The S-Word. Submission.


The S-word.

Our problems with it are primarily problems we have with authority. Once we get the authority thing figured out, we can deal with submission better. When we accept authority, we can accept submission. We come to know who has authority over us, and we more willingly live under it.

It’s like living under a banner. We have to know our identity in order to know our authority. It’s like the tribes of Israel. Each knew his or her tribe, and they knew who created them and appointed them to their tribes.

We must know who God is and what it means to be made in His image and identified by His name.

And Moses built an altar and named it, “The Lord Is My Banner.” He said, “Indeed, my hand is lifted up toward the Lord’s throne.” (Exodus 17:15-16)

The Lord is my banner. I trust His authority…and submitting to Him doesn’t seem daunting, frightening, or compromising…because I trust Him.

Everyday Emotions

What, in general, do you do when you experience emotions?

  • I push them aside and forge forward.
  • I feel helpless and am often stopped in my tracks.
  • I sense the opportunity to look at what God’s exposing about me.
  • I’m motivated to change and grow.

Emotions expose us. We can feel unmasked. Emotions enhance our experiences, as if a highlighter has illuminated what’s going on in our lives. What do you think of when you think about being exposed?

I think about being on an island. My first thought is of being on the beach. Not the relaxing resort beach where refreshing drinks and snacks are readily available. A deserted beach. The sun is beating down, and there’s little escape if some odd creature or person wants to attack. I’m visible to everyone who is in the area as well as to the elements. I don’t feel safe.

Exposure feels unsafe. It’s unsettling.

I can also feel exposed in the very depths of the island jungle, where the vines and bushes are overgrown and hide the path. It’s a different kind of exposure. It’s exposure to the unknown and uncertainty. I can easily get lost, and I consider what could be lurking in the overgrowth.

Emotions can lead us to depend on God. The small word can is critical, because emotions will not automatically lead us to depend on God.

We can also get bogged down with our emotions. We experience negative emotions and we want to turn them into positive emotions. We experience positive emotions and we want them to last forever. We want things our way, and we usually want them to be easy. But we don’t experience easy emotions, because life isn’t easy. We get uncomfortable, and we want to change. Well, let me rephrase that. We often don’t want to change. We want something to change more than we want to be changed.

Let’s take a look at some changes in Scripture.

God said to Abraham, “I will change the name of Sarai, your wife, to Sarah.” Genesis 17:15

When Saul turned to leave Samuel, God changed Saul’s heart. All these signs came true that day. 1 Samuel 10:9

You changed my sorrow into dancing. You took away my clothes of sadness, and clothed me in happiness. Psalm 30:11

Do not be shaped by this world; instead be changed within by a new way of thinking. Then you will be able to decide what God wants for you; you will know what is good and pleasing to him and what is perfect. Romans 12:2

Our faces, then, are not covered. We all show the Lord’s glory, and we are being changed to be like him. This change in us brings ever greater glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18

By his power to rule all things, he will change our humble bodies and make them like his own glorious body. Philippians 3:21

Now consider the following:

So God created human beings in his image. In the image of God he created them. He created them male and female. Genesis 1:27

You made my whole being; you formed me in my mother’s body. I praise you because you made me in an amazing and wonderful way. What you have done is wonderful. I know this very well. Psalm 119:13-14

“I say this because I know what I am planning for you,” says the Lord. “I have good plans for you, not plans to hurt you. I will give you hope and a good future. Then you will call my name. You will come to me and pray to me, and I will listen to you.” Jeremiah 29:11-12

That was not because of anything we did ourselves but because of God’s purpose and grace. That grace was given to us through Christ Jesus before time began, but it is now shown to us by the coming of our Savior Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 1:9-10

I hope you recognized this one: God didn’t mess up His design of you.

He’s not capable of messing up. He created you in His image. He has a plan for your life. He even knew what mistakes you’d make throughout your life, and He still loves you and wants nothing more than to be in an ever-deepening relationship with you. He will pursue you – whether you’re not following Him and need to make that decision or you’re following Him marginally or you’re passionate about Him. He designed you for more, and He will pursue you, tapping you on the shoulder, whispering in your ear, and knocking on the door of your heart so that your daily life – including your decisions, attitudes, and yes, emotions – is impacted in the purity of who He created you to be and the everyday messiness of living on earth as you move ever closer to eternity – with God or without Him. Rest assured, God did not mess up His design for you.

For a biblical study of emotions, click here to order Pure Emotion, a 10-week study of emotions for individuals or groups.

Reinventing Yourself

reinvent“Reinvent yourself.” It’s common advice for those trying to get past a bad relationship, overcome an addiction, or simply shift and refresh perspective on life. It’s not a new idea. In reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth (Ephesians 4:22-24).

Reinventing ourselves doesn’t seem too difficult. It’s empowering, and we can easily rationalize that if we have power, we’re in control. However, power is defined by God. We’re not in control no matter how much we rationalize it. We certainly control what choices we make, but we don’t know the full impact of individual choices, so we’re not ultimately in control of what’s going on. We can say we’re “taking control,” but are we actually taking control from God? What we have comes from the source who gave it to us. We are created in the image of God.

Looking around our society, it certainly looks as if we can be successful at becoming something God doesn’t intend, but the truth is, no matter how far away from the image of God we appear to be, we’re still created in the image of God. We’re able to distort the image, but we can’t fully negate it. No matter how we live today, we do not eliminate the truth of who we were created to reflect. The wonderful thing is that we don’t have to reinvent ourselves. God not only knows the purpose He created us to fulfill but also the path that is best for us to fulfill it. When we trust Him to constantly weed out the old and develop the new, we will become more and more like Him. We will glorify Him in the process.

Being Resolute in God’s Value of Me

These troubles come to prove that your faith is pure. This purity of faith is worth more than gold, which can be proved to be pure by fire but will ruin. But the purity of your faith will bring you praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is shown to you. You have not seen Christ, but still you love him. You cannot see him now, but you believe in him. So you are filled with a joy that cannot be explained, a joy full of glory. (1 Peter 1:7-8)

How do you assign value to yourself in everyday life?

What do you believe God thinks of you?

If you could change one thing about the way you see your value, what would it be?

God didn’t mess up his design of you. He’s God, and he’s incapable of messing up. He created you in his image. You have his imprint on you. You can distort the image he’s placed on you by the way you live, but you can’t eliminate the image of God within you. No matter what you do, you cannot veer so far from God that he cannot reach you. You can never completely eliminate the image with which he’s created you. You’re designed from the inside out. When we neglect or refuse to acknowledge the worth God has given us – whether we inflate or deflate ourselves – we are trying to say we know more about how we’re made and who we are than God does. We try to take control and assign value in an area in which we have no authority. Whether we think too much or too little of ourselves, we’re wrestling God for authority. We lose. God decides our worth, and he thinks we’re worth sending his only Son to die for us. Yes, God sees our shortcomings, but he sees them only in the context of our potential. He knows the possibilities with which he created us, and he will continually strive to guide and mold us to our completion. When we don’t acknowledge his will and our value, we miss out on his plan, which is exactly what he doesn’t want us to do. Let’s let him show us our value and fully live as he intends.

Look at yourself in the mirror. Study your image. Then close your eyes and ask God to let you see through the darkness of your closed eyes as he reveals the truth of your value. Trust his value.

Camoflauge and Comparisons

Are you trying to blend in or stand out? Either way, you’re comparing yourself to others in the process.

Some of us like to blend in. We don’t want extra attention. We don’t want to stand in the spotlight. We want to be pretty much like our peers. Think back to high school days. Girls go on shopping trips together to get the same shirt in different colors. Even as they get older, they call each other to find out what type of outfit the others are wearing, so they’re not too casual or too formal. Women choose the trendy haircut over the most flattering. They’re willing to go to the movie of their friends’ choosing because they don’t want to create waves. They don’t want to bring up a concern or question in a meeting or small group study, because they don’t want to sound dumb or draw attention to themselves.

Some of us like to stand out. We don’t want to blend in. We want to be noticed for being different. Think back to high school days. Some girls didn’t set the trends; they rebelled against the trends. They determined their own style. Women choose what they wear because they like it regardless of what anyone else plans to wear. They’re not uncomfortable when they show up in something less casual or more formal than everyone else. They get the haircut they want even if it’s a different color, length, and style from everyone else. They’ll sometimes speak out just to speak out. They won’t be silent for long, and they definitely won’t hesitate to ask a question or voice a concern.

What’s your default setting?

How are comparing yourself to others – either to blend in or rebel?

We think we’ve grown beyond such high school tactics, but I think we just get trickier about it.

Do you shop where your friends shop?

Do you feel bad (or good) about your weight when you’re around your friends?

How often do you respond based on what others might think? (Remember your response might be to create no waves or purposefully create waves in a situation.)

Do you do things “because I’m independent, and I can,” or do you yield to what you assume someone else’s expectations are before you even ask?

Of course, we should have respect for others, and we need to consider what’s appropriate for various situations and relationships, but God doesn’t require us to compare ourselves to others. If he did, we’d never be good enough next to someone like Mother Teresa but never be as bad as Adolf Hitler. The truth is we respond in love and service and in selfishness and disrespect. God sets the standards; we don’t. No human authority trumps God.

Compare yourself to God using his perspective. There will always be room for growth, but he won’t overwhelm you with conviction of what you’re doing wrong or puff you up with what you’re doing well. Neither is consistent with his character. He knows just what you need to hear and see in order to be challenged to grow. Faith is definitely a challenge, but it will not be overwhelming even when it feels as if it is. God will keep you humble without squashing you. When you’re guided by his Spirit, you will experience life in the timing and way best for you – not your best friend, sister, mom, or mentor.

You were created in God’s image. He wants you to blend in to his identity. He wants you to stand out as a witness to others. Stay in his presence. He’ll clothe you in his righteousness, and you will glow with his beauty.

So God created human beings in his image. In the image of God he created them. He created them male and female. (Genesis 1:27)

Whoever pursues righteousness and unfailing love will find life, righteousness, and honor. (Proverbs 21:21)

Layers of Maps

I had looked for a specific book of maps quite extensively off and on for several years. I love Bible study, and I wanted a book that included comparative maps of biblical locations – then and now. I especially wanted one as I prepared to lead a trip to Israel. I couldn’t find it…

…until I was in Israel.

I was thrilled when I found it. Photos of present day biblical locations are printed on the right side of the pages. On the left side is information about the location. In between is an overlay page, which superimposes how the area likely looked during biblical times. Locations are not only compared side by side; they’re superimposed for a more complete picture.

I want the same for my life. I want someone to see me in God’s image. I want him to superimpose his image onto me, so people experience him, not me. I want to yield so completely to him that I am nearly invisible because he is working so extensively through me. I can’t become God (nor do I want to!), but I certainly want to become like him. He created me in his image, and I’ve been messing it up ever since. I want my first impulse to not be what I would do on my own but what I’d do in him. I want to be so familiar with his character that my reflexive response is close to his response.

What about you? How would your life look different if God overlaid his image onto you?

How are you going to need to yield to him in the coming days in order to become more like him instead of relying on your own strength, direction and provision?

God wants more for you. Whether you’ve been living within his will for years, struggling to get to know him, or turning away from him, God wants more for you. He wants himself for you.

Do you want the same?

Do not be shaped by this world; instead be changed within by a new way of thinking. Then you will be able to decide what God wants for you; you will know what is good and pleasing to him and what is perfect. (Romans 12:2)

When We (Thought We) Were Fat

I saw a high school friend the other day. We hadn’t seen each other for a long time, and we both talked at once as we caught up on each other’s lives. As the topic turned to high school memories, my friend exclaimed, “I actually ran across some high school photos of us the other day, and as I was looking at them, I remembered how fat I felt in that outfit! What I would give to be that “fat” now!”

It’s all about perspective, isn’t it?

What do you remember about your past that you wouldn’t mind transferring to your life now?

What about your life now would you not trade for anything in the past?

When it comes to the core areas of your life, is there anything you’d trade?

I’ve heard many people say, “If I only knew then what I know now.” Just recently in a small group discussion, one woman talked about how much she had learned since studying the Bible regularly. She looked directly at a couple young women and assured them that being more disciplined would have made a significant difference in her parenting. She intended the women to learn from her mistakes. Sad to say, most the time we seem determined to make our mistakes. And the truth is, even if she had studied years ago, God would still be working in her life now, revealing himself to her and challenging her to grow.

If we’re seeking God – no matter where we are – we’ll grow, which means we’ll see areas in our past in which we were “less” than we are now. We might be tempted to wish we’d known then what we know now, but we can’t learn everything at once. We can’t learn everything – period. Learning is a process. And it’s not automatic. Learning isn’t a default setting. Well, perhaps we’ll learn something by default, but it might not be the most desirable learning.

In order to grow toward God, knowing his character and truth, we must be intentional.

We can’t trust ourselves to define where we are, where we’ve been or where we’re going. That’s God’s job, because he has the best perspective. He has the only true perspective. Left to ourselves, we’ll think we’re fat when we’re thin and wise when we’re ignorant.

Yesterday doesn’t define today. Today defines today. Don’t miss a moment of what God has to teach you today. Memories are great for appreciation. Dreams are great for motivation. But as soon as you sacrifice opportunities of today to yesterdays or tomorrows, you miss what’s in front of you. You might not like what you see in the mirror right now, but without looking at who and where you are in the context of God’s perspective, you’re likely avoiding reality.

Let God define today. Be willing to learn. Be ready to fully experience God’s presence and live his will.

So God created human beings in his image. In the image of God he created them. He created them male and female. Genesis 1:27