Grace of Humility

graceYou 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 139:13-14)

Ponder It.

  • What characteristics do you have that you attribute to God?
  • What characteristics do you have that aren’t characteristic of God?
  • Consider what determines your identity: Job? Family? Social status? Abilities? Intelligence?

Receive It. You are who God says you are. Your identity is in him, not in the world. It’s easy to get caught up in all the roles you assume on a regular basis. You might be a teacher, wife, mom, grandma, mentor, housekeeper, cook, caregiver, and so on. What you do doesn’t determine who you are, but it certainly shapes you. As you get caught up in your daily tasks and responsibilities, you can begin to feel as if you’re in a quagmire, becoming discouraged in a routine with no significance. On the other hand, you can inflate yourself because of the opportunities and roles you have. Because others respect you, you can begin to believe the hype of all that others believe you can do in your own strength. Even those in ministry can fall in the trap of self-sufficiency. God demands humility from each of us. Humility is simply placing ourselves in the accurate position of who where are, which is God’s creation. He has no intention in demeaning us. It’s not how he deals with his authority. But he is the Creator, and we are the created. Our identity is in him. If we define ourselves as any more or less, we are distorting our true identities. Only God determines who we are. Only he truly knows our potential and our purpose. He will reveal it to us as we know and trust him. By seeking him, you will know yourself better.

Live It. Claim who God says you are. Make a list of characteristics of God. Write notes to the side of each one to identify how well you feel you embrace the characteristic. You’re created in his image, but are you inviting him to invade your life and shape you as you grow? As you identify areas for potential growth, ask God to challenge you to yield to him with opportunities for growth.

Are You a Building Block or a Stumbling Block?

miami_package_feelthehealdetoxCome to the Lord Jesus, the “stone” that lives. The people of the world did not want this stone, but he was the stone God chose, and he was precious. You also are like living stones, so let yourselves be used to build a spiritual temple—to be holy priests who offer spiritual sacrifices to God. He will accept those sacrifices through Jesus Christ. The Scripture says: “I will put a stone in the ground in Jerusalem. Everything will be built on this important and precious rock. Anyone who trusts in him will never be disappointed.” This stone is worth much to you who believe. But to the people who do not believe, “the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” (1 Peter 2:4-7)

In these verses, Peter is encouraging believers to be like the stones used to build a holy temple for God. In order for the building blocks to do what they needed to do to fit together with other building blocks, they needed to be carved, molded, and placed together. In order for believers to fulfill individual and collective purpose for God, we must be willing to let God shape us and place us where he wants us to be. That means we don’t decide who we sit alongside. We don’t decide our exact shape. We don’t decide how we serve within the building. We don’t get to decide how pretty our rough edges are or how smooth is smooth enough. God does all that. It’s not about us; it’s about God’s building. It’s about unity. However, in order to come together to make what God intends to make, each piece has to be worked on and fitted together. Each has to be yielding in order for the building to be sound and holy.

We have another option other than yielding. Instead of being building blocks, we can be stumbling blocks. When we don’t allow God to shape us into the right shape for the right fit into the building, we will become displaced. We’ll fall to a place we’re not intended to be and create a stumbling hazard for those around us.

You get to choose which you’ll be, so ask yourself, “Am I a building block, or am I a stumbling block?” Avoid quickly giving the Sunday School answer. Think about specific situations you’ve been involved in recently. Of course, we all want to believe we’re building blocks. We want to believe we’re doing exactly what God wants us to do, but are we…really? Have we checked with him before we’ve proceeded, or have we moved forward in the direction that makes sense, responding first, then asking him to bless the process once we’re in motion? The popular adage “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission” isn’t a biblical principle.

In order to fit well within a body of believers, you must invite God to shape you in order to fit where he intends you to fit. You don’t decide where you fit, then reason through why you’re such a good fit. You don’t decide you were made for such a time as this. God decides the time and place. He decides the process. You seek. You trust. You obey. You can certainly be stubborn about it, but when you don’t allow him to place you where you’re supposed to fit, you’re not just impacting yourself and your purpose. You’re impacting the body of Christ.

So, are you a building block or a stumbling block?

I beg you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that all of you agree with each other and not be split into groups. I beg that you be completely joined together by having the same kind of thinking and the same purpose. (1 Corinthians 1:10)

Should You Stay or Should You Go Now?

move-on-breakupIf anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that house or town. (Matthew 10:14)

When have you had to walk away from a situation, at least for a season?

When have you been able to reconcile a strained relationship or misunderstanding?

When have you been hurt by rejection?

 

We often use today’s verse as justification for moving on, and moving on is important at times. When we are in an unhealthy situation, we need to move on. There are times, we get to go back, when we are healthy enough to deal with the situation with new coping strategies, but that’s not “going back” as much as “moving forward” with new tools.

In this verse, we often focus on the “if anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet,” leaving the rest of the sentence hanging. The word when stands out to me. It indicates that perhaps there is purpose in not leaving immediately at times. If we were always to leave immediately, wouldn’t it finish with “and go immediately from that house or town”?

Only God can help us discern when to stay and when to go. Again, it we’re being hurt or threatened, we need to move on and get to a safe place, but this situation is a little different. It refers to the situations in which we are trying to share Jesus’ story with others. It doesn’t say we try once and give up. It also clearly doesn’t say we stay an unlimited amount of time and keep trying. But when we discern the best time to leave, we shake the dust off our feet, which means we move on without any regrets or hindrances. We focus on the next house or town. Who is to say God won’t have us loop back to that house or town later, but for the season, we need to move on. There is something ahead that needs our focus, and if we live in the guilt and regrets of “what if I had said something differently,” we’ll miss out on our next opportunity. When we follow Him well, we do so with our whole heart, embracing when and for how long He tells us.

 

Set your phone alarm to every hour today. When it goes off, ask if you are where God wants you to be. Adjust as He guides throughout the day.

Relationship That Outlast

friendshipRelationships get richer when they outlast their original purpose.

We often begin relationships with a common goal in mind, whether it’s at work, school, ministry, or committee. But even after we’ve moved beyond the original situation, some relationships stick. Their purpose deepens from something external to the personal commitment to each other. We know longer have to get together and connect but we want to get together and connect.

I’ve met many people as I’ve traveled around the country and even to other parts of the world. Some relationships stayed in the confines of the original event or purpose. I still appreciate and respect the people I met, but I didn’t partner with them beyond a specific situation or season. But there are others who lasted well beyond the original intention. We got to know each other and began to partner in new ways, learning from each other, investing in each other’s lives, caring and encouraging for one another.

And those relationships that last are rich.

I am grateful. I am blessed.

Some Evolution

024“They’ve had some evolution.”

The statement declared some growth, some change toward what the speaker believed. People were growing into what he proclaimed, so he saw it as evolutionary, productive, advance.

We need to be careful what we see as progress. We can encourage people in directions that might not be the best (or the best timing) for them.

I’m not saying anything is wishy-washy and relative and that there is no direction that is better or worse than another. There is truth. Absolute Truth. But many of the things we claim as evolutionary are more on the fringes of truth than the center of it. There is spine truth and rib truth. The spine is non-negotiable. The ribs give some structure but we can do without one or two.

Through it all, the person is more important than the issue. When we define people based on where they are or where they’ve been, we minimize them even in the context of what is intended to be a compliment. We make people about their actions instead of their motivations, reasons, potential, and purpose.

A Refuge

philip-yancey-quote-wise-godThe refuge of God’s wings isn’t for us to hide and avoid but to claim God’s presence and provision.

We see many examples of covering in the Bible, including the cherubim of the ark of the covenant, Passover blood in Exodus, and of course, Christ Himself. But that covering isn’t for us to hide under because of fear. God’s covering is protection but not a protection of the threats of the world. We are still vulnerable to sickness, trauma, injustice, and death. God’s covering doesn’t take those earthly experiences away. God’s covering gives us the courage to boldly live despite the impact those things have on our lives.

Instead of shielding us from something, God’s covering opens our eyes and hearts to glimpse the possibilities that can grow out of any circumstance. It takes away fear of what can happen and assures us of who we can trust even when what we don’t want to happen does.

Let’s not skew God’s covering into something that serves our own purpose and comfort but doesn’t reflect who He is.

A Fulfilled Purpose

whyrecognize3May He give you what your heart desires and fulfill your whole purpose. (Psalm 20:4)

I typically use the Holman Christian Standard Bible when I quote Scripture on this blog. I read other translations, and I’m grateful for the variety of options I have that help broaden the stroke of Scripture, allowing me to get to know God better. But the accessibility of so many translations can also be a detriment, especially when we begin to pull and share what we like best, what is most palatable and, sometimes, personally beneficial.

Like Psalm 20:4. Here’s what might be more familiar to you:

May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed. (NIV)

May he grant you your heart’s desire and fulfill all your plans! (ESV)

To me, there’s a huge difference between God making all my plans succeed and fulfilling my whole purpose. Well, perhaps not a huge difference when I’m pursuing God so passionately and completely that my plans and His purpose are the same thing, but sometimes, there’s a discrepancy.

I’d rather have a fulfilled purpose, according to God, than successful plans according to me. That’s makes life tough at times. But good and purposeful and fulfilling.