Advent, Christmas, hope, inheritance, refuge, Oh Lord Help Us, Christian, women, mentor, ministry, nonprofit

Our Inheritance: Promise of Our Present and Future Hope

Our hope and our inheritance are not found in earthly things. Our inheritance is the promise of the Creator Himself.



In the early hours of December 10, my mom took her last ragged breath in this world and took a cleansing, pure breath in the next one. Her mind and body were instantly restored as she was welcomed home by a loving embrace from her heavenly Father. I’m sure my dad was standing or kneeling somewhere nearby and a joyful reunion likely followed.

Our hope and our inheritance are not found in earthly things. Our inheritance is the promise of the Creator Himself. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional | Christian Nonprofit #devotional #scripture #Advent #Christmas #Jesus #inheritance #refuge #hope

Inheritance

My parents were middle-class folks. Any meager savings they may have accumulated was spent on medical bills during the years my dad faced his battle with cancer. An inheritance isn’t something that ever entered my or my brother’s minds.

My father-in-law is 91. He worked in and retired from a factory. He and my mother-in-law had 6 children, so he also worked many odd jobs, in addition to any extra shifts he was asked to work at the factory. They were frugal; she sewed, grew a garden each year, and canned vegetables. As a result, their six children never had an unmet need. However, other than a small, rundown farm, an inheritance of large sums of money is unthinkable.

Since her death, my husband and I have attempted to close my mom’s estate, such as it was. We have chuckled at some of the absurdities of government, (don’t get me started)…such as having to take a $13.67 check from the bank to the nursing home so that Medicaid would not think we were stealing from the estate. Really. Oh! And having to call the Veteran’s Administration twice to inform them of her death only to have them deposit her funds, and then send us a letter to send it back. You can’t make this stuff up…

The Source of Our Future Hope

Inheritance. What comes to mind when you think of the word? The child of a wealthy person? People sitting around an attorney’s desk with an air of expectancy? Siblings fighting over heirlooms or the jewelry? The Jerry Springer show? Interesting where our thoughts initially go when that word comes up.

Recently, I was remembering a favorite passage of scripture I turn to in difficult times. You wouldn’t think Lamentations could give anyone cause for hope, however, these verses always renew mine.

This I recall to mind, Therefore I have hope.
Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him!”

Lamentations 3:21-24, NKJV

The Lord is my portion…

Today we have a tendency to think of a portion in regard to food, (as in smaller portions, since dieting is such a huge marketing focus.) Not surprisingly, there are other nuances of the word in the Old Testament that have become lost in today’s vernacular. In our simplification of the language for texting, we often lose the richness of word meanings.

For decades the Psalms have given me much solace through seasons of trial, pain or loss. However, the full weight of the meaning of Psalms, such as Psalm 16:5, has only recently been dawning on my spirit.

Oh Lord, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup;
You maintain my lot.
The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places.
Yes, I have a good inheritance.

Psalm 16:5, NKJV

Let your heart rest on that for a moment, as Asaph finally did in Psalm 73 after feeling jealous of his enemies.

GOD, everything HE IS, is our inheritance when we belong to Him. What does it matter if we have houses and lands? We have HIM, the God of Creation.

Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is nothing upon earth that I  desire besides You.
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Psalm 73:25-26, ESV

The Source of Our Present Hope

You might be thinking, “Well, yeah, in the sweet by and by He’s my inheritance, but what about now?”

David answers you…

I cried out to you, O Lord: I said, “You are my refuge, My portion in the land of the living.”

Psalm 142:5, NKJV

God is our inheritance here, too.  He is our strength, our refuge, our deliverer, our fortress.

So, again, from where will your portion come?

Our hope and our inheritance are not found in earthly things. Our inheritance is the promise of the Creator Himself. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional | Christian Nonprofit #devotional #scripture #Advent #Christmas #Jesus #inheritance #refuge #hope

unsplash-logoJoel & Jasmin Førestbird
Advent, Christmas, Jesus, Mary, God’s Calling, revolutionary, righteousness, Oh Lord Help Us, Christian, women, mentor, ministry, nonprofit

Mother of Jesus: How Well Do We Really Know Mary?

Do we really know Mary? Yes, she is the mother of Jesus, the Messiah, but she is also called favored, and righteous. She sets the example of being a revolutionary, living full of God’s power, and being a world changer!



“Mary, did you know…?” Picture me rolling my eyes.

CAUTION: It’s possible that I’m about to ruin for you one of the most popular and beloved modern-day Christmas songs of all time. The song is soothing, melodic (thanks to Buddy Greene), and asks a seemingly pertinent question. What I’m wondering, however, is how intimately acquainted the songwriter, Mark Lowry, was with Mary’s story.

Do we really know Mary? Yes, she is the mother of Jesus but she is also called favored, and righteous. She sets the example of being a revolutionary. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional | Christian Nonprofit #devotional #scripture #Advent #Christmas #Jesus #GodsCalling #revolutionary #righteousness #Mary

Mary: Favored

Did HE know that God sent the mighty messenger-angel Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God (Luke 1:19), to a lowly peasant girl? Did Lowry realize that Gabriel, whose name means ‘God is great,’ was the same messenger who caused Daniel to fall on his face in terror (Daniel 8:17), and struck Zechariah dumb for questioning his message to him concerning John’s birth, (Luke 1:18-22)?

Yet, Mary, (while frightened when heralded by this magnificent angel,) was first confused that he called her favored. She was well-acquainted with her standing in Jewish society – she was poor, young, and an unmarried woman.

Favored? That word had never been used in reference to her before.

Mary: Righteous

Of course, there was the matter of becoming pregnant while remaining a virgin; Mary wondered how. Scot McKnight, author of The Real Mary, states that surely Mary was surprised at all of these happenings, but the “biggest surprise was that she consented to God’s plan.” Today, we have trouble grasping what she was agreeing to as an engaged Jewish girl. Her saying “Let it be to me according to your word,” would have ripped her world apart. Even today, imagine telling your fiancé that an angel told you God had impregnated you…and keeping a straight face!

Not only was she offering her reputation to be ruined and exposing herself to public humiliation, but her engagement to Joseph would most certainly have been reneged. Ultimately, she knew the Torah stated that she could face stoning (Deuteronomy 22:23-24). Life as Mary knew it would never be the same.

Most Protestants have cast Mary as the silent, docile, blue-clad mother of Jesus at Christmas. For the other eleven months of the year, we don’t have much to do with her because she was just some sweet girl God allowed to be the holy incubator for Jesus, right? Definitely, wrong; God isn’t in the business of giving anyone grunt work, (pardon the pun). And do we truly believe the Lord God would have chosen a random, small-town teen to be the mother of His pure and only Son?

In the NKJV, Gabriel calls her “highly favored one” and “blessed among women.” There is absolutely nothing random about those words. Because Mary was righteous, God chose to use her. Her faith in God gave her the courage to consent to His plan despite the suffering she would endure.

Mary: Revolutionary

Through the years, many of us have read or sung Mary’s Magnificat in a choir setting. Her Magnificat is found in Luke 1:47-55. Immediately after her cousin Elizabeth, saw her, she began praising God for what He had done in Mary! (And believe me, Mary hadn’t texted or emailed her beforehand). Afterward, Mary offered soaring praise to God her Savior. However, in occupied Israel, verses 52-54 could have been construed as sedition. Imagine, meek and mild Mary – a revolutionary!

Would it shock you to know that a level of concern remains in the modern world toward Mary’s song in places where dictators fear an uprising among their repressed people? In fact, in the 1980s, the Guatemalan government “banned any public reciting of Mary’s Magnificat because it was deemed politically subversive,” (McKnight). Isn’t that astonishing?

I believe we need a paradigm shift concerning our views of Mary.

Mary was gentle, but also brave… bold…

and apparently a revolutionary!

The Magnificat

My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.

Luke 1:47-55, ESV

How dare she utter such provocative words: He has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate. Herod had murdered for less under his bloody reign. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. Reckless utterances! The rich were the rulers, the powerful. With a word or nod, they could end her life.

Mary: Full of His Power

You know that sick feeling you have for a friend when she opens her mouth and spews out something at the absolute worst moment? Imagine she was stopped for speeding. You were with her. Instead of being contrite, she was belligerent. And you wish you could have slapped your hand over her mouth and said, “Woman! For the love of all that is holy, stop talking!”

That’s how someone listening to Mary might have felt… only more so. Her people were powerless, had been powerless, didn’t know the meaning of having power. While they obeyed the Torah, they quaked before the evil of which Herod was capable.

But she knew a greater Power. Mary knew the mighty One of Israel and believed He had come to set them free. She could not remain silent! Her faith in the Father emboldened her to follow Him onto a path that promised darkness and pain, but also mercy and deliverance. Mary stepped out into the inky unknown, resting in the palm of His hand.

Does this sound like the wallflower girl whom so many mistakenly picture Mary mother of Jesus to be? I think not. Truthfully, I doubt if Joseph’s mother would have approved of Mary. She might not have been quiet or meek enough…but as Lynne Hybels titled her book in 2005, Nice Girls Don’t Change the World.

What about you… Are you a revolutionary Mary? Would you like to be?

Do we really know Mary? Yes, she is the mother of Jesus but she is also called favored, and righteous. She sets the example of being a revolutionary. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional | Christian Nonprofit #devotional #scripture #Advent #Christmas #Jesus #GodsCalling #revolutionary #righteousness #Mary

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The Messiah: Preparing Our Hearts During Advent

Before celebrating the arrival of the Messiah, we must prepare our hearts during Advent. Only by preparing, can we truly rejoice in the gift of the Messiah.



When I was a little girl Christmas meant visiting Santa in a large downtown department store. Whether it was cold and snowy, sunny or rainy, my lower-middle-class family also feasted on the magnificent Christmas scenes in display windows at the giant Sears store. Each window portrayed winter wonderlands or Santa’s workshops that captured our dreams and imagination. Afterward, dad would treat us to dinner at the now defunct Miller’s Diner. Of course, I loved presents, but the warmth of those memories linger longer and deeper in me than any tangible gift I opened in my childhood.

And Jesus? He was an afterthought. Mom was a Sunday church attender and dad did not attend at all.

Advent? That’s something the Catholics did…or something.

Before celebrating the arrival of the Messiah, we must prepare our hearts during Advent. Only by preparing, can we truly rejoice in the gift of the Messiah. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional | Christian Nonprofit #devotional #scripture #Advent #Christmas #Messiah #Jesus #salvation

Arrival

Until several years ago, I’m embarrassed to admit, I continued to believe that Advent was “something the Catholics did” to commemorate the birth of Jesus.

The first Christmas season my husband and I were attending our current church, the pastor announced Advent services toward the end of November. My husband and I looked at each other quizzically. What had we stumbled into? Um. Was this a Cathobaptist Church?! We had some research to do!

As we discovered, Advent isn’t a magical word (or a Catholic word); it simply means “coming” or “arrival.” Our faith tradition had never acknowledged it, to our loss.

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.

John 1:9, ESV

Advent Preparation

I think where we might get confused is that we think of this season leading up to Christmas as one of mere celebration, but its origin was “primarily as a season of preparation – a time for prayer and self-reflection,” (Because of Bethlehem Study Guide by Max Lucado and Christine  M. Anderson).

I hear what you’re you’re thinking…Wow! Why don’t you just pour cold water on my Christmas?! Do you want me to take down the tree? Pull the lights down from the roof and take the cute snowmen off of my porch? What about the presents, are they to go, too??

Hold on…there’s more.

The Messiah: Celebration

I have found that when I make time to reflect and pray, the Holy Spirit reveals areas of my life where I am weak, where I am needy, where I have been hiding from Him. But I am not condemned! I have Emmanuel: God With Us, God With me. Therefore, Christmas is also a time of celebration and rejoicing!

Can we not hold these all together? Self-reflection, prayer, and celebration? I believe that we must.

In an Advent sermon in 1928, the then 22-year-old Dietrich Bonhoeffer said,

The celebration of Advent is possible only to those who are troubled in soul, who know themselves to be poor and imperfect, and who look forward to something greater to come. For these, it is enough to wait in humble fear until the Holy One himself comes down to us, God in the child in the manger. God comes. The Lord Jesus comes. Christmas comes. Christians rejoice!

Are you troubled in your soul, poor, and imperfect? Rejoice! The Savior has come!

Before celebrating the arrival of the Messiah, we must prepare our hearts during Advent. Only by preparing, can we truly rejoice in the gift of the Messiah. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional | Christian Nonprofit #devotional #scripture #Advent #Christmas #Messiah #Jesus #salvation

unsplash-logoAnnie Spratt
fear, faith, trust, mystery, faithful, unknown, safety, Oh Lord Help Us, Christian, women, mentor, ministry, nonprofit

Walking in Mystery: The Holiness and Fear in Not Knowing

Walking in mystery can feel very much like stepping off the abyss. Yet, if we choose a life without mystery, we’ve chosen not to see beyond the surface of God, ourselves, or others.



The lack of mystery in our modern life is our downfall and our poverty. A human life is worth as much as the respect it holds for the mystery. We retain the child in us to the extent that we honor the mystery. Therefore, children have open, wide-awake eyes, because they know that they are surrounded by the mystery.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God is in The Manger, Reflections on Advent and Christmas

Walking in mystery can feel very much like stepping off the abyss. If we choose a life without mystery, we've chosen not to see beyond the surface of God. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional | Christian Nonprofit #devotional #scripture #fear #faith #trust #faithful #mystery #safety #unknown

Literature

I love to read novels. All the major bookstores have long discovered that Dodie Smith is a sucker for books. They send me ads and coupons accordingly. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of my mother taking my brother and me to the library.

She also loved to read. She loved it enough to walk long city blocks with two young children to and from the local library so that we, too, would have the opportunity to enter the adventurous, mysterious world of books.

In the past, I read mostly literature and women’s literature, but for some reason, I’m tired of those. Many became too politically correct for me, I think. For several years now, I can lose myself for hours in a murder mystery.

Like my dad before me, I usually wait to read until an hour or so before bed; otherwise, I would never accomplish anything else! The nuances of discovering ‘who done it’ usually captures my mind rather quickly. If the plot moves too slowly or the main character isn’t likable, I move on to another book. Life is too short to stick with a boring book!

Mystery

Mystery. I often wonder why we lose the awe and wonder of childhood. At what point in life do we begin to feel the need to explain – or have explained to us – every, single detail of our existence? When did we decide that we wanted to be lord of our own lives…and over everything and have it all at our disposal, (Bonhoeffer).

I mean, that’s what it means, doesn’t it? The incessant, gnawing, obsessive need to know and understand everything…isn’t that a desire to be lord? To deny the presence of any mystery in our lives?

Yet, our God is and has always been, a God of mystery.

But there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. Your dream and the visions of your head as you lay in bed are these:

Daniel 2:28, ESV

»«

Can you fathom the mysteries of God?
Can you probe the limits of the Almighty?

Job 11:7 NIV

»«

Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

Ephesians 5:31-32, ESV

Misty Fog

In Bible days, it was unfathomable to live without certainty. The people of God were surrounded by this God who spoke from a cloud of glory or from the mouth of a donkey and raised people from the dead. But they never expected to understand it; the mystery was hidden from them. They were not given eyes to see…as we have been.

In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit of God’s holy apostles and prophets.

Ephesians 3:4-5, NIV (emphasis added)

»«

Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began

Romans 16:25, NKJV (emphasis added)

Yet, Jesus came on the scene and told His disciples:

…Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven…

Matthew 13:11, NKJV

God, through His Son and His Holy Spirit, graciously…magnanimously opened our blinded eyes and allowed us to see through the mist, the fog, the cloud and behold His mystery!

I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness – the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Colossians 1:25-27, NIV

Walking in Mystery

Hallelujah!

On one hand, mystery has been revealed to us – the mystery of the gospel, the greatest mystery of all. On the other hand, each day God invites us to walk in mystery with Him, in faithful not-knowing, resting securely within the secret place of the Most High. However, He never forces our hand into His.

Walking in mystery can feel very much like stepping off the abyss…every day – during some seasons of life. Yet, if we choose a life without mystery, we’ve chosen not to see beyond the surface of God, ourselves, or others. In some situations, it can feel more comfortable or expedient. In reality, despite what we profess, we’re expressing that we prefer a calculated life, and perhaps a god we can tame or even control.

I’d never call Him a tame God, but the God of mystery is always, always safe.

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Walking in mystery can feel very much like stepping off the abyss. If we choose a life without mystery, we've chosen not to see beyond the surface of God. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional | Christian Nonprofit #devotional #scripture #fear #faith #trust #faithful #mystery #safety #unknown

unsplash-logoEvie S.
Afraid, unafraid, fear, fearless, living boldly, boldness, God’s love, brokenness, Oh Lord Help Us, Christian, women, mentor, ministry, nonprofit

Becoming Fearless: Brokenness Leads to Living Fearlessly

Fear and rejection can leave us feeling paralyzed. But it is our brokenness that will ultimately lead to becoming fearless.



My earliest memory of fear occurred when I was a child of six. On a warm summer evening, my family went to the home of some good friends of my parents for dinner. All my brother and I cared about was that they had kids close to our age – two boys. (It seems none of my parent’s friends had girls, but that’s another story!)

While the adults chatted after the meal, we children happily played outside on the swing-set laughing, yelling, and probably arguing. Suddenly, I felt something stinging my face; the pain was immediate and intense. Jumping off the swing, I ran screaming to my mother, who soothed me and quickly assessed I had at least two bee stings on my face. Her friend made a paste of baking soda and water to apply to the stings while I rested on mom’s lap.

Fear and rejection can leave us feeling paralyzed. But it is our brokenness that will ultimately lead to becoming fearless. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #afraid #fear #fearless #LivingBoldly #boldness #unafraid #brave #brokenness

Becoming Fearful

Within several moments I was ready to return playing with our friends, but no words came out when I opened my mouth to speak. I tried once again but to no avail. Panicked, I got mom’s attention and she realized my body was swelling. Things moved quickly from there.

Fear spread throughout the group as they were preparing to take me to the hospital. Fortunately for me, mom had recently read an article regarding deadly allergic reactions some people had to bees and that a new desensitization process was being offered by the medical community. That article saved my life.

Needless to say, despite several years of shots to alleviate my reaction to bees, I spent decades being deeply afraid of them. I’m blessed to say I’ve raised perennial flower beds for 15 years now.

The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid?

Psalm 27:1, NKJV

Rejection

In high school, I wanted to be popular…translated – liked/loved. As a result, I became a cheerleader, joined clubs, became editor of the newspaper, etc. Guess what? There were still people who didn’t like me. Shocker, I know.

For reasons unknown, I can recall one particularly vicious phone call I received from a popular girl about something I didn’t do, but she thought I did. Even though I professed Jesus, I was looking for acceptance at the wrong addresses.

Listen to Me, you who know righteousness, You people in whose heart is My law: Do not fear the reproach of men, nor be afraid of their insults. For the moth will eat them up like a garment, and the worm will eat them like wool; But My righteousness will be forever, And My salvation from generation to generation.

Isaiah 51:7-8, NKJV

Paralyzed

When I was a young mother with a baby, my husband worked a swing shift. I didn’t like staying alone on the nights he had to work, but I spent most evenings at my parents’ until it was time to take my son home and put him to bed. But then one night while we all were out, our home was burglarized. My husband and I felt violated.

After that, fear blossomed like a sunflower in my chest. I heard every noise, real or imagined, in the house or the basement. It’s embarrassing to remember the times I would call our neighbor over to check the house because I thought I had heard something. (He and his wife were very gracious!) This fear lasted so long it was making me physically ill – I was trying to stay awake all night, begging God to keep us safe. I was thinking of escape plans should someone break-in. It was difficult.

Delivered

During this time, I was working with first graders in Sunday School. One week we made a prayer wheel out of paper plates. For every need on one side of the wheel, there were Bible verses on the other side that applied to the need. “Coincidentally,” my husband worked nights that week, which I dreaded with a vengeance.

In desperation, one night I pulled that children’s prayer wheel out and turned it to fear, looking up each verse. I told God I was so weary of living this way, and I knew that He didn’t want me to anymore. (He does say, “Fear not” 365 times in His Word!) From that night forward, the paralyzing fear left me. Has it attempted to return? Sure, but God has delivered me from the stronghold of fear each time.

I, even I, am He who comforts you. Who are you that you should be afraid of a man who will die, and of the son of a man who will be made like grass? And you forget the Lord your Maker, Who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth; You have feared continually every day because of the fury of the oppressor, when he has prepared to destroy. And where is the fury of the oppressor? […] But I am the Lord your God, Who divided the sea whose waves roared – the Lord of hosts is His name. And I have put My words in your mouth; I have covered you with the shadow of My hand…

Isaiah 51:12-16a, NKJV

Becoming Fearless

I believe we all battle with fear in one form or another. Otherwise, why did God mention it so often? Sometimes I wonder if our fear isn’t used by God to help bring about needed brokenness…because only out of brokenness comes fearlessness. And isn’t that what we really want – to become fearless? Even Paul asked the Ephesians to pray for this in him in Ephesians 6:16-20.

Louie Giglio said in a sermon at 2012 Passion, “Minimize your fears by maximizing your one fear and realizing this: I’m already chained to Jesus Christ. The only thing I’m afraid of is living an insignificant life.”

Amen!

Sometimes fear is used by God to help bring about needed brokenness…because out of brokenness comes fearlessness. And isn't that what we really want – to become fearless? Click To Tweet

Fear and rejection can leave us feeling paralyzed. But it is our brokenness that will ultimately lead to becoming fearless. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #afraid #fear #fearless #LivingBoldly #boldness #unafraid #brave #brokenness

unsplash-logoJason Blackeye
shame, enough, hidden, perfectionism, defensive, apology, judgment, bondage, freedom, Oh Lord Help Us, Christian, women, mentor, ministry, nonprofit

Shadow of Shame: Step into the Light of Our Savior

The Lord came to break all bondage in our life. Step out of the shadow of shame and into the radiant light of our Savior.



Let’s talk about the S word. No, I’m not referring to a curse word. Or even the word “stupid,” which was not allowed to be used in our home when my kids were growing up. (They heard enough pejorative adjectives from their peers.)

Rather, I want us to take a few minutes to inspect, take a fresh look at, and perhaps begin to disarm a sleeper cell that has dwelt in mankind since the Garden. I’m talking about shame. While it isn’t possible to sweep out all the spiders and cobwebs that have accrued over the decades of darkness in which shame has hidden, perhaps shining some light into the darkness will at least put a broom into your hands.

The Lord came to break all bondage in our life. Step out of the shadow of shame and into the radiant light of our Savior. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #shame #perfectionism #defensive #apology #judgment #bondage #freedom

Shadow of Shame

The topic of shame has made a resurgence in recent years, almost as though the subject had never been brought up before, (it has, but we didn’t have social media). For this, we can thank the research of University of Houston’s Dr. Brene Brown.

Her work resulted in books and TED Talks on YouTube, which catapulted the topic to a buzz word for several months…and that’s really longer than one can expect any topic to last in our micro-everything culture. Since Brown’s Ted Talks are some of the most-watched videos in the world, we should know all we need to know about shame; it’s already so ‘last year.’

If that is the case, why do we continue to experience that painful, pervading sense of being flawed or not enough – ever?

Unashamed to Fig Leaves

And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

Genesis 2:25, ESV

That is the first time shame/ashamed is mentioned in Scripture, but certainly not the last. However, it is one of the last times Adam and Eve were UNashamed. Only a chapter later they were hiding from God, ashamed of their sin and nakedness.

And he said, ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.’

Genesis 3:10, ESV

Since that pivotal day, mankind has been hiding our shame behind our own fig leaves, which we have woven together since childhood. Yours may look different from mine, more colorful or loud, more acceptable or appealing, but an honest look inside our hearts, an honest probing by the Holy Spirit will reveal where each of us is prone to hide.

Let’s look at a few hiding places where shame operates…

Hiding Places

Perfectionism is often defined as the need to be or at least to appear to be perfect. I like to say that I am a recovering perfectionist. It used to almost make me physically ill if I could not perform most tasks perfectly, according to my estimation. Yet, this a socially acceptable fig leaf. Brene Brown said:

Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be your best. Perfection is not about healthy achievement and growth. She explains that perfectionism is used by many people as a shield to protect against the pain of blame, judgment, or shame.

https://www.goodtherapy.org

Perfectionism can cause procrastination, (if I can’t do it perfectly, I will delay until I can perform perfectly). This can also lead to an attitude of blaming others for anything that appears like a failure. “It wouldn’t have happened that way if so-and-so had done his job correctly! It isn’t my fault,” which leads to our next hiding place…

Defensiveness is one way we protect ourselves from unpleasant feelings such as feeling sad or sorry that we disappointed or hurt a loved one. Being defensive is a way to avoid taking responsibility for our behavior, especially if we equate responsibility with shame.

Let’s say my husband is upset because I’m late meeting him for lunch. If I’m defensive I might say, “Well, we were late to church last week because you took so long to get ready and I didn’t get mad about that!”

If I’m not shackled by shame, I can recognize that my spouse has expressed his feelings about my tardiness. It isn’t something intrinsically wrong with me; I simply need to hear his feelings and apologize for my delay.

More Hiding

Apologizing can go either way.

Shame can cause us to be overly apologetic and compliant. We assume that others are right and we’re wrong. Better to diffuse a shaming attack or criticism before it begins by apologizing first.

Conversely, we can be so powerfully ruled by an unconscious shame that we don’t want to expose ourselves to imagined ridicule by admitting any wrong or mistake. Being vulnerable is seen as being weak.

This is what one blogger wrote about co-dependency/people-pleasing:

I always thought co-dependency would be easy and obvious to spot, but I tell you what – in the Church – it’s easy to confuse co-dependency with godliness. Codependents are the people who always put others needs before their own, which sounds so great, except it’s fueled by a compulsion to put others needs before your own. Many who struggle with this don’t even feel their own needs or desires anymore…the soul infected with shame is so unsure of its worth (not having that matter settled between self and God) that it seeks to find value in being needed or serving others.

http://www.fabsharford.com

The Church and Shame

Church is one of shame’s best hiding places.

Although it seems counter-intuitive, shame can cover itself with an attitude of superiority and judgment. My mom was filled with shame and insecurity due to her abusive childhood. But she hid that by presenting a haughty, superior person to everyone outside of our home. By judging others first as less than, people were thereby not given the opportunity to reject her. She rejected them first and led a lonely, almost friendless life.

Sadly, I’ve seen this often in the Church. It usually hides behind doctrine or theological arguments, sometimes social issues. However, we must be alert to our own hearts for this sly hiding place of shame. Maligning others in order to make ourselves feel better is not a way to healing.

The Release of Shame

I don’t believe it was ever God’s intention for His children to remain shame-based in our lives or relationships. Scripture has much to say about shame, and it isn’t about God shaming us – unless we choose to remain in our sin.

‘Let us lie down in our shame, and let our dishonor cover us. For we have sinned against the Lord our God, we and our fathers, from our youth even to this day, and we have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God.’

Jeremiah 3:25, ESV

Despite deserving judgment and death, He continually promises deliverance for those who come to Him.

I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.

Psalm 34:4-5, ESV

The wondrous, heralding chapter of Isaiah 61, prophecies the coming of our Lord Jesus. Among other beautiful things, he announces the release of shame.

Instead of your shame there shall be a double portion; instead of dishonor they shall rejoice in their lot; therefore in their land they shall possess a double portion; they shall have everlasting joy.

Isaiah 61:7, ESV

Sisters, come out of hiding. There is no need to live in the shadow of shame any longer. Our Warrior King has come to strengthen, heal, and deliver us from the shame that binds us, for His glory and honor.

Behold, at that time I will deal with all your oppressors. And I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth.

Zephaniah 3:19, ESV
Sisters, come out of hiding. There is no need to live in the shadow of shame any longer. Our Warrior King has come to strengthen, heal, and deliver us from the shame that binds us, for His glory and honor. Click To Tweet

The Lord came to break all bondage in our life. Step out of the shadow of shame and into the radiant light of our Savior. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #shame #perfectionism #defensive #apology #judgment #bondage #freedom

unsplash-logoThomas Millot
Belief, casual Christianity, cheap, grace, righteousness, superficial, Oh Lord Help Us, Christian, women, mentor, ministry

Casual: Standing Firm in Righteousness as Believers

A movement of superficial Christianity has seeped into our current culture. We have all played a part in allowing this casual posture of following Christ.



For the majority of my adult life, we’ve attended churches that offered solid, Biblical preaching. However, honestly, the primary drawing card for two of those churches was the worship music. The church of my early to mid-adult life offered cutting edge praise and worship, gifted musicians and singers, all which created excitement and joy.

In later years, another church we attended boasted music leaders who wrote many of the worship songs. They recorded several CD’s. Again, theologically sound preaching, but…let’s just say that when the music died, (for various reasons,) a number of people left the fellowship.

A movement of superficial Christianity has seeped into our current culture. We have all played a part in allowing this casual posture of following Christ. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #cheap #grace #belief #righteousness #superficial

Renounced

This summer the Christian world has learned of two more Christian stars who have publicly left the fold of faith. They haven’t had a moral lapse; each renounced his faith. One of them had written beautiful, moving worship music.

My heart is deeply saddened for them and all whose lives were shattered by their pronouncement…

Is God winnowing His flock? Has judgment begun in His house? (I Peter 4:17) I believe so.

Recently, Gary and I attended a church in another state. Being unfamiliar with the music, I initially observed the folks coming and going, for coffee or whatever. For a worship time, it was busy, yet somehow low-energy and heavy, too. I felt bad for the guy leading.

The words casual Christians flashed into my mind, and Matthew 15:8:

This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me;

Matthew 15:8, ESV

Immediately, I was convicted because what was I doing? Not praising God or praying, but gazing around at other people who were not singing! God, forgive me.

Casual

Today we like to dress casual, live casual, attend a casual church, be casual. But when I look at the definitions of casual, I’m struck by how dissonant it is with the call of Christ upon our lives…

  1. Without definite or serious intention
  2. Irregular or occasional
  3. Indifferent to what is happening; apathetic
  4. Shallow or superficial

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

Philippians 2:3, ESV

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.

I John 3:16, ESV

Quite a difference – from all-about-me to considering others first.

State of the ‘Church’

Three years ago, Barna Research published a paper entitled “The State of the Church.” The ground we have lost is sobering. While 35% of Americans profess to be born-again, only 23% believe the Bible is accurate and had read it within the previous week. Additionally, a mere 7% attested to the following and were described by Barna as Evangelicals:

…their faith is very important in their life today; believing they have a personal responsibility to share their religious beliefs about Christ with non-Christians; believing that Satan exists; believing that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; asserting that the Bible is accurate in all that it teaches; believing that eternal salvation is possible only through grace, not works; and describing God as the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect deity who created the universe and still rules it today. Being classified as an evangelical is not dependent upon church attendance or the denominational affiliation of the church attended. Respondents were not asked to describe themselves as “evangelical.”

www.barna.com/research/state-church-2016/

Casting Blame

I’ve been wondering how and when this casual mentality was translated into the Christian life. It’s easy for my generation to cast blame or aspersions on the younger generations, on the culture, but the Church is one body. Every believer has had a part in the shallow and superficial, apathetic malaise that has slowly poisoned the Body of Christ. Our attitude has no resemblance to the message of Christ.

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

Luke 9:23, ESV
»«

And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

Matthew 10:38, ESV

Does this sound harsh to you? Foreign?

Cheap

Dietrich Bonhoeffer decried the church of his day as selling God’s grace too cheaply. Perhaps that is what we have done as well…and few are interested, anymore.

Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjacks’ wares. The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin, and the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut prices. Grace is represented as the Church’s inexhaustible treasury, from which she showers blessings with generous hands, without asking questions or fixing limits. Grace without price; grace without cost! The essence of grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid in advance; and, because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing. Since the cost was infinite, the possibilities of using and spending it are infinite. What would grace be if it were not cheap?…Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Stand Firm in Righteousness

Oh precious one, let us not settle or peddle cheap grace, for it cost Jesus everything. He is the treasure hidden in the field and the pearl of great price. Who brings such joy that we are willing to sell all that we own to have Him.

Or are we?

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. ‘Make level paths for your feet,’ so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God…

Hebrews 12:11-15, NIV

May we be mighty in spirit, women of righteousness, aspiring never to sell our Lord or His costly grace for mere earthly conveniences or pleasures.

Amen.

May we be mighty in spirit, women of righteousness, aspiring never to sell our Lord or His costly grace for mere earthly conveniences or pleasures. Click To Tweet

A movement of superficial Christianity has seeped into our current culture. We have all played a part in allowing this casual posture of following Christ. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #cheap #grace #belief #righteousness #superficial

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Silence, God’s character, God’s Word, sorrow, suffering, devotional, Oh Lord Help Us, Christian, women, mentor, ministry

Silent: Knowing God is Working Even in the Silence

There may be times where God appears distant, but we can breathe knowing He stays true to His word. He never leaves us and works even when He seems silent.



Remember that although God may be silent, He is not still.

Dr.Tony Evans

Silent God

Sometimes God is just hard to get. One moment, He is breaking into our lives with His glory and majesty, answering prayer left and right. We are “living the promises!”

YES, GIRL!

Then, the earth seemingly erupts beneath us and chaos ensues. Friends betray us. Illness strikes. Or, like St. John of the Cross, darkness falls across our souls like a damp fog.

The ceiling is made of iron.

The sky is brass.

Morning, afternoon, and evening our hearts cry out to God, but He does not answer. The situation remains unchanged. We may feel like C. S. Lewis after his wife died of cancer.

But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become.

C. S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

I have felt this level of desperation before; although, I’m not proud to admit it – when our oldest son ‘disowned’ us during a crisis time in his late twenties; when my mother’s mental health was overwhelming me; when my migraines were relentless. I guess that is why it’s easy to become tearful when I hear Andrew Peterson’s song, The Silence of God:

It’s enough to drive a man crazy, it’ll break a man’s faith
It’s enough to make him wonder, if he’s ever been sane
When he’s bleating for comfort from Thy staff and Thy rod
And the Heaven’s only answer is the silence of God

Andrew Peterson, The Silence of God

There may be times where God appears distant, but we can breathe knowing He stays true to His word. He never leaves us and works even when He seems silent. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #scripture #devotional #addiction #silence #GodsCharacter #GodsWord #sorrow #suffering

David

David certainly had moments of desolation, hearing nothing but God’s silence.

My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? Oh my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.

Psalm 22:1-2

When I was younger, I used every Christian ‘trick’ or equation I knew, to no avail. As with David in the Psalms, despite my pleas, promises, prayer, and meditation, God remained silent.

Be not silent, O God of my praise! For wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me, speaking against me with lying tongues. They encircle me with words of hate, and attack me without cause. In return for my love they accuse me, but I give myself to prayer. So they reward me evil for good, and hatred for my love.

Psalm 109:1-5

Like David in the following verses, I stated my case before my Father, and like David, I have experienced silence. We’re not alone.

Abram

In Genesis 12:1-3, Abram was told to leave everything and everyone he knew because God wanted to give him a new land. In addition, God would use him and Sarai to become a great nation.

Years passed. No direct heir…not one. And while God spoke to Abram about other things, He was silent about that – for nearly twenty-five years.

Joseph

Joseph’s coat of many colors is a wonderful children’s Bible story. However, as adults, it’s important to remember that he was sold into slavery, (today we call it human trafficking), and was falsely accused in his owner’s house of sexually abusing the master’s wife. Joseph then sat in prison for two years before the dream he was shone at seventeen came to pass.

Do you wonder if Joseph had some unanswered questions for God during that all time?

Job

I would be remiss not to mention Job. He spends a great deal of time telling of his righteousness, but he grew frustrated and impatient at God’s silence in the face of his suffering.

I cry to you for help and you do not answer me; I stand, and you only look at me.

Job 30:20

If only God would answer!!

Isn’t that how we feel at times? Even if it isn’t the answer we want – please, just ANSWER!

Mary and Martha

I wonder if that is what Mary and Martha were thinking when their friend and Lord did not answer them? When He was told their brother, Lazarus, was very ill and didn’t immediately come to the rescue? Jesus didn’t even send word that He was on His way. In fact, John 11:17 reveals that Lazarus had been dead four days by the time Jesus arrived!

Silent or Not?

Other writers more learned and wiser than me have written about this topic. Many have expounded that this time of silence or darkness exposes our need for discipline, renewal, and/or repentance. No doubt these and more are pieces of the puzzle.

However, looking through the lens of a merciful, loving Father, I’m wondering if there is another aspect; if this silence is real or perceived. My feelings or experiences tell me He is absent, but God’s Word says that He is with me, (examples – Psalm 23:4; Deuteronomy 31:6). He will never leave me or forsake me.

Jesus told us He would not leave us as orphans in John 14:18-20. I love that; regardless of our biological heritage, Jesus will never abandon us.

So, what does this mean? Why the sense of silence or aloneness?

Well…according to Jon Bloom of desiringGod.org:

It is the mourning that will know the joy of comfort (Matthew 5:4). It is the hungry and thirsty that will be satisfied (Matthew 5:6). Longing makes us ask, emptiness makes us seek, silence makes us knock (Luke 11:9).

Keep knocking, Sister. God hasn’t left you…and He never will.

When God seems silent, may we take this time to expose our need for discipline, renewal, or repentance. God's Word tells us He never leaves us, so keep knocking, keep seeking, He's there! Click To Tweet

There may be times where God appears distant, but we can breathe knowing He stays true to His word. He never leaves us and works even when He seems silent. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #scripture #devotional #addiction #silence #GodsCharacter #GodsWord #sorrow #suffering

*All Bible references are from the English Standard Version.
unsplash-logoYurii Khimanin
compassion, suffering, example, God’s love, Jesus, love others, redeemed, Oh Lord Help Us, Christian, women, mentor, ministry

Suffering With: Compassion’s True Nature Revealed through Jesus

Today’s interpretation of ‘compassion’ doesn’t compare to God’s intended design. The true nature of ‘suffering with others’ was perfectly exemplified through the life and death of Jesus.



When I entered my initial internship for hospital chaplaincy, I believed I was equipped both theologically and emotionally to provide the care my patients would need. After all, I was an adult who had already raised a family, taught the Bible for twenty years, and had experienced, (and had therapy for), several painful life events.

Astonishing – how wrong we can be when we believe we’re so right.

Our interpretation of compassion doesn't compare to God's intended design. 'Suffering with others' was perfectly exemplified in the life and death of Jesus. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #compassion #GodsLove #redeemed #suffering

The World’s Compassion

Chaplaincy internship involved many spiritual books assigned to us, weekly theological reflections, group meetings/assessments with fellow interns, and a weekly one-on-one with our supervisor. It didn’t take long for most of us to ascertain that, while our theological training was imperative and our life experiences significant, how these aspects came together to minister care to a hurting soul was vital.

The word compassion is thrown around frequently in our culture. It seems the word is used to pull at our heartstrings and guilt us into performing a service. Or, to give to a cause in which someone, or an entity, believes we should. You know what I mean. I imagine your mailbox is full of the same appeals as mine.

Don’t you have any compassion for these-

  • starving children
  • wounded vets
  • people with cancer
  • lost people
  • dying people in (name the country)

And if you’re a television watcher…well, the visual is worse.

Inadequate Compassion

While I was in chaplaincy, I was seeing a wonderful Christian therapist. At times, I felt overwhelmed and deeply inadequate by the needs I faced each day. My heart, my own compassion, could not handle the onslaught of pain and suffering. I remember the day I expressed this to her, and she told me, “I believe we already have a Savior to handle the world’s pain. We don’t need another one.” Ouch.

But the truth is, like so many other words in our world, compassion has been co-opted to take on a new meaning. Rather than the way, God, our Father used it, or Jesus used it, today it is used more as ‘feeling sorry for.’ With this meaning, we can throw money at the above list, or even a little time, feel warm and fuzzy, then go on our merry way.

However, in the Old Testament, where the Hebrew word is Racham, it is translated to ‘love deeply;’ it is used most often in Isaiah.

Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!

Isaiah 30:18, NIV

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!

Isaiah 49:15, NIV

Can we fathom this love?

Suffering With

The Greek word splanchnizomai, “to be moved as to one’s inwards”, is used most often when referencing Jesus’ compassion.

That one is a bit more difficult to grasp. Imagine your child with a raging fever and your willingness to take his/her place just to ease the pain and suffering.

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Matthew 9:35-36, NIV

When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

Matthew 14:14, NIV

As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’ Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, ‘Young man, I say to you, arise.’

Luke 7:12-14, ESV

‘Pain-Avoiders’

Henri Nouwen describes it well in a book he co-wrote with two others.

The word compassion is derived from the Latin words pati and cum, which together mean “to suffer with.” Compassion means to go where it hurts, to enter into places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion into the condition of being human.

It is not surprising that compassion, understood as suffering with, often evokes in us a deep resistance and even protest…It is important for us to acknowledge this resistance and to recognize that suffering is not something we desire or to which we are attracted. On the contrary, it is something we want to avoid at all cost. Therefore, compassion is not among our most natural responses. We are pain-avoiders…

Henri Nouwen, et al, Compassion, A Reflection on the Christian Life  

Full Immersion

Dear friends, sisters, is it not much easier to remain at a safe distance from sufferers than to be in “full immersion” with them? Wouldn’t we rather tweet: “I’ll pray for you!” with an added heart emoji than go sit in silence with a depressed friend?

Let’s be painfully honest – it takes little effort to say, “Let me know if you need anything,” but to take the initiative to keep her kids one day a week? Seriously?

I find it much more challenging to experience the powerlessness of someone in grinding poverty than to go to my intellect and tell her about job opportunities. I prefer to inform her of the stage of grief she is in than to weep and mourn with a sister who is mourning.

Because truly? While the practical answers are necessary, they are not what Jesus meant by compassion.

Jesus’ Example

There was a time when I was very good at doling out useless offers and banal, spiritual phrases. Then cancer hit my family, (my dad, Gary,) and chronic illness, (me, mom.) Gary and I began hearing those words and good intentions coming our way. It didn’t take too many instances for God to reveal to me how insincere I had been.

When I had cancer three years ago, the same thing occurred with people I believed were close to me. While the experience was hurtful and disappointing, it helped me realize anew how little we understand suffering with each other. Even in the Body of Christ.

God, in Christ, loved us to such a degree that He stepped down to earth to redeem us. He was tempted and suffered in every way as we do, (Hebrews 4:15; Isaiah 53:5-6). Jesus is our supreme example of compassion, suffering with. He will enable us to do the same with others if we will ask.

Let me warn you…it hurts.

…but the rewards are eternal.

Jesus is our supreme example of what compassion looks like: He stepped down to earth as a human, suffered as we do, then died and rose again to redeem us all. Click To Tweet

Our interpretation of compassion doesn't compare to God's intended design. 'Suffering with others' was perfectly exemplified in the life and death of Jesus. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #compassion #GodsLove #redeemed #suffering

unsplash-logoAnnie Spratt
foolishness, God’s Kingdom, intimacy, obedience, Oh Lord Help Us, Christian, women, mentor, ministry

Follow: Laying Down Our ‘SELF’ in Obedience to God

Our response to God’s call is often “Yes, but…” We must surrender our ‘selves’ in obedience to God and intimately follow His leading for the Kingdom.



Courage isn’t doing what you want in life; courage is laying down your life. Otherwise, it’s not courage – it’s self-gratification.

Ann Voskamp, The Way of Abundance

Our response to God's call is often "Yes, but..." We must surrender our 'selves' in obedience to God and intimately follow His leading for the Kingdom. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #foolishness #intimacy #obedience

Follow Me…

There is a passage in Luke, which I have read since childhood, subtitled, “The Cost of Discipleship”. In my past Bible’s, it was in red letters. I imagine over the years I have secretly, self-righteously judged the people to whom Jesus spoke these words, but as I’ve grown older it has become easier to see myself in them…

Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, ‘Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.’ Then He said to another, ‘Follow Me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.’ And another also said, ‘Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.’

Luke 9:57-62, NKJV

Misunderstanding

Now, I must admit, often when I’ve read that over the years, beneath my self-proscribed piety, I have winced at the harshness of the responses of Jesus. They seemed dissonant with His character. They weren’t fit for the kingdom because one wanted to bury his father and the other wanted to say goodbye to his family? Something was inconsistent here…

Therefore, there had to be misunderstanding on my part. One thing I learned was about the priorities of the would-be disciples.

Robert Stein said in The New American Commentary on Luke, “In both the second and third sayings, the individual’s ‘first’ priority was clearly something other than following Jesus… discipleship requires a radical shift in priorities. Jesus must be first. He will not accept second place to anyone or anything. Even a good thing… cannot usurp the place of the best thing, which is to love Jesus with all one’s heart, strength, and mind.”

Yes, but…

Jesus doesn’t appreciate a “Yes, but…” from us any more than we do from our children. Even though I learned as a young Christian that ‘delayed obedience is disobedience,’ I can’t say that I practice immediate obedience each time I hear my Father’s voice.

Example: The Holy Spirit has said to me, “Dodie, I want you to call this person who needs encouragement.”

I say, “Yes, Lord, but first I need to ___.” (and then sometimes I forget completely until He tells me, again!)

Or, “My child, pray for _____. They are in need of strength in this very hour.”

“Yes, Lord; I will, but I need to finish this first…”

These are small things to us, my friends, but to the Lord, it speaks to our priorities and our willingness to obey His voice immediately. If I am lackadaisical about obedience in the small things, why would God entrust me with the mighty things of the Kingdom?

To follow Jesus and place Him above everything, requires the courage of self-denial and self-sacrifice. Two things our culture knows little of…too often, two things I know little of.

Forsaken

Another way of better understanding the passage is a reference on the last phrase of the chapter. It takes us to a short verse in 2 Timothy.

for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica – Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia.

2 Timothy 4:10, NKJV

Demas – there are few mentions of him in the New Testament. In fact, the only other references to him are found in Colossians 4:14 and Philemon 24, when he was called a “fellow laborer” with Paul and Luke. Can you imagine working alongside the apostles Luke and Paul and then deciding to chuck it?? Not only did he decide the Christ-life wasn’t for him, but he also deserted Paul when Paul needed him, (verse 9). Demas revealed himself as someone who “put his hand to the plow and looked back.”

Why did he look back?

Because he loved this present world…

Loving the World

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world.

I John 2:15-16, NKJV

Do you sense a slight bristling here?

Perhaps we’ve grown deceived in believing we never look back, (which is literally looking unto the things behind, or the things we’ve left behind for Jesus). Or, it has been awhile since we’ve confessed anything, so the thought of us loving the world feels odious or foreign to us.

Really, ME? How?

Intimacy with God

Recently, I watched a Beth Moore training DVD where she taught women writers, teachers, and speakers, (or those aspiring to). Once again, I was struck and humbled by her passion, not for ‘the ministry,’ but for Jesus and His Word. She declared, “There is no short-cut to long-term effectiveness: Bible Study and prayer will never change concerning your intimacy with God.”

How do we love the world? By spending on luxuries or drinking excessively?

No, it’s much more subtle than that. Our time and energy get sucked up by Facebook, Little League, Twitter, the fitness club, soccer, volunteering, church activities…then we fall in bed at night, arise the next day and begin it all again.

Intimacy with our Father? Seriously, who has time?

Will He love us less? NO. But will we be effective in the Kingdom?

No.

Living Foolishly

Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?

Galatians 3:3, ESV

Like Demas and the Galatians, we may all begin strong, with a passionate, intimate relationship with Jesus. However, the moment we begin to trust in ourselves, in our own effort to continue the walk, we will fail. We may keep up the charade for a while; we’ve all known people who have.

But…it’s like living in the same house with a husband you used to love and now you’re divorced.

Can you imagine?

We may all begin strong, with a passionate, intimate relationship with Jesus. However, the moment we begin to trust in ourselves, in our own effort to continue the walk, we will fail. Click To Tweet

Our response to God's call is often "Yes, but..." We must surrender our 'selves' in obedience to God and intimately follow His leading for the Kingdom. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #foolishness #intimacy #obedience

unsplash-logoEvie S.