We’re only human

“But we’re only human…”

For one who has accepted Christ as Savior, that statement–usually offered as an excuse for sin–is a powerful example of a half-truth being a whole lie.  The foundation of the Christian life is that our flesh is crucified and our life is in Christ.  “But we’re only human…” has the sound of humility but it emanates from the father of lies.

Galatians 2:20 says:  My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

True humility sets the flesh aside and boasts in the power of the Cross…in the One who triumphed over the father of lies by dying on the Cross.

May I never boast in anything except the Cross of Jesus Christ–by whom the world was crucified to me and I was crucified to it (the world).  Galatians 6:14

Victorious Christian living NEVER trust in the flesh.   The flesh is ‘circumcised and buried in Christ’ – cut off, put away!

Knowing the source of our life, surrendering to His life and power in us, is the key to victory.  Take time to feed on these truths and fight lies that rob God of the glory He deserves.  Claim Christ’s victory and help others do the same!

Romans 8:10

2 Corinthians 4:6,7; 13:5

Galatians 4:19

Colossians 1:27

Faith is the key to our victory.  Ephesians 3:17 tells us that Christ dwells by faith.  2 Corinthians 13:5 admonishes us to be certain of our position of faith!  Faith is not just a reading of words or an emotional desire.  Faith is confidence that creates action.

Live the reality of the redemption!

Jesus did not stay on the Cross or in the grave…He rose in eternal life.

 

michael flickr

Which side of the Cross will you choose?                                          Picture: Michael/Flickr

 

 

 

Can you hear me now?

We all have those conversations with others that leave us feeling that nothing we thought we were saying was heard.  Whatever it is we intended to convey often takes a back seat to resentment and frustration.  Then, we assure that nothing is heard!

We live in a loud, loud world–where opinions are shouted as truth and personal preference is a god that divides and destroys.  Learning to hear and be heard is a vital pursuit.  We want our hearts to be intent on the cell phone slogan:  Can you hear me now?

A quiet heart resting in God is the key to hearing clearly.  It is also the key to speaking clearly.  When we have God in His rightful place, powering our lives, we will hear Him and heartothers will as well.

We intuitively understand the damage of speaking from a distressed heart.  ‘Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.’  When our heart is impure and filled with ‘us’ instead of Christ, the words we speak reflect that.

David–the man after God’s own heart–gives us insight into what happens when we relate to others with a disquieted heart.

When my heart was embittered
And I was pierced within,
Then I was senseless and ignorant;
I was like a beast before You.  Psalm 73:21,220227162151a

A heart that is pained and bitter makes us senseless and ignorant.  We can’t even think through what we are hearing or seeing. Our relationships with others are cut off.  We stand before God as a ‘beast’ instead of one made in His image.

The emotions God built into us are to alert us to the need to go for Him–for a clean-up, a restoration to what really matters.  We can’t simply acknowledge our unrest, we must confess it for the sin it is.  David didn’t dismiss his sin by excusing himself or accusing another…he said “I was senseless and ignorant.”  He owned his limitations and honored God.  Then, we see a beautiful picture of how God brings each of us into relationship with Him–and how we can restore relationships in our own lives.

Nevertheless I am continually with You;
You have taken hold of my right hand.
With Your counsel You will guide me,
And afterward receive me to glory. Psalm 73:23,24

God does not toss us aside or even turn His back on us when bitterness and pain causes us to be foolish and ignorant.  He holds us fast and guides us with kindness.  He refocuses on what really matters and leads us toward that.

My tendency in brick wall conversations is to drop the matter and move on.  Sometimes that is the right choice.  But always, loving others and leading them toward what really matters with kindness is the right choice. 

As Christians, we are called to make disciples of Christ.  We can only do that if we surrender our lives so Christ can be seen and felt.  Insisting on our opinion, requiring others to see things as we see them or feel about things as we do is not the way of Christ.   Through Jeremiah, God told His people, I have drawn you with cords of loving-kindness.  He is unchanging.  May we change into more of His likeness.

Let’s Look Like Jesus: Servants

As I read my favorite devotion this morning (My Utmost), the question I’ve read every year for over a decade pierced my heart yet again:

“Am I willing to be myself and nothing more…”

Logic says that’s all any of us can be…but it is seldom how we live.  I don’t like my limitations, my failures, my selfishness, my ….  But those are part of me.  Learning to simply be myself–and know I am loved as I am is critical to becoming all Christ intends for me to be!  Willing to be myself in service to the Great I am is a powerful position.  Today, we’ll look at the beauty of servanthood as Christ displayed it:  that is the destiny of each of us.

Humility and servanthood are unquestionably linked; in fact, Christ’s servant heart preceded the humility that led Him to the cross. Servant-hood is not for the faint of heart. However, it has a counterfeit in natural man, which sometimes makes us think this is an easier character trait to obtain.

As Christians, we must never mistake volunteerism for servant hood. Needs abounded then and now. While Jesus met needs (and meets them), He was neither needs-driven nor needs-focused. The incredible beauty of Christ’s attitude of service rests upon the truth that He acted purely out of obedience to the will of God. True servant hood exemplifies such focus. The servant heart finds the answer to all of its needs in Christ and simply serves as a conduit to the world for the great Need-Meeter!

The desire to do good for others is not necessarily Christ-like. Alleviating suffering is Christ-like, and we are created in Christ to do good works. However, the Spirit of servant hood exhibited by Christ is far more challenging than simply doing good. Self seeks the spotlight in our lives; sometimes serving allows us to be noticed. Examining Christ’s life shows us that such service is not the servant hood He displayed.

Satan tempted Jesus to serve Himself…to use His power to meet His needs, to reveal His power and claim His inheritance. Jesus refused to rush the Father’s plan and gave glory to God in His refusal to lift up Himself. The disciples encouraged Jesus to pity Himself…to insist on His Kingship and demand the honor and glory He deserved. Jesus rebuked their suggestions and pressed on toward the Father’s will. Those who personally knew Jesus questioned His identity and said ‘show yourself.’ Christ refused the temptation to defend Himself and stayed firmly focused upon the will of God.

Each of those victories strengthened Jesus for His blood-wrenching night of prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. It is that night of prayer that reveals the heart of servant hood: ‘Not my will but thine.’ Those words are the heart-cry of pure service. As Christ’s earthly life neared its end on the cross, the crowds mocked Him with the words ‘Save Yourself.’ They, like many today, failed to understand that the focus on self never brings deliverance. Self steps aside in the heart of the servant to allow the purposes and plans of God to enter.

The King of Kings forfeited the blessings of heaven to wash the dirty feet of His most beloved creation: humankind. He endured betrayal, deceit, anger, disrespect, humiliation, torture, cruelty, injustice and death at the hands of those He came to serve. Not only did He endure it, Christ absorbed it and all of its consequences to accomplish the purpose–the will–of the Father. The heart of the servant is willing to do the same. Servant hood is not volunteering. It is life-giving sacrifice that costs all of self.

Oddly enough, it begins by accepting ourselves as the beloved of God…even with our shortcomings and imperfections.  Only a surrendered life can truly serve.  His power is great enough to fill our every lack.  He gave His very life for our sins…receiving His gift with thanksgiving means receiving His very life and giving it to another.  For a powerful, deep look at Servanthood, read HIS: Hands in Service or schedule a workshop for your ministry team.

Let’s Look Like Jesus: Integrity

Character is said to be ‘who we are when no one is looking.’  It is about integrity to our core beliefs.  As Christians, our life is Christ, so we ought to look Him.  We can’t do that if we don’t know Him well!  This series of Let’s Look Like Jesus is all about examining Character.  We began with humility…recognizing and embracing our limits.  Today, we consider what integrity to our identity looks like

 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.  Galatians 5:22-25

Integrity of character is the essence of the One who is Truth, but it is a fading attribute in this sin-damaged world. Disposable marriages, bankruptcies in Fortune 500 companies and situational ethics make the concept of intrinsic, lasting value increasingly elusive.

The Greek word for Truth encompasses the concept beautifully: ‘unveiled reality lying at the basis of and agreeing with an appearance.”

Jesus Christ is the expression of God’s character in all He says and does. The alignment of our lives with the Word produces a Spirit of Integrity in our character as well. A Christian demonstrating Christ’s spirit will be inherently trustworthy: a person who says what they mean and means what they say!

Genesis to Revelation speaks to this aspect of Christ’s character for His is the nature of the eternal, unchanging God. The character of Christ is unadulterated; it is the way to the Father. Christ reveals God in His manner of living: seek to know and do the will of the Father. Every account of Christ’s words and works found both their root and expression in the desire of God. The integrity of the pathway to God is clear in the character of Christ.

Christ’s character speaks of truth in the same manner. Just as Jesus commended Nathanael for his forthright speech, the words of Christ are not always politically correct or syrupy sweet. Jesus’ words ‘simply’ conveyed truth. Every word He spoke flowed directly from the Father’s desire to redeem a dying world. On the other hand, Satan’s words are often tempting and appealing for he masquerades as an Angel of Light. The father of lies used words to deceive people–to obscure truth.

Jesus lived with authenticity:

truth could be seen, heard and felt in His presence.

Completing the picture of integrity in Christ’s character is intrinsic life. As Creator and Sustainer of life, Jesus is life. Simple fleshly life is an incredible gift but only a shadow of the truth of real life! In an incomprehensible truth, God became man that He might die the deserved death of man. That sacrificial death on the Cross opened the doorway for the fullness of life God always planned for mankind. Jesus Christ is life through and through. The life of Christ dwells within every believer–true, eternal, holy life!

The transformation of our character into the likeness of Christ allows His glory to flow into every mundane aspect of earthly life. Integrity is beautiful when the core is Christ. Integrity matters–and it will make us look different from the world!

Love is action

Love–like faith–is action!  The heartbreaking evil of this week and the anger it generates took me to this old look at love.  May we all prayerfully seek the love of God and then let it flow out of our lives.  We change the atmosphere by living with a loving attitude.  1 Corinthians 13 show us what true love looks like!

Let’s practice being people who are:

Patient. I don’t need to get even.

Kind. I seek to give and to do good.

Content. I don’t want what others have.

Humble. I don’t need to make myself look good.

Peaceable. I don’t always have to be right.

Courteous. I show respect.

Serving. I don’t have to get my own way.

Calm. I don’t blow up and lose my temper.

Forgetful. I don’t keep a list of ways I’ve been hurt.

Righteous. I want the best for others.

Truthful. I love God’s word and try to obey it.

Protective. I don’t say hurtful things about (or to) others.

Positive. I believe the best about others.

Hope. I believe good will come.

Endure. I will not give up.

The flip side of love is exactly what we are seeing played out in the news…individuals declaring and acting on selfish hatred:

I will get even! I will not be patient–I will not suffer long for you!

I have given enough! I don’t want to do anything good for you!

I want more!

I am more important than you!

I am right!

I don’t care about what you need or think!

I want you to do it my way!

I am mad and you need to know it!

I have been hurt by you too many times!

I want you to get what you deserve!

I don’t care what God says–I’m doing it my way!

I will say what I want–so what if it hurts you!

I know you can’t do that–you’re a loser!

I know you will never be loving to me!

I give up!

Let’s Look Like Jesus: Humility

The perpetual prayer list to aid us in transformation begins with a character quality that is treasured by God but rare in humanity:  HUMILITY.  Let’s look at Christ and gaze on the beauty of humility He exhibits.

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Philippians 2:5-8

Throughout Christ’s life, He evidenced humble surrender to the will of the Father.  Jesus told the disciples that the meat He ate was obedience to the Father!  His very sustenance came from doing what God desired.

The essence of humility is surrender to the Heavenly Father. 

Faith and humble obedience look an awful lot alike.  Any time spent looking at how Christ lived will reveal new aspects of humility:  his entrance to Jerusalem was on a donkey; He lived as a homeless servant; His own will was never His driving force.

The opposite of Christ’s humility is humanity’s self-serving, self-centered demands for consideration.  A focus on ‘my rights’ draws me from His humble presence.  Pride rears its head in subtle, diverse ways. We are often unaware of pride’s presence in our hearts until we fall flat on our face. Anytime we trust in ourselves–our strength, our knowledge, our experience, our efforts–instead of God, lethal pride is lurking. Humble awareness of the need for divine intervention ushers in victory. Prideful perseverance in the face of need guarantees a fall.

Humility matters so much to God, that all of life

functions as a classroom for pride and humility lessons.

Consider the ‘classrooms’ discussed below and ask the Spirit to reveal areas in your life where pride is lurking and threatening a fall.  Seek to see where foolish pride is obscuring the glory of God.  Rejoice at the victory of humility!

• Relationships are a priority to God.  Perhaps that is why relationships offer university-level instruction on humility. Without Christ, meeting our own needs and securing our ‘rights’ drives every relationship. Unity demands humility; without it, marriages disintegrate, parents and children fight, churches split and friendships end. Humility trusts God to meet our needs and direct our interactions.

• The workplace, too, teaches humility. As employees become sacrifices on the altar of greed, profit-driven administrations shred pride in preparation and performance. Humility trusts that God orchestrates both the present and the future. Humility gives victory over unpleasant working conditions and even unemployment.

• Working for the Lord is especially fraught with pitfalls of pride. God calls us only to the work of faith. The service we do is simply scaffolding on which to observe the work of God. Pride confuses our efforts with His work and interferes with eternal fruit. Humility rejoices at God’s handiwork and the immense privilege of working for the King of Kings!

• Trust in our physical bodies begins in childhood but wanes in aging. The human body is a marvelous machine; yet its design includes wearing out! Even those who exercise and eat right experience illness, disease and ultimately death. Humble acceptance of the aging process exhibits trust in God to work within our limits; prideful resistance hampers His work and dampens our spirit.

Personal tragedies and natural disasters provide brutal lessons in humility. Mistakes, carelessness, the unavoidable presence of evil in the world and even accidents devastate our prideful assumption of control. Humility frees us from the need to be perfect. It acknowledges that God is greater than our mistakes and greater than the evil that is in the world. God trusts God can and will bring good from the most horrid events. Humility accepts a loss of control to receive total security from Christ.

Recognizing need is the key that opens the door to humility and its faithful companions: joy and contentment. When needs confront us, let us reject our natural, prideful responses of whining demands or childish independence and humbly, jubilantly praise God for His powerful promises of provision! In fact, let’s learn to look at needs as invitations to know God more and humbly accept the invitation.

Sweet Fruit!

As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.   

Song of Solomon 2:3

Some tasty observations on a short morning walk and a simple grade school science fact have me rethinking a lifelong practice of early-morning berry picking. Better yet, my newly found berry fact reminds me of a God-truth. Time in the presence of the Son is sweet, and it sweetens the fruit of the Spirit dwelling in me!

The sun’s warmth persistently penetrated the morning fog as I walked along the wooded path toward town. The thorns of the blackberry bushes at trailside tugged on my jeans, and my delight in fresh berries tempted me to munch. Yielding to the lure, I popped a berry in my mouth. It was cool and juicy, but the sweetness that had enticed me was absent. I snacked my way to town never finding a sweet berry. A couple hours later, errands complete, I made my way back up the now sun-drenched path. In the mid-day heat, the glistening berries tempted me with a promise of juiciness. Surprisingly, this time the berries were delightfully sweet.

At the end of the trail, our neighbor–the caretaker of the bushes–happened to be working outside. He chuckled as I shared my puzzling observation, and said, “Of course. The sunlight draws the sugars up into the plant. Berries in the sunshine are always sweeter.”

Photosynthesis, of course, I should have known!

Out of that simple, natural-world truth, the Spirit reminded me of a more important truth: it is the warmth of the Son that draws wandering souls! There is sweetness in the Son’s powerful, persistent love that exists nowhere else. When I walk in the Son’s Light, my thoughts, words and actions fill with the sweetness of the indwelling Spirit! Just as the berries grow sweeter in the sun, I grow sweeter in the Son too!

Are you getting enough time in the Son? Are you walking within His light? He loves to share His sweetness. Soak in the Son and let His sweet Spirit ooze out of you.

Glimpses of Bitter Waters

There are passages in Scripture that are odd…confusing.  But the Word says, ALL Scripture is useful for us.  So, when I bump into those verses, I get excited when glimmers of ‘use’ begin to appear.  It doesn’t happen every time I read a puzzling piece of Scripture…sometimes the verses simply have to sit on what my pastor calls, the God Shelf.  Other times, God opens a window to show me a bit more of His glory.

One such window opened for me this week on an obscure part of the Old Testament.  Tucked away in the book of Numbers (chapter 5), where laws are expanded and the culture of the day unveiled, is an odd little passage about what a wife must endure when a jealous husband suspects adultery.  For years all I could get from that passage was that a wife must have both a pure heart and faith in God for such times.  Often in Scripture, God speaks not of what ought to be but what is…it is why some say God supports slavery or unholy acts.  He doesn’t support them; His Word simply acknowledges their existence.

In Numbers 5, we read of a husband whose unfounded suspicions could place a wife in quite a predicament.  The husband had the authority to drag her before the priest who would give her ‘bitter water.’  If she was innocent, nothing would happen.  If she was guilty, some ugly results preceded her death.  I couldn’t see any use in that Scripture for me as a believer in 2016.

This year, though, the preceding verses leapt off the page and gave the context I needed!  The unity of the people of God–their relationship to each other and to God–sets the stage.  Relationship insights are always needed by all of us!  Earlier in the chapter we read this:

‘Any man or woman who wrongs another in any way and so is unfaithful to the LORD is guilty and must confess the sin they have committed. They must make full restitution of the wrong…’

We are the bride of Christ.  Our lateral sins have vertical impact!  When we sin against others, we are unfaithful to the Lord.  Just like the wife of Numbers, the bitter waters of life reveal our hearts.  Unlike the husband of Numbers, God is never unreasonably suspicious.  He knows our hearts; He allows life to reveal our hearts (our sins) to us.

Only if we have allowed Jesus to sweeten the waters (check out Exodus 15 for a picture of that), can we pass through the tests unscathed.  If there is impurity in our actions, the costs will be born in our lives: our heritage is comprised, our peace disturbed.

The word for ‘bitter’ in both passages has some interesting connotations.  Bitter encompasses the ideas of heaviness, anger and chafing.  There are any number of things that come into our lives that can produce such emotions. Christ bore all of that on the Cross and opened the way to the Kingdom of Heaven for all who believe.  The Kingdom of Heaven is the opposite of bitter:  it is joy, peace, love and perseverance. It is life and hope for eternity.

God allows the tests of life, the bitter waters, so we will choose Him!  Step out in faith of His power, love and purposes!

How can we look like Christ?

The plan for believers in Christ is that we be transformed into the image of our Savior.  More than two decades after surrendering to God, I realize more and more how much work God still has to do in me!  The only way to know what God is doing in my transformation is to know more about the One whom I am to become like.

We are to be a source for the world to see God…I want people to see Him more than me.  God is worthy of our total dedication to know Him more and to reveal Him more.  As we learn more of His traits and practice them in the details of our lives, His purposes are accomplished.

Below is an incomplete list of Character Traits of Christ that I want to see more of in my life.  It makes a great Perpetual Prayer guide to go through each month.  Years ago, I began using it as a guide for praying for my children but quickly realized I–and every other child of God–needs the same prayers.  May it bless you as your pray through it.

1. Humility—willingness to submit.   James 4:10

2. Reverence—fear of the Lord.   Proverbs 9:10

3. Purity—desire to be clean.   Matthew 5:8

4. Purpose—wisdom to set goals.   Proverbs 4:25

5. Simplicity—an uncluttered life.   Romans 12:8

6. Commitment—dedication.   Joshua 24:15

7. Diligence—willing to work hard.   II Peter 1:5

8. Servanthood—desire to help others.   Galatians 6:9,10

9. Consistency—be faithful, reliable.   James 1:8

10. Restoration—ministry of healing.   Isaiah 61:1,2

11. Assurance—deep faith in God.   Hebrews 10:22

12. Availability—willing to go.   Isaiah 6:8

13. Loyalty—zeal for fidelity.   Ruth 1:16

14. Sensitivity—open heart.   Luke 10:30-37

15. Compassion—love in action.   Mark 8:1,2

16. Tenderness—willing to weep.   II Kings 22:19

17. Maturity—capable of growing.   Hebrews 5:12-14

18. Holiness—Christ-like actions. I Peter 1:16

19. Reliability—dependable.   I Corinthians 4:2

20. Authority—capable of commanding.    Matthew 16:19

21. Revelation—learn to listen.   Ephesians 1:15,18

22. Self-denial—willing to sacrifice.   Luke 9:23

23. Confidence—strength of the Lord.   Philippians 4:13

24. Integrity—truthful.   Romans 12:17

25. Repentance—willing to change.   Luke 3:8

26. Trust—fearless reliance. Psalm 125:1

27. Submission—choose to yield. Ephesians 5:21

28. Teachability—humble enough to learn. Titus 3:2

29. Prayerful—longing to wait.   Isaiah 40:31

30. Unity—respect for others.   1 Corinthians 1:10

31. Generosity—desire to give.   Matthew 10:8

Another great tool that aids in transformation is knowing God by Name.  My devotional book, Fixing our Eyes on God is one such tool.  The glory of God transforms!  Seek Him.