encounter be an opportunity of mindful representation?

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

Who Knew??

1 Thessalonians 2:7, 8, 12    But we were gentle  among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.  So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.  For you know how, like a father with his children,  we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.

I loved the idea of being a mom.  My heart was full of fear, trepidation and excitement as I awaited the birth of my first child.  My head went from wondering what this child would look like to who he would become as a person.  It was all very exciting!  However, in my imaginings, I skipped the middle part; the years of training up that would shape and mold this person into who he would become.

I had no idea it would be so hard and yet I had more children!  Where were those sweet little  angels I had conjured in my imaginings?   Instead, I gave birth to children with a sin nature and a disposition much like my own.

I was in for a battle that God had clearly prepared me for but that I had not seen coming. But because of my love for them, I fought for them with consistency and discipline even when it would have been easier to just let them do what they wanted.  I fought for them on my knees.

I read every parenting book I could get my hands on,  I poured over the Bible looking for answers. As they got older we discussed the hard decisions and choices and consequences of choosing poorly and the rewards of choosing well.  I talked with them even when I knew they weren’t willing to take my sage advice.  There were days when I wanted to resign from parenting.

The same was true for me with mentoring.  I loved the idea of mentoring.   I imagined my mentoree as a young woman, eager to learn, willing to take steps of faith, sucking up the Word of God like a sponge and becoming a mature, passionate Christian.  Again, I skipped over the middle part.

Who knew the battles that would ensue for the righteous raising of others?   Who knew it would require so much time on my knees?  Who knew the agony and powerlessness of watching another walk down an unwise path? Who knew that through these relationships, my faith and reliance on Jesus would increase and my understanding of his grace and mercy would  multiply?  I did not know then and what I know now is less than I will know tomorrow.

Here is what I do know:  I grow.  Others grow.  We grow together.  God is faithful to the parent, to the child, to the mentor and to the mentoree.

3 John 4   I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

Oh the joy!!