Hope, Humility, Love, Sanctification, Trust, Uncategorized

Other Than

Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.  And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.” 2 Timothy 2:23-26

Has it ever occurred to you that Jesus never started a quarrel? This strikes me as remarkable. This isn’t the only way Jesus is different from you and me. His values are so far removed from the world’s it’s a miracle that we notice him at all.  I was recently talking with a friend about how most protagonists in the bible are described as being good-looking. But, unlike them, Jesus was described as having “no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.” Isaiah 53:2b.

How “other than” Jesus was and is!  He is so non-fleshy it’s shocking when recognized.  He didn’t just not sin, He loved when it was humanly impossible to do so.  He humbled himself in so many ways. He came as a baby in the flesh to a poor family and was not even considered handsome.  On top of that He was raised in Nazareth, a small town with little worth in the eyes of the ancient world.  In essence, Jesus personified humility to humanity.  Thankfully, this ability to die to oneself was given to us by Jesus when He deposited His Spirit in our hearts. The actual power to never quarrel was placed securely within His temple. Wow! This is not to say that Jesus never had conflict, rather, Jesus lived what Paul is teaching to Timothy.

My heart broke as I read Paul’s words because the memories of so many stupid arguments are fresh in my mind.  It was only about six weeks ago that I pummeled our oldest son with my point of view, degrading him in attitude if not in words for having a different opinion on something that seemed so clear to me.  Really? What is the point of that? Division and distrust were not things I strived to cultivate in the relationship with my son.  There are no parenting books that I’m aware of that recommend verbal jousting. In the end I realized it was not only destructive but just stupid.  Not the conversation or the conflict but the argument that led to a quarrel.  “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful…”  This, my friend, does not come naturally to me.  There are some things that trigger a mighty destructive quarrel bullet, like when I feel demeaned or dismissed or am made to feel stupid.  Also, I can be kind, but to everyone?  This is truly impossible without Christ.

Therefore, when I feel hopeless about measuring up to the standards of 2 Timothy I recite John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.”  Isn’t that true?  Apart from Christ we cannot live at peace with others, not even our loved ones.  Apart from Christ I cannot NOT get into stupid arguments.  Apart from Christ I cannot be kind to everyone.  Like a branch that is dependent on the vine for life I remember that He is “other than” the world and cling to Him for His glory.

 

Control, Hope, Love, Obedience, Trust

Joab-ish

“And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.” 2 John 1:6

Do you ever feel like taking things into your own hands?  Not only have I felt this way but I have also felt justified in doing so.  I call this “acting Joab-ish.”  If you’re not familiar with Joab you’ll at least remember that he was the commander of the army of Israel during David’s reign and the one who withdrew troops at David’s command so that Uriah the Hittite, husband of Bathsheba, would be killed.

Joab’s  autobiography would be called, ‘I did it My Way.’ He acted as if he had no regard for David’s authority or God’s will.  The accounts in 2 Samuel and 1 Kings portray Joab as a man controlled by self-righteousness and jealousy. He never considered whether or not the actions he took aligned with God’s Word or the King’s will.

The list of Joab’s most violent deeds include, but are not limited to:

  • The murder of Abner in secret as an act of revenge. (David cursed Joab when he found out.) 2 Samuel 3
  • Ensuring Uriah died in battle after King David sent orders to do so. 2 Samuel 11
  • Murdering Absalom, disobeying the direct order of King David. 2 Samuel 18
  • Murdering Amasa in order to regain his position as commander of the army. 2 Samuel 20

Surprisingly, the only time Joab obeyed is when it didn’t interfere with his own agenda.  He did not trust his king to judge rightly and lived by his own rules.  Ironically, there are times I find myself arguing Joab’s position.  After all, Absalom was usurping the throne.  Come on! Give the guy a break!

In the same way I argue my own position. “Really God? That’s not the way I would do it.” or better yet, “Okay, let me try this first and I’ll get back to you.”

Thankfully, God doesn’t give us a break when we run a marathon of willful rebellion, making a mess of our lives and relationships while tripping people along the way.  “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent..” Revelation 3:19.  The interesting thing about Joab is that he was never really disciplined until the end of David’s life. That’s when the judgment came and he was “terminated.”

“Now you yourself know what Joab son of Zeruiah did to me—what he did to the two commanders of Israel’s armies, Abner son of Ner and Amasa son of Jether. He killed them, shedding their blood in peacetime as if in battle, and with that blood he stained the belt around his waist and the sandals on his feet. Deal with him according to your wisdom, but do not let his gray head go down to the grave in peace.” 1 Kings 2:5-6

Therefore, it’s a blessing to be disciplined when we are acting in our own strength.  It is a sure sign that we belong to God and are His precious child.  He is faithful to make us aware of disobedience by shining light into the dark, cluttered closet of self-will. Also, please remember, just because something looks like it aligns with God’s will doesn’t mean it is God’s will for you.  Be discerning and pray about everything.  There are many good things, even fulfilling things, that we can do but our motivation may be self-serving. For example, something you choose to do may be motivated by the sense of value and approval you receive rather than by His prompting by the Holy Spirit for His glory.  Therefore, rest in His plan for you even if it is resting! Trust in His perfect plan even if it means risk. Above all, love like you mean it by walking in obedience and surrender to Christ alone.

Uncategorized

More than I could ask or imagine!

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21

Have you ever been so blessed you just cant stand it? Like the sun on a hot summer day when its brightness is too much to take in, abundant blessings can be hard to absorb. This past Wednesday was a day like that for our family.

On Tuesday, June 9th, the Baltimore Orioles chose our youngest son, Ryan, in the fourth round of the MLB draft. The following day we celebrated his graduation and new baseball career with friends and family, including many of Ryan’s youth baseball All-star teammates and their families. The joy was palpable. It wasn’t just the excitement of the moment but the delight of the Lord that was apparent everywhere you looked; sacrificial love, abundant grace, pure joy and warm fellowship that all reflected the heart of God.

Initially, I saw sacrificial love in Sean, our oldest son, as he played Can Jam with his cousin. Sean stayed home an extra week, postponing his internship, because he wanted to be with his brother to celebrate this special time. Then, God’s abundant grace was evident in the sunshine and warmth, the surprisingly beautiful and delicious food the caterers prepared and the extra games brought by our nephew, which everyone enjoyed immensely.

Moreover, the decorations which were a gift from a friend created such an atmosphere of joy you couldn’t help but smile when looking at the six centerpieces full of baseballs, American flags, Big League Chew, peanuts and Cracker Jacks, not to mention the “home plate” paper cut outs which handsomely anchored each display. Best of all, the warm fellowship we experienced with our friends was such a gift. The whole community was cheering for Ryan and showered their love on him and our family that day. We felt God’s pleasure.

In retrospect, I can hardly absorb the brightness of the blessing, especially against the backdrop of our failings.  God met the needs of our children, filling in the cracks left by imperfect parents, and led them to an abundant life in Him. There were many rough roads, struggles and doubts but to quote Beth Moore, “You cannot amputate your history from your destiny, because that is redemption.” (Esther Study). Boy did we experience redemption this past week! God is able to do far more than we could ever ask or imagine and He longs to give good gifts to His children.

Uncategorized

Absolute Love

“And He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your affliction.’” Mark 5:34

Recently God convicted me of having an unclean flow of criticism. He also showed me a dark corner of my heart where unbelief was feeding off my fear of joy and my need for conditional love.   This perverse need is based on pride and rooted in the lie that no one can be trusted, not even God, and I have to earn love and acceptance. If I could only stay hidden and touch Jesus surreptitiously so no one has to know my secret shame then I’ll be okay. What I found was that I am much harder on others and on myself than God would ever be. Jesus performed the only deed that could win my freedom. He is the only One that can make me clean, cutting off the flow of words that cut off fellowship from the very people I love so dearly.

However, we live in a cynical world where we are all susceptible to skepticism, suspicion and fear. The story in Mark 5 reveals the hearts of many women who suffer in shame. They are afraid to speak out loud about their sin for fear of further rejection, not believing that anyone would love them as they are. When this woman reached out to Jesus He asked, “Who touched me?” giving her an opportunity to confess out loud in front of others for the purpose of healing and restoration. In verse 33 she is finally compelled to fall at His feet and tell Him everything. His answer astounds me. He calls her “daughter” and blesses her, not only with healing but also with affection, validation and encouragement. There is not one ounce of criticism in the interaction.

Similar to criticism, people pleasing is a form of manipulation. This past weekend I tried to please others at every turn to earn approval but ended up hurting the ones closest to me with impatience and anger, which caused friction in my marriage. Fortunately, I asked for forgiveness and told my husband that I needed his support and love even more when I was struggling. Then, I released the whole thing to the Lord, stepping out in faith to trust God’s love for me. God forgive me for stealing their joy!

This cycle of criticism and people pleasing is seeded by insecurity and watered by unbelief. In her book, So Long Insecurity, Beth Moore encourages the reader to remember that their security is in Jesus Christ and no one can take it away from them. She actually coaches you to say it out loud. So, taking her advice I said, “Jesus, You are my Rock and my salvation! No one can take me out of Your hands. I will not give my security to any man or woman. It belongs to You and I choose to stand securely in You.”

If you are also touching Jesus in secret I want to encourage you to share with your spouse, a trusted friend or a pastor what Jesus did for you, bringing out into the light for His glory. The only way we can walk in the light is to be transparent. Then we are free to tell our story of healing victory to anyone without shame. Yes, I am a recovering people pleaser with an insatiable appetite for approval whom God has freed. You may be too but we can all fall at His feet and tell him everything in front of everyone without fear of rejection because the truth is He adores you and always will.