Wednesday, February 19, 2020

The Mind of Christ

My daily Bible reading has been a bit sketchy of late between travel, caring for parents, short nights, one thing and another. This morning, as I considered diving in to "to-do's" before taking time (because I'm already behind-!), I was reminded that I will not have the mind of Christ apart from time with Christ (1 Corinthians 2:11-16).

I cannot begin to fathom what He would do, how He would do it, and why He would do it until I immerse myself in His Word and character. Until I come alongside Him and put my mind where His mind is, my heart where His heart is, I cannot put my hands where His hands are.

That is abiding.... Not picking up the Word of God to check one more thing off the list, but to enter into the mind and heart of God. To realign this sinful, lazy, self-exalting, twisted self with the perfect, all-loving, all-knowing, all-kind, all-powerful Creator of the universe. In and of myself, there is no good thing. I will not seek Him. I will not understand. I am not righteous. Or good. Peaceful. Or profitable. (Romans 3)

In all this, in each word, each moment, each decision, each interaction, I must bring myself in line with the person and character of God--and that does not happen until I come to Him, ready to learn, hungry for His righteousness, disgusted with my pride, longing to be filled, changed and used. I need to get into Him, to think like He thinks, to climb into His ways, to empathize with God just as much as I need Him to come into me, to enter my heart and mind. I must open myself, question myself, be vulnerable, honest, and frank about our differences before I see the need to change.

Today--each day--I must interact with and recognize that the Bible is not me. It is not who I am, but who God is making me. Agreeing in the moment is not the same as adopting God's truth as my truth; living it out in the moments of life. It must enter and become part of me--like the bread and the cup... Taken with reverence and eagerness, becoming part of my physical composition; entering my bloodstream, making its way into my molecular biology. Essential to life. In that way, I live on as Christ's body... Christ in me, the hope of glory.... The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. He remains in and through His people as they do His will and walk in His ways.

As His beloved child, why would I forfeit precious time with God in His Word? It's the best part of the day.

Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.  But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.

If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. (James 1:21-27)

 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” So they said to Him, “What then do You do for a sign, so that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread out of heaven to eat.’” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.” Then they said to Him, “Lord, always give us this bread.”

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”

Therefore the Jews were grumbling about Him, because He said, “I am the bread that came down out of heaven.” They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, ‘I have come down out of heaven’?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught of God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me. Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”

Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.”

These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum.

Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this said, “This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, “Does this cause you to stumble? What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him. And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.”

As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:28-71)

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Confession of a Recovering People Pleaser

Only be as kind as you are.

After reading Lou Priolo's book, Pleasing People, I realized how much of my life functioned around others: their preferences, schedules, unspoken expectations. Almost everything I did was for, or because of, someone else. When I realized it was okay, godly even, to have preferences, I didn't know what they were. My default answer to "What would you like?" was, "I don't know" or "It doesn't matter. I'm good either way." Suddenly chocolate wasn't my favorite. Blue wasn't my color. It took time and prayer to work through who I was and who I wasn't.

Not falling in line for the sake of wanting to be liked or "nice," affected my relationships with others. I became brutally honest, refusing to flatter or bow to other's opinions. As I worked through what was true and what was not, I was no longer socially pleasing. Or nice. I wasn't kind, loving, or tasteful. I was an honest hot mess, fighting to do what was right and see the world the way it is, not the way people (or I) wanted it to be.

God graciously intervened. Honesty results in being marginalized, set aside, and discounted by others. Yes, God is Truth. He is also Love. I needed to learn the balance between the two. Thus today's proverb: "What is desirable in a man is his kindness, and it is better to be a poor man than a liar." (Proverbs 19:22). If Jewish literature proves true and each phrase defines the other, then we are known by our kindness. But if we cannot be kind, it's better to be friendless and poor. Don't lie as a means of pretending kindness and gaining friends; be who you are.

In my case, that meant I needed to change. Kindness is not a reflection of others; it is a reflection of my own heart, who I am. Kindness means letting go of my agenda and expectations. In kindness, I look for the image of God in others and respond based on who He is, instead of who I am or what I want.

Jesus was not nice. He was kind. And poor. But He was rich in relation to His Father. He was rich in deed. He, Himself, is the source of wealth: "And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:19).

The answer is not to "be nice" or act kind and lie to myself (and others). The thoughts in my head that are unkind, untrue, ungracious need to be captivated and taken to the cross. There, they must be sorted and my sinful desires crucified, mortified, put to death. Only then can I be lovingly, genuinely kind.

Today, seek to be as kind as you are. Don't lie. If you must, be unkind. It is only as the darkness is exposed--as the filth comes out from within the cup--that true righteousness and holiness reveals the forgiveness and goodness of God.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness." (Matthew 23:23-28)

For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!

I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. (Galatians 5:13-26)

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Prayer--A Hard Question

When I'm counseling, I try to give people a heads up before asking a hard question. So, here's your warning. Are you ready?

When you pray, are you more interested in how you will be justified the sight of others, in the ease and relief that comes with God's provision, or glorifying Him?

I recently read the simple story of the ten lepers who cried out for mercy, were healed, and only one returned to give thanks. That one was a Samaritan. He couldn't go and show himself to the priest as Jesus commanded because he was not welcome in the temple. Infirmity makes strange bedfellows. Nine were Jews. One was Samaritan. They lived together. Walked together. Requested healing together. But when healing came, there was a division. 

Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan. (Luke 16:15-16)

And he was a Samaritan. Oh, by the way. If you hadn't noticed. It might make a difference... He wasn't concerned about what the priests or his community would say or the benefits his healing would provide in that moment. He was moved with gratitude at the generous goodness of our kind, loving Savior. "He turned back." How often do we turn back to God when He answers our prayers beneficially? Or how often do we fail to stop and give thanks?

"...glorifying God with a loud voice..." How consistently do let others know God has answered my prayers and so we can glorify Him together? So they can see and experience the goodness of God?

"...and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him." Praise takes time. Worship takes effort. It is an outpouring of heartfelt gratitude and humility.

"And he was a Samaritan." Those on the outside are often much more genuine and expressive than those of us in the church. Isn't that sad? Shouldn't it be the other way around? But we expect God to do things for us. We expect Him to answer prayer. We have expectations as His children.... and we often respond as naughty, spoiled children do.

Maybe today it's time to rekindle love and affection for God, to confess a heart of entitlement, privilege and consumerism. Maybe it's time to praise Him with a loud voice, falling on our face at His feet and giving thanks..because He is worthy.

...the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they *sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.

“You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.”

Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice,

“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.”

And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying,

“To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.”

And the four living creatures kept saying, “Amen.” And the elders fell down and worshiped.
(Revelation 5:9-14)